The Best Christmas Ever - Because God is with you!
Getting a gift that others only dreamed of!
One of the feel good stories of 2010 was the Chilean miner rescue. These miners have become world wide celebrities since their rescue back on October 13th. Chilean philanthropist Leonardo Farkas reportedly wrote $10,000 checks to each of the miners to help them financially. On October 20th, he threw a massive party for all 33 men giving each man a motorbike. The miners visited the presidential palace in Chile, and also played a football match against their rescuers which they lost. All 33 men received signed soccer jerseys from both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have all received vacation offers from various sources to go to places like Greece, South Korea and Israel. One of the miners, Edison Peña, was offered a free trip to Graceland. He became the group's song leader and requested that Elvis Presley songs be sent down into the mine to help boost his spirits.[i] Edison also received an invitation to watch the New York City Marathon, which he turned down, because he wanted to run in the marathon. While stuck in the mine, he earned the nickname "the runner" for jogging through one of the mine's tunnels. Edison ran 3 to 6 miles per day in the dark wearing a miner’s light and headphones so he could listen to his favorite Elvis tunes. David Lettermen interviewed Edison – here’s just a sample of what happened. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRxIvH7kgr0&feature=player_detailpage
Isn’t it awesome the gifts these men have received! Did you know that three of the 33 were actually given new homes to live in? How nice! Whatever they all receive is good in my book because they actually spent 69 days under ground. They did not know a rescue attempt was even being made until 17 days passed by – will we be rescued or will this place become our grave? Can you imagine what thoughts would be going through your mind? Do you think you might have conversations with God that you didn’t have before? They did! Miner Mario Sepulveda said, “I buried 40 years of my life down there, and I’m going to live a lot longer to be a new person. I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought and God won. I grabbed God’s hand and never doubted that we would be rescued.[ii] God was #34. God was with us!”
Can I ask you? What does it really mean that “God is with us – with you & me?” Gabriel, Matthew and Isaiah seem to know. Turn in your Bible this morning to Matthew chapter 1. Do you need a Bible? Raise your hand if you need a Bible because today we begin a brand new series called “The Best Christmas Ever!” What would make this Christmas the best Christmas EVER in your mind? Maybe walking through a winter wonderland? Sleigh bells ringing? Someone coming home for the holidays or maybe someone going away for the holidays? OR some special gift? Christmas came early for Terry Herbert. Terry is an Englishman and last July was metal detecting in a field in Staffordshire, England and discovered the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard ever found. Archaeologists are calling it “an unprecedented treasure.” The treasure includes 11lbs of gold and 5.5lbs of silver. Herbert’s metal detector went off and he started to dig and soon he found one of 500 items before calling authorities. They still don’t know how much this is all worth. OK – I suddenly now want a metal detector for Christmas! Coworkers gathered at a restaurant to say goodbye to a dear friend and loyal employee who was leaving the company due to “downsizing” and without thinking the manger blurted out at the table saying, “This is fun. We should do this more often.” No one knew what to say. What could you say? Maybe in your mind you’re thinking, “This Christmas would be great if I still had a job? What’s going to make Christmas great? Listening to Christmas music 24/7 or wearing a cool Santa hat like this! Would you help me help others to potentially have an awesome Christmas? I have a 1000 Christmas Eve Invite cards. Take a bunch and give them to your friends. I also have 100 more yard signs. Pull your old one out or put this new one up. I want people to come on Christmas Eve because we’ll share with them biblically that Christmas is not about stuff – it’s about the birth of a Savior child named Jesus who wants to be with you – forever! Matthew helps us see Jesus through Joseph’s eyes. Luke helps us see Jesus through Mary’s eyes. Matthew writes in Matthew 1:18. (18-23)
My Bible has a footnote. I bet yours does too. My footnote says Isaiah 7:14. Let’s now go New Testament to Old Testament. Turn with me to Isaiah. Find Psalms and go right. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and then Isaiah. Isaiah is known as the Mt. Everest of Prophetic Literaure.[iii] In Luke 24 Jesus divides the Old Testament into three sections - the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. There are 17 prophetic books in the OT. Five are dubbed major while 12 are ranked minor. This has nothing to do with importance it’s just sheer volume of material. Jonah has a combined total of 4 chapters. You don’t even have to turn the page with Jonah, but in Isaiah there’s allot of page turning – 66 chapters worth of page turning. Now I like timelines. Timelines remind me that the Bible is made up of people, places and events. 2200 BC – 700BC – Isaiah tells us about Jesus – 700 years before he is born. Isaiah is like a mini Bible. 66 books/66 chapters. You can split Isaiah into two themes. Chapters 1-39 are words of judgment. Chapters 40-66 are words of comfort. Isaiah 40:31: but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The comfort was comforting, but the judgment was strong. Stop sinning. Stop ignoring the commands of God. The LAB gives us this perspective, “Isaiah brings the message of judgment to Judah, Israel and the surrounding pagan nations. Judah had a form of godliness, but in their hearts they were corrupt. Isaiah’s warnings were intended to purify the people… however, they ignored the repeated warnings.” [iv] Did you find Isaiah? Go to Isaiah 5:11. (11-13) Yes, exile – but not without hope or without God! Turn over to chapter 6:1. King Uzziah died – that was bad, so God commissions Isaiah to be his spokesman and who does Isaiah need to speak to – Uzziah’s son – Ahaz. Find chapter 7:1. Ahaz was a bad king. Ahaz “was a wicked king. He filled Jerusalem with idols, reinstated the worship of Molech and burned his own son as a sacrifice”[v] to Molech. Now understand – God will act – it may take days, decades or centuries but God will act. Go back to Isaiah 7:1. Blow me away, but two kings wants to force Ahaz out. So instead of calling out to God for help Ahaz asks the evil king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser for help. Dumb move. God tells Isaiah to give unfaithful Ahaz words of comfort in verse 4. (Read vs.4; 7; – if you don’t believe me – ask for sign, find vs. 10 – he won’t do it so Isaiah gives him a sign. Find verse 14.)
The child Isaiah is referring to his own. Go to chapter 8:3-4. And that’s just what happened. Before Hash Baz turns 3 those two kings are dead. What does Isaiah want Ahaz to know? Find verse 12 in chapter 8. Fear God/Trust God! Immanuel in Isaiah’s day was his son. Who was Immanuel in Matthew’s day? JESUS and Jesus will be no ordinary child – he will be born of a virgin. Locate Isaiah 9:6. But that’s not all Jesus will be called. Go back to Matthew 1:22. He will also be called Immanuel – which means “God with us!”
A friend of mine sent me some really bad but funny answers on a few test questions. Name six animals which live specifically in the Arctic. Answer: Two Polar bears/Four seals. Name the wife of Orpheus, whom he attempted to save from the underworld. Answer: Mrs. Orpheus. Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed? Answer: At the bottom.
Let’s get real specific. God’s presence wasn’t available for everyone in the OT. I love what the Bible says about Joseph, David and Solomon. “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.”[vi] “And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.”[vii] “Solomon son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him…”[viii]
We get what they only dreamed of – a personal God. Help me here. Every sermon you hear needs to include what question? SO WHAT? “So what, Greg? What does that matter that God is with me?” What does it matter? It means you are never without hope! What does it matter? It means when things look bleak – God is still there. What does it matter? It means when temptation comes – there is a way of escape. What does it matter? It means when you are all alone you’re really not ALL alone. What does it matter? When it looks like we’re hemmed in on all sides. I don’t want to spend 69 days under ground. But if I have to – I want to know that God is with me! No matter what’s on your plate right now – good or bad – Immanuel means this – “where Jesus is – there you’ll find God.” Do you have gifts picked out for certain people? In my opinion – the greatest gifts are the gifts you use. If you’re going to get someone something they’ll stick in a closet rethink the gift. And the ultimate gift - God gave his son – he’s our Immanuel. This Christmas could be your best Christmas ever – because God is with you each day!
“So remember while December brings the only Christmas day, in the year let there be Christmas in the things you do and say. Wouldn’t life be worth the living; wouldn’t dreams being coming true if we kept that Christmas spirit all the whole year through.” Dog in the manger image!
[i] www.wikipedia/chilean miners
[ii] www.cnn.com/Rescued Miners Reveal details about confinement
[iii] James E. Smith, Old Testament Made Simple,
[iv] LAB Notes, 1387
[v] John MacArthur, Matthew, 19
[vi] Acts 7:9 (ESV)
[vii] I Chronicles 11:9 (NIV)
[viii] 2 Chronicles 1:1