God Comes Near
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - December 9, 2012
*Christmas is a time when God came near. And God comes near today.
*Joe McKeever told the story of a little girl named Rachel. Like many preschoolers, Rachel had a problem waking up in the middle of the night, scared and crying. The only thing that would sooth her fears was crawling into bed with her mom and dad.
*But Mom had to go out of town for a few days on business. That’s when Dad came up with a new solution. He said, “Rachel, I have an idea. -- While Mom is away, suppose I sleep in your room on the top bunk bed.”
*She thought it was a great idea, and that night, Rachel went to sleep on time.
-A couple of hours later, when her dad crawled into the top bunk, she was sound asleep. And she slept like that all night.
*The next morning, Dad congratulated Rachel on a full night's sleep.
-And she explained, “It's because you were in the room with me.”
*“But how did you know I was there?” Dad asked. “You were asleep when I came in, and you never woke up the whole night.”
-Rachel answered: “Because you said you would be there.” (1)
*Church: Jesus said He would be here with us today. In Matt 18:20, He said: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
*By His Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is here today!
-God comes near. -- And this part of the Christmas story helps us see why.
1. First: God comes near to reveal the divine dimension to us.
*The Virgin Mary reminds us of this truth in vs. 26-28.
26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27. to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!''
I wonder what Mary was doing before Gabriel got there.
-Maybe she had just finished her breakfast.
-Maybe she was making wedding plans or washing clothes or cooking supper.
-Maybe she had just laid down for a good night’s sleep.
*But God can turn ordinary days into extraordinary days.
-And that’s what He wants to do in our lives.
-God wants to reveal the divine dimension of life to us.
*Many people believe that the natural world is all there is.
-But if this was just a natural world.
-If this world only consisted of what we could see, smell, hear, taste and touch.
-If life was just 70 or 90 or even 100 years, and then the end, there would be no point in living at all.
*But there is much more to life than meets the eye, and God comes near to reveal the divine dimension to us.
-The Lord wants to expand our perspective.
-He wants to give us new dreams.
-He wants to give us God-sized dreams.
*God wants to give us a divine view of our destiny.
-He wants us to look at our lives from a Heavenly point of view, and what a difference that makes!
*God comes near to reveal the divine dimension to us.
2. He also comes near with answers for our anxieties.
*We can see God’s answer for Mary’s anxiety starting in vs. 29. This verse tells us that when Mary saw the angel:
29. . . she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
*Mary was “troubled.” That word means she was “greatly disturbed, agitated and alarmed.” Mary was troubled when she saw that angel. Who wouldn’t be? If an angel appeared right here this morning in all of his glory, I would be pretty shook-up, and you would be too!
*But Mary was also troubled by the astonishing message the angel brought her in vs. 28, troubled by the amazing plan God intended for her life.
*She was troubled. But God had an answer for her anxiety, as the angel simply said: “Fear not.” “Do not be afraid.” This is the encouraging message that God sent three other times the first Christmas.
 One preacher called the first message the “fear not of unanswered prayer.” (2)
-Don’t be afraid that God has forgotten you.
-Don’t be afraid that He’s not listening to your prayers.
*Here in Luke 1, God sent this message of comfort to Zacharias the priest. Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth had prayed for a baby for years. Now they were both way too old to have a baby, or at least they thought they were.
*But in Luke 1:13, the angel Gabriel told this priest: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” Just under a year later, they did have a son, who grew up to be John the Baptist.
 God also sent the “fear not of obedience.”
-Don’t be afraid to keep your commitments.
-Don’t be afraid to do the right thing.
-Don’t be afraid to obey the Lord.
*This is the message that came to Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph. Matthew 1:18-21 tells us:
18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
20. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
*And Matthew 1:24 says: “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife.”
 Then God sent the “fear not of salvation.”
-Yes, we deserve eternal damnation.
-But God loves us enough to save our souls!
*This is the message that God sent to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-11.
8. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
*God had an encouraging word for all of these Christmas characters.
-And God has an encouraging word for you.
*Christian counselor James Michaelson tells of meeting with a woman who felt lonely and abandoned. One day she was explaining how she felt. But James couldn't concentrate on what she was saying, because a Scripture kept running through his mind. It was part of Psalm 100:3, where God’s Word says: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” This verse had no apparent connection with her problem, but James couldn't stop thinking about it.
*After the troubled woman finished talking, she sat in silence waiting for a response. Dr. Michaelson didn't know what to say other than to quote the Scripture. And he said, “I think God wants you to know something: ‘It is He who has made us and not we ourselves.’ -- Does that mean anything to you?”
*The woman immediately broke down and cried, but after she composed herself, she explained: “I didn't tell you this, but my mother got pregnant with me before she was married. All my life I believed that I was a mistake, an unplanned accident, and that God didn't create me. Now I know that God created me and that I'm not a mistake. I'll never be the same again!” (3)
*God had a good word for that woman. -- And He has an encouraging Word for you. Pick it up, read it and you will see: God comes near with answers for our anxieties.
3. He also comes near to teach us the truth about Jesus Christ.
*And over the next few verses, God’s Word gives us 4 great truths about Jesus.
 The first truth is that Jesus is the Savior.
*We see this truth in vs. 31, where the angel told Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.
*“Call his name Jesus.” The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah Is Salvation,” and God wanted even His name to remind us that Jesus is the Savior.
*“Call his name Jesus,” because He came into the world to save us.
-Jesus Christ was born on the first Christmas to die on the cross for our sins.
*Bill Bouknight put it this way: “From the moment Jesus was born on that first Christmas day, -- the shadow of a cross fell across his manger. He was the only person in history born for the purpose of dying.” (4)
*In 1 Timothy 1:15, the Apostle Paul gave a strong testimony of his salvation.
-Paul said: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
*Then in Titus 3, Paul spoke for all Christians, and gave this testimony about our Savior Jesus Christ:
3. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
4. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6. whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
*Jesus is the one and only Savior the world will ever see. -- That’s the truth.
 But Jesus Christ is also the Sovereign of the universe.
*He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. -- So in vs. 32&33, Gabriel told Mary:
32. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
*Jesus Christ is the Sovereign of the universe. -- That’s the truth.
 But Jesus is also the only begotten Son of God.
*In vs. 32, the angel said that Jesus would be called “the Son of the Highest. . .” And in vs. 33, the angel said that Jesus would do only things that God could do: “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
*But then the Virgin Mary had a great question in vs. 34: “How can this be?”
*Of course, God had the answer for her in vs. 35: “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”
*There has never been another baby born like Jesus. There has never been another man like Jesus! He is the one and only God-Man there will ever be.
*And Jesus was God the Son before the beginning of time. John 1 calls Jesus “The Word,” and says:
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. He was in the beginning with God.
3. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
4. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
*Jesus Christ is and always has been God the Son! -- But God became a man:
-Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.
-Born in Bethlehem to die on the cross for our sins.
-Risen from the dead to reign over an everlasting Kingdom.
*Jesus Christ is the one and only begotten Son of God. -- That’s the truth.
 So Jesus is supremely powerful.
*We see this fourth truth in the next piece of good news Gabriel gave to Mary.
-It was the totally unexpected announcement that Mary’s much older cousin Elizabeth was going to have a baby. In vs. 36&37, Gabriel said:
36. “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
37. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
*Yes, Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias were both way too old to have children, but “with God nothing will be impossible.”
-All good things are possible with God!
-He always has been and He always will be a miracle working God!
*Several years ago, I was waiting at St. Francis while Mrs. Jesse Williams was having back surgery. Her husband and daughter, Sue, began to talk about their years in Ruston, where they went to Southside Baptist.
*The conversation turned to a terrible wreck involving the pastor and his wife. A delivery truck ran a stop sign and smashed into the side of the pastor’s car. The wreck killed a friend riding with them, and seriously injured both the preacher and his wife.
*Her pelvic area was completely crushed. But the people of the church began to pray, and God worked a miracle.
-In one x-ray the ball of her hip-joint was shattered.
-But in the next x-ray, it had all come together whole.
*Of course God doesn’t always heal people. If He did, Heaven would be a pretty empty place. And Christians: This world is not our home! But God did work a miracle for that pastor’s wife.
*Sue said, “It was the first miracle I had ever seen.” And that thought blessed my heart, because it reminded me that more miracles are on the way:
-And infinitely more important spiritual miracles: Miracles of salvation and lives being changed.
*God is still in the miracle working business today, because all things are possible with Him!
*So we can sum it up by saying: Jesus Christ is the supremely powerful, sovereign, Savior, Son of God. -- And that’s the truth!
-God comes near to teach us the truth about Jesus Christ.
4. He also comes near seeking servants to follow the Lord.
*God wants us to have enough faith to follow the Lord. The Virgin Mary shows us this kind of faith in vs. 38, where she said: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word. . .”
*In other words: “I am the servant of the Lord. May His will be done in my life just as you have said.”
*Mary had faith that was willing to follow the Lord, and that is the kind of faith God wants us to have: A faith that follows.
*Donald Miller told the story of a group of Navy SEALs who went on a mission to free some hostages. The team flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound, and stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months.
*The room was dark and filthy. The hostages were terrified, and curled up in a corner when the SEALs entered the room. The rescuers stood at the door and kept calling out to the hostages, telling them they were Americans and asking the hostages to follow them. But the hostages wouldn’t budge. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear, not believing their rescuers were really Americans.
*The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn’t possibly carry everybody out. Then one of the SEALs got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the hostages. He got so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this.
*The SEAL stayed there until some of the hostages started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. Then he whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them. “Will you follow us?” He asked. And they did. (5)
*But you see, this is what God did for us. God came near. Christ came down to us. And He even went to the cross for us, so that we could follow Him, so that we would follow Him.
*God comes near so that we will follow Him every day of our life. And follow Him safely home, all the way to Heaven.
*God comes near!
-Have you seen that yet?
-Have you put your trust in Him yet?
-Do you have His hope?
-Are you following Jesus?
*You can begin right now, as we go to God in prayer.
1. Adapted from KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION ID Number: 9963 SOURCE: Baptist Press, http://www.baptistpress.org/ TITLE: Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real AUTHOR: Rev. Joe McKeever; First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana DATE: 102202
2. Source: "Stories & Illustrations" by Pastor Shelton Cole and Baptist Church Planting - www.sermons.org/xmasillus.html
3. Adapted from Sermons.com sermon “Loved by the Father” by King Duncan - Gal 3:26-29, quoting Kent Crockett from “I Once Was Blind, But Now I Squint,” Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2004, p. 84.
4. Sermons.com sermon “Personal God in an Impersonal World” by Bill Bouknight - Luke 2:1-14 & 15-20
5. Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by Mike Wilkins - Source: “Blue like Jazz” by Donald Miller - p. 33