This story was reported some time ago,
- A woman entered an ice-cream store on the Kansas City Plaza, and after choosing which flavor cone she wanted, she looked up and found herself face to face with Paul Newman, who was doing some filming in town. He smiled and said hello, but her heart was pounding so hard that she could hardly speak.She paid for her ice cream, left the shop, walked out into the plaza, and at last realized her purchase was nowhere to be found. Going back into the store to see if she could retrieve it, the woman ran into Newman again –this time on his way out.
“Are you looking for your ice cream?” he asked, and when she nodded, he said, “you put it in your purse with your change.”
This woman was literally dumbfounded when she encountered a movie star. Maybe the same thing has happened to you . . . I know it has to me. When we encounter someone we admire and maybe even revere a little, we can find ourselves completely senseless. We want to say something witty, intelligent, engaging and end up making a fool of ourselves!
Who would provoke this kind of reaction in you? Perhaps it would be a sports figure, maybe an entertainer or a musical group. How would you react if you met Garth Brooks or Reba McIntire? How would you respond if you could talk with Amy Grant or Steven Curtis Chapman? What if you were able to visit with Tony Bennett or Andy Williams? How about a conversation with Mark McGwire or Michael Jordan? How would you respond if you had an afternoon to visit with Billy Graham? Perhaps for you it would be meeting with Bill Gates or maybe even Barney or Kermit the Frog. There is probably someone in your life who you respect so much that being in their presence would make your heart race.
Now, imagine how things would be if you were going to invite one of these “admired person” over to your home. I suspect it would be no ordinary dinner. You would clean all the nooks and crannies, you’d use the good china, you’d press the tablecloth and you’d work hard to make sure everything was extra nice. You would try to find out what foods they liked and make them. Why? Because of your desire to honor your guest.
This morning I want to remind you that Jesus should be that person who staggers us. He is the one we should seek to honor this Christmas. It is my hope that you will prepare for Christmas the same way you would prepare for that special dinner. My contention is simple, no matter who you look to as someone who is “awe-inspiring”, the Christ of Christmas is greater.
THE WORTHY KING
Part of the reason we have lost our wonder at Christmas is that we focus on the baby in the manger. We all like babies, we adore babies, babies touch our hearts in a special way . . . but they are not necessarily awe-inspiring. We do not see a baby as greater than we are. Notice how Isaiah 9 describes the coming King.
- And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Let’s look at these descriptions:
Wonderful Counselor. Jesus is one who “knew what was in men”. The New Testament tells us on several occasions that Jesus knew what people were thinking. A good counselor in our day is one who understands us and can help us sort through issues in our lives.
Jesus understood and understands our human nature and our predicament better than anyone. He understands the needs of our heart and He knows how to answer and meet those needs. Jesus is the one who eliminates confusion in our lives. He gives us insight into eternal issues. If we could spend fifteen minutes with the Messiah we would learn more about ourselves than in years of counseling.
This is why the Word of God is so relevant. As you read the Bible you will be amazed at how often the Bible speaks to the issues that matter most to you. You will find that the Bible cuts through all the fog and helps us to see clearly. This is especially true in the New Testament. The reason is clear: Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.
Mighty God. The Bible does not teach us that Jesus would be LIKE God or be THOUGHT OF as God. It is clear . . . He IS God. He has supernatural power. He is the Sovereign of Sovereigns. He is in control . . . there is no reason for concern. With Jesus at the helm there is no room for chaos. The promises He makes will be fulfilled. The Kingdom He establishes will be upheld. John MacArthur writes,
- Christ the King loves to step into a life of chaos and not only provide wonderful counsel, but also display His divine power by bringing order to the chaos. In other words, He not only tells His subjects what to do as a Wonderful Counselor but He can also energizes them to do it –because He is the mighty God. . . .He is God and because He is God, He can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate people from the power of evil, redeem them, answer their prayers, restore their broken souls, and reign over a rebuilt life, bringing order to our chaos. [God With Us p. 19, 20]
Everlasting Father. One of the frustrating things about state and federal leaders in our country is that they are always running for re-election. Consequently we have few statesmen in the land. Few will take a stand unless it is popular. Policy is often determined by public opinion (electability) rather than right and wrong.
The Lord Jesus is not running for re-election. His term never ends. He doesn’t have to play for votes. He can rule with justice and do what is right without concern for public opinion. The Lord Jesus was not just the Messiah and Mighty God while He roamed the earth. He is King forever. He knows the beginning from the end because He created them both.
He is eternal but He is also our Father. He is big, powerful, wise, and in control. But He is also loving and tender to those He has created.
Prince of Peace. He does not come to wage war but to be the reconciler. Jesus comes to reconcile
- sinful men and women to God
- people with their pasts
- nations and races to each other
Jesus has come to put us back together. He has come to set us free, not to bind or enslave us.
So, here’s the question: Which of those special people you thought of earlier could you give any of the titles above? No one. They don’t even come close to the wonder and greatness of Jesus. You see if we only see Jesus as just a little baby in a manger we have missed the most astonishing part of the Incarnation. He is royalty. The wonder and the respect that would be given to a celebrity or royal figure should be accorded Christ. When we speak of Him and to Him we should do so with reverence. He is not only a King . . . . He is THE King. He is the ruler of mankind, the Creator of the Universe, the One who holds all things in His hand.
If we recognized Jesus as the King we would have a more intense attitude of worship, reverence, and awe. We would make it a point to consider how to honor Him best — even if it required losing sleep or derailing our personal locomotive-like schedule. Pleasing Him would matter.
This year’s Advent Devotional has several good suggestions for remembering Christ as King this Christmas,
- Place HRH (His Royal Highness) on every gift you give. Tell family members that the HRH is to remind you that no matter whom the gift if for, the real reason for the purchasing, wrapping, and giving is to celebrate the birth of King Jesus.
- Accent your dinner table with the color purple to remind you of royalty.
- As you do your Christmas shopping, consider yourself the “King’s Personal Purchasing Agent.” Seek to buy gifts that will meet the approval of the King. Notice how this mindset influences the gifts you choose.
- Select one day this week during which you will be a full-fledged servant of the King. Spend that day looking for opportunities to act out secret deeds of service. Make a pot of coffee at the office, drop off dinner for a friend in need, fold your roommate’s laundry, shovel a neighbor’s driveway.
- Place a crown among your Christmas decorations as a reminder that the one you honor is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Jesus is sufficient for our every need! He is not some lucky charm or nice thought . . . He is the everlasting God. He will fulfill His promises. He will lead those who follow Him home. He will bring good out of tragic times. He can and He will do these things because He is King!
THE WILLING SERVANT
Once you have grasped who Jesus was, the incarnation means much more. Paul wrote of Jesus,
- Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6-8)
Hear what Paul is saying: Even though Jesus is God. Even though all the power, privilege and honor of the office is His. He set it aside. He did not stop being God . . . He just refused to draw upon His privileges. He could have called on angels to help . . .but He didn’t. He could have struck his accusers down with a word . . . but He didn’t. He refused what was rightfully His, so that He could become a human being. But not only that . . . He WILLINGLY became a human who died a horrible death for the express purpose of giving His life as payment for our sin. God gave Himself so that those who hated and rebelled against Him could find life!
What a staggering concept this is. How baffling that God would become a man to reach out to us. Why would God do such an odd thing? Philip Yancey expressed it well,
- I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light. You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf that my fish would be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one “emotion” only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern.To my fish, I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and “speak” to them in a language they could understand.
A human being becoming a fish is nothing compared to God becoming a baby. And yet according to the Gospels that is what happened at Bethlehem. [The Jesus I Never Knew]
Understand what great implications there are in God becoming a man.
- He understands our pain because He has experienced it
- He has confronted our fears and overcome them
- He has faced our temptations and gained victory
- He is NOT a distant detached ruler in some ivory tower someplace
- He has not abandoned us
Steve Brown wrote,
- While I was driving home the other day, I saw the ugliest car I have ever seen. This car wasn’t just ugly–it was ugly on top of ugly. It had a large gash on its side; one of the doors was held together with baling wire; and several other body parts were almost completely rusted out. The car’s muffler was so loose that with every bump, it hit the street sending sparks in every direction. I couldn’t tell the original color of the car. The rust had eaten away much of the paint, and so much of the car had been painted over with so many different colors that any one of them (or none of them) could have been the first coat. The most interesting thing about the car was the bumper sticker: “THIS IS NOT AN ABANDONED CAR”.
Even though the car looked horrible. Even though it looked worthless the owner wanted to declare a simple truth . . . the car was His and He valued it. Isn’t this what God has done for us at Christmas? He takes those of us who are broken, rebellious, wounded and scared and places a banner on us that reads: “This is not an Abandoned, Forgotten, or Rejected Person”. In sending Christ to earth, God declared that we were valuable to Him. He demonstrated His commitment to us even when we were not committed to Him.
This leads me to my conclusions this morning. If Jesus is the King (and He is) and if in His position as King He has given himself for you and me (which He has) then how should we respond?
For some of you an appropriate response may be a first time commitment to Jesus today. It’s possible that you feel abandoned. Perhaps you doubt that anyone could love you. You don’t need anyone to tell you about the mistakes of your past . . . they haunt you constantly. Maybe you feel that your life is racing out of control. If so, understand the message of Bethlehem. The King has come for YOU.
Maybe you daydream at times about being sought out by those you admire. You dream of a day when a celebrity will come to your house and want to be your friend. You dream of others coming to you to ask your opinion on world events. Perhaps you dream about being interviewed by David Letterman or Jay Leno. Maybe you dream of making the big play or singing to a packed auditorium (and having people like it). You dream like this because you want to be significant. You want your life to matter. . . . And it does.
Jesus, the King of the Universe has come for you. He invites you to follow Him. He wants you to be His child. You matter to God! Now is the time of decision. Will you receive His gift or turn away? Will you follow Him or ignore Him? Will you dare to believe Him when He says “anyone who comes to me I will not cast away.”? Is today the day that you need to stop running and receive Christ? Is today the day that you need to depend on Him rather than your own efforts?
For others this may be time for a fresh commitment. It is time to see Him in His greatness. When you look into the manger this year, see more than a baby . . . see the King. And when you see the King . . . worship Him. Perhaps this Christmas you will approach the Lord with the same excitement we would have toward a well known person from our world. Maybe with this new understanding you will seek to honor Him this Christmas.
- By giving priority to worship
- By giving of your time to serving someone else
- By giving of your resources to support the work of the Lord
- By making time to learn of Him
- By telling others of His greatness
Joseph Bayly has written,
- Praise God for Christmas.
Praise Him for the incarnation, for the word made flesh. I will not sing of shepherds watching flocks on frosty nights, or angel choristers. I will not sing of a stable bare in Bethlehem, or lowing oxen, wise men trailing star with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Tonight I will sing praise to the Father who stood on heaven’s threshold and said farewell to his Son as he stepped across the stars to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. And I will sing praise to the infinite, eternal Son, who became most finite, a baby who would one day be executed for my crime. Praise him in the heavens, Praise him in the stable, Praise him in my heart. [Psalms of My Life]