The Mission of the Messiah

Advent: fulfilled, Christmas, Isaiah

 

Our final text in our Advent Series on the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus is a text that doesn’t seem like a Messianic Prophecy (a prophecy about the coming Messiah). However, In Luke 4 Jesus stood up in the synagogue, read this very passage and said, “This Scripture has been fulfilled this very day!”  (Luke 4:21). Since Jesus considered this to be a passage which pointed to His coming, so should we.

It is the weekend after Christmas. Many families still have Christmas gatherings this weekend but many others have put away the presents. Some may have already taken down decorations. Others will do so shortly. Christmas music is put away and . . . sometimes the message of Christmas is put away for another year.

The celebration of the birth is meant to remind us: He came to do something wonderful. He is still doing these wonderful things today so I invite you to listen carefully to how He describes His work in the world.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,

for the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted

and to proclaim that captives will be released

and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn

that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,

and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel,

he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,

a joyous blessing instead of mourning,

festive praise instead of despair.

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks

that the Lord has planted for his own glory (Isaiah 61:1-3)

He Came to Make a Practical Difference to Hurting People

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, comfort for the brokenhearted, and freedom for captives. The one thing all of these people have in common is they are broken people.

The poor can be those who are materially destitute. They may be people who are spiritually empty or they may be desperately alone.

You have heard me say many time: We are ALL broken people. One of the things that should draw us together is the reality of our brokenness. The thing that should help us show grace to each other is the reality that we are all a mess in one way or another.

This realization is so important as we think about reaching out to a lost world. The world looks at the church and assumes that it is comprised of people who “have it all together”. We need to take every opportunity that we have to remind people that we are not perfect . . . we are broken people who have been made new by an undeserved grace. The church is God’s reclamation center. We enter as a mess and we work together with the Lord to become something of value and honor.

Jesus healed people of diseases and infirmities. He delivered those who were possessed and mentally tormented. He gave forgiveness to those who were noteworthy failures and extended love and tenderness to those who had been cast aside. Look at the make up of the disciples: fishermen, tax-collectors, and even a political zealot. This was not some elite army. These were common people who had been called by God for an extraordinary work.

I am encouraged by these words. To be honest, the very thought of trying to measure up to some standard of perfection is terrifying and exhausting. Why? Because I know I can’t do it! This is not an excuse for sinful behavior. What I am saying is that we need to remind others and ourselves that we are redeemed people, not perfect people. In other words, we are broken people who are in the process of being made new by Christ.

When I was a drive through bank teller in Chicago a long time ago (the late 70’s) I used to get frustrated when people would come in at the last minute. This drive through had several different teller windows. I especially struggled with one guy who came in just before closing. He owned a pancake shop so he would come in with a lot of cash and it all smelled like pancake syrup! He would usually need change for the restaurant. I found it annoying that he expected me to do my job right up until closing (I’ve tried to repent of that attitude). Sometimes I know I was not particularly friendly (yet . . .he kept coming to my window.I thought it was just to annoy me!!!)

I struggled with this because I wanted to be a good representative of Christ. I knew my attitude was wrong. So I found a plaque that said, “Please be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet” and put it in my drive through window. Surprisingly, just making that statement made it easier to be kind and gracious to others. This restaurant owner and I become friends and I started to look forward to his visits . . . even if they were at the last minute.

When we come to Christ He begins a process of transformation . . . but it is a process. Recognizing this is very liberating.

He Came to Bring Hope and Light in the Darkness

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted

and to proclaim that captives will be released

and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn

that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,

and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel,

he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,

a joyous blessing instead of mourning,

festive praise instead of despair.

We live in a hope-depleted world. One of the most annoying phrases young people used to say was, “Whatever” or “Who Cares”. These are statements of people who believed nothing mattered.  This is a natural result of the teaching of evolution and the growing rise of atheism: without God life is meaningless.

This is the message of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. If you have ever tried to read that book you likely found yourself feeling a little depressed. The reason for that is Solomon tries to find meaning in the world apart from a relationship with an eternal God who is working out purposes greater than what we can see here.

Solomon observed that materialism, pleasure, riches and power leave you empty. They satisfy, but only for a moment. He looked at life and saw good people dying young and wicked people living long. He saw people who worked hard all their lives to save something for their children only to see the children squander their wealth when they were gone. Solomon says it doesn’t make sense to work hard and to sacrifice because we all end up as dust in the end. Again, let me remind you that Solomon is looking at life apart from God!

At the end of the book Solomon concluded that the only thing that brings value and meaning to life is a relationship with the Lord. He advises us to live God’s way because it is our only real hope.

Jesus reminded brokenhearted people that there is more to life than what we see. He reminded us that God is at work even in the painful times of life. He declared to grieving people that when you are a follower of Christ, death is not the end . . . it is merely the next step in living. Jesus reminded us that living a godly life is not for nothing. Even if no one else notices (or cares) when we live God’s way, we are making a deposit that will reach maturity when we get to Heaven.

He Came to Point Us to a Future Day

 It is much more dangerous to drive and walk around today. Why? Because of cell phones! People are constantly writing or reading texts. They are oblivious of others on the sidewalk and a downright danger on the roads. The message is simple: Lift up your eyes! Stop Looking down and start looking up! This is the same message that Jesus brought into the world.

Our world spends too much time looking at the struggle of this moment. We are so riveted to the immediate that we lose perspective. As a result, everything becomes a crisis and a contest. Minor issues turn into major conflicts. People get shot for passing someone on the highway! If someone says something or makes some kind of mistake it turns into a big protest. Is someone spills a cup of coffee the people who made the coffee get sued! Wisdom has given way to foolishness. Jesus pointed us beyond this world. He told us to lift our eyes and see life with an eternal perspective.

Jesus wants us to know

  • Death is not the end
  • Trials are often God’s way of disciplining and training His followers
  • Vengeance and judgment should be left in God’s hands because He is the only one who sees the big picture.
  • Forgiveness is a gift that we can give only when we truly understand grace.
  • Some of the things we do will not have immediate results but will bring an eternal harvest.
  • Giving up some of our “rights” here can often make it possible to open the door for others to live eternally.
  • We don’t have to fight . . .we can (and should) view each other humbly and consider others better than (instead of worse than) ourselves. In other words, many things can and should simply be overlooked.
  • Character is more important than stuff.
  • Faithfulness is more important than results.
  • Eternity is more important than this life.
  • Marriage is not about what we expect to get; it is about what we hope to contribute to the life of another.
  • Following Christ is about surrender not about meetings and nice sounding words.
  • An immediate benefit should never be at the expense of an eternal opportunity. In other words, our pleasure should never come at the expense of our witness. The pleasure is temporary; the witness will have a forever impact.

You might nod and say all these things are certainly true but I hope you see like I do that we tend to lose sight of these truths. We easily get caught up in the meaningless, superficial, and temporary things of this world. We look down instead of up. We easily lose perspective.

This happens regularly at Christmas, doesn’t it? We easily get caught up in the gifts, the decorations, the celebrations, and see Christ only as the STAR of the show. We forget that Jesus did not come to entertain us!  He came to save us!

Christmas is not only about past events! It is about our present reality. It is about changing lives, living with a new perspective, and walking with God. Christmas was not meant to stress us out . . . it was meant to introduce us to the peace and rest that comes with forgiveness and a relationship with God.

Jesus came not merely to solve our present problems, He came to set a new direction for our lives; bring a new hope for our hearts; and give us a new strength and perspective on the trials of life.

Conclusions

Let me draw some conclusions. First, it is important before we start a new year to make sure that we have truly SEEN Jesus. It is not enough to acknowledge Jesus. We need to SEE him.

This is what happens in marriage sometimes. We live together every day. We have our polite conversations, we plan our calendars, but . . . we don’t really see each other. We are like people we meet on the street, we become like those who check us out at the store. We are grateful, we know the person was there . . . but we don’t really SEE them. We don’t take note of them. In marriage the result is that people drift apart.

Did you see Jesus this Christmas? Did you take note of him? Did His gift and His invitation register with you? Have you merely celebrated Christmas? Or have you embraced the Savior who came to us at Christmas?

It’s not too late. His arms are still open. The invitation still stands. His arms are open. He is willing to make you new. You must open the door and let Him do so.

Second, we should be honest about our own brokenness and accept that others are broken too. All throughout the Bible we are called to adopt a posture of humility. Some people misunderstand humility. They believe it means that you resist talking about how good you are. It means downplaying your strengths. Let me just say, that is NOT humility!

Humility is seeing yourself clearly. It is recognizing the sinful predisposition that lives inside of all of us.  It is remembering that every good thing we have is an undeserved gift from God. It is keeping in mind that we are people who are in the process of growing and still have a long way to go.

When we have an attitude of humility interesting things happen,

  • We trust rather than demand.
  • We are less surprised when people (including us) fail.
  • We find it a little easier to forgive because we can see that other people are like us in their struggles.
  • We are filled with gratitude because we do not view our blessings as rewards for good living; we recognize them as gifts of God’s grace.
  • We appreciate the work of Christ more; our worship deepens.
  • We lose that “edge” that people often have with others. In other words, we don’t take offense near as easily because we remember that no matter what others say about us, it is not as bad as what they could say if they really knew what was in our heart and mind.
  • Unity is much easier to maintain because we aren’t holding people up to a standard that we ourselves are not meeting.

Humility is the key to Christian community. It is the door that opens to a relationship with God.

Finally, we should be looking ahead asking the question: How can I demonstrate the message of the gospel in practical ways this year?  I hope you have seen that Jesus made practical differences in the lives of people. He did not come to bring us information – He came to draw us to Himself.

Our challenge as believers is to combine talk and action. There is truth to be proclaimed but that same truth should also be demonstrated. Take some time to think about how you can reveal the transforming power of Christ to broken people.

We can do this as a church and as individuals. We can do big things and small things like inviting people to worship and going out of our way to extend a welcome to those who are new or even extending understanding to other broken people. Or maybe you want to do something big

  • Minister to people who have been hospitalized (perhaps bringing them a meal).
  • Show love to those on a fixed income.
  • Make visits to those who are lonely.
  • Read to those who have bad eyesight.
  • Offer free babysitting to those who have young children.
  • Write notes to those who are imprisoned.
  • Make repairs or do yard work for someone who cannot do so.
  • Start a Bible Study for your neighbors.

Take some time and listen for God’s leading in your life. If you are willing and you pay attention, the Lord will place ideas in your head. Rather than dismiss them, explore them.

The point I want to make today is this: Christ came into the world not for us to have a celebration every year. He came into the world so we could be made right with God and could live the life God created us to live. In a very real sense, the so-called Christmas Spirit shouldn’t end with the taking down of our decorations. It should really just be beginning.

Scripture:

Isaiah 61:1-3