“The Radiance of God’s Glory” December 24, 2023

“The Radiance of God’s Glory” December 24, 2023

Posted by on Dec 28, 2023 in Sermon archives

“The Radiance of God’s Glory”

Luke 1:46-56

Romans 16:25-27

John 1:1-5

Hebrews 1:1-4

 

I’d like to begin with what is perhaps the most well known  prophecy of the Messiah’s coming unto this world. From the 9th chapter of Isaiah, and broadened out a bit for context, we read:

Isaiah 9:2-6    ESV

2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,  you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Don’t you just love the imagery of some of these ancient texts? I mean really now: “For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire;”

it’s no wonder that the Jewish population at the time figured that when the Prince of Peace finally showed up, it would be anything but peaceful- at least not at first.

But we who gather here today to celebrate  the arrival of God’s greatest gift to this world have learned that our God did not come to us  in the flesh to be like the proverbial big brother who we could always count on to beat up the bullies that tortured us on the playground. Once again, from the prophecies of Isaiah:

“6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” So what do you think? Did Isaiah get it right? You know, they say that the true test of a prophet is if his or her prophecies actually come true. So how about it? Was he even close?

If you’ll recall, I promised you all at the beginning of Advent this year that I wouldn’t dwell on the traditional Advent themes of waiting and anticipation. There would be no advent calendars with chocolate and candy along with a long drawn out countdown to Christmas. Instead, I’ve done my best to spend these last four weeks looking to get a feel for  and a better understanding of the true nature of Christ: Christ the divine and Christ the human. In so doing, it has been my hope that this unique blend of humanity and divinity might rekindle the fascination and the joy and the just plain awesomeness of the fact that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten  son to dwell upon this earth. Love  came down at Christmas,” as the song says,  but this was no casual visit.

The Christmas story goes far beyond a little baby sleeping on some straw   in the Manger.  It surpasses shepherds and stars and wise men. The Christmas story is even bigger than the words of the prophets and the miracle of a virgin birth.

I mean, think about it for a second: we can’t help but to get swept away by this story that we all know so well. The long, desperate journey to Bethlehem, and the House of David, along with the mysterious wise men come from the east: there are so many facets to this the story that stir our imaginations. Add to that a few choirs of angels and the real threat that Herod posed with his efforts to have the Christ child killed and it’s no wonder that the Christmas story is one that never seems to grow old.

But here’s the thing, once all the lights have been taken down and the decorations packed away, we who hold Christ in our hearts can come to know a joy that is everlasting, and that is simply the joy in the fact that for the love of us, our God saw fit to dwell amongst us in the flesh; and that all begins with a little baby. And let’s face it folks, there are few things in this world that can bring us immediate and unbridled joy like the presence of a newborn child.

But you know, the joy of this moment, the happiness of our celebration of the Christ child, is bound to be tempered by the fact that even though we do know how it all begins, and we celebrate the heck out of that, we also know how it ends. After all, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, followed by his death and resurrection, is the crux of our faith. But we don’t let that dampen our spirits. Christ came to offer forgiveness and salvation to everyone and we can rejoice that his influence is still strong to this day.

Once again from Isaiah 9, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called wonderful counselor. Almighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of peace.” And once again I have to ask: did Isaiah get it right? When we call the Lord Jesus Christ a Wonderful Counselor, do we confess that the teachings and ministry of Jesus are the first stop we make if we are seeking counsel in our lives? when we are feeling bruised and battered, plagued by poor health or simply overwhelmed by the nastiness of this world, do we lash out or instead, through prayer and the fellowship a believers, do we seek the counsel of one who loves us unconditionally?

And when we openly confess this same Jesus as the Prince of Peace, do we stop to give thanks to our wonderful counselor for the many times he has calmed our angry hearts and brought peace- true peace- to our fractured souls.

And last but not least, when we address the Christ child as “Almighty God” and “Everlasting Father, ” we open the door to God’s master plan of coming to us in the first place. Let me explain.

To me, the crux of the Christmas story is that our God for the love of us came to live amongst us fully human and fully divine, and by doing so he has blessed and inspired the nations of all   the earth with the gifts of forgiveness and salvation. It is the humanity of Christ that enables us to love him as one of  us. Yet, at the same time,  it  is the divinity of our Lord Jesus that inspires us to do better, to be better, and perhaps even   to emulate one who is divine.

 

You know, it has only been during the last four or 500 years that churches around the world have chosen to celebrate the birth of the Christ child to the degree that we do now. Up until then it was Easter and the resurrection story that stayed at the top of the list of church celebrations. Sure, there will be grumbling and eye rolling about the crass commercialization of the season. Billboards remind us to keep Christ in Christmas and public schools across the nation struggle to remain secular and free of religious influences during this season when they are so hard to ignore.

But here’s the thing, No amount of squabbling or trips to the mall can change the fact that Christ was born to save us from a life of sin. Some might even say that he was born to save us from ourselves, but no matter your point of view, we can rejoice. We can rejoice that God so loved the  world  that he gave his only son that whosoever might believe in him shall never perish  but have everlasting life. That is the Christmas story: the wonder and the magnificence of this one unselfish act from a loving God. He has sent the radiance of his glory: the radiance of his very being, that we might come to know the hope and the joy and the peace and the love of the everlasting father, the Prince of peace.

And so, however you choose to celebrate tomorrow I wish you joy and I wish you peace. And as we go out into the world, even though it might seem a little corny, I would wish that you might carry the words of this well known Carol in your hearts: joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing.

Amen and Shalom

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