Christmas Eve 2020 Service

Christmas Eve 2020

Pastor Jerry Gillis - December 24, 2020

Sermon Transcript

Hey, Merry Christmas everybody from my living room to your living room. Now I'm not 100% sure that you're in your living room. You could be elsewhere. Some of you may be driving and this is on a device and you're just listening. You may be at the office if you happen to have to work. But I wanted to just say Merry Christmas to you. So thankful that you've chosen to tune in. I hope that you've had an opportunity today to be able to enjoy this day, at least to some extent with family or friends or that you're going to maybe even a little bit later. Now I know it's dark out, but that's a good backdrop for what I wanna talk to you about on this Christmas Eve night. See, in a moment we're going to do something and we're gonna talk a little bit, but if you're, if you're a family that's gathered together, maybe there's some kids that are there, and hello to all my little buddies in The Chapel. I want you to be ready to do something in just a few minutes. You don't have to do it now, and I don't want you to do it now, but in a few minutes, I want you to be ready to turn the lights off, okay? So that'll be, if you're a kid, that's your job. Now, if you're at the office, you probably can't do that. If you're driving, don't even think about doing that. But if you're in your living room, maybe you would just be in a moment ready to be able to turn your lights out. And then kids, once the lights are out and wait for me, okay, wait until I tell you, but you can either have mom or dad's phone and turn the light on with that. Or you can use the glow stick that you got maybe from King's World, if you happen to get one of those, okay? So we're not ready for that yet, but in a little bit, we're gonna be ready for it. So I wanted to make sure that you are ready. Now, it's getting darker outside earlier and earlier, do I hear an amen somewhere? It is happening. And it feels like these days are really, really short. I know that we're going through some of the shortest light days that you can find, or right now during this season. But it feels like for some of us that we get up when it's dark, and then by the time we get home, maybe from work it's dark. And so it just feels like a lot of darkness, doesn't it? Well, I have a tendency to feel like that's a great metaphor for 2020, a lot of darkness. For a lot of people, it's felt like that they're waking up in darkness and going to bed in darkness because we felt like we've been in this long dark tunnel for a long period of time. For some been physical darkness, people have been sick. People have lost loved ones, for some it's been emotional, for some it's been mental, for some it's been social, the inability to be able to connect with people, and for others it's been spiritual. You've just felt the depression, the difficulty of this season in this time, it just feels like we've been living in a land of darkness. Well, I can tell you this, that Israel knew what that felt like. 700 years before Jesus was even born, Israel had divided as a nation, and now it was two kingdoms, Israel to the North and Judah to the South, the Northern and the Southern Kingdom. And they weren't particularly good friends at this point. Now, during this time in the 700s BC, there was a nation named Assyria, and Assyria was really strong. It was a powerful kind of political entity, military entity. And it was flexing its muscles in this region. And so, as you can imagine in a geopolitical landscape, what nations were trying to do is to figure out how they would align themselves, who they would be coupled with. And so what Israel did, the Northern Kingdom is they align themselves with Syria, not Assyria, but Syria, the nation, because they wanted to have a little bit of power. Well, this made King Ahaz in Judah really scared because he didn't know how that was going to play out. So God knew that King Ahaz was nervous, and God raises up a prophet named Isaiah, and Isaiah comes to King Ahaz and says, "God's gonna take care of you. Don't worry about the political alliances that you see around you. God's gonna take care of you." So Isaiah delivered this message to the King of Judah, but the King of Judah was still scared. And so what he did is he aligned himself with Assyria thinking that maybe they were the most powerful and that maybe they would treat him well, if he kind of aligned with them. Well, what ended up happening kind of fast forwarding through all of this is that it didn't turn out well for anybody because what everybody chose is that they chose to align themselves in political power instead of trusting in what God said and what God would do. And so this didn't turn out well for Israel and Syria, because Assyria showed how powerful they were, and it didn't turn out well for Judah because even Judah, even though they tried to align themselves with Assyria, it didn't work out for them either. And so, what they found, they found that they were living in the midst of great darkness. In fact, that's how Isaiah ends up recording this idea when he talks about what they were experiencing at that time. In Isaiah chapter eight, beginning in verse 21, it says this, "Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land, when they're famished, they will become enraged and they will look upward, will curse their King and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom. And they will be thrust into utter darkness." But then chapter nine verse one says, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, God humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan." See, what Isaiah was describing here is that darkness was happening because people had turned their trust from God and put it into political alliances and political allegiances. In fact, a few verses before the passage, I just read in Isaiah eight earlier in the chapter, it says the reason for the darkness was because God had turned his face from them. You see the picture of the Old Testament, is it when God's face is showing that God's face is shining. That there's a radiance with the face of God. But when God turns his face, the picture is then darkness, that that radiance goes away for them. And they feel like they're living in utter darkness. This darkness that was being described was not a physical darkness like we're experiencing right now. It at night on Christmas Eve, it was a spiritual darkness. It was a feeling that they didn't have God's blessing. And that they realized that they had trusted political power instead of trusting in God. But the good news is that we read about, is as chapter nine begins in Isaiah, we get this hint that this darkness is not going to last forever. In fact, God has other plans. He's got a different government in mind. And that's why Isaiah goes on to say this in verse number two of chapter nine, that the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. And then in verse six, it tells us how that happened. For to us a Child is born. To us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." You see this passage of scripture was certainly prophetic it had an immediate context to it, but it was actually pointing to the Messiah that would ultimately come. The promise's that the Messiah, when He came would be light in the midst of the darkness that seemed to hover over humanity, the spiritual darkness that overcame everyone, darkness feels intimidating, doesn't it? Darkness sometimes feels like it overwhelms us. Like it's just something we can't move our way through. Have you ever been a place so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face? Like maybe in a cave or somewhere like that? There's something almost choking about it when you really experience darkness, right? So, here's what I want you to do, kids maybe you're ready now. I want you right there in your home to just turn the lights off for just a moment. Now I realized that I may still be on your device, or your computer screen, or your TV screen. And so there'll be some light from me. So don't try and turn me off, but feel the darkness for just a moment. Sit in it, go ahead and turn the lights off. If you haven't just sit in it for a moment. Right when you turn all the lights off, even though you might have the glow of my screen, that's looking at you right now, you realize that it has a tendency to overwhelm, doesn't it? But that when light happens in the midst of darkness, it immediately casts away the darkness because where there is light darkness can't exist in its immediate circle. So now kids, here's what I want you to do, while you're there in the darkness, take mom or dad's phone or adults you can do the same thing, take your phone, turn your light on, or maybe use that glow stick that you have. You can snap it and just use that glow stick. Now that you see that light, you can look around you and you can see around you because that light cast away the darkness that was sitting around you. See darkness is intimidating until the light shows up. And when the light shows up, it casts away the darkness. Now, if you'd like, you can turn your lights back on if you want to. Or if you wanna sit in the darkness and think about this for a little bit, with just the glow of the screen and my lovely face here in your living room, then you can do that as well. You see when Jesus was born fulfilling the prophecy that Isaiah had foretold, right, 700 years earlier. When Jesus was born just six miles outside of Jerusalem in a little town called Bethlehem, do you know what the signal for his birth was? A light, it was a star that was over Bethlehem that was casting light upon where He was, that the match I followed from the east to be able to get there and to come and give him gifts and worship him. Now it's no accident that there was a light that was illuminating the place where Jesus was, where He was born, where He was now dwelling. Now I know your curiosity is peaked maybe like everybody else in the world when you hear about this star over Bethlehem, this light over Bethlehem, and wonder what was that exactly? I'll be honest with you, I don't know for sure. The Bible actually doesn't tell us exactly what it was. It's possible that it was a planetary conjunction like we just experienced three days ago on December 21st, right? When we had the opportunity to maybe if you looked really hard, it wasn't super clear, but if you were able to look and you were seeing some planets be closer to one another than they've ever been in a really, really, really long time, hundreds and hundreds of years, and it gives off this light almost like it's one thing, is that possible? For sure, it's possible that was the case. Astronomers have actually said that there was a planetary conjunction during the time where King Herod would have been alive and which would have fit within the context of the birth of Jesus, that timeframe. So it's certainly possible that that was the case, but depending on how long the match I traveled and how long those things last, it could have also been something else, could have been something supernatural. That is obviously a possibility when we're talking about God, and God making the announcement of his Son being born, but whatever it was, here's what we do know. We do know that it was a light that was illuminating where Jesus was actually born. Now, I don't want you to be, I don't want you to get sideways about this because you missed the point if your focus is just on the star, you see the point is this is that that star was a created light that was pointing people to the Creator of light or the Source of light. So don't get confused just by thinking about what was the star. The star was there simply to point to the light that had come into the world. You see, what we have to consider is that every single testimony in the New Testament about who Jesus is when we see it at its core, oftentimes He's being referred to as the Light. When John opens his gospel account, listen to what he says in John chapter one, he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." You see John testifies that Jesus himself is the light that has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome it, why? Because the true light casts away the spiritual darkness, the Gospel writer, Matthew also wanted to make sure that we understood that Jesus in his very life was the fulfillment of the prophecy Isaiah had made, in Isaiah chapter nine. Here's what Matthew writes in Matthew chapter four verses 13 through 16 says, "Leaving Nazareth, Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah, land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan Galilee of the Gentiles. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned." And by the way, not only did John testify to this and Matthew testified to this, but Jesus himself understood what his role was in being the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. And in being the light of the world, listen to what Jesus said in his ministry. In John chapter eight, it says, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light side of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." I'm imagining that we've probably all heard the Christmas carol, "A Little Town of Bethlehem". It was written by a man named Phillips Brooks, who was a minister in a church in Philadelphia, but in 1865 or so, he had made a pilgrimage to Israel. And on Christmas Eve night, he rode horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. And out of that experience, Phillips Brooks wrote this poem that ended up becoming a Christmas carol. And I'm sure that, the words, "O, little town of Bethlehem. How still we see the rise. Above thy deep and dreamless, sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth. The everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight." That that last line in that stanza from that beautiful Christmas carol to me is hauntingly beautiful. ♪ Yet in the dark streets shineth ♪ ♪ The everlasting light ♪ ♪ The hopes and fears of all the years ♪ ♪ Are met in thee tonight. ♪ That is a remarkably brilliant theological Christmas carol, the hopes and fears of this very year are met in Jesus tonight. The hopes and fears of 2020 are met in him tonight. The everlasting Light has walked into these dark streets and he comes even this night to remind us that everything can be met in him. I'm imagining some of us have some fears to bring that this year has caused some of that in our hearts. Maybe it's a fear around our health. Maybe we think to ourselves, I'm concerned about getting a virus. Or I'm concerned about friends or family members who've gotten a virus. I'm concerned about how long this is going to go on and what it's going to, how it's going to affect people that I love? My mental health has been compromised to some degree, and that of my friends and family members who've not had much interaction or as much as we're used to. So maybe we have some fears around our health. We probably also have some fears around our future. How long is this going to go on? What does this mean for my job? What does this mean for my ability to make a living? What does this mean for school? What does this mean for our nation and how it feels like the fabric of our very nation has been torn to some degree I'm imagining we all have some fears to bring to Jesus. I'm not here to answer every one of those questions. What I am here to say is that what Christmas reminds us of is that the Light of the World, Jesus, the One in him was life. And this life was the light of all humankind, that in Jesus, when we bring that to him, He will meet us in the dark streets of our souls and the dark streets of our minds. And he will meet us tonight. You've got fears to bring, bring them, He's here. You might also have hopes to bring. Hopes about getting back to school, hopes about friends and family, being able to freely come over and being able to interact with one another. Hopes about an into a pandemic, hopes about coming out of this long dark season that we've been in. All of these hopes are good. And they're real. And they're felt deeply by every single one of us. But we have deeper hopes. If we drill down just a little bit farther, we have actually deeper hopes. We want someone who can help us walk in light, as opposed to spiritual darkness, we wanna be able to walk in the light, but not just now. We wanna be able to walk in the light forever. This is something that we want. We want an eternal hope, not just a temporary one. That's what goes on deep inside of us, but I've got good news for you. The Eternal Light has come to save us. Has pierced through the darkness that has overcome humanity and said, "Here I am to rescue you." That's why his name was Jesus. The name Jesus means God or Jehovah or Yahweh saves. That's exactly what He came to do. And what did He come to save us from? Well, He came to save us from sins. That's why in the Matthew's gospel, it says this. It says that you will name him Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins. You see, we all need to understand that the John's gospel tells us that the light has come into the world, but that people chose darkness instead of light, why? There's a million different reasons, but that's what sin does. Sin causes us to choose the darkness instead of the light. But great news of God's grace is this, while we were yet sinners who were walking around in darkness, Christ still came as the Light of the world to end up living and teaching us about the kingdom of God, going to a cross, to die in our place, to become sin for us to satisfy the justice of Almighty God, you see what Jesus did listen to this, is he endured the darkness of the cross so that through the light of his resurrection, he might give us the ability to be reconciled to God, the Father, having a relationship with him and experience life in the light, light in the midst of grace, light where we have hope, light where we experience forgiveness. This is the great hope that Jesus brings. He transfers us from a place of utter darkness, a kingdom of darkness to a kingdom of light. The apostle Paul said it this way in Colossians chapter one, he said, "And we give joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." You see, as he came, he comes. He will meet us right now in all of our hopes and fears. He'll meet us right now in the dark streets of our minds and our souls. And He will bring the light of salvation into our lives if we'll surrender by faith, to trust in who Jesus is and what he's done. He came and he comes and He's coming again. You see, when Jesus comes again, He's going to make wrong things right. He's gonna make broken things better. He's going to bring in a new creation. And in that new creation, it's going to be characteristically light. In fact, when the Apostle John had a revelation of this new creation, listen to the words that he wrote in Revelation chapter 21, he said, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb, Jesus is its Lamp. The nations will walk by its light and the Kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it, on no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. You see friends, this is the great hope that we're looking forward to, Jesus the one prophesied about, that light has come into the midst of the darkness. The one who is the light of the world, the one who John said that in him was life. And this life was the light of all mankind. This light of the world will bring new creation eventually. And all of those who put their trust in their faith in him, will not only be transformed in this life to be able to push aside the spiritual darkness, but we'll live in a kingdom of light where night doesn't even exist. And the radiance of the glory of who God is, covers everything. This is a place where we want to dwell. This is the great hope that we have in our heart. And I wanna remind us that what the story of Christmas teaches us and even what the prophecy of Christmas teaches us from Isaiah. Our hope is not in politics. Our hope is not in political power. Our hope is not in governments or governmental leaders. Our hopes not in getting back to school or getting a vaccine. Our hope is not that our circumstances changed for the better. I'm hopeful that all of those things happened, but they're all temporary. Our hope is in Jesus, that is the great hope that we have. And if you've never come to a place where you've turned and put your faith in Jesus Christ, I can't think of a better opportunity than here on this Christmas Eve night for you to be able to do that. And I want you to stay tuned in listen closely because in just a little bit, someone's gonna come on and they're gonna talk to you about how you can connect with us, and how we can help you in that journey of surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world.

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