Monday, December 21, 2015

a Christmas sermon

Isaiah 9:6 – What’s in a Name?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Your name – it says a LOT about you.  Those who know it are instantly put in mind of your character and reputation.  

Maybe your name garners respect (“Oh yeah, I remember that guy!”)…or maybe it triggers anger (“Oh yeah, I remember THAT guy!”).  

Whatever the response, we do a lot to protect our names – because, as Solomon said,
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”  

Your name, you see, says a lot about WHO you ARE, WHAT you’ve DONE, and the MARK you’ve made on others.
Jesus” – the name which is above every name.  It doesn’t matter where you go – or WHO is gathered – the name of Jesus elicits a response.  For SOME, the name of Jesus means nothing… but to US, THAT name means EVERYTHING.
It puts us in mind of the love of God – that great, sacrificial display of grace toward an unworthy human race – as the precious Son of God was born, suffered, bled, and died in order to redeem man from his sins.
The angel Gabriel told Joseph in Matthew chapter 1, “thou shalt call his name ‘JESUS’ for he shall save his people from their sins.”  The name of Jesus reminds us that we are benefactors of ANOTHER’S righteousness – that we can now stand before a holy God forgiven and free on the basis of HIS merits and not our own.
Did you know that there are over 100 names for Jesus in the NT and that each name reveals some unique aspect of His character?
In Revelation ALONE we find 20 different names of Jesus.
He is called, the Almighty (1:8), the Alpha and Omega 22:13), the Amen (3:14), the Beginning and End (22:13) the Faithful and True Witness (3:14), and the First and Last (1:17).  He is called the Firstborn from the Dead (1:5), the Holy and True (3:7), the King of kings (19:16) and the King of all Ages (15:3).  He is the Lamb (13:8), the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (5:5), and the Lord of lords (19:16).  He is called the Morning Star (22:16) and the Word of God in Revelation 19:13.  And according to chapter 3 and verse 14, He is the Ruler of God’s Creation – and the Judge of all mankind.

Scripture says in Philippians 2:10 that before HIS NAME “every knee shall bow” – for “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we MUST be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Every book of the Bible, points us to Him.  Every writer provides us with some insight into His character…
Even here, in just ONE VERSE, Isaiah offers 4 different names – four different attributes of His character.  750 years before the Lord was even born – Isaiah wanted us to know how SPECIAL this Baby would be.
This morning, we will examine those four names – in the hopes that, in the very least – we will all join in worship of that name which is above every name.  

But even more importantly, it is my hope that if you have never received Christ as Savior and Lord of your life, that you WILL by the end of this service.
1.  First, Isaiah wanted us to KNOW – His Wisdom.  As the prophet looked into the future, he wanted us to know that this baby born in a Bethlehem cattle stall, would be NO ordinary baby – in fact, He would be the embodiment of heaven’s wisdom.  

So Isaiah pulls back the swaddling clothes surrounding that tender face, and tells us we are beholding the face of Wonderful Counselor!”

Why does a person visit a counselor?  As a pastor, I have spent literally hundreds of hours talking with folks – and usually people seek counsel for one of two reasons – they are either in pain - OR - they need help with a problem.
Those suffering pain often turn to a counselor for comfort.
  • Maybe they had a traumatic childhood experience
  • maybe they’ve made bad decisions
  • maybe they are going through a divorce
  • or suffered the loss of a loved one
  • Maybe their doctor has told them to get their affairs in order because they have a terminal disease
whatever the situation, they are in pain – so they turn to a counselor for comfort… they are hoping for some insight, some word of wisdom that will help them sort through their mess.
Some turn to a counselor for guidance.
  • Maybe they are having marital problems, and they want advice for working through them.
  • Maybe there is some sort of conflict in the family, and they need someone to advise them how to handle the situation.
  • Maybe they sense God dealing with them about some special calling or service and they turn to a counselor who might suggest ideas for navigating those heavy life decisions.
whatever the need, they are looking for guidance.
Both, those in pain and those with problems, look to an outside source, preferably someone with experience, who can bring a sense of normalcy to their lives.

Now, SOME refuse to EVER visit a counselor.
  • Maybe they are too proud to admit they have a need
  • maybe they feel it would be a waste of time or that they can somehow work things out on their own…
  • maybe they are afraid of someone else knowing their business or that a counselor might violate their trust.
For whatever reason, they are not convinced that a PERSON can help them.

The truth of the matter is, human beings can and often DO fail us.  I appreciate the counsel I have received in the past – but even at their very best, humans are limited in the help they can provide.  They can be wrong.  They have a limited perspective or a bias that might skew their judgment.  

While it is certainly a good thing that we can turn to others for advice, there are times in ALL of our lives when we are beyond human aid.
That’s why we need “Wonderful Counselor.”  We can take our problems to Jesus.  As the song says, “No one ever cared for me, Like Jesus.”  He loves us.  His wisdom is perfect.  His guidance and direction are always best.  Even when our world is falling apart, and those we love forsake us – “Wonderful counselor” will never fail us.
I am SO glad, that, when circumstances in my life are dire – when I am distressed, when I am confused, lonely, or broken, that I have a God Who is never too busy, or too far, or at a loss as to what I need.  And He will be there for YOU too.

2.  But not only does Isaiah reveal His Wisdom, he also speaks of His Warfare in the name Mighty God.”
When the children of Israel thought about God – they thought of His POWER – the fact that their God was Invincible, victorious, that nothing or no one could oppose or thwart the purposes of God.  

He is “MIGHTY” – the Hebrew word means “Warrior… or Champion!”  And the word translated “God” is the Hebrew word “El,” which means “Almighty!”  So, Isaiah tells us that Jesus is “the Mighty Almighty!”  Heaven’s Champion! The unconquerable Warrior!
Isaiah wanted us to understand that Jesus didn’t come simply for the purpose of comforting us in our troubles or to make our lives BETTER –NO – the ultimate purpose for His coming was to Conquer Sin – to bring DOWN the wall that separated sinful man from a Holy God – He came to deal a death blow to Satan.  He is the MIGHTY ALMIGHTY, heaven’s Champion, come to wage war with the enemy, and to defeat him.
So amid the daily battles you face, remember He is the MIGHTY ALMIGHTY.  Those addictions you struggle against, those impossibilities you face, those hardships that seem insurmountable – they are nothing to heaven’s champion.  The crooked is made straight by Him.  The vile are made clean by Him.  THIS is His warfare!
As Mary rocked her little baby, and pulled back the swaddling clothes and felt His tiny features – she was looking into the eyes of MIGHTY GOD!
3.  Third, he wanted us to know His Warmth, in the title Everlasting Father.”  In the original it reads, “the Father of Eternity.”

The word “everlasting” comes from a Hebrew word that means “the end of everything.”  And in the Book of Revelation, Jesus is called “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”  He is everlasting!
The term “Father” comes from the Hebrew word “Abba…” the Jewish expression “daddy.”  A term of affection… of Warmth.  So, the two words translated together mean, “forever daddy.
Sadly, the word “fathermay not bring to mind fond memories for some of us.  Maybe for you, the word brings negative thoughts. Maybe you were ABUSED or ABANDONED by your father.  Maybe your dad was there but he was ALOOF – unapproachable, indifferent – hard to be in the same room with him.
Even though our earthly fathers fail in so many ways…  we all know what a good father SHOULD be.  We know that a GOOD father loves his family, sacrifices himself FOR them and does what he can to provide for them and protect them.  A good father gives us a good spiritual example to follow – they are people we want to honor and please.

Maybe you HAD a good father.  But even still → as good as an earthly father CAN BE – they can’t stay with us forever.  They pass away.  Though they care for us even when we are grown and on our own, one day their temporary flesh will give way to death and they will trade THIS life for the next.
But Jesus is “everlasting father.”  Always caring… always protecting… providing, approachable, and encouraging...

His Warmth!
4.  And then finally, after showing us His Wisdom, Warfare, and Warmth, Isaiah THEN shows us His Will, in the name Prince of Peace!”
One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible comes to us from Luke chapter 2.  The night Jesus was born the Angels of heaven announced his birth to shepherds, saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, PEACE, good will toward men.”  The Prince of Peace had come to give us - peace.

The title “Prince” literally means “Captain.”  And the word “peace” is a very common Hebrew expression still in use today – it is “Shalom.”  A word packed with meaning.  When someone says “Shalom” they are wishing us health, prosperity, and peace.  Another way of saying it is they are wishing “God’s best” upon us.

It’s something that Jews say when greeting – and it’s something they say when departing.  So, whether coming or going, their wish, their singular desire is for “peace.”
How fitting then, that Jesus should be called “the Prince of Shalom.”  He is the Captain of our peace.  It is only through Him that a person can experience TRUE peace.  God’s will is for you to have this peace – peace that comes in two parts:
First, He wants you to have Peace WITH God.
Before sin entered the human experience, man could walk in perfect fellowship with God.  But when man fell into sin, we became the enemies of God.  Sin broke the bond of fellowship with God; we could no longer experience His best – we were separated from Him.  Though God is loving, He could not ignore or overlook man’s violation of His holiness.  The only way peace could be obtained was through the sacrificial death of His Son.  The righteous life and atoning death of Christ, makes peace with God possible.
This is why we must accept Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives – without it, there is no peace WITH God.  Paul said in Romans 5:1 – “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And in Colossians 1:20 Paul explained, “He made peace through the blood of His cross.”
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate all the good things that man does.  I appreciate how honest and kind and generous man can be.  There are some really fine folks in this world who do some mighty good things – but without Jesus, even that “good man” will go to hell – because it is only through Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that we can have peace WITH God.
But He didn’t just come to give us peace WITH God… He also came to give us the peace OF God.
When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I received His peace.  I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or who will take care of me when I am old.  I don’t worry about what will happen when I die.  When I focus on the Lord, there is no circumstance too great, no problem so severe that it can rob me of God’s peace.  Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses ALL understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

How ironic, this One who left the serenity of heaven for the storms of humanity; this One who was rejected, cursed, beaten, and crucified;

He Who suffered such hatred and scorn, would BE the Prince of Peace.  

But you see, that IS the glorious message of the Gospel.  All those curses and beatings and agony of the cross – was intended for me – I deserved that – BUT, our Prince of Peace, the Captain of our Salvation, took our place – so that we might have PEACE.  

THIS is His will … for you.

Isaiah calls us to come, gaze upon the face of that little baby whose birth we celebrate.  Pull back the swaddling clothes and consider “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”  There, in that manger, lay all the Wisdom, Warfare, Warmth, and Will of God!
Do you know Him?  I don’t mean ‘do you know ABOUT him?’ I mean, do you know Him personally?  Does He live in your heart and life?  Do you have His peace?
If suddenly your life came to an abrupt end, would you stand before God forgiven and free of all your guilt and sin?  

Today, if you would like to receive Christ as Savior, we invite you to come to this altar where someone will show you how to be saved.

But for those who ARE saved, I ask - Is Christ the center of your celebration this year?  Maybe, you are a Christian, but you are going to have those in your home this Christmas who do NOT know the Lord, and you want to pray that somehow, someway, God might use you, something said or done in your home, to introduce them to Christ.  If that’s you, why not pray about it right now?

Whatever your need, whether it is to be Saved or to PRAY for the salvation of those you love, we invite you to come.