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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

24-12-23 - FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN -SPECIAL CHRISTMAS MESSAGE -

MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM

BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.

A Sunday school teacher asked her class of kindergarteners to draw a picture of the manger scene at Bethlehem. One student wanting to capture what he thought was the fullness of the story and not miss anything, included a very plump, jolly-looking fellow standing in the corner.“Tell me about this one,” said the teacher, pointing to the portly character. “Oh,” replied the pupil, “that’s Round John Virgin.”


Such is the innocence and magic of Christmas seen through the eyes of a child - seeing what we often miss and missing what we adults too often are prone to see.  We seeing the hurry and worry that  engulfs us and not seeing the miraculous wonder God has given us. It’s why it’s a joy to take hold of some of the perspectives children give us at Christmas – sometimes the honest, sometimes the exasperated, occasionally the refreshingly considerate.  Like: 


the honest Dear Santa,  I’ll take anything this year because I haven’t been that good.  


the not again exasperated   Dear Santa – if you are bringing toys with batteries this year – this time don’t forget the batteries 


the considerate Dear Santa , when you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are really hungry, you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.


And oh yes, there’s that dreamer who is willing to make slight adjustment on how he thinks the day should go


Dear Santa, I’m not going to ask for a lot. Here’s my list: The Etch-A-Sketch animator, 2 packs of #2 pencils, Crayola fat markers and the big gift - my own TV! Well, I don’t want to be selfish, maybe you could drop the pencils.


We smile at requests like these – but there’s a part of us that knows, that despite our added years – we haven’t changed much.  We still hold onto our dreams of what we want that will make our lives more fulfilled like the right stuff, the right relationship or the right opportunity.  The dreams about the things we can achieve and the impact we might make.  And then our own version of Boxing day comes and we rush out to get what we keep missing to make our lives work.  Still hoping.  Still dreaming.  Still seeking.  Until we don’t.   


Our discovery - that dreams hoped for often discourage – promises more than realities.  

But the good news – God does amazing things with scattered and broken dreams. Sometimes asking us to leave our dreams behind, not because they are too big – often because they are too small and wrongly placed.  Sometimes reshaping those dreams into something beyond what we could have imagined.  Sometimes asking us to wait, trusting that He sees what we cannot.  And here’s a hard one – sometimes not answering our why’s when our dreams lie broken because for some unfathomable reason, the answers to our why’s aren’t what we really need.  


In this place, God re-directing us to what He needs us to see.  Listen to what God said to His people who also knew what it was to have broken dreams – people who were bound in captivity, where they’d lost everything 


His assurance - the dream I gave you wasn’t wrong  - It’s Going To Happen.


 Jeremiah 33:12-16  “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks.  In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.  ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. 

God’s Promise - I WILL PRESENCE MYSELF   

But their problem? – they had no sign of His presence, God either didn’t care or He didn’t see, so rather than waiting on God, they took control of their dreams.  They, like we, deciding they would be the author of how their fulfillment, how their liberation was to play out.


To better understand how some of this came about for them, we need to understand the stage surrounding Jesus’ entrance into the world. For that, step out of this little place of Israel and step into where the world’s power was centered, which was Rome.    


Following Julius Caesar’s assassination Octavian, Caesar’s adopted heir, began to reign.  He was no fool – his father’s failures had taught him well - which meant staying on the right side of three groups: the Senate, the Military and the Citizens.  For the Senate, that meant great amounts of money, for the Military it meant land, money and the opportunity to gain full Roman citizenship. For the Citizens it meant circus and bread - free grain and entertainment.  

But to bring these about meant these perks not coming from Roman pockets but from Rome’s conquered territories.  Which meant levying tax upon tax.  For the Jews that included - grain tax, sales tax, occupational tax, custom tax, transit tax, temple tax.  So little wonder why the Jews were finding it hard to believe that they were God’s chosen people?  If poverty and oppression is what it meant to be chosen, perhaps they could stand aside and let someone else have that honour.  Added to that was Rome’s cruelty.  If these weren’t enough, Octavian was regarded as the great “savior” of the people so much so that he began being worshipped as a god.  One writer states: “he was invoked like one of the gods of Rome… surrounded with such abundance of religious honor that many thought there was nothing left for the worship of the heavenly gods”.  


The Senate, wanting to recognize and honor Octavian’s unique sacred godlike status, changed his name to Augustus worthy of worship.  It was this same Augustus who compelled Joseph and Mary to return to Bethlehem for the census.  The more accurate the census, the more accurate the tax collection 


BUT while the Roman’s regarded Augustus as the long awaited “Savior”, the Jews did not.


This is the world into which Christ came. A world of broken promises, broken dreams, broken homes and broken hearts.  Broken and without hope not much different than where many find themselves today.  And into that darkness God shone a light in a stable in an obscure village called Bethlehem.  In that place, God coming, His appearance as the Light of the world.


But the many? - not seeing it, not wanting to look in any place that didn’t fit with what they thought should be seen, with what they thought should appear.  With what they knew, needed to appear.  And what they saw?  How would that deal with the brokenness they felt?  How would that deal with the hopelessness they faced?  So, in response, Israel shaped her expectations of her long awaited Saviour-Messiah to be one who would: 


    - deliver with fury and power

- fulfill their needs and supply their wants

- judge the wicked and establish the ‘holy’


And God’s answer? giving them a manger, tucked away in an insignificant backwater town.  How unsatisfying was that!  With no appearance of power, God’s answer was a Messiah they missed and a manger they walked past.   They wanted might rather than humility.  They want a warrior not some infant child.  Someone who would impress not delight.  A manger gave no hope of a Saviour. They not understanding that THIS day was the day of God’s invitation.  It was the day given for mankind to know HIM.  This wasn’t the day of the Messiah’s Power, Justice and Judgment although that day is coming.  


Israel forgetting and we often not understanding - that God ALWAYS fulfills His promises but He does so on His terms and in His way.  


Centuries before, Isaiah prophesied about what would take place when the Messiah would arrive. Isaiah said, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame shall leap like a deer.”  As impressive as those things were, they weren’t the signs those who had suffered under the Roman yoke, were looking for. They wanted dramatic. They wanted greatness.


But God choosing to work in little places we can come close to - like a manger, a carpenter’s shop and a cross.  Places we must all go to in order to find God – places not found behind walls of power, not elevated on platforms of prominence. But God present even when among the terrifying that surrounds, the power that overwhelms, the fear that cripples. God present when we earnestly seek Him.  There you will find what He promises: Peace that says, don’t fear! Hope that invites to new life. Unspeakable joy that testifies that His promises are true. All found in Jesus.  But to all who receive Himto them He gave the power, the right to become sons, children of God, even to those who believe on His name Jn 1:12 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Cor 5:17


So the great news of Christmas?  Truly discovered when we come and see with childlike eyes then childlike faith, the Wonder of what we have been given to see - 

 

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, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Is 9:6.






   

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