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SUN
Mission Ardmore
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Men's Bible Study
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Bible Search
Why Christ Had to Come
In Defense of Christ
Why Christ Had to Come
Psalm 8 & Hebrews 2:5-9
 
For some strange reason, it seems that most Americans have forgotten what Christmas really means.  Even though we say the very name of Christ and see it thousands upon thousands of times in advertisements and cards and hear it in song after song, it’s as if the central figure of Christmas doesn’t exist. 
 
Some even go so far as to completely remove the name altogether, opting instead to celebrate happy winter holidays or some such nonsense. 
 
That Jesus is missing was made painfully clear as I was preparing for this morning’s powerpoint.  I wanted to find some artwork to use depicting Baby Jesus or perhaps a manger scene so I went to my computer to do a search.  I was using Yahoo!’s browser. 
 
Now for those of you who may not use computers or not regularly do searches, you can type in some search terms and the computer will search the internet and in a few seconds, deliver the results.  With this particular search, I limited the search to images and entered the word “Christmas” seeking a picture or some clip art to use in my presentation. 
 
The results are displayed 100 at a time.  I found pictures of
  • Mickey and Minnie
  • Charlie Brown
  • Christmas songs
  • Christmas cats  (they don’t like that)
  • Cute puppies
  • Santa and Frosty
  • Trees and lights
 
On the sixth page, I finally found a nativity scene but it was a parody with batman as the angel and a Star Trek figure as Joseph.
 
Seven hundred pictures in I finally found three camels and the wise men and on page 9, I finally found a nativity scene depicting the birth of Christ, and it was for sale!
 
Do you think maybe we’re missing something when it comes to our celebration of Christmas?
 
That happens for a variety of reasons, I think. Some people really have forgotten, or never knew, or never cared about the real reason for Christmas.  They just like the goodwill and family and happiness of the season. 
 
Second, with the rise of faiths who teach that what we believe about what happened in Palestine 2,000 years ago is wrong, there is a fear someone might be offended if Christ is celebrated, so Jesus must be diminished or removed. 
 
But for whatever reason, the real tragedy is it’s possible to celebrate Christmas and never hear about Christ.  Isn’t it amazing that we have finally reached the place where Jesus needs defending at Christmastime?
 
 
 
And unfortunately, that is true, even among Christians.  One Barna poll of self-identified “born again Christians” contains disturbing news:
 
26% believe all religions are basically equal.
 
50% believe that good works will get you to heaven.
 
35% do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
 
45% do not believe that Satan exists.
 
33% accept same-sex marriage.
 
38% say it is okay to live together before marriage.
 
It appears that instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we are being conformed to this world’s way of thinking.  It is all right to be religious as long as you keep it in your head or in your church.  If you want to share that with someone else or be visual and vocal in society, that is not allowed.
 
Everywhere we look and listen these days. There are more and more doubts about Jesus. So what I want to offer you this Christmas season is a series of message in defense of Christ. 
 
Now when you think about it, the Christmas story is foundational to everything else we believe.  All the elements of the Christian faith are there. 
 
 
The coming of Christ changed history—literally, from B.C. to A.D.  It is no stretch to say, “Everything is different now that Christ has come to the world.” Christmas isn’t a sentimental thought—like “The Little Drummer Boy” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
 
The coming of Christ establishes the truth of all that we believe. Seen in its proper context, Christ’s birth speaks with incredible relevance to 21st-century people who write off Christmas as nothing more than eggnog and candy canes.
 
So what I hope to do over the next four weeks is, not only arm you for the battle that we have with the skeptics, I am praying that we will rediscover the Christ of Christmas as well
 
Now, I want to begin by saying, to be honest,  Christianity and the Bible make some rather outlandish claims relating to Christmas:
 
· Prophets foretold both the virgin birth, and his birth in Bethlehem hundreds of years before it happened.
 
· An angel visited a virgin who became pregnant by the Holy Spirit and told her the baby in her womb was the Son of God from heaven.
 
· God caused a heathen emperor to call for a taxation that sent Mary and Joseph back to Bethlehem at the very moment Jesus was born.
 
· An angel spoke to Joseph on three separate occasions and once Jesus arrived, they showed back up to speak to shepherds.
 
· A star led the Magi from the East directly to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was and then the angel shows up again to warn the Magi not to return to Herod.
· Even the slaughter of the infant boys of Bethlehem fulfilled ancient prophecy.
 
· When aged Simeon held baby Jesus in his arms, he prophesied of his death on the cross.
 
Then there are the names Jesus is given.  He is called:
 
· Wonderful Counselor
 
· Mighty God
 
· Everlasting Father
 
· Prince of Peace
 
· Jesus—Savior
 
· Immanuel—God with us
 
· Son of the Most High
 
· Christ the Lord
 
 
And think about the things he will accomplish:
 
· He will save his people from their sins.
 
· He will reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
 
· His kingdom will never end.
 
 
 
To be honest, the things we accept and believe are absolutely stupendous claims.  And unfortunately, we spend too little time thinking about what they mean. 
 
We’ve become far too familiar with the Christmas carols.  For instance, take a moment to dwell on what Charles Wesley wrote when He put pen to ink and said:
 
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.  Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King!
 
And that is just one instance of the amazing, deep theological insights Christmas delivered to us!
 
Psalm 8:4-6 brings us face to face with the reality of Christmas.
 
Psalm 8:4-6
 
  1.  Shared Glory
 
The psalmist is introducing us to the glory and tragedy of the human race. On the one hand, we are crowned with glory and honor. We were created to rule over the earth. That is our glory. We were made in the image of God.
 
Once every four years the greatest athletes in the world meet in the Olympic Games. They run, they jump, they swim, they hurdle, they wrestle, they throw, they dive, they lift. And at the end of the day, whoever can do it fastest, farthest, quickest, highest, longest wins the gold medal. And for that day at least, they are the best in the world. That’s our version of glory and honor. But the glory soon fades.
 
  1.  Faded Glory
 
Records are made to be broken, and sooner or later, every record is broken. And all our heroes end up with feet of clay.
 
I was reminded of that recently through one of Caleb’s homework assignments.  He was charged with memorizing one of Robert Frost’s famous poems called “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.  They were to not only memorize it, but present it to the class by reciting it or singing it. 
 
I suggested a couple of tunes near and dear to my heart.  One was Amazing Grace, the other Boomer Sooner!  So Caleb tried both. . .over and over and over and over again.  And now I want to invite him to share it with you.   
 
Nothing Gold Can Stay
 
Nature’s first green is gold,
 
Her hardest hue to hold.
 
Her early leaf’s a flower;
 
But only so an hour.
 
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
 
So Eden sank to grief,
 
So dawn goes down to day.
 
Nothing gold can stay.
 
 
Did you catch the biblical allusion? “So Eden sank to grief.”  In just five words he described what happened to the human race when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Sin entered. Death became our destiny. Sadness invaded the human DNA. Pain moved in and what should have been golden for eternity was gone. 
 
We were made for greatness. That’s what the psalmist means. We were made a little lower than the angels. Not angels, but almost angels. That’s us. That’s you and me—a little lower than the angels.
 
But the angels fell, and so did we. The evidence is all around us—and we see it every day. Sometimes we see it in a very personal way.
 
That’s what the poet meant when he said, “So Eden sank in grief.” Nothing gold can stay. We were made for something much better than what we see in this sin-cursed world. But having been made a little lower than the angels, it sometimes seems that we have sunk so low that we are more like the demons than the angels. Even our righteousness has become like filthy rags in the presence of God.
 
But that is not the end of the story. God made us for greatness and we made a total mess of things. We blew our one shot at immortality—and now the graveyards are filling up. But God is not finished with us yet.
 
  1. Restored Glory
 
Go back to Psalm 8 for the rest of the story.  Notice
 
Verse 4
 
It’s like the Psalmist is saying, “Why bother with people like us? We ruined Eden, you gave us another chance, and we fouled up so badly that you sent a flood to wipe out the human race except for one family. Why not just hit the delete button on the human race? Why not just admit that this was an experiment that didn’t work out? No one could blame God if he decided to get rid of us all and start over again.
 
David’s question comes to the very heart of Christmas—What is man that God should pay attention to us? What is man that God should care about us after we’ve failed so miserably? Why should God care about us at all? Why would God care enough to visit people like us?
 
It is right at this point that we see the glory and wonder and mystery of the gospel. When the writer of Hebrews was trying to impress on his readers the greatness of our salvation, he actually quoted these verses from Psalm 8—and he applied them to Jesus!
 
Hebrews 2:6-9
 
There’s a lot here that we should think about. Let’s focus on three statements.  First, Jesus
 
1. Became One of Us
 
That’s the Incarnation. That’s Bethlehem. That’s Christmas. He came into this world as a tiny baby, born in a stable, in an obscure village, born in poverty, unwanted by the world. He was just another face in the crowd. No one knew that he was coming. No one cared that he had arrived.
Note what I said—Jesus “had” to do this. In order to truly “visit” us, he had to become like us.
Second, Jesus not only took our nature,
 
2.  He Shared Our Death
 
Scripture reminds us that “It is appointed unto man once to die”.  The painful reality is the wages of sin is death.  Jesus could not have truly “visited” us if he had held himself back from “the last enemy” that confronts us—death. In order to be fully human, he had to taste death. Jesus suffered and died because that was the only way he could save us. Only by dying could he give us life.
 
3. He Restored Everything We Lost in Eden
 
The Bible calls Jesus “the last Adam.” One of the verses of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” calls him the “Second Adam from above.” He came to reverse the curse that we brought upon ourselves. Now in heaven He is crowned with glory and honor. One day all those who believe in Jesus will share that glory with him.
 
But that day has not yet come. That’s why the writer said, “At present we do not see everything subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8). Better days are coming but they aren’t here yet. Today we still weep for little children who die too soon, we wonder about all the suffering and pain and heartache and sickness and death that we see all around us.
 
G. K. Chesterton said, “Whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain—man is not what he was meant to be.”
 
And it is at that point that Christmas speaks so clearly to us. We were made for glory, but our glory faded a long time ago. First we disobeyed, then we died on the inside, then we started dying on the outside, then we started doing our own thing, then we said, “God, we don’t need you at all. Leave us alone.” And we wonder why the world is the way it is. Look in the mirror. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
 
But God said, “I will not leave you alone. I will not let you destroy all yourself, each other, and the world I have made. I love you too much to let you alone.”
 
So he sent prophets. We killed them. He wrote letters. We ignored them. He told us how to live—and we said, “Who are you to tell us what to do?” We mocked the God who made us, we broke his laws, we said we didn’t need him, and we made up our own gods that we liked much better because they looked so much like us.
 
And when it was all said and done, we really made a mess of things. God had every reason to kill us all. But he didn’t. He said, “I love you too much to let you go.” And after we had trashed everything, God said, “I’m coming down there so you’ll know once and for all how much I love you.”
 
But we didn’t pay any attention; it didn’t even make sense to us. How could God visit us? But he did—and he came to the world in a very strange way. He entered a virgin’s womb and came out as a baby, born in Bethlehem, a baby named Jesus, born to save us from our sins.
 
So he came as a baby, and when he grew up, we killed him. Murdered him. Hung him on a cross. That’s the thanks we gave to God for visiting us.
 
After we killed him, He came back from the dead—proving that he was right all along and we were really wrong—dead wrong about everything—and still God loved us and came from heaven to earth on the greatest rescue mission in history.
 
No one but God could have done something like that. What a story! What a Christ! C.S. Lewis said, “The son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.”   That’s the good news of Christmas: God has done it all. The only thing left to you and me is to believe. God wrapped up his Son in swaddling clothes and said to the whole world, “This is my Christmas gift to you.”
 
Do you believe it? Will you receive it? I cannot prove to you that what I have said is true. You will have to decide that for yourself. But I can say without any reservation that I have staked my life on the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the incomparable Son of God.
 
Christmas matters because truth matters. And the heart of the truth is that God did not leave us alone, but in our misery he came to visit us one dark night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
 
Christmas is all about who we are, and who God is, and how far God will go for us.  At Christmas we learn how much God loves us, and there’s nothing more important than that.
 
Let’s pray.
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