Christmas Glory Means All God's Promises Can be Trusted
Sunday, December 7, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. Sermon #: 1766
Pastor Don Horban
have a longer introduction before we get into three wonderful Christmas texts.
It is a shameful waste to stand before something wonderful and not be moved. It means something is dead and numb inside. Something truly wonderful is meant to be felt deeply on the inside.
Reni and I recently came home from Hawaii. It was our first time there. I expected the warmth and I expected the beach. What took me by wonderful surprise was the stunning beauty of the island. Everything grows on steroids. All of the leaves on the plants are mammoth in size. The mountains are high and yet vividly green. There is brilliant sunshine on one side of those mountains and constant dark clouds that seem to have their bellies caught and ripped open on those hidden peaks. And that means there are constant rainbows - several at a time.
We went to a rather secluded look-out point, high in those lush mountains. We were right on the edge of a huge valley/crater. On the one side you could see the wild surf pounding on the black volcanic North shore - surf too wild for even the most experienced surfers. All you could hear were the countless birds criss-crossing the rainforest on the other side.
Reni and the others had moved on and I was still lost in taking pictures. To my left I noticed a group of young looking students. They were all carrying what I now know were “selfie sticks.” These are three foot rods - devices to which you attach your camera or smart phone. You can hold them out - lens facing you - and, due to the added focal length, you can get a larger group of people in the “selfie.”
I walked over - getting close enough to see exactly what was going on. They were taking pictures - all of their pictures - of themselves. They were fixing their funny hats. They were holding up goofy fingers over each other’s heads. They were crowding each other out of frame. They were sticking their tongues out. I know they were just having fun, and I suppose it was all fine. But I couldn’t help thinking, here they were, standing in the middle of what had to be some of the most wonderful created glory on planet earth, and they were taking selfies.
That one incident isn’t a big deal, except that some trends point to a gathering direction in our culture. We are more and more technologically poised to major on trivial, self-centered things. Every time my wife shows me Christians arguing about politics or theology or church on social media I find myself inwardly thanking God I have a life. We seem to be more and more advanced in the capacity of more quickly focusing on and sharing lightness and self-absorbed nothingness to more people than ever before. The culture of “selfie-ness” gathers momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill. A picture of some celebrity’s back-side can crash the media. Such is the appetite for stupidity, fluff and emptiness.
I say again, it is a shame to stand before something truly, marvelously wonderful and not be moved. It may not be a sin. But it’s close. It’s close because it’s the soil in which all sin grows. When we sleep and doze and fritter our attention in the face of God’s great glory we will be more easily enticed and sucked under by an ocean of tiny, empty, self-centered fetishes.
God created us to be moved by what is truly wonderful. When we lose this, we lose something that makes us more fully alive as divine image bearers. Small souls are absorbed by small things. Where there is spiritual life, true glory will amaze and thrill and dazzle.
Now we’re ready to come to today’s Christmas truth. There is nothing more wonderful than the Christmas event. To not be moved by it - moved beyond mere fuzzy sentiment - is to miss something of God’s glory. This is a series aimed in whatever small measure it can to awaken wonder and thankfulness and praise. Freshly pondered Christmas glory in a selfie world.
Together we will focus on what makes Christmas truly wonderful and glorious. We will see what makes Christmas sparkle and shine. We will examine four aspects of Christmas glory, wrapping up on Christmas Eve. Today, Christmas glory means all of God’s promises can be trusted:
Acts 3:22-26 - “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’  And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’  God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
I have never in my life used this as a Christmas text. This is Peter’s Pentecost sermon. He’s explaining the coming of Jesus into this world. And the striking feature of this text is the way Peter, at least initially, seems to belabor the preparation of Christ’s coming (which is what the word “advent” means - “coming”) as much as, or more than, the coming itself. Jesus didn’t just arrive. This seems a very important part of the advent message in Peter’s mind.
He comes at this same point over and over again. First, in verse 22 he says Moses predicted the arrival of a prophet like himself. And then Moses pressed, saying it was crucially important that everyone listened deeply to this coming one. In verse 24 Peter said Samuel and all the prophets who came after him spoke of the days of Christ. Finally, in verse 25 Peter wraps up speaking of Abraham and God’s promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed through the coming (advent) of Jesus.
Surely Peter’s point must be that all this preparation isn’t an accident. God put a lot of work into pre-announcing this great Christmas advent.
Here’s what I think this means for us today:
1) CHRISTMAS ISN’T JUST ABOUT THE ADVENT. IT’S ABOUT A PROMISED ADVENT
It is the particular glory of Christmas that Jesus didn’t just arrive. A particular glory of Christmas is His was a promised arrival. That Jesus came means our God is a rescuing God. This is immeasurably precious and we’ll give a whole teaching to it in this series. But that Jesus’ advent was a promised advent means our God is not just a redeeming God. He is a truthful God. It means He is a trustworthy God. It means He didn’t just rescue us on a whim or as a result of feeling good on a particular day. It means He is of such a nature that He makes promises and then He keeps those promises. He can be counted on to always be faithful to what He has said.
This is how the Apostle Paul restated the same foundational Christmas truth about our Lord’s advent into this world in Romans 15:8-9 - “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy....”
It couldn’t be stated more clearly. Christ came - first to the Jews - to “show God’s truthfulness,” and to “confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” This demonstration of God’s truthfulness would also lead the Gentiles to “glorify God for his mercy.”
So Christmas means our God tells the truth when He speaks. Part of the glory of Christmas is we see the universe and our lives in this confusing world can have something sure to lean on and drill down into. Not all politicians tell the truth, not all churches tell the truth, not all pastors tell the truth, not all bankers tell the truth, not all teachers tell the truth, not all scientists tell the truth, not all judges and lawyers tell the truth, not all professors tell the truth, certainly the media can almost never be counted on for telling us the truth.
Where does that leave us? We need to know our way. We need a reliable path to follow. God always tells the truth. God never says anything that isn’t absolutely and fully true. There is no such thing as an empty promise from God. There is never an idle threat from God. His words are the deepest reservoir of reality and reliability. Advent proves God tells the truth. Advent proves God keeps His promises. We mark our calendars with a coming that proves God is faithful.
2) GOD IS TRUE TO HIS PROMISE EVEN WHEN IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE HE IS
We have another great text to look into:Micah 5:2-4 - “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.  And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”
We’ve studied this whole prophecy in detail in Christmases previous. Micah’s is one of the most overlooked of the wonderful Old Testament Advent prophecies. Of note today is just one thought. When Micah made this glorious prophecy it was one of the least likely times for it to be believed.
It’s one thing to let lofty thoughts soar while the fireworks are bursting, the band is playing, and the flag is unfurled. We all know and enjoy our great moments and they’re worth celebrating. But Micah’s words had to have a particularly empty ring to them when he spoke. Israel was sinking into complete oblivion. The Northern kingdom was already destroyed. And Judah was about to come under the sternest judgment of God for her unbelief and rebellion. There was nothing remotely hopeful on the near horizon.
Then comes Micah. God speaks through Micah about Advent - about the great coming King and Redeemer. And God manifests this most majestic of all promises precisely when such promise looked the least likely or possible.
The lesson? Please hear this, church. It’s precious beyond my ability to tell it. God’s promise - God’s truthfulness - God’s faithfulness to keep His word - is never to be measured by the limited horizon of our circumstances. God’s grace isn’t limited to our imagination. God’s word overrides dark circumstances. There is always this bigger picture with our promise-keeping God.
3) STAND IN JOYFUL WONDER AT THIS GLORY OF CHRISTMAS IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR PRESENT NEED
This is glory to marvel at. Jesus came into this world - your present world. He didn’t come into Narnia. This isn’t some middle earth myth. He came to Bethlehem - six miles from Jerusalem and 9322 kilometers from Newmarket.
But before He came the whole world was being prepared to learn something important about the Father who sent the Son. It is one of the most praiseworthy features of our God. He will never lie to you. He will never fail to keep His promise. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is absolutely nothing in heaven or earth or under the earth that can change that.
You may sense that faithfulness and you may not. But that doesn’t change His nature one bit. He is rock solid and trustworthy. If you don’t see it yet, then you just don’t see it. But He is. And He’s proven it in meeting our deepest needs in Christ Jesus.
My final plea is to come to Christ. There is nothing trustworthy outside of Him. Ignore Jesus Christ and you will live to see you have sold out to traitors. Our deepest longings can’t be met in lies or illusions. Jesus came to reveal a trustworthy God. And if yo repent of your sin and run to Christ He promises forgiveness and eternal life.
And Christians listening today, pass on the legacy of a faithful God to your children. Let the next generation hear of God’s faithfulness from your lips. Find the great stories of a faithful God from your own life. This is one of the great glories of Christmas that must be retold.