Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Christ Is Born In Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-20)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

December 30, 2012


Series: Hark The Herald Angels Sing

“Glory To The Newborn King”

(Hebrews 1)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     It wasn’t an isolated incident either. Police in Fredericksburg, VA say a 25-year-old woman has been arrested for stealing a baby Jesus statue from a shopping center Nativity scene and bragging about it on her Facebook page, leading to her arrest. Police say one of her Facebook friends saw the posting, snapped a screen shot and passed the information to authorities. I’ll bet that person was defriended.

     Isn’t that amazing and appalling all at the same time? When I first approached the church last Sunday, I thought maybe we’d been victims of a similar kind of vandalism. Joseph was missing. Bonnah saw it, too. Luckily, Joseph was OK, we found him leaning up against the wall in the foyer. And it wasn’t long before he was back in the Nativity.

     I noticed earlier in the week that Joseph was getting a little wobbly out there; he was leaning a little and looked like he might fall over. I wonder if all the excitement and uncertainty of it all didn’t rattle him so much he simply had to come inside to refocus. Whoever helped him back to the Nativity, thank you. We couldn’t have Christmas without Joseph.

     Can you imagine, someone trying to steal the baby Jesus? The truth is, from the moment of His birth, there were those who tried to steal the baby Jesus and do away with Christmas before it ever got started. It’s a good thing they didn’t have GPS back when He was born because Herod would have used it.

PRAYER

     Let’s look at the passage I’ve chosen for today. Hebrews 1:1-14 (NRSV)

[1] Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,

[2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

[3] He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

[4] having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

[5] For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?

[6] And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

[7] Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire."

[8] But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

[9] You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."

[10] And, "In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

[11] they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing;

[12] like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end."

[13] But to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?

[14] Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

I. THERE ARE STILL HERODS:

     A. Verse 13 reminds us that there are still Herods in the world today. In the world into which Jesus was born, it wasn’t a lone gunman but troops of a jealous Herod who swooped in and took the innocent lives of all children under the age of two. Just like today, it left the whole community and everyone who heard about it weeping and wondering why. It was a very threatening world.

     We live in a very threatening world, too. Violence is all around us. It’s in every form of entertainment media there is. For the majority of people it’s just escapist fare through which we release our own aggressive natures while we watch good triumph over evil. For a few, though, it becomes the norm, where reality can’t be separated from fantasy. Then suddenly one day it explodes all over others.

     B. I think the threats seem so much greater because we have an almost unlimited means of communication. The internet and cellphones have brought what used to be distant and days old items of news into our living rooms, board rooms and school rooms as they happen. It makes us more aware than previous generations. Or maybe the threats ARE greater because we have so many more means of destruction and ways by which we can create confusion and chaos in the world than ever before.

     Whatever the situation, we live in a world where the Herods of the world threaten to steal Jesus every single day. They threaten to steal the hope and peace and joy which only Christ Jesus can bring.

     Hark the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!” Each verse of the great hymn ends with this refrain. The question becomes “How DO we bring Glory to God in a world full of Herods, a world that seems to constantly try to steal Jesus?

II. THIS BABY IS DANGEROUS:

A.   One of the things we need to remember is that this baby is dangerous. This baby is dangerous and a threat to those who think only in terms of power, position and might. This baby came not to conquer Kingdoms but to conquer sin and death by conquering hearts. This baby didn’t come to sit on thrones or lead an army or to take power.

     This baby came to give power away through a servant life style. This baby came to empower others and to lift them up out of the squalor of their sin filled lives. This baby came to free them from the oppression of sin. This baby, filled with the power of God and the Universe, came as a servant king filled with the power of love and forgiveness. And the Herods of the world tremble in fear because they know there is nothing which can overcome the power of love.

     And this baby never promised that your life would be filled with every blessing or that it would be smooth sailing in every aspect of life. Instead, it was just the opposite. If you choose to love Him and serve Him and follow Him, you can expect trouble. In John 16:33 Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." We will have trouble, but we will also have peace.

     Let me tell you about Ender and his brother Skender who grew up in Kosovo. Skender learned early that in his troubled land toughness was valued above all other qualities. Skender proved his toughness by making trouble whenever he could. He got what he wanted through threats and force. So when Skender learned that his younger brother, Enver, was attending a Christian church, he gave him a good beating. But as Skender was hitting his younger brother, Enver looked up and said, “I love you, Skender, and God loves you."

     Skender wanted to know what kind of institution taught people to love those who beat them, so he decided to check out this church. The pastor gave him a New Testament, which Skender read in the hopes of finding some loopholes. But after reading it through three times, Skender Hoti gave his life to Christ. All of Skender's friends abandoned him, and his father threw both Skender and Enver out of the house. But eventually the boys brought their father and the whole household to Christ.

     A few years later, Skender became a pastor in his hometown. A group of military men kidnaped him and beat him for his faith. But as they were beating him, Skender told the men about Jesus. Later, the commander of the military men came to Christ, and today he attends Skender's church. (2) When Enver and Skender became Christians, they suffered because of their Christian commitment. But they had peace. The peace of Christ.

     While the birth of this baby was a blessing to Mary and Joseph, he was also a threat to the powers that be. Why? Because, this baby is dangerous. This baby is dangerous because He changes lives, our lives and the lives of others. This baby is dangerous because he challenges the status quo. This baby is dangerous because He forces us to make a decision about God, about Him and about what we are going to do with Him.

     The popular Christmas song says: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I think it will only be the most wonderful time of the year when the Herods of the world are no more and when ALL children are home and safely nestled snug in their beds. Until then, in the midst of the troubles, we have the peace of Christ.

III. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES HE MAKE:

     A. We sing “Glory to the Newborn King” because this baby is dangerous, because He has changed the world. We sing “Glory to the Newborn King” because of the promises and hope He brings. While we’re told that “In this world we will have trouble,” we’re also told that God will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus promised to never “leave us orphaned.”

     No matter what happens, God will be with us. Just as God lead Mary and Joseph to Egypt and the dark days of exile, God will lead us as well. Just as God lead us through Columbine; just as God lead us 911, just as God lead us through the shootings as Ft. Hood and Aurora, God will lead us through Sandyhook and every act of the Herods of this world that comes our way.

     In the midst of those times it may seem like God is far away but God is closer than ever before. We may not be able to readily see God but it’s because of two things. First, God is no longer at arms distance. God is surrounding us, hugging us close, holding us up and strengthening us so we CAN make it through. And Second, it’s because we are in the same kind of mind numbing, heart wrenching, fear induced exile that Mary and Joseph experienced. And when you’re in exile nothing seems familiar, everything is foreign and strange. But God is there.

     So, what difference will this baby make in your life?

     B. Leo Tolstoy once wrote: “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”

     Maybe this is the time to start thinking about changing yourself by letting the love of this baby infect every fiber and cell of your soul and spirit. Maybe it’s time to be more diligent in prayer. You know it only takes a couple of minutes to offer prayer and seek God’s guidance. Start the day with something like this: “Lord, I don't know what the day holds but I know who holds the day; So guard my mind, my strength, my heart and soul, and guide my every way.”

     Keeping in touch with God, seeking strength through Christ is a simple powerful tool to remind us who we are and to remind us that God is with us whenever the Herods raise their ugly heads.

     But don’t stop there. Make it a point to be more diligent in your study. Start a Bible reading plan. There are tons online, or come by the office of email me and I’ll give you one of several. Or read a Psalm a day and a chapter a day from the New Testament until you’ve read the whole thing. Read it even if you don’t understand it.

     Make it a point to set the example by being faithful in your worship attendance and Sunday School attendance. Give your children the strength they need by bringing them to Worship and Sunday School. 

     And don’t stop there. Combat the Herods of the world by being prepared through prayer and worship with your family and friends. Don’t let this baby get packed away with all the decorations. Instead, let Him make a difference in your life.

CONCLUSION:

     Have any of you ever wondered how the “Suzuki Method” that has helped millions of children learn to play the violin came to be? It began with a Japanese teacher, musician and instrument maker named, of course, Suzuki. Suzuki was visiting a building that served as a giant incubator for thousands of Japanese songbirds known as larks. The breeders of these larks take literally thousands of eggs and incubate them in giant, warm, silent halls that act as a gigantic nest.

     There is only one sound that the tiny songbirds hear as they break through the shells of their eggs. It is the sound of another lark, a very special adult lark, which is chosen because of its singing ability.

     To his amazement, Suzuki noticed that every little chick that hatched automatically began to copy the master singer lark. Even more remarkable, after a few days he observed that each chick, having started out by purely copying songs, began to develop its own variations on the original Master Song. The breeders wait until the chick musicians have developed their own styles, and then select from them the next Master Singer, and so the process continues. (3)

     When we pray and worship, when we gather in Christian fellowship, when we study Scripture we are hearing our Master Singer’s song. The song which simply expresses “Glory to the Newborn King,” Glory which lives on in us and through us; reflecting the Glory of God. When we sing, others hear and join in. And when they join in it brings “Glory to the Newborn King.” And nobody can steal that, not even the Herods of the world.

     Let your life sing “Glory to the Newborn King.”

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1. News stories found on the Internet.

2. "Hearing the Truth of Jesus Christ" by Skender Hoti, Decision Magazine, Sept. 2000 pp. 4-5.

3. Michael J. Gleb and Tony Buzan, Lessons From the Art of Juggling (New York: Harmony Books, 1992).

4.  

Other References Consulted

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