Christmas 2021 Series #5- Jesus: A King for ALL Seasons

December 26, 2021   /   First Baptist Church Charleston

So today we complete our sermon series entitled “Jesus is the Reason for All Seasons.

            Sunday, Nov. 28th was “Jesus: a MISSIONARY for ALL Seasons.

            Sunday, Dec. 5th  was  “Jesus: a PROPHET for ALL Seasons.

            Sunday, Dec. 12th was “Jesus: a PRIEST for ALL Seasons.

            Sunday, Dec. 19th was “Jesus: a SAVIOR for ALL Seasons.

            Sunday, Dec. 26th is  “Jesus: a KING for ALL Seasons.

Jesus THE PROPHET: the Messiah who came to deliver us. He is God REVEALING.

                                    God WITH us.

Jesus THE PRIEST: the Messiah who came sympathizing with us. He is God REPRESENTING.

                                    God FOR us.

Jesus THE SAVIOR: the Messiah who came to rescue us. He is God REDEEMING.

                                    God SAVING us.

Jesus THE KING: the Messiah who came to lead us. He is God REIGNING.

                                    God IN us. 

You wouldn’t think John Wilkes Booth had anything to do with Christmas, but in a strange way he did. In early April 1865, the bloody Civil War that had torn America asunder was drawing to a close. Richmond had fallen, Lee had surrendered, and the end was in sight. Motivated by anger and despair, John Wilkes Booth decided to take matters into his own hands. Entering the box at Ford’s Theater, where Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were watching a play called Our American Cousin, Booth fired a bullet into the head of Abraham Lincoln. He died a few hours later.

The news deeply troubled a young minister in Philadelphia named Phillips Brooks. When the slain president’s body lay in state in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Brooks went to pay his respects. Later he preached a sermon on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.

A few months later, hoping to lift his spirits, the church sent him to the Holy Land. The itinerary included a horseback ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Back then it was a small village, far removed from the bustling city it would later become. By nightfall the pastor was in the field where, according to tradition, the shepherds heard the angelic announcement. Then he attended the Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Something about the beauty and simplicity of that visit stayed with Phillips Brooks when he returned to America. Three years later he wrote a Christmas poem for the children’s service at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. He then gave it to Lewis Redner, the church organist, who composed the music in time for the children to sing it in the service. It became a favorite Christmas carol when it was published in 1874.

The first verse gives us a poetic picture of Bethlehem as Phillips Brooks saw it: 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

The last two lines remind us that Bethlehem was more than a picturesque by-way, layover, or bedroom community just outside Jerusalem in the Holy Land:

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Now it seems like the world has “More Fears Than Hopes!”

It seems like we ended the year 2020 and now we are ending 2021 with more fears than hopes, given the shaky state of the world. The headlines tell a grim story:

            Wave after wave of viruses.

            Turmoil in Washington.
            Winds of change in England.
            Saber rattling in North Korea, Afghanistan and China.
            Rocket attacks in Israel.
            Pastors attacked in India, mission teams kidnapped in Haiti
            Christians murdered in Nigeria.

            Racial unrest. A cancel culture, hatred toward law enforcement, etc.

Who can we trust?

We hear so much about fake news that we can’t decide what is real and what isn’t.

Who can we trust?

Bad news abounds.

Against that backdrop we have the words of the angel to the terrified shepherds, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Where is the good news the angel promised?

Let’s wind the clock back across the centuries, back to Bethlehem, but don’t stop there. Go all the way back to the time of Isaiah the prophet, seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. He gave us the real answer to that question:

            “Unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

God answers our anxiety with a manger in Bethlehem.

There we find the baby who brings us peace now and one day will bring peace to the whole world.

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” 

We live in dark days, and it is easy to be discouraged. There is so much hatred on every hand. If you turn on the TV, you hear politicians shouting at each other, accusing each other, slandering each other. It feels like the national blood pressure has gone up 100 points in the last few months.

We are an angry, unhappy nation right now. And there seems to be no end in sight. We were taught never to discuss politics or religion in polite company. But where is that “polite company” these days? Just try talking politics over the holidays and see what happens. It may not go well for you.

Walking on eggshells

Even with people you love, if you say one wrong word, you risk an explosion. We walk on eggshells during the holidays lest we say something that somehow offends someone.

“The hopes and fears of all the years.”
            We’ve got the fear part down just fine.
            But where is the hope?

 Listen to Isaiah’s answer in 9:6:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His name shall be called . . .

            Wonderful Counselor, because he has the answers we need.
            Mighty God, because he has the power to help us.
            Everlasting Father, because he knows us and loves us anyway.
            Prince of Peace, because he alone can fix what is broken.

I’m glad Christmas comes EVERY YEAR.
Some years It can’t get here soon enough!

In mentioning Isaiah 9:6, we usually pass right over the phrase:

“The government shall be upon his shoulders.”

WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT PHRASE MEAN?

That means Jesus can bear the full weight of the world and all its problems. It’s easy to say but hard to believe. In one of his books, David Jeremiah mentions a man named George McCauslin. Many years ago, he served as director of a YMCA in western Pennsylvania. It was a difficult situation because the YMCA was losing money, membership, and staff. McCauslin worked 85 hours a week trying to fix things. He couldn’t sleep at night. Even when he was away from the job, he was worrying and fretting about problems he couldn’t solve. A therapist warned that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Somehow, he needed to let go and let God take charge of his problems. But how do you do something like that?

Jesus can bear the full weight of the world and all its problems!

The breakthrough came one day when he took a notebook and ventured into a forest not far from where he lived. As he walked through the woods, he could feel his muscles starting to relax. Sitting down under a tree, he sighed and felt at ease for the first time in months. Taking out his notebook, he decided to let go of the burdens of his life.

            He wrote God a letter that simply said, “Dear God, Today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George.” Looking back at that moment, he reflected with a twinkle in his eye, “And wonder of wonders, God accepted my resignation.”

Many of us need to resign as general manager of the universe. Are you worn out from trying to help your children and your grandchildren, take care of your parents, and get your coworkers shaped up? Are you exhausted from trying to repair the broken people and the messed-up situations all around you? No wonder you’re tired all the time.

In one of his sermons, Walt Gerber mentioned a plaque hanging on his wall:
            Walt: Do not feel totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything.
            That’s my job! Love, God!

That caught my eye because it reminds me of the principle that I call the First Law of the Spiritual Life“He’s God and we’re not. If you understand that truth, then you don’t have to take on impossible burdens only God could handle anyway.

Many of us need to resign as general manager of the universe!!!!

In the movie “Rudy,” there is a scene where the young man despairs of ever making the Notre Dame football team. He is too small, too slow, too weak, and in every way fails to meet the challenge. Totally discouraged, he goes to a priest and asks if he will ever make the team. The priest smiles and says that in 35 years he has learned only two things for certain: “First, there is a God, and second, I’m not him.”

Christmas is important for many reasons, but among other things, it reminds us that there is a God and we are not in charge. That’s always a good thing to remember.

Charles de Gaulle once observed, “The graveyards are filled with indispensable men.” That’s a crucial thought worthy of some reflection. We’re not as important as we think we are. It’s a humbling thing to realize the world was spinning along just fine before we showed up and it will keep spinning after we are gone. For that matter, God was doing fine before we appeared, and he will still be on his throne after we are gone.

I think it was A. W. Tozer who remarked that if every man on earth became an atheist, nothing about God would change. We all know these things are true, but we live as if they aren’t. That is, we act like we are indispensable, but we are very dispensable indeed. It is a great advance spiritually to embrace that reality. In fact, that may be the ultimate reality check. 

Many of us approach the end of the year with a heavy load of worries about the future. There are career questions, health issues, family problems, church issues, a marriage that needs repair, a host of financial difficulties, and an armful of unfulfilled dreams. We wonder if next year will simply mean more of the same. Sometimes we feel everything depends on us, and we are “totally personally, irrevocably responsible for everything.”

Maybe it is “Time to Resign.

Christmas reminds us God is God and we’re not.

> He can arrange for a virgin to become pregnant.

> He can cause a Roman emperor to order a census at precisely history’s right moment. 

> He can ensure the baby will be born at exactly the place prophesied 700 years earlier.

> He can put a star in the sky at the right moment.

> He can bring angels, shepherds, and Wise Men to celebrate that miraculous birth. 

> He can take a tiny baby born in a stable and make that baby the Savior of the world.

If God can do all that, what are you so worried about?

            Are you tired of trying to run the universe? I urge you to turn in your letter of resignation. It will be accepted in heaven.

            What are you so worried about?

Phillips Brooks was right:

         The hopes and fears of all the years
         Are met in THEE tonight.

As we come to the end of the year,

there is too much fear and not enough hope.

But that won’t last forever.

God’s answer can be found in Bethlehem. The baby in the manger means God is fixing what has gone wrong with the world. It’s a big job, and 2000 years later, the work is still not done. But a light DID shine toward the manger to tell us that darkness will not win in the end.

Christmas means Jesus can carry the full weight of all your problems,

for “the government will be on his shoulders.” 

            So, if the question is, “Who’s in charge here?” then the answer comes from heaven. 

            “Our King, our Lord is in charge. 

He reigns from heaven amid the chaos we see around us.

That’s why the angel said, “Fear not!” We need not be afraid. That baby in the manger is God’s answer, not just for us personally, but for the whole world.

He will reign forever. His kingdom will never end. Let the weary world rejoice!

(Have the congregation to look at the last page of the outline: resignation form.

Explain to them how they can use it to start 2022 off correctly)

RESIGNATION LETTER:

DEAR GOD: 

I,_________________________________, OFFICIALLY RESIGN MY POSITION AS

                                                                        THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE UNIVERSE.

This resignation is effective immediately as of 10AM, CST, 12/26/2021.

I AM DELIVERING THIS TO THE OFFERTORY TABLE AT FIRST BAPTIST, CHARLESTON MS.

IT IS MY PROMISE TO YOU THAT FROM NOW ON, YOU ARE KING, NOT I.

            King of the universe.

            King of my life.

            King of my home.

            King of my possessions.

            King of my Church.

            King of my relationships with family members.

            King of my relationship with friends and neighbors.

            King of my job.

            King of my school.

            King of my government.

            King of my future.

            King of my health.

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