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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 19, 2004
The Wonders of His Love
Christmas Sermon following the Cantata
This morning you have heard the message of God’s wonderful love given in
Jesus Christ brought to you in song. Thank you choir for all the hard work you
have put into this over many months that we might, with you, be amazed at God’s
The story told in the cantata is the birth of the Messiah and the events that
surrounded it including the longing from old for the promised coming of Messiah,
the glorious praise by the Angels, the wonder of the Shepherds and the seeking
for Him by the wise men from the east. This morning let me briefly emphasize the
importance of each of these elements and then finish with the rest of the story
which the Cantata points to, but does not expand upon.
The Promised Messiah
The first and perhaps most important element in the message sung in the
Cantata this morning is the identification of the One that is central in story,
the promised Messiah. That term has a lot of meaning for those that study their
Bibles, both Jews and Christians. It is a Hebrew word meaning, "anointed one."
The Greek equivalent is "Christ." The term comes from the Jewish practice of
setting something apart for God’s service by anointing it with oil. Both
objects, such as altars, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, and people,
such as priest and kings, were set aside for God and made holy in this way. The
term "Messiah" is the name given to the one that would fulfill all the Old
Testament prophecies concerning God’s promised redeemer.
The first promise of a future redeemer occurs right after man fell into sin
in Genesis 3 with verse 15 stating that the future seed of the woman (Messiah)
would bruise the serpent’s (Satan’s) head. Other prophecies include that the
Messiah would be a descendent of David, and through him tracing back through
Judah, Jacob, and Isaac to Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 17:19; 49:10, Num. 24:17; Isaiah
9:7). He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) within the time frame of
concluding Daniel’s 69 weeks of years (Daniel. 9:25). Messiah would be born of a
virgin (Isaiah 7:14), which among all the prophecies surrounding His birth is a
miracle of the first magnitude. This would require God’s direct and supernatural
intervention. It could not be attributed just to His providence. It also allows
for the additional prophetic fulfilment of Him being the Son of God (Psalm 2:7).
Jesus fulfilled every single one of these prophecies plus many more.
The purpose of Messiah from the beginning was to bring a solution to man’s
sin problem. Man’s willful rebellion against God has left him condemned by God’s
holiness and justice. Every human has broken God’s laws and so deserve God’s
judgement of death for the transgressions. Man cannot pay the penalty for
himself, so God had to provide a way for that payment to be made, and that would
be through Messiah. No wonder then that there was so much rejoicing at Jesus’
birth for it brought hope to mankind.
The Praise of Angels and Men
The chorus of praise began even before Jesus’ birth by those to whom Angeles
had revealed the coming birth – Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Mary (Luke 1).
On the day that Jesus was born, the heavenly host then proclaimed it to the
shepherds who were out in the fields near Bethlehem (Luke 2), and they in turn
proclaimed it to all they met.
Seven weeks later when Jesus was brought to the Temple, Simeon and Anna also
praised God because by the Holy Spirit they recognized that Jesus was the
"redemption of Israel" and "Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared in
the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the
glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2)
About two years later, the Magi, the wise men from the east, arrived in
Jerusalem looking for "He who has been born King of the Jews" for they
"saw His star in the east and [had] come to worship Him." The chief
priests and scribes, who had ignored the birth of Jesus to this point, finally
directed them to Bethlehem because of the prophecies. The magi when there, found
the house where Jesus and Mary were at and then fell down and worshiped Him.
They then presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before returning
to their own country. These men still set the example for men to seek Jesus.
They had little knowledge, but they followed what they had and arrived at the
truth. We have so much greater revelation from God now, but so few seek Him.
The Plan of Redemption
The birth of Jesus was the cause of great rejoicing because it marked the
beginning of God’s redemption plan through Him. The hope of salvation was being
fulfilled. Jesus in the manger is a wonderful story, but the story must go on
past the birth if it is to do us any good. A baby in a manger has been
romanticized so that it is considered something beautiful (though I doubt any
mother here would want that for their own child), but it also undemanding. Jesus
did not come to earth to be romanticized or be cute. He came to save people from
their sin, and that required a lot more.
The prophets had many other things to say about how the Messiah would live.
Jesus fulfilled all of these too. He would minister in the region of Galilee
(Isaiah 9:1). He would speak in parables (Psalm 78:2-4). He would be a prophet
Himself as well as a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Deut. 18:15; Psalm
110:4). He would minister, heal and bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2).
He would even enter Jerusalem triumphantly (Zech. 9:9), but as a whole, His
people would reject Him (Isaiah 53:3).
Even more important than these predictions, the prophets foretold how Jesus
would end His life and why. He would be betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41:9)
for thirty pieces of sliver (Zech. 11:12). He would be accused by false
witnesses (Psalm 35:11), but He would remain silent before them (Isaiah 53:7).
His accusers and tormenters would spit on Him and strike Him (Isaiah 50:6)
though they would not have cause for their hatred (Psalm 35:19). He would be
crucified alongside sinners (Isaiah 53:12) and be sneered at, mocked and
reproached (Psalm 22:7,8; 69:9). He would be pierced through His hands and feet
and side (Zech. 12:10), but none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20). In
the midst of all of this torment, He would pray for His enemies (Psalm 109:4).
Finally, He would be the vicarious sacrifice for the sin of all mankind (Isaiah
53:12). His life was the substitute payment for sin for my life and yours. He
was then buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9).
Now if the story ended there, we would say that Jesus lived an exemplary life
that is worthy to be modeled in terms of love and kindness, but one more
important prophecy had to be fulfilled in order for all that He had done and
suffered to have an eternal effect on you and me. He had to be resurrected from
the dead (Psalm 16:10; 49:15), which He was. He had conquered both sin and
death, so He can offer forgiveness and life to all who will believe on Him. He
is now at the right hand of God the Father just as the prophets said He would be
(Psalm 68:18). But He will not stay there. He said He would return for those
that belong to Him that we might be with Him forever in heaven.
That is the real joy of Christmas. It is not the baby in the manger, but the
hope that birth gave that was completed in His death, burial and resurrection.
God’s amazing love has been extended to us through Jesus Christ so that our sins
can be forgiven by God’s grace through faith in Him. Only those who have placed
their trust for their eternity in the person and work of Jesus Christ can know
and experience the full extent of the wonders of God’s love, but He extends His
offer to everyone. If you do not know the fullness of His love, you can. Talk
with myself, any of our church leaders, or anyone in the choir. We would love
for you to know the wonders of His love as we do and join us in giving praise
and honor to His name.