Updated: Jan 31
Here we are on the Sunday before Christmas. We will celebrate the birth of our Savior on Wednesday.
Today we prepare for that event by remembering the virginal birth, the miracle of Jesus; and we remember that it was prophesied by Isaiah.
December 25th is marked as the birthday of Jesus, and we see the baby Jesus in the manger where Mary gave birth, with him as “baby Jesus,” all wrapped up in swaddling blankets.
Compare that to your birthday.
We all have a birthday each year, so does everyone come to see you then? Does everyone throw you a party, and pass around pictures of you “in the buff,” when you were just a baby on a rug or all sudsy taking a bath?
We recognize our birthdays as celebrations of a new year completed, with all of the accomplishments up to that point recognized, and all of the promise of a new year to come praised.
Make a wish and blow out the candles!
The same counting of past accomplishments and promises to come should be something to look forward to this coming Wednesday.
Christ is two thousand thirteen years old (there about) … and still going strong!
We wish him another two thousand plus years to come.
That is where we play a role … in that celebration of the promise ahead.
As remarkable as it is that angels would announce the birth to shepherds, and wise men from the east would find their way to a little place in Bethlehem … guided by a shining light … it is us, and all those before us, who take from that birth the promise of the past, and keep Christ alive now, and in the future.
In the reading from Isaiah, we heard the LORD speaking to Ahaz. God said, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Hell or high as Heaven.”
God was telling Ahaz to ask for proof that He was real and Ahaz wasn’t just pretending to believe in the One God.
To ask for a sign was to put God to the test. It meant to say, “Prove yourself! Make yourself known so I will know to serve only you and tell everyone I meet to face you as well, or suffer the consequences!”
Maybe he could have asked God to heal someone?
Maybe he could have asked God to make him rich beyond his wildest dreams?
Maybe he could have asked to be the smartest man on the planet?
Maybe he could have asked for all women to fall madly in love with him, just from a glance?
Maybe he could have asked for all of the above?
God was saying, “Make a wish, Ahaz.”
Ahaz would not test the LORD.
It is good to know just who this Ahaz guy was, if you don’t know. He has some history of interest.
Ahaz was the son and successor of king Jotham of Judah. He wrecked Judah by worshipping every god other than the LORD. According to one website, Ahaz “looted the temple and gave the consecrated utensils, and even the bronze bulls that carry Solomon’s seal, to the king of Assyria.” He sought military assistance from the Assyrians in his war against King Pekah of Israel. Ahaz even burned his own sons as sacrifices to idols.
To sum it up, Ahaz wasn’t very faithful to the Lord his God, so he did not need any proof that he was going the wrong way.
Isaiah wrote that the LORD would give a sign without Ahaz asking for one. The sign would be named Immanuel.
In Hebrew, the name Immanuel means, “God is with us.” Thus, when Jesus was born, God was physically with the world.
In Matthew, we read that the angel told Joseph to name his son Jesus. In Hebrew that is Yehsua (a.k.a. Joshua), which means, “YHWH is salvation.” Thus, God not only was with us, but God was with us for the purpose of saving us.
Ahaz was not trying to save anyone. He was trying to lead everyone to a place opposite of Heaven. That is why we need to be saved … so we don’t go to Hell.
Going to Hell is a lot easier than going to Heaven. It doesn’t require proof from the Lord.
The world is a place of pretty wrapped presents that are just waiting for us to gleefully unwrap and become lost in. They say the best things in life are free … but try telling that to the Apple Corporation, AT&T, the I.R.S., and everything else that has us shackled as slaves to our lust, to our thinking we NEED so much … too much.
We get caught up in the incense, frankincense and myrrh that were given to the baby Jesus.
We get caught up in replacing a real Saint Nickolas, a man who was known for his secret gift-giving (putting a coin in people’s shoes that were left outside the front door), with a Santa Claus that can be photographed at the mall.
Enter the money-changers, who could barely wait for the Thanksgiving turkey thermometer to pop out, before opening the doors to their shops of business.
Black Friday, before it became Black Thursday
Christmas is about giving.
It is about God giving the world Christ. It is not about selling us Jesus.
Jesus was born, according to our calculations and calendar configurations, two thousand thirteen years ago.
In his three years of ministry in Judea, he gave miracles to the people. He did that by healing the sick, making the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf to hear, and the downtrodden to be able to be uplifted.
He gave his disciples his words of wisdom; and after his death, resurrection, and ascension, he gave them the Holy Spirit, so the gift of Christ could become the gift that keeps on giving.
Paul was given the Holy Spirit without having known Jesus the man. We are like Paul, in that sense, as have been all other Christians past, with us now, as those who awoke one morning to find a gift in our heart. We represent the present of two thousand years of Christianity.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013, we celebrate this gift as a call to serve and be set apart, as Paul wrote to the Romans.
We can be apostles … if we test the LORD.
We can set apart the gospel of God … if we ask for proof.
We can be given grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
We can answer the call to belong to Jesus Christ.
All of those gifts can be ours, but we cannot buy them in stores.
We cannot get them by acting like Ahaz … as if we know who Santa Claus is; and we have resentment that no one other than us will be paying Walmart for what makes people happy.
I imagine it is the Ahaz type people of the world who love those commercials about diamond rings and fancy jewelry being a sign of God’s love surrounding them.
I’ve seen one commercial where Santa Claus goes into his “stable” of fancy cars, and the Mercedez or the BMW twinkles like Rudolph, saying, “Let me be your sleigh tonight.”
Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?”
We weary mortals when we make it seem that God rewards human flesh with fancy things, all while there are so many of human flesh who can barely stay alive, much less buy a BMW or hear bystanders whisper about someone, “He went to Jarad.”
Please, don’t get me wrong. Giving is good. Making people happy is good.
That is not the reason an angel came to Joseph and told him that Mary would bear a son conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Christmas is about receiving a gift from God, which means we have to believe in God to believe in Jesus as Christ.
We have to test the LORD to prove he is real in spiritual ways.
We have to test the LORD by letting baby Jesus become a miracle birth within us.
We must rejoice, “Immanuel!” “God is with me!”
We must praise “Jeshua!” “God is salvation” through Jesus in me!
These are the gifts of the season …
And on Jesus’ birthday, if we make a wish, it can come true.