Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon Dec. 22-23, 2012

Title: Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

Text: Luke 1:41-42

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

While crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain's request he spoke on "Answered Prayer." An unbeliever who was present at the service was asked by his friends, "What did you think of Dr. Meyer's sermon?" He answered, "I didn't believe a word of it." That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the passengers with the lower class accommodations. Many of the listeners who had heard the morning sermon went along, including the unbeliever, who claimed he just wanted to hear "what the babbler had to say."

Before starting for the service, the unbeliever put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In what he thought would be a bit of fun, the unbeliever put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. "You seem to be enjoying that orange," he remarked with a smile. She replied, "Oh, my Father is very good to me." "Your father … surely your father can't be still alive?" "Praise God," she replied, "He is very much alive." "What do you mean?" he asked. "Well Sir, I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!"

Our Daily Bread

Oh yes, our Father is very good because:

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

In our study of the Book of Ruth during our adult mid-week Bible class this year, we learned that Bethlehem Ephrathah means “the house of bread.” It will play a special role in God’s plan as the prophet Micah records in our Old Testament reading for today:

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. (Micah 5:2)

This “house of bread”, Bethlehem, would become the place where the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would come down to save His people from the power sin, death and the Devil’s working in their lives. From this tiny town the salvation of the world would emerge.

Mary, who just a little bit earlier in Luke’s gospel reading, would have a visitation from the Angel Gabriel, announcing that she would have a very special role as well to play in God’s plan for restoring the gulf that was fixed by sin between God and man and we also these past two weeks heard how John the Baptist would be used by God to prepare the way.

Today our Gospel reading moves back a bit in the story, some 30 plus years, to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, another women used by God for a very important role. She would bear the prophet, John, who would be the greatest of all prophets as Jesus said in our Gospel reading from last week, 28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.

But this visit from Mary to Elizabeth was a bit different.

Mary with joyful energy and as the text says, “Arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,” and came to the house of Zachariah, where she greeted Elisabeth, just as you or I might great a relative or dear friend. But then God performed a miracle. By the working of the Holy Spirit this unborn son of Elisabeth, at hearing Mary’s voice, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And so too Elisabeth, by this same Spirit acting in a miraculous way, also filled her as she spoke:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord (by special gifting of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was given the knowledge and trusting faith to know who this child Mary was carrying truly was) should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42b-44)

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

So what does the knowledge given you by the Spirit about Jesus bring you? Is it an unstoppable kind of joy that might even cause you to leap?  If you’re like me, I joy in Christ and that he has given me freedom from sin … but the Christmas season can be a drag. Having worked in sales for most of my adult life I have found it hard to get joyful working extra and being consumed with all that needs to be done.

Then add to all of that the fact that this child, this babe from Bethlehem, would become and is an offence to many. He is an offense in our world for sure so much so that Merry Christmas has become Happy Holidays for most of we who spend time in retail that the true meaning of Christmas has been neutered into just another sale. Sound familiar?

The message of who He is, who this child that we wait for this Advent season is, who caused the child in the womb of Elizabeth to jump for joy, this child Jesus Christ, came to conquer the power of evil and brokenness in the world, for you.

“Merry Christmas!” Try that greeting and see at times how you are received. “Jesus loves you,” another phrase that seems to bring anger in the hearts of those outside the faith.

There is a story I read this month from Hemant Mehta, who runs a blog called the Happy Atheist. In it he describes a situation of a Nativity scene placed outside of the Cottondale Elementary School in Florida.

(What’s that? Oh right, “Tradition.”) but not anymore. In order to avoid any lawsuits that they would lose in a heartbeat, the school has put the Baby Jesus in a closet:

The principal of the school told the television station that after a visit from the Department of Education:
“In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the principal said, “We decided that we would just not put the Nativity scene out on campus.”

“There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board (over separation of church and state issues), and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose,” she said.

It is after all the law. But, is it really just a church and state issue? In a funny turn to the story, a business across the street put the schools Nativity on their property so those of the community could still enjoy it. Needless to say our happy Atheist was none to happy … “They’re acting like they’re beating the system by doing it … but they’re not. They’re perfectly within their rights to do this and no one will tell them to remove it.”

via Atheist Lutheran

Is this really just about church and state? No if you look into any of these situations, it’s always about those who are unbelievers … who are offended, not wanting this unbelievably offensive, Christ child, in their face. And while they seem to be fine with the nativity across the street from the school, they’re not, because they believe that the school thinks that they’re beating the system and if they could make it illegal to have a nativity everywhere … they would.

Why, because it’s not about a character, who leaves presents under trees or where they believe that the date of Christmas is said to be taken from a pagan holiday and then Christianized. I posted an article on the churches Facebook page entitled:

How December 25 Became Christmas
By Andrew McGowan where he writes:

“Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d”

You can read the rest of the article on our Facebook link if you want to. It is quite fascinating.
So the truth may be a bit simpler than just picking a pagan holiday and it may also be quite a bit older than the world wants to admit. We celebrate on March 25: The Annunciation of the Lord when the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Christ child and then we simply have 9 months between the date of the Annunciation and the date of Christmas and celebrate Dec. 25th in the liturgical year for the birth of Jesus.

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

For John in the womb and Elizabeth, the joy that is the Christ child came in a miraculous and unexpected way through Mary’s visit. We too receive the joy that is Jesus Christ our Lord when He calls us to gather together in His name; where we receive his word and his sacraments giving us both faith and joy in this Christ child who came to free sinners, like you and me, from the enemy of our sin, from the death that it has brought to all who are conceived in sin and brought fourth in iniquity, (Psalm 51.5) and finally to join us to Him who is God in the flesh for all eternity!

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

Finally, the true joy of Christmas and the Christ child can come for some in the lights of a police car in the rear view mirror of a man who was pulled over for an expired registration.

Hayden Carlo who was pulled over by a Plano, Texas, cop for driving his car with an expired registration, said he told the officer the truth:

"I said there's no explanation for why I haven't done it, except I don't have the money. It was either feed my kids or get this registration done," the 25-year-old told CBS news.

The cop handed Carlo a blank ticket, along with something extra, "I opened it up and there's a $100 bill," said Carlo. "I broke down in my car, what else could I do?"

The mystery police officer chose not to be identified.

Still, the department plans to honor him anyway. A Police Department spokesman told CBS, "As he told me, this man needed it more than him, and it was the right thing to do."

Carlo said. "He helped me out when I needed it. I appreciate that, I'll never forget that man," "It definitely restored my faith in God."

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need and then He gives the joy of sharing that same love with others!

Joy in the Christ child that we await. He came for you and by the power of the Holy Spirit gives you faith to leap for joy from the womb of death that you are born into, and by that same Spirit He lifts you into his loving arms never to let sin, death or the Devil pull you from the eternal life he gives.

Christ is the fruit that satisfies your need!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.


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