Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the advent of Jesus, but we should remember that he is coming again. We are all waiting in the midst of earth’s struggle for it. Heaven is waiting for it. Earth is waiting for it. Hell is waiting for. The universe is waiting for it. Yes, this Jesus is coming again. This is part of the hope and the song for the world at Christmas time.
We today live between the two advents. Our relation to the first creates our relationship to the second. To trust in the first is to wait for the second. So I must ask, as we go into the New Year, “How stands you and your soul between the two advents?” If Christ is welcomed into your house all year, then welcome the New Year with joy. However if your intention is to continue crucifying this Christ in the coming year by what you do, then I say stop your celebration, cease your joy, for it is blasphemy to crucify Jesus every day of the year and then celebrate Christmas.
If you have found room in your heart for him who no one had room for at his first coming, then this is truly a time for celebration. But if you have shut him out, I warn you that when he comes again he will do with you what you have done with him. He is coming again. Trust in the meaning of the first coming, so that you will not be ashamed at his second coming.
When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus we can’t help but notice Jesus continually came into conflict with the Pharisees. The reason for the conflict was He revealed the truth that was hidden in their hearts – hypocrisy. Today many are in conflict with Jesus because they resent what Jesus reveals in their heart – hypocrisy. Thus Jesus always puts mankind at the crossroads; either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not. Let me just say that if Jesus is not the supreme authority of our heart then he is not worthy of our attention.
Reading the Bible is like looking into a mirror and seeing ourselves. We see the hypocrisy of our heart, the emptiness of our good works, and we come away appalled at the possibilities of evil that lies within us. We are awakened to the fact that all Jesus said is absolutely true, and, if for a moment just have some honesty, we have to admit that purity is something far too deep for any of us to arrive at naturally. Therefore, the only thing that truly provides protection against these appalling possibilities is Jesus’ redemption.
The word redemption is a great word. It means the chains are removed, the cell doors are opened, and the prisoners are set free because the price has been paid. Accepting Jesus redemption means handing yourself over to him every-day and in every-way, and you will not have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within your heart.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord,” (Ps. 40:3).
Everyone has an opinion about church music, and those opinions have led to many arguments with the churches made the battlegrounds. Let me state clearly that there is no such thing as Christian music, or good church music, for the Bible silent on the subject.
We all come from different parts of the country, and came of age in different eras. Therefore, some of us like Country and Western music, Dixie Land, Blues, Midwestern Polka, Nashville Rock and Roll, and Bluegrass. Thus only an elitist would say one style is better than the other.
The controversy over music is not new. The music for Martin Luther’s, A Mighty Fortress is our God, was borrowed from a popular song of the 16th century. Charles Wesley used tunes from taverns for some of his hymns. John Calvin used secular song writers of his day. The Queen of England referred to them as, “Calvin’s jigs.” When Silent Night was first published it was called “Vulgar mischief and void of all religious feelings.” Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “Vulgar Theater.”
Today’s we are taking a break from our normal service to sing some of the old hymns. These hymns were not composed in a vacuum, but came from a story that was behind the song. Thus we conclude that what really makes a hymn sacred is not the style, but the message it brings.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” Jesus invites people to “come,” and in so doing they will have rest. “Take my yoke,” means become a follower of Jesus. If a person accepts Jesus’ invitation they will “learn” from him, and find rest for their souls.
What is this rest that Jesus offers? Jesus said of the people, “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” He meant they were: Sorrowful, suffering, wave-tossed, tired, wearied, and heavy-laden people. Thus in His invitation He is saying, “All your restlessness is caused by the lack of God in your life. If you could know God all your restlessness would cease, but you cannot know Him except through me. If you will come to Me, I will reveal God to you, and you will find rest.”
Jesus’ invitation is music to our ears, and a balm to our souls, and that is because He does not offer pity, but he offers the power to overcome. His invitation is not an opiate that puts us to sleep, but an offer of a life that awakens us to what we were meant to be – something holy. Jesus’ invites us to get right with God, and that can only be done through Him.
The religions of the world, with the exception of Christianity, teach salvation by works. They teach in order to be accepted by God one must do more good works than bad works. As one Muslim explained it, “If I’m driving my car and drive through a stop sign, then I stop twice at the next stop sign.”
There is a story that explains the difference between the World’s religions and Christianity. A man fell into a pit and could not get out. Buddha passed by, looked at the man and said, “Poor fellow. You were foolish to get into such a mess. I’m sorry that I can do nothing to help you.” And Buddha walked on. Shortly Mohammed passed by. He said, “I am sorry I can’t help you out of the pit, but if you ever get out I may be able to give you some advice which will keep you from falling in again.” And Mohammad walked on. Then Jesus of Nazareth passed by. He said nothing, but got down into the pit and lifted the man out. The point is this: Jesus does for us what we, or anyone else, cannot do for ourselves.
The world’s religions, with the exception of Christianity, tell you to find the answers you seek in knowing, feeling, or doing. What do I mean? The knowing religions say, master a set of ideas. Learn the keys that unlock the answers of the universe and you will unlock the answers to your life. The feeling religions teach you to engage in the mystical, enter into an experience of the mysticism of the universe and you will be changed. The doing religions teach you to do a list of practical things that will change you.
Jesus did not come to give us a new thought; though there is nothing more profound then knowing him. He did not come to give us a new experience; even though there is nothing more life changing than him. He did not come to give you a new list of things to do; though we are to be known by the things we do. Christianity is rooted in being attached to Jesus; abiding in Him. That is what John 1:4 means, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (1:4). Abiding in Jesus is life itself.