It’s For You! Midweek Carol Service 2015
In a dark and gloomy room, the fortune teller was startled by what she saw in her crystal ball. She looked up at her customer, sitting across the table. “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.”
Visibly shaken, the woman stared at the psychic’s lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself. She simply had to know. She met the fortune teller’s gaze, steadied her voice, and asked, “Will I get away with it?”
Now I don’t want to encourage you to either visit a fortune teller or murder your husband or wife, after all both are forbidden in the Bible, but I do want us to look at this prophecy from Isaiah. Prophecy although in a sense is akin to fortune telling it is ordained by God so in the words of Dell Trotter it’s cooshty or kosher!
The Old Testament has over 300 prophecies predicting the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus hundreds of years before they happened. Prophecies that he fulfilled. Take note that when God says he will do something he does it! I have a list of them if you would like a copy, I only have 6 copies so first come first served! However if I run out I can print some more!
Most people don’t like sitting around in darkness. We learn from an early age to be fearful of darkness. That’s why nightlights are so popular in little children’s bedrooms: that little 4-watt bulb is able to chase away just some of the darkness and bring a huge measure of comfort to a little one afraid of the dark.
Even as we grow up, there is still an inborn fear of the dark. If you hear a strange noise in your house while it is the middle of the afternoon you might think, “that’s a little odd,” and not even give it a second thought. But if you hear a strange sound in your totally darkened house at 3:00 in the morning, your wife will begin to nudge you and tell you to go find out what’s going on. Or being a coward I might send Maggie to investigate! In the middle of the night darkness breeds fear. Darkness is uncomfortable. Darkness can be confusing. And at time darkness can be terrifying. Here in todays reading , God talks about people sitting around in darkness. They’re uncomfortable. They’re more than just a little confused. And they are seriously afraid for their future. Yet God isn’t about to abandon them, he has a plan! He would manifest himself in the form of Baby Jesus to live and be a light in the darkness.
The title of today’s talk is It’s For You, inspired by an old advert for BT. Those old enough may remember the actress Maureen Lipman featuring as BT Beattie in a series of comical adverts exploring the virtues of having a phone and good communications. I don’t know about you but I dread using a phone helpline. Even if you manage to get through after waiting ages with a recorded voice telling us “You call is important to us, we are experiencing a heavy demand and we will connect you to an agent as soon as possible” the chances are the person on the other end doesn’t speak very good English or doesn’t have a clue and passes you on to someone else! Even then it’s not always easy to follow given instructions. If only the agent could visit your home and sort out the problem in person! Is that too much to ask.
You know since the beginning of time, God has given us instruction through his written word and through prophets how to live in the world he created yet we either find them too difficult to follow or chose to ignore them. Now his agent is no longer at a distance but makes a personal visit as Jesus light of the world. His mission is to bring us back into line, that we might live in accordance with God’s will and purpose. To bring peace comfort and joy to a dark world.
Last Saturday I along with members of this church were out on the High Street giving away free Christmas decorations, chocolates and invites to our services, hopefully some of you are here as a result. Several people said to me “I don’t do religion too many wars and suffering are caused by it” or something similar. To a certain extent I can understand their sentiment. I mentioned to one man that I was in the police force when the IRA where performing indiscriminant killings done in the name, in a guise of religion! Ironically he too turned out to be a retired police officer! A true man of the Christian religion whether Catholic or Protestant should adhere to the Bible and teachings of Jesus. For example. Do not murder, love your enemies, turn the other cheek. Today as we are all aware, terrorism has reared it’s ugly head again with fanatical extremists distorting the teaching and ideals of the Muslim Faith. Although I enjoy giving things away in the High Street at both Easter and Christmas, it’s not easy going up to a complete stranger offering a gift and an invite to our services. I admit in the past I’ve been reluctant to approach some Muslims and lets be fair they make up a high proportion of local residents. Yet when I have been brave enough I’ve experienced no hostility only politeness, you know Saturday I even hugged a Shiak as we wished each other a happy Christmas.
There is no doubt we are living in an ever increasing dark, depressing and ungodly world. A world that choses to ignore God and the teaching of Jesus. A world that celebrates consumerism rather than Christ, Christ has in most people’s lives been taken out of Christmas. I have to hunt harder each year to buy traditional Christian Christmas Cards. My wife and I went to view the Christmas lights at Oxford and Regent Street. There wasn’t even a flicker of any Christian content, not even a single star! Even a few weeks ago a committee which included an ex Archbishop of Canterbury recommended that we should no longer be called a Christian country!
You know life is never easy. I’m not going to tell you if you become a Christian life is a bed of roses. Have you noticed around Christmas time tragedy often strikes. But what I can tell you is that when faced with adversity Jesus is there for us, to comfort us, to give us the strength to go on.
By any stretch of the imagination can I be classed as a perfect Christian, actually they are few and far between. However so many people have said to me in times of need “I wish I had your faith” The good news is it’s freely available to all. Yes it’s for you! It’s the best Christmas present you could ever receive. It’s the only gift that comes with a life time and beyond guarantee. R.Digest May 2004 A few years ago a woman named Dana Tierney told of feeling like she’d missed out because she didn’t believe. “Over the years, I’ve come to think I’m missing out. My friends and relatives who rely on God – the real believers, not just the churchgoers – have an expansiveness of spirit. When they walk along a stream, they don’t just see water falling over rocks; the sight fills them with ecstasy. They see a realm of hope beyond this world. I just see a babbling brook. I don’t get the message.”
In 1962, the Sawi people of New Guinea still lived in relative isolation. They were head-hunting cannibals. Their culture could not be more different from that of Don and Carol Richardson, and yet this missionary couple attempted to share Christ with them. In fact, two rival Sawi tribes, fascinated by the Richardsons, moved their villages right around the missionaries’ jungle home.
But Don became frustrated by his inability to find a point of contact. He was also discouraged by the 14 civil wars he had already counted right outside his front door now that the two tribes lived side by side. Eventually, the Richardsons decided to leave. However, the Sawi response surprised them: “If you’ll stay, we promise we’ll make peace in the morning.”
The next morning the Richardsons awoke to see the most amazing ritual they had ever witnessed. The two tribes were lined up outside their houses, on either side of the clearing. Finally, one man dashed into his hut, grabbed his newborn son, and began to run across the meadow towards the other tribe. His expression betrayed absolute agony. His wife ran after him, screaming and begging him to give the baby back to her. But her husband wouldn’t stop. He ran over to the other tribe and presented the boy to them. “Plead the peace child for me. I give you my son, and I give you my name,” he said. Moments later, someone from that tribe performed the same agonizing sacrifice with the same intensity and passion. Richardson found out later that as long as those two children remained alive, the tribes were bound to peace. If they died, then literally all hell would break loose–cannibalism, murder, civil war. While this amazing scene unfolded before him, Don suddenly realized that this was the analogy he needed to communicate Christ. The next time he spoke to the Sawi elders he told them of the perfect Peace Child, Jesus. Eventually, droves of Sawi became followers of Christ. Several years later, on Christmas day, hundreds of Sawi from every tribe – tribes that had warred and cannibalized each other for many years – gathered together for a feast for the first time. A Sawi preacher stood up and read in his own language a scripture that few people in the history of the world have ever understood so clearly: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Later, the Richardsons would write that it was the best Christmas they had ever experienced. It was the best day the Sawi had ever known. SOURCE: Adapted by James McCullen from “Peace Child” by Don Richardson (Regal, 1976) in Mars Hill Review, Fall 1994. Pages 62-63.
I’m not a fortune teller, I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have a message for you to consider this Christmas. Whatever your situation, whatever your need, Jesus came to bring light and joy into the world, to bring peace on earth not war, sickness and disease. Don’t let the devil deceive you, true religion, a trust and faith in Jesus is so precious. Born to die so that we might live a life of fulness here on earth and beyond. Remember the story I started with, I don’t know what the future holds for any of us. I don’t know how many of us have secured our place in heaven through faith in Jesus. Death is a certainty for all of us, don’t leave it to chance. Don’t be like the wife who asked “will I get away with it?” Without sounding judgmental but Jesus tells us that not only is he the light of the world but he is the truth. John 6 v14 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. May you and I have a blessed and Christ centered Christmas.