UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN - PART 1
by Pastor Mike Fortune
December 3, 2011
Intro Video: YouTube: Welcoming God's Word
- People are still hungry for God's word (Isaiah 40:3,6-8; John 1:23)
- Unto us a child is born (Isaiah 40:9-10; Isaiah 9:6)
- Makes every child precious (Isaiah 40:11)
The Kimyal Tribe live in the Eastern Highlands of West Papua, Indonesia. They are farmers who were untouched by the outside world until missionaries Phil & Phyliss Masters brought the Gospel to their area in 1963. Sadly, Phil Masters was martyred in 1968 when he and fellow missionary Stan Dale were killed and cannibalized by the Yale tribe. But the missionaries that came after, as our video clip revealed, have been witnesses to the Kimyals' love and desire for the Word of God. Their hunger and excitement for hearing and following the Word of God in their own language reminded me of some verses in Isaiah 40 which I want to take a closer look at this morning.
Verse 3 begins with an Advent call of invitation: “3 Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting, "Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 6 A voice said, "Shout!" I asked, "What should I shout?" "Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever." 9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, "Your God is coming!" 10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
Preparation for the coming of an earthly monarch involved the repair of the way over which he was to travel so his progress would be unhindered. So they said, “Listen up people! Pay attention! We’ve got some potholes to fix!” So they’d go about fixing the potholes in the parade route making the roads straighter and smoother. I’m grateful Doug fixed the pothole in our parking lot. Because coming around that corner over there I used to hit it that giant pothole every time! The book of Isaiah opens with a stinging rebuke to Jerusalem in Isaiah 1:2-10. She was then a “besieged city” and a wicked city like Sodom and Gomorrah according to Isaiah 1:8-10. But now the prophet Isaiah sees a time when “her warfare” is over and God sends a message of consolation to her. It was God’s purpose that upon restoration from Babylonian captivity, Israel as a nation would make every effort to be prepared for the coming of Messiah.
And in many ways, that same invitation applies today. Because Christmas time in America has become an American wasteland. I was going to Kroger before Thanksgiving and next door I saw two tents camped out in front of Best Buy on the Wednesday before Black Friday no lie! Who knew people started camping out on Wednesday for Black Friday? Every year, Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas presents (see Advent Conspiracy by Rick Mckinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder). But rightly understood, Christmas is about Christ’s birthday not yours. It’s about giving Jesus gifts not exchanging gifts with each other. Looking at Christmas any other way is wasteland. And God’s word says we need to clear that wasteland out of here to make way for Jesus. But we may have to shout about that in order to be heard over the door busters of Black Friday and Christmas sales of Cyber Monday. I hadn’t even heard of Cyber Monday until this year. But now we have one more giant day of shopping after Thanksgiving when more people buy more stuff online than at any other day of the year.
But when some Christians are courageous enough to say this ain’t right, and they get routinely ignored, they become tentative. They may even begin to doubt if clearing the way for Jesus is vitally important. I think Isaiah was feeling a little apprehensive of sharing such a startling message in his day as well. Verse 6 says, “A voice said, "Shout!" I asked, "What should I shout?" "Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Why can’t we sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing while passing the eggnog? Because people are like grass. Their beauty fades. We wither like grass and fade like a flower. Christmas cannot be about consumerism because getting more stuff does not make you more happy. In the long run, we fade, wither, and die. And all our stuff dies with us. The Golden Rule is not he who has the most gold rules. That is a lie. It only seems that way on earth. We need to make a path through that wasteland as well.
Jesus Himself only got three gifts at Christmas. Gold. Frankincense. And myrrh. Why should our kids and grand kids get more gifts at Christmas than Christ Himself? That’s why Jackie and I don’t give our kids more than three gifts. The Word of the Lord can rearrange the way of the Lord! Why can’t Americans become as hungry to hear the Word of the Lord as the Kimyal tribe still is in Indonesia? This is point number one. People are still hungry for the word of the Lord. I hope we are some of those people.
John the Baptist was for sure. In response to a bunch of incredulous religious people in John 1:23 who couldn’t figure out what on earth he was talking about, “John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah from chapter 40: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Clear the way for the LORD's coming!'” The Word of the Lord can rearrange the way of the Lord! And when it does, it’s actually good news. Verses 9-10 say, “9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, "Your God is coming!" 10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.”
Why is preparing way for the Lord good news? Because it forces us to rearrange our way of thinking. It forces us to fill our potholes! The brevity of our life reminds us to live it for His sake not ours. For unto us a child us born! Isaiah 9:6 added earlier in his book that, “The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable; and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year—overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card. Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed, she couldn’t take it anymore and she stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.” From the back of the car, everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, “Don’t worry, we already crucified Him.” For the rest of the trip down in the elevator, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
Yes, preparing the way for the Lord at Christmas is good news because it reminds us that Unto Us a Child is Born! Thank God for point number two: Unto Us a Child Is Born! Jesus celebrated Christmas by coming to give His life. And years later @ Passover also known as Easter, He literally did being crucified on a cross for our sins. And because the parables of Luke 15 make it clear that Jesus would have done so for just one of us, that makes every child born into this world precious to Him and to His professed followers.
Even the 2k of our own Ohio youth who are enslaved by sex traffickers each year making Toledo, Ohio number one per capita and number four nationwide for sex trafficking!!! The FBI says the demand for prostitutes and sex slaves in America is so great, especially during the Super Bowl, that 15k young women and girls are trafficked into the USA every year. And these girls being brought here often against their will are getting younger and younger because the cowardly anonymous “johns” as they are called demand virgins who are HIV free to reduce their own risk of catching the deadly virus. Worldwide, the United Nations says 25 million people are being trafficked as slaves on any given day most of whom are women and children which means there are more people enslaved today than at any time in the history of the world. Way more than ever were involved in the American slave trade. This makes me sick. It hurts my heart. And I’m sure it breaks God’s. So we need to clear out this wasteland. And prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Toledo, "Your God is coming!” What are we going t do about it? Isaiah 40:10 says, “10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He brings his reward with him as he comes.” But when He does, I cannot imagine Him saying to us “Well done good and faithful servant” some day if knowing these ugly truths about human trafficking, we continue to do nothing about it.
Because point number three: Every child is precious. We are all God’s kids. And God has a special place in his heart for the lambs. Dave and I tried to get a live lamb in our foyer this year sort of like last year when we had lives goats that we were giving to families in the Philippines since one goat gets one family out of poverty. But apparently, lambs are like fire wood and they don’t want you to move them from one place to the next for fear of spreading germs from farm to farm to so they said we couldn’t borrow a lamb for a few weeks. So instead, you’ll have to use your imagination as we read Isaiah 40:11 which says, “11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
Because every child is precious, we’re taking the month of December as a congregation to get better informed about human trafficking. We’re going to collect an additional offering each week during the closing song in church to combat the evils of human trafficking. And in addition to special guest speakers who will be sharing with us each week, Connections and Film Fest next week will be featuring more info on Human Trafficking and focusing our prayers in response. I think people are still hungry to hear for God's word even when it rearranges the way of the Lord. Because Jesus was born, every child born is precious. Thank you for helping us shout that with our lives this month.