Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

12/07/14 Sermon - How Low Can You Go?

“How Low Can You Go?”

Second Sunday of Advent – Bethlehem Candle

Micah 5:1-5 & Luke 2:1-7

 

We are participating in the season of Advent. And in case you didn’t know, Advent is the beginning of the New Year for the Christian Church calendar. You see the church has its own calendar that does not coincide directly with our Gregorian calendar. We are now in the second week of the New Year, 2015. We are also counting the weeks before the date in which we celebrate Jesus’ birth and this time is known as the Advent Season. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. For us Christians there are two Advents on which we focus. The first Advent has already occurred, the coming of the birth of the Messiah. The second Advent we are to be prepared to have happen, at any time, and that is the return of Christ the King, in his second coming. You see for those of us who are alive after Jesus’ resurrection we have two times of Advent; the past arrival of Christ, as a child in a manger and the future arrival, when Christ will return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

 

Today we recognize the Second Sunday of the first Advent, as we look forward to our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We have lit the second purple candle, the color purple representing the coming of a king, and the second candle signifies God’s love. It is also known as the Bethlehem Candle. This is to be a reminder of the story of the insignificant new couple, forced by the government to take a journey, at a very inconvenient time, to visit a very small village, to fulfill a detailed prophecy that could have only been orchestrated by God himself.

 

Return back in time with me and let’s review the history of Bethlehem. Bethlehem was known as a City of Judah, it was first mentioned in the Bible when Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was buried there, beside the road to Ephrath, or Bethlehem, (Genesis 48:7).

 

Next we read about Bethlehem in the story of Ruth. Naomi’s husband and son’s had died while they are living in Moab, so she and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, return to Naomi’s home, which was Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:19)

Guess who else grew up in Bethlehem? None other than David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. (2 Samuel 23:15)(1 Samuel 16:1)

 

Bethlehem was actually a bustling town during the time of Jacob, Ruth and David. However, by the time Jesus was born, Bethlehem had reduced in population and had become a small village. Not much was happening in Bethlehem.

 

We also need to keep in mind the concept of a Messiah. It may be difficult for us as Americans to relate to this concept, but for the Jewish people, who are still to this day, having to fight to keep their heritage and their beliefs and their lives sacred, the concept of Messiah was drilled into the minds and hopes of every Jew that was faithful. Persecution has followed this ethnic group from their time in Egypt. And although God gave them the Promised Land, eventually, the ability to live in it peacefully would not be possible, until after their Messiah, the Savior, came.

 

That being said, every good Jewish believer, at the time of Jesus, had been told since birth, and had memorized, whether they liked it or not, the prophecies that were foretold of the one God would send, who would come to save His people. At this point in time the Roman Empire was the thing they were expecting to be saved from.

 

Okay, memorizing the prophesies was a good thing. Their comprehension of those prophesies was not so good, but for now that is beside the point.

 

One thing I would like to focus on is just how Jesus and his birth are the fulfillment of the Messianic prophesies.

 

There are a total of 456 identifying characteristics prophesized prior to the birth of Jesus, on who the Messiah would be.

 

Out of that total, there are 12 prophesies that point to the birth of the Messiah. Let me read them to you.

 

 

1)      The Messiah would be born of a woman

2)      The Messiah would be born of a virgin

3)      The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

4)      The Messiah would be born from the line of Abraham

5)      The Messiah would be a descendant of Isaac

6)      The Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob

7)      The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah

8)      The Messiah would be heir to King David’s throne

9)      The Messiah would be called Immanuel

10)  The Messiah would spend a season in Egypt

11)  A massacre of children would happen at the Messiah’s birthplace

12)  The  Messiah would be called a Nazarene

 

If you didn’t catch some of the nuances of just these twelve prophecies, let me highlight a few. If you studied these prophesies, you would have to wonder how a child, not to mention a child born of a virgin, would be born in the city of Bethlehem and live in Egypt and be from Nazareth, which by the way is 76 miles from Bethlehem. Contrary to how we live today, the people living in the time of Jesus’ birth did not move around unless they absolutely had to.

 

They lived close to their relatives and because traveling was so difficult, due to poor roads, and transportation generally done on foot or donkey, most of the common folk stayed close to home. So if you are pondering these prophesies as a scholar studying the Torah it would seem near to impossible for anyone to achieve each of these prophesies, unless you were a king or very rich. And of course, the Savior was to be the King of Kings.

 

That being said, where do you think the Jewish religious leaders were looking for this Messiah?

 

Certainly not in a stable, in a crowded small village, with a young teenage girl and her new husband, who by the way hasn’t even had the opportunity to make love to his bride, because she was already pregnant when he married her. Not exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees would deemed “worthy” for the family of the Messiah.

 

This is what I love most about who God is.

 

When we really think about this King of King’s birth thing, how much lower can you go?

 

The creator of the entire universe, the one who puts everything around us, people, animals, plants, the water cycle into motion does the exact opposite of what was expected.

 

You see the idea of knowing God is shining on you by how much wealth or health you have, is not a new one.

 

The Jewish teachers of the Torah taught since father Abraham, that if you were poor or had a disability, you were sinning in some way and until you got your life on straight, you would not receive God’s blessings.

 

Then comes the Messiah.

 

 

The Holy Spirit comes to a teenage girl, who by the way, was not perfect, but was willing to allow God to use her, knowing full well that if she were to become pregnant, that her parents may not believe her story, let alone her fiancée or neighbors.

Then we have Joseph, the step-dad. Clueless until he has a dream and chooses to accept his pregnant betrothed and truly walks in faith. Think about it guys. You are a simple carpenter, you work with your hands and you have arranged to be married and you can’t wait to finally have this woman to yourself. You have been promised that your bride is pure and although you may be low in the working standard of your day, you have always done what was right, you are a hard worker, and you have your pride. Let’s face it. Telling your neighbors that know how to count the number of months from the day you were married to the day your first child is born, that God was the one who impregnated your bride, before you were officially married, may not be seen as a credible story.

 

And then we have the timing of Jesus’ birth.

 

It may have been an unwelcomed blessing for Joseph and Mary to have to go to Bethlehem. Do you think it was a coincidence that the very first time the leader of the Roman government decides he wants to count everyone and declares a census occurs at the very time Mary is ready to give birth? How else is the Messiah going to be born in Bethlehem, and live in Nazareth?  

 

Of all the cities and places for the King of Kings to be born, you can bet, even though the Jewish people knew the prophecy of the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, they were probably waiting for Bethlehem to return to its glory day and become a mighty city, before they started actually looking for the Messiah’s birth.

 

And yet, God does it again. How low can He go?

 

Well, at the time, the city of Bethlehem was nothing but a small village, with only its history to give it any worth. No wonder the shepherds were surprised when the angels showed up to proclaim the birth of the Messiah was happening.

This is love.

God demonstrates that He is not concerned with what the world thinks is important, or worthy. In fact, in God’s eyes, everyone is worthy,  because everyone has been created by Him. And the demonstration of God’s love for all people is shown perfectly by Him deciding to send His one and only Son to become an embryo and begin life in the womb of a peasant girl, in a small village, and be raised as an illegitimate son, in a simple Jewish family, and grow up to be a carpenter.

 

Not exactly Kingly stuff in the world’s standards.

 

But exactly the stuff most of the world can relate to. Today, only 1% of the population has ½ of the world’s wealth. That means the remaining 99% share the second half. Most of us are in that 99%.

But when we think about it, if God can use the little town of Bethlehem, a teenage girl, a carpenter and a manger to prepare the way for His Son, He can certainly use you and me. For Joseph and Mary the requirement to be the parents of the King of Kings wasn’t wealth or correct standing in society. The requirement was a willing heart.

The same requirement is expected from God today. He is not looking at where we are in the world’s eyes. He is concerned with where your heart is.

How many times have you thought, “God’s not really focused on me, what can I do?”

Many could look at our church and think, how sad, it’s too bad you have become so small, compared to how things used to be. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that our church used to be known for its beautiful music.

To me, this statement sounds just like the town of Bethlehem, at the time when the Christ child was born. Sure Bethlehem was going to be the place where the Messiah would be born. Sure this is God’s church, BUT.

That is the world talking, not God. And it seems to me that when the world says, “BUT” and things seem too small or impossible. That is when God can work, because that is the time when He will get the glory.

 

Not only that, but isn’t that what HOPE is all about?

God has been in the business of taking what seems to be impossible in human eyes and minds and making something beautiful. Then it becomes a “God thing”, not a human thing.

We need to stop being like the Jewish leaders and predicting where God works and why He works, based on our human standards.

Like Mary, God is looking for those of us who are willing to say,

“I am the Lord’s servant”, with a willing heart. 

 

Open your heart to him today, and you will be amazed at the things God can do with you. I am sure Joseph and Mary were.

 

The observance of the Lord’s Supper is a great place to open your heart to the Lord and I invite you to come down to the front and join me.

The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of the Love God has for us. While Jesus was with his disciples during the Last Supper, before he was to be crucified he told them, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

And that is exactly how Jesus demonstrated his life for us, his friends.

He laid down his life, so that we may live, live more freely here on earth and live forever with Him in eternity. Regardless of how low you have gone, or how low you may feel, the Lord’s Supper is for everyone who chooses to come and participate. It is the condition of your heart, not the condition of your life that is important. As we partake in the elements, I want us to search our hearts.

Let’s prepare our hearts to accept the Messiah. The Son of God, who became human, and then shed his blood, as the perfect, final sacrifice, so that we could be with him now and forever, AMEN.

 

[Bread/Wine]

 

BENEDICTION: John 3:16