This Christmas season, we have been looking at a series of messages at the church where I serve as pastor called “The Promises of Christmas.”  Throughout the Bible, one can see many different places where God made promises to people. As we close this series, we will look at one final promise that God made. The special thing about this promise is that it applies to us. It may have been first told to Joseph, but the implications of this promise fall to every human being.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:18-19‬

A Man Known as a Joseph

Joseph was a known to be a good, upstanding man who was hard-working and honest. He was also a man in love. He was betrothed to a young lady named Mary. He was ready to spend the rest of his life with this young lady, but there was one problem: she was pregnant and the child was not his. Joseph shows his character by not wanting to disgrace Mary, but he couldn’t stay with her.

Joseph’s Visitor 

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:20-23‬

An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream with a message. The angel explained that the child inside Mary’s womb was from God… He was in fact the Son of God… the promised Messiah.

This is good news. This is the same good news that an angel would deliver to the shepherds in the Bethlehem pastures in Luke 2:10 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

How does Christmas bring joy? 

In a day where so many people break their promises, it is good to know that God is not that way. He promised way back in the Garden of Eden that He would send a Savior.

It would be easy for the holy God of the universe to turn away and run in the opposite direction from the creation that was tainted with sin. He would be no less holy if He did so. In spite of our impure state, the holy God of the universe chose to come near His prized creation in their time of most need. He did not send someone or something else to handle our situation. He chose to come Himself.

I don’t know what you were wishing to be under the Christmas tree, but I do know what each of us needed (hope, forgiveness, power over sin and the grave). Jesus’ brought all of that when He came that first Christmas morning.

For while the picture of the baby in the manger warms our hearts, that baby would grow up and take our place on an old rugged cross. He would hang there suffering for our sins, and doing so because He loved us so much. If that weren’t enough, He would defeat the grave three days later. Talk about a Christmas present!

Conclusion

That first Christmas morning, God was not worried about bringing us new toys or the latest gadgets. He was concerned most in giving us what we needed: true joy.  Joy is a happiness that springs from the depths of our hearts. It is not found in any department store or online. It is only found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

That joy is available to you today. If you have never trusted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you can do that today. That would be the best Christmas present you could ever receive.

If you have received that gift of grace, my prayer is that you are reminded of just how great that gift is. May it continue to bring you joy each and every day.

We have joy unspeakable given to us because Jesus conquered the grave, but He never would have if there was never a cross for Him to bear… and there would be no cross if there was not first a manger.


From our family to yours, may you have the merriest of Christmas ever. Thank God for giving the greatest gift ever by giving us His Son, Jesus. 

Last week, we looked at how God promised a Savior at the moment that man fell into sin. God had every right to just pronounce judgment on mankind, but He chose, out of the graciousness of His heart, to make a way of hope and redemption.

As time would move on, we see that God begins putting His plan of redemption in place. We come now to the promise of blessing. In Genesis 12, God calls a man named Abram to follow Him.  God promises blessing to mankind through this man who would come to be known as Abraham. It is this promise of blessing that we want to look at today.

The Promised Child

Genesis 17:15–16

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

As Abraham would journey with God by faith, we see in Genesis 17 where God promised one of the greatest gifts to Abraham. God said that Abraham and Sarah would have a son. This seemed impossible as Abraham was close to 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old – both well past childbearing ages.

About one year from the Genesis 17 meeting between God and Abraham, Sarah would give birth to Isaac. It is easy to look at our situations and circumstances and think that they are just too much… that we’ve missed our opportunity… but God uses this situation to show that NOTHING is impossible for Him.

The Strange Request

While the scene that has been played out so far is one of warmth and encouragement, we see that things take a strange turn in Genesis 22.

The same God that had called Abraham out to follow Him and gave him a child when it was impossible and promised that blessings would come to the world through his line is now saying to sacrifice the promised child.

It is a tragic thing when a parent loses a child. For a parent to be called to willing let go of their child is unthinkable. But that is exactly what we see here. What in the world is God up to? How is the world going to be blessed through the line of Abraham if it does not exist?

We see in Genesis 22:1 that the Bible says God “tested” Abraham. There are times when God will put us to the test. Many times when these tests come they are a test to show where our true loyalty lies. Are we committed to God or to our way?

To be committed to God means that He is who we claim Him to be in our lives – Lord… the one in complete control… the one who gets to say what goes and doesn’t in every single area of our lives. Do we demonstrate this with our actions? Is every word that we say and every action that we take what God desires? Or do we let God have control of only certain areas of our lives? The blessings that our hearts desire come only when we follow the Blesser’s commands.

Abraham obeys

Genesis 22:3

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Genesis 22:9–10

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.

We see that Abraham wastes no time in obeying what God had commanded him. Did he understand what God was going to do? I don’t think so fully. That is the essence of faith though. We like to have all the details laid out before us, but that removes the element of faith.

The Bible tells us that without faith, we cannot please God.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain that God determines. The boy and his father go up the mountain, and there the unthinkable happens: Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son.

How willing are you to let go and sacrifice your dreams… your plans… your ways? We are trained by our culture to do and have things “your way.” We are told that you are to be your own person. The truth is that we will never experience the blessings that God has for us until we get to the point where we let go of our ways, plans, and dreams. It is at that point that we experience God’s dreams, plans, and ways which are always perfect and for our best.

The Blessing Confirmed

We see that the Lord intervenes in the situation. The angel of the Lord said that it was evident that God truly had Abraham’s heart. Abraham had not held anything back from the Lord. Now there would be nothing to stand in the way from Abraham experiencing the work that God wanted to do in him and through him.

Are there things that you are holding back from the Lord? Are there areas of your life that you have been unwilling to hand over to God? If so, these things are keeping you from experiencing the fullness of what God wants to do in and through you. Why don’t you make a decision today to give God those areas of your life and experience the fullness of Him?

If you choose to do that, you too can experience the blessing of God.

In Genesis 22:15–18, we see that because of Abraham’s willingness to surrender his entire self to God, the promise of blessing was confirmed over him. The truth is that this promise was much greater than Issac. It was only at this point that Abraham fully understood that God had much bigger plans in mind.
In the New Testament, Matthew’s gospel starts out with a human genealogy of Jesus Christ. It traced its way from Jesus all the way back to Abraham. This line went from Abraham through Isaac and brought us Jesus.

We may not always see what God is up to at the moment. We can be assured that He is always working something up for the good of those who follow Him and for His glory. His plans are always much bigger than we could ever expect.

Conclusion

God has always been a God of blessing. He has wanted to see His people live in the midst of His blessing. Some years ago, God promised to an older man that through Him the peoples of the earth would experience the greatest of blessings. We see from Matthew’s gospel that the promise of blessing has been kept. The blessing of God comes through His Son, Jesus Christ, and it is available to all who will receive Him.

As we go about this wonderful Christmas season, are we experiencing the blessing that God promised so long ago? Or are we missing the greatest gift that was ever given?

There is nothing like the Christmas season. It comes rushing in like a hurricane and overtakes everything. Music. Movies. Even grocery stores. When Christmas comes in, you cannot miss it.

While you cannot miss the presence of the season, it is not that hard to miss what has been known as the “Reason for the Season.” It is not about white chocolate Oreos (even though they are oh so good and should be available all year long). It’s not about Christmas trees, ornaments, lawn decorations, or lights (although I like all of these). It is about the greatest gift in the world. It is the celebration of the birth if the Messiah: Jesus Christ.

Every year, I try to take the congregation that I lead through a series to remind us of the “Reason for the Season.” This year, I am preaching through a series that looks at the promises of Christmas. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, I will be sharing here a written version of those messages. I welcome feedback and discussion, but mostly hope that they help you focus on Jesus this Christmas season.

The Promise of a Savior

Some of us get irritated when stores begin getting ready for Christmas. It seems like it is earlier and earlier. There are differing opinions as to when getting ready is too soon. When we look at the Bible, one could easily make an argument that God is in favor of an early preparation of Christmas. How can I say that? We see the first promise of Christmas mentioned in the Garden of Eden.

A Promise Broken (Genesis 3:1-7)

When Genesis 3 opens, we are introduced to a new character in the Bible: the serpent. This was a creature that was created as good by God but had been indwelt by Satan himself and used for his ungodly purposes. We see that this serpent has a conversation with Eve and causes her to break her promise to God.

Prior to this conversation that we see, Adam had been told by God to enjoy all of the creation that God had made except one tree – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). After God created Eve, it was Adam’s responsibility to share this with her.

We see that as Eve has this conversation with the serpent, she gives in to the temptation and breaks her promise to God. This is what the Bible calls sin – the breaking of God’s laws… disobeying what God has said.

We may be tempted to point a finger at Adam and Eve and say, “How could you do that? You had everything in all of creation, and you went after the one thing that you were told not to!” But how quickly do we see ourselves following Adam and Eve’s ways? How many times do we crave the very things that we are told that we are not to have?

We see that the very first promise that man made to God was broken. The result of this broken promise was judgment. We see that in the rest of the chapter. God shows up and deals with sin.

A Promise Made

As God came and brought judgment upon creation because of the sin that was present, we see an interesting sight. When we hear the word ‘judgment’, we tend to think of negative things. It does not normally compute with our minds that something good might actually come out of a judgment where we are completely in the wrong. God blows everyone’s mind in Genesis 3:14-15.

As God pronounces a curse upon the serpent, He makes a promise in verse 15. This is the first proclamation of the Gospel in creation. God says that He will rise up One that will bruise (or crush) the head of the serpent while he will bruise this One’s heel. It is interesting that the same word is given in action of the One and the serpent. They will deliver equally damaging blows, but the difference is that the One will have the ability to come back from it because He is not a creation. In Genesis 3:15, we have God making a promise to provide a Deliverer from the sin that has brought about the judgments of God on us.

A Promise Kept

If we fast-forward to Matthew 1:20-21, we will see that God keeps His promise. In this verse, we see an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph and telling him not to hesitate in taking Mary to be his bride. The child that she is carrying is the promise that God had made in the Garden of Eden. This “seed” would be the One who would save people from their sins.

God is not in the business of breaking promises. If God has made a promise, you can take it to the bank that He will make good on it. The promise might not come in the timing that we would want, but it will always come right on time.

We can celebrate this Christmas season in knowing that God is a promise-keeping God. He sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to redeem us from the sin that we were guilty of. God did not weigh the scales and say, “I didn’t realize there was going to be THIS much sin.” God did not look at the types of sin and say, “I’m not sure about taking care of THAT sin.”

God showed His great love to us by saying to all who have sin – many or few, big or small – “I love you… this gift of salvation is for you.”

This Christmas season, my prayer for you is that you might experience the fullness of the gift that God gave to the world that first Christmas morning. If you have never received this gift of forgiveness and a new life through Christ, then you can today by surrendering your will and life to Christ.

happy-thanksgiving-2010

 

May the Lord bless you and your family this Thanksgiving as you remember the many blessings He has showered upon you.

~ The Stephens Family