"GOD OF EXTREMES!"
TEXT: Matt. 1:18-25
INTRO:The simple story of God's son coming as a babe in a manger has become so familiar that we can easily miss the extreme measures God took to show us He cares! While being a human baby is nothing for us, for God to wrap Himself up in our humanity and become subject to pain and death and life is so incredible that we fail to appreciate the gesture of God's love!
Why this time of year, we don't really know when Christ was born?
ILLUS:Early Christians wisely decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on a day that was already a recognized holiday, December 25. Celebrating on this day would keep them from suspicion and danger. The Romans called December 25 "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" because it was so close to December 21, the winter solstice. For Christians it became "The Birthday of the Unconquered Son." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
The darkness of mankind is so extreme that celebrating the great light in the midst of the greatest darkness only seems appropriate!
The tragedy however is that we have discovered plenty of ways to be distracted from the Christ child … to get so wrapped up in celebration that we have forgotten the great mystery and power in God's gift to mankind! It is possible to get so lost in the celebration that we become lost to the miracle and message of God!
ILLUS:The story is told of a christening that was to be held many years ago by a very wealthy European family. Many guests were invited to the home for the occasion and came in the very latest fashionable garb. Their wraps and coats were carried to a bedroom and laid upon the beds. After the usual lot of conversation and commotion, they were ready for the christening ceremony and someone asked, "Where is the baby?" The nurse was sent upstairs to look and returned in alarmed distress. The baby was nowhere to be found! After several minutes search someone remembered that the child had last been seen lying on one of the beds, and after a frantic search the little child was found smothered under the wraps of the guests. The chief reason why they had come had been forgotten, neglected, and destroyed! This Christmas many will forget, neglect and even destroy the Christ child! He is smothered by the tinsel, wrapping paper, ribbon, and make-believe that surround the festive occasion reminding us of the words of Luke, "There was no room for them in the inn." Let's not crowd Christ out of Christmas. C. E. Smith, San Jose Mercury News -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 85.
The fact is that God is a God of extremes! Though all powerful, He became totally dependent on a human mom and dad; though all knowing, He chose to have to learn and be educated; though perfectly holy, He chose to live among sinners!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life!" John 3:16
I. EXTREME MEASURES! 1:18-21
A. Unexpected 1:18-19
1. God chose the most extreme way to enter the world!
a. rather than come through quiet normal channels He comes by way of a poor unmarried virgin!
b. He chooses a poor family rather than a powerfully rich ruler's family.
c. Hardly the expected entrance of the almighty King!
2. Most Jews kept thinking one of these days a nice Jewish woman married to a nice Jewish man with a good name and possible financial means would one day be the woman to give birth to the promised Messiah!
a. No one could have imagined the extreme means God used by a poor unmarried virgin!
b. Ironically though, Isaiah had prophesied this! (see Isa 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.")
3. Many Jews assumed the Messiah would come charging on a white horse, the king of Israel with power and might to destroy armies … they didn't expect a poor unmarried virgin who was hardly even known!
4. God took extreme measures to show His love for mankind, He decided to become a man and live among us … GOD WITH US - "Immanuel!"
5. Tragically, even a very righteous man like Joseph couldn't accept this extreme idea …
a. He decides to give Mary a divorce assuming she had been unfaithful to him.
b. A "pledge to be married" in Joseph and Mary's day was much stronger than an engagement is in our culture - it actually was binding and required an official divorce to break.
c. By the law Mary could have been stoned, but Joseph's love for her was such that he could not bring himself to punish her publicly.
6. God could find no better way to help and understand man other than to become like us!
ILLUS:John Howard Griffin was a white man who believed he could never understand the plight of African-Americans unless he became like one. In 1959, he darkened his skin with medication, sun lamps, and stains, then traveled throughout the South. His book, Black Like Me, helped whites better understand the humiliation and discrimination faced daily by people of color.
Jesus Christ became like us; the Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isa. 53:3). -- Tom Moorhouse, Roy, Utah. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.
7. Men and women today still have problems accepting God's extreme way of saving us, that God has actually come as a man and lived our life and then died on a cross for our sins!
B. Unafraid 1:20-21
1. Joseph being a righteous man was not rejected by God, and so the Lord goes to extreme measures to let Joseph know that all was ok with Mary, that what she carried was holy and not the result of sin.
a. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
b. God broke into Joseph's fears to let him know God was at work.
2. Joseph was to go ahead and take Mary as his wife, this action would be extreme in the eyes of the world when they discovered the pregnancy, but Joseph would no longer be afraid of what others would think, he had heard from God!
a. What about you? Are you afraid to live for God in a world that makes fun and mocks such faith?
b. Have you heard from God?
3. There comes a point in time when we need to become extreme for God, to stand up in this world and proclaim our faith!
ILLUS: It was on Christmas Eve, after a Romanian church had gathered for candlelight service, that the Communist soldiers came to take the pastor. The people lined up outside the church--10, 15, 20, 30 deep--encircling the church and saying, "If you come after the pastor, you come after us first." The soldiers couldn't get in. They couldn't move them. The candle lights began to move through the cities. As those candles began to spread, others came out into the street, and courage came. On Christmas Day the people said, "We've had enough of this," and the terrible dictator of Romania, the despot and his wife, were executed on Christmas day, 1989. -- Jim Henry, "If Jesus had Never Been Born," Preaching Today, Tape No. 159.
4. The reality of God's extreme action is that we often are required to also take extreme measures too - to be extreme in proclaiming our faith in a God the world had shunned and continues to reject!
II. EXTREME MESSIAH! 1:22-25
A. Ultimate 1:22-23
1. God took the ultimate, the extreme step of leaving eternity and glory to live in a temporal and sinful place!
a. This is the ultimate sacrifice, to become like man so that He can save us from our sins.
b. Christmas cannot be viewed without the shadow of the cross over it!
2. It was no trick, it was no picnic, it was no image, it was the real thing!
3. God took the ultimate step to prove His love, what step have you taken to accept it?
ILLUS:The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once sought to describe the incarnation of God in Christ. He used this simple illustrative story:
A certain king was very rich. His power was known throughout the world. But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife. Without a queen, the vast palace was empty.
One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was won. He wanted her more than anything he had ever desired. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing.
He wondered how he might win her love. He thought, I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me to become the queen of my land. But, as he considered, he realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be certain that he had won her love.
Then, he said to himself, "I shall call on her in person. I will dress in my finest royal garb, wear my diamond rings, my silver sword, my shiny black boots, and my most colorful tunic. I will overwhelm her and sweep her off her feet to become my bride." But, as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and power he could give her.
Then, he decided to dress as a peasant, drive to the town, and have his carriage let him off. In disguise, he would approach her house. But, somehow the duplicity of this plan did not appeal to him.
At last, he knew what he must do. He would shed his royal robes. He would go to the village and become one of the peasants. He would work and suffer with them. He would actually become a peasant. This he did. And he won his wife.
So did God consider how He might win humankind. God in Christ became one of us. He took upon Him the form of human flesh to dwell among us. Paul says, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 303.
4. What an incredible truth, "God WITH us!"
a. No other religion has a god that lived with man.
b. Other religions keep their gods way above man, too high for us to come near.
c. All the Greek gods deplored humans, they used them and kept their place above man.
5. God's methods for reaching us were so extreme that people today still have trouble believing it!
6. God even went to extremes in who He wants to save!
a. The shepherds were the poorest class of Jews in Jesus' day, they were despised, not allowed to testify in a court of law if even an eyewitness to a crime! They were uneducated outcasts and lonely.
b. The Magi were wealthy and highly educated Gentiles, men of science and extremely admired. They were powerful and held in high esteem.
c. God's Word records that both of these extremes of humanity came to worship the Christ - so that we would know that either extreme of humanity is welcome!
d. What is holding you back?
B. Unashamed! 1:24-25
1. When Joseph "woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…" When will you wake up and obey the Lord too?
2. When we look at the whole story of Christ's birth and entrance into humanity we must know that something marvelous has happened!
ILLUS: An old pioneer traveled westward across the great plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked at the sight before him: a vast chasm one mile down, eighteen miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! He gasped, "Something musta happened here!" A visitor to our world at Christmas time, seeing the lights, the decorations, the trees, the parades, the festivities, and the religious services, would also probably say, "Something must have happened here!" Indeed, something did happen. God came to our world on the first Christmas. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 86.
3. The truth is that the whole world has been changed by the birth of Jesus Christ - even if you don't believe in Him as God you cannot argue that statement!
a. No birth has ever changed the world more than Jesus Christ!
b. No birth will change your eternal destiny more than Jesus Christ too!
4. Joseph was no longer ashamed to obey God once he understood God's extreme love, in fact, he is moved to obey the Lord the rest of his life when he realized what extreme measures God took to redeem man from his sins.
5. Christ can change your whole life, He came to bring you His life … why would you refuse this great gift from God?
a. You would have to be extremely foolish to reject such love from God.
b. God not only changes the world, He changes human hearts!
6. Why not make this the greatest Christmas ever, let Christ's life change yours!
7. It is His birthday we celebrate, what gift will you bring Him? How about the gift of your soul?
CONCLUSION: God has gone to extremes to demonstrate His love for mankind. He was willing to sacrifice Himself and to leave His place in glory to bring us the message of peace, love, and forgiveness of sins. He experienced extreme humility - born as a human child in a poor home; died an extremely painful death to redeem us. You would have to be extremely foolish to ignore God's great gift of salvation. "O come let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!"