Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

The Present That Lasts Forever

The Present That Lasts Forever

Hebrews 7:1-3; 25-28

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to receive as a gift was a model. I had model ships, model planes, model cars: anything that I could build to help me understand the construction of a thing was a huge hit. I **still** have some models that I’m looking forward to completing. Models can teach, models can inspire.

Does God Use Models For His Ministry?

OT: Model of the Promise ~ Hebrews 7:1-3

  • 1 king+priest; ONLY good example of mixture of religion and government in all of Scripture
  • 2 righteousness+peace=antitype of Jesus, the perfect combination of kingship, righteousness, and peace with God
  • 3 this OT character just “shows up” unexpectedly in the narrative; often, Jesus does the same: He shows up in our lives when we don’t expect Him. How has Jesus shown up for you?

NT: Messiah is the Present ~ Hebrews 7:25-28

  • 25 OT priests were place-holders, fulfilling an office (the PERSON filling the office changes, the OFFICE does not); Jesus lives, and permanently fills the requirements of go-between for God and humanity
  • 26/7 He has no sin; wages of sin is death; He died as a sacrifice on our behalf (not His own need): THAT is why He is the Highest Priest Possible!
  • 28 “made perfect” Christ’s journey is complete: the Son let go of Godhood, became human like us, took on our sin, died and canceled it out, rose again to give us new life, and finally re-entered God’s presence as the perfect go-between for both US and God: from the TOP to the BOTTOM and back to the TOP.

I’m intentionally playing with a triple pun in English:

  1. at Christmas, we give each other gifts, and we call them presents
  2. Christ was God’s gift of Himself to all of us: Emmanuel, His Presence
  3. Jesus enables us to live with God regardless of time: eternally the present

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Do We Need To Achieve It? – God Prepares His Prize

Do We Need To Achieve It? – God Prepares His Prize

Hebrews 4:1-11

You know what I love more than a good party? Not much! Fun people, good music, free food… what’s not to love? So imagine my dismay when I completely forgot to go to a party to which I was invited!

Want To Go To The Ultimate Christmas Party?

Receive His Invitation ~ Hebrews 4:1-5

  • 1 setup: refers to Moses & promised land; God intends to bring us to Himself
  • 2 message+faith=functional (toy w/out batteries? BOTH need to be present in the present)
  • 3 look at the contrast: those who don’t enter God’s presence are those who refuse to believe & trust Him: true then, true now!
  • 4/5 Rest isn’t about “not working”; it’s the reflection that God is responsible for His work (not us).

Actually Show Up! ~ Hebrews 4:6-11

  • 6 disobedience=apatheia; they didn’t think God’s promise was WORTH it
  • 7 God wants us to respond to His invitation NOW, TODAY
  • 8/10 rest from our own work: what a Christmas gift THAT is
  • 11 “make every effort”=flavor of urgency – let’s GET TO IT; no time like Today to Trust God for His Good Gift

God plans the party; God sets up the decorations; God sends out the invitation. OUR part? Respond with Joy!

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Advent Conspiracy: Give More Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 1:18-25

I love Christmas, but increasingly I don’t love trying to explain it to people who confused the real thing with “ChrisMyth”. You know “ChrisMyth” – where the magical Coca-Cola corporate seasonal mascot observes all your marketing data – ahem “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” – and either brings you toys or coal depending on how much you’re willing to spend – cough “whether you’ve been good, so be good for goodness’ sake”

Real Christmas Requires Real Gifts:


Realize Life Intrudes
~ Matt. 1:18-19

  • It begins with a couple who are betrothed. Betrothal is a little more serious than engagement. This couple’s name is Mary and Joseph and they had not slept together yet. This is pre-wedding. And Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant.
  • Now, finding out that your soon to be wife is pregnant without your help would be grounds for very severe punishment in that time. Joseph could really ruin her life. What Joseph does decide to do is, divorce her quietly and not make a scene.
  • Now if you found out your fiancé was pregnant with another man’s baby, what would you say? Joseph says to himself, ok, I’m not going to get crazy, I’m not going to shame her. I’m just going to divorce her very quietly.
  • So the first part of God’s story to save humanity starts in the thought to divorce. Sounds like real life to me.

Remember, God Interrupts ~ Matt. 1:20-25

  • 20/23 Angel speaks to Joseph in a dream: Don’t worry; God has a plan
  • Heb. 1:1-2 – God speaks in many ways; today, through His Son
  • In the past God spoke in many ways, but now he has finally spoken with Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Gods revelation. So, we have this reality of God with us, but in the form of a baby. This should draw some serious reflection out of us. Cheryl Lawrie reflected this way:

we are tempted to think
that this is out of character for you
a momentary fragility
showing your tender side
that once the Christmas carols are finished
and the decorations are put away,
you’ll get back to power and might.
but in your completeness –
this one chance we get to see flesh and bone
put onto the theory –
this is you:
fragile,
impossibly vulnerable
and at the mercy of human response.

  • Fascinating really. God puts himself at the mercy of a young girl,
    and a new husband. God enters life as a human. God with us.
  • That is how the story starts; no reindeer, no snowmen, no thunder, no pillars of fire, just a thought of divorce, a dream, and a baby, who is God in the flesh, come to be with us, Immanuel.
  • And so yes it is a simple story, but it is a story full of wonder.

We get to ask the question: what would it look like if God came to earth as a man?
And the answer we get is Jesus.
The wonder of the incarnation (God coming to earth in flesh) communicates so much. But at its core it is answering a very simple and deep question, which is:
God where are you?
And His answer is: Here with you. In this life. I’m not
some far off being, I am here among you.

I know what it’s like to be you. In your humanity, in your joy, in your suffering.
I know what it’s like to live this life. And I want to be with you. In this Life.
It’s a question we all longed to have answered. God are you with me?
And God answers very deeply, yes I am with you.
God longs for life to be lived with him, not necessarily, under him,
or for him, or above him, but with. In relationship with.
It can be very simple and very powerful when you are fully
present to someone, it fulfills a deep desire of our heart.

I remember a time when I was 16 years old. Mom had passed away, and it was just Dad and I in the house with a single bathroom. Dad had been sporting a Regular Army haircut for as long as I’d known him, but after my Mom died, he decided he’d let it grow out a bit. One morning we were both running a bit behind schedule, and we ended up standing side by side coming our hair. We looked at each other and just cracked up: it was so ODD. At that moment, we were just a couple of guys who were a bit frustrated that our hair wouldn’t quite do what we wanted. A strange moment to be “fully present”, but I wouldn’t trade that memory for the world.

When you’re content to just be with another person, entering into their world, being with them it touches something deep in our heart. It satisfies a deep longing.

And so when it comes to the actual story of Christmas one of the best ways to celebrate is to simply give the gift of your presence. Be with someone.
This year we are trying to spend less on presents and give more of our selves.

It’s the story of What God did, he came to be with us, and so we celebrate, by giving relational gifts.

Practice Give More

Specifically, during this season of Advent, we thought it would be a great way to remember “God with us” by trying to be more intentionally present — First to ourselves and then to other people.

Technology is making it easier and easier to be present but not be with. We’re halfway present, being present with our body but not with our whole relational selves.

It’s not unusual to be in a crowd full of people and for everyone to be distracted, in their own world, on their phone. An artist named Antoine Geiger has an installation called “Sur-Fake” that captured this really well. It’s a series of photographs which shows peoples faces being stretched and blurred into the screens of the devices they hold.

He says, basically this technology is pulling us out of the moment, out of relationship and even away from our own thoughts, instead of being quiet with ourselves and thinking and working something out in thought and prayer, we just distract ourselves with a phone.

So not to get all anti phone, but we think it would be a great way to celebrate God with us by trying to be more with ourselves and others by doing a phone fast this week. Temporarily, turn off your social media apps. Have a spot where you put your phone as soon as you walk into the house. Do whatever you have to do to eliminate the distraction.

Each time you reach for your phone, instead spend a moment in reflection and prayer.

Or, ask your friends or spouse or kids a question, or play, cook, talk, run, just don’t be alone with your phone.

Try and be — with.

Use the time to brainstorm the relational gifts you can give this Christmas as you spend less and give more.

Maybe for you it’s not the phone, maybe it’s the TV, or work that doesn’t need to be done right this moment, but I invite you to stop, and celebrate God with us, by being with each other and being with him.

Very simply celebrate the simple story of a God who is with us, by being with others this Christmas.

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 2:1-12

Jesus has been born and here come the three wise men, actually there was probably more than three. Who were these wise men? They were most likely pagan philosopher, astrologist, astronomer types who are from the priestly or ruling class of their eastern culture. They’ve come into Jerusalem, looking for the one who has been born King of the Jews…

What Do Wise People Treasure?

Wisdom, Gained In God’s Light ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Wisdom, Available To Those Who Seek ~ Matthew 2:3-8

  • 3 all Jerusalem disturbed because they misunderstand the signs: they focus on worldly power
  • 4/6 God tells the answer: Ruler will be a Shepherd (not a warrior)
  • 7/8 WARNING: don’t forget to seek for hidden motives!

Wisdom Treasures Worship ~ Matthew 2:9-12

  • Foolishness Worships Treasure: Herod was focused on earthly power and wealth;
  • these wise men willingly sacrificed their wealth in worship of the King of Heaven

If you don’t feel like the “right kind of Christian” you’re in good company. The right kind of Christian in the story, is on the wrong side of history. The religious establishment sided with Herod and his empire and missed Jesus.
The story of Christmas invites us to seek the truth, to be discerning when religion and power begin to mingle. To not be satisfied with mere religious goods and services, but to look in the out of the way places to see what God is doing.
This year we invite you ignore the signs and symbols of the empire.

  • We invite you to not give into the advertisers and corporation
    that really don’t want to worship but will use the language
    of Christmas to lure us into spending more.
  • We invite you to spend less on thoughtless gifts, to give more
    meaningful gifts, gifts of our time and presence.
  • We believe that as we do this, as we celebrate Christmas we can be a part of God still changing the world.
  • May you recognize that having it all is not having it all.
  • And so may your truth seeking lead you to Jesus, and may you be
    captured in wonder around this different kind of king who is grace
    and truth. May you take great joy, that the center of the world
    is a God who comes as a baby to bring peace on earth.

    Christmas: What Did You Get?

    Christmas: What Did You Get? Sermon Audio Here

    Hebrews 2:10-18

    As children head back to school, they’ll ask one another “what did you get for Christmas” as a way of reconnecting with one another. This also serves to verify their own experience: did **I** have a good Christmas?

    What role does the Lord have in our Christmas?

    God Bridges the Gap ~ Heb. 2:10-13

    • v10 bring to glory NOT heaven; doxa worthy of praise; God’s intent to make US like Him
    • v11/13 God is fulfilling His long given promise, to bring us into His heavenly family

    God Becomes the Gift ~ Heb. 2:14-18

    • v14/15 God entered our situation so we could enter His
    • v16/18 Jesus became one of us so He could experience our need (not just know **about** it, but feel it with us, moving from pity to empathy)

    Isa.63:9 Our fallen condition is unacceptable to God; it upsets Him. To save “to the uttermost”, He became human so He would experience our humanity – and we would experience His divinity.

    Advent: Preparing for the Child

    Advent: Preparing for the Child Sermon Audio Here

    Isa.7:10-16; Mat.1:18-25

    Consider this: what does a young family do to prepare for the arrival of their first child?

    How Can We Prepare for The Arrival of Christmas?

    Be Aware of the Background ~ Isaiah 7:10-16

    • v10/13 God (through Isaiah) gives Ahaz a message: don’t worry about your current trouble, it will amount to nothing; Ahaz apparently doesn’t believe, and God says “I’ll prove it!” Ahaz says “no way” and God says, fine, I’ll show you myself! We can get so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t even want to believe that God Himself can get us out of them – this is IDOLATRY – putting ourselves in God’s rightful place
    • v14/16 the FIRST sign is about TIME, not Person: gestation takes about 9 months; babies generally can eat simple solids by 6 months; children can generally tell wrong from right by age 5. Ahaz is being reassured that God will take care of the situation which so worries Ahaz before a child can tell wrong from right.
    • In short: Don’t worry, God is in control

    Be Amazed at the Overlay ~ Matthew 1:18-25

    • v18 virgin (the Hebrew just meant young woman; the Greek shows specific miraculous intervention)
    • v19/20 angel (Isaiah was messenger; here, it’s an angel of God; another miraculous overlay)
    • v21/25 Emmanuel/Jesus (Yeshua=”Ye” is a short form of God’s name Yahweh; “shua” is “a saving cry”, what you yell out when you need help. “Yeshua” isn’t just the cry out TO God, but the ANSWER to that cry.)
    • God comes to you to rescue you. And THAT is Emmanuel – God with us… TO SAVE US!

    As we enter this Christmas season, it helps to be aware of where IT came from: a fulfillment of a promise to an anxious man that God would care for the world. That promise is overlaid with supernatural power in the person of Christ. God HAS taken care of the world, DOES care for the world, and WILL bring it all to right. Let us enjoy the work He has done, is doing, and will continue to do as we wait for His Return.

    Learning from Luke: From Angels To Shepherds To Us

    Learning from Luke: From Angels To Shepherds To Us Sermon Audio Here


    Luke 2:1-20

    On Christmas morning, many kids “play Santa”: they find a gift, read the tag, and pass the gift along. Even though the gift is from someone else, and for someone else, the distribution alone makes them a part of the gift-giving.

    How Are We Involved in God’s Christmas Presence?

    God Uses Ordinary People
    Luke 2:8-14 Notice who gets the announcement

    • v8 ordinary men
    • v9 heard an extraordinary angel
    • v10/11 with an extraordinary message
    • v12 wrapped in humble beginnings
    • v13/14 response: God deserves the credit

    God Uses Ordinary Means
    Luke 2:15-20 what do the shepherds do with the angel’s message?

    • v15 “Let’s go see” (cf. 12 you will find)
    • v16/17 They told what they saw
    • v18 response: people are amazed

    Let’s follow Mary’s example in verse 19: when we realize that God is at work in us, we TREASURE and PONDER what He is doing. Also, let us follow the shepherd’s example in verse 20: GLORIFY and PRAISE God that He keeps His promises.


    Pastor Ed Backell

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