The Challenge of Christmas

These are the sermon notes from December 2, 2012.

I.  Call to Repentance: Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

These verses are a call to action.  We are not simply to feel bad about our shortcomings, we are to do something.  We should change our ways.

We are to cease doing evil.  The first step in ceasing to do evil is to be able to recognize what is evil.  God has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit.  By the Word and the Spirit we are able to learn to recognize evil.  Then the Holy Spirit will also give us the strength to change our ways.  Sometimes this change happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a while to learn new habits.  God understands, and is patient with us.

We are to learn to do good.  A new life is not just about not doing evil, it is learning to do good.  God is a just God, and is concerned with justice in our society.  We, as Christians, should also be concerned with justice.

There are two types of justice: criminal, and distributive.  As Christians we should use what influence we have in society to work towards justice for all.  Whether that means appropriate punishment for crimes, or protection from harassment for the innocent.  Distributive justice is the fair distribution of burdens and benefits.  We might not all agree about how to achieve distributive justice, or exactly what that would look like, but we should agree that it is important, and try to work toward that ideal.  We are to rebuke the oppressor, and take care of the needy.  It is also important as we work toward that goal, to treat one another with respect, recognizing that we may have honest disagreements about these important matters.

II.  Offer of Forgiveness: Isaiah 1:18-20

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The message of Christmas is that Christ came to earth so that our sins might be forgiven.  Those who respond to the message of salvation are forgiven.  John 3:16-17 says  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Not all will listen to the message.  For them, there remains only judgement.  John 3:18-20 reads “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

III.  The Challenge of Christmas  III John 11

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, buthe who does evil has not seen God.

The message of the early church was simply put “Repent and believe the gospel.”  The Greek language was not real concerned with the order of words, and so it is acceptable for us to think of this as believe and repent.  We believe in Jesus and are called to repentance: to cease to do evil and learn to do good.  One of the best ways that we can learn to do good, is to imitate good.  The best one to imitate for good,  is to imitate Christ.  That would be the challenge of Christmas.  Christ came to earth to show us the Father, we are now called to imitate Christ.

The message of Christmas is that Christ has come.

The challenge of Christmas is to imitate Christ.

 

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