St Paul's UMC
December 25, 2022
  • Joy To The World
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • The Friendly Beasts
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 98NIV2011

      • John 1:1–14NIV2011

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain
  • A few years ago, I took my family to the visit the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC (it was brand new at the time). Now I remember being excited to go and visit this museum but I also had a bit of trepidation. I was bringing teenagers with me – and not knowing what to expect, I was praying that they would not be bored to tears. I feared that I would walk in to find glass case after glass case of historical scrolls and bibles – something that would quickly even put me to sleep. Thankfully, that was not the case.
    As Christians, we understand this book to contain words written by humans and inspired by God. As the Apostle Paul eloquently stated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17
    2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
    Yet for many people, a Bible museum, I would imagine, sounds boring. And as I reflect on my own trepidation of entering into a warehouse of old artifacts, I wonder if it was not because with the bible being so easily accessible and commonplace – over time our perception of it becomes narrow and we compartmentalize it in our minds to this place we call “church”.
    That is what I found so surprising about this museum. It wonderfully and artistically draws your attention to the broad, far-reaching impact this book has had on the world. You listen to the founding fathers of our country debate how scripture should guide the shaping of this newly formed country, you hear Frederick Douglas using scripture to shine a light on the injustices committed against his race, you see the Lunar Bible, a small microfiche copy of the King James Bible that astronaut Edgar Mitchel took to the surface of the moon in 1971. Then you walk through a half hour long multi-sensory experience of the Old Testament – moving from Genesis through the prophets. It is an amazing place and we only had time to see half of it. One thing is for sure, a visit to that museum will greatly expand your appreciation and understanding of the power of God’s Word in this world.
    In a similar fashion, we can become so comfortable with the gospel story that our understanding of who Jesus is can become narrow and compartmentalized. We can categorize him as the Savior who entered the scene 2000 years ago as a baby born to a virgin, as one who grew up to be a great teacher, as the son of God who died for our sins and who defeated death. He is the one to whom we direct our prayers. He is one we sing about on Sundays. He is the one we will see when we die or when he returns – whatever comes first. And with this understanding, we compartmentalize him to that part of our life that we refer to as “church”.
    Yet if we look closely and listen to the text – we might find that our perspective is too narrow and Jesus is far greater and bigger than we understand.
    Read Gen. 1:1-4
    Genesis 1:1–4 ESV
    In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
    That beautiful opening to the Bible begs the question, What was God doing before He created? Was he all alone is some void?
    Well, we do not know what God was doing before Creation – not information He has decided to share with us, but we do know that He was never alone. His Word has revealed to us that Father, Son and Spirit have always existed together as the One God. As one of my seminary professors, Stephan Seamands describes it, the trinity have always enjoyed intimate communion and delightful fellowship. In John 17:24, Jesus says that his Father’s love for him existed before the foundation of the world.
    Long before Jesus became incarnate (God in the flesh) as a babe in a manger, He existed. That is the powerful preamble to John’s Gospel which sounds very similar to the opening verses of Genesis:
    John 1:1–5 ESV
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
    So if Jesus was there from the very beginning – fully God, but he didn’t become incarnate, meaning become human, until 2000 years ago – what was he doing before coming to earth? Was he a silent partner? Was he kicking back on Saturn?
    No, he wasn’t silent and he wasn’t absent. In fact, some of you may recall the story of the newly resurrected Christ joining two disciples as they walked down the road to the town of Emmaus. They were upset and confused because they thought Jesus was dead and they had heard reports of people seeing him alive. After hearing their concerns, Jesus replied (Luke 24:25-27) “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    Jesus is present throughout the Old Testament. He did not becoming fully incarnate until the appointed time when he was born and raised, worked and taught, arrested and killed. But he was present. Theologians call this a Christophany - an appearance or manifestation of Christ. Early church fathers such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Even before Jesus’ birth, Jewish theologians were trying to figure out the nature of the mysterious Angel of the Lord that we find in several passages in the Old Testament. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo identified the Angel of the Lord with the Logos, the Word of God - the one that the apostle John identifies as Jesus.
    Jesus is the Word made flesh – so anytime God appears in the OT in the flesh – many have discerned this to be the pre-incarnate Jesus.
    Let me take a moment to highlight a few examples to consider.
    In Genesis 18, Abraham is sitting near the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day when he looks up and sees three men standing there. He offers them hospitality, Sarah cooks them a meal, and the men deliver the unlikely news that Sarah, who was elderly and whose womb was barren, would become pregnant with a child. This story does not hide the identity of one of the visitors, Genesis 18:1
    Genesis 18:1 ESV
    And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.
    The other two were apparently the angels the Lord sent to Sodom to warn Abraham’s nephew Lot to flee. We overhear the Lord speak to the other two messengers.
    Genesis 18:16–19 ESV
    Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
    In the 32nd chapter of Genesis, we read the account of Jacob, grandson of Abraham, the one God renamed Israel. In this story, Jacob is journeying back to his homeland with his family hoping to mend his relationship with his brother Esau. One night, he sends his caravan across a stream and he stays behind. Then we read:
    Genesis 32:24–30 CEB
    But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.” Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.” But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.”
    One more example. Remember the story of Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They were captured Hebrew boys serving in the Babylonian court of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King had a large statue of himself made and decreed that ever person would bow down and worship the statue when ever they heard the horns blow. Daniel and his boys would not bow to an idol, so the King blew a gasket and ordered them to be thrown into a blazing, fiery furnace.
    Read Daniel 3:17-18
    Daniel 3:17–18 ESV
    If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
    So they were tossed in the furnace to be burned alive. But then we read in Daniel 3:24-25
    Daniel 3:24–25 ESV
    Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
    Jesus is not a later addition to the Bible. He is Light of the World who had been there from the beginning.
    Jesus has always been and will always be. He is our protector and our provider. He is greater than we can even imagine – and you are missing out when you think you understand who he is and can categorize him and file him away. He is worthy of our awe and our glory.
    I going to close with the opening of another one of John’s letters - once again he starts off with “in the beginning.”
    1 John 1:1–10 ESV
    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
    May the Word of God dwell richly in you on this Christmas day. Amen.
      • 2 Timothy 3:16–17NIV2011

      • Genesis 1:1–4NIV2011

      • John 1:1–5NIV2011

      • Genesis 18:1NIV2011

      • Genesis 18:16–19NIV2011

      • Genesis 32:24–30NIV2011

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