River Church NOLA
2020 Dec 27 Christmas Gift of Jesus
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Hark The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn)
- Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy)
- Silent Night
- IntroMerry Christmas! Eve Eve! we are glad you are joining us to night as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior. It’s almost Christmas Day and although it will be different because of the pandemic. I know even with the difference of 2020 Christmas is always filled with anticipation.... especially for the children.I know that many will have their Christmas dinner with family on Christmas Eve and that’s why we chose to keep our regular Wednesday night service for our Christmas Eve Service.Christmas is the time of gift giving. Everyone loves to give and receive gifts and tonight we are going to unwrap the gifts of Christmas from God to you… leading to the ultimate gift of Jesus.Before that,What are you waiting for tonight?Maybe you are waiting on family to arrive… or Amazon Prime… Maybe you are waiting on direction or healing. Maybe you are waiting for me to be quiet so you can leave… Maybe you want the craziness of 2020 to be over.Whatever you are waiting so impatiently for, lets set it aside for a few minutes tonight to focus on the miracle of Christmas… the entry of the God who created the world to enter that world as a baby.We live in a dark world but that darkness is where we often see the light of Jesus the best. It’s often in the darkness that we experience the gifts Jesus give us.So, what are you waiting on that could take your eyes off of the coming of Jesus? What is hindering your journey to the manger of Bethlehem. What expectation are you holding that may distract you from experiencing the Christ of Christmas this year? What’s keeping you from seeing a miracle?Tonight, we want you to experience the greatest gift of all … the gift of God made flesh in Jesus Christ. Instead of waiting for a miracle while we wait in darkness, lets step into the light of Jesus and let it shine into your lives as we experience the gifts of Christmas.Let’s look at the gifts of Christmas.1. Christmas brings the gift of hopeMost often we think of hope in a future sense, but God gives hope for the past, present and future.What’s the longest you have ever waited on something? I get impatient in between Apple announcing an upgrade and when it’s available. The people of Israel know all about waiting. Their entire history was about waiting. For thousands of years, they waited and longed for God to fulfill his promise to send them a Messiah to come and set them free. Their prophets including Isaiah reminded them along the way that God had not forgotten them… and that he would come through for them.As more time passed, about 400 years, people looked back at what Isaiah said.6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.The people could have been discouraged that they had not seen the Messiah yet, and I am sure many of them did. Or they could draw renewed hope for the future from what God promised in the past. We have that same choice.The gift of Hope reminds us of the prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus coming. They show that God was working all the time, even when it was difficult to keep hoping. As we think about Hope this Christmas, we can look back at God’s faithfulness in our lives … even in 2020 … and gain hope and confidence in what God will do in us and through us in our present and our future.Today, we wait just like the people in Israel for Jesus coming… but we wait for his second coming. Now we long for the time when everything will be restored and made new. But that’s not today.In Luke 1, Jesus birth was foretold by Gabriel to Mary. In the middle of life’s craziness, do you ever wish Gabriel would just show up and tell you what’s going on? It might make things easier. But then it may not have… it didn’t for Mary. Think about it. she is a young teen and the angel just told her she is pregnant, even though she is not married and not only that but she is carrying the Messiah. What dod you do with that bit of information?Thankfully Mary responded in faith and held onto the hope of the promise Immanuel, God with us. She chose to believe Gabriel’s message. She chose to hope that what was impossible would be possible and that the Messiah they had been waiting for was coming through her.Because of the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have hope in our present, no matter what our struggles and circumstances may be. Our present hope in Jesus doesn’t stop the storms of life. It doesn’t change the immediate situations we face. But as Hebrews 6:19 says19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.Just like an anchor will hold a ship steady in the wind and waves, our hope holds us secure in the middle of all of life’s storms. Let’s finish 2020 with this secure hope no matter what we are facing.God is at work. He has delivered on his promises in the past, and He will deliver in the present and the future. Out hope does not lie in those circumstances, it lies in the baby born in a manger on the first Christmas day.2. Christmas brings the gift of LoveDid you know that Christmas Eve is the most popular day of the year to get engaged? Even more than Valentines Day. In fact, the whole month of December is the #1 month people become engaged. Christmas is the LOVE month.I think thats awesome since Christmas is really the continuation of God’s love story with the world that began at creation. The second gift we open is love and when we open it, we are challenged to accept, experience and share HIS love.The most know verse in the Bible is John 3:16 and we say it so much, we often over look the power of it.16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.The message of this verse is the core of God’s Love for us. Look at it. God loved the world. That includes you and me. That love is why He sent his son, Jesus to pay the price for our sin. A price way to much for us to ever pay. Jesus paid it and that’s why we can accept his love and be made right with God and live a rich and satisfying life right here on earth even in 2020 and moving into 2021…It’s easy to be distracted by all the things that need to be done for this holiday. It’s easy to read the headlines and wonder if love really can overcome the darkness and hate in our world. It’s easy to allow worry over tomorrow or next week or next year to overwhelm us and keep us from feeling loved.But it’s important to remember that God invites you to bring all of those cares and concerns to Him. He does not ask you to ignore those things in order to experience His love. You don’t have to rid yourself of hurry or worry. Instead, He invites you to surrender the deepest hurts and pains of your life to Him and allow Him to fill you with His love. And the good news is that the love He gives through His Son Jesus Christ is enough—enough to carry you through your darkest doubts or pains and lead you to healing.The love of Jesus is a powerful love.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.As we welcome Jesus into our world and our lives, this is the love we can experience in new and deep ways. As God’s love works in us and through us, it transforms us. It fills us and overflows from us to others. Here is the cool thing. Sharing God’s love with others doesn’t leave us with less, it actually leaves us with more.John described the process…9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas. It is God’s ultimate gift for us to receive and experience and share. My prayer is that each of you will experience God’s love in new and deeper ways this Christmas and forward.3. Christmas brings the gift of JoyJoy is a giant gift in a small package and it’s more than a feeling. The coming of Jesus created joy that caused and causes the world to stop and celebrate. It’s the joy described in Psalms like11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! 12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth.But what if you just don’t feel joy this season? There is plenty of expectation, busyness, stress, and darkness in our world to rob us of joy this Christmas season. How can you receive this gift of joy even in the midst of suffering, loneliness, pain, grief, stress, boredom, or busyness? Let’s look briefly together at how we can anticipate, recognize, and choose joy.A couple of characters in the Christmas story show the way for us. The shepherds are a good example of anticipating joy. Now, initially they were oblivious, just working in the fields doing the normal days work when the sky lit up with angels and a message about the Messiah. Pretty unexpected stuff. But those shepherds didn’t immediately feel joy—they felt scared! Luke told us10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!The angel first addressed their fear, then helped them move beyond it to receive the message of joy that the Savior, the Messiah, the one Israel had anticipated and waited for so long, had been born. By the end of the night, they got it.20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.There were also the wise men who saw a star in the sky and paid attention. They recognized joy and traveled a long way to find the one whose birth was announced by the star. They encountered hardships along the way. But they kept seeking even when things went wrong. Through their journey, their response was joy and worship.10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.It can be hard to recognize joy in our lives sometimes, especially because it doesn’t always look the way we expect it too. We want joy to be free of worry and hardship, but James told us that joy is found in the middle of, and even because of, hard things going on in our lives.2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.How do we do that? We begin by choosing paths toward joy, through gratitude, obedience, and continual abiding in Christ. And as we do so, we open ourselves to be shaped and transformed by God—and to encounter joy as a result.As we celebrate Christmas, we know Jesus our Savior has come. We can rejoice over that. Plus we can hope for the future when he returns. But let’s experience Christmas as a time of gratitude, obedience, and abiding in His love as we anticipate the joy He brings.4. Christmas brings the gift of peacePeace is defined as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” But it is often in situations that are exactly the opposite that we most recognize our need for peace and the power of the peace God provides. This is the world Jesus came too. That silent night was not actually very silent. The world was not at peace. There was a divide between God and people, there was conflict among families and nations, and there was unrest in the hearts of many… just like today. But in the middle of all that, Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace.First, as we discussed last time, he bring usPeace with God1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.He restores our relationship with God by paying for our sins. He brings forgiveness to the sin that separates us from God. Peace with God is the greatest gift ever and it available for anyone to receive.When we do encounter Jesus in a personal way, we experiencePeace of GodWe experience peace right here right now.5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.His peace goes beyond understanding. It shows up in situations where it doesn’t naturally make sense, and it holds and guides us through our worst nightmares or our most stressful seasons, holiday or otherwise. The peace of Christ is strong and powerful. It guards our hearts and minds, and it is stronger than whatever difficulty we face.But this peace comes in the form of a person… Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Notice Paul says the Lord is near.Jesus’s presence with us is the reason we do not need to be anxious. He is Immanuel, God with us, who offers us the gift of peace beyond understanding that guards our hearts and minds in Him. And as we practice the actions of prayer and petition and thanksgiving, we do so to connect with Him. Peace comes as a result of the transformation we experience as the Holy Spirit shapes our perspective and realigns our hearts and thoughts. Our troubles may continue, but the Holy Spirit gives us new eyes to see and the peace of Christ guards us and calms us and changes our outlook. He is the one who gives us peace to come, with the promise that He is with us.33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”You can have peace in the middle of a year like 2020 because of the one who came one Christmas Eve night 2020 years ago… Jesus. And he is coming back to set things right.5. Christmas brings the gift of JesusOver the last few weeks we have journeyed online and now in person towards Christmas Night when Jesus was born. As we arrive here, at Christmas Eve (Eve) we celebrate the baby wrapped in cloth laying in a manger, and we know that He is the true gift of Christmas. All the other gifts… Hope, Love, Joy, and peace come from Him.Jesus is the Hope bringer.Jesus is Love come down.Jesus is the Joy giver.Jesus is the Peace maker.Jesus is also the bringer of eternal life and a relationship with God. He is the giver of a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10)10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.He is the way, the truth and the life…6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.Jesus is everything. He is the infant that entered our dark world 2020 years ago as one of us. He is the God so loving and powerful that He willing stretched out His arms on a cross later in his life to carry our sin and shame and burdens and death in order to give us a way to himself… to life. Jesus is the greatest gift in all eternity.Tonight as we celebrate the gift of Jesus at Christmas, may we all be filled with Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace so that we can live the Rich and Satisfying life Jesus came to give.ConclusionIf you have not experienced Jesus this Christmas, I want you to know tonight...God loves you and created you to have a personal relationship with him. John 3:16; 17:3Our sin keeps us from having a personal relationship with God. Rom 3:23; 6:23; Isa 59:2Only through Jesus can you have a personal relationship with God. John 14:6; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 CO 15:3-6;You must personally make a choice to trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Eph 2:8-9; Acts 3:19; John 1:12;
1 John 4:9–11ASV
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