Slow Down Part 1
So often Christmas comes and goes in a blur. The frantic rush to shop. The obligation of work related dinners. The chaotic list to check off. The hectic last minute rush to the mall. Let’s all be honest for a moment. Christmas generally becomes more about getting it done rather than taking the time to really reflect on what it’s all about.
This isn’t new to our generation. In the first century empires had anarchy. Politics were at their worst, and in all this disorder most people missed the real birth of Jesus Christ. Nobody could slow down to witness the arrival of the hope they had all been desperately asking for.
Maybe this season we need to pause and really reflect on the impact of God sending His Son. What if in our rush we have skipped over something imperative to our understanding of the meaning of Christmas. If the first century missed Jesus when He was on this earth and in the flesh, is it possible that we may be missing something, too?
This Christmas season let’s choose one of the most important things we can amidst the rush and culture of the now. Let’s decided to slow down.
Well, good morning to everybody, and also to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. I don’t know about you but Christmas around my house is a pretty exciting time. Taking 34 kids in a Honda minivan through the UTC lights is an extravaganza for us. I don’t know how it is for you, but… you know.
And aren’t we fortune and blessed to have the lights that we have at UTC. I mean, those are beautiful. There’s no question about it. It’s a great season. A great time, but let’s be honest here. I mean, we all believe in being honest here at Grace. If we just take a moment and pause we have to admit a lot of times the holiday seasons become a lot about getting lists done, and shopping done, and dinners, and meeting here, and doing this. You know, you’ve seen it in movies, and some of us have actually experienced it in our own life. You know, you’re dragging your Christmas tree out after the end of the season. Maybe it’s the beginning of the new year, and when you’re dragging your tree out your neighbor looks at you and he’s like, “Man, aren’t you glad it’s over?”
And you’re like, “No,” you know? You don’t want it to be that way. None of us do.
So, what I want to do is ask everybody over the next few weeks just in our personal lives let’s take a moment, and let’s slow down. Let’s don’t get caught up into the consumerism part of Christmas, and the consumeristic parts of the holiday seasons. Let’s just take a moment and slow down, and really reflect on what this is all about. And not only in our spiritual lives, but in our families and with our friends. Take that extra moment to have a cup of coffee. Take that extra moment to make that phone call. Let’s just slow down and really enjoy this season for what it’s all about. And ultimately reflecting upon the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And what I want to do as your pastor, and what I want us to do over the next three weeks during this series of “Slow Down,” is I want us to slow down in reading the Christmas stories. This is so important, because we read these things so fast so often, because we know them so well. Let’s be honest. Most people grew up in church, or you were around church, or you saw a Christmas musical, or you at least saw nativities growing up, and you saw all that stuff. We sort of know these stories. You know, many of you have been, if I were to ask, you’d been to great Christmas holiday musicals, and you’ve seen all kinds of stuff.
Some of you have probably have been to some that weren’t so hot. I was at a church one time, and this really happened. We had put this little girl who was pregnant on a donkey. We used live animals. This church was like two or three thousand people. Don’t use live animals for Christmas musicals. It doesn’t work very well. And so, we put this girl who was supposed to be Mary, she was pregnant, on the donkey, and as the donkey was going across the stage the donkey decided to kick Mary off. You know it was like, “No!” It was ugly.
The bad part was is after church people were going, “Man, I didn’t know that was in the Bible.”
I’m like, “It’s not.” It’s hilarious. That’s in First Opinions. “The donkey kicked Mary off.”
The reality is sometimes we just need to stop for a moment, because we’re so familiar with these stories, and slow down. And I want to share an experience that I had. I was in school, and when you’re in school, and I spent a lot of time in school, and you’re reading the Scriptures, and you’re reading the Bible, and you’re studying the Bible, and you’re studying each book, and each person on their own, and what’s their theological point. What are they trying to do? And I was studying Luke and Acts, which literally it’s a diptych which means it’s a tow volume set.
And we were trying to figure out what is the theological underpinnings of Luke’s work. What is he saying in both Luke and Acts together theologically about God, about who God is, and all of that stuff. And I remember being in Luke 2, and you know there’s only a couple of passages that really refer to what we call our Christmas season. It’s Matthew 2 and Luke 2, and a little bit in Matthew 1, and a little bit in Luke 1. But there’s not a lot of material for what we talk about.
I was reading in Luke 2, and I don’t know why, because when you’re studying that way, and you’re doing exegetical work, and you’re really looking at words, and you’re really paying attention to what’s going on. I remember getting to the word “manger,” and I had a Greek text open, but I also had a New American Standard Bible. And I remember there was little footnote that said “feeding trough.” And I’m going to be honest. Maybe it’s because I’m born in Kentucky. I don’t know what it was. I was thinking a manger was more like a crib. And I mean, here I was, I had gone to school a long time. I don’t know why I thought that was the way it is.
And again, because of familiarity all you see is Jesus in the deal. There was a cute little thing I saw, a little comic. It had the baby Jesus, and He had His legs up, and somebody was going, “Man, He’s going to have some killer abs after this season.”
So, we see those pictures of Jesus in the thing, and I don’t know, for some reason I thought of a crib. And I bet if I were to say, “Shut your eyes, and think of a manger,” many of you all might think of something like this. You’d be like, “Yeah, that’s about it.” That’s roughly what we see every Christmas.
Well, back when I went to school, and I’m maybe dating myself a little bit here, but when I was in college we had typewriters. Come on now. Anybody? Come on now. You know that, right? That’s right. Some of y’all know that stuff. Kids, when you made a mistake you had to start again, okay? Let me tell you something. There was a Holy Ghost moment in my dorm room when they created the typewriter that had the correction tape that you could just correct back. It was like Holy Ghost hoedown at Lee College, you know, in the late 80s. I mean, it was awesome.
Anyway, back in those days you don’t have computers, and you can’t do whatever. So, I had to go to the library and look up what a manger in the first century would look like. And I remember when I saw it I was like, “Man, this is crazy. I would have never thought this.” And it reminded me, and it spoke to me, “Man, you know what, Chip? You need to slow down in these stories, because you’re so familiar with them that you’re just blowing by them.”
I want to get to chapter three where John the Baptist is doing his thing. Or chapter four in Luke where Jesus is on the mountain being tempted by the devil. Or chapter five. “Let’s go put out in the sea, and go cast our nets.” Or whatever it may be. And I realized I need to slow down, because I’m taking a lot of this for granted.
Well, fortunately, and I’ve been blessed, I got to go to Israel. I got to go to Tel Megiddo, which is where determined in the Bible Armageddon, which comes from the Hebrew word Har Megiddo, which Har is a mountain. So it’s the Mountain of Megiddo, and we’re at the Tel Megiddo where all these different civilizations have done things. And we were looking there, and they had first century mangers there. And I got to take pictures of it.
So, this whole trajectory of my life sort of came full circle. And I’m going to show you what a first century manger looked like where Jesus would have been laid. And it’s probably not what you would expect.
You’re like, “Whoa, man.”
See, you had the same moment I had. Like, “Woo, what’s going on there?” And when I looked at that I said to myself, “You know what? I need to slow down here, because I’m so familiar with these passages of Scriptures I’m just blowing through them and not really paying that much attention. Maybe I need to slow down, and really read them and let them speak to me anew and afresh.”
And as I was looking at this I said, “You know what that looks more like? It looks like a sarcophagus.” You know, that’s where they would lay dead people, and then when everything had rotted away they would put the bones in an ossuary. And I started thinking, “Man, imagine the shepherds walking in and seeing that, and then Jesus is wrapped in cloth like a mummy.” I’m like going, “Man, they would’ve walked in and it would have looked like a dead baby that was alive.” And I was like, “Man, that is pregnant with a lot of cool thoughts and imagery. That is awesome.”
And then I started thinking, “He was laid in a feeding trough.” And we just feasted on the bread and the wine. We just feasted on the Word of God. And I started thinking, “Man, I need to slow down here, and let this story speak to me and minister to me.”
So, this is what we’re going to do over the next three weeks. We’re going to take some time and slow down. And here’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to really do some great preaching, or anything like that. I’m not really that great of a preacher anyway. I’m just going to teach. I love to teach, and what I want you to do is I just want you to unplug for a moment and give me about twenty minutes of your time. And let’s work through a passage of Scripture. And I believe with all my heart it’s going to speak to you in ways that you didn’t imagine getting spoken to here today.
Some of you have been with me for two or three years, and you will remember some of these things. The nickname I get around church during Christmas season is the nativity scene destroyer. That’s what they call me. They call me the nativity scene destroyer. They’re like, “Way to go. Chip ruined everybody’s Christmas.”
I’m like, “I’m not trying to ruin anybody’s Christmas. I’m just trying to let the Bible speak for itself.”
So, let’s enter into the text. Let’s enter into the story. Let’s slow down here, and let’s let this speak to us. Because I really believe many of you all are going to have a moment with the Lord today as we work through these texts.
We’re going to start at Matthew here. Matthew says, “Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.”
No fault. Most of you all, if you’re reading that, you probably would have moved right on. I have no problem with that, but I’m going to ask you to slow down with me and let’s start asking some questions.
First word that pops out is “after.” “After Jesus was born…” Well, how long after? How long? Was there a timeframe? Matthew’s going to tell us as we work through this, but we need to be reading this way. We need to slow down, and ask the question. “After Jesus was born…” Well, how long after? We’re going to find that out as we work through the text.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.”
This is interesting. Jesus is coming into a world where there is a king. It should automatically start thinking this is going to be disruptive. This is going to be interesting.
He comes in during the days of Herod the king, “And behold…” When you’re reading Matthew he likes to use, some translations say “indeed,” but he likes to use the word behold. They say, “Behold.” And if you could read it in the original language he’s making a point. “Boom.” So, when you read “behold” in your Bible just translated it into the Chip Translation. “Boom.” Okay?
So, “(Boom) wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?’”
Folks, right now we have a drama of epic proportions. I mean, we have subversion. We have intrigue. We have disruption. We got it all. I want you to focus in on this. Herod called himself the king of the Jews, but he was an Idumaean. He was not of the line of David. So, he could never really be the king of the Jews. He had made a political alliance with Rome, and that’s how he became the king. So, he called himself the king of the Jews.
Well, this is interesting. We have Jesus who’s born. We don’t know how long after now. We’re going to find that out as we read the passage. We got Jesus after He’s been born. He’s in the days of Herod the king. And Herod’s an Idumaean. He calls himself the king of the Jews.
We have wise men. These are magi. These are people that, if you could imagine, you’ve seen those Disney movies where people are dressed in Arabian attire with really cool pastel colors and loud colors. Blue, and green, and red, and yellow. With pointy hats and stuff hanging off. They come riding into Jerusalem on steeds, because that’s what people from Babylon would have ridden. Not camels. They would come in on steeds, and it would have been a scene.
I hate to tell you this, but there weren’t three. The Bible doesn’t say three. They would have traveled from Babylon, which was probably a four-month journey. So, they would have traveled in a caravan. And not only would they have had a caravan they would have had soldiers to protect them, because if three people would have decided to walk from Babylon to Jerusalem I can tell you the gifts would have been gone and they would have been left bloodied, if not killed, on the way.
So, they’ve come with this big caravan, you can imagine, into Jerusalem where Herod’s the king of the Jews, and during this time, because there was all kinds of stuff going on in the empire, we know that Herod’s army wasn’t in Jerusalem at this time. It was out of Jerusalem. And so, here’s the deal, follow me on this. Herod’s there. The Romans are already scared of the Babylonians anyway, because it’s so far away from their empire and they can’t control it. It’s just hard to reach.
And here these people come coming into Jerusalem with all these steeds, with all this stuff, dressed in all this funky attire, and they roll into Jerusalem. And they say, “We’re here to find the one who has been born king of the Jews?”
This is a really good story here. It’s disruptive, intriguing, all of it.
“For we saw His star…” – Not yours Herod. – “…we saw His star when it rose, and we’ve come to worship Him.”
Now, if you feel the gravity of the story you could understand the next passage.
“When Herod the king heard this he was troubled.”
The original language here is shaking. He’s shaking. He doesn’t know what to do. All of this is overwhelming. Number one: He’s got people that are in the town that have some armament. Are they going to lay siege right now? Is there going to be a war? I mean Herod’s like, “Man, this is not a good position for me to be in with all these people hanging out. They look crazy. They got crazy garb on, and they’re looking for the king of the Jews.” Which is not good, because Herod’s telling everybody he’s the king of the Jews.
Trouble’s going on, and all of Jerusalem is troubled, too. Everybody’s troubled, because back in that day when kingdoms were shaken, and stuff was going on, it was a bad deal for everybody. It was like you had grocery stores and stuff. This was a bad deal. Everybody’s troubled. I mean, Matthew’s really wanting us to see what’s going on here.
So, “…assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”
This is a little bit of the… Anybody remember the Three Stooges? Remember when they would poke each other in the eyes, and the other would do this one here to save from getting poked in the eyes. Maybe y’all didn’t watch the Three Stooges. You’re like going, “I thought Chip was one of them. He’s our pastor.”
Anyway, this is a little poke at Herod. Here’s the guy that’s supposed to be the king of the Jews. Here’s the guy that’s building the temple that’s being rebuilt. Herod’s temple. Here’s the guy that does all the religious stuff, and he doesn’t even know in his Bible where Christ is going to be born. He has to call the chief priests and the scribes to get that information.
So, he calls the “chief priests and the scribes, and he inquires of the where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it’s written by the prophet.’”
Now, the magi had see the star, and so they followed the star. I mean, if you had seen the star, and you new it was in that direction, you would have thought a king would be born in Jerusalem. That’s why they went to Jerusalem. But the Bible had said many many hundreds of years before that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, six miles outside of Jerusalem. “…for so it’s written by the prophet.”
And then they quote Micah 5:2. “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
So, now we got some good information here. We’ve opened up the Scriptures. We’re finding out where the Messiah, or the Christ, is going to be born. And then it says, “Herod summoned the wise men secretly…” – “What’s he up to?” you should be asking. – “…to ascertain from them what time the star had appeared.”
Like, what’s the big deal with the star? Why would he be interested in the timing of the star? And why’s he doing it secretly? You should be asking this question. What’s going on here? Is he up to something? Is there some insidiousness going on? What’s going on here?
“…and he sent them to Bethlehem saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you’ve found Him bring me word that I may too come and worship Him.”
And you should be asking, “That doesn’t sound like Herod. That doesn’t sound like him, but maybe it is. Maybe he really wants to see who the Christ is. Maybe he’s willing to let the Christ take his throne. Maybe that’s what he’s doing here.” We should be asking those questions. What’s going on here?
Then, it says this, “And after listening to the king they went on their way.”
Now, lean in here. This is important. Chief priests and the scribes who had read in the Scriptures where the Messiah, or the Christ, was going to be born, they didn’t take a six mile walk to go find Him. Knew the Bible inside and out, but somehow they didn’t let the Bible know them inside and out.
So, the wise men, the magi, “After listening to the king they went on their own way.”
This is a cool little thing here that Matthew shows us here. “And behold…” – Boom. Remember? See, you got to remember that. When you read that. Boom. Okay? – “(Boom) the star that they had seen when it rose went before them.”
Now, that’s interesting. The star had been there and led them to Jerusalem, and now they leave Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem and, “(Boom) the star that they had seen rose and went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
Why are they rejoicing? Well, because they had lost sight of the star when they were in Jerusalem. It had gone black. What is Matthew telling us? In the religious city of Jerusalem, the city of God, the religious place of the world, God’s star can’t shine. And they were rejoicing. They were happy, because they had seen the star again. And it led them to the child.
“And going into the house…” – House? That’s not what my nativity scene is. It’s a barn. – “…going into the house, they saw…” – Uh oh. He’s not a baby. He’s a child. This is interesting. – “Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him.”
Can you imagine that? Imagine that sight. A caravan of people looking a Disney movie, Aladdin or something coming in and falling down and worshiping this child.
“Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
Now, I want to ask everyone of you all to please, please, please look up here and listen. If you’re listening via the internet or mobile app right now just don’t drink your coffee. Listen to me. It’s important. Gold, frankincense and myrrh would’ve had their most value in Egypt, because myrrh was used, and frankincense was used with the embalming, and the smells, and the dead. Gold was used to create all these beautiful adornments that they did on the pyramids. It had its most value in Egypt.
Now, we’re not going to get there today, and we’re not going to talk about it this Christmas season, but if you continue to read the passage Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph have to flee to Egypt. I want you to hear me here. God has financed their trip, and their trip back, before they even know they’re going. God is a God of provision. I want somebody to hear this today that’s struggling. God can supply your needs. He knows what you have need of before you even know what you have need of.
“And being warned in a dream…” – So, this is great. You got Mary had a dream. Joseph had a dream. Now, the magi have a dream. The only person not having dreams are the people in Jerusalem. – “…warned in a dream not to return to Herod they departed their own country by another way. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious.” – Now, that sounds like Herod. This is a guy that killed his own family members to keep them from having his throne. – “…and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem, and in all the region who were two years old or under…” – Why two years and under? – “…according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
That’s why he asked when did the star appear, because he wanted to know about when this child had been born so that he would know the age of said child. Which means Jesus was roughly two years old at the time the wise men came to see Him.
Now, what’s more incredibly beautiful about this passage is that Matthew has taken a lot of the story, which is all true, but he’s put it together in a way that it would be reminiscent for people who really understand the Old Testament of Moses. If you remember Moses, when he was born, was under a death threat by Pharaoh. He was killing all the male children. And we have a rough idea of what years they were killed. What we know is that Aaron was three years older than Moses, which is important because he was not under the threat of Pharaoh’s killing. So, that’s interesting. So, maybe two years and younger you can sort of devise from the Old Testament.
So, we’ve got Herod as the new Pharaoh. Jerusalem is the new Egypt. It’s interesting. It’s just a fantastic passage if we stop and slow down.
Now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get out your sheet of paper. I want you to get out your iPad, your phone or whatever. I want you to write these down. These are the “Take-homes.” These are the things that I want you to chew on for the week, and allow God to speak to you as we enter into this advent season. To really read our mail, and really slow down, and ask God what can we learn from these stories.
The first one: If we slow down we have to ask this question. We have to. Am I Herod, the chief priests and scribes, or the magi?
I’m convinced more and more as I read Scripture, rather that try to get something out that we can learn theologically, or pontificate about God, when we read Scripture we’re to enter these stories and start asking the question, “Is this something that’s going on in my life? Am I like this? Is this an area that God could speak to me? Is this an area that I need to be aware of?” And I think we need to ask the question.
Do I have some Herod in me? Even if I’m a believer are there some things about me that are like Herod? Are there some things about me that maybe are like the chief priests and scribes? Are there some things about me like the magi? Who am I?
And then when we’re reading these stories, and let’s start with Herod. When we say, “Well, am I like Herod?” What would that be like? Well, Herod was more worried about saving his throne than saving his soul. Which means that when Jesus came to disrupt Herod wasn’t willing to give up his throne. Like, I’m not giving up my throne to You. In fact, I’m going to kill You, because I don’t want that in my life.
And here’s the question I think we all have to ask: What areas in our lives are we holding on to our thrones, and we’re not allowing Jesus to disrupt them?
That’s a good question to ask, isn’t it? I mean, it’s sobering, but it’s a great question to ask. What areas am I holding onto? Maybe if you’re brand new in here, you’ve been to First Friday or you showed up today, what I would tell you is this might be the clarion call to you where you go, “You know, I’m looking for something. I’ve been stumbling around. Now, I’m here in church today, and I’m hearing this message about Jesus. And it’s an incredible message. Maybe I’m here because what God wants me to understand is that I don’t need to be Herod anymore. I don’t need to be trying to grab all the stuff that I think’s important, control all the things. Maybe I need to allow Him. I need to surrender to Him.”
Well, Herod was unwilling to do that. And maybe in our lives there’s some areas where we’re like Herod. We need to let God read our mail right now, and show us those things, and expose those things. And say, “God, I don’t want to be like that. Help me to become more like Your Son.”
Maybe we’re like the chief priests and the scribes? The religious leaders could instruct Herod with the Scripture, but didn’t let the Scripture instruct them to Jesus. See, the Church is often times been good at telling everybody what to do with the Scripture. We just haven’t, often times, looked like Jesus. This is important.
How many times in our lives do we tell everybody what the Bible said? “Hey, don’t do that. Don’t act like that. Don’t do that.” But we’re not willing to take that six mile trip to Bethlehem to really engage with Jesus. Maybe there’s some areas in our lives that are like that.
“You know, God, You’re right. There are some areas in my life where maybe I do talk a lot about Scripture, but I don’t really allow Scripture to interpret me. I’m interpreting Scripture to others, but I don’t let it interpret me. God, You know that part about forgiving and enemies? I don’t want to deal with that stuff. I tell everybody what the Scripture says, but I’m not going to let it instruct me to where it needs to be.”
Or are we like the magi? Let’s take a minute here and ask about the magi for a second. Who were the magi? Well, they were astrologers. They were diviners. They were into divination. They were occultists. It’s what they did. It’s who they were. They were gentiles. Isn’t it interesting that God wants to call those people to come meet His Son? He didn’t call the religious people. He called the outcasts. The ones far away. The ones that look different, and smelt different, and talked different. He said, “I want you to come. I want you to come.”
And they took a journey just like Abraham. Abraham was from the area of the Chaldees. That’s Babylon. Abraham left Babylon to take a journey. The magi are doing the same thing. They’re taking a journey. Following God to another place to bring their treasures to lay it at the feet of this child.
And I think the question that we have to ask: Am I going to be like the magi? Am I willing to let Jesus be disruptive to my kingdom? Am I willing to leave where I’m at? Am I willing to take a journey? Am I willing to go? Am I willing to give? Am I willing to throw my treasure at His feet, and surrender my life completely to Him?
Am I more like Herod? Am I more like the chief priests and the scribes? Or am I more like the magi?
Second question we need to ask here: If we slow down we realize seeking alone is not enough.
Now, listen to me here. This is important. In America church attendance is on the decline. People who affiliate with religion are on the decline. However, people who say, “I am spiritual, and I am seeking spiritual things,” is on the rise. And what I want to say to you is this. There was nothing wrong with those wise men seeking that star to Jerusalem, but that was not enough. The Word of God had to be opened to lead them to Jesus for it to make a difference.
And maybe you’re here today, and you felt like, “I’m here. I don’t know how I got here.” I had a gentleman after the last service who said to me, “I feel like God’s put a star in my path to lead me here today.” Maybe He’s done that for you. You’re not here by accident. And it’s not just seeking, and familiar, and stories, and creeds. It’s really about, “Who’s Jesus? Who is He?”
Because seeking alone’s not enough. The Gospel needs to be opened. You need to hear about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You need to hear about the Good News. We need to hear about the Good News, because just seeking is not enough. There needs to be that moment where you and I have that moment where, like the wise men, like the magi, we fall at His feet and we surrender all.
And lastly: If we slow down we have to ask, “Do I worship Jesus for simply who He is?”
I may offend some people here. I don’t mean to. I will say though that sacred cows do make the best hamburger meat.
The magi knew nothing about the 66 books of the Canon. The magi knew nothing about a Trinitarian theology. The magi knew nothing about a pre/post/mid/no/could be/possibly rapture. They knew nothing about Johannine eschatology, or Pauline soteriology. None of that. What they knew is that they had found the King, and that’s what mattered. They had found Jesus.
Which means that “Jesus, but and plus” doesn’t exist. “Well, yeah, but you got to get Jesus and then you got to…”
No, the magi found Jesus, and they simply worshiped Him for who He was, the king of the Jews. It wasn’t a plus. “Well, yeah add on this. Whatever. Whatever.” None of that. Jesus was enough.
That’s why when Jesus does what we would call… it’s not really an alter call. There wasn’t a church. There wasn’t any of that stuff, but He looks at Apostle Peter. He looks Him right in the eye and He says, “Peter, I want to ask you a question. What creed to you believe about Me?” He didn’t say that.
“Peter, what catechism have you memorized?” He doesn’t ask that. He asked the same thing to the Apostle Peter that He would ask you and me. Simply this question: Who do you say that I am?
Peter said, “You are the Christ. You are the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus said, “Peter, what you’ve just said didn’t come from you. That was something that the Spirit of God was revealed to you by the Father from up above. And on that statement, that rock, that you just made that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church. And the gates of Hell will not prevail against my church for people that say, ‘You are the Christ. You are the Son of the living God.’”
Christmas season is the season where more people feel depressed, dejected, lonely, and more people think of taking their lives during the Christmas season. I don’t believe, as Bible teacher, as a professor, that Jesus was probably born on December 25th, but if that’s the day we choose to celebrate it I’m fine with that. I think it’s interesting that during the Christmas season people start feeling these feelings that they haven’t felt all year, and I don’t think that’s by coincidence. I think that’s in the providence of God, and we try to tell people all the things to solve their problems. What they’re looking for is the same thing we’re all looking for, which is the same thing that the wise men were looking for. We’re looking for something that will complete our lives. And that person is Jesus. He’s the one that you’re looking for.
If you find yourself in here depressed, dejected, whatever, having thoughts, what you’re looking for is Jesus. And here’s what I want to say. Listen to me. Lean in here. You want to know how much God loves you? You want to know how much He cares about you? God in the Old Testament condemned astrology. Read it. It’s in the Old Testament. But to get these occultist, diviner, magi into His Kingdom, and the only way He could relate to them, and the only way they could relate to Him is He put a star in the sky for them to see. So that they could get to Jerusalem, and in getting to Jerusalem the Word of God could be opened to them, and they could be led to Jesus.
You’re not here by accident. God wants to open up His Word to you, and say, “My son, my daughter, I will move Heaven and earth to bring you into My family. I am not mad at you. I am not upset at you. I want you to come home. I want you to understand the forgiveness, and the peace, and the joy, and all of those things that I can give to you.”
Let’s slow down and allow this Christmas season to speak to you and me.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now in the might name of Your Son Jesus, and I ask that as we take a pause right now that everybody would reflect and slow down, and let the story minister to them. I pray right now for Your glory. That if anybody in this building right now, if anybody listening on the mobile app or the internet, at whatever time they may listen, I pray that right now if they have never made the walk from Babylon to Bethlehem they would do it right now, and fall at Your feet, and say, “You are the King.”
And Lord, I pray that if anybody decides to make that walk today that they would find somebody after service with an “Ask Me” lanyard with a name tag, and say, “Hey, I need to get some more information. I need some help. I need to know what to do here.”
And Lord, for those of us that consider ourselves followers of You, that consider ourselves Christians, I pray, Lord, that anew and afresh we could make the walk from Babylon to Bethlehem right now, and we would surrender to You, and say, “God, the areas in my life that I’m like Herod, the areas in my life that I’m like the chief priests and the scribes, will You read my mail and work in my life so I could be more like the magi who were willing to take a walk and lay everything at the feet of King Jesus.”
Lord, let that be a reality in our lives today for Your glory. And Lord, as we leave here today I pray that You would continue to watch over us, and protect us. Lead and guide us. I pray, God, You bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that we would really consider bringing some family members and some friends to hear these great messages. To slow down, and to realize that You are the Savior of the world. We thank You for it. In Jesus name we pray. And everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big handclap. Love everybody. See you soon.