Monday 14 December 2009

What Child Is This?

Recorded after service at the Chinese Church on Sunday 13 December 2009.

Text taken from Matthew 1:18-23

Thursday 10 December 2009

Coming Home (Christmas Promo)

Had some fun recording my journey back from work today. The words are taken from John Chapter 1. Looking forward to working with the gang to produce the full videos this coming weekend.

Friday 4 December 2009

Christmas Impossible (Luke 1:26-38)

For many the Christmas story is simply impossible. How can you believe in something as nonsensical as a virgin birth?

This isn’t just a problem today. It was a problem two thousand years ago. Look with me to verse 34.

“How will this be… since I am a virgin?”

And who is it who says this? It is Mary. The virgin herself knows it is impossible to get pregnant if she has not had any physical relations with a man.

Her doubt; her sceptical response is here recorded for us to read in the bible.

That is, the bible does not leave out the difficult bits. When people in the bible came into contact with the fantastic, even miraculous claims of God, they often reacted with fear, confusion and doubt.

In fact, when you read the gospels which record the life of Jesus, doubt is a major theme. It was often the ones closest to Jesus who were confused by what he did and who he was.

The question we need to answer today is: How does the bible deal with these problems?

This passage offers us three steps:

o The bible opens our eyes to the bigger picture

o To see a bigger problem

o So that we can have a better perspective

The bigger problem

You see, the problem isn’t just that Mary, a virgin, would give birth to a son. She would give birth to the Son – the Son of God.

In our day and age, it is no big deal for a woman to get pregnant without a father. Science has given us IVF – In Vitro Fertilisation.

But how do you give birth to the Son of God? Mary would give birth, in effect, to God.

And what does the angel tell us about this Son of God? In verse 31 he says he will have the name Jesus.

Jesus is a Greek name – a Greek translation of what was probably the Hebrew name, Joshua. But both of them – Jesus and Joshua – mean the same thing: God will save.

God will save his people through this man, Jesus.

All through this Son would come the Kingdom of God. He will be a King. Or using another bible word – the Christ.

This Son of God is Jesus Christ. Christ is not his last name. Not like Jackie Chan – whose initials are also J.C.). Christ means King.

This will be Jesus Christ – the Son of God who will save and the one who will rule as King.

We are stuck at the problem of the virgin birth. But the bible says there is a bigger purpose, a bigger picture and an even bigger promise beyond that. The virgin will give birth to Jesus Christ who will save us and who will rule as King.

Nothing is impossible with God

So what is the angel’s answer to this bigger problem? He gives Mary a bigger perspective.

Verse 37: “…Nothing is impossible with God.”

You and I: when we encounter a claim in the bible, our first instinct is to ask “How can this be?” “How is this possible?”

But questions like these reveal more about who we are than who God is. Here the bible challenges us to consider who we are dealing with.

We are man – finite creatures with limited abilities and hence, limited possibilities. But this is God our creator who has no limitations and unlimited possibilities. Otherwise he would not be God.

Now I know some of us are thinking, “What a cop-out answer! Nothing is impossible with God? That is just a statement – it does not give a satisfactory answer at all!”

But consider for a moment what is purpose of this answer? Is God saying, “I am God! You are not! Please stop asking me silly questions!”

Or is he rather saying, “I am God – know who I am – so that you can trust me.”

Do you notice what God through his angel has been doing all this while for Mary? He has been reassuring her.

“Greeting! You who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you.” (Verse 28)

Again in verse 30: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.”

This isn’t an announcement; a declaration of God’s power. This is an assurance of God’s faithfulness – that he will do what he has promised. So you, Mary, can trust him.

What about us?

Well, what does this passage have to say to us today?

Two applications for two different groups here this evening.

The first group: you look at the world in terms of possibilities and impossibilities. You are searching for truth. You want evidence that supports that truth – evidence that will point you in the direction of truth.

The bible says: keep looking and keep investigating!

The bible is encouraging you to keep asking questions and keep using your mind to evaluate the evidence. Especially, the evidence in the bible.

But don’t just stop at the impossibility of the virgin birth. Consider the bigger claims, the even more impossible statements the bible makes.

It is impossible for a man to be born again; it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God. Yet Jesus has come precisely to make this happen.

The bible says no man can forgive sin – only God can. Yet Jesus dares to say he has the authority to do this.

Or consider the biggest impossible claim of all. Isn’t it impossible for a man to rise from the dead?

That is what a man named Thomas thought.

He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Jesus appeared to him. “Put you finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

To which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.”

Not – “Now I know there is a God, that Jesus is Lord.”

But that Jesus is his God, Jesus is his Lord and Saviour.

A second group

But there is also a second group here today who are perhaps all too familiar with the Christmas story.

For you the Christian faith – Christianity – is all about Christmas.

Christmas is an end in itself. After all, it is the end of term and the end of the year.

The bible says to you: there is much, much more! Christmas is only the beginning.

In the comedy Talladega Nights, Will Ferrel plays race car driver Ricky Bobby. In it, Ricky Bobby constantly prays to Baby Jesus. Specifically he prays to 8 pounds 6 ounces Baby Jesus – wearing a golden fleece with chubby little fingers. He even prays that he will use his Baby Jesus powers to heal him of sickness and to help him win that next race.

Like Ricky Bobby, we would rather have Baby Jesus in the manger.

But the bible points to Christ on the cross.

Jesus didn’t become a baby to save us. He became a baby in order to become a man – so that he could die a man’s death – and be raised fully man and fully God.

It is very possible to be so familiar with the biblical account of Jesus’ birth that we think – “This is not for me. I know this, already. It’s for someone else - for those who are new to the Christmas story.”

Today we read of the angel of God approaching Mary and saying “You…”

These are wonderful words, friends. “You are highly favoured! The Lord is with you!”

You know, for Mary she had to wait for the promises to come true. The angel says, “He will be great…. He will reign.”

But for Christians who know the bigger picture of Jesus Christ on the cross, we can say, “He does reign, He does rule! For he has died for my sins on the cross.”

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

I would put it this way:
that God, for whom nothing is impossible,
makes it possible for us
to trust fully in his Son Jesus
as our Saviour and as our King.