Message 19 of 20

Christmas Eve

Todd Wagner · Dec 24, 2014

Message 19 of 20

Christmas Eve

Todd Wagner · Dec 24, 2014

This is a world filled with darkness, we can have hope in the light of the Savior who came to rescue us. Todd shares a story of lepers finding nourishment and victory over a hopeless situation in 2 Kings 6 and 7. Because of Christmas, we've found a similar hope and joy. And, we're called by God to be His messengers in a dark world until the second Christmas, Christ's second coming, arrives.

Scripture References: 2 Kings 6:24 - 7:17 , 2 Kings 7 , Colossians 3 , Hosea 5 , Lamentations 1

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
Welcome! Merry Christmas! Have a seat. We sing songs like that, and so often, it's just so familiar to us we forget even what we're saying. Sometimes there are words in there we don't even know what they mean. That's one of those songs that every year I have to remind myself what _noel_ means. It's French for the first Christmas song. It just means a song of joy, a song of hope, and we are in a world that is desperate for a song of hope to come crashing in. God's design has always been that we would live in the blessing of relationship with him, but from the very first time when we were on earth we started to believe the lie that he wasn't good, his Word wasn't true, and that disobeying him was not that big of a deal. It led to darkness, it led to winter, it led to death in our own lives, it led to a break in relationship, and it led to a curse on the creation we lived in and ruled over. We found it really ruled over us. Even our own flesh is directed away from God and all that is right and true. In the midst of that, God immediately began to pursue us. He immediately began to call us back into that relationship with him, and he first chose to do that by revealing himself primarily through a man who was to be the father of many nations, a man who from God's intended beginning would be an individual through a relationship with God that would result in all of the nations of the earth being blessed. Abraham heard from God in Genesis, chapter 15, verse 1, that God's desire was that he would be known as provider and protector and Abraham would know God is his very great reward, Scripture says. Well, by and large, Abraham did his best to try and walk with the sense that God was his provider and protector even though at times he moved into the darkness and he had deceit in a way that seemed right to him make his way, and it always ended up with great sadness. The same thing happened through his son Isaac. The same thing happened through his son Jacob until God finally broke Jacob's heart by showing him the futility of his way. He even had to break his hip in order that Jacob might see his strength would not allow him to endure against a God who wants him to walk in dependence. When God did that (broke Jacob's hip) and taught him he needed the blessing of God, he changed his name from Jacob, which means deceiver (one who through his own wit and way makes his way), to Israel, which simply means one who God strives with or one who God strives for, that he will do for the descendents of Abraham and the descendents of Jacob what they can't do for themselves, that God will go before him and accomplish what only God can do. That was always his intention, but the descendents of Jacob did not always walk in the knowledge of that. God actually warned them, years later beneath the leadership of Moses as they went in to take the land he had promised to Father Abraham, "If you walk with me, it will go well with you," but in Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verses 15 and following… If you really want to understand your Old Testament, all you have to do is read what people who hang around the Bible a lot call the _Palestinian land covenant_ or the _Sinai covenant_ or the _Mosaic covenant_ in Deuteronomy, chapter 28, because Moses lays out for Israel what's going to happen to them if walk with him and what will happen to them if they don't, and the things that would happen to them if they didn't were horrifying. In fact, at some point when they were actually exiled from that land, there's a little section of Scripture that was the beginning of that very first video that went with that song "Wasteland" that we played for you. In Lamentations, chapter 1, it says, **" How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer!"** She now been brought into servitude and bondage and slavery. It says, **" She weeps bitterly in the night and her tears are**[constantly]**on her cheeks…"** Maybe some of you all can relate to that. There's still a wasteland in your life. There's not that freedom that comes from an understanding of who Christ is and what Christmas is supposed to bring, and you wonder where all of the joy is that's supposed to be in the world. Well, for you, I have a message for that. I'm going to tell you where it is. It's where God has created a space of provision for you. It's hard to believe. You might even mock at it, scoff at it, and think it's too wonderful to be true, but you have to take the word of his people who have found it. Follow them there to that place of blessing. For those of us who know what that place of blessing is and who know it's tied to that very first Christmas, I want to remind you tonight of our responsibility to not be silent even through the night but to do what we need to do to make sure people know where the great hope is. It's not in things we can create in this world or find in this world; it's in what God has done for us in this world at siege with sin. All of this is a reference to something that is a story in history I want to share with you. What I want to start by reminding you of is that God in his Word has uniquely done something no other world faith system has. You might pick up a Qur'an and find some great poetry and some high ideals, one man's perspective, if you will, of what God is like and what a relationship with him would be like, but it's just written in the context of man's ideas. You might find other faith systems that are out there that are stories and mythology or stories in imagined history to reveal to you truths about God, but there's something unique about the Bible that we read from tonight, and that is that God has dared to reveal himself in a way you can verify and test. If you can't make sense out of something by evaluating what is going on there, it's nonsensical by definition. Christmas is not just some idea imagined in the hearts of men. It is anchored in the context of history. This last Sunday, I walked you through where Christmas came from in the context of the parade of nations in terms of world powers. We talked about how Christmas shone forth in light in the midst of a great darkness. Tonight, I'm going to read to you from stories that are anchored in history. We know there was a nation named Israel and they were constantly being warred against by surrounding nations. Whether it be Syria or whether it be Aram or whether it be the Edomites or whether it be the Egyptians, we know there were people who lived in this land, and we know how they constantly were at war with one another. We also know there was a man by the name of Caesar Augustus (Octavius). We know there was a man who called for a census. We know there was a people who suffered and had a promised hope that would come. God, in his kindness, has shown you there's something significant about this man who came who claimed to be the light in the midst of the darkness, and he has pivoted all of human history on his death, burial, and resurrection. The people who God first came to didn't always walk with him, and as a result of that, they suffered a great deal. There's a truth in Scripture that if you don't respond to God, if he loves you and if you're his son, there's going to be a consequence to that. In fact, one of the worst things that could happen to you if you're an athlete is the coach quits coaching you up. One of the ways you know you're kind of done is when the coach quits coaching you. One of the ways you know you're not somebody else's kid is when you're at a friend's house and you do things or act certain ways and the parent sort of looks at you and rolls their eyes but they don't discipline you like they would if you were their child. One of the things the Scripture says to all of us is, "God loves you, so he's going to bring discipline into your life and bring you to the end of your self so you might look elsewhere." If you never run into discipline, if you're always content with the wasteland, that's not something to rejoice at. In fact, it is evidence (Hebrews 12:7) that you may well be an illegitimate son or no son at all. That's why it always concerns me when I hear people who are living a life that is in direct contradiction to Scripture who say, "God is good with this. It's all good with me. There's no problem with this." I'm going to show you from Scripture what God does with people he's trying to reach and bring back into relationship with him. It's interesting. There's a great little story in Hosea, chapter 5. Hosea was another prophet to Israel, and he talks in there about how God will be like a moth to Ephraim. Ephraim was the largest city in the northern kingdom, so it's used symbolically of all of the people. It says, **"…I am like a moth to Ephraim…"** What's a moth like? Have you ever been home reading with the light on? That moth can kind of come and jump up into the lampshade. It bothers you while it's in there. Especially when it gets out and kind of comes up around your face. You're like, "Shoo! Get away!" If you want to, you can take time, put your book down, and you can find that moth and kill it. It was a hassle, but you can kill the moth. God says, "I'll be like a moth to Ephraim. I'll be like rottenness. I'll up my game." Rottenness is symbolic of disease. It could just be a disease that comes from mildew or rottenness. Often, it was a disease that actually infected a group of people. When you're sick, it's not as easy to get away from that problem. You have to pay a little more attention to it, but through medicine and maybe through time and maybe through isolation of those who are sick among you, you can overcome it. What God is going to show you is, "I am committed to getting the message through to you." The discipline of the Lord is always patient, for sure, but it is progressive, and it is purposeful. If you're his son, if you're his daughter, he will make you hate the darkness and look to the light. I'm going to show you how he did that with Israel. In fact, he says right after this little section I just read to you from Hosea, "Because I've been a moth to Israel and they've dealt with it and I've been rottenness to Judah and they've dealt with it, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to be like a lion. I'm going to be like a young lion to the house of Judah." I don't know if you've had a lion interrupt a picnic recently, but typically when a lion is there, you don't deal with it like a moth or like a rotten, soggy sandwich that you just toss out. That lion is there, he gets all of your attention, and he does to your picnic what he wants to do with your picnic. When you hear _young lion_, don't think like Simba in a cute little Disney cartoon. Think of a lion that is trying to rule the pack. Think _Ghosts of Darkness_, old Val Kilmer movie fans. Death and destruction. In other words, God says, "I'll up my game wherever I have to in order to show you that you need to pay attention to me." That's where we find ourselves in Israel's history in 2 Kings, chapter 7. What I want to do tonight is just take a moment and show you what Christmas is, what happens if you reject Christmas, and what the responsibility is of those who understand what God has done. Are you ready? To get the setting, we have to start to figure out where we've been. In 2 Kings, chapter 6, verse 24, there's a little line that we have to pay some attention to. It says, **"Now it came about after** [these things] **…"** You might ask yourself, "What are these things? After what?" In a nutshell, it is basically the story of God dealing with the moth, the moth that was Aram across the sea. The Arameans were sending little marauding forces, little raids by groups of bandits, into Israel. What God was going to do was remind them, "If you listen to my word given to you through my prophet, it will go well with you." Specifically, what happened was the king of Aram, Benhadad II at the time, was telling his people where to go and what city to raid, and God would tell his servant Elisha what city their enemies were going to go into. They would go and fortify the city. They would get rid of the civilians. They would put the army there. Every time the Arameans showed up to reap destruction there was nothing there but a larger army to basically slap them upside the head, kick them in the tail, and send them back home wounded and whipped. Now, this didn't happen once. It didn't just happen twice. It happened a number of times, and finally, the king of Aram said, "Which one of you loves the king of Israel? Who keeps telling Israel where evil is coming from that they might be ready and protected and provided for?" The Arameans said, "What they're telling us every time when we're over there is there is a prophet in Israel whose name is Elisha, and he knows what you do in your bedroom," which is humbling for all of us to imagine, but that's the truth of who God is. He says, "Then you go and don't maraud any villages anymore. Find this Elisha and get him." He sends an army now to find Elisha in a town called Dothan. He surrounds that entire town with an army. Elisha wakes up one morning and sent the servant outside to stretch, and the servant goes, "Oh, my goodness! Elisha, we have problems." Elisha comes out, and he prays that the eyes of his servant would be opened to see what Elisha knew, which was the Lord is the provider and protector of his people and even though it looked like certain death was all around them, God's provision was there in the form of horses and chariots in the unseen world. Elisha prayed his servant could see it. He approached the army, and as he got there he prayed God would blind the army of the Arameans, so he did just that. Elisha said, "The man you seek is not here. You're in the wrong place, looking for the wrong guy. Let me take you where you need to go." He led that army right into Syria, which was the capital of Israel. He took him right to the king of Israel, and he marched him up there and said, "King, look what I brought to you for breakfast." The king goes, "What should I do with him? Should I kill him?" Elisha said, "No. They came seeking me. What they really need is who I am, which is the prophet of God who can tell them of where real life can come from, so I've brought him to you. You're the leader of the people. You should tell them where the hope of our nation is," but the king didn't know what the hope of the nation was. Meanwhile, Elisha said, "What you should do is love him, care for him, feed him, water him, and send him home." That's exactly what happened. I imagine when the Arameans got home, they didn't have Elisha but they had a whole different perspective on the God of Israel, that he was powerful, that he was real, and that people who know him are kind. All of this happened that Israel might know that God is for them, and again, if you'll listen to him and the words of his prophet that reveal the heart of God, then it will go well with you, but what happens if you ignore God's gentle reminder and marvelous revelation and if you don't accept his provision, greater tests and trouble will come. So I say to you the story I'm about to tell you may seem too wonderful to believe. The story of Christmas may seem like just a nice little story that is good to read once a year. "There's fun poetry around it and lots of good music, but I don't really believe it means anything." I'm going to tell you, if you're God's children, he's going to keep upping the ante in the wasteland of your life. The reason your Christmas is going to be dysfunctional and the reason you're still not going to have peace around your Christmas table and the reason, just like the last family you were in and you ruined, you'll ruin this one, is because the only way for peace to come on earth is through the miracle of Christmas. Listen to the story. It says in 2 Kings 6:24, **"After this…"** After God dealt with the moth of the little raids and the people still didn't depend on the word of the Lord, it wasn't just Aram who didn't know the God of Israel. It was Israel who didn't know the God of Israel. **"…after this, that Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and went up and besieged Samaria. There was a great famine in Samaria…"** When you set a siege against a city, what you basically do is you make sure there's no food that can come in and no food that can come out, so it's not long before all of the food that is there is consumed. You get to a place where it's going to look like this. It says, **"…until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver…"** About $460 or $500 in our day and age. **"…and a fourth of a kab…"** Which is roughly two ounces. **"…of dove's dung for five shekels of silver."** Around $6. Let me just walk you through that for a second. A donkey's head… I don't know what you're going to have for your Christmas feast, but it's probably not donkey, and it certainly isn't a donkey's head. There's not a lot of meat on a donkey's head, so if you're paying $500 for a donkey's head, you can be pretty sure the food supply is getting kind of short. If you're paying $6 for a couple ounces of dove's dung… You dove hunters know, when you kill a dove, there is often seed inside of them that is not yet fully processed. It isn't made into dung. It just went through the dove, so you would literally buy that dove's dung, and in times of great famine, people would eat what they could find in there that was not yet completely processed food. Merry Christmas! It's funny. I tried to figure out what exactly you'd get from a donkey's head, so I called a buddy of mine. He's an ag-econ major from Auburn, which is kind of the Texas A&M of Alabama. I said, "Talk to me." I knew he had a job out there in Plainview, Texas, at the second largest beef processing plant in America. I said, "Walk me through what good a cow's head is, and I'll extrapolate from there what good a donkey's head is." He said, "This is what you need to know, Wagner. We don't just use any part of the cow that you think we use. We use all parts of the cow. Even the most devoted vegetarian cannot avoid supporting the beef industry." He said, "First of all, when we kill a cow, it's about a 1,500-pound animal, and the first thing we do is we drain the blood from it. About eight gallons of blood come from most cows. Just so you know we don't throw away that blood. We separate it into red blood cells and white blood cells. The red blood cells show up in most chocolate candy bars as protein on the label." That's right. When you throw some Hershey's on your toasted marshmallow and you see protein, you have some beef flowing through you. He said, "The white blood cells are combined with bone, and they are crushed, and they form the basis for most women's cosmetics." That's right! That's what I'm saying. Out of the mouths of babes! Basically, when you're putting paint on the pig, you're just putting cow on a sow is what you're really doing. We're glad you girls want to look pretty for us, but I'm with you, sister. I am with you! They take the hide, which is the part we know they use. They use about 60 percent of that to make shoes and about 25 percent to make upholstery for different sources of furniture and interiors of cars. The other 15 percent is belts, wallets, and the like. They take the ears and de-hair the ears and they basically become treats for lots of domestic animals. They take the inside of the hoof and pull that out and it becomes the texture that makes up the consistency in Jell-O. Bill Cosby is not their only problem. There are all kinds of stuff that are troublesome for Jell-O these days. Even you vegetarians who want nothing to do with this cow industry, it's everywhere! He said the teeth, the eyes, the brain, the stomach, and the intestines are valued as delicacies in certain Asian environments, and they typically take the whole head and sell the head for about $300. There's not a lot of meat there but it's harvested and eaten. He said, "In fact, in certain parts in the furthest south Texas, some people buy the heads from us and boil them for about 26 hours and it will feed a family of five for three days." There's your answer. You could spend about $500, and if it's as big as a cow, you might be able to pick around that skeletal structure and get enough food for three days. That's why it's $500 and why the couple ounces of dove dung was $6, but it gets worse. Right out of the pages of Deuteronomy where God said, "It won't go well with you if you don't listen to me," look what happens next. It says, **" As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, 'Help, my lord, O king!' He said, 'If the Lord does not help you, from where shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the wine press?'"**"There's nothing in the wine press anymore. There are just dregs there. I can't make wine from that from the threshing floor. There's nothing there. We've beaten all of the wheat out of it and there's nothing but chaff that has been blown away. There's no wheat there. What do you want me to do?" **"And the king said to her, 'What is the matter with you?' And she answered, 'This woman said to me, "Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow." So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, "Give your son, that we may eat him"; but she has hidden her son.'"** A little worse than makeup. What has happened is exactly what God said. "The siege will be so great among you that the things you will do to seek to find life (giving up your own children)…" By the way, most folks will never get to that end, but even in our land we see people who make decisions all of the time, the way they live their life and chase after things, who are leaving their children, even the ones who make their way into this world, alone and without the shepherding presence because life is somewhere else in some other dream, but this was no physical abandonment; this was real destruction. When the king heard that, he just rent his robes, he ripped his robes, which is a sign of repentance. Things have gotten really bad, and when he ripped his royal robes there was burlap underneath him, which, again, is a sign of a man who was broken and repentant, but here's the problem. It was an external sign. Just like many people today in our country are going to make their way to a service like this and be at a place that you'd think people who are aware of what Christmas is about will show up in a room like this, but God is not looking for external signs. The real test is going to come. What do you do with the truth of what God has done and brought forth through Christmas? We know the king just had an external sign and not a really broken heart, and that's when God said, "I wish you would rend your heart, that you would have a broken heart and you'd be contrite in spirit and you would look to me and listen to my way and not just act like you know what Christmas is about. I wish your heart would welcome Christmas, that you would look for the light I brought into the darkness and you would hear the song the angels sang and you would know that glory to God is where life is." Then, this king, we know, was not at that place because he said, "May it be done to me and more so if that prophet of God isn't dead tomorrow." The story advances, and we know he sent his servants to go to that prophet. The prophet held the door shut with others until the king himself showed up. When the king showed up, Elisha pops out. In chapter 7, he says, **"Listen to the word of the Lord… 'Tomorrow about this time a measure…'"** Which is about seven quarts. **"…of fine flour will be sold for a shekel…"** A little over $1 **"…and two measures…"** About three and a half gallons. **"…of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.'"** You might hear that, and when it's a time of great famine and you're eating donkey's head and dove's dung and somebody tells you that somebody is going to back up the Wonder truck tomorrow and give you all of the joy of all of the bread you could possibly want and you wouldn't pay very much for it, you'd go, "That's crazy! I don't believe God could turn things like that." In fact, that's exactly what the servant says here in 2 Kings 7, verse 2. **"The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, 'Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?'"**"There's no way God could do that! We can't turn this thing around that fast." **"** [Elisha] **said, 'Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.'"** Mark this. I'm not so foolish to think everybody in this room is going to really understand what happens at Christmas. I mean, you may not buy what I'm about to tell you tonight about what happened in that manger, but mark my word, you will see one day the glory of the King who lies in that manger. You may not be blessed by it, but you will see it. The Scripture says that every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to confess that was the King of Kings and that was the Lord of Lords. You might reject it now. You might think it's ludicrous that a Son who was born 2,000 years ago was the visible image of the invisible God who was always God from the very beginning. He's the one who spoke this earth into existence. He didn't evolve it out of nothing in time and chance. This is very God of very God and he loves you so much that he came and paid a sacrifice that his holiness might be satisfied that he could still reach out in justice and in love and give mercy to those who need it, that he might be both the Savior of all men and the righteous judge, and without any way compromising his character he might bring you into the place of blessing. You might think that's crazy, but as God's servant I'm going to tell you you're going to see it one day. The question is…_Will you kneel before that King now?_ Because the only way to have that second Christmas to be one of great joy is to recognize what happened at that very first Christmas. What happened at that very first Christmas is that God turned the whole thing around. He did bring tremendous blessing, and the first people who knew about it were people who knew their condition. They were lepers. Lepers are individuals who, when they were sick, never were sent to a doctor. Even to this day, there's no known cure for leprosy. I don't know if you know this about leprosy. Some of you who have studied it or looked at it a little bit or way back when saw the Steve McQueen movie _Papillon_ might think leprosy is that which eats the flesh. Leprosy is not really a flesh-eating disease, but it is a result of the nerve endings going numb. In other words, not being able to respond to correction. Most of us, when we're sweeping a floor, are constantly making little adjustments in the broom or when we're raking the yard we're constantly moving the rake in our hand in very subtle little ways so it doesn't just wear a groove into us. If we get a blister we stop, but a leper would never stop. Most of us, when we hurt our finger, we tend to with medication clean out the wound because we know infection makes the pain worse and makes the disease further, but a leper experiences no pain, so they just live as if things were and it doesn't get better. It only gets worse. It's a picture of sin, of a hard heart that rails against God and never adjusts its doing. It's the picture of insanity. You keep doing the same thing thinking you can find life anywhere but in God, and it doesn't get better. It only gets worse until you're paying $500 for a donkey's head and doing far worse with your children than you ever thought you could do. That's where we go. Yet, there were lepers, it says in 2 Kings 7, who were outside the city. What they said was, "We're not welcome in this city. The city thinks we're unclean. We're starving to death. Even if we could go in the city, that city doesn't know God and doesn't care for us, so we may as well go out here to the camp of the Arameans who are constantly being re-supplied and who are constantly receiving fresh nourishment. They might throw us a biscuit, or they'll kill us, but if they kill us we'll be a day less hungry and we'll be out of our misery." We find in 2 Kings 7, our four lepers taking off right there on Christmas Eve. They're heading to the camp of the Arameans, and look at what happens. It says in verse 5, **"They arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians…"** "They've surrounded us, and they're going to kill us and destroy us." They had heard the God of Israel was great and could do things. They gave a naturalistic explanation to it and they just took off and ran. **" …they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was…"** A completely furnished city! When you're living under siege… I mean, this is Christmas morning and you're a leper. **"When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them."** Finally, one of the lepers stood up and said, **"We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell…"** "Let's go to the king. Let's go to the household and tell them what we have found. We who were cursed to death have found every provision that a world stuck in sin and error pining could possibly want." You might think it's too good to be true that this scandalous birth in this forgotten city in this dark corner of Judah in the form of a baby could be Christ the Lord, the source of your salvation and mine, the very God of very God, but that's the story. Isn't it interesting, by the way, when that child grew up one of the very first things he did was he ran into a bunch of lepers and healed the lepers? Do you remember what lepers had to do? They had to go to a priest to get healed, if they could, and they often couldn't. Jesus says, "Don't go and act like all is well and go back into the city. You go and tell the priests that you've been made well." Only God could heal leprosy. Only God could bring feeling back into a hard, dead heart, but you have to kneel before him. You have to believe his story from his prophets who told you he would come exactly this way. What do you think most people do when lepers show up holding drumsticks covered in Aramean robes? That makes it a little more tenable. When you're eating donkey's head and those guys show up and they're fully provided for… They have baguettes. I don't know if that's what Arameans had. Probably not, but for the sake of the story, let's just make it a state fair. There are turkey legs. There are funnel cakes. There is cotton candy. There are charburgers. You'd better show up that way, with the abundance of the provision and songs of great gladness, and you testify. Well, people are going to do this to you. Watch. When you go…I'm going to warn you right now…you're going to be mocked. The king said, "You fools! Do you really think that's what happening? I'll tell you what's happening. The Arameans are hiding in the woods. If we go out there, they're going to wait until we're outside of the city and they are going to finish us off." You're going to be misunderstood. They're going to look at you and say, "You're a fanatic! You're deluded! You're an exclusivist that that's the only place we can go to find life." You're going to be maligned. Some people are going to hate you because of what you say. You're going to disrupt their little worldview. They don't want to face their own reality. I'll tell you what else you'll be. You might be loved, because some people are going to listen. That's exactly what happened. Finally, the king was convinced. "We ought to send at least a few people out to see," and those people went out and saw. They, too, came back with the abundant provision that God had made for them, and eventually there was enough testimony that God had done some things that the king then said to his servant whose hand he had leaned on, "You go stand by the gates, and I'll start to lead the people out." Now, think about what's going to happen when you're in a famine and, all of a sudden, the buffet is open at Shoney's. This guy got trampled. He saw the blessing of God. He saw that people were now right outside that gate selling barley and grain for just a shekel, but he himself did not partake of it. He was trampled. I tell you there's going to be a day when you're going to see the coming of Christmas in all of its glory, and if you don't accept the word of the Lord right now that God has provided for you in an abundant way and he has gone before you and defeated the Enemy, maybe in a way that you think is too wonderful to imagine, but that child has said he is your provision and that child is the payment of God for sin, and before God deals with sin he has to deal with sin in your life that you might be saved by him when he comes to deal with it ultimately. Then you must bow before this story and really believe it, not just with external, temporary signs of repentance but with a heart that begins to follow the word of that King. If you're like me (one of those lepers) who by God's grace has stumbled onto this truth, you want to make sure you, chosen of God to find this, adorn yourself in the way we should be adorned. As people who are holy and beloved by God, we have to put on, as it says, not Aramean clothes but a heart of compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience. It ought to change the way we relate to each other over our Christmas table and the way we live our lives, bearing with one another, forgiving one another as God has forgiven us without a complaint against anyone just as our Lord forgave us, and beyond all these things, the Scripture says, put on love, because those are Christmas clothes, love that comes not from how we feel but from what Christ has done. We have a responsibility to tell, and if we keep our mouths shut even through the night, woe be to us. We ain't doing right, and God will not take it kindly. Ours is to adorn ourselves by the power of the Spirit in _his_ clothes and live _his_ way for _his_ glory and pronounce what _he_ has done because of Christmas. You ain't doing right if you've received the bounty of this blessing and you don't go tell it all of the time and if you don't sing of this holy night continually. If you don't take the light God has given you and spread it as rapidly and as passionately as you can, you ain't doing right. If you participate in ceremonies where light is spoken of and the Christ child is celebrated but you don't bow before him, you will see that child is King, but when he comes you will not enjoy the blessing of it. I want you to listen to the lyric of this song. I want you to see the light emanating forth from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath. I want you to see the hope that has come, and I want you to understand what God has done. Christmas is the night of our dear Savior's birth, and it takes you having enough sense to say, "My life is a wasteland without him making it new, and I'm going to walk in newness of life depending upon him and find God's provision for me, God's rebel." We'll let a little light start right here. You'll see the darkness that is everywhere, but the story is told that from that little manger light went forth, and it will make its way to you as fast as it can as quickly as faithful people who are given that light can get it to you. While you're waiting for it in the darkness, meditate on the truth of the light that has come. What a holy night it was! Let's stand together. I want you to look back in the middle. There are some kids sitting up there who came here thinking they were going to get to play with fire who are still caught in darkness. They're waiting for that joy of Christmas to get to them. As frustrating as that is, there's nothing that even approaches the sadness of those who are still caught in the wasteland who apparently are in a world with people who are lepers who have stumbled on to provision that only God could create. Yet, we're just stuffing our faces with the joy of that message and letting them sit while they're under siege. That's not how it should be. There are really only two reasons you don't sing of Christmas all day long, and there are only two reasons you wouldn't clothe yourself in the righteousness of the provision of Christ and share with others. You don't know about that provision. You don't believe it's truly the provision or you don't love other people, and if you don't love other people, you don't have the provision. You're more concerned about how they're going to receive you than loving those who God has given himself for. That's not the way of the people of God. People of God are folks who go, "We ain't doing right if we don't lean into the awkwardness of lepers who have nothing but who can offer everything to those who are in a place where they think life should be found, the protection of the walls of the way of the world." I say to my friends who are here tonight who really and truly know the Christmas story, if you're not active in engaging those in your family who share Christmas with you and if you're not bold in declaring the story of Christmas, you ain't doing right. If you don't look at them and talk about what Christ has done and is doing in your life and tell them about the hope you have in the finished work of the Messiah, if you can't open up your Bible and not just read from Luke 2 like Linus but walk them all the way through like Luke, you ain't doing right. If you're here and maybe you don't have a Luke who can walk you through that, we're going to stand here as long as you want (some friends and I) and just tell you about the story of Christmas to help you understand the light has come. We're going to give you a chance to just take faith and walk out and see the gift, the bounty, and the provision, so you might join us in adorning yourself in that which Christ alone can bring, what the Spirit brings when he does his work, when we don't just know of the story but we live in relationship with him where compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, and adorning ourselves in grace and forgiving one another even as God has forgiven us comes. Isn't it great when the light fills in? Well, there's a wasteland out there that's waiting for light, and God's intention has always been that his people who have it will take it and share it. May it start with your family in the intentional way you celebrate Christmas and may it continue in your neighborhood and all year long as we get busy walking with this Jesus who is our King. This is not a holiday for us. This is the way we live for his glory because goodwill and peace have come. Would you let us serve you or will you be his servant? He is born. Merry Christmas! Have a great week of worship.