Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sermon 12/24/06--The Call to Bethlehem

The Beta on Blogger is messing up my formatting from Word--anyone know why or how I can fix it? Thanks.

The Call to Bethlehem

At airports around the country, many people are carefully listening for flight numbers, flight times, even names. As soon as they one they want is mentioned, they perk up, pay special attention and if need be, move as fast as they can to get to the counter and be the first in line. The difference between a flight in an hour and one tomorrow night is a matter of how quickly anyone obeys the call over the PA System. When the voice comes, they jump.

If only we would respond to the voice of God with as much quickness and desire as He gives out. Because there were several Calls going on during the days of the birth of Jesus

1. The Call to Bethlehem is a Call to Come Home—Matthew 2:1-2

a. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

b. Look at the Magi—they were willing to travel a great distance just to meet this newborn King. They put in miles that puts to shame most if not all traveling done in America today—and they did it essentially on foot. That required some serious motivation and determination. To pick up and go for 1000 miles based solely on an observation of the heavens.

c. Whey would they care so much about seeing a new king in Jerusalem? In many ways, I am becoming more and more convinced that these men’s hearts were ignited within them because of a call to come home.

d. Many speculate about these men—who are they, what are their beliefs. Some say they are simply pagan astrologers, some Zoroastrians. But it is important to understand WHERE these men are from.

e. They are from “the east” which is generally understood to be Mesopotamia—in the regions held by great kingdoms like Assyria, Babylonia and Persia. You probably recognize those names from reading the Old Testament. You should also know that this general territory is where many of the Jews of the captivity were taken in their exile, where they experienced great estrangement and separation from God and the practice of their faith.

Most of the Jews never returned to the land of Israel when they were given the opportunity. Instead, they stayed and had great influence—Daniel rose to become one of the greatest wise men in Babylon and Persia. Nehemiah was the chief cupbearer to the king. Esther became queen of Persia and her cousin Mordecai became King Xerxes’ 2nd in command. There was a strong Jewish presence and influence in the region. They carried with them their faith, their scriptures, their culture. It didn’t just disappear. Some of these nations today, I believe still have a small Jewish population.

g. If nothing else, these Magi would have had access or familiarity with the Jewish Scriptures—the psalms and the laments, the prophets—all talking about the glory of Jerusalem, the Temple and the place of God’s presence on earth.

h. But if everything else lined up right—in a way that God has a tendency to do—the Magi could themselves be Jewish or partially Jewish. Part of a faith community that always wondered what it would have been like if they had gone home with Ezra, Nehemiah and the others. It’s as if God still sees them as part of the Remnant that He had promised to call home.

i. Bethlehem had called them home—and they knew the reason—“we saw his star in the east and we have come to worship him.”

j. They were called home to True Worship—to be the kind of worshippers Jesus said God wanted all along—John 4:22-23—“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

k. This is the first part of the call to Bethlehem--a Truly Restored Relationship with God even after a lifetime or even centuries of distance. A restored relationship makes True Worship possible. They came to bring gifts for this new King, and giving is a part of our worship of God--but what they were witnessing in the Call to Bethlehem was the Gift that God was willing to give them in order to call them home.

l. God called them home to True Worship just as He calls us Home to a restored relationship with Him—God calls you and me to Bethlehem so we can come and worship Him.

2. The Call to Bethlehem is a Call to Witness His Grace & Testify to His Love--:Luke 2:8-18

a. Instead of being in a far off country—this call came to those who were close-by. There’s a sense of urgency—that God wants them there—to not miss a moment of what He is doing.

b. These Shepherds—outside the mainstream, considered unreliable, unpredictable, untrustworthy, were exactly the kind of people that God wanted to Witness His Grace made alive in this child—

c. They were exactly what He wanted to testify to anyone who would listen to the power of His Love.

d. They were the last ones a normal Israelite would choose—but they were God’s first choice. They were the reminders of where the nation of Israel had come from—a reminder of their roots. The Patriarchs had all been shepherds—Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. Moses was a shepherd of sheep & goats long before he shepherded Israel out of Egypt. Even the great King David, first became known as a young Shepherd boy.

e. These shepherds saw it firsthand—they heard who the Baby was supposed to be—a Savior in David’s Line—maybe a shepherd just like them—a better one—the Good Shepherd. Bethlehem calls to you and me—to witness God’s Grace, His Power & Love.

f. After you are called home & reminded of who you really are—a special creation of God—you are then invited to Witness His power and tell others about what you have seen and heard.

g. In other words—God calls you home so you will fulfill His purpose and Plan.

3. The Call to Bethlehem is a Call to Fulfill God’s Plan—Matthew 1:18-24

a. Imagine all those God could have chosen to bring His Son into the world. There were great and powerful men and women. Great Kingdoms and Empires—and yet none of them were qualified for this plan.

b. There was nothing special about Joseph & Mary. If you were to pass them on the street today, or if they were sitting in the pew next to you, you’d probably never know. They didn’t earn the role, they didn’t deserve the roll, they didn’t buy it, try out for it, or sign up.

c. No human process would have chosen a young girl like Mary in such an important role—they would have surveyed the globe, gone to all the beauty pageants, done a Hollywood star search, pulled all the Rhodes Scholar’s or Who’s Who

d. By all the world’s standards, Joseph and Mary were not qualified for the role God wanted them to fulfill. God does not call the qualified—He qualifies the called. More than anything, they desired to please God. More than anything, they were willing to follow Him. When the call arrived—they obeyed—Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant—may it be to me as you have said.”. When Joseph woke up from his dream, “he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

e. They merely lived the life God had called them to. One day, things were going along normally, and the next morning, the course of their life changed. God called them to Bethlehem as integral parts of fulfilling His plan.

f. God also desires to use you and me for His Glory. When you wake up in the morning to a moment in history that divides time—God may call you—He has the right, He has the desire—He has a part for you to fulfill His plan in this world, in someone’s life.

God will call each of us at various times in the same manner

You have a part to play… God is inviting you to truly worship Him and come home to restored and genuine relationship—just like the Magi

You have a part to play…God is inviting you to see, to witness, to testify to what God is doing in your life—just like the Shepherds

You have a part to play… God desires to use you in His Kingdom work—you don’t have to be perfect, the smartest, the prettiest, the wealthiest for Him to use you. In fact, He often chooses the most unexpected to fulfill the most important roles—to shame the wise—

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