The gift of Christ

Preached on: Sunday 26th December 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Mark 1:9-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Thank-you. Please be seated.
As we said earlier, today is all about gifts, giving and receiving of gifts. And gifts were brought to Jesus of course. We know the story so well, and the Magi brought those three gifts and they may have seemed a little bit odd, those gifts, because they aren’t the typical gifts that you would give to a baby.

Somebody once said that the three wise guys weren’t so wise after all, because
they should have sent their wives to do the Christmas shopping and they would have come back with a nice warm blankie, and a ton of good formula and maybe something else to make that baby Jesus more comfortable. But these gifts were prophetic gifts.

And one of the gifts, the gift of gold, was a gift symbolizing and prophesying about
the nature of this King that was born. Gold was for kings, and that gift of gold was
for The King of all time, Jesus Christ.

Frankincense says, well, frankincense was often used as a sweet-smelling perfume, you probably wouldn’t wear it today mind you, but it was it was in that time a very expensive perfume also used as a form of incense during prayer times as well. So there was a sense in that it was a message to God, a sweet smelling smell for God as well.

And then, of course, there was myrrh. You remember that myrrh was the one thing that was brought to Jesus and a gift that He refused on the cross. He refused the gift of myrrh on the cross because myrrh is also used as a preservative and a painkiller and when that gift of myrrh was offered to Him on the cross, He refused to drink it. So, that was a gift that Jesus had to turn away from, strangely enough.

And, of course, there are other gifts as well, that Jesus gave to us. He received gifts, I’m going to look at maybe three of the gifts that Jesus gives to us and I’ve brought them along here.

And I’ve got them in the bag and I’ve got little items to remind me of those gifts and we were going to get the children to open them up for us. But, just to be on the safe side with all the new rules and regulations, I’m going to open up gift number one to see what it is, what this wonderful gift is.

That reminds us of what Jesus actually gave to us? Does anybody know what that is?
Nobody? A nightlight, it is. It’s a nightlight, and this is my own little nightlight. Now, the nightlight is an amazing thing. It gives light but it only switches on when it’s dark. So,
you don’t really think about it but when it gets dark it’s there, and I use this at night. I sometimes get up at night to get a drink of water and it stops me falling over my shoes while I’m going to get my drink of water. So, it comes on when it’s dark and sometimes we use it when we are afraid of the dark as well. So many children have a nightlight because they’re a little bit scared of the dark and they don’t know what’s there and the little nightlight – Do they have nightlights, your children, have nightlights as well? – Yeah, yeah – any of the older folk have night lights? – well the only one, Eric you’ve got
a nightlight as well that’s great, okay. So, that’s a very, very precious gift and sometimes all of us are a little bit afraid of the dark, we’re not quite sure what lies ahead of us in the dark, so we need alight to shine in the dark and Jesus said ‘I’m the light of the world’. He shines for us and especially, especially when it’s dark for us, and sometimes we are afraid because we’ve done something in the past and that puts light on that darkness as well and Jesus came to sort out the past for us, to see it, to dispose of it, and to go into that dark place and make it light again. So it reminds us of that sometimes we’re a bit worried about the future, the future lies ahead of all of us, we don’t know what the new year has to offer for us, but God is in the future and we know that that dark future also has a light, because Christ is ahead of us and He knows what’s there, and we can know that, if Christ knows, it’s okay with us as well.

The first gift given us through the birth of Jesus the angel said to them ‘Don’t
be afraid.’ The baby in Bethlehem’s manger grew up to be a man who promised us freedom from fear and darkness. He said to his followers ‘Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life what you would eat or what you will drink nor about your body, what you will wear, what you will put on, for your Heavenly Father knows what you need
and that you need all these things but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you, So, do not worry about tomorrow.’ Jesus came to make sure that the darkness of tomorrow will have the light of the knowledge of Christ/ ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ he said ‘he who believes in me though he may die, he shall live.’ even in the darkest place that we can think of, dead and dying, yet there too, there to, the light shines as well. A wonderful Christmas gift from Jesus, light in the darkness. Do not be afraid.

And then we’ve got another wee gift here as well. There’s gift number two. I’m going to open that one up. Let’s just have a look, now. Ah, it’s the same one it’s come back to
haunt me again, there we go, all right. Well, that’s the gift of good news, that’s the gift of good news and remember what the angel said ‘I’m here
with good news.’ said the angel ‘This very day in David’s town, your savior was born.’ Jesus, and of course that savior’s name Jesus had a very special meaning because the word Jesus in Hebrew means rescuer and we often talk about savior but in fact it’s more like deliverer or rescuer. And Jesus came to rescue us. He came as light in a dark world
and He came with a purpose and His purpose, His destiny in fact was to rescue His people. ‘And she will have a son and you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.’ And Jesus wants us to come to Him, He can’t come to us but
He wants us to come to Him to be rescued, not run away from Him but to come to Him
and so, we do have to do two things to Jesus. Wen Jesus went preaching the gospel
He preached two things.

He said ‘The kingdom is near, believe and repent.’ Two things, and they are very closely associated with each other because if we believe and we turn to God we’ve also got to turn away from the past and turn away from the bad things in our lives. So, believe, turn to God, repent, turn from sin. And so, we come with that good news gift.

But Jesus came as a rescuer, a savior, The Messiah, and then we’ve got another little gift last one, and here we go. Ah this was a card that we received and can you see what it is? What does a dove symbolize? Peace and love. Symbolizes peace. And, of course, that was the other gift as well. The third gift, ‘Peace on earth to those with whom he is
Pleased.’ Now, I don’t know about you, but if my wife is not pleased with me, I get no peace, I can tell you that now that’s for sure, and so when we want to please God
we need to do something. We need to be right with Him, we need to be right with Him and if we are right with Him then we have the peace with God and the peace of God. And so, peace is a wonderful gift. It’s not just a card, it’s a reality, it’s a reality. Jesus, of course, was called The Prince of Peace, The Prince of Peace. He knew all about peace. He didn’t have a lot of peace in His life mechanically speaking, but theologically speaking, He did have peace. He had peace with His Father. He was prepared to do many things which normal people would not have been able to do and He did it because He had peace and He was prepared to share that peace. And you know one of the first things Jesus said when he rose from the grave was ‘Peace be unto you.’ He said to them. He blessed His followers. He said ‘Peace be unto you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives.’ A special peace. And Christ has given us that peace. That’s His wonderful gift to us and it’s a gift that we can share. We can share. We have to be peacemakers, peace givers, and sometimes we think it’s nations who fight, it’s nations who disrupt the world, but behind the nations, in the nations, are people and peace starts with one person, starts with you, and if you can share peace with an R factor of two, and we know what the R factor is now of course – if one person gets it and shares it with two people it really explodes, we’ve seen it happening. Peace works in exactly the same way. If we are going out into the world of an R factor of two or more, and if one person tells two other people about the peace of Christ and why, then the Gospel will explode in the world, and that’s the way Christianity has always been modeled, to go along in the world people sharing it from generation to generation/ So, it’s important that we tell our children and we tell our grandchildren and they learn to tell others that there’s no other way that the gospel can be shared. That gift, of course, the gift of peace
has to be shared wherever we are in the world as well.

And so, in Romans 5 Paul says ‘Therefore, having been made right with God by faith,
we have peace with God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.’

Three gifts of Christmas and these can be opened at any time, not just Christmas, and sometimes it’s a bit sad that we stop the fighting just for a day or two around about Christmas time. That’s not the story of Christmas. The story of Christmas is that Christ is here, He’s Emmanuel, He’s God with us, night and day, He is with us in every area of
Life, He is with us, and so we never stop opening the three gifts of Christmas, a special
reason in a special season. But also, in the season of our lives God has given those gifts to us all:

the gift of light in our darkness, to not be afraid
the gift of good news, the good news of salvation, and
the gift of peace, a gift well worth sharing.

And we’ve been given those special gifts of Jesus to share with others and, just like we can hand out these little candy canes, so we can hand out the message of hope and joy and good will and peace and salvation to others around us. Not only can we do it, we must do it. We have been asked to do it, we have been commanded to do it. And so, Christmas is also a command of joy to be shared in the world and peace as well.

Have a great new year when it comes and enjoy your gifts well into 2022 and way beyond as well.

Let us pray together:

Gracious Father, You gave us the gift of life and made each one of us to be special in Your sight. We thank You for the gift of children. We thank You for Scott and Gill and
their growing family, for the new boy has been born as a brother to Hope. We thank You for all our children. We thank You for our grandchildren. Such special gifts for us.

You love us and you want to give all your children good gifts so, we thank You today for every gift at Christmas.

The gift of family. The gift of love. The gift of Jesus and the gift of Peace.

We ask that you would be with all those today who may be afraid or suffering or
poor or in a dark place. Help those who are sick and worried, who have no homes and no hope and be with all of us here today, that we may know your peace and your
presence. Help us to go out to share Your good news gift with those around us so that the light of Jesus we tried in us and through us into every dark place in this world.

We pray this in Jesus name. That same Jesus who grew up to teach His followers to
pray together:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever.
Amen

Our closing hymn is a perennial favorite.

Justice: light in the darkness?

Preached on: Sunday 25th October 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-10-25-Message-PPT-slides-multi-page.
Bible references: Isaiah 9:2-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Isaiah 9:2-7
Sunday 25th October 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchMessage
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.In the last few weeks, we’ve watched or read much about local, national and international government. As our politicians seek to respond to Coronavirus, we saw tensions mount between representatives in Manchester and Westminster. And in less than 10 days, we will know whether the United States has a new President or not. Looking in upon both these scenarios, and even our own issues of government here in Scotland and Falkirk, we may well agree with Winston Churchill, who famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In every era of history, humanity has tried various forms of government, but none are perfect, and none can be.

None can be, because they are made up, of human beings and we are not perfect. There is a darkness to all our souls, a selfishness, a brokenness, and so we find ourselves looking out upon a world and see this brokenness played out before us on an international scale, with such horror and brutality and evil that human trafficking and other injustices continue in our day.

We may ask: what is there to be done? Is there any hope? Does God care? But God has not been silent, for the Scriptures never dodge the darkness in our world, even in own lives, for through the Bible we’re helped to see that the darkness of our world in not the only, nor the fundamental, reality of things. The darkness is not all of the story, it is not the end of the story – there is more to come, there can be hope, there is hope.

In our passage today, we are at the end of a portion in which God has been trying to persuade Israel to put their trust in Him. Yet, they have not listened, they have rejected God’s ways, and so now find themselves surrounded, overtaken even, by the Assyrian army.
Darkness appears to be on all sides, and yet despite Israel’s rejection, despite their lack of trust, God, in His grace, draws near once more and brings a message of hope, a message that the story is not finished, the story will not end in darkness, for there is hope of a future king and His kingdom.

We read today: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called…
Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.’
(Isa. 9:2, 6)

In the midst of darkness comes light, and Isaiah is so sure of it coming about that his words speak of it as if it had already happened: ‘…for to us a child IS born.’ Yet this child will be no ordinary king, for the first three names designate divinity ‘Wonderful counsellor’ speaks of one who can work wonders and whose wisdom is far above any human’s, and so this individual is described in Hebrew terms which convey a ‘supernatural’ quality.

No wonder then, that this future king is described as ‘Mighty God’, a mighty warrior who leads the hosts of heaven, and yet He is also ‘Everlasting Father’ for He loves with such perfect and parental love. This is no ordinary child, but it is a human child nonetheless, as confirmed for us by the title ‘Prince of Peace’, where ‘prince’ is always used in the Scriptures of human leaders.

Through Isaiah, God brings a message of hope, that the story is not ending here, the darkness will not prevail, for the odds will be overcome by this future King. Indeed, that is why we read here of the reference to Midian in verse 4, which points us back to the book of Judges. At that time, Israel was once more surrounded by a vast multitude of the enemy, swarming over the land, and yet the Lord defeats this foe with a mere 300 individuals led by the trembling Gideon. Israel felt powerless at that time, Israel thought the darkness would win out, but the
Lord brought a different ending, ‘for as in the day of Midian’s defeat…’ the Lord broke the rod and broke the bar. Isaiah is saying the same thing will happen through this child, that the odds will be overcome, there is good news, there is hope, the story does not end here and the Lord will turn our darkness into light, our conflict into peace, our loss into abundance and our despair into joy.

And He will do this in the coming of a child, a child who was no mere human being, a child who would then grow up and one day begin to fulfil these words of prophecy, such that we read in the book of Matthew:
‘[Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’
From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’’
(Matt. 4:12-17)

In the person of Jesus, this prophecy began to be fulfilled – the King had come and so His Kingdom was breaking into this world, it had come near. As we read through the four gospels of the New Testament, we see signs of God’s Kingdom breaking in, we see signs of the One who is
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He came with power to work wonders; He came with wisdom and teaching that has lasted the ages; He came revealing the love of God in His life and most powerfully in His death. Jesus was this promised King, the One who ensured that the story would not end in darkness but that light had dawned, and yet, this Jesus is not dead, He is not a myth or a child’s story or a relic of history, but He is the Living One, Everlasting, for He was raised to life and He will return to bring the fullness of His Kingdom into reality.

I wonder friends, do you know this Jesus? Do you know this living King? Because without faith in Him, without relationship with Him, all we are left with are the worst

forms of government that we as a species have tried from time to time. But Jesus came saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12) Darkness does not need to be our only or fundamental reality, for in Jesus there is hope, He is our living King and one day His Kingdom will be all that there is.

Now Isaiah’s prophecy also gives us some details of that kingdom, for we read today:
‘Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing
and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.’ (Isa. 9:7)

There are some very key words in this verse, for ‘peace’ is the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, referring to a well-being or wholeness, which impacts all of an individual’s life, and all life between individuals. In that future kingdom, where shalom exists, all things are whole, healthy and complete. The experience of shalom will be spiritual, physical, psychological and social.

It should be no surprise then, that in the next sentence we read that this King will uphold His kingdom with justice, ‘mishpat’, and righteousness, ‘tzadeqah’. Tim Keller, in his book on Generous Justice, argues that when we see these two words close to one another, as in this verse, then the best English expression of our time, to convey its meaning, could be ‘social justice’. If that’s accurate, then the hope of this future King and the hope of His future Kingdom brings a message that darkness will not prevail, that the darkness of human trafficking will not prevail, there will be right relationship between God and humanity, and right relationship across humanity, from one to another, and rather than treat one another as commodities or as slaves, there will be social justice.

But is it all just future? Is all that we have to offer simply a message of hope? Well, Jesus said:
‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth
as it is in heaven…”’
(Matt. 6:9-10)

God’s Kingdom, this Kingdom which will have peace and social justice, we are to pray for this kingdom to come in greater measure in our day, that on earth we would see the kingdom of God. But is all we have to offer a prayer?

Well, I don’t think so, because as we said about prayer and the Lord’s Prayer, part of prayer is about changing us – that as we focus on God, as we understand more of His Kingdom and pray and yearn for this, then we change, and more often than not, we are then the answer to this prayer, for we realise we are to embody His character and ways, and so must live differently. Yes, let’s pray “Thy kingdom come”, but we better get ready to be the answer to that prayer as well, for through you God might do a work of bringing justice upon the earth.

Friends, this Halloween, let us replace darkness with light, let us scrap the costume and take up justice, let us forget the stories of witches and mummies or superheroes, and instead be a people who say that darkness is not the end of the story, that there is hope, there is Good News of a King, His Kingdom is breaking into this world, and so we will stand alongside the oppressed, for our God and His Kingdom is one of justice and of light. May it be so. Amen.