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Is The True Spirit Of Christmas Still With You?


A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
 
13 January 2013
 
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Isaiah 6:1-13
Matthew
6:25, 33
7:13-14
Mark 4:1-20

Preparation Verse:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Last week we asked the question, "Where was Jesus born?" We also sought the answer to another question, "Where is He now?"
 
So, this week I'll ask that second question again. Where is Jesus now? Is Jesus alive in your heart?
 
Or, did you leave that special Christmas present of God's love behind, again, at Christmas? I pray not!
 
Therefore, with the hope for the best, I'll wish you all a merry Christmas. Or even better yet, why not each of us say: “Happy Birthday, Jesus, for being born anew every day in my heart.” And when you feel this way, that's when you know that it's Christmas every day.
 
This is the peace of heart and mind and soul that we are to have as peacemaking children of God.
 
Last week a woman said to me that last week’s message was meant more for those who don’t see or hear these messages, than for those who do. So I suggested to her that she share the message with them. Therefore, I'll challenge all of you; did you share a little Christmas with someone this past week?
 
That challenging, and hopefully convicting, question will now lead us into the subject of today's sermon: Is the true Spirit of Christmas still with you (each of us)?
 
This morning we read two portions of Scripture. The first is Isaiah 6:1-13, which speaks of our holy God and His call to a willing prophet who knew his own unworthiness, yet accepted the call to speak to those who thought they were worthy, but really were not.

1. In the year of King, Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.
 
2. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
 
3. And one called out to another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory."
 
4. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
 
5. Then I said,
"Woe is me, for I am ruined!,
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

Note carefully that Isaiah considers himself to be unworthy, but God would not have asked him, if He didn’t believe he was worthy to do the Lord’s work.
 
We know a lot of people in this position, and most of them get stuck on their fears and thoughts of failure, and they forget the Lord is right there with them to guide them in everything they do, including removing their fears and excuses.

6. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
 
7. And he touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven."

Note also that there is no mention of any shedding of blood, or of any animal being sacrificed in order to bring about the Lord’s forgiveness.
 
Isaiah was just forgiven, because the Lord saw his repentant heart.

8. Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

And Isaiah responds positively to the Lord’s calling, as we all should.

9. And He said, "Go, and tell this people:
'Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.'
 
10. "Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Lest they see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed."

God is actually putting a curse upon the people of Israel, because of their hardness of heart.
 
But Isaiah has a soft heart that seeks to reach out to everyone to change their ways into the will of the Lord.

11. Then I said, "Lord, how long?"
And He answered,
"Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people,
And the land is utterly desolate,
 
12. "The LORD has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
 
13. "Yet there will be a tenth portion in it,
And it will again be subject to burning,
Like a terebinth or an oak
Whose stump remains when it is felled.
The holy seed is its stump."
NASB

The Lord is saying that only about ten percent of the people will remain who are willing to return to the Lord with a repentant heart.
 
The second portion of Scripture for today is from Mark 4:1-20. It tells the story of the sower and the seed. Most of the seed unfortunately didn't produce any crop, but one portion did, and it produced an abundance.  Let’s take a look.

1. And He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very great multitude gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
 
2. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
 
3. "Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow;
 
4. and it came about that as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
 
5. "And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.
 
6. "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
 
7. "And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
 
8. "And other seeds fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." 
 
9. And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." 
 
10. And as soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.
 
11. And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables,
 
12. in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand lest they return and be forgiven." 

This is exactly what the Lord said to Isaiah about the hard of heart people.

13. And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?
 
14. "The sower sows the word.
 
15. "And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.
 
16. "And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;
 
17. and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
 
18. "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
 
19. and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
 
20. "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." 
NASB

At this point, some might be asking, "What do these Scripture verses have to do with having Christmas every day?"
 
First of all, in order for us to have Jesus in our hearts, and Christmas every day, we cannot be like the people in Isaiah's day.
 
We cannot be so hard of heart that we are deaf to the word of God or so blind that we cannot see the wonders of His creation that speaks of Him.
 
We cannot be so hardened that we begin to think that the Bible was written for some people way back then who needed that sort of stuff.
 
We cannot start to think that we are in control of the universe, and therefore are not accountable for what we do.
 
We cannot live in a world governed by both situational ethics and Jesus Christ, and at the same time expect to have any part in Jesus Christ, let alone have Christmas every day.
 
This is exactly what happened to the people in Isaiah's day. They turned away from God, and everyone sought to do their own thing. As a result, God turned against them. Are not we, in our society today, doing much the same thing?
 
Aren’t most people so hard of heart that they care little or nothing about the millions of our fellow human beings, and billions of animals that suffer and die every year, and who all are a part of God’s creation?
 
How did the people in Isaiah's day permit such a thing to occur, and how are we allowing a similar situation to take place today?
 
The answer is found in Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed.  (Mark 4:1-20) The sower of this parable is really Jesus, or perhaps others who are preaching and teaching the gospel, and about living in the heavenly will of God.
 
The seed is the Word of God. And we, the hearers of this parable, are the various kinds of ground.
 
The first category of ground is so hardened that they cannot receive the word at all. Unfortunately we have people like that in our churches. They really don't want to hear the truth about Jesus Christ and the way we have corrupted this world, and what our relationship to Him should be like.
 
These people only want their ears tickled. They don't want to know that we are all sinners, and that we must repent if we are going to get into heaven.
 
They just make up the lie that God is so good that He is going to let everyone into heaven. And this is probably why the Lord says in Matthew 7:13-14:

13. “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.
 
14. “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

When the second classification of soil people hear false statements, their understanding of the truth is so weak that they believe the lie instead of the truth, thus making the church even weaker.
 
How does this second group get this way? They don’t have any depth of soil. They haven't read their Bibles. There is nothing for the seed to grow on. There is no soil, no water, and no fertilizer.
 
They cannot tell the difference between a lie and the truth. And since, for some reason, it's easier to believe a lie than the truth, especially when it comes to the things of God, they head off in the wrong direction.
 
Now this second group becomes harder and harder, and add to the problem of the first group. And what do they do? They steal Christmas, or at least try to steal away the true meaning. They do this by adding so many unimportant things to Christmas that it eventually becomes more of a burden than a joy to many. And this is where we come to the third category of soil people.
 
This third category of soil people often are the ones that we always see around the church. They do a lot of church work. They have heard the word many times. But all too often, these people are more like Martha in doing the work, than like Mary hearing the word. 'They also are usually weak in the word, for they are too busy doing all of the things they are doing, than spending time with the Lord in prayer and study.
 
Yes, what this third category of soil people are doing is important, and the church needs their work very much; but their priorities are out of line with those set by the Lord.
 
These people tend to worry about this and that, and getting this, and doing that, or that we need something, or about what we are going to do about it, and they forget what the Lord said in
Matthew 6:33:     

33. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."

And then do you know what happens? They begin to get tired, and think that others don't appreciate what they are doing. They get upset because the first and second category soil people are not coming to church regularly and not donating as they should. They feel like giving up, and many have done just that, and the church and community becomes even weaker.
 
These same kinds of people let the cares of the world bother them so much that they begin to think that God doesn't care either.
 
Nothing is further from the truth. God cares a great deal. So much so that He gave us Jesus.
 
This is just one example of what has caused us to head in the same direction as the people in Isaiah’s day.
 
Church! It’s time we stop giving in to Satan.
 
It's time we stop letting him steal the Word of God from us.
 
It's time we stop him from weakening our churches and communities.
 
It's time we stop letting him steal our joy.
 
It's time we start putting Jesus Christ first in our lives.      
 
It's time we start making every day Christmas.
 
It's time we start putting joy back into being a Christian.
 
It's time we start opening up our Bibles and really come to know the Word in a very personal way.
 
It’s time we start living as peacemaking children of God, and help free creation from its present corruption, for they desperately need this Christmas gift.
 
It's also time we start calling those who have become discouraged and are not coming to church. Start by telling them that you miss them, and even better, that you love them and that Jesus loves them. Then take them in your loving hand and bring them back.
 
And at the same time, truly desire to know the real truth about God’s plan for us. Don't fear salvation or the preaching about it, but let it fill you with joy. Believing the lie will only lead to death, but the truth will set us free.
 
Yes, Church, it's time we begin to look like a church and not a funeral parlor.
 
It's time we become filled with the joy of the Lord, and let others know it.
 
It's time we have the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts every day.
 
It's time we truly make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives.
 
It's time we start plowing up that hardened ground, pulling out the rocks and brush, and plant good seed.
 
And when we do this, we will have produced an abundant crop, for we will become the fourth category of ground. Our churches will again be full. For the love and joy of the Lord will shine out to the entire community, and even to the ends of the world.
 
Amen.

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