DO WE REALLY HEAR GOD, HIS HOLY SPIRIT AND THE ANGELS?
A CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE ORIGINALLY CELEBRATED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 DECEMBER 1994
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
PRELUDE: "O Holy Night" - Adam
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING:
Some 2,700 years ago in the land of Israel, the prophet Isaiah, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, looked forward 700 years to the day we are celebrating tonight, and he said,
(Isaiah 7: 14)
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."
Isaiah understood that Immanuel, which means "God with us," was to bring forth the salvation of the world through the miracle of the birth of our Messiah, who would actually be in human form, but still be all God; and he prophesied again saying,
6. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Some 700 years after Isaiah said these things, which was about 2,000 years ago, Luke told of the miracle that took place.
1. Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
5. in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
6. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
CHOIR HYMN: Once In Royal David's City
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING:
Now, there is more to this miracle than the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for a miracle that is unknown isnít really a miracle.
God had sent an angel to tell Mary and Joseph what was to take place; so when it came to pass, He sent an angel to tell others, so that the miracle would be confirmed.
8. And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;
11. for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12. "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."
This is also one of the ways God shows His love. He always gives us some confirmation that not only helps us believe, but others, too.
And if we listen carefully to the voice of the Lord and His messengers, we will hear the glory of heaven, also.
13. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
With miracles as well as with love, it goes beyond what God starts. Itís what we do with His gift that brings it to maturity.
Are we willing to do our part, as were the shepherds?
15. And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
16. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
18. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
HYMN: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
O Lord, help each of us to fully understand Your gift of Your Son for us.
Help us to fully understand the reason for His birth 2,000 years ago.
And Lord, most of all, help us to understand why Jesus must be born in our hearts, today;
And why we need our second birth;
that we, as the angels and all the host of heaven on high, might glorify you both now and forevermore.
HYMN: Angels We Have Heard On High
Can we really hear the voice of God?
Can we really hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
Can we really hear the Angels of God?
We sure can!
And more importantly, we should hear.
It's like love and, in a way, it's the same as love.
We all want to feel the warmth and comfort of real and true love.
Even people who fight against this kind of love really want it; but because of past hurts and pains, they are afraid to pursue it again.
Their problem is that they don't fully understand about this kind of love, this heavenly love.
True love never causes pain.
We may cause each other pain, but that's because none of us is perfect.
True love always brings joy to the heart and soul.
And we can only come to fully understand this kind of love when we allow Jesus to be born in our hearts.
And when we do invite Jesus into our lives, it is then that we can begin to really hear the voice of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, yes, even His angels.
If you've been listening to what I've said, I've conditioned all my words of God's truths, because they only come to pass when each of us allows it to happen in us.
If we allow the Lord in, then we can hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit all the time: in the morning, at midday, in the evening, and even while we are sleeping.
And sometimes on special occasions, when we need Him the most, He may speak to us directly, or we may encounter an angel.
Be open to receive all that God has for us, for it is the only thing we can have that will last for all eternity.
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE:
In a moment of silence, think about what I just said, and ask the Lord to remove those thing that hinder you from hearing Him and receiving His unconditional love at all times; and truly seek His presence in yourself, that it may grow greater and greater each day.
Forgive us Lord for all the busy-ness within us. Forgive us for not receiving You fully. Help us to fully accept all that You have for us, and to be attentive to Your word at all times.
And we thank You, Lord, for always being near us, even when we don't realize it, and for being ever faithful to forgive a truly repentant heart.
THE LORD'S PRAYER:
Christmas Eve is a time of really beginning to understand what it means to have the will of God be done upon the earth today as it is in heaven.
As we recite the Lord's Prayer together, carefully ponder the words we pray.
As the Lord Himself taught us...
(Recitation of The Lordís Prayer)
ANTHEM: Away in a Manger
HYMN: Joy to the World
Jesus Christ came to earth to free us from the sins and corruptions of the world around us.
He came to earth to give us a second chance.
He was born upon this earth to give us a new heavenly birth, that we might be born again, a birth that takes place in heaven; that we would no longer be of this earth and subject to the death it brings.
Remember that there is no death in heaven, and as we prayed, we are to seek to have God's heavenly kingdom here on earth, with a little pain, suffering, and death as possible for all humans and animals.
Jesus Christ came to save us, just as we are told in Titus 2:11-14.
11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12. instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
14. who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
This is all part of our listening to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ has appeared; but have we received Him?
Have we responded to His call?
Are we zealous for doing the good deeds the Lord desires us to do, or are we still living as the world lives?
For when we do listen for the Lordís call to us, and respond as He desires, we are filled with the true Joy of Christmas, not just for this day, but for evermore.
How great our joy!
HYMN: How Great Our Joy
Many people fail to cherish God's gift of His Son, because of what we have done to this day.
This season can easily become very stressful.
We feel obligated to buy things for others, even when we can't afford it or when we don't feel like it.
We feel obligated to celebrate, even when we aren't in the mood.
Christmas has become very stressful, when in reality it should be just the opposite.
Christmas should be a time of peace and joy for the whole world and for every being who lives in it.
It should be a time of comfort, a time without stress, a time when we no longer feel obligated to do something that is stressful to us.
Christmas should be a time of cherishing the birth of Jesus, both 2,000 years ago and in our hearts today.
Christmas is the hugs of love I'm given every Sunday.
Christmas is the bag of fresh garden vegetables I find on my car after Bible study during the summer.
Christmas is the smiles on your faces.
But most of all, Christmas is seeing the continual joy of Jesus Christ in your lives, and the love and compassion that accompanies it every day of the year.
How great is my joy!
And I pray yours is, too.
We need to return to the basics.
We need to listen to the angels and follow the star that points us to Jesus.
ANTHEM: "The Star Carol" - Burt
We not only need to go back to the basics of Jesus' birth, but before that time, too.
We need to remember that Jesus is God, and One with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We need to remember that because of God's love, He left His throne in heaven and came to earth.
And once we have gone back, we need to move forward again and remember that Jesus paid the price of our sins, so that we could be with Him in heaven forever.
We need to remember that there was no room in the nice clean inn in which Jesus could be born, but that he was born in a stable, with all its dirt and smells.
And if God was so willing to do this some 2,000 years ago, we should realize that Jesus is also willing to be born in our hearts with all our dirt and problems.
Make room for Him there.
HYMN: 127 - Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
HYMN RESPONSE: Silent Night! Holy Night!Your Comments are welcome
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