IN CHRIST WE HAVE A NEW BEGINNING
A CHRISTMAS SERVICE AND SERMON ORIGINALLY CELEBRATED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 DECEMBER 1994
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Corinthians 5:17
PRELUDE: "He Is Born, The Holy Child" - French Carol
In Christ we have a new beginning, as Paul affirmed (2 Corinthians 5:17):
17. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
And as Jesus Himself affirmed from heaven (Revelation 21:5-7):
5. And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
6. And He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
7. "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Father, we thank You for Your promise and gift of making all things new for us who believe.
Help us to fully understand that each and every one of us has a new beginning in Your Son.
That we, the faithful, may come into Your presence, and worship and adore You forever and ever.
HYMN: O Come, All Ye Faithful
Why are we here this happy morning?
What is it that we have come forth to see and hear?
What is this miracle that we are to behold?
What is it that gives us this new beginning?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything that was made.
In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the Light, that all might believe through Him.
He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light.
The true Light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not.
He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not.
But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God;
Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE:
We are all here, but have we really heard the words spoken and sung this morning, that they are a part of our very being?
We do have a new beginning, if we, too, are born again in Christ Jesus.
Has the Light of this revelation filled your heart and soul so that you absolutely know, without any doubt, that all things are new?
We sang, "O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant."
Are we really joyful?
We should be, for it comes with our new beginning.
Do we feel truly triumphant, that we have overcome all the problems of this earth, because Jesus Christ is with us?
We should, because this assurance is also part of our new beginning.
Now, I know that none of us is perfect, and that we all forget from time to time.
So, lets take a moment of silence, and meditate upon how we really feel and live.
Ask the Lord to forgive you for forgetting, and in the process, cast off the old worries and problems and receive His gift of everlasting joy and peace.
Father, we thank You and praise You for your faithfulness in always standing by us and for trying to encourage us and, most of all, for forgiving us for our sins.
ANTHEM: Go, Tell It On The Mountain
And when these shepherds received their salvation, when they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they became new beings.
They were no longer the same.
All the fear and trembling they had experienced in the field left them, and they were filled with a warm, glowing feeling of real inner peace and joy.
And when you feel this way, you just have to tell others.
This is why I'm telling this to you.
This is why I've been here these past seven years.
I don't need this as a job, and I don't get paid any money for it.
But I do get paid in love, which is far more comforting.
And occasionally I hear of someone who thinks I'm crazy for doing this.
But that's okay, for what they don't know is that I'm doing it for them, that they too might be a little bit crazy for the Lord, and find the peace and love and joy that I have found.
So, I'll continue to shout it from the mountain, until all who hear find their own new beginning.
JOYS AND CONCERNS:
You have heard my joy, now it's your turn.
What would you like to share with us, and who or what should we pray about?
PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE:
HYMN RESPONSE: O Harken Ye
Do we really hear the words we sing?
I pray so!
So harken ye, who would believe, and really believe the truth before us.
Receive these gracious tidings of our new beginning.
If we long for peace, it's ours to receive, and it's gift-wrapped in a special package for each of us.
Our troubled searching for something better in life has come to an end.
If we long for love, it, too, has come for us, for Love incarnate now dwells with us.
Many people limit their spiritual Christmas experience to a vision of the manger scene.
But they don't understand the new beginning it brought for every human and every animals, and even for the entire world.
So they continue in the destructive ways of this world.
They don't understand what Child this is.
HYMN: What Child Is This?
Behind all of this celebration, there is a silent word pleading to us to listen, and if we listen carefully, we can hear.
It's the voice of the Holy Spirit telling us that itís all true: That we are to believe.
And He's calling all who haven't received Him to come forth and be saved.
For the King of Kings, the Babe, the Son of Mary, salvation brings.
So come good Christian men and women and children, and rejoice.
HYMN: Good Christian Men, Rejoice
Have you been opening your Christmas presents, those that give us this new beginning?
Are you rejoicing with heart and soul and voice?
Then sing for joy.
Have you heard of this endless bliss?
Have you seen through the open door of heaven?
Then sing for joy.
Jesus Christ was born to save us.
What isn't saved is lost.
So if we receive salvation, we need not fear the grave, as do those who have not been saved, for we just pass through into everlasting life.
Live in this peace.
Extend this peace to every living being and thing in the world.
And in this everlasting peace, let's just sit back and close our eyes and listen to the angelic voices in our senior choir asking us a question and telling us more about that night 2,000 years ago.
ANTHEM: (Senior Choir) "Were You There On That Christmas Night?" - Sleeth
When we think of Christmas and the Christmas story, we also think of angels.
For it was the angel of God who came and told Elizabeth and Zacharias about the birth of their son John, who was to baptize and proclaim the way of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
And it was an angel who came and told Mary what God desired of her.
And it was an angel who comforted Joseph for his part.
It was an angel who told the shepherds out in the field.
We hear a lot about angels today, too, and in these stories they do many things to help people.
And it's nice to think that we each have a guardian angel watching over us.
But there is a big difference between the angels in todayís modern stories and those we are told of in the Bible.
The story angels are important in their own right, and they point people to human solutions to their problems.
But real angels always point us to God and to Jesus Christ from Whom true and everlasting salvation comes.
Modern thinking puts the importance in the wrong place.
We are not to seek the angel, but the One who sends the angel.
We are to put our focus upon Jesus Christ.
Listen to the questions posed to us in Hebrews 1:5.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 1:5
5. For to which of the angels did He ever say,
"Thou art My Son,
Today I have begotten Thee"?
"I will be a Father to Him
And He shall be a Son to Me"?
The simple answer is that God never said these things to any angel.
He said it to, and of, His Son Jesus.
And Jesus Christ will come again.
It is in Him we are to hope.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 1:6-7
6. And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says,
"And let all the angels of God worship Him."
7. And of the angels He says,
"Who makes His angels winds,
And His ministers a flame of fire."
If the angels of God worship Him and are His ministers, then why should we seek the lesser, when we can have the greater: Jesus Christ.
We can go directly to Him.
We don't have to seek anyone else first to help us - angel or human, whether living or dead - for He is there to help us.
Remember, it is He who sends the angels, and puts upon our hearts the desire to help others.
Seek Jesus Christ first.
It is He who gives us our new beginnings.
Listen to more of what our Father says of His Son.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 1:8-12
8. But of the Son He says,
"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,
And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.
9. "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee
With the oil of gladness above Thy companions."
"Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Thy hands;
11. They will perish, but Thou remainest;
And they all will become old as a garment,
12. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up;
As a garment they will also be changed.
But Thou art the same,
And Thy years will not come to an end."
Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and God.
He is One and the Same with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
They only appear as three, but They are One.
Seek that which is eternal.
Seek Jesus and His love.
An angel may bring His loving message to us, but the angel is not God.
That's why we are reminded again about the difference.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 1:13-14, 2:1
13. But to which of the angels has He ever said,
"Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies
A footstool for Thy feet"?
14. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
2:1. For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
This is what Christmas is all about.
Christmas is a time of remembrance about Jesus Christ, and of God's gift of His Son, for our salvation, of us and the whole world He created.
Christmas should be more than presents.
Christmas should be more than trees and decorations.
Christmas should be more than angels.
Christmas is our reminder that we have been offered a second chance, a new beginning.
Christmas must be born in our hearts so that it lasts throughout the year, and even forever.
Hear and live the message of Christmas!
And you'll always have a very merry Christmas.
HYMN: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
HYMN RESPONSE: The First Noel
Extinguishing the candles and taking the Light of the Lord into the world.
Your Comments are welcome
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