Christmas Day. December 25, 2013. Psalm 98. Before I begin today, let me say, “
Thank you.” I purposely didn't peak my head into choir practices these past ...
Christmas Day December 25, 2013 Psalm 98
The Wonders of His Love
Before I begin today, let me say, “Thank you.” I purposely didn’t peak my head into choir practices these past weeks because I wanted to be surprised today when I heard the 25-piece orchestra and the 60-plus voice choir belt out the Hallelujah Chorus. I was hoping it would be loud. And you didn’t disappoint. The psalmist wanted it loud, too. Listen to the verbs of those opening sentences we said today. Sing! Shout! Burst! It’s almost like an opening to Batman. Kaboom! Sing! Pow! Shout. Wham! Burst forth! Why did the psalmist want things to be loud? Why did he command the rivers to clap their hands and the mountains to give a ringing cry? Because the LORD has done marvelous things. Isn’t that what we’re here to celebrate today – marvelous things? It is the most wonderful time of the year. Why? Through Psalm 98, which inspired Isaac Watts to pen, “Joy to the World,” we are reminded this time of the year is wonderful not just because there’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. It’s wonderful, it’s marvelous because through the little baby in the manger: I. THE LORD WORKED SALVATION How easy those words are to say! How difficult they were to accomplish! I used to pride myself in thinking I was decent at casting vision for ministry. Then I came here and things are growing so rapidly that it seems before we can even implement a vision, we’ve moved beyond the vision and we have to start over. That happens in personal lives, too. We have these visions of what our lives will be like. We’re going to go to this college. Get married by 25. Have 2.8 children, or whatever the average is. Work for this company. Live in that state. Drive this car. Go on that vacation. And then something happens and the vision, if not lost, has to be recast. Ever consider God’s vision? As the brain trust of the Trinity convened in eternity, they cast the vision of a perfect world. Then they said, “Let us make man in our own image” to be the crown of this creation. On day six of the vision implementation stage, male and female he created them. And it was good. It was very good. But then the crown of God’s creation, turned creation upside down. With one little bite from man, the jaws of death were opened to swallow up the perfect life God had created. And those jaws of death continue to stay open because we still feed on the forbidden fruit. Whether it’s a taste of temptation or a nibble of neglecting God’s Word, our appetites, like Adam and Eve, look to be satiated elsewhere than our God’s perfect will. What would God do with his now tarnished creation? Throw in the towel? Cash it in? No. His first move: salvation. How can I salvage my creation? And there in the garden, he cast the vision: her offspring will crush Satan’s head. And that is what we celebrate today: the first step of the vision. God became offspring. The Word became flesh. The Creator became the Offspring of the creature for one purpose, to work salvation. What a plan! What a divine vision! God became human so he could keep the very law that we broke. Yet he remained God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not carry with him the original sin that would have negated the vision of having a substitute live a perfect life that could be credited to our account. And then that perfect life which earned Jesus eternal life was willing to die. Unlike any other, it was a perfect death. Thus it was valuable, so valuable that it could appease God’s justice and pay for the sins of the entire world. Who of us could have come up with such a plan? Much less, who of us could have worked such a plan of salvation? No wonder the psalmist wrote, “Sing… for he has done marvelous things!” But the plan, the vision, would have been useless if it had just been snapped into a 3-ring binder and placed on a dusty shelf like so many other mission visions. Think about it this way. I said Psalm 98 is the inspiration to Joy to the World. The person who wrote the music for the hymn tried to depict how important it was to get this message out. You know how it goes… (sing) Joy to the world this Lord is come! That’s the musician way of showing God becoming flesh. God scaling down to us. But can you imagine if the song stopped there? “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” You want to sing the next line, don’t you? If God just scaled down to earth and no one knew about it, it would be worthless. God knew that. He wanted and wants us to be able to sing, “Let earth receive her King.” He wants us to know his plan and meet him. So he didn’t just design and implement his grand plan in a back conference room. He marketed his plan. When we think about it, that too, is one of the marvelous things God has done. The psalmist sings:
II. THE LORD MADE HIS SALVATION KNOWN Being in the business of communication, I am utterly amazed at how God got and gets his message out. It is no small thing. Let me ask, “What language does God speak?” We had a professor by the name of Deutschlander who always claimed, “God obviously speaks German.” All joking aside, isn’t it amazing that God can communicate with people in way that they understand? My parents bought an iPad last week, which is a huge step for them. They’ve never had a computer. And the internet, let’s just say they’re floored when I show them their name on whitepages.com. I can just see the sale going down at Best Buy between the 19year-old salesman and my 70-year-old parents. My dad said he finally told the kid, “Speak my language.” I know there’s a 50-year gulf between the techie BestBuy whizkid and my father. But how big is the gulf between God and us? And yet he speaks our language. And he speaks Mandarin. And Italian. And Spanish. And Latin when it was still a living language. And Aramaic. And, yes Professor Deutschlander, even German. He speaks to the old. He speaks to the young. He speaks to the deaf. He speaks to the mute. He speaks to the literate and the illiterate. He spoke to Eve. He spoke to the psalmist. And He speaks to you. And he doesn’t confine himself to one mode of communication. To Abraham, God marketed his salvation plan through stars. “…So shall your offspring be. And through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed.” To reach the shepherds, God employed angels as his marketing team, “Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!” To reach Bethlehem, God employed the shepherds who could not contain all the things they had heard and seen. He uses water connected to the Word and says, “You’re mine. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He uses bread and wine and markets, “Given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.” He employs the voices of children who sang and recited the Christmas Gospel here on Saturday night. He uses the voices of parents who read the Gospel of Luke around the Christmas tree last night. He uses the poetry of a guy like Isaac Watts and the music of a guy like Lowell Mason to proclaim, “Joy to the World.” And God uses you to make his salvation known. How marvelous! But you know what? Because God is God, we shouldn’t be amazed that he could devise and carry out the perfection salvation plan. Because God is God, we shouldn’t be surprised that he could employ the best marketers to reveal his plan. But there is one thing that we will never cease to be amazed by because on this side of heaven we will never grasp the height, depth, width or length of it. It’s not the design, execution or marketing of God’s salvation plan. It’s the motivation. With the psalmist we sing what a marvelous thing that: III. THE LORD HAS REMEMBERED HIS LOVE AND HIS FAITHFULNESS Take love out of the picture, God could still have become man. Take love out of the picture, and God could still have communicated through angels, shepherds or children. But take love out of the picture, would God have done either? Love, God’s love, is the difference maker. Love changed God’s salvation plan from something he could do to something he did. That baby in the manger, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, but “of the Father’s Love Begotten.” It was love for Adam and Eve, it was love for you and me, that made God promise to send a Savior into this world. And he was faithful to that promise. Don’t underestimate what it took to be faithful to that promise! We make promises all the time. Probably the longest-lasting, most serious one we make is marriage. Even that is only a promise for 50, 60, maybe 70 years if the Lord lets you live. And only 50% carry it out. God’s promise was hanging out there for thousands of years. Look what he had to do to be faithful to that promise. When the world turned their backs on him, God was faithful to his promise and preserved a family in a boat to survive a flood. When famine struck the land of his people, he used brothers’ jealousy, slave traders and dreams to get his people to Egypt where they could survive. When his people were being put to the sword, he used a floating crib among the reeds to keep his promise alive. Later, he would use the baby in that basket to lead his people through an entire sea. He would use a governor to issue a decree to make sure that when the time had fully come, the Savior would be born in the place that he promised. God was faithful to his promises. Brothers and sisters, I think you know what that means for the promises that are still out there. Because he kept his promise to take on a human hand, he will keep his promise to always hold yours. Because he was faithful to his promise to take on human hair, he will keep his promise to care for you, right down to the number of hairs on your head. Because he was faithful to his promise to take on human feet, be assured he’ll keep his promise to walk with you wherever you go, even if it’s through the valley of the shadow of death. Because his love made him keep his promise to come once, you can be certain he will keep his promise to come again to take you to be with him where you will see the glories of righteousness and sing the wonders of his love. Amen.