December 25th 2021: Ian Middlemist

This service can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/C1_cEzNVNW0

Luke 2
The answer to that longing has come.

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
      Isaiah 9:6

May the peace of Christmas be with you. Certainly, with the children there is anxiety and excitement that leads up to Christmas. It can be exhausting. Then comes the thrill of opening presents. After all of the excitement and noise of unwrapping presents, there’s a lull as children play with their gifts. It’s like the peace of mother and child after labour pains, the agony and expectation and the doubts, ‘Am I going to make it?’ Certainly, as an onlooker, you can think, ‘Is this all it’s meant to be?’ Then, for the majority, there’s that moment of peace as mother and child are skin to skin. Wonderful.

Well, our Saviour has come! Could He really fulfil the promise? Could such a wonderful child be born to this world? There is this longing of scriptures of the Old Testament times. Yes, indeed. All throughout Luke’s infancy narrative, we find many references to peace. The Prince of Peace has come, that is what Luke is telling us. Zachariah was told that this special boy would restore relationships horizontally and vertically between men and between God. Mary was told her greater, special boy, the Lord Jesus, would sit on the throne of His Father David, reigning forever as King. This is the Kingdom reign described in Isaiah 9. Zechariah sang of the coming of God’s of tender mercy, that He would guide our feet into the path of peace.

The shepherds were told of this King, listening to the song from heaven of the angels, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace to men on whom God’s favour rests.’

We rejoice this Christmas Day; God sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, who rules over His land in peace. He is a peace-giving and a peaceable Saviour. He speaks peaceable words that bring restoration and joy.

In His coming, our Saviour achieves peace. God didn’t send into this world a good politician, a diplomat. He stands in the gulf between men and God. Through the cross He bridges the gap, that chasm between men and God. The chasm is too deep for us, we need Jesus, that bridge. Because of His incarnation, we have this mediator between Man and God. The Son came to take on human nature. The Father will never renege on His holiness.

We all think of Christmas Day in different ways. Will you keep peace? The demands of the perfect Christmas are very high – the peaceable Christmas where no one falls out. The Father demands upon mankind are very high – unattainable for us on our own, yet not unreasonable. We mess everything, but praise God, Jesus did not mess up this day. He came and He lived for us. He achieves peace. Dear friends, as you think about the achievement of Jesus’ incarnation, of His coming to reign over you as the Prince of Peace, are you realising that? Are you going to maintain that peacefulness today?

God has led us, He has been with us, yet we often lack that sense of peace within us. We complain about being lonely, but He has been there. Maybe we complain about the lack of gifts. But God has given us the greatest gift. We should be all about peace. We should pray for peace, that we will be those who are living under the peace of Christ. God is near to us. He achieves things by His coming, by His living the perfect life, by His going to the cross, by His ascension, He achieves peace. It is settled, it is done. Peace has been made you and your Creator. Praise His name.

Secondly, He brings peace. When you know Jesus Christ, you know peace. He has driven that definitive blow to enmity itself. God has created us and given us life and this gift. Let’s celebrate that. Let’s be thoughtful of others and express our love. Think of family, the homeless. Man wants to remove God from the picture, to be thankless., to forget about the real meaning of Christmas Selfishness leads to anger and anger leads to violence. When you are right with God, peace ensues between God and Man. Peace must radiate from within towards others. Jesus came not to ponder peace in some ethereal idea, but to bring peace. The baby Jesus lying in that feeding trough was destined to die on a cross. As He died on the cross He carried the hatred of people towards God. He died so that we might be forgiven and experience peace and would also be peacemakers as well.

He achieves peace, He brings peace and He sustains peace. It’s a lasting peace. We know that unofficial story of that ceasefire in the First World War where those soldiers met and sang Silent Night and they played a game of football. It’s a wonderful, uplifting story. We all know that just a moment later the gun fire returned. It was short-lived. We know that any peace made on this horizontal level is short-lived.

The peace that the shepherds heard of must be more than a brief moment. There are manufactured peace treaties made, that look like peace, but really underneath the animosity is still there. May be some families are saying today, ‘I’ll keep my mouth shut for mum. I want to keep mum happy today, it’s a special day for her. I’m not going to say the things that I want to say.’ Brother and sister are going to get on today for mum. That’s fine, but it’s just going to last a day, isn’t it?

This perfect peace that Christ achieved in His coming is utterly secured by the Father. That’s why we speak of this justice being higher than any other. This justice has brought forth this plan of the Incarnation, of the cross, of Jesus’ work of salvation, of what He achieved. Justice itself came up with this. Therefore, it is a permanent solution. You know where you stand with God. I know where I stand with Him. I know that Jesus is my Saviour and I know that my salvation is secure. The Father will never take that away from me. He will never change His laws, His mind. He will never grow tired and weary of me. He will stay with me forever and ever because of Jesus. I know because Jesus came I will always be fundamentally at peace. I don’t always work it out in this lifetime because sin still remains, yet I am at peace.

Let’s make sure we spend some time realising God is for me, God isn’t against me. He will be with me forever. We have a wonderful song to sing, the Christmas message. Praise God with songs all year round. We really will be at peace, peace will reign where ere Jesus is King and Prince of our lives. “Peace I leave with you.”

December 12th 2021: Ian Middlemist

To view a recording of this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/qGVI5Y_FSP4

Hebrews 2:5-18

At this time of year a lot of discussion is taken up with the ‘what’ of Christmas – what happened? There are a lot of descriptions of the manger, animals, wise men, location and historical events surrounding our Saviour’s birth. We, as Christians, must focus our thoughts on the ‘why’. Why was the Saviour born? It is not always easy to stop and consider why. Sometimes, in the middle of a crisis, e.g., a business crisis, we think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ In the busyness of things we need to stop and consider the purpose of Christmas, the purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus never stopped and panicked whether it was worth it or questioned the purpose of His ministry on earth. He was, and always will be, united with the Father. Jesus came to save sinners and to be made like us.

Jesus came to save sinners. In the Saviour’s first coming, Jesus, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, implemented this rescue plan. This rescue plan had been conceived in the mind of the Triune God before human beings ever stepped onto the face of this planet. Jesus didn’t come to promote holiday Christmas cheer after a tough year. He didn’t come to boost end of year sales. He didn’t come to serve as the central figure on a nativity scene. He came to save sinners. To save sinners He had to deal with the heart of the matter – sin. The dawn of man’s history, like this unwanted virus, affected single person. Sin has infected every single one of us. God was revealing His plan for salvation, bit by bit, through the Old Testament sacrificial systems – a sacrifice, a separation, a holy one, a Lamb.

One of the main themes of Hebrews is the Old Testament sacrificial laws and an emphasis on the labours of the priests. Hebrews 7 – the former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office. Already the writer is emphasising the priests were many because their offices were limited. Morning and evening priests placed these burnt various offerings for sin, burnt offerings in particular, on the altar. The fire there was never to go out, it was perpetual thing that needed to be preserved. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4).

The Old Testament sacrifices were just a shadow of what was yet to come. They would never wholly fulfil God’ plan. Something better was needed. When a truly perfect sacrifice was offered, on the tabernacle of heaven, sin was finally dealt with. Christ suffered and died the eternal death on the cross, once, for all, to put away sin, by the sacrifice of God. Our sins have been buried finally and completely in Jesus’ death. So fully has Christ purged the sins, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.“ (Hebrews 9:28). There are no further sacrifices, Christ has done it all.

As we approach the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, what are your thoughts? Are you dreading His coming? We, in our sin, have fallen short of God’s requirements (Romans 3). But believers, because of Christ’s incarnation, are not dreading the Saviour’s return because Christ has done all to redeem us. There shouldn’t be any fear; we are looking forward to the Saviour’s return. Jesus Christ has saved us. He is my friend. Christ came to earth for sinners. He is the one who is able to save to the uttermost. Christ can save you. No matter how hell-worthy you are, Christ came to save you. Christ came to save sinners.

Christ came to be like His people. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14). It is the message of the Incarnation, so He could be the appropriate Saviour for you, the appropriate friend in heaven. The baby in the manger had the same human nature as you and I, yet without sin! Jesus was born perfect. He is the conceived message of hope for imperfect people.

Wrapped in swaddling cloths, God teaches us we cannot solve our problems ourselves. We cannot attain perfection and peace by our own strength. We need a brother. In Christ, God has done this. He’s done that which we are incapable of achieving. We are incapable of being righteous, as God requires. We are incapable of entering heaven on our own rights. In the words of the church father, Irenaeus, “When He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam – namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Christ Jesus.”

Sin is not how we are meant to be. His death would accomplish true healing in every way for us. Because He is like us, Christ also sympathises with us in our weakness, with all the pain and miseries that comes from living in this world. Our bodies groan. When His bodily strength was spent, He slept. Christ slept. The body that God prepared for the Son meant He experienced all that it means to be human, with heart-broken grief, with tears, He wept. Our Saviour was tempted to sin, as we are, with the full force of hell. We draw great encouragement from Christ, His steadfastness in the face of temptation, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,” (Hebrews 4:14).

As Christians, we look back over this year, we look back on the struggles. It can cause us to despair at times. But at such times we really can look to Christ. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our performance, but wholly and solely on the Lord Jesus Christ, on His obedience. He came to be made like us so that He could raise us up to be with Him in glory. We are born in Adam, but in God’s redemption we have been placed in Christ. As we glimpse at the manger, the birth of Christ, we can say, ‘This is my brother, this is He who is my flesh, my blood.’ As He grows and matures and continues to do the will of God, He grows in obedience.

When we see Christ seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, we can also say, ‘This is my brother, this is my flesh, this is my blood.’

Because of the incarnation, believers can say of Christ, what Adam said to Eve, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Such is the unity we have, all because of Christmas, all because of Christ entering into this world, not as an angel, but as a human being just like us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Why would we be ashamed of Him?

It is wonderful that the Son of God became man. It is mysterious. It is mind-blowing! We must not forget the reason Christ came – He came to save sinners and He came to be made like us. The question for us is not, ‘Are you good enough for heaven?’ It is rather, ‘Are you sinful enough to go to heaven?’

(Illustration story of Samuel Colgate, founder of the Colgate business empire, who spoke out at an evangelistic meeting regarding the congregation’s response to receiving a sinner into membership).

Today, we praise God that Jesus Christ was born into this world to save all sinners, sinners of all types, like you and me, and to be lour faithful High Priest.