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Well, hi everyone, and hey, one more time. Merry Christmas. We thought it'd be fun this year if we invited you into our home. And this is our, this is our family room. And, and we, for the past 25 Christmases have sat in this room with our kids and now our grandkids out in front of this fireplace and that Christmas tree in.
Made all kinds of memories. And uh, you know, it's really fun when you have kids , but when you have, when you have grandkids, it gets so much more fun. And we, uh, Lisa and I have eight grandkids and there's a reason why I only have three, and I'll explain that in just a moment. But this one right here, uh, this is Caden and uh, he's the oldest and this is.
Beckett, and this is Kai, guy Kyler. And these are our daughter Amy and her, uh, husband Brandon's, uh, little boys. But I wanna, I want to just ask you to do something in your own mind. Go back to being this age. Go back to this time in your life, whatever you can remember. And, you know, when we, we stopped to think about Christmas.
Christmas, when you're a kid, is the absolute highlight of the year. Hey, what do you think of when you think of Christmas? What sort of things come to. The polar, the the Polar Express presence. Uhhuh . And trains. And trains. What, what do you think of Beckett? Uh, Presents and Santa Claus and Rudolf the Reindeer and, um, Santa Claus and Rudolf Reds, reindeer and presents and presents.
It's funny, when you're a little kid, there's absolutely nothing you don't like about Christmas, in fact, that you think about it when you're a kid. There's just a few things about Christmas that are negative. Is, it takes so long to get here. Two, it so quickly is behind you. And three, it takes so long until it comes again.
But when you were a kid, everything else about Christmas is absolutely wonderful. These three, uh, we got invited to go with their parents a couple weeks ago to Williams to go ride the Polar Express. And, uh, Jeremy and Michelle and, and their kids, they had another commitment so they couldn't join us. We got to go and where'd the train go, guys?
To the North Pole. To the North Pole. We got to ride all the way from Williams to the North Pole. What, like what was, what was fun about the train, the cookies and the hot chocolate and, and then who did you see when we actually got to the North Pole? Who got on our train? Santa Claus. Santa Claus got on our train.
Mm-hmm. . And then he did what? What do you need to give us? The bells. The bells. The bells and the bell look just like this. Right? Right. Just like this. The story of the Polar Express is a fascinating story because what it's about is a boy who as he gets older, he's just stopped believing. He just stopped believing.
He didn't believe in Christmas. He didn't have faith anymore. And uh, it's the story of him going on a. And rediscovering what he actually believed in. And what is so cool about that story is symbolized in a bell. And again, so on, on the train, you get these little bells, but I, I got a couple of bigger ones here that I want to use.
To illustrate the point of the polar express, cuz I'm telling you why it's a kid's story. It has huge relevance to each and every one of us, this very moment. So what happens is, is that as they got older, they could no longer hear the bell when it ringed. Can you guys hear that? No. No. See, what happens is, is when you stop believing.
You stop hearing, you don't. You don't hear it anymore. And it's the story of discovering the joy of the bell, of being able to say, I can hear it. And I can believe life happens to us when we're young, we believe. But as we get older, we can't hear the bell anymore. And that's what I want to talk to you about for the next few moments.
But before I get to that, I need to say goodnight to these little ones they are at. The end of their limits. And so we're gonna send them to bed, and then if you'll give me just a moment, I'm gonna tuck them in and then we'll, uh, I'll get right back with you and we'll finish this. Okay. All right. Say, say goodbye, everybody.
Goodbye. Say goodbye. Say Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Okay, mama. All right. Let's go.
Okay, well, I'm back. I got them down. Thanks for, uh, allowing me that interruption. Let me go back to the story of these two bells because I really believe that. This is represents something so powerful and it's so meaningful.
You know, it's interesting. When you were young, you believed in Christmas, you just believed in Christmas and all that Christmas was all about, and you had no trouble hearing the bell, but as you got older, Christmas started meaning something different. And the fun, the joy, a lot of the laughter even maybe was taken out of it.
Well, that's significant about Christmas. I want to talk to you. About a much more important issue, and that is about your faith and your faith in Jesus, your faith in God, and really what Christmas is truly all about. Because for most of us, when we were young and we first heard the story, we could easily hear it and we had no problem understanding it.
But what happens to us as we live our. Is life happens. And by life I mean so many things don't work out exactly like we think they should work out. And so we suffer. We suffer from a heartache, we suffer from loss, we suffer from disillusionment and disappointment. And the problem is, is that we think that, you know, God, if you were there, you could have prevented all of that from happening because number one, you allowed it to happen.
And number two, if you cared, you'd have kept that from happen. in, in our message last week in church, and, uh, if you were here, you heard it, but I, I referenced something I think is really, really important. You know, it's interesting when you study the birth of Jesus, uh, this is God coming to earth. If ever anyone you would imagine would have a soft landing, that everything would go great.
it would be the birth of Jesus. But when you read the story, you start to realize there's so many elements and it's like, could you still believe if everything went wrong? Because in the birth of Jesus, just about everything went wrong and it let me just point out a couple of things in the story that I, I think if you start to see it a little bit differently, you'll hear it a little bit differently.
So let me read to you. I'm gonna read from Loop Chapter. and, uh, I'm just gonna begin at verse eight. The story doesn't begin here, but I'm gonna pick it up right here. Okay. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks. At night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, do not be afraid. I bring you good news. That will will cause Great joy. For all the people. The coming of the birth of Jesus was to bring great joy. Okay, let's make a note of that. Today in the town of David, a savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, and I just want you to hear those words.
That's what the angel said. He is the Messiah, the Lord. He, and this will be assigned to you and you, you know this part. You will find a baby wrapped in clause and lying in a manger, and suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.
There's so many things happening here that I think are so important that if you understand, you start to hear. What the story is trying to tell you. The angels appeared. Let me start off by saying they appeared to shepherds. Now that is so much a part of the story. We, we love the shepherds and we, but in truth, you've gotta understand that, uh, the angel appearing to Shepherds Shepherds were outcast.
Shepherds were nobody's, shepherds were literally people that nobody wanted to be friends with and nobody they. They smelled bad. They lived alone, and they were like, they, they kept to themselves. They were unclean in so many ways in that culture. But the angels appeared to shepherds of all people's shepherds.
It's as if God's trying to say, Hey, I'm trying to tell you something. I'm trying to tell you what matters. And then when the angel appeared, he said, Hey, in Bethlehem, uh uh, a baby's born. Those four words, he is the messiah. , let me make sure you understand the significance of the phrase. He is the Messiah.
They had long awaited the Messiah, hundreds of years. They had waited for the Messiah, literally. on edge, just waiting and waiting and wait. It seemed like he was never gonna come. It could. You still believe in God? If it took forever, could you still be? It took forever. He is the Messiah. Now, let me just explain a little bit about what the point of the Messiah is.
That word, Messiah is where we get the Greek from. The Greek language. We get c Creos, which is where we get Christ. He is the Christ. Here's the point. He is the anointed. He's the anointed one. Now, to understand this, you gotta understand a little bit about the Old Testament. And in the Old Testament there were three main players, literally in the way the society worked.
There were priests and there were prophets, and there were kings, priests, prophets and kings. You got an anointed to be a priest. You got anointed to be a prophet. You got anointed to be a. What made Jesus so his life so significant is everyone else got one of those three anointings, the Messiah. The belief would be that he would come and he would be a priest, unlike any other priest, no priest before him, like him, a prophet who proclaims truth like no prophet ever had in a king who was about to reign.
Like no other king had ever reigned, and it, it's a, it's a absolutely glorious thing. In other words, the Messiah is gonna come now, listen carefully, okay? He is going to take literally all the pain, all the brokenness, all the suffering, all the things that have gone wrong, and he's going to restore. God's order.
He's gonna bring shalom. He's literally gonna come and mend the broken hearted. He's literally gonna come and put broken lives back together. He is going to rescue the people. And everybody anticipated the one day when this guy would come and, and the shepherds are told, he's is, he's here. He's here right now.
And if there was one verse in the Old Testament that I think kind of captures the anticipation of the Messiah, it would be this verse, uh, Psalm 1 0 7, 19 and 20, they cried to the Lord in their. And he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and he healed them. He rescued them from the grave.
When the Messiah comes, all the pain, all the suffering, all the disappointment, all the loss, all the heartache, all the keep going with all the words you wanna put in there, he is going to heal the people. He's going to, he's gonna bring. , which is interesting because if you know the song Har, the Harold Angel Sing, which is talking about Luke chapter two and the in that second verse.
In fact, let me just read to you. Hark the Harald angel second verse. Okay. Glory to the newborn king. Hail the heaven born prince of peace. Hail the son of righteousness. Now listen. Listen, light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. You see, the Messiah is the one's gonna put it all back together.
The Messiah's gonna be the one that's gonna fix it. Light and life risen with healing. I mean, those words just stop you and you just go, I'm starting to understand and the message being, look, if, if this is true for you, it's true for everybody. Uh, I don't know what you think about. When you, uh, you know, again, we're talking about kids and images we get in our minds as kids, you know, like, oh gosh, you know, what was Christmas?
But so many of us, uh, our first images of Christmas are, you know, snow falling. And like you can kind of picture, you know, uh, an outdoor scene. It's so docile, it's so peaceful. It's just so, um, but the reality of it is, is that when Jesus came, he came and he literally, He was born in, in a stable, nobody would give Mary a bed.
So they had to use a barn and make the best of us. Not any great story there, but it was among, uh, the poor, the broken, the downhearted, the like disillusion. And God goes, yeah, this would be a great place for this to all begin. And it's fascinating. I wanna, um, I wanna make sure you understand Christmas is not a fairy.
It's not a story. It, it is God trying to say, I need you to understand what I'm trying to do and the difference I want to make in your life. In, in fact, I, I would make this statement, uh, Christmas, uh, came so healing could come. Christmas came, so healing could come. So God wants to heal and God wants to put back together and, and literally he has to come here to do it, and he does it through Christ, the anointed one, the mess.
As, as I was thinking about this, I, I, there's two passages I wanna show you, and I wanna show you these very, very quickly that I, I, I just think are fascinating stories of Jesus as he grew to be a man. Because you start to discover something that God has a gift for you and it comes through Jesus, but you don't get the gift if you don't open your hands and desire it and receive.
Literally there has to be a response. Let me read these two stories to you. And, uh, they're both about healing. God wants to offer you something, but he's not gonna force it upon you. You have to choose. So this is what happens. This is from John chapter five. Listen carefully. Now, there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, a pool, which in era make is called Bethesda, which is surrounded by five covered colonate.
Now here, a great number of disabled people used to. The, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed, uh, one who was there had been invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in his condition for a long time, he asked him, do you want to get, well? What, what? Yeah. He asked a guy, 38 years, you've been a mess.
You wanna get well. Uh, sir, the invalid replied, I have no one to help me get into the pool when the water is stirred and while I'm trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. See, there was a, a belief, a legend as it were, that, that an angel would come and stir the water, and the first one in the pool after the angel stirred the water, would be the one who received the healing.
And so this guy just basically says to Jesus, yeah, I would love to be healed, but I can't ever be the first down there. And then Jesus said to him, get. , get up, pick up your mat and walk. At Once the man was cured and he picked up his mat and walked Jesus. Basically going, Hey you, are you done? Are you done?
You, you want to get better? You want to receive what I, I can heal you. Do you wanna be healed? Now when you ask a question, do you wanna be healed? It seems like such a silly question. It's like an absurd question. Of course, I want to be healed, but if he's healed, his life will forever be changed and all that.
He'd become accustomed to people. Having mercy on him and people feeling sorry for him and feeling pity for him and all that, all that's gonna go away. If you're healed, you, you're not gonna be the one that everyone's gonna be looking at. You're gonna be the one that needs to be looking out for people.
You need to, you're not the one everyone's gonna help. You're the one that needs to begin to help. See, life changes when you're put back together. That's what the anointed, when the Messiah is offering him. You want your life put back. I can give it to you. I just wanna know, do you want it? So that's the first story.
And again, I, I find that very, very fascinating. Then here's a second story. Okay? This is the grown Jesus, not the baby Jew. All right, Matthew, uh, chapter nine, as Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, have mercy. On a son of David, when he had gone indoors, the blind man came to him and he asked them, Do you believe that I am able to do this?
Yes, Lord. They replied, and then he touched their eyes and said, according to your faith, be it done to you, and their sight was restored. What would you believe? Do you believe? Do you think that I, I could do this? You see, w what Jesus can do. , he will only do through people who have faith. See the difference between the way this life lives and that life lives is faith changes the way you see life.
When you're a person of faith. You start to understand that there is a God who can heal, who can put you back together, who can fix the problems according to your faith may have be done to you. That's what Jesus said. According, according to your. A lot of faith, a lot of things happen, little faith, little things happen.
Uh, translation. Do you believe in miracles? It takes faith to believe in miracles. Do you believe in miracles? Jesus asked him, do you believe that I can do this? So it comes back to the question, would you believe? You know, fascinating. Uh, Hebrews 11, six says that without faith it is impossible to please God.
You can't do it. You can't do it because if you don't have faith, you'll never come to God, and you'll never ask of God. You'll never surrender. You'll never ask for healing from God. See, Christmas is not this fairytale. It is the story of a God who loves you very, very much, who literally wants to enter into your pain, your suffering, your hurt, your loneliness, your brokenness, and he wants to meet you right there.
But the amazing thing is, is he won't force his way in. He won't for he. I literally isn't going to enter if you don't invite. And the crucial question is, would you believe, be it done to you as your faith would allow, as your faith would allow? I think it would be incredibly appropriate right now as we come to our time of, of candle lighting that we do something a little bit different.
Now, candle lighting in our church has been a tradition for years and literally decades. I mean, we've done this every Christmas Eve. It's, it wouldn't be Christmas without candle lighting, but this year we're gonna do this a little bit differently. I'm gonna ask you to take the candle that you have, and I want to ask you to think long and hard about the condition of your life.
do you need to be healed? Do you need the touch of God in your life? Is there a brokenness that you're just done with? Jesus said, do you want to get better? And it's forcing the question to force a response, you have to say yes or no. Do you want to get better? Do you believe I can do this? He said, as, as your faith would allow.
That'll how it'll be done. See, here's what I want to do different. I want to ask you, and we'll do this on all of our campuses. , you have a candle. We handed that to you when you walked in. And I'm gonna pray in just a moment, and then we're gonna, we're gonna begin, uh, just a moment of response. And I just want you to picture Jesus is talking to you.
Do you believe, would you believe would, would you believe enough to put your faith in me? And if you're here right now and you desperately know you, , the touch of the anointed one, the touch of the Messiah. I want to invite you not to wait until the light comes to you. I want to invite you to just go forward to that candle that is in front of you right now in your worship center.
I want to invite you to walk up and you take your candle and you light it from that candle, and that candle represents the light that came into the darkness that overwhelmed the darkness. And brought light and life to all who literally brought healing. Okay, that's Jesus. And then this is what'll happen.
If you feel like, no, I'm good. I've received Jesus, I'm good, and I'm, you know, then you just wait. And then the people who walk forward and light their candle will come in, light the candles to the aisle. So the idea is, is you go get a touch from Jesus and then you be the first to give that touch to people, uh, on the aisle as you, as you work your way.
And you just watch what happens because the light that came into the darkness, the darkness was the brokenness and the pain and the hurt, and the suffering and the loneliness. Jesus goes, I can fix that. Do you believe and do you want to be healed? Soon as I pray, you take your candle, you walk forward and you light that candle.
And then you start helping pass the light to other people and you're gonna get a beautiful image of what this is all about. Folks, today's an incredible day for in the town of David, a savior has been born, the Messiah has come. We don't have to be broken anymore. We don't have to be hurting anymore. We can be healed.
Then we pray and then we'll respond. So Father, right now in all of our worship sinners, I just pray that you would move, God, give people the courage, the same kind of courage that it took these people in these two stories I just read. To answer Jesus, do you want to be healed and do you believe that I could do this?
If we say, no, we're reject. We're choosing pain and suffering for the rest of our days. If we say yes, this incredible warm light watches over us and our lives are transformed and literally changed for the better for the rest of our. And God, any of us who once could hear the bell but no longer hear the bell, God, I pray that in these next few moments, we start hearing what we used to hear and long ago stopped hearing, give us the ability to hear again, and I pray for this in Jesus name.