Saturday, December 19, 2015

All of Us Have a "Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future"

Colossians 1:19-23

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,  20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled  22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—  23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister."
If you have read either of the two blogs that I have already published this Christmas, you can probably tell that I am not into the stories of the traditional Christmas messages and that I like to search for something unique and different for my Christmas messages. So today, once again, I want to break from the traditional text and search for Christmas in a not so obvious passage.
In 1843 the writer Charles Dickens penned these words that begin what is known to you and me as A Christmas Carol: “I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
It would be my goal today, as most people’s thoughts are upon this Christmas season, to raise to life from the Bible for everyone that reads this: our Christmas Past, our Christmas Present, and our Christmas Future. Christmas holds for each of us a past that must be faced, a present that must be lived, and a future that must be longed for.
Christmas holds the mystery of God giving the gift of a savoir wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger and then thirty something years later placed upon a tree fashioned into a cross. God’s gift was not one to be purchased by us, but His gift would purchase you and me. From the manger to the cross we hear the whispered name of God with us, Immanuel.
So when the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) had come God sent His Son into this world filled with the fullness of Himself (Colossians 1:19, 2:9), God in the flesh, so that you and I may receive of His fullness (John 1:16). Christmas at its best!
Man in all of his best efforts still comes to the manger emptied handed only to receive the blessedness of God’s peace and good will that offers him…Forgiveness of the Christmas Past…Help in the Christmas Present, and Hope for the Christmas Future.
No one likes to see themselves for what they really are, sinful. Because we really don’t believe we’re all that bad.  Every one of us needs to look at our past.  None of us are ready for the present or the future until we deal with our past. You and I can’t walk in the fullness of God until we deal with our past.
For the sinner the past can haunt you, but for the Christian it can be forgiven never to bother us again. Is there anything in your past you are holding on to this Christmas that needs to be forgiven or dealt with?
The text from Colossians underscores our Christmas Past as one of alienation, enemies of God desiring to do bad things. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (1:21a).
As Christians we can be thankful that our sins of the past have been forgiven.  True joy can only come as our sins of the past have been forgiven.
If you aren’t a Christian, your past is keeping you from God and God from you. You are alienated from God. Only forgiveness of your past can bring you near to God.  Until you and I see our Christmas Past as being separated from God because of our sin and in need of God we will never fully appreciate the Christmas Present nor Christmas Future to come.
God does not intend to leave you or I struggling with the spirit of the Christmas Past.  For He has provided for us, in the midst of our darkened sin stained life, radiating from a manager, an old rugged cross, and an empty tomb the light of the world.  The closer we move toward Jesus we can begin to hear the call of the Christmas Present that says, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
The only way you and I can be truly happy during Christmas Present is to “Look upon Him.” The apostle Paul affirms our Christmas Present with these words, “…yet now He has reconciled (you) in the body of His flesh through death” (Colossians 1:21b, 22a).
Reconcile: “to reestablish a close relationship between; to settle or resolve; to bring (oneself) to accept.”
Why do you and I need to be reconciled to God? It’s called sin. Sin is the barrier between our fellowship with God. Because God desires our fellowship. He began the process of our reconciliation through Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, born in the likeness of man as a baby, grew to be a man, God in the flesh, to die on a cross, shedding His blood for our sins. At His sacrificial death our sins were atoned and forgiven. Man through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was justified of his sins and reconciled…the relationship reestablished sin’s difference settled through the price of the Son, and is now made acceptable to God.
Romans 5:8-11 – “(8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (10) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (11) And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
God’s demonstration of love began in a manger and culminated on a cross. The demonstrated love of God through our Savior Jesus Christ brings justification of sins and reconciliation of the relationship between God and man. For those who confess and believe in Jesus Christ the alienation is removed and the hostility is gone…the relationship is restored.
Listen to the voice of Christmas Present:
2 Corinthians 6:2 – “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Today, is Christmas Present…the day God extends to men, women, boys and girls the great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ His Son. And when one believes and confesses in Jesus Christ they are made right with God (reconciled) and now given the great blessing of making known Christmas Present!
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 – “(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (18) Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (19) that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
There is a Christmas future waiting every individual, sinner and Christian alike.
For the Christian, Paul assures us that what God has begun in each of us He will finish it…bringing it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Christmas future speaks to the time when we who are His, will be as He is! (1 John 3:2) Paul refers to it as a time of presentation before God. Colossians 1:22 – “In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”
For the Christian Christmas future looks bright.
For the sinner, Christmas future looks gloomy. The future for Scrooge if he didn’t change was death, a terrible death with no friends, nobody to mourn or care. What about your future?
Here are the words those who are not Christians will hear in the future: Matthew 7:23 – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Listen to Luke 13: 27b, 28a – “(27b) Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity. (28a) There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…”
It doesn’t have to be that way.  Just as the scrooge awakened from his experience with his past mistakes, his present indifference, and his future of hopelessness and began to rewrite his present and future, so can you.  It doesn’t matter to God what you have done in the past, whatever mistakes you have made or the sins you have committed, or where you are right now.  Jesus came to earth and robed himself in flesh as an infant in a manger and offered Himself, God incarnate, to die on a cross to make a way for your reconciliation. Today you can know him as forgiver of your Christmas Past, Reconciler of your Christmas Present, and Hope for your Christmas Future.

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