Is God’s Good News!

1          All I Want for Christmas – Is God’s Good News!

How do you feel when you get bad news?  Bad news is painful.  It hits us like a punch in the gut.  It hurts to hear the bad news of: Terrorists, horrible murderers.  People who are supposed to be leaders being accused of many terrible deeds.  Hurricanes and earthquakes.  Opioid epidemic.  Cancer.  It can be frightening to turn on the television – because we are surrounded by so much bad news.

The bad news of the world – helps us to understand more fully why Christmas is so important to everyone.  Christmas renews our connection and our entire world’s connection to God’s Good News.  Christmas reconnects us with the Good News that God has taken action through the birth of Jesus – that gives us the strength that we all need not only get through all of the bad news around us – but to actually know that every piece of bad news can be overcome with God’s gift of Jesus Christ our Savior!

We know how painful bad news is.  So I want to invite you to consider for a moment – how beautiful it is when someone brings you good news.  Congratulations – we’re accepting you for college!  Yes – I want to marry you!  We’re giving you a promotion and a raise!  You have a healthy new baby!

Isaiah 52:7    How beautiful is the person who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the good news that God reigns!

The birth of Jesus at Christmas reconnects us to the greatest good news the world has ever received.  The Savior has come!  The light has broken through the darkness!  God has given us a power of love and holiness that forgives our sins and is greater than evil.  God has given us victory over death – because of Jesus’ death and Resurrection – we know that we will all be raised up from death to eternal life in heaven.

No wonder – the whole world continues to celebrate the greatest good news that anyone has ever received

Read with me:    Luke 2:8-11 (NLT)    That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.  They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.  “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

As we start our season of Advent, to prepare ourselves to receive and make good use of God’s great gift – I want to encourage you to ask yourself:

  • Is the good news of Jesus still relevant to our world?

Does our world still need a power that is greater than evil?  Do each of us still need the power of a Savior, Who can raise us up from death?

We all want to receive God’s Good News – and to make full use of all of the gifts Jesus brings.  Through His gift of salvation – Jesus brings us Good News and the gift of New Possibilities!

Christmas Gives Us the Gift of  NEW  POSSIBILITIES

How important is it to keep your mind open to new possibilities?  The author of our Advent study, Rev. James Moore, shared a great story that highlights the dangers of a mind that is closed to considering any new possibilities.

State College was playing State University in their annual grudge football match.  It was a beautiful fall day and the stadium was filled to capacity.  The game was tied at 14 – 14 with only 2 minutes left on the clock.  State College was struggling because of unrelenting injuries.  In the first half – the star quarterback had to be taken out.  In the third quarter the second-string quarterback was knocked out.  Then in the 4th quarter – the third-string quarterback went down.

With no other options left, State College Coach O’Hara had to put in the freshman fourth string quarterback – McTavish – who was also the team’s punter.

Coach O’Hara got right into McTavish’s face and shouted:    McTavish, are you listening to me?            MC TAVISH:  Yes sir.                      COACH: Can you follow my instructions?                      MC TAVISH:  Yes sir.                 COACH:  Can you do EXACTLY what I tell you to do?            MC TAVISH:  Yes sir!                 COACH:  OK.  Listen very carefully.  There are just two minutes left in the game.  We are tied 14 – 14.  We have the ball on our own 10 yard line.  There is no way that we can go 90 yards and win this game – so we are going to do everything we can to finish this game with a tie.  To do that – we need you to run those last 2 minutes off the clock.  Here’s what we are going to do.  On your first play – you are going to run a quarterback sneak.  On your second play – you are going to run a quarterback sneak.  On third play – you are going to run a quarterback sneak.  On your fourth play you are going to drop back and punt the ball as far as you can out of the stadium.  Do you hear me?  Yes Coach.  Do you understand me?  Yes Coach.  Good – now get in there and follow my instructions exactly to the letter – or you will never, ever play football for this team again!

With Coach O’Hara’s instructions still ringing in his ears, McTavish took to the field.  On their first play – he ran the quarterback sneak and was amazed when a hole opened in the line and he was able to run for 30 yards.  On the second play – another hole opened up and he was able to run for 20 yards.  On the third play – a minor miracle occurred and McTavish was able to cut to the outside and run for 39 yards!  A defender knocked him out of bounds just 10 inches from the goal line.  Then on the fourth play – McTavish dropped back and punted the ball out of the stadium.  The gun sounded and the game was over.

The crowd could not believe what they had just seen.  Coach O’Hara threw his hat down in disgust and stomped all over it.  He charged on to the field and screamed at McTavish.  McTavish, why in the world did you just do that?  Coach, I did exactly what you told me I had to do.  Coach O’Hara was in shock.  What were you thinking?  Well sir, I was thinking we must have the dumbest coach in the whole world!

Closing your mind to new possibilities – can get you in trouble in football and in life.  As we prepare ourselves to receive the Good News of Jesus – God shows us that one of the great gifts that Jesus brings us is new possibilities – and in order to receive them we need to keep growing in keeping our minds open.

In the Bible – we see a powerful example of the difference between an open mind and a closed mind.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, struggled with a closed mind.   Zechariah wasn’t opposed to the idea of his wife Elizabeth finally being able to have a baby in her old age.  He just couldn’t see how God could possibly accomplish something so amazing.  The Angel Gabriel told Zechariah – there was going to be a penalty for his closed mind.  God wasn’t going to blow Zechariah up – but God was going to make him unable to speak until John’s birth – because he doubted the power of God.

Luke 1:18-20 (NLT)     Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will           happen?” …Gabriel said, “Since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.”

The Virgin Mary struggled with understanding how God could cause her, a virgin, to have a baby – but she was willing to trust God to accomplish something new and miraculous. 

Luke 1:30-38 (NLT)    Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel Gabriel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will name him Jesus.  …For nothing is impossible with God.”  Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”

During our season of Advent – as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth – God challenges each of us to decide if we can believe in New Possibilities?  Can the birth of Jesus change our lives and change our world? 

  • How does trusting God shape your life?

The birth of Jesus brings us the Gift of New Possibilities and the Gift of Hope.

Christmas Gives Us the Gift of  HOPE

Jesus was willing to come down from heaven – to bring the hope of God to all people.  People all over the world continue to need hope – because there are a lot of situations in our world that are hopeless without God’s help.  Without God’s help – the drug crisis, the racism crisis, the health crisis and many other crises – are indeed helpless.

When we open the gift of Jesus and receive God’s power at work on the inside of our lives – we have the power of hope within us – that is greater than the hopelessness outside of us. 

Colossians 1:27 (MSG)    God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious mystery inside and out, regardless of their background.  The mystery in a nutshell is this: Christ lives in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory.  It’s that simple.  Jesus is our only hope to receive God’s glory.

We all need hope.  Jesus came to bring hope to you and to our world. 

  • Where is Jesus causing hope to grow?

Jesus is Good News – because He brings us the gift of New Possibilities, the gift of Hope, and most importantly of all – the gift of Love!

Christmas Gives Us the Gift of  LOVE

The most famous passage in the Bible – John 3:16 – summarizes in two sentences what God wants to accomplish in your life and in our world.  God wants you and everyone else on this planet to be transformed by His gift of Love in Jesus Christ. 

John 3:16 (MSG)    This is how much God loves the world: He gave His Son, His one and only begotten Son.  And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed.  By believing in Jesus, anyone can have a whole and everlasting life.

God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ gives us the power to live whole and abundant lives in this world – and to face death without fear because we know that Jesus has also given us eternal life through His Resurrection.

Another famous passage in the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13 – helps us to see more clearly how the power of Jesus’ love can change our lives and change our world.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)    True love is patient and kind.  True love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.   True love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance!

As we prepare to come to God’s table and receive a fresh filling of Jesus’ love – I’d like to share one last story with you from Professor Tony Campolo on a 5th Grade teacher named Miss Thompson and the power of love that God sent us through Jesus at Christmas to transform our lives and our world.

Miss Thompson was a dedicated teacher who worked hard to be positive and caring with all of her students.  But she was faced with a bigger challenge than she had ever had before with a student named Teddy.  Teddy was belligerent and impossible to control.  His schoolwork was horrendous and his attitude was even worse.  Miss Thompson disliked Teddy so much that she almost enjoyed giving him F’s.

Everything changed between Miss Thompson and Teddy at Christmas.  All of the 5th grade students brought in a present for Miss Thompson.  She opened up lots of boxes with candy and gift cards.  Then Teddy brought her his gift.  It didn’t look like much – a brown paper sack that had an old frayed ribbon around it.  Inside the sack Miss Thompson discovered a gaudy cheap rhinestone bracelet with half of the stones missing and a used bottle of perfume.  The children began to smirk and giggle at such a pathetic present.  But the spirit of Christmas bubbled up in Miss Thompson – and she decided to put the bracelet on and to use some of the perfume.  She dabbed some perfume on her wrist and invited the children to smell.  “Isn’t this bracelet beautiful?” she asked the children.  “Doesn’t this perfume smell lovely?”  Taking their cue from Miss Thompson, the children responded with oohs and aahs.

At the end of school that day, Teddy stopped at Miss Thompson’s desk and said:  “Miss Thompson…  Miss Thompson… you smell just like my mother used to smell…  and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too.  I’m glad you liked my presents.”  As they talked, Miss Thompson discovered that Teddy’s mother had died when he was in the 2nd grace and that his father, unable to cope, had turned to alcohol.  Miss Thompson’s heart went out to little Teddy.  She saw Teddy in a new light.  And for the first time, she was able to see Teddy with the eyes of love.

After Teddy left, Miss Thompson said a prayer.  She asked God to forgive her for the attitude she had held against Teddy.  To make a long story short, from that day forward, Miss Thompson became a new teacher and Teddy became a new student.  Teddy’s attitude and grades began to improve dramatically.

Teddy kept up with Miss Thompson through the years, and he eventually became a doctor.  A few years later, Miss Thompson received a letter from Teddy asking if she would come to his wedding and sit in his mother’s place of honor.  “You are all the family I have left now,” he said.

The love of Jesus that came into our world at Christmas is Good News!  It changed Teddy’s life and it changed Miss Thompson’s life.  The Good News of Jesus – Immanuel, God with us continues to change all of our lives when we open and use all of the gifts Jesus came to bring us.

As we join in receiving Communion this morning – we prepare ourselves to open all of Jesus’ gifts – by celebrating the Good News of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us and our entire world.   

  • Does Jesus’ love change lives?

Has Jesus’ love changed your life?  Will you share Jesus’ love to help change the lives of others?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *