It's New Years Day, we stop to reflect on what has gone past us and we consider that which lies ahead. We mark time as though it could have a slash of chalk upon it, like one marks a calendar. It gives us a sense of measure, a record, a way in which we keep track of our lives so that we don't get lost. The telephone operator in a large industrial town in England received a call each day requesting the proper time. It was the same person asking again and again. After a month of such requests, she asked the caller why this was so important. ?I have to know the exact time?, he said, ?because I blow the town clocks whistle right at noon.? 'my goodness?, gasped the operator, ?I always set my clock to that whistle.? Time is of great value to us not just because we are mortal but because it is linked to the purposes of God. Just think of the descriptions of time you've read in the Bible? seven days of creation, 40 days of flood, 40 years of wandering, on the third day He arose, time is linked to the purposes of God. He has a calendar whose pages contain the timing of His purposes, and by grace He tips the page that we can glimpse the ways that are higher than our ways, the thoughts that are higher than our thoughts. Such a glimpse is in Malachi chapter 4. These are the last recorded words of the Old Testament, it was like a great New Years Eve that lasted for over 400 years and then came the unveiling of Christ in the New Testament. The words of Malachi 4 speak to a ?New Years Day? that is yet to be known, they speak about a day of which every human heart has a longing for, they speak about a day that God has linked in an unbreakable way to His purposes. Let's read that together, Malachi 4.
I. In a World of Unbalanced Abilities, of Unequal Powers, of Imperfect Motives, We Long For . . .
I was thinking about synonyms this week, not the cinnamon that you find in sticky buns, but the synonym you find in tricky phrases. Synonyms point us to the source of something, they amplify, they color in the character and take us deeper. Put together they can sound like this?
His name was short, brief, an essence,
A heart, a passion, a loving presence,
I knew in an instant, quickly, right now,
All to be cherished, treasured and held.
Ever since God spoke and said, ?Let there be light?, words have directly shaped our understanding and our very life, even for all eternity. The ideas of God's mind often come to us as words and are the purest expressions of being, known to us. It is no coincidence to think that of all the phrases God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He picked, ?In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.?, John 1:1. As you read the Christmas story there will be account after account of angels coming as messengers from God and the words they bring have been crafted by the very . . .
A passenger traveling on a train across Saskatchewan was so enthralled by the journey that every few moments he was heard to say, ?Wonderful!? The passing scenery, the faces of the people in the towns, even the smallest details drew out exclamations of awe. Finally one fellow traveler, overcome by curiosity, asked, ?How is it that the rest of us are worn out with this monotonous trip while you are having the time of your life? He answered them, ?Until a few days ago I was a blind man, but now for the first time in my life I can see and what is ordinary to the rest of you, is out of this world to me.? It is my desire that before you leave here this morning there will be a sense of wonder, an amazement even at what had previously looked to be ordinary.
I remember traveling in the Rocky Mountains with our children when they were just 5 years old and younger. As we peered up at the craggy ridges we'd point to first one peak and then another and the word that came out was, ?Incredible!? I hadn't realized that we'd used that term as much as we had until our daughter began to point with her little hand and say, 'mom, Dad, look, the Incredibles!? Let's look at the incredible, wonderful, amazing view of Christ in Luke 1, verses 26 to 38.
I. The Wonder of Christ Is Wrapped in Detail.
The coming of Christ was a precision event, perfectly timed, accurately plotted on the map, strategically aimed at specific . . .
G. Campbell Morgan once said, ?A man's concept of God creates his attitude toward the hour in which he lives.? It's like the story of the bible college students who were taking apples from the cafeteria to their rooms. Someone put up a sign, ?Please take only one apple, God is watching you.? Someone else scribbled a note on the bottom of it saying, 'take all the cookies you want, God is watching the apples.? Your concept of God will shape your attitude toward the hour in which you live and the great need of this hour is for a people who truly know God by something more than just hearsay. Perhaps this is why we are seeing epic films like 'the Chronicles of Narnia? come into being, they call our attention and through obvious allegory invite us to increase our concept of God. They point past the world of material reality, past the tumult of war, past the place of the cloaks of resigned unbelief hung as an intimidating wall within a wardrobe. Such stories seek to remind us of a greater reality that stretches our concept of God and His kingdom to such an extent that we no longer live for heaven, we begin to live for Thy Kingdom Come. Turn with me to the book of Isaiah chapter 9, as we read verses 6 and 7.
I. Almighty God Kneels Down To Pick Us Up... The Incarnation.
How often have you done this very thing with your own children, how many pictures do you have of dad crawling around with his two year old or of mom kneeling down to tie that . . .
How forgetful are you? Have you ever forgotten birthdays, doctors appointments, the keys that smiled at you from the ignition of a locked car. I remember hearing a story about a fellow whose wife called out to him as he was leaving for work, "Honey, don't forget what day this is?" It drove him nuts all day, he knew it wasn't his wedding anniversary but he wasn't sure about birthdays, or their kids birthdays. To be safe he bought flowers and took her out to dinner only to hear her say, "Sweetheart this has been the best Ground Hog Day ever!" It's easy to forget, even to forget the presence of people. When we came back from the South Pacific we went to Colin and Joanne's house to pick up our little dog that they had been taking care of for the past year. There was great celebration at seeing the pet again and we were really thankful for all they had done. We took the dog home and were no sooner in the door when the phone rang, we'd left one of our daughters at their house. That's one kind of 'forgetting' but there is another kind, the kind of forgetting that fails to put together facts that you've already known in order to take the next step. The first is more like an oversight, the second is more like negligence. Forgetting to avoid temptation and it leads to alcohol consumption that puts everyone at risk as you drive home, that would be an example. Forgetting to follow directions and it leads to a dangerous infection or forgetting the promise of another and experiencing the . . .