PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Scripture: Acts 3:17-24 13 December 2020
Plans and preparations for Christmas. It is pretty much true - we all do it.
Well, God was no different. He also made preparations for that first Christmas.
A popular and well known Christmas song goes like this: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go." It is easy to know that it is almost Christmas time. The signs of its coming begin a couple of months before it arrives. Even before the last of the Thanksgiving turkey is devoured, we've transitioned into Christmas.
So, now is the time for preparations to be made. Homes are filled with decorations of the season. You get the tree out of the garage or basement, or go to the woods and chop a fresh one. Shopping lists are created. Then you suit up with your mask and hit the stores. Yes, to prepare for Christmas. To be prepared for Christmas eating you go to the grocery store and get the items you only buy once a year for that extra special Christmas dinner and all the desserts you will later regret having eaten.
Some brave souls, throwing the virus to the wind will be travelling during the Christmas season. We must make travel plans and make sure everything is packed and ready to go.
Plans and preparations for Christmas - we all do it in our own way and traditions. Well, we are not the only ones making plans. God also made preparations for that first Christmas.
God made plans through prophecy, through anticipation and through patience.
Let’s first look at His Preparation Through Prophecy.
Some people wait until the last minute to make their preparations. They're the ones going to the store on Christmas Eve to look for cards or presents and find that, for the most part, there is nothing left
Then there are some who start planning on December 26th for the following Christmas. After all, the little bit that is left in the stores is half price. Who can resist a bargain like that? You can save money now and save it for next year. But, by next year, you forget you had bought it last year.
Starting early is not a bad practice. God started planning early too. Of course His plan to send Jesus was His plan from the very beginning. God actually started revealing the coming of Jesus right from the very beginning – all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, God dealt them His punishments. When he addressed the serpent (Satan) he said this in Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
This is the first prophecy of the coming of Jesus. You might ask, “What does that have to do with Jesus?'” An ongoing hatred and hostility began there between mankind and Satan. Adam and Eve's choice to give in to Satan's tempting initiated a pattern of sin. From then on we would see the battle between Satan and man. Satan hates God and in turn he hates us because Satan hates what God loves. So Satan's purpose is to always get man to go against God.
Then we get to the second part of that verse-'he will crush your head and you will strike his heel'. Jesus is the offspring that was sent to crush the head of Satan by triumphing over evil at the cross. Satan may have struck his heel when he was crucified but Jesus got the victory when he resurrected; he crushed the head of the serpent.
Colossians 2:15, tells us, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
From the beginning God communicated through prophets and preachers that there would come a time when Satan’s actions would be rectified and the hostility between man and God, because of sin would be wiped out through Christ. The power of sin and death would be crushed by Jesus. That was the hope of mankind. That's why he came. 1 John 3:8 says the reason Jesus came was to destroy the devil's work. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.
Satan tempted Eve and set the trap for Adam and they disobeyed God. And that ushered in the need for Jesus to come and destroy Satan's work. So, it is evident that God revealed his plan from the beginning for Jesus to come into the world.
From that time on we see multiple prophecies pertaining to the coming of Jesus. Micah 5:2 states that the ruler of God's people would be born in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1).
When Herod sent out the decree to kill all male babies two-years-old and under Matt. 2:13 says that an angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. We can clearly see how these prophecies in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament.
Matthew connects this to the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1 when God said, 'out of Egypt I called my son'.
In Matt. 21 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey verses 4-5 highlight the fulfillment of Zech. 9:9 which talks about Zion's king coming to you riding on a donkey.
The book of Isaiah has several prophecies about Jesus. Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." How much clearer must a sign be? Chapter 53 very clearly depicts the suffering Jesus would go through for us.
There are actually hundreds of prophecies pertaining to the coming Messiah throughout the OT and all of them were fulfilled in Jesus.
Jesus didn't fulfill just some of the prophecies. He fulfilled all of them. Not one of them was a result of coincidence. No events were manipulated to produce the fulfillment. Only one conclusion can be arrived at. And, that is that Jesus is the Messiah.
Since His coming, His life of preaching and teaching, and His death and resurrection He has still been at work. Peter says in Acts 3:17-24 - “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.
He must remain in heaven until God is ready to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. All the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days.
Secondly, let’s look at His Preparation Through Anticipation.
Part of God's preparations for Christmas included anticipation for its arrival. While we await a special time we become more and more excited anticipating the day. As children, we were like that. Counting the days. School is out. Come on Christmas morning!
God raised the anticipation level as well. In Deuteronomy 18:15, God spoke a prophecy concerning Jesus through Moses. "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." And so, from there on the Jews had been looking for this Prophet. Yes, they understood that, though many prophets came and went, that prophecy from Moses mean that a very special prophet was coming.
Though the arrival of Jesus was anticipated, it wasn't truly understood for what it was. There was enough there to understand it but the people were confused. They did not understand where the events of His coming would take place even though the prophet Micah (5:2) mentions a ruler who will come from Bethlehem who will shepherd Israel.
Jesus often provided clues, or evidence, of who He was. Hear His words in John 7:37-44, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said [Isaiah 58:11], streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him."
So Jesus was communicating that he was the fulfillment of prophecy and that their eager anticipation was over but they were not able to embrace it because of their confusion. They didn't realize that their statements were true without being contradicting. Jesus is the Prophet and he is the Christ. He came from the line of David and he came from Bethlehem, even though he was in Galilee later on.
The religious leaders, who supposedly knew the prophetic scriptures were responsible to recognize, confirm and communicate to the people. But, because they despised Jesus, they deliberately confused them and caused them to reject Jesus.
Their hatred toward Jesus allowed them to miss the obvious. God had been preparing the people for the arrival of Jesus and the people, including the religious leaders, were waiting in eager anticipation for their deliverer to come.
But when Jesus did come he wasn't the kind of deliverer they were expecting. Several aspects of Jesus’ life caused them to conclude that Jesus could not be that deliverer. After all, He was born in a stable; The announcement of His birth came to shepherds instead of to the religious leaders. And, of all things, the savior of the world surely wouldn’t rather associate with sinners than with the religious leaders. And, above all, He wouldn’t dare to expose the injustices carried out by the religious leaders. All these, led them to question Jesus’ authenticity as the Messiah.
Their pride kept them anticipating instead of enjoying the fulfillment of their anticipations. They were looking but they missed it when it was right in front of them. It's still true for most of the Jews today. Not only them, but so many others in the world are confused and missing it.
In reality, everyone is looking for Jesus although they don't realize it. They're looking for the answers to their unhappiness, loneliness and despair but they're looking in all the wrong places. They have failed to understand that fulfillment in life is found in the manger and in the cross.
The world is in hopeful anticipation, waiting and watching for something which will truly fill the void in their lives. The fulfillment has come and it's up to us who have found it, who aren't confused any longer as to what it is, where it is, and who it is to reveal it to them.
And, thirdly, let's look at God's preparation through patience.
I'm sure when you were a kid Christmas couldn't get here fast enough, right? Knowing there were presents that were just begging to be opened. The wait was agonizing. Did your patience run out and you sneaked a peek at something under the tree? It wasn't easy to be patient, We didn't want to wait for the fulfillment of the anticipation.
The Jews felt the same way. The prophecies concerning Jesus continued to come but generation after generation came and went and still no Messiah.
And then, as if the long wait wasn't agonizing enough, that was followed up with 400 years of silence. No more prophecies; just waiting. The Jews were probably wondering what was taking so long. Why didn't God send Jesus sooner'? It's hard enough to be patient when we know the date and time something is going to happen. It is much more agonizing to wait for something when you don't know when it's coming.
Although God's timing may have caused some to doubt or question His actions, the reality is, God's timing is perfect. Galatians. 4:4 tells us: "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights as sons."
Things had to take place first to set the stage for the arrival of Jesus. Prophecy always involves timing. That timing was necessary in order to be properly fulfilled. Things were happening politically that played a role in the right timing. All this is often cloudy to our human eyes and minds, but God understood and the plan is His.
And, again, we wait in patience for Jesus' second arrival. More prophecy. More preparation. More patience. As Christians, we know that Jesus' second arrival is the next great event in history. We might not understand why He is delaying the return of Jesus. When difficulties come upon us, we sometimes cry out "Lord Jesus, come quickly." The wait has been long, but we need to understand that it's all in God's perfect timing.
2 Peter 3:8-9 gives us some enlightenment on our patience and God's timing when Peter says: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
We can be more patient if we have the mindset of God, knowing that the longer he delays in coming back the more opportunities people have to be saved.
So what do we do while we wait, exercising patience? One thing is to be busy doing the Lord's
Jesus' first coming was in God's perfect timing and the next one will be too. The Jews had to be patient then and we have to be patient now. But the wait will make Jesus' return that much sweeter when it happens.
God was giving his people messages through his prophets about the promised Messiah. He was laying out all the prophecies along the way until Jesus was born. They were all proofs to support the validity of Jesus as the long-awaited Savior. This was God's way of preparing for Christmas.
We have been given the responsibility to do the same. We have the opportunity to prepare people for Christmas. God prepares us to be able to prepare others. He prepares us to share our witness of how Jesus Christ, the one born on what we call Christmas, makes a difference in our lives. We can help people's anticipation for Christmas to be about more than just presents and family. These things are enjoyable but they still miss the mark on what the true meaning of Christmas is.
1 Peter 3:15 provides some teaching on preparation in relationship to our being prepared to share Christ with others: "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
Are you anticipating the return of Christ? Are you prepared?