Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent
Carols & Readings Service

Text: Matthew 1:22,23

Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, "A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel" (which means, "God is with us").

God keeps his promises

Watch TV and you will hear the promise that a particular washing powder washes cleaner and brighter than any other.
Talk to a car dealer and he will promise that if you buy this car you will be the happiest person in the world. Talk to a washing machine salesman and he will promise that you wonít get a better deal anywhere else in the world.
Politicians promise at election time that their party's policies will build a better Australia.
Listen to the couple standing at the altar making their promises of love and commitment to each for as long as they will live.
Read what is written on a cheque. It is a promise from the giver to pay the amount specified.

The real purpose of a promise is to carry out what has been promised. When a person makes a promise but has no intention of carrying it out this is not a promise at all.

The biography of the Christian scholar and writer, C.S. Lewis, tells of the suffering he endured because he kept a promise he had made to a buddy during World War I. This friend was worried about the care of his wife and small daughter if he should be killed in battle, so Lewis assured him that if that were to happen he would look after them. As the war dragged on, the man was killed. True to his word, Lewis took care of his friendís family. Yet no matter how helpful he tried to be, the woman was ungrateful, rude, arrogant, and domineering. Through it all, Lewis kept forgiving her. He refused to let her actions become an excuse to break his promise.

Many centuries before the birth of Jesus, God promised that he would send a Saviour. God wanted to do something about the mess we have made of our world and our lives. From the time of Adam and Eve we been trapped in sin and can't find our way out. So God promised, "The Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
God promised that he would not abandon his people who had been so rebellious and had gone against him so often. He promised that in the small town of Bethlehem, a woman would give birth to a son who will rule with strength and bring peace (Micah 5:2-4).
The angel Gabriel promised Mary that she would have a son in some miraculous way (because she wasnít married and hadnít had sexual intercourse) and that this childís name will be Jesus. Gabriel continued, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!" (Luke 1:32,33).
The angel promised Joseph that this child will "save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21).
God had kept his promise; a Saviour was born in Bethlehem to a poor couple, Mary and Joseph.

Having a baby is about the most exciting thing that can happen. We arenít told about how long Mary was in labour, was it an easy or difficult labour, who helped with the delivery, or how the couple felt as they held this tiny child in their arms for the first time. The Gospel writer is more concerned about telling us what kind of crib this baby had than anything else. I guess we can presume that Mary and Joseph were excited and over-awed like any other parents. They had a part to play in bringing a new life into the world.

But unlike other parents they had already had a preview of what kind of life this tiny child would have. They may not have known all the details but they had been told be the angel Gabriel that this was little bundle was "the Son of the Most High God" and that "he will save his people from their sin". They were told a few days later, that this child will bring them deep sadness. Old Simeon told them, "Sorrow like a sharp sword will break your own heart."

The name "Jesus" (Yeshua in Hebrew, often translated as "Joshua.") means, "God saves." Jesus would truly live up to his name. He would die as the Saviour of the world. The reason he came and was born in this world was so that he could die. When we look at a baby, we wonder what kind of life this child will have. We wonder what things will happen as life unfolds for this child, we donít give death a second thought. But with Jesus, it was different. Jesusí death was ever so important.

Thatís not to say that what happened between his birth and death isnít important. He did come to earth
to reveal God to all people....
to teach truth....
to fulfil the law....
to offer His kingdom.
He came to show us how to live...
he came to communicate God's love...
to bring peace...
to heal the sick and help to the needy.
But doing all these things wasnít the main reason that he came to earth as a human. All those things that I just mentioned could have been done without his being born as a human. He could have simply appeared - like the angel of God often did in the Old Testament - and accomplished everything in the above list, without literally becoming a human being, coming into the world in the same way as all of us do.

You see, Christmas is closely tied up with Good Friday and Easter. The story of Christmas by itself could be just another folk tale, or legend, or a nice story about a baby born in the most unfortunate circumstances. But when Christmas is connected with Good Friday then we see the birth in the stable from a whole different perspective.

Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, would one day have nails driven through them.
Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross.
That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes would one day have a crown of thorns forced on it.
That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be whipped and speared.
Jesus was born to die.....for your sins and mine...and the sins of all people.

I read a Christmas card a couple of years ago that said:

"If our greatest need was for information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need was for technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need was for pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer
If our greatest need was for money, God would have sent an economist.
But since our greatest need is for forgiveness...
God sent a Saviour...a Redeemer."

I donít want to put a dampener on your Christmas celebrations by talking about this babyís death, nor do I want to sound gruesome by talking about the death of a person who has just been born. But it is precisely for this reason that God became human Ė to save us from our sin. God kept the promises that he had made. He sent us a Saviour.

Take note of the promises of God has madethrough Jesus.

When God makes a promise he keeps it. In fact, the whole of the Bible is a story about God keeping his promises. And so at Christmas we celebrate with carols, nativity plays, Christmas trees, and giving gifts the fact that God is true to his Word. He has given us so much. He has sent us a Saviour as he had promised many centuries ago. God has given us the most precious gift that we can possible get at Christmas - the gift of his Son Jesus, our Saviour.

Next weekend we will be in the middle of our Christmas celebration. Recall with thanksgiving that God has kept his promises and that he welcomes us all into his kingdom and promises us life with him forever. It is no wonder old Simeon said, Now, Lord, you have kept your promise when he held the baby Jesus in his arms.

God has kept his promises as the Gospel writer reports, "All this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, "A virgin will become pregnant and have a son.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
17th December, 2000

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
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