WE ARE IN DARKNESS
Merry Christmas! David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Well, I have 3 kids.
Two of them are two-year-old twins, and it’s great to see the world through a Toddler’s eyes.
To them…the world is a safe place. It’s a good place.
Where you can run out in the street and surely cars will stop for you
Where they can grow up and be a doctor or a firefighter and unemployment isn’t a concept that exists yet
It’s a world where every person is 1 of 3 categories:
You’re either a baby, a kid, or if you’re one of those old people…you’re a mommy or a daddy.
There’s no concept of infertility, or divorce, or feeling alone on Christmas.
To them, the world is a merry place.
But for a lot of people, and maybe you’d include yourself in this group, the world doesn’t feel all that merry anymore.
Part of getting older is having to enter reality and see that the world is a darker place than you once thought as a child.
We live in a world where terrorism is rearing its ugly head causing many people to live in fear.
A culture where fewer children are living in a stable home than ever before
A country where the number of people experiencing depression has doubled in the last generation.
It’s getting dark.
And it’s not just the world around us, for many of us, we see it in our very own lives.
For many of us, when we were in high school, we plotted out what we were going to do with our lives.
In 9th grade, I narrowed my future life down to 3 possible futures: A teacher, a broadcaster, or a statistician.
I like to think my job is just a combination of those 3 J
But for most of us, life doesn’t turn out quite like we thought it would
You didn’t get the white picket fence with the fancy car
You didn’t get the McDreamy spouse by 25…or the 2.5 kids.
Instead of the dream we plotted out at 15, many of us have had to live through more pain than bliss.
Maybe you’ve experience your own job (and paycheck) slip through your hands
You have to watch a parent die.
Maybe your spouse leaves you
A child get sick
It’s a dark world. A hard one.
And I’m not sure we like to say that out loud a whole lot.
I think most of us would just prefer to numb it all out
In fact, I saw just this week that Netflix just introduced a “chill button”…where with one click of a button, it’ll turn on your television, dim the lights, fire up your Netflix cue, silence your phone calls, and…if you want…it can even be programmed to put in your favorite pizza order for delivery ALL with that same button push.
A) That’s awesome
B) It’s a good example for how we feel most days.
We mostly prefer to just suppress the reality of the darkness.
The numb it out.
And for much of the world…this is where we are.
Lost in darkness
Lost in a world we hoped would bring us light, but has mostly brought darkness instead.
CHRIST CAME; A LIGHT APPEARED
Thankfully, 2,000 years ago, a light appeared and began to cut through the darkness
Let’s look at the story of that light
(Matthew 2:1-16) – NIV
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’]” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[c] 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
So the Magi come from the East to see baby Jesus…the King
We like to think we know a lot about the Magi…but we really don’t.
We don’t know if there were 3 of them or 30 of them (just 3 gifts)
We don’t know their names
We don’t know if they rode camels or not
Or even if they arrived when Jesus was a baby or all the way up to 2 years old
And they most likely aren’t even Kings…so you can assume pretty much everything about the “We 3 Kings of Orient Are” is factually incorrect…
Except for the rubber cigar part J
Magi originally referred to a priestly cast in ancient Persia.
The magi were usually the leading experts in wisdom
Thus, they’re often called wise men
They were also leading experts in religion and science (specifically astrology, which partly explains their fascination with this particular star)
But why follow the star?
For one, it must have looked very different.
It was probably a miraculous event given that it seems to guide them and appear/disappear/reappear
And secondly, there was an ancient belief that a new celestial light above a certain land symbolized a birth of a king in that country.
Many scholars theorize that this particular group of people (the Magi) have knowledge of a coming Jewish Messiah through a particular person named Daniel.
About 550 years before Jesus, Daniel was a famous Jew who was in exile in Babylon (which later became Persia…where the wise men most likely came from)
But we’re also told in the book of Daniel in the Bible that this happened:
(Daniel 2:48) – NIV
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.
This is actually the same word as “Magi”…the same people.
And while Daniel was in charge of the Magi, he wrote many of his prophecies about the timing of the birth of Christ…thus giving the Magi the knowledge to know when to be waiting for this birth!
By the way, starting on January 3rd, we are going to begin a series that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
It’s going to be called “Stranger in a Strange Land”
And it’s going to be about the first half of the book of Daniel…and specifically, how Daniel, who was exiled to a foreign land, a land with a vastly differently culture, and yet Daniel still had INCREDIBLE influence without having to conform to the parts of the culture that were against his beliefs.
So definitely be back here on January 3rd as we begin that.
I think it’s going to be so relevant to life in…at that time…2016.
So these Magi follow a star to see Jesus.
God is bringing light into the darkness.
In the same way, the writer Matthew says that Jesus’ birth was to bring light.
He writes this in regards to the purpose of Jesus’ birth
(Matthew 4:14-16) – NIV
14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
LET THAT LIGHT IN
And yet, this star doesn’t need to hang around forever…because now, the real light…is Jesus himself.
Look at Jesus’ own words when he later begins his teaching ministry:
(John 8:12) – NIV
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Do you know that? Do you believe that?
And Jesus indeed was a light.
He still is today.
He’s the light of the world.
And yet…too many of us deceive ourselves, and we say, “The light is boring, what I want, is the intrigue of the darkness!”
And we go back into the dark
By the way, Jesus knew we would do this…both as individuals and as cultures
(John 3:19) – NIV
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
And we don’t like to do evil in the light where others can see.
But don’t let the dark trick you…don’t let it deceive you.
If you walk in the darkness, you’ll get disoriented.
And when you’re disoriented, you don’t know where to go…which means you’re going to bump into a lot of the things…that you wouldn’t…if the light was just on.
Follow the light.
GO to the light.
The light is a symbol of hope.
You might even feel right now like you’re in an ocean of darkness (SHUT ALL THE LIGHTS OFF IN THE ROOM)
Maybe you’re here this afternoon…and while everyone else seems so happy at Christmas time…you’re not.
In all honesty, the world feels kind of dark.
It’s not working.
Or You’re not happy.
Or maybe you don’t know which way to go.
(TURN FLASHLIGHT ON)
But look at the light.
The light of Christ is calling you.
It might look small to you right now.
God’s voice might seem faint or small to you right now, but I assure you, it is there.
And DO NOT underestimate this light.
All the darkness in the room…cannot overwhelm this small light.
The Gospel writer John says about Jesus at Christmas in John 1: “his light shines in the darkness, and the darkness, HAS NOT OVERCOME IT”
It didn’t matter that it was “just a baby” born in a stable
It didn’t matter that Herod tried to kill him
It didn’t even matter that they killed him on the cross.
Out of the grave, the light shone again…and it’s been breaking forth into the world ever since.
The darkness CAN NOT overcome it.
Don’t underestimate this light because of how small it may seem at first.
Walk towards it.
I assure you it gets brighter.
(TURN LIGHTS ON AGAIN)
Come back to it again.
Even if you’re here this afternoon, and you used to follow the light…but you’ve lost track of the light, like the Magi who couldn’t see the star for a while when they got to Jerusalem…seek it out again.
Find it again like they did.
Come back to it.
And if you see it again today, follow it.
There is nothing more powerful than hope.
There’s a true story that’s been told of an elderly woman named Stella Thornhope who was struggling with her first Christmas alone.
Her husband had died just a few months prior, and now, several days before Christmas, she was almost snowed in by a brutal storm.
She was feeling so down that she decided she wouldn’t even decorate for Christmas this year.
Late that afternoon the doorbell rang, and there was a delivery boy with a box.
He said, "Mrs. Thornhope?"
And he said, "Would you sign here?"
She invited him to step inside and closed the door to get away from the cold.
She signed the paper and said, "What's in the box?"
The young man laughed and opened up the flap, and inside was a little puppy, a golden Labrador Retriever.
The delivery boy picked up the squirming pup and explained, "This is for you, Ma'am. He's six weeks old, completely housebroken."
The young puppy began to wiggle in happiness at being released from captivity.
"Who sent this?" Mrs. Thornhope asked.
The young man set the animal down and handed her an envelope and said, "It's all explained here in this envelope, Ma'am. The dog was bought last July while its mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift to you.
In desperation she asked again, "Who sent me this, this puppy?"
As the young man turned to leave, he said, "Your husband, Ma'am. Merry Christmas."
Astonished, she opened up the letter from her husband.
He had written it three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her.
The letter was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong.
He vowed that he was waiting for the day when she would join him.
He had sent her the puppy as a symbol of hope.
God has a way of sending a signal of light to remind us life is stronger than death.
Light is more powerful than darkness.
HOPE IS STRONGER THAN ALL THE DARKNESS IN THE WORLD.
This woman, Stella, she had hope again.
In a dark world of disorientation where you can’t see where to go…what you need is hope.
And hope can be small at first.
Just a puppy.
Or…just a small light.
But follow it.
Walk towards it.
Walk out of the darkness.
And when you walk towards the light of Jesus, he can make your life…become a light.
Look at the END of John 8:12 this time.
(John 8:12) – NIV
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
If you put your faith in Jesus Christ…he can help you walk in the light.
That means…to give you direction…not disorientation.
To give you hope…not despair
To give you purpose.
And the question for you this Christmas is…will you stay in the darkness…or walk towards the light?
And let me talk specifically for a moment to those of you who haven’t yet followed Jesus.
You maybe believe that he exists…he lived…but you wouldn’t say you have a relationship with him…you talk to Him everyday…you’ve put your faith in Him.
If that’s you…know that right now…at this unique moment in your life…the flashlight is on.
He brought you here for a reason.
And he’s showing you his light in the darkness.
Will you follow it?
Will you choose to follow Him?
Or perhaps the better question is…will you choose to let him rescue you?
I want you to imagine that you are lost at sea, holding on to a wooden plank…and you’re freezing to death in the middle of the night…bobbing up and down… not sure you can make it even one more hour.
And you see a light of a ship in the distance.
Now you have a choice:
You can do nothing…
Or, you can reach out…call out to the light…and let them come to save you.
But one thing is for certain: In the middle of the vast ocean…you can not save yourself.
And the Bible says that we, through the darkness of our own lives, are drowning ourselves in an ocean of sin…and we cannot…save ourselves.
In fact, just a few verses after Jesus declares himself the light of the World, he says:
(John 8:24) – NIV
24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
He says, “if you do not believe that I am he.”
That is…that He is God’s son, sent to earth at Christmas, to die on a cross and rise again on Easter Weekend.
And Jesus did indeed die on a cross…
And he did so to pay the price for our sins.
To take our place. Our punishment.
But the only way we can be forgiven, is to believe that he did that for us.
The only to be forgiven is to reach our hand out to him…otherwise we drown…because we can not save ourselves
We die in our sins, because without believing in Jesus, the punishment for our sins stays on us, and not on him.
But that can all be changed through our faith
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If you, in the ocean of darkness, raise your hand up to God and say, “Hey, I’m right here! I see the light! Right here! I can’t do it myself. Rescue me!”
If you do that, he will.
And he can forgive everything you’ve ever done.
Offering you eternal life with him in heaven, not in hell.
And He can start to change your life RIGHT NOW.
As he brings that powerful light inside of you…and begins to change you, like he has for hundreds of people already in this room.
So if you’re sitting here this Christmas, and you want that in your life…I want to give you the opportunity to let that light come in.
In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to do this …in just a few moments, I’m actually going to ask you to respond by raising your hand up to God.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am. In the ocean. I can’t save myself. But I see your light. Rescue me.”
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
This is just a way for you to symbolically say, “I believe. I’m putting my faith in Jesus.
“From this moment onward, to the best of my ability, I will be a follower of this amazing JESUS.
Maybe this isn’t what you thought would happen when you came to church today.
I’m not sure the Magi were expecting to see what they saw when they got to Bethlehem either.
But when they saw the Light of the World…up close…the only response they had was to bow and worship.
So if you see the light of Jesus…and you know it’s time to let it in…give him your life.
He’ll do amazing things with your life, when you let His light in.
So wherever you are, all across this room right now.. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to raise your hand up to Him wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If your hand is raised, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
(you can keep your eyes closed)
If your hand is raised, I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take 2 minutes, but it’s 2 of the most important minutes of your life.
In just a second, I’m going to pray, and right as I begin praying, I need you quietly sneak out of your row, and go to the back of the room
This is step one in trusting the goodness of the light.
Our follow-up team is back there by the blue rectangle to give you some extremely important resources to get started on the most important journey in your life.
So head back there…it’ll only take 2 minutes…and you’ll be able to sneak back to your seat
Let me pray (You can go back)
PLAY CHRISTMAS LIGHT VIDEO
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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