Fit for the King, 27 December 2020

Fit for a King
Mark 12:30

Big Idea: We are to glorify God not only with our heart, soul, and mind but also our bodies.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. It was great to worship with many of you, both here on campus and with those who participated online.

Here we are…that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s. Gifts are returned. Decorations come down. Toys are broken! And if you’re like me, you may have eaten too many Christmas cookies which leads to those dreadful
new year’s resolutions! I think our entire world is looking forward to Friday, though the calendar change will not end the pandemic, political chaos, and division in our land, unfortunately. But a new year is a chance to develop a new you, to maybe set some goals, begin some new habits, and get a fresh start.

I want to challenge you with two things:

  1. 1. Mission:119 (
  2. 2. 40 Days of Prayer (

According to YouGov, 28% of Americans planned to make New Year’s resolutions last year: 39% of Millennials, 30% of us GenXers, and 19% of Baby Boomers. The most popular resolutions are

  1. 1. Exercise more (50%)
  2. 2. Save money (49%)
  3. 3. Eat more healthily (43%)
  4. 4. Lose weight (37%)
  5. 5. Reduce stress (34%)
  6. 6. Get more sleep (30%)
  7. 7. Stick to a budget (30%)
  8. 8. Focus on spiritual growth (28%)
  9. 9. Travel more (25%)
  10. 10. Learn a new skill (25%)


I think they are all noble quests, but I found the first seven especially fascinating because they all fit into two categories: money (2, 7) and body (1, 3, 4, 5, 6).

We’ll talk about money in the future, but today’s focus is on the body, becoming
Fit for the King.

The Jewish Bible we call the Old Testament is loaded with hundreds of rules and commands about everything from relationships to animal sacrifices. Religious leaders would add their own rules, traditions, and interpretations to suit their preferences and ensure others would be impressed by their outward piety (despite their prideful, unseen hearts).

During Jesus’ years on earth teaching and modeling what it means to be human and glorify God, he was asked which of the laws was most important. He replied,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

I think most people understand what it means to love with your heart. After all, a heart is the symbol of love. The original Greek word here for heart, kardia, refers to feelings. We can emote love to God. Loving God with all your soul is different. It involves the spirit, something a bit more abstract, perhaps. The Greek word psuche literally means breath. Many in the western world understand loving God with our mind. We read and study the Bible. We develop statements of faith and talk theology, helping one another understand a knowable yet mysterious Creator God. Loving God with our mind can involve our imagination and understanding in addition to mere facts and data.

But then there’s the last one. How do we love the Lord with all our strength, our might, our ability, our power? This certainly takes on a physical dimension. First, a little church history lesson.

In the early days of Christianity, there were some who believed the body and all material reality are evil. This was called Gnosticism. These people thought only the spiritual was good, and salvation was achieved by moving toward a purely spiritual state, transcending the body. Even today, some churches see the body as just a temporary skin that will burn up, a vehicle for our journey on earth until the bus to heaven comes. All that matters, they teach, is the spirit, the soul.

The opening pages of the Bible in the book of Genesis reveal everything as created by God, for God, and for God’s glory…including you and your body. God’s reaction to His work was repeatedly “very good.” Obviously sin has corrupted God’s beautiful work, but that never classified the material world as evil.

Our celebration of the birth of Jesus is testimony to this. He came as Emmanuel, God with in what we call the incarnation. God became flesh. Jesus came into our world with a real body like ours. His presence. To quote writer Ragan Sutterfield,

Early theologians saw this as a work by which Christ was renewing creation, restoring the bodily life through resurrection. Christ’s mission was not to rescue spirits for an ephemeral heaven, but rather to bring resurrection to a created order that had been trapped by the powers of Death. For Christians, the body is not a thing to transcend, but to resurrect.

Someday our bodies will be like the resurrected body of Jesus, but a physical body nonetheless.
Our bodies are not evil. In fact, Paul gave a wonderful teaching to the church in Corinth about our bodies. He said,

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Where is God? God is everywhere, but God’s Spirit which used to appear in different places throughout scripture was unleashed in the second chapter of Acts. The Jewish temple in Israel was destroyed, but now God lives within every follower of Jesus.

We are God’s temple.

What a remarkable reality! God’s house is not this building. It’s us! This might be why we sometimes talk about letting Jesus come into our heart. We invite God to dwell, to make His home in us. It doesn’t mean that we are God or become God, but that God lives in us.

You were made by God.
You were made for God.
You were made for God’s glory. This includes your body.

Your body is a gift from God. No matter how it compares to supermodels or professional athletes, you were created by God in His image with dignity, value, and worth. All of our bodies are different—and they change over time—but we’ve been given them to bring glory to God.

How do we love God with our body?

We can glorify God with what we
put into our bodies.

I’m not going to shame you for your holiday feasting, but think about your fuel. If you put Mountain Dew in a car’s gas tank, how long would it run? If you feed a dog nothing but Cheetos, how healthy would it become?

When I was a kid growing up in church, I used to hear people say, “Don’t smoke. Your body is a temple.” We know now that tobacco use can harm our bodies, leading to cancer and other ailments. But do you know what the number one killer in the USA is?

Presently, it’s COVID-19…so please wear a mask to protect those around you. It’s a simple way to possibly save lives.

The number two killer—and the number one killer in most years—is heart disease. I always found it ironic when an overweight, potluck-loving preacher told people to avoid tobacco while he ate his way toward death! One large Christian comedian remarked, “If the body is a temple, I’m a megachurch!”

I think we all realize obesity, COVID-19, cigarettes, and drug abuse can be harmful to our temples. What we are learning more about is nutrition and the effects of chemicals in our foods. I’m not a nutritionist, but good information is easy to find. One of our church members, Nancy Pickens, is a great resource on nutrition.

We can glorify God with what we
do with our bodies.

I asked for some input on this sermon from Nancy and her husband, Dr. Michael Pickens. Here’s what he said:

Loving God with all our strength means using our body to show God you love Him. This means directly loving Him through our worship and by giving Him the first fruits of our labors, both of which require using our bodies. And, it involves loving others as Jesus commanded us - being His hands and feet, which also involves using our physical bodies.

Therefore, we are to “enthusiastically” use our physical bodies, the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, to show God we love Him. How are we going to be able to do this foggy headed, tired/exhausted, and sick all of the time, because we are eating refined and nutritionally deficient artificial foods and not exercising? We can’t! How can we give abundantly from the fruits of our labor if we are spending a huge chunk of our income on doctors’ visits, drugs and hospital stays? We can’t!

To “run the race”, to “fight the good fight”, we need to get back to nourishing our bodies with the bounty that nature provides. God’s nature. Fruits and a lot of veggies in a rainbow of colors, with smaller amounts of meat and grains… Who would want to fly in an airplane made out of parts from a junk yard?

And, we have to get out of our chairs and move! That doesn’t mean tedious hours on end on the elliptical trainer or pumping iron for endless hours in the gym, unless you like to do those things. Walk, bike, swim. You can play games, such as tennis or pickle ball. Make it fun! Just do it on a regular basis. Make arms and legs of steel, instead of spaghetti, to serve our God with all your strength!

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

There’s not much in the Bible about working out at the gym, swimming, or playing pickle ball, but that’s because they didn’t spend 93% of their time indoors…or driving cars! I doubt Jesus and his friends lacked exercise.

That reminds of one of my favorite stories. Entertainer John Davidson was told by his dad that he could have the keys to the car for the upcoming prom if he got straight A’s in school, read the Bible every day, and cut his hair. On the night of the prom, he asked his dad if he could drive the car. His dad said, “You had to do three things.” John replied, “I got straight A’s and read my Bible every day.” His dad said, “Son, you didn’t cut your hair.” John said, “Dad, Jesus had long hair,” to which his dad wisely added, “Jesus walked everywhere he went!”

We can glorify God with what we do with our bodies…and that includes rest. We are human beings, not human doings. We need good rest daily. We need to sabbath weekly, taking a day off to enjoy God and those things which bring us joy and delight. We need to use our vacation days, recharging not only our bodies, but our brains. I’ve heard many say the pandemic has caused them to slow down, which can be a good thing, especially when we’re driven to be so busy. I find it’s easier to focus, care for others, pray, and work well when I’m well-rested. Self-care is vital, and that includes rest.

There’s another issue related to what we do with our bodies that Paul addressed to that church in Corinth. He said,

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:16-17)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)   

As I’ve said before, sexual immorality is essentially any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and woman. I know, it’s not politically correct, but that’s God’s plan. Making Jesus Lord means making him master, following his wisdom, obeying his commands. We’re given the freedom to make choices about what we put into our bodies and what we do with our bodies, but those decisions have consequences. I don’t mean to be simplistic, but Daddy knows best. God can be trusted…even with your body. I’ve never met someone who kept themselves pure and regretted it, but there are plenty of examples of people who did whatever felt good at the time, only to find themselves with unwanted pregnancies, diseases, or memories.

If you are a follower of Jesus, God lives in your body. Honor God with your body.

There’s one more thing I want to mention about loving God with our bodies.

We are the
hands and feet of Jesus to those we encounter.

People can’t see your heart, your soul, or your mind. They only see our bodies. We are to be Jesus with skin on, the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s been said that you are the only Bible some people will ever read. Whether you know it or not, people are watching you if you call yourself a Christian. They’re evaluating whether you’re real or a faker. Do you act like Jesus or just talk religious? How you treat your body and use it to serve others matters. Actions speak louder than words, and when we love well, it will be noticed.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

You can’t have a part-time Lord. He’s master and controller…or not. Following Jesus is not a Sunday-thing. It’s a 24/7/365 devotion to your Maker. Jesus calls us to love him with
all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind…and with all of our strength…our body.

So What?

What’s your next step today? Perhaps you should make some new year’s resolutions to better take care of the temple. I’ve been trying to do ten pushups a day. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Maybe you need to reduce the food products with ingredients you can’t pronounce, order the small instead of the large portion, or simply eat more fruits and vegetables. Some of you need to choose once and for all to honor God with your body in the bedroom. I believe rest some of us need more rest, whether it’s sleep, taking a weekly sabbath, or using all of your vacation days (I said “some of us!”). We could probably all do more to use our bodies to serve, bless, and love others. Jesus said the most important command was to love God, but then he added,

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

My prayer for you and me is that we would honor God with our bodies in 2021, loving God well and loving others well. To God be the glory!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Away in a Manger, 20 December 2020

Away in a Manger
Luke 2:16-20

Series Big Idea:
Carols are the soundtrack of the season as we celebrate Advent.

Big Idea: Baby Jesus in the manager is now LORD of lords, calling us to surrender.

Around 700 BC, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Our Advent candle this week is
peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. It’s a little ironic that we lit the peace candle between our two angel songs that terrified the shepherds in their fields!

The Messiah has many names. In that one verse, Isaiah mentions several. What is your favorite name for God? Our Advent series is called
Carols and our song of the day, Away in a Manger, features one of the most important yet often ignored word…LORD.

There are countless images that depict the birth of the Messiah. In addition to paintings, we have three-dimensional models we call…
nativity scenes or…creches.

For as long as I can remember, our home has always had a nativity scene. It’s tradition for us to set up Mary, Joseph, the animals…and hide baby Jesus until Christmas morning. It’s part of the Advent celebration, the waiting for the coming, the arrival.

We’ve noted before how
many nativity scenes are historically inaccurate. After all, the wise men or Magi from the east arrived later, perhaps two years later! Matthew chapter two records that event. If you have a creche at home, you might want to move the wise men…to your backyard!

Side note: there are many myths about the Christmas story that are completely unbiblical…but that’s probably for another time!

Two weeks ago looked at the beginning of the second chapter of Luke’s gospel account of the life of Jesus the Messiah and the shepherds’ encounter with the angels. Verse sixteen continues…

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:16)

Obviously the manger is featured in Away in a Manger.

Away in a manger no crib for a bed
The King of kings had no thousand-dollar stroller. He was not born in a hospital—modern or ancient. There was no mention of his birth in the Jerusalem Daily News. He was not placed in a $700 crib…but rather a manger…a food trough. How royal!

Nativity scenes often show the manger as a wooden vessel with straw, but first-century mangers may have looked like
this (cement). I took this picture in Israel. Would you put your baby—or grandbaby—in that? I suppose if you had no other choice, you would.
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head
Obviously Jesus was little…and apparently His head was sweet! How can you argue with that?
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay
That’s a beautiful image, isn’t it? Stars shining down upon a baby sleeping on a pile of hay.
Away in a Manger was published in the late nineteenth century. For years people thought it was the work of Martin Luther, it is now believed to be an American song with music written by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James Ramsey Murray (1887).
In 1945, Richard Hill suggested Away in a Manger might have originated in "a little play for children to act or a story about Luther celebrating Christmas with his children," likely connected with the 400th anniversary of the reformer's birth in 1883. This might explain why it was called Luther’s Cradle Song.
The cattle are lowing the Baby awakes
Quick quiz: lowing means
  1. a. The position of the cattle’s head
  2. b. Another term for grazing
  3. c. A sound cattle make
The correct answer is C. But the Bible says nothing about cattle! I’m not sure it says anything about animals other than animals ate from mangers…and shepherds tended sheep. Maybe cows were present. Maybe not. According to the song, the cattle make a noise, wake up the baby…
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes
This is the line I question. It’s a quaint notion, but most babies cry when they are suddenly woken. But I wasn’t there! If the point is Jesus never cried, it’s blatantly false. He was fully human and babies cry!
There is a heresy called Docetism which states Jesus was God but not human. I can’t explain it, but
Jesus is fully human and fully God. Last week we noted John 1:14…
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Jesus being human is vital for several reasons. First, his death and resurrection would certainly be questioned if he wasn’t human. Second, his perfect example of what it means to be human would be lost. Furthermore, his humanity allows him to understand what it’s like to be sick, tired, tempted, angry, and joyful.
Speaking of Jesus, the book of Hebrews declares,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
This is wonderful news. Not only is God with us, Emmanuel, but He understands all of the dynamics of life on earth. He’s been here! He’s faced all of the challenges we face.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
What a beautiful promise! We can have a relationship with God. We can pour out our hearts in prayer. We can be real with God.
We are to respect God, but we don’t need to be overly formal. Religion often keeps God at a distance, requiring special places, words, or rituals in order to get His attention.
He’s right here. He’s with us. He’s not out to get you. He’s not sleeping. He knows life is hard. He grieves when we grieve. He shares our joys and sorrows. He loves you. He proved it by dying for you! How are we to respond?

I love Thee Lord Jesus look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle 'til morning is nigh

We love Him because He first loved us.

It didn’t take the shepherds long to love Jesus. They were the first evangelists, proclaimers of good news.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:17-18)

There are so many dimensions to the Christmas story. We’ve mentioned the manger. There was Joseph. Jesus. The angels. The shepherds. Those who heard about the birth from the shepherds. And, of course, Jesus’ mother.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

We looked at Mary’s tragic and triumphant life two years ago during Advent. She experienced the joy of bringing the Messiah into the world, but she endured shame as an unwed mom, gave birth in an inadequate place, would watch the horror of her son’s death, and after he rose from the dead, departing earth weeks later. This was a moment she would treasure, though, as she held God with skin on in her arms.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

We have followed this pattern ever since. We gather to glorify and praise God. We worship with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He deserves it. He is worthy!
Be near me Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever and love me I pray Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there
Jesus is called “lord” more than 700 times in the New Testament (though I didn’t actually count!)! The Greek word for Lord is kurios, meaning supreme in authority, controller, Master, God. It is not a casual or passive term, but one demanding devotion.

Jesus is not only Savior, but also Lord.

We have a problem with Lord. As I’ve often said, there are vampire Christians who only want Jesus for his blood. They want to use Jesus as Savior, grateful for the cross and the get-out-of-hell-free card they imagine obtaining, but they aren’t followers of Jesus. They may give him an hour on Sunday, but the rest of the week is theirs to live however they feel…whatever makes them happy. After all, we’re Americans and we have the right to do whatever we want so long as we don’t hurt anyone, right?

Not if you have Lord.

You follow a Lord.
You obey a Lord.
You submit to a Lord.

If every Christian truly made Jesus Lord, the Church would look so different. The world would look so different!

You may recall the angel declared Jesus is Lord to the shepherds.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

It’s not enough to call Jesus your Lord. Jesus said,

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

My favorite scripture in the Bible says,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

All your heart. All your ways. Do you trust the LORD? Can you prove it? God can be trusted. He’s not a control freak demanding your obedience, but a loving Father who knows what’s best for us, even when we sometimes don’t understand at the moment what He’s doing. Most of us trust God in some areas. He is lord in certain “rooms” of our house, so to speak. But usually we don’t trust God in the areas in which we do not know Him, the rooms in which we’ve never let Him in. We think we’ll trust God after He proves to be trustworthy, but we really need to reverse it. He is trustworthy. He does know best. He is at work in the universe and He wants a relationship with you. But first you must let go. You must surrender. That can be scary, especially for those of you who have had trauma and trust issues with humans. But I promise you, Jesus can be trusted. The consequences of making Jesus Lord are not only immediate, but also eternal.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Those are sobering words, and they were spoken by Lord Jesus. Calling Jesus Lord does not make Jesus Lord.

So What?

Jesus may be your friend.
Jesus may be your Savior.
Is Jesus your Lord?

We don’t make Jesus Lord. He is. We choose to surrender to His control…or not.

Where have you not fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus?
What’s holding you back?
What next steps do you need to take to more fully surrender to Christ?

When you surrender your life, you discover your life (Matthew 10:39).


Away in a Manger is a classic Christmas carol. It draws our attention to a little baby asleep on the hay, but that baby didn’t stay in the manger. He grew, taught, healed, modeled for us what it means to be human, forgave sins, died a brutal death, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and he’s coming back. Advent is about celebrating his first visit to our planet…and awaiting his second coming soon. He will rule and reign forever and ever. He is the King of kings. He is the LORD of lords.

As we sing this song today—and as you hear it throughout the season—I encourage you to focus on Lord Jesus…and make him your Lord.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

O Come, All Ye Faithful, 13 December 2020

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Series Big Idea: Carols are the soundtrack of the season as we celebrate Advent.

Big Idea: Joy is the result of focusing our attention upon Jesus the Messiah who is worthy of our adoration.

Last week we began our Advent series, Carols. This season has its own soundtrack, a diverse collection of songs ranging from the silly (Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer) to the sacred (last Sunday’s theme, O Holy Night). Today we’re going to look at a seventeenth century song originally written in Latin, Adeste Fideles. We know it as O Come, All Ye Faithful.

What do you think about when hear the word “faithful?” Couples promise on their wedding day to be faithful to one another until death. We sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as we worship our trustworthy LORD. lists these definitions for the adjective

  • - Strict or thorough in the performance of duty
  • - True to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.
  • - Steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant
  • - Reliable, trusted, or believed
  • - Adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate

Then it lists the definitions of the noun

  • - The believers, especially members of a Christian church or adherents of Islam
  • - The body of loyal members of any party or group

True. Steady. Loyal. Reliable. Trusted. Believed. Accurate. Do these words describe you? Do they describe us? If so, come. O Come, All Ye Faithful.

The root of the word faithful is…faith. There is a belief, a conviction behind the faithful. The faithful are full of faith. Are you?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible involves a boy possessed by a spirit. He would be thrown to the ground, foam a the mouth, gnash his teeth, and become rigid. It’s a disturbing situation. John Mark writes about his encounter with Jesus.

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (Mark 9:20)

Jesus asked the boy’s father,
“How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.
“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:21-22)

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

This is one of my personal prayers—
I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

Put another way, LORD, help me trust You more. Give me faith. Strengthen my faithfulness and loyalty to you.

The challenge to faithfulness is distraction. This is true for a married person whose eyes wander. It is true for the religious person who explores another faith. It can be true for Christians who become more devoted to the things of this world rather than the things of God.

One of the most famous Christmas carols begins
O come all ye faithful
Are you among the faithful? Are you a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Based upon my aforementioned prayer, I want to be, though I sometimes fail. The next line describes the manner in which God’s faithful people are to come.
Joyful and triumphant
Our Advent candle this week is joy. We are taught by the Declaration of Independence to pursue happiness. I want to be happy, but it’s hard to sustain. It comes and goes. It’s usually based upon circumstances, many of which we cannot control.
I am very happy today because my Michigan Wolverines did not lose to that team down south yesterday!
Unfortunately, a loss in the future is inevitable and I will be unhappy!
But joy is different. Happiness is external, where joy is more internal. The Greek word,
chara, means gladness, calm delight. We can pursue joy. We can choose it. C.S. Lewis said,
“No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
He called joy “the serious business of heaven,” noting, “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is,” wondering, “whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.” In our text last week, we read,

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
Nehemiah famously said in the book (8:10) that bears his name, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Joy is found in the LORD, not shopping malls or Hallmark Christmas movies! C.S Lewis wrote,
“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone.”
The faithful are joyful and triumphant. Although it didn’t look like it as Jesus was crucified, he was actually winning, destroying sin and death forever. He is the victor, the champion, the greatest…and being with him, being for him, being faithful to him allows us to be joyful and triumphant.

Joy is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If you want joy, you must get close to the LORD. The message of today’s carol is just that…get close to the LORD, come and behold God in a manger.

O come ye O come ye to Bethlehem Come and behold Him Born the King of angels
Obviously, we are not instructed to fly to Israel and visit Bethlehem, though you can. It’s a real city. The message is for God’s faithful to come and worship.
O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him Christ the Lord
What do you adore? What do you worship or honor or admire? What do you think about, spend time on, give your money to, focus your energies upon? “You are what you love (James K. A. Smith).”
The original Latin version of O Come, All Ye Faithful may have been written by St. Bonaventure, John Francis Wade, John Reading, King John IV of Portugal, or anonymous Cistercian monks somewhere between the 13
th and 18th century. We are more certain that the English translation was done by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley in 1841, with three additional verses added by William Thomas Brooke. First published in Murray’s Hymnal in 1852, Oakeley originally called the song, “Ye Faithful, approach ye.” The musical tune has been attributed to several musicians.
My favorite part of the song has always been the dynamics of the chorus. After joyfully singing the verses, there is a hush when the chorus begins,
O come let us adore Him, then getting louder each time until the crescendo of the song’s subject, Christ the LORD. Our response to knowing God is worship and adoration.
The second verse reflects the second chapter of Luke we examined last Sunday.
Sing choirs of angels Sing in exultation O sing all ye bright Hosts of heav'n above Glory to God all Glory in the highest
What a site that must’ve been for the shepherds who witnessed it.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, (Luke 2:13)   

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)   

There’s a difference between Advent songs and Christmas songs. We are in the middle of Advent, the season of waiting for the coming, a time of anticipation. We are expecting the return of Jesus soon, though we also reflect back upon those who were waiting for his first coming. Perhaps the most famous Advent song is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The title says it all. Come, LORD! We are waiting, we are anticipating. We are waiting until December 25…waiting to open presents, waiting for Christmas dinner, waiting for the day we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. O Come, All Ye Faithful is best sung on that day, especially the third verse.
Yea Lord we greet Thee Born this happy morning Jesus to Thee be all glory giv'n Word of the Father Now in flesh appearing
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)   

Eugene Peterson captured this so brilliantly in
The Message when he translated,

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish. (John 1:14,
The Message)   

Emmanuel, God with us. Flesh and blood. One of us. God with skin on. Amazing!

So What?
Once again, our response to knowing God is worship and adoration. When we ponder who He is and all that He has done, how can we not praise Him? How can we not come and adore Him?
I know some of you love to sing…and others would just as soon skip to the sermon! Worship is so much more than singing songs. It is one way we adore the LORD, and the angels set a great example on the night of Jesus’ birth.

Last week we talked about posture, particularly the humble act of kneeling. I’ve been in places where the awe of God has caused people to clap, raise their hands, kneel, lie on the floor, dance, weep, and shout. I’m not talking about putting on a show, drawing attention to one’s self, being a charismaniac, or feeling peer pressure to perform for others. I’m simply talking about our response to God.

There’s a powerful scene in Luke’s gospel where Jesus is having dinner at the home of a religious Pharisee.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)

This disturbed the host who was quick to label her a “sinner,” as if he wasn’t! Jesus used it as a teaching moment.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)

Then Jesus said to her,
“Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49)

Jesus said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

She was faithful. She was full of faith. She came to adore Jesus.

She also had many sins. She received great forgiveness. She expressed great love.

That describes some of you. You know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel, and you’ve experienced the thrill of forgiveness, the outlandish—some call it reckless—love of God. You can’t help but sing, shout, wail, dance in response to all God has done for you.

Some of you are more…reserved! It may be culture. It may be tradition. It may be your personality. That’s fine. But perhaps it’s because you’ve simply lost the awe, wonder, mystery, and majesty of Almighty God. You’ve forgotten the price paid for your salvation. You’ve reduced your faith to some beliefs in your head rather than a transformation of your heart. I want to encourage you to take time this Advent to read, reflect, and become captivated by the joy of the Messiah, the wonder of the season, the love that came down at Christmas. We are told to remember because we so easily forget, we get comfortable, things become familiar and we lose our passion.

We’ve all sinned—a lot—and our reflection upon the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb should lead us to fall to our knees, to be joyful and triumphant, to come and adore Him! He is worthy!

O Come, All Ye Faithful

One more thing…

Worship and adoration is more than singing songs on Sunday morning. It’s how we live our lives, what we do with our time, talents, and treasures. We worship through our generosity, kindness, love…heart, soul, mind, and strength. Family, go worship the King!

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