S-1288 CD 3B 12/25/11 Hymns: (O) #387; #364; (S) #370; LS. 374; 379; 375; (C) #388
Text: Isaiah 7:11-14; John 1:1-14; Isaiah 40:1-11
Theme: “What Child Is This” (Isaiah 40:1-11)
Question: “Did you children turn out as you wanted?” Armour, SD.
Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to you and your family; the text for our Christmas celebration is from Isaiah 40: “Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the Word of our God will stand forever.
Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold Your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (1-11 ).
In Nomini Iesu,
Every parent’s wish, hope, aspiration and dream are that their children will grow up to be good citizens. For those of us called to follow Christ, our standard is a bit higher. We long for our children to be godly.
Whether the story I am about to share with you is only a legend or truth, I don’t know. But this much is fact. In 1662 @ Bastille, France in the ledger of the prison, a prisoner was identified as “Prisoner #64389000 who wore an iron mask.” This prompted Director Randall Wallace to produce the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask.”
The story takes place in France. Louis 14 is King, but he has an identical twin brother (the man in the mask) imprisoned to hide his identity. King Louis is ruthless, cold, callus and cruel. While his people were starving to death, he was living in luxury and indulging himself with the pleasures of life.
Three of his former body guards, former Musketeers set out to rescue the Man in the Iron Mask and place him on the throne instead of his brother Louis. These Musketeers were hoping to have a good king who will be honorable and deal kindly with his subjects.
When the man (Philip) with mask is rescued the three Musketeers asked him “If he would be willing to risk it all and be the king of France?” Philip responded, “You have rescued me from hell prison, and I am thankful. But I need a good reason which you have not given me to be a king.” Athos said: “I had my Raoul, Porthos had his lust for life, Aramis had his faith and D’Artagnan had his devotion. But we all had a common dream that one day we would finally serve a king worthy of the dream.” Athos continued, “We have dreamed, bled fought for, and spent our whole life waiting to see a king who would be good and kind. Show me that my son Raoul’s life was not in vain!”
Philip accepts the challenge to be the king of France knowing the risk that he and the three Musketeers are undertaking—putting their lives on the line if they are discovered. PAUSE.
The Man with the Iron Mask might be a legend or true, I don’t know. But the story I am about to share with you today is most certainly true. It is the story of a Child, born to a couple in Bethlehem who will not be ruthless, but righteous, not cold but caring, not cruel but compassionate, and not callus but committed to saving the Human race.
Unlike King Louis the 14 who only thought of Himself, this New Born King of Israel, thought of the whole world and that is why He came—He came to remedy the problem of sin that caused mankind to suffer the punishment of hell.
For this reason, Isaiah tells us in the text: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins…Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold Your God!’ Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Is. 40:1-2, 9-11).
Now this is a picture of a noble and honorable King—a King who will shepherd His people; a King who will lead His people the young and the old; a King who with His mighty arms and outstretched hands cares and feeds His people. PAUSE.
The Hymn writer asks the question “What Child is This? He is God Child’s. He is Mary’s Child and He is Your King and Lord. This Child didn’t have anyone fighting for Him to put Him on the Throne. This Child didn’t have anyone toiled and dreamed about Him ruling their lives. No this Child was God’s gift to the World. John the Gospel writer put it this way: “For God so loved the world (kosmos) that He gave His One and Only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
This is why Christmas is so special. It is about the Child that came and does come even today. A Child of heaven mingling with the children of earth so that He can lift them up to be children of the heavenly Father. He did this when He lived His perfect life from the moment He laid His sweet and gentle head in the cradle all the way to the wood of the cross and with those outstretched arms, He announced to the world that He will embrace you, forgive you, love you and care for you. This is no ordinary Child, but God’s Child, a Child who will be more than just a noble king, but a grand and glorious King and the King of kings. PAUSE.
Therefore, today we keep our eyes on the Manger and the cross and there behold our God—the Babe of Bethlehem. Isaiah emphasizes the work of this child with these words: “He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). There were no green pastures. Rather spit and blood are caked on His cheeks. Neither were there quiet waters, in fact, no water at all. His lips are cracked and swollen and His throat is parched from the hot Palestinian sun. He’s passing through the valley of the shadow of death as pain twangs her morbid melody. There’s no rod or staff for comfort. The cup overflows all-right ... He drinks from the cup of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Surely goodness and mercy have been twisted and perverted in the most inhumane way. Mary’s little Lamb is crucified, dead and buried.
But, but Isaiah 40:8 announces “The Word of our God stands forever.” The Word stands when Israel bursts forth from Babylon. The Word stands when the Babe bursts forth from Bethlehem. And climactically after three days the Word stands when Jesus bursts forth from Joseph’s tomb.
“Comfort, comfort my people.” That’s what the Shepherd does. When I’m lost and exiled He leaves the ninety-nine and runs after me. When I’m confused by voices of demons and devils He calls me by name and I know that voice. When I’m dirty and full of filth He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. There is a Shepherd who gathers me in His arms until I’m better, holds me ‘till I can live with the hurt, and carries me close to His heart forever! PAUSE.
In the movie The Man in the Iron Mask, there are many riveting scenes, but I want to highlight just two to make my point. While Athos was speaking to Philip to convince Him to be a king said, “Philip, I am offering you the chance to be a king!” Philip, responded saying, “No, Athos, you are offering me the chance to pretend that I Am A King!” and the second scene is one that tugs at your heart. Anna, the mother of the twins said to D’Artagnan, “Louis is cold and cruel. I have raised a son who destroys life, rather than save life.”
At the end of the movie, Athos speaks yet one more time saying: “King Philip ruled over France with justice and brought food, prosperity and peace. He was the greatest king in his nation.
Philip may or may not have been a great king. But the Child of Bethlehem is the Greatest King of the whole world. He brings food that doesn’t spoil or get destroyed—food that feeds us for a life time—His body and blood. He gives us peace, not only temporary, but eternal with the Father of all Grace and Mercy. He rules with Justice and kindness.
And this Child doesn’t come to destroy, but to save lives—lives that have been held in a worse prison than behind an iron mask, but in the prison of hell by the Evil One. This Child comes to save and set free all mankind from the flames of the eternal fires.
Now that is the Child of Heaven—Your King and Lord. Today we worship, praise and bow before Him with adoration and praise. Amen and Merry Christmas.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA