S-1397 2SIA/A 12/08/2013 Hymns: (O) #63; (S) #645; L.S. 73; 307; 74; (C) #70?
Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
Theme: “A Christmas Tree In Bethlehem” (Isaiah 11:1)
Question: “Have you put up your Christmas” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from His roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Most precious people of God, a story is told of an Englishman who purchased a 35 foot Christmas tree. Cut it in 3 pieces and put two sections on the first and second floor inside his house and the third he placed on the roof. He made it look like the tree was coming out of the roof. (an illusion)
Isaiah, that voice of the O.T. Gospel rings new in our ears today, with the glorious message of hope, restoration and renewal. The message is this: Out of the midst of cut off tree; a stump will grow and bear fruit. In chapter (10), this prophet tells us that God “will cut off the trees of Assyrian and Israel.” Yet, out of cut off tree “will” (notice that) will there is a promise here, come forth a shoot that will be unlike any other tree. For this reason I have titled the sermon: “A Christmas Tree In Bethlehem”
If you have been to Israel, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, you would have seen new shoots coming out of old olive tree stumps. These shoots do bear fruit. Even this past summer, in front of the parsonage, after the big tree was cut off, shoots sprouted from the ground. This is what God promises in this text. And anyone who is around that Shoot will have peace for the present, hope for the future, and joy forever.
Isaiah goes on to say, upon this Shoot lands Seven (7) spirits—that is the perfect number given by God. In and through this Shoot every prophecy will be fulfilled and ultimately leads to the salvation of mankind. In this text Isaiah declares that God will do something special - in the devastation left behind after the destruction of Assyria and Israel. A branch would grow out of the stump of Jesse. A branch would be grafted into the tree that had been cut down and destroyed.
In this magnificent painting, Isaiah reveals what God will do through this branch—it will bud with fruit that is evident to all. Therefore, we must ask who was/is this branch? The answer is clear—it was/is the long expected Messiah—the promised One to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It Is Jesus-the heaven-sent Savior. The prophecies about the coming Messiah started right after the devil seduced the first couple to disobey God by eating from the tree of good and evil. In Isaiah 7, more is revealed about this promised One stating, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son and we would call His name Immanuel. A couple chapters later (9), God spoke of this Child who would minister in Galilee and would be a great ruler and leader of His people. This Messiah would be a light to those walking in the shadow of death.
In the text Isaiah tells us this Messiah would be like a great tree growing out of the stump of Jesse. God was going to plant a Christmas Tree in Bethlehem. And just like the tree in that Englishman’s home, God’s Tree is a huge tree. Though the Jewish Tree was cut off, driven into exile, and almost wiped out, and even the offspring of David was about to die in the Bethlehem’s massacre, yet God intervened! And out of the stump came forth a Shoot who has changed the world—His name is Jesus. When Jesus had fulfilled His mission – when He came to die for the sins of the world and rise again on the third day from the dead - He ended up having huge influence. More influence than anyone has ever had or ever will. PAUSE.
One person described Him this way: “He was born in an obscure village. The child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. And then became an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.”
Another person observed: Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40 BUT Jesus for only 3 1/2 years. Yet His influence infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined years of the teachings from all the world’s greatest philosophers.
Jesus painted no pictures yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci obtained their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton and scores of the greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music. Still Hadyn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the music they composed in His praise. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
That One Solitary Life –that single Shoot that had been grafted into the Stump of Jesse - grew to such a large tree that He has changed nations, tribes, culture, history, and the world. But most importantly He changed our lives—yours and mine.
The Tree God planted in Bethlehem (Jesus) became a BIG tree. But this tree was not a new planting. The old tree, crooked and gnarled by sin and death, was cut off. But this cutting off was not to kill it. It was to make it blossom and grow again as it had originally been intended in creation. So the Master of Creation’s Garden, The Father Himself grafts this shoot on to the blessed “Stump” of Jesse…and this stump is no illusion as the story of the Englishman. He is as real today as when God made that promise. And that promise was for you and for your children Peter tells us in his Acts sermon.
Today, that Shoot and Branch is the largest tree in the world. It is larger than this year’s Christmas tree in Rio De Janeiro which stands at 278 feet tall. This tree is not that tall in size, perhaps 5 ½ - 6’. But its height reaches into the heavens. Beneath it shades people find comfort and peace. From its leaves we are given fruit that keeps us alive forever. And the benefit of that tree is eternal.
The Christmas tree that stands in Rio De Janeiro will die, be cut up for wood, and burned. But the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem was dead, but is alive forever. And from its Shoot people receive forgiveness of sins, pardon from hell and everlasting life.
No wonder Isaiah shares with us the glorious news of what this Tree will do. Bring about harmony between God and man, man and man and even animal and man. As Isaiah tells us: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:6-9).
From His abundant fruit we shall receive the richest of fares and drink from the eternal juices that fill us with the greatest satisfaction. That is why this Tree brings us such tremendous joy—because this Tree came to restore life to us in the midst of death and suffering. Through the death of that Tree and it sprouting to life again on the third day, He has conquered death and gives us life unending.
Today, we thank God for the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem, for this Tree is eternal, it will never dry up, it will never be cut down, it will never die, and it ALWAYS has green leaves to gather the nations beneath it and give them joy eternal, and peace everlasting. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA