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Christ Came: So What
Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-18
Track 17 of 17 in the Living in the Light of His Coming series


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

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Sermon for Sunday, December 26, 2004
17th and final sermon in a 17 part series
"Christ Came: So What?"
"Living in the Light of His Coming"
(Hebrews 2:10-18)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

About the time that we were getting started on New Year's Eve (??) my friend Pavel from Ostrava in the Czech Republic was sitting at his typewriter or his keyboard suggesting for us just some of the results of what had happened in their outreach program. I've mentioned him to you before. They are the ones who have tried to claim a portion of the south part of their city for Christ. This is in a part of the world where very, very few people are believers in Jesus and last year they had done this party for Jesus on New Year's Eve and had been praying that God would send a number of people. He sent about a thousand folks last year in 15 degree weather in order for them to celebrate and learn something about Jesus. This year they had been praying for better weather and for a better turnout.

I just wanted to read a little bit of the report that I got from him this morning. Here is the summary statement. "Praise the Lord that he has shown his power and heard your and our prayers and gave his blessing in many ways of our effort. Better weather! It was only about 39 degrees outside." About, well, this is uh, this is Czech English for you. "A couple of ten minutes before (I assume that must mean something like 20 minutes before the beginning) there were lots of people standing and looking at the presentation on the screen and listening to the pre-recorded Christmas music. After the beginning, we counted about 2200 people who were standing around in this open courtyard area. In addition," he says, "to literally hundreds of people who may have been watching from the flat of apartments that are on the open side of this courtyard." I have a picture of that if you would like to see it. "The mayor came and gave his greetings, Christmas greetings to the citizens." Talks a bit about some of the special music they did and Pavel's Christmas message which was interspersed with some scenes from the Jesus film. He talks about giving closing congratulations to the honored ones and then in parentheses he says that's the Christian way of talking about prayer. But over there they wouldn't understand that. They had a police car nearby and city and Czech police in case there was difficulty but there wasn't any.

They had prepared small gifts for people, preferably one to each couple or each family. They had a thousand of those and they had none of them left when the evening was over.

Here's his closing paragraph. "Our dear brothers and sisters, we believe that your prayers were a key part of the success of the whole event. It was a success in a sense of the total number of participants, very unusual for a Christian event in our country and in the sense of the whole flow and atmosphere of the program. But the real success is what we do not yet see and what we urgently pray for; transformation of the hearts of many individuals. We pray for the powerful touch of the Holy Spirit so that the people would recognize how much they need the One who loves them so much and came to be one of us. We pray God would do his special saving work in their hearts which is beyond our organizational, technical, rhetorical, or even spiritual skills. Just the only One is worthy of our praise."

I'm going to ask you, if you would, to let me lead us in prayer for those folks.

Father, half way around the world 2200 people heard the message of Jesus, most of whom had never heard that before. For them the Christmas story is not an old, old story but something brand new. I pray that what these good Christian brothers and sisters had put together in the way of music and presentation, Pavel's sermon and the Jesus film, the gifts and the private conversations might begin to work in the lives of those who do not know your Son. May this be the turning point of their life, that they might understand just how significant it is that Jesus came to live among us. We pray this in His name. Amen.

One of my favorite questions is the question so what? It's kinda the question that I think gets answered in a letter like that from Pavel. The question is, we've celebrated Christmas and the answer then becomes, or the question for me is in followup, so what? Is it business as usual this morning or does something significant change?

It's the kind of question that you find yourself asking a lot when you're listening to the students preach sermons. I hesitate to tell that to you, but you'll probably be asking that question anyway, so....... you get listening for a little while and you find yourself sitting there thinking--okay why are you telling me this? What difference does it make? So what? Why does that matter? It seems to me that is a legitimate question that we ask the day after Christmas--so what? Did any of it matter? I mean, I suspect we all had a good time. We had an opportunity to spend some time with friends and family. At least most of us had a good time yesterday. But the question is, when you think about Jesus, so what?

Come with me to the book of Hebrews. May be an odd sort of a place to talk about the day after Christmas and yet Hebrews is so full of the message of Christ and what he meant to the world.

Hebrews 2:5 We're going to pick this up in verse 5, which is kind of the writer of Hebrews Christmas story. Hebrews elevates Jesus above all of those Jewish events and people and in Hebrews 2 Jesus is elevated above angels.

Hebrews 2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

"What is man that you are mindful of him, the won of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet."

In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

There is the Christmas story, by the way. Just went by you in about three or four words. It sounded like this. We see Jesus who is made a little lower than the angels. He came in human form. He came to live among us. He came to be one of us so that he could experience death for us, he says. That Christmas story has, I think, a number of results that are profoundly important if we stop to think about them just for a little while.

For example, one of the results of Jesus coming; one of the results of Christmas is that he made us his brothers and sisters. We became part of his family. Look at Hebrews 2:10ff In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says,

"I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."

And again, "I will put my trust in him."

And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me."

"He became one of us, so that we could become one with Him." We became part of his family at his invitation because of what he was willing to do for us. This one who is God in flesh, the one that we commonly call Son of God, became one of us so that we could become one in His family and begin to understand what it means to identify with Him and He with us.

There's something about his coming that should begin to help us understand just how significant his presence among us is. I hope it will become significant as we go through this, this morning.

In Oprah's Magazine in December there is this article entitled "The Gift of the Other". The author says, "Let's say you have an appointment in a bank, and the employee seems distracted, strangely distant, and unconcerned with your affairs. He keeps forgetting what you just told him. Your frustration mounts. You start to feel angry. Why do they hire such incompetents? you wonder. The man excuses himself and hurries outside. Moments later the manager appears. She explains that her colleague's wife and child have been seriously injured in a car crash. The wife is in a coma, the youngster on life support. Your anger vanishes and is replaced by compassion."

Somehow in that moment you move from the chair of being the offended to the chair of empathy, where you begin to understand and you begin to want to hurt with this person and try to deal with them at a different level.

When Jesus became flesh he moved from that distant place where we wouldn't expect him to understand us to the place that he lives in our very shoes and understands everything there is to know about us. And he begins this process of adopting us into his family. That we become his brothers like him, he like us and what was once our life is traded for a life that is different.

His name, Jesus, means God will save us. He will bring us into his family experience. The "so what of Christmas is" that we have been saved from our sins by the blood of Jesus and adopted into the family of God. And a part of the application of that is that we're sitting next to brothers and sisters. That the folk in our very family are our brothers and sisters, not just by the flesh but because of the blood of Jesus. The people in the pew next to you whether they are perfectly strangers to you or not, if they are Christians, are a part of your family and because they are part of your family, we treat them differently. We treat them with love and respect. We begin to move out of our offended shoes into the shoes of those who are distinctly human and yet hurting and we begin this process of hurting with them just as Jesus hurt with us. And it changes the perspective with which we view people.

One of those obvious results of Christmas is that we should never be able to look at a person quite the same way in light of the fact that Jesus came for that person as much as he came of us. Invited us into his family that we could be his brothers and sisters and we could begin this process then of recognizing that we belong to each other, as well as, to him.

The Hebrews writer goes on. Following that brief paragraph, he says in Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.

As remote as this may sound, one of the things that is the result of the Christmas story is that Jesus delivers us from the power of the one who has the power of death. If you think about those opening passages in Genesis after the creation of the six days worth of stuff and the creation of man and the day of rest. You get to Genesis 3 and the narrative begins to shift and enter in the adversary. And what does the adversary try to tell us? Oh I know that God said you could eat anything in the garden you wanted to, just don't eat that tree over there because if you eat that tree over there, guess what's gonna happen? You're going to die. And the adversary says, don't believe it, you won't really die. Ever since Genesis death has been our adversary and Satan has had power over death which gave him power over us.

Jesus comes and in becoming one of us and in dying for our sins releases us from the power of him who has the power of death. You ever notice how hard we fight it? Death. . . . We don't like it. It's an enemy. We hate it. We even hate it when it's people we don't even know. Somehow it gets into our system. You pick up the newspaper and you read about the tragic death of somebody and somehow you feel like that's, well, the phrase is often, that's not fair, that's not just, it's not right.

I don't know how many times I have talked to my daughter who is an intensive cardiac care nurse. She deals with older people all the time who are in that transition where death is a fairly normal kind of experience. You expect it. But once in awhile somebody comes in who's 20, 25, 30 years old and has had a major heart attack and she says, (over the phone) dad, it's just not right. They shouldn't have died. It's the enemy. We hate it! We fight it. We do everything we can to avoid it. And yet there is something about being Christian in the face of it that makes all the difference in the world.

There is a mortuary in Dover, Maryland where those Americans who die overseas, most of them come back through that particular mortuary at Dover Air Force Base. There has been a guy there who has been the person responsible for dealing with all of the family members over the years. He's been there since the 1950's dealing with people who have come to retrieve a body that has been sent back to the United States. Here's his comment. "When a family comes in here with some kind of faith, some kind of belief in God, they hold up so much better than someone who has nothing to hold onto."

Jesus came so that the one who holds the power of death cannot hold power over us.

I watched the Seventh Heaven episode the other night. It's not a program I particularly sit down to watch. I don't watch a lot of preacher programs. I have a preachers life of my own. I really don't need to live vicariously through somebody else's. But it's an intriguing story about this family and the life situations that they find themselves in. One of the son's was involved in a car accident, apparently some episodes back. I didn't see it, but somebody was killed. In this particular episode this son has just confessed that he's been sleeping with his girlfriend which has disturbed the parents considerably. And he recognizes that it's wrong, but he doesn't know what to do about it and in the course of a conversation here's what he finally says. "I killed somebody. There is no worse sin than that so why does it matter if I'm sleeping with my girlfriend?"

It is the power of him who has the power of death over the life of this young man. Death has gotten hold of him and nothing worse seems to be available. Jesus comes so that we no longer have to fear death. The one who came in human form and in the form of a baby, which is what we deal with at Christmas time, comes to live, to die, that we don't have to. Oh we may still face it physically but we don't face separation from God if we know Jesus. And the one who has the power of death no longer has power over us. We don't have to succumb to him. He came to give us the power to say no to him just as Jesus, himself did.

The writer of Hebrews closes this paragraph by saying, Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus' birth and death makes it possible for him to identify us and to help us in the midst of our own temptation. The Old King James version translates that last verse where it says he is able to help us. . . . . .translates it with a word that we just don't use in our vocabulary any more and that is the word "succor" us. Literally the word means "to run to the aid of someone". If you were here on Christmas Eve and you were watching the video clip from "The Passion", when the little boy Jesus falls and the young Mary runs to pick him up and when the Cross-carrying Jesus falls and the mother of Jesus runs to pick him up. . . .that's the word. To run to somebody's help.

What the writer of Hebrews tells us is because Jesus understands us, because he has lived in human form, because he came and endured every temptation that we endure, when we need help he runs to help us. He understands what it means to be tempted. Whether you are talking about a temptation to sin or you're talking about the temptation to change your character or to test your character, he is the one who fully understands what it means to be human.

You know that sense that you're the only one whose ever felt this way? It's not true. He feels that way. Feel abandoned? He felt that way. Feel betrayed? He felt that way. Feel alone? He understands that. Had your best friends turn on you? He knows what that feels like. Had somebody stab you in the back? He knows what that's like.

On the Sunday after 9/11 Our Redeemer Church in downtown Manhattan had about 800 people visit that had never been in their assembly before and they all came with the same fundamental question. Does God have anything to offer to us.

Timothy Keller's sermon that morning dwelt on that theme and here's one of the comments that he made. "Christianity is the only faith that tells you that God lost a child in an act of violent injustice. Christianity is the only religion that tells you, therefore, God suffered as you have suffered."

What's the point "the so what of Jesus" coming in human form. He understands everything there is to understand about us. There's not a thing that we've been through that he has not experienced. By coming to be one of us he understands who we are and therefore, is able to run to our aid. Humans respond well to that for the most part.

Back in the days when missionaries were beginning to leave for various mission countries, the Moravians out of Europe were making their way to the Americas and particularly into the Carribean and their primary target for whatever reason, their primary target seemed to be those who had been held in the trade slave situation and so they came and tried to minister to slaves. But they looked just like every other European that they had ever seen and they did not want to listen to a European, to a white man. So the Moravian missionaries sold themselves into slavery so that they could work side-by-side with the slaves and when they did that the slaves began to listen. That's in essence what Jesus did. He sold himself into slavery. He became one of us so that we might listen to him, so that he might understand our side of the story and come to our aid.

When I was a kid growing up on black and white TV, one of my favorite programs was Superman. I always loved it when Clark Kent had to run off and find a telephone booth some place so that he could get out of his suit and his glasses and turn into his (well, what they said was) red and blue suit. Although you couldn't tell that's what it was. And for some reason Lois Lane never figured out that the guy with the glasses was the same guy, ya know? But he never was human. Ever!

One of the things I suppose I liked best about the Christopher Reeves portrayal of Superman was that one particular episode where he goes back up to the north and he puts the crystal into the rest of the crystals and he gives up his supernatural power in order to be human so that he can have a love relationship with Lois Lane.

It sounds a lot like this from the movie "Bruce Almighty". "Why is it so hard to get people to love you? Why can't you just command them to do that?" And God in his response to Bruce says, "Now you're beginning to understand." And there is that scene where Bruce as God, is doing everything he can to get his girlfriend to love him and she just turns and walks away.

It's only when we fully understand that Jesus became one of us that we are enticed to love him, not because we have to, but because we want to. We know, that He knows who we are and what our life is like.

So the day or two after Christmas, the "so what?" question isn't which store has the best sale? The "so what?" question is, "So what are you gonna do with Jesus who's birth we've celebrated?" Who came to live among us so that we might fully understand what it means for God to be among us and so that he might fully understand what it means to be human and relate to us. The "so what of Christmas is" does Jesus mean anything more than just a convenient reason for us to have a time of peace and gift giving which is, in and of itself, not a bad thing, just not enough.

So my question this morning is, in the "so what of Christmas is" what are you going to do with him? Put him back on a shelf when you wrap up the rest of your Christmas decorations and put him in the closet or attic or the basement, wherever you store all of that stuff? When you put the nativity scene away, does he go away too? Or is it possible that this particular Christmas season, this might stimulate you to recognize that God came in flesh so that he could love and understand you and draw you to himself that you might know him in the way that he knows you?

Would you stand with me?