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Dig Into God's Promises
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Running time: 21 minutes, 28 seconds.

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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, June 26, 2005
2nd sermon in a 12 part series
"Grace-full Words"
"Dig into God's Promises"
(Luke 2:1-20)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

(Vacation Bible School Skit)


I promise to read the text sheet better next time.

I have obliterated most of this memory. It comes back and haunts me every once in awhile. It goes back a long time ago when I was just a little boy. My father had delivered several of us to a church in Boise for a Boy Scout meeting and said he would pick us up when the meeting was over. I probably don't need to tell you the rest of the story, right?

The four or five of us sat on the front steps of that church building for, oh, I don't remember now; an hour, an hour and a half, two. Two or three phone calls later, nobody knew where he was. I'm beginning to get both worried and angry. I'm thinking that my friends' parents are probably going to be a bit upset. He does finally show up. We do finally make it home and I make myself this promise. I will never do that to my children.

Now you can fast forward about twenty-five years. I am doing Spring cleaning. The kind of thing you do after school is out when you're a teacher and you actually finally have some time at the end of May and I am. . . . .well, I'm chagrined when my daughter (who is in the eighth grade) comes around the corner and says, "Dad, I thought you were coming to the Awards Program??" "Oh, I am. What time is it?"

I'd missed it! Don't you just hate broken promises? When you say you're going to do something.. . . . .I'm not talking about the ones that are broken against you. I'm talking about the ones you make and then you find yourself somehow, for some reason, unable to keep them. It's for that reason I choose not to make many promises. I would rather say "maybe" than "yes". That way, at least, it's not a full blown broken promise, right?

There are such fabulous promises in life. We heard one last night. There's been, in fact, this promise has been made in this building it seems like every Saturday this month. - "until death do us part". It's my favorite human promise, by the way. Thirty-five years ago this summer we stood in front of a whole bunch of folks and we made that commitment to one another and I trust that my wife meant what she said when she said, "until death do us part". Now there's been several times she thought that my death should come quicker than it would otherwise.. . . .LAUGHTER.

I have other favorite promises. Here's one of my favorite promises. Keep your fork. Love that promise at meal time. Somethin' good is yet to come! And if you invite us over sometime, which is not a hint, unless you complete it with this promise, "We'll make ice cream." Now that's a promise I like!

I have some favorite Bible promises too. I'm gonna tell you what my very favorite Bible promise is. But I'm going to take a minute to get there. I want to ask you, if you would, just to come to Genesis 3 for a moment. I want to reflect on the promise that our speaker in the video mentioned. I suppose that it may be the best promise. It just doesn't happen to be my favorite promise in Scripture. But clear back in Genesis 3, after the fall of humanity, as God is meting out his direction to those who have been involved in creating this mess that we're in, He says in Genesis 3:15, ". . .I will put enmity between you and the woman, (he's speaking to the snake at this point) between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." It's a rather strange sort of saying I suppose, especially when you think that God is talking to a snake. But inherent in that rather strange word, is the first promise that God makes about sending a Messiah. "There will come One who will defeat Satan." It's all He tells us about Him. He doesn't give us a lot of word to go on other than, there will some day come someone who will break the curse.

If you move up just a few chapters to Genesis12 we begin to see how God is intending to accomplish that purpose. He has now established himself in a relationship with a man by the name of Abram and through Abram he makes this promise.

Genesis 12:1ff "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Here's one man called out of a strange nation where God says, "every people on the face of the earth will ultimately be blessed through you." And we begin to see the scope of God's intended promise. That it will apply to everyone on the earth.

You journey through Genesis just a bit further to Genesis 48. You're in the midst of the story of Joseph that we referred to earlier. Joseph has brought all of his family down into Egypt. And during that time, his father, Jacob, dies; and, just prior to his death, he issues a blessing on each of his children. When he comes to his son Judah, Genesis 49:8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness - who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his."

It was through this fourth son, Judah, that there would come One eventually whose scepter, whose ruling arm would be felt by the whole earth and everyone would ultimately come through him back to God by way of his obedience. And so the story gets narrowed.

You come to Isaiah 7, a text that you are all familiar with from Christmas seasons past when he says, "A virgin will conceive, bring forth a son. You shall call his name Immanuel which means God is with us."

Chapter 9 of Isaiah clarifies that this One who comes will be a "Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, a Counselor, a Prince of Peace". If you read through the minor Prophets, you've found out in Mica 5 that he will even predict the very place that Jesus is to be born, a little town called Bethlehem.

God promises that he's going to send a Savior. Someone who will come in his name to break the curse that was created by man's disobedience clear back in the beginning.

You know the story. It's found for us in two different places in the New Testament. Particularly Matthew 1, 2 and 3, and Luke 2. I want to read just a section of Luke 2.

Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And that story then continues to share with us how Jesus came, lived, died and was living again. God's promise. This incredible promise that God would send a redeemer, someone who would break the curse on humanity, who would give us an opportunity to know God. It may be God's greatest promise, ever.

However, not that this particularly matters to you, but it matters to me, it's just not my favorite promise. It's probably the most important promise that God ever made and certainly the most important promise that God ever kept. It just doesn't seem to be the one that is most near and dear to my heart.

I don't know what your favorite promise is. My favorite promise actually occurs fifteen different times in one form. It occurs a dozen or more times in another form, slightly different in its wording. It occurs to a variety of characters.

You can find it stated exactly to Isaiah, to Isaac, to Moses, to Gideon, to Jeremiah, to you and to me. It almost always occurs in an unusual context. By unusual I mean it almost always comes at a time when you most need it. See, it's not that what it says isn't true all the time, because it is. What he says, this favorite promise of mine, is true always if you're a believer in Jesus. But for some reason, he chooses to state it, to actually put it in words, at very specific times.

He says it clearly when his calling to you is to do something unique or different. To exercise his plan in your life. He says it specifically when he encourages you to encounter the difficulty of dealing with conflict with other people. He says it specifically when he tells us his ultimate plan for the world and how we have some sense of responsibility as a part of that plan.

I suppose one of the reasons that this particular promise of God rings so special in my life is because as a child, that same promise from my father was so ultimately important to me. I suspect that there is a connection. I think it is most clearly stated in John 1 when the writer of John records this word. He doesn't use the exact phrase. He says it this way. . . . .The Word (and he's talking about Jesus here, in that text). . The Word became flesh and he dwelt among us. He came literally, the text says, and he set up a tent in the midst of us. He came to become one of us and to live with us.

My favorite promise of all the promises that God ever made is this promise. "I am with you". Fifteen different times, that's exactly how he says it. "I, God himself, am with you". He says it to Jeremiah this way, "Don't be afraid because I am with you.". Jesus repeated it when he said to his disciples, "Go into all the world making other disciples, teaching them and baptizing them and 'I will be with you'."

You know, there's just something about knowing that the God of the universe cares so much about you that there is no place that you can ever go that he is not "with you".

Now I understand there are times when it doesn't feel that way. There are times when it feels as if God has somehow disappeared. Maybe you have felt that deep sense of "I'm all by myself". You're not!

I remember walking through one of the smaller cities in China, Guan Chow (sp?). I had stopped because I was enamored by a huge hole in the ground. I was actually in the company of about four or five other people that were traveling there to see about setting up a mission trip and I was enamored by this huge hole. I discovered, through a few things that were written in English there, that it was actually the site of a new Holiday Inn motel. This hole looked to me like it was probably two or three stories in the ground, obviously where they were going to fix the foundation. It took me a little while to figure out why it so captured my attention. And then it suddenly dawned on me what it was that had caught me. There was not one single piece of equipment in the entire hole. It was all being done by manual labor. There were men down there with crow bars trying to move these huge pieces of steel and I remember standing there just staring and wondering how they were gonna do this without equipment.

And then I realized that I had gotten distracted and I looked up and all I could see were people who didn't look anything like me; who didn't speak my language and I tell you my stomach turned over immediately. I was sick, physically ill in an instant. And thought, "what am I gonna do?" "I am alone." And I stood and I scanned this crowd of literally thousands of people walking on this main street, hoping I would catch site of this little entourage of people that I was with when, suddenly, God's providence was wonderful.

Scott happens to be about 6'6". Most of the folk in China are not. And I looked across the street and here was this tall Caucasian person who spoke English and I knew him. And my illness went away! I felt fine.

I have been in funeral homes and in hospitals. I have sat beside beds and talked to pregnant teenagers. I have been in the company of parents of five-year-olds who have been making decisions about whether to remove the life support system from their children and had that same sick feeling when suddenly I remember - "I am with you." It is my favorite promise.

Not more important than the promise to send a Son, but a promise that I carry with me every moment of every day. I am never alone. The One who came to live among us to be our Savior makes this promise to you. "He will be with you." In fact He said it in so many different ways.

He said, "Come to me, those of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I'll give you rest". He said, "I am the bread of life, come to me and you will never hunger again". He said, "Are you thirsty? Come to me. I'm the water of life."

That invitation goes out to each and every one of you to come to Him, hungry, thirsty, tired. Come to Him and He will meet the need of your life.

And my friends, that is really all we have to offer to you. Sunday-after-Sunday that's the best we can do. We can offer you One who says, "if you'll come to me, I will walk every step of your life with you, no matter what life brings." That promise is at the heart of God's faithfulness to you. "I am with you."

And every Sunday we celebrate that. We celebrate that sense of "I am with you". We call it by a variety of names. We call it the Lord's Supper. We call it Communion and we call it Eucharist. It is the time in life when we recognize the presence of God in a very real sense as we gather around the table and share in the elements of what He's done.

This is Vacation Bible School so we're going to do things a little differently. We're going to do something because somewhere along the way God has laid this immense burden on Kim's heart that we as families, have a greater sense of family. I hope you heard that in her opening. That there are times that we just need to do some things together as "a family".

I e-mailed my daughters to find out if they remembered this experience. All I got back was a "I remember the experience" so apparently it wasn't quite as good for them as it was for the rest of us, but, hey, that's alright. They did at least remember it, right?

It was when the North American Christian Convention was in Indianapolis, IN, and they were going to have all of those in attendance together in the dome. They brought all the children from the children's departments and they had them sit with their families because they wanted to have the largest Communion service possible.

And so there were probably thirty or forty thousand of us sitting there in the dome sharing together in the Lord's Supper. My children were little. They had not yet given their hearts to the Lord in Baptism. We were not in the habit of having them take the Lord's Supper on Sundays because we felt like that was really designed for those who were already believers and followers of Jesus and yet we felt like in this one moment, we wanted our family to experience this thing together. And so, as a family, sitting in the middle of Indianapolis in the dome, we as five believers in Jesus huddled ourselves together to share in the Lord's Supper.

We want you to share that Supper together with your family. There are stations set up all across the back of the room. There are a half a dozen back there. We encourage you as families, as soon as I pray, to make your way back there and to share together at that table. You choose how you want to handle that with your children.

If you're here by yourself, we encourage you to join with somebody in the family, somebody that's close to you as a friend of yours and share together at the table. It's going to take a little while so you're going to have to get up and start moving as soon as I pray. Use this as an opportunity to create a family moment when you share together in this most significant event in the life of the church; when, we together, as believers in Jesus, remember this promise, "I am with you."

Father, we're so grateful that you came through your Son to set up a tent and live with us, to become like us. And to give us this opportunity to never forget what you've done. And so, as we gather at these tables and we share together in little units, we're reminded of the power of your presence and we literally claim that promise today. You are here with us. Thank you for your Son Jesus, in whose name we celebrate this meal together. Amen