I am so glad to address our congregation today,
and to declare that Jesus is alive
and sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty!
This is Christmas Sunday, my second favorite Sunday of the year (my favorite is Easter).
Clover and I just took a trip to Bulgaria. It was our first trip there.
I have an American pastor friend who serves there, but we were not able to see him, because we were celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary!
We went away because we wanted to visit a country that celebrates Christmas. We went by bus, and it was a long day of travel. Though the distance isn’t too far, we, of course, crossed borders, and I was surprised at how different Bulgaria appeared.
My friend works in a very poor area with Roma people. I learned that his church recently obtained a washing machine for their people, otherwise they wash their clothes in the river.
He has a very sarcastic bent, and when I wrote to inform him of our trip, his response was,
“You are celebrating your 32nd anniversary in Bulgaria!? How romantic.”
I could hear the sarcasm.
As we crossed the border, we could see what he meant, as the land is in a developing state. However, the city we visited was very charming and sweet. If one could strip away the rough exterior…the post Communist small town look… one could see culture and beauty as there were dozens of art galleries and many museums.
Though Bulgaria is formerly communist, I noticed no symbols of the hammer and sickle, but having lived in Central Asia for 15 years, I recognized the architecture of the apartment buildings on the outer ring of the city
Similarly, the center of the city was much nicer than the outside appearance, and the old part of the city, was a real gem.
The city is cloaked with humility and plainness, yet deep inside, there is beauty.
We went to Plovdiv because we had heard that the downtown area was decorated for Christmas, and the old city looked like a storybook. It is true! We loved it.
As we consider the real meaning of Christmas, let us consider what we could see if we stripped away what blocks our vision.
I am not comfortable listing all that blocks one’s vision from the truth about Jesus, but I trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to each of us.
Let’s look at a favorite Christmas passage of Scripture from the Apostle Paul, Philippians 2:5-11 (it encompasses more than just “Christmas”):
 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
5 Mesih İsa’daki düşünce sizde de olsun. 6 Mesih, Tanrı özüne sahip olduğu halde, Tanrı’ya eşitliği sımsıkı sarılacak bir hak saymadı. 7-8 Ama kul özünü alıp insan benzeyişinde doğarak ululuğunu bir yana bıraktı. İnsan biçimine bürünmüş olarak ölüme, çarmıh üzerinde ölüme bile boyun eğip kendini alçalttı. 9 Bunun için de Tanrı O’nu pek çok yükseltti ve O’na her adın üstünde olan adı bağışladı. 10-11 Öyle ki, İsa’nın adı anıldığında gökteki, yerdeki ve yer altındakilerin hepsi diz çöksün ve her dil, Baba Tanrı’nın yüceltilmesi için İsa Mesih’in Rab olduğunu açıkça söylesin.
- Jesus Left the Conveniences of Heaven for the Inconveniences of Earth
- İsa Dünya’nın uygunsuz koşulları için, Cennetin uygun koşullarını bıraktı
Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, Philippians 2:5, 6
Isa Mesih :  Tanrı özüne sahip olduğu halde, Tanrı’ya eşitliği sımsıkı sarılacak bir hak saymadı. Filipililer 2:5,6
The difference between Turkey and Bulgaria is not as vast as the difference between Heaven and earth, but it shows a similarity. My friend could not understand why we would choose Bulgaria to celebrate.
In Scripture, there is a vague reference to a group of individuals who also wondered about the move from Heaven to earth that our redemption required:
There are many references to angels in the story of Christmas:
-announcing the conception of Jesus to Mary
-encouraging Joseph in a dream to still take Mary as his wife
-announcing Jesus’ birth to shepherds
-praising God before the shepherds
-warning Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to leave Bethlehem
Angels, though, are simply God’s messengers …
They do as they are told, and are not to be worshipped, nor prayed to (Jesus taught us how to pray, and that is only to God).
And Scripture reveals that not every angel or spirit should be trusted, but they should be tested, as well, the Scriptures teach that …
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light
2 Corinthians 11:14
Şeytan da kendisine ışık meleği süsü verir.
2 Corinthians 11:14
Angels in the Christmas story were following orders from God.
In 1 Peter there is an interesting verse about angels that states….
Even angels long to look into these things.
1 Peter 1:12
Melekler bu gerçekleri yakından görmeye büyük özlem duyarlar.
- Petrus 1:12
The angels “long to look”…or this could be even more deeply understood as
“[angels] bending over and stooping to look into this.”
What is this?
Just as my friend wondered why would we celebrate our anniversary in an economically challenged land, angels wonder how and why would God be interested in the things of mankind?
God’s Son who lived from the beginning of time, even before time, came from Heaven to earth…to redeem us.
His bed was a feed trough, as there was nowhere else to place him
Jesus left the convenience of heaven for the inconvenience of earth and was born in the most humble of circumstances.
In the coming few years, Jesus would be a refugee, as his family had to escape the real threats of King Herod.
Christmas was Inconvenient for Jesus, but He came, anyway.
-Angels wonder at the inconvenience…
-scholars consider it and –
-skeptics scoff at it.
- The Baby in the Manger is the Creator and He Offers Re-Creation.
- Yemlikte Bebek Yaratandır ve Yeniden Doğuş İmkanını Sunar.
“Christ Jesus…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man,…”
Philippians 2:5, 7, 8
Filipililer 2:5, 7, 8
Of the four gospels, only two tell of Jesus’ birth, which is what we consider to be the traditional story of Christmas…
at least only two present his birth stories,
but, they ALL tell the story of God coming to earth in Jesus.
Mark begins his gospel with this announcement:
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Tanrı’nın Oğlu İsa Mesih’le ilgili Müjde’nin başlangıcı.
This statement tells us who the good news is about (“gospel” means “good news”).
Mark’s beginning statement is like a public service announcement, meaning,
“This book is not about anyone else, but about the Son of God, Jesus.”
John’s Gospel goes back further, and reads like the book of Genesis, starting with,
“In the beginning…”
He describes Jesus as the Word…
he declares who the Word truly is…
and his “Christmas story” is summed up in verse 14 of the first chapter.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14
 Söz, insan olup aramızda yaşadı. O’nun yüceliğini –Baba’dan gelen, lütuf ve gerçekle dolu biricik Oğul’un yüceliğini gördük Yuhanna 1:1-5, 14
-The baby in the manger who was visited and worshipped by wise men from the East…
-the baby in the manger, about whom, angels proclaimed, protected and praised…
-this harmless baby was one of thousands of nameless babies born that same day in the pagan Roman Empire…
-but this baby would change that Empire….
all babies will one day die,
but this baby came with the purpose of dying, sacrificially, for all mankind who would believe in Him….
and the angels
-bend over and
-their shaking heads and wonder,
He created all, and through Him is provided the promise of re-creation…re-birth…renewed life.
his birth was a miracle:
God with us- Emmanuel;
- Don’t Let the Novelty of the Poor Baby Block the True Meaning of His Coming
- Bu Yoksul Bebeğin Tuhaflığının,
Gelişinin Gerçek Anlamını Görmenize Engel Olmasına İzin Vermeyin
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11
Bunun için de Tanrı O’nu pek çok yükseltti ve O’na her adın üstünde olan adı bağışladı. 10-11 Öyle ki, İsa’nın adı anıldığında gökteki, yerdeki ve yer altındakilerin hepsi diz çöksün ve her dil, Baba Tanrı’nın yüceltilmesi için İsa Mesih’in Rab olduğunu açıkça söylesin.
When we watch Christmas plays we often see dolls in the place of the Baby Jesus.
Or, if there is a baby in the congregation, and the parents are brave enough,
a live baby is used in the pageant…
and, undoubtedly, the live baby becomes the star of the show, even if the baby cries too much.
I recall all when I was young and wa in my first Christmas pageant. My brother, who is 5 years older than I had lines to recite, while I, since I was 5 or 6 didn’t have any lines. I was disappointed. My brother kept forgetting his lines, and I knew all of his lines. I was disappointed to be the nameless shepherd boy at stage right.
It was the 1960s, and there was something known as the Hippie movement at that time in which people made the “peace” sign with their fingers. As I sat on the stage wishing I could say something in the play, the narrator reported the words of the angel and said, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” I quite innocently looked up at the spotlight, held up my fingers in the peace sign and exclaimed, “PEACE!”
I recall all the old people on the front row whose false teeth dropped from their jaws, and whose wigs flipped off their heads….I had stolen the show for a brief moment.
The baby knows nothing of what is happening, but after the show, people often talk about how precious and cute the baby-actor was.
Thus, the cuteness or the novelty of the baby in the manger, overshadows the message of the gospel.
Some people think that Christians believe that God had unnatural relations with Mary and that is why Jesus is called “Son of God.” But nothing could be further from the truth (and Mary is not 1/3 of the Trinity).
The Bible teaches that Jesus existed from the beginning with God the Father. Jesus is supreme above all people, prophets, angels and kings.
 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
15 Görünmez Tanrı’nın görünümü, bütün yaratılışın ilk doğanı O’dur. 16 Nitekim yerde ve gökte, görünen ve görünmeyen her şey –tahtlar, egemenlikler, yönetimler, hükümranlıklar– O’nda yaratıldı. Her şey O’nun aracılığıyla ve O’nun için yaratıldı. 17 Her şeyden önce var olan O’dur ve her şey varlığını O’nda sürdürmektedir. 18 Bedenin, yani kilisenin başı O’dur. Her şeyde ilk yeri alsın diye başlangıç olan ve ölüler arasından ilk doğan O’dur. 19 Çünkü Tanrı bütün doluluğunun O’nda bulunmasını uygun gördü. 20 Mesih’in çarmıhta akıtılan kanı aracılığıyla esenliği sağlamış olarak yerdeki ve gökteki her şeyi O’nun aracılığıyla kendisiyle barıştırmaya razı oldu.
Jesus is so powerful, yet traditions, teachings, cultures, values block peoples’ view of him.
Humans are easily blocked,
and one bit of misinformation can deflect the Truth about Jesus for millennia.
Let nothing stand between us and the real baby in the manger….
-He is God in the flesh, a paradox that only God Himself could accomplish…
-He is the One who declared that He and God the Father are one…
-He is the One who declared that He was before Abraham, and in doing so indicated that He Is God, …this caused those around him to want to stone him for blasphemy.
At His birth there were distinct words of Jesus’ future:
He was named “Jesus” for he will save his people from their sins
But as well, Jesus was worshipped as God and declared as such even from his birth.
Don’t let the cuteness of a baby block us from the severity of Almighty God.
In the Old Testament era, God called individuals such as prophets to hear God’s Word, and then to make it known to others:
 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:6, 7
 6 Bugün size verdiğim bu buyrukları aklınızda tutun.  Onları çocuklarınıza belletin. Evinizde otururken, yolda yürürken, yatarken, kalkarken onlardan söz edin.
Yasa’nın Tekrarı 6:6, 7
God’s Word has been given to man through prophets, and then shared by each other.
Moses desired the following…
I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”
Keşke Rab’bin bütün halkı peygamber olsa da Rab üzerlerine Ruhu’nu gönderse!”
Çölde Sayım 11:29
And later God spoke through the prophet Joel
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, Joel 2:28, 29
28 “Ondan sonra bütün insanların üzerine Ruhum’u dökeceğim.
Oğullarınız, kızlarınız peygamberlikte bulunacaklar.
Yaşlılarınız düşler, Gençleriniz görümler görecek. 29 O günler kadın, erkek kullarınızın üzerine de Ruhum’u dökeceğim.
Yoel 2:28, 29
This baby in the manger would grow up, and later, speak,
and by His words he appointed Apostles to be with him, to hear and see everything,
He commissioned those Apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything He commanded them.
Then Jesus ascended to Heaven, but the Scriptures teach that when He ascended, he gave three other gifts, besides Apostles and Prophets:
And through these five ministries of the Church, the Great Commission comes all the way to us.
Today I continue His COMMISSION to teach what He commanded.
And I declare, Jesus IS Lord!
Jesus Is Lord!
- The Inconvenience of Jesus
- İsa’nın Uygunsuz Koşulları
When Joseph was trying to comfort his very pregnant wife,
the baby came at an inconvenient time, while traveling to a crowded little town.
When I consider Bulgaria, it may have that post Communist look…even an impoverished look, but we met a dear couple….
They pastor a church of 500 people in the city that we visited.
As well, this pastor provides leadership to about 500 other churches in their association in all of Bulgaria. OF HIS CHURCH ASSOCIATION, THERE IS ONLY ONE CHURCH IN ALL OF TURKEY
It is hard for me to believe that the Truth of Jesus is not understood in Turkey, the land of the New Testament…and as I have said previously, and I will say again,
-if people knew Jesus as the Bible teaches Him…
-if they knew Jesus as I know Him,
-if they knew Jesus, as God’s Holy Spirit calls out to them,
they would not be able to resist the relationship that He wants to have with them.
When someone truly meets Jesus, surprisingly, they are inconvenienced.
I think of Joseph, who was urged to take pregnant Mary as his wife…
-this was an inconvenience.
I think of the shepherds in the fields with their flocks being encouraged to see Jesus…
-it was an inconvenience…
-even the Apostle Paul who terrorized the early Church and assisted in the murder of an eloquent and gifted young man named Stephen,
-yet Jesus, later, met Paul and inconvenienced him.
Today, when people meet Jesus it is an inconvenience, too…
-Jesus changes the way we think.
-in America they are known as the people who are intolerant of those who are different….
-in Turkey, people who meet Jesus lose their families…
But, when we are inconvenienced by Jesus, we rest in the will of God and in His peace.
Conclusion and Response
- Do you believe that God sent Jesus to earth for our redemption?
- Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh?
- Do you recognize the supremacy of Jesus over all of creation?
- Are you ready to be inconvenienced by Jesus?