December 24, 2023, Joint Christmas Worship with Discovery Fellowship. Message by P. Kevin Clancey
Good evening, everybody. Welcome. I’m so glad to see all of you. We are going to have a wonderful time tonight celebrating Christmas and celebrating Jesus coming to earth. We’re going to sing some hymns together, we will take communion, we will sing Silent Night with candles in our hands, and we’ll hear some scripture readings as well. It’ll be a great night.
I’m going to start us off by reading some verses from Isaiah 9, starting at verse 2. It says,
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV)
Go ahead and stand, and we’re going to sing, “Oh, Come All you Faithful.”
You may be seated.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25, NIV)
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7, NIV)
And then Luke continues,
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.(Luke 2:8-11, NKJV)
This will be a sign for you. You’ll find the baby wrapped, snugly. You’ll find the baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough. Suddenly, there was a multitude of heavenly hosts with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to people he favors.’ When the angel had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:12-16, NIV)
After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary, treasuring up all these things in her heart, and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for they had seen and heard just as they had been told.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:17-20, NIV)
And God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. Oh Lord, our rock, our strength, and Redeemer.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord , my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NIV)
Amen. Amen. Merry Christmas.
He is born. That’s right, and that’s good news. Caleb, and thank you, Elizabeth and Abigail. I couldn’t think of two better readers. You both did a wonderful job, so thank you, ladies.
All right, we are going to talk tonight, just briefly, about what theologians call the incarnation, the enfleshment.
God, the God of the universe, the God of two billion galaxies, the God of all creation, became an embryo, a fetus, a baby, was born in the normal way, nursed at his mother’s breast, and was born not as a king, not as we’d expect a king with a lot of pomp and circumstance and fanfare, but instead was born in great humility. And that’s what I want to talk about tonight. I want to talk about the humility of the king.
Josh is here, and Josh and Brandy do a wonderful job, as many of you parents, raising their children up in the faith. When Josh was a young boy, he went to a Sunday school class, and they had him draw a picture of the nativity. He did a wonderful job.
He had the stable, he had the animals. There were donkeys, there were sheep. There were all these animals, and he included everything. He included the angels, he included the shepherds, he included the wise men.
Everybody involved in the nativity stories was there in his picture. The star was above the stable, Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus. But off in the corner was a short little fat man.
And so he brought it home, and his mom said, “Josh, this is so great. The angels are there, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, all the animals, the star, everything’s there. But who’s the short little fat man off to the side?”
He says, “Don’t you know who that is, mom?”
“No, who is that?”
“That’s Round John Virgin.”
So, come on, you’ve got to be better than that. That was better than that. That was worth more than that. That was worth more than that. We’re entering into 2024. That means another election cycle. And this will not be a political sermon at all.
But in the election cycle, I was watching a couple of the United States’ main governors. They were in a debate recently. And just, they were both, what can I say? Humility did not exude. Humility did not exude. I mean, that’s how you get elected.
You just tell everybody how great you are, and all the great things you’ve done, and all your accomplishments. That is really how we look at leadership in our world. We look at leadership and who’s the best, who’s the strongest. I’m a big sports fan. And of course, if you’re a great athlete, humility often is not the primary characteristic that you carry, being a great athlete. I remember the great boxer. And according to him, he wasn’t just a great boxer. He was the greatest, the late, great Muhammad Ali. ‘I’m the greatest.’
And in leadership in the world, oftentimes, we don’t see humility. And yet, when God enters the world, the stories tell us that there’s nothing but humility. He is the humble king. He comes to poor parents. Joseph and Mary were country bumpkins.
Israel was an occupied territory in the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire looked at the Israelites as a bunch of backwood hicks. But inside that group of backward hicks, there was a hierarchy. If you were in southern Israel, if you were in Judah of the tribe of Judah, Benjamin, and you lived around Jerusalem, that was better.
Up north is a place called Galilee, and if you lived in Galilee, that was worse. Anybody here live in Gorst?
Okay, so I won’t offend when I say Galilee was the Gorst of Israel, and that’s where Joseph and Mary were from. In fact, we know they were country bumpkins because when Jesus was crucified, Peter is identified as being one of his disciples by his accent. He said too many Aramaic y’alls, and they picked him out.
So, Mary and Joseph, they did not come from the elite. They did not come from the aristocracy. They came from an occupied country, and they were the poor of the occupied country.
Joseph was an honorable man. He was a carpenter. He worked for a living, but he obviously wasn’t a rich man. There were no rich carpenters in Galilee. There were no rich contractors. They were poor. They were country bumpkins, and there was scandal involved because Joseph and Mary weren’t married. They were betrothed. They were engaged, and Mary was found to be with child. According to strict Levitical law, she could have been stoned to death.
Joseph didn’t want a stoner, but thought better of it and was going to put her away privately. You know, he wasn’t going to marry a woman who had cheated on him, but an angel came to Joseph and said, “No, the child she has is a miraculous child, conceived of the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Marry her.” And Joseph did. He was an obedient man of faith, and he married her.
But there was always scandal around Jesus. There were always the whispers, “Who is this prophet? He’s not a prophet, he’s a bastard.”
He was born out of wedlock. And Mary bore that reproach, Joseph bore that reproach, Jesus bore that reproach. And then they go to a simple inn to be married in Bethlehem, or I’m sorry, to give birth in Bethlehem.
Actually, they had to follow ridiculous government orders to travel with child so they could register in their hometown so Caesar could levy more taxes. Anybody ever get frustrated that the government passes ridiculous orders that we have to pay more taxes?
All right. It’s not new, it’s not a sign of the last days, it’s been happening forever. That’s what governments do. So, they had to travel and so Joseph had to travel with this pregnant woman to the city of David, Bethlehem.
And when they got there, so many people had come to Bethlehem and Joseph obviously had not used Expedia or Travelocity, and there was no room. And so, the typical house often would have two stories and the lower story was for the animals and the upper story was where the family lived.
And so, in the end, it wasn’t a terrible place, but it was the place where the animals stayed and the animals ate. It was warm, it was dry, but it wasn’t for people. And so, Jesus was born, there was no room for him at the inn.
And there’s busyness in our lives, there’s busyness, there are crowds at Christmastime, and oftentimes we can live our lives and we just get caught up, right? There’s house payments to make, there’s children to raise, there’s fires to put out.
Put out, there’s crises. You get to be the age of my wife and I, and then you start having to take care of your parents. I look at my wife all the time and I say, ‘you know what, there’s always something. There’s always something, right? There’s always some minor crisis or major crisis going on in your life. There’s never been a day without it.’ And it’s kind of like there’s no room at the inn. There’s no room for God in a busy world.
And dear ones, unless we intentionally make space for God, the world will push God out of our lives, and there’ll be no room in our end for God. I tell you what, this will take you away from God. I mean, right now, I desperately want to know how my fantasy football team did today, but no.
All right. The shepherds were invited. The shepherds were not invited to very many parties. There’s a reason shepherds weren’t invited to very many parties. They smell like sheep. They don’t smell good. They’re not rich.
All right, again, country bumpkins, again, kind of the lower people on the social scale. If you’ve seen The Chosen, if you’ve seen The Chosen Christmas special, they show the shepherds and the shepherds are not treated with dignity when they come to town.
This morning, my wife showed up here to decorate the church a little bit, and we had two of our homeless neighbors sleeping on our front porch. And my good wife, she got them a cup of coffee. She got them some breakfast, but she said, “you can’t stay here. We got church tonight.”
You’re more than welcome to come to church. You can’t camp here. But I got to admit, all the homeless, and there’s something in me that says, well, they don’t smell good. You know, they come into church, and they don’t always act appropriately, do they, Stephen?
Sometimes they just go in the back and take naps. What was that time, Adam, that one guy was back there and he was kind of, oh, he’s brushing his teeth. But he wasn’t doing it quietly. It was like he was hawking loogies back there.
I mean, yeah, he was like, he was getting up, you know. And it’s just, it’s like, those are the people that God invited to witness his son.
And so, I want to talk about the values of God. Obviously, the first value of God is humility. God loves to sink low so that others can be lifted high. That is the story of the incarnation.
Philippians 2 says it so well.
Paul says, “Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed as God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, taking the form of a man, humbling himself, even to the point of death and the most humiliating death, death on a cross. God loves humility. And humility is not thinking we’re terrible. Humility is simply bringing ourselves low so that others can be lifted up.”
I often tell young men when they want to get married, “Here’s the definition of a successful father and husband. Not how much money you make, not how shiny your Camaro is. Here’s the definition: How do your wife and your children shine? Do your wife and your children shine? You’re a successful man. You humble yourself as a servant. And God values that.”
He values two people in a marriage racing to the bottom to out-serve and out-love one another. “What is it, Jill? Marriage is to make you holy, not happy?” That’s right.
And we, don’t forget that, no. But he delights in humility. He delights in imitating Christ. This attitude, Paul says, that was in Christ Jesus. He existed not as the smartest guy at work, not as the big dog in the neighborhood, not as the best athlete, not as the most handsome or most beautiful. He existed as God from all eternity, all right?
That really is the top of the ladder, people. And as God, he comes to the world this way. And therefore, we should model him.
We should have the same attitude in us that was in Christ Jesus. He loves to break into the natural world.
We have lived in an age of what we call scientific naturalism that basically says natural laws govern everything. The world has been ordered by laws of physics, laws of nature; they govern everything. We are simply the byproduct of billions of years of evolutionary accidents, mutations, and everything is determined by those natural laws.
But in fact, the Bible is a book of miracles.
The Bible is a book of God continually breaking in to the affairs of human beings and interjecting himself wherever he is welcome. God is the God of supernatural. God is the God of answered prayers. God is the God of these two words that show up time and time again in the Old Testament, “but God, but God.” This happened, this happened, this happened, but God.
And dear ones, I know that all your prayers don’t get answered, but I know something else. Some of them do.
There’s no praying person in this room who doesn’t have a miracle story. God loves to break into our worlds. Wherever he is sought, wherever the door is knocked, wherever it is asked, Jesus said, “Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. Ask and it will be given to you.”
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, NIV)
The supernatural loves to break into the natural. He’s a God of answered prayers. He’s a God of a voice. He speaks to us. He’s a God of miracles.
Whatever situation you’re facing, God says, “Cast your cares upon him, for he cares for you.”
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7, NIV)
God likes obedience. Obedience works. Quick obedience works. We had, we went over, my wife and I just purchased a new home, and we went to look at our new home today. We’re gonna rent it out. We went to look at it with my daughter and son-in-law, and our adorable granddaughter, Caroline. And Caroline was crawling around, and she shut the door.
She shut the master bedroom door, and she either shut it on her hands, she might have said it on her fingers, but I don’t think so.
I think she just freaked out because she shut the door, and she closes the door that separates her from the adults that she so wants, and then she cries because she can’t open the door and can’t be with the adults. I think it was my daughter or son-in-law who said, ‘Isn’t that, or maybe Jill, I don’t know, one of us, one of them said, isn’t that just like us and God?’ We just do something our way, right? She wasn’t being defiant, but we just do something our way.
It’s like, “God, I want my life to be blessed and here’s how I want it to be blessed. I want to do whatever I want with my money. I want to do whatever I want with my time. I want to do whatever I want with my sex life. I want to do whatever I want with my career, but I want you to bless all of that, okay?” And basically, we’re shutting the door on God and saying, “Not your way, but my way.”
I just want you to work magic over my stubborn will, and then when it doesn’t work, because I got news for you, that doesn’t work. Then when it doesn’t work, what do we do? It’s not fair. Why is God so mean to me? Why is life so hard?
Listen, when every… Whenever you think it’s not fair, whenever you think life is hard, whenever you think it’s mean to you, sometimes life is really hard and it’s not our fault. I’m not saying that. But I am saying this.
A lot of times, life is hard and it’s not working out, and it’s not mean to us. Not because life is hard and God is mean. It’s because we have the Spirit of stupid. So, get rid of the Spirit of stupid and learn to obey the voice of God. That doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect in your life. But you will.
Listen. There’s going to be pain in your life. How many of you want unnecessary pain? Alright. Well, okay. You’ll learn. It’s a good teacher. Learn to obey God and you’ll avoid unnecessary pain.
You won’t avoid all pain. But you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. God values obedience. Joseph and Mary were obedient. They didn’t know everything. That song, “Mary Did you Know,” and everybody says, “Oh, of course Mary knew. An angel came and spoke to her.” He didn’t tell her to give her a lot of information. She didn’t know her son was going to be crucified. All she knew is she had been given a great trust.
By the way, for those of you mothers who think you’re doing a bad job, Mary, who is revered throughout history, lost 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. Alright? So, she got the bad mom award. I mean, can you imagine? It’s like you lose your kid for a minute at Walmart, you panic. She lost the savior of the world for three days. Still, we revere her.
God desires obedience. And then there’s the name. Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus. God is a savior.
Dear ones, a lot of times, people, you can come to Christmas Eve service and maybe you don’t know this. But if you put your faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, I’ve got great news for you. All your sins are forgiven. In a minute, we’re going to have communion, and communion is a profound testament to the fact that our sins are forgiven.
One day, you’re going to die, and you’re going to stand before God. You’re going to stand before God and you’re going to have a list of excuses that don’t work, or you’re going to stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ with your sins forgiven. Listen, Christianity is not first and foremost about being a really good person. It’s first and foremost about admitting we’re not. I don’t need help. I need a Savior, and I have one.
And if you’ve never received Christ as your Savior tonight, you can say a simple prayer, and you’ll walk out of here forgiven and a brand new person. The second thing he’ll do for you is he’ll forgive your sins. The second thing, the word Christ means anointed. That means the Holy Spirit poured out on your life.
If you give your heart and life to Christ, then a new life comes and dwells in you. It is the Spirit of God.
His very Spirit comes and takes up residence in our heart, and we start to be transformed from the inside out. Isn’t that right, Pele? The Holy Spirit comes and lives in us, and we become new people. That’s anointing. That’s what Messiah means. Christ was anointed, and now He wants to anoint you. And finally, it means Jesus is Lord. Jesus Christ, the Lord. That means we have somebody to follow. Let me tell you something. You need somebody to follow. You need somebody to follow who is smarter than you. That’s all right.
You need somebody to follow who’s smarter than you, and he’s smarter than you. One of my favorite sayings is, “I just get up every morning, and I say, ‘God, you’re smarter than me.'” I say that every morning. I don’t say it every morning to my wife, though it’s probably true. I say it to her occasionally. “Jill, God is smarter than me.” There, I just said it to you. But God is smarter than you. God is better than you. And there’s all sorts of people out there saying, “Follow me, right?”
If you watch television, commercials come on and they just try to convince you, buy this product, do this, do this, and your life will get better. There’s only one, if you lay down your life and follow him, who is guaranteed to lead you to eternal life.
When you were a child, this is not hard, you don’t have to be smart to do this, all right? You don’t have to be smart to do this.
Turn to somebody next to you and say, this is good news for you. You don’t have to be smart to do this.
When you were a kid, you learned a really simple game. Kids have been playing it for thousands and thousands of years. It’s called follow the leader. Anybody play follow the leader? Right?
Your friend climbs over a fence, you climb over a fence. Your friend goes down behind a bush, you go down behind a bush. Your friend runs behind the house, you run behind the house. You follow the leader.
You want to be a Christian? Play follow the leader.
Jesus told his disciples, ‘Come here, I’ve got 700 commandments for you to follow and a book for you to memorize and a test to take.’ He called his disciples and he said, ‘Do what I do, say what I say, learn from me, follow me.’ And so, God values that. It’s called discipleship. It’s called becoming a student of Jesus.
And so, he’s our Savior, he’s our anointer, and he’s our Lord. And finally, God values peace. Amen? And life is full of strife. It’s full of struggle. It’s full of unwelcome surprises.
You, you will never find peace in your circumstances in this world. You will never find peace in more money and more possessions. You will never find peace even with good friends and a good spouse, though that will help.
Where you will find peace is in knowing that the one who is in you is greater than the things going on around you.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4, NIV)
God won’t stop the chaos. And let me just say this, if you are upset by the news, I have some really profound insight I want to give you tonight. Don’t watch it.
It’s designed to make you fearful and angry. If you spend more time watching mainstream media than you do meditating on God’s Word, then your lack of peace is on you. It’s amazing how many times when I get stressed out I just go and I read three or four psalms out loud, and after I’m done reading three or four psalms out loud, it’s amazing how my perspective has been reoriented and changed. Why? He’s the Prince of Peace. He’s the Prince of Peace. He is bigger than the troubles in this world.
He’s bigger than the situations you face. He is bigger than death. He is the resurrection and the life. And tonight, just like he said to those shepherds 2,000 years ago, he wants to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men and women upon whom his favor rests.
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)
If you want the favor of God tonight, then simply allow Jesus to be what? Your Savior, your anointer, your Messiah, your Lord. Follow him, and I promise you, the Prince of Peace will come.
I’ve been a pastor for 40 years, and I’ve discovered the greatest prayer that can ever be prayed. So listen, Caroline, this will help you. Here it is. Help. Help. Tonight, if you need help, cast your cares upon him, and he will help you, I promise you. Help will come. It might not come the way you’re looking for it, but it’ll come. Why? Because that’s the Prince of Peace.
So, dear ones, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas.
I want to invite you to this communion table where Jesus offers us his body and his blood. It was given for us so that we might know him. It’s an appetizer. It’s an invitation to have supper with Jesus, and one day we’ll have a great feast with him in heaven. It says, and this is, this is that, this is that kind of appetizer. You know what an appetizer is? An appetizer is, you think this is good, but wait.
So, I invite you tonight to come forward, to take a little piece of bread, to dip it in the juice, and eat it. Just say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and say, “Lord Jesus, just come and live in my life as I take this bread and this juice and ingest them, and they become part of me. So, Lord Jesus, I want you to become a part of me. Come and enter into my life tonight.” And then, as you do, here’s some instructions.
I want you to walk this way, up this aisle, take communion, then come back this way. And I want you to take a candle. In a minute, we’re gonna sing ‘Silent Night’. We’re gonna turn out the lights, and we’re gonna light our candles. They light on the bottom. I got the special ones that flicker like a real candle, so there you go. And as we sing ‘Silent Night’, I want you just to hold these up as a testament that the light has come into the world.
So I invite you now, dear ones, to come to take and eat. This is the food of God for the people of God. Holy Spirit, fill this communion with your presence and fill us with the life of Jesus.