Phil Cox

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Coxy’s Christmas Message 2006

21st December 2006

Well, I thought I ought to do something seasonal. It's expected isn't it? So, here goes:


Change – don’t you just hate it?

Many of us wish for a peaceful life, with no surprises, no upheaval. None of us get one. We’re all touched by bereavement, redundancy, moving house, relationship break-up, illness, a new job, children leaving home, children coming back, a new church, a new church leader, new neighbours. Fill in the space for yourself...

Some of us even manage to get stressed when the worship team want us to learn a new song!

But some changes are wonderful. Meeting a new friend, getting a promotion, finding faith in Jesus, having a new baby...

Do you yearn for no change? Or do you yearn for change?

Is your life so wonderful right now that all you want is for it to stay the same? Or perhaps life is difficult, but you feel like the next change is likely to be a change for the worse? Or are you looking for a change that will make live worth living?

The Christmas story is full of changes. What about the change announced to Mary – You’re going to get pregnant? A single woman – probably not more than 16 years old – in a conservative, family-oriented society. Pregnant. And not by her fiancée, either! God Himself is going to get you pregnant. Try telling that to Joseph’s mum! Although the angel had said:

Luke 1:28
"Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."

it’s not surprising that her initial reaction was:

Luke 1:29
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

And wasn’t she right to be concerned? But then the angel said:

Luke 1:30
"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.”

Well, yes. But it wasn’t easy and stress-free. But God did know what He was doing. And when the angel explained it to her, she embraced change:

Luke 1:38
"I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said"...

And Joseph wasn’t going to find it too easy, either! Here’s a change very few young men want to hear about: “Your girlfriend is pregnant. No, it’s not yours”. But God graciously revealed to Joseph that things were OK:

Matthew 1:18-21
18 ...Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and 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."

God graciously confirmed to Joseph that the situation was all right. But Joseph wouldn’t have found it immediately easy to believe that God was the father. But he embraced change and decided to remain faithful to Mary, when it would have been easier to walk away.

But what about the change that Jesus was facing? Jesus Christ – the eternal Son of God – the second person of the Trinity, who had lived in heaven since before the world was made, was coming to Earth. And He was becoming human! How could God the creator become a part of humanity – part of creation? These things are too wonderful for me. But what a change! What a sacrifice!

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us...

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Philippians 2:5-8
5 ...Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

He was becoming a human baby. And the change didn't stop there. He would grow to adulthood, become a famous religious leader, be betrayed by his followers and friends and be crucified. What a change! From eternal God to dead human!

And we know – as Paul continues – that’s not the end of the story:

Philippians 2:9-11
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So here’s a change voluntarily accepted, at great cost, but for a purpose. Jesus came so we could be put into right relationship with God. It cost Him everything, but He won for Himself a nation of followers. He knew that embracing change was worth it:

Hebrews 12:2
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When Jesus came into the world, it wasn't only a huge change for Him; it was a huge and permanent change for the whole world. Remember what Isaiah prophesied some 800 years before:

Isaiah 9:6-7
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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase 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 for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

When Jesus came, He brought His Kingdom with Him. And "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end". His Kingdom will grow in this world. There will be no end to its increase.

Daniel 2:4
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever.

Rumours of the death of Christianity have been greatly exaggerated!

Revelation 12
1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. [Mary] 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth [To Jesus].
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads [Satan]. 4 ...The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born [the slaughter of the innocents - see Matthew 2:16-18].
5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre [Jesus]. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne [The Ascension].
...
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ...

Jesus came for ordinary people like you and me.

James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

Maybe that's why He was born in a stable, to a girl who was unmarried when she conceived, in an occupied country, and raised by a carpenter in an unfashionable town.

And change was the last thing that group of shepherds were expecting. They were out in the fields at night – as usual. Tending their flocks – as usual. It was dark and cold – as usual. And they were poor – as they always had been. And they probably expected more of the same until they got too old and sick to work – and then death.

You know the story:

Luke 2:9-14
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 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, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."

Like a lot of changes, this one started out scary. The first thing the angel needed to say was “don’t be afraid”.

Are you going through changes at the moment? Or are you anticipating changes in the near future? Don’t be afraid! God knows what He’s doing.

And the “great company of the heavenly host” announced the greatest change of all – Jesus Christ was coming into the world! And, as a result, there would be “Glory to God” and “peace to men”.

The shepherds responded like this:

Luke 2:15-18
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. 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.

The shepherds responded positively to change. They didn't want their lives to go on just the same, night after night, year after year. But the Kingdom of God was breaking in to their lives - and they were going to go for it!

They went from being social outcasts (shepherds were considered very lowly and untrustworthy types in Bible times) to finding faith in Jesus Christ, and finding that "peace to men" that Jesus came to give. They became evangelists - spreading the Good News that Jesus had come into the world! They had a purpose in life now. They had something - or rather, Someone - to believe in: Jesus Christ, Emmanuel - God with us!

Jesus came to revolutionise the lives of everyone who believes in Him:

John 12:46
I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Just like those shepherds. Ordinary people, but people who believed in Jesus Christ!

Whatever changes you lived through in 2006, and whatever changes - expected and unexpected - you're going to live through in 2007, may God give you grace to see His hand in all that happens.