Bro. Derrick – minister of youth – brings our New Year’s Day message.
We sing old songs. We sing familiar songs. They are sweet, with promises of ideallic concepts like peace… goodwill. We imagine a pastoral, star- filled night sky on a hillside in the Judean wilderness, simple men of the field receiving joyful, gentle, light-bathed messages of hope and promise. We like this picture because it makes great greeting cards and nativity displays. It goes down easy. But scripture tells us that these shepherds were men who battled lions and wolves to eek out a modest living. They didn’t run when trouble arrived. Yet they tremble, cower when the angel stands over them. You see, this isn’t the maternal, serene figure we see atop the Christmas tree. This was an eternal warrior, scarred with battles that had lasted millennia, robed in the harsh light that brings sin from the shadows, that caused the Hebrews to quake when they saw it on the distant mountain, that near-blinded Ezekiel in the temple when it entered through Jerusalem’s eastern gate.
This angel wasn’t carrying a harp and softly singing a lullaby. He was fresh from battle with demon princes in far-flung cities. His hands were stained by the inky-black blood of his long-fallen brothers. He was the eternal defender of the gates of Eden, one of the multitude who had battled hand to hand with Satan himself and cast him from paradise. No wonder these surly shepherd men cowered. Yet… there was this fact. The angel was making a promise – one that stands 2000 years later. To those who would seek out the Son of God born in a Bethlehem Stable, peace and good will were the reward. Any of those shepherds would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven if they left everything behind to seek out Christ. This old, familiar, sweet song is repeated today… but do not mistake what it is. It is the wild song of violent rebellion. The king has arrived. The imposter is defeated. Come and meet our newborn savior, see the one who will lead the armies of Heaven to victory.
Stanza 3 Bridge
That was the promise of the scriptures, Old and New covenants, old and new stories. The darkness of evil’s rule was going to give way to the kingdom of love and light. Hell would be overcome by Heaven. Satan would fall broken at God’s feet and be cast from his presence. Christ was the provider of the victory, the champion who broke the grave. Though the darkness swallowed the God- Man, it was destroyed from the outside in. Death was ripped to tattered shadows when Christ burst forth from the tomb. Proof and truth would be borne out by the ages, the world would turn from darkness to light and desperation to hope. At the dawn of resurrection, the song played its promise again… peace on Earth, Goodwill to men.
But – in truth – we find ourselves overwhelmed by what we see every day. Its hard not to be cynical and snarky about claims of night turning to day when the morning news is full of addiction and abuse and enslavement and murder and corruption. From the biggest city to the smallest farm town, we all feel the sting of disappointment and fear. For every salvation there is an abortion. For every birth there is a murder. For every victory, one block over we find a defeat. Our heroes turn heel like an 80s wrestling match, but this is our life. These are our towns, our neighbors, our sons and daughters. Indeed, it seems every time hope causes us to lift our head, Satan waits to land another blow on our chins and drop us again. God, where are the warrior angels? Where is the darkness failing? Where is the sun rising? Where is this savior that Christmas sings of? We hurt and harm and hate one another. Even in our own hearts, the peace and goodwill are scoffed at, mocked.
We hear Paul declare “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Then we laugh. Then we wail. There seems to be no peace on earth. There is no room for goodwill. The world is not revolving before our eyes: on the contrary, it seems to be standing still. The world mocks us as the Babylonian lieutenant mocked the Hebrews, “Our might has crushed the cities of a thousand gods. Your God will not save you.” So we settle. Christmas is no longer
warriors singing a new king’s arrival to us. We comfort ourselves with new TVs and new video games and new golf clubs rather than lift our heads one more time.
(snare drum cadence)
But unlike our heads, the song of the angels refuses to falter. When our spirits dip, the song rises. When our head bows, the melody bucks. Creation cries out on Christmas morning that God is not dead. Today, hungry bellies will be filled. Today, children will open adoption papers under the tree. Today, strangers will bankroll the feast of the homeless and broken and mentally ill. Today, God’s people will prick the darkness so deeply that it bleeds daylight from a million wounds. God is not asleep. He is in us and around us and moving us. And he is not done yet.
That beautiful promise rings out: the wrong shall fail, the right prevail. History is not done. The last page has not been read. The credits are not rolling. The final battle is not yet fought, and this is why Satan is not yet broken. His defeat was assured two millennia ago, but he is not yet subdued. Peace will come to this earth. Good will is coming to men. We sit as desperate children on Christmas morning, aching to open our presents… recounting everything promised but not yet received. Oh my brothers, oh my sisters… dawn has nearly come. The wrong shall fail. The right shall prevail… and he has already told us what waits under the tree:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the
nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Revelation 19:11-16 ESV
This morning, we make a simple invitation, a simple declaration. If you have never sworn allegiance to this king, if you have never led your heart to the manger of Christ, the Cross of Calvary, and the Tomb of the Resurrection, we invite you to make him your Lord and Savior today. We shall all know him as king: some as our delivering king, and some as damning king. We choose in this life who Christ will be to us for eternity. Choose well.
Church, the invitation to you this day is to hold your head up even as you bow your knee. Never believe the lie that God has been beaten. The wrong shall fail. Christ shall bring peace on earth and good will to humanity. Today, he chooses to do it through us. Let us rejoice this day and return to the work before us. For tomorrow, he may return himself… when we join the conquering army and hear the bells ring again.
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