The Long Awaited Promise – Christmas Morning Service

Sunday, December 24th, 2017
Sermon Series: Christmas

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The Long Awaited Promise

The promises of the coming of Christ throughout the Old Testament

Have you ever been waiting for something for a long time? Longing for a future promise? Was it to get out of fourth grade? That only took me three years. Maybe it was to finally graduate from high school . . . to enjoy that first date . . . to buy that first car . . . to graduate from college . . . to get that first good job . . . to get the engagement ring . . . to have that dream wedding . . . to see that first baby . . . to buy that first house. What are you anticipating?

Anticipation is often driven by our desires and our priorities. What you value often drives what you long for. While we were in Hawaii seeing our children and grandsons, our daughter Danielle shot a video of Ryker and Finn sitting on the floor at the front door. They were looking out the screen door which has a view of the driveway. Danielle asked this 3½- and 1½-year-olds, “What are you doing, boys?”

They were waiting for Kuku and Tutu–Grandpa and Grandma, to arrive. They were waiting for the promise of babboons (balloons) and snaa (snacks) and fun with Kuku. In their minds, we were a long-awaited promise. They couldn’t wait for us to arrive.

Christmastime is a time of anticipation–family, presents, meals together, special events. What special thing or event or person are you waiting for this season? For many, this is a very special season. But also, it is a difficult one. Flying underneath this holiday is a longing, a hope and a desire. The human condition has some heartaches. And no amount of eating, friends, family or entertainment can fill the void or resolve the struggle of the human soul.

All of you here battle with guilt over things you’ve done, choices you’ve made, secrets you do, relationships you’ve harmed and family you’ve hurt. All of you know you’re accountable. Some will say, “There’s no God,” to avoid the dread. But each of you know, intrinsically, you will face your creator who will judge you, and that His judgment will be just–which means you and I are in trouble.

There is definitely something wrong. The things you have wanted for so long–when you finally get them, they never satisfy. This time of year offers the perfect example. You want that game, that toy, that present–and you finally get it. And it isn’t what you hoped for. But it didn’t bring perfect satisfaction.

As a 6-year-old, I wanted a battleship that shot rockets, “as seen on TV.” I got it and was excited, but quickly discovered the rockets only shot five feet. Then my dad stepped over it on Christmas day, but didn’t clear it and broke off the command tower–talk about disappointing. Talk about no satisfaction–it scarred me for life. You can tell.

No Christmas present is perfect—except for one. Central to this season, it is Jesus Christ. For thousands of years, Christ was the long-awaited promise. Christ was the one who was hoped for. People longed for a solution to sin, guilt, judgment and finding satisfaction–and God would finally solve the guilt, cleanse the sin, forgive the debt, change the heart, make us new and promise perfection in eternity forever with the coming of Christ.

But it was a long time coming–before Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, shepherds and wise men, there were men and women and students like you waiting for Christ. They were waiting for thousands of years–not two weeks nor one day. They knew what the Bible said. They knew what God had promised.

They knew God Himself held the answer to our greatest need. And that answer was Christ, when God became a man in order to provide forgiveness from sin, cleansing from guilt, transformation of heart and eternal life with God in Heaven. These men and women waiting had read the promises of His coming.

The Old Testament records these promises of the coming cure for our sin. It is the promise of Christ. In fact, 700 years before Christ was born Isaiah the prophet recorded these words in Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

These are descriptions of Christ Himself. And the Old Testament is filled with promises just like this one. There are over 300 promises about Christ’s coming, many of them directed at his first coming when God was born in a manger–Christmas.

There might be a few cynics in the room, so allow me to help you. Over 100 years prior to Christ‘s birth, seventy scholars translated the entire Old Testament into Greek, called the Septuagint. The Old Testament and all the predictions and promises made about Christ’s coming were already translated from Hebrew to Greek.

No one was messing with the Bible. No one manipulated the Old Testament to say something about Christ. Nor did Christ run around trying to make these promises true of Him. These are all legitimate prophecies–hundreds, even thousands of years before Christ was born.

Some of you here follow Christ and can be encouraged by God’s plan to rescue you. A few must reengage with Him by repenting of sin and depending on Him by faith, which is proved genuine as you start living in dependent obedience to God’s Word today. Some of you know about Christ–you know something is wrong, your guilt is high and your dissatisfaction intense. Today is the day to cry out to Christ to rescue you.

A few of you have no interest in Christ. You’re like a rich man who found a twenty dollar bill. You’re happy you found it, but you don’t need it. If you were a poor man, twenty dollars is extremely good news. If you are a rich man, twenty dollars is an unnecessary bonus.

The problem with those with no needs is, you have no idea the danger you are in and you have no idea Jesus Christ is the only solution to your internal and external danger. You’re not looking for a solution, because you feel no need. But get in touch with your need by those who realized what God did 2,000 years ago.

This Christmas Eve morning, I want you to look at just four Old Testament promises and discover why God was born a baby in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Get your wise man on and start at the very beginning. Look at the very first direct reference to God’s plan of salvation–it is found in Genesis 3:15. Turn there. Christmas morning was . . .

#1  A birth planned from the BEGINNING

Ever watched a movie after missing the first twenty minutes? That’s like reading the Bible and skipping Genesis–you won’t understand it. There are big bands, big boys, but there was no big bang. God created the world in Genesis one. God created men and women in Genesis two. And men and women chose to disobey God in Genesis three, causing the entire human race to become sinful, born in sin, sin from the get-go.

Babies scream, toddlers disobey, teens rebel and adults get angry because we are sinful creatures. Sin is when we do our own thing. Sin is when we ignore God and His Word. Sin is missing Gods perfect design for us. Sin is an offense to a perfect, holy, righteous God. And sin must be judged–the wages of sin is death.

We can’t pay the price, because we are sinful and have sinned. Someone perfect had to die–so God sent his perfect Son to die in our place. This was God’s plan. And right in the middle of the fall into sin, there is a promise in Genesis 3:15–given about 4,000 years before Christ.

The sin was Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience in eating of the fruit in 3:6. Their choice corrupted nature and our nature into sin. The judgment of God was the curse and consequences of the fall in 3:14-19. The redemption, though not obvious, is found in verse 21 which says, “and the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

To us, this is a gracious act–but to the Israelite of the exodus, who would have read or heard this verse. He would think immediately of the animal sacrifice. Think people–you can’t wear animal skins for clothes unless the animal is dead and you now wear its skin, yes? So some animals had to die in order for God to cloth Adam and Eve. The picture is the death of an innocent animal for sin.

The Israelites reading this from the pen of Moses would have thought of the Passover and the substitutionary atonement that took place on behalf of Adam and Eve, to provide the animal skins for clothing. Can you imagine what that sacrifice would have been like to witness, if you were Adam and Eve?

Can you picture them watching the death of an animal? Picture it! You’ve never seen death before and now you watch an animal die for the very first time. You watch it go through shock, experience the convulsions, shed the blood and finally experience the stillness of death–a death that occurred because of your sin.

Then the animal is skinned and you now wear those skins to cover your guilt for sin. They cover your sin. What a graphic object lesson to demonstrate to Adam and Eve the horror of sin and the costly price of redemption. And with this redemption comes a promise, the first promise. Look at Genesis 3:15–it is commonly called in Latin, the proto-evangelium, or the first Gospel.

It says this, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Here, the singular offspring of the woman (we know Him to be Christ) will crush the enemy’s head (we know Him as Satan)–the one who was the influence behind the actions of the tempting serpent.

The promise here is of a coming seed. This promise is repeated through the entire book of Genesis and throughout the entire Old Testament. You will find God at work bringing redemption to a rebellious human race from the very start. Our God is a merciful God. This promise is called the seed promise.

Now men have seed, women don’t. The mention of “and her seed”–see it here? This is a veiled reference to the virgin birth. The announcement of the victorious offspring (seed) of the woman in this verse implies this individual will not be the offspring of a man. Like Galatians 4:4 says, “born of a woman.” Jesus was born of a woman and the Holy Spirit–her seed, through Eve, through the woman.

Adam and Eve believed this promise. We know they trusted in this promise. We know they hoped in this promise. How do we know? Adam and Eve named their next son Seth. Do you know what Seth means? Seed–they were hoping in a coming redeemer.

You can follow this seed line promise all the way through the Old Testament. Born of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Boaz, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and finally to the line of Joseph and the line of Mary. God would be born from this line–from this promise.

Other details come to life in the Old Testament about how God was born a man–the exact circumstances of Christ’s birth, the location, and the purpose of Christ’s death. Those who knew God would judge their sin were looking to God to rescue them. And God’s plan was to send His son via . . .

#2  A birth accomplished SUPERNATURALLY

Today is the day of the return of the comic book superhero, describing beings with superhuman abilities. Wolverine can rapidly heal from injury. Superman can fly. Aquaman can breathe under water. Spiderman can climb walls. Many children and adults wonder what it would be like to have superhuman abilities. Yet Christian theology has something even more amazing, because unlike the superheroes, our superhero genuinely lived, He is a person of history and a person of reality, and His powers exceed any and all of those comic book heroes.

The second person of the triune God was born, called the incarnation. Incarnation–hear it? Carne—carne asada, chili con carne, chili with meat. Incarnation–God with meat on, God come in the flesh. God in the person of Jesus Christ enters the human realm–He walks on water, calms storms, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, raises the dead and conquers the grave.

How did God do it? How did God become man? Through the virgin birth. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. There was no earthly father responsible. This is how God was born a man. The Spirit of God caused Mary to be pregnant and the God man formed in her womb, and then was born on Christmas day.

Luke 1:35, “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’” RC Sproul says Jesus birth was the result of a miraculous conception whereby the Virgin Mary conceived a baby in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This promise was predicted 750 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Then later in Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Both gospel writers, Luke and Matthew, declare that Jesus was conceived without male human involvement. Matthew said it this way in Matthew 1:23 to 25, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, ‘God with us.’ 24 And Joseph …took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”

The virgin birth reminds you that Jesus Christ preexisted before he was born. The virgin birth guarantees Jesus Christ was sinless, not affected by human nature. This was crucial for us to be freed from the punishment for sin. If Christ chose to die on our behalf, then being sinless God, He could satisfy a holy God and pay the wages of sin on our behalf.

If Christ were perfect man, then He could die in our place. The virgin birth could make this possible and it was a promise people longed for. How can I be freed from the just punishment of my sin? How can I be forgiven for my guilt? How can I be washed and made new internally? Only through Christ, who was born of a virgin 2,000 years ago–the God man. The promised coming of Christ was so specific, it was . . .

#3  A birth chosen GEOGRAPHICALLY

The exact location of the birth of Christ was chosen 700 years before he was born. Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Bethlehem is the city and Ephrathah is the district within the city, and Judah is the territory that Bethlehem was in.

It’s like saying, “O Murrieta, 15 Freeway west, who is too little among the clans of Riverside County.” Bethlehem was so little, it wasn’t even mentioned by the cartographer who listed the towns in the book of Joshua. For the doorway through which the Messiah would step onto the stage of history, God chose the portal of a small, insignificant, humble, podunk town.

This exact verse is quoted in Matthew 2:6, “’And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Matthew 2:1, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…”

Micah 5:2 is a prediction of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. The Messiah will come from Bethlehem, and he’ll be born there. Look at Micah 5:2–Christ has come to rule. Those who want to be delivered from their sin, cleansed of their guilt, forgiven for their rebellion against God want God to save them and rule them.

But not everyone. In fact–this is the key test to see if you truly are a Christian. Not that you prayed a prayer, attend church occasionally, have Christian parents, made a decision, or serve in the church. No–the test is, do you obey Christ as your ruler?

Be honest–most of the time you want to be in charge of your life. You have your own priorities, your own things that are important to you, your own kingdom that you’re building. But following Christ, being a Christian means declaring you are not in charge anymore–He is your King now. He is the One with authority to command our allegiance and behavior. He is the One who determines our priorities. He is the One whose kingdom we build.

He is to be our King. Second Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks, “’Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?’” Jesus Christ is to be the ruler of our lives.

God’s Word promised and predicted Christ would be born in Bethlehem to rule. Are you living for yourself or for Him? And Christ had . . .

#4  A birth designed PURPOSEFULLY

That cute little baby born in Bethlehem in a manger was born to accomplish something very ugly. In fact, it was a hideously grotesque scene. Over 700 years in advance, the prophet Isaiah predicted the purpose of this baby was to grow to be a man who would then suffer the worst of all deaths in order to provide a way for you to be forgiven.

Jesus was born to die–that was His purpose. Isaiah 53:5 and 6 say, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

A crucifixion usually kills by asphyxiation–you can’t breathe. So you press up on the nails through your legs to gulp air, but then the pain is so great you hang down on the nails through your wrists until the pain is so great in the arms, you have to press up again to gulp air. Along with all that writhing up and down to breath, there are other tortures–like the heart being deeply stressed, the body traumatized, the muscles divested, and the blood loss severe.

Even through all that, Christ did not die. He was perfect, sinless–Christ willingly gave up His own life, surrendered His life as an act of love for you, to save you from your sins. Your sins separated you from God. You are bound for eternal Hell. You can’t save yourself or make yourself right with God.

Christ is different than any other faith. All other faiths are based on human achievement. You work your way to Heaven, you do enough good things, then you earn your way into being right with God. Christ taught the truth of divine accomplishment–you can never be right with God or get to Heaven by anything you do. God must do it for you and accomplished it through the work of His Son on the cross.

As Matthew 1:21 declares, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This is why Christ was born–born to die a savage death for the sins of His children. When you look at Christ’s death, it should ring an alarm in your head and heart.

If God had to kill his own Son, then your sin must be a serious issue. And you have sinned. Your problem is not the external struggles you’re dealing with, it’s not the financial stress or the health issue or the broken relationship. Your problem is a sin problem–you were born in a state of separation from God, for whose glory you were created, in whose fellowship you were meant to live. This separation robs you from the core reason for your existence.

Sin makes you unable to see reality rightly, so you live in a constant state of delusion. You think you’re more deserving than you actually are. Sin also means you stand rightfully under God’s judgment. You stand condemned by God. The sentence is just and you are headed straight toward eternal punishment. You’re going to Hell unless you surrender your life to Christ. Merry Christmas!

The long awaited promise was God’s love manifested in His Son. Christ is coming again to rule and those who have Christ now have Christ as ruler. He is never merely the resident in your life, He will always be the president in your life. Christ always was perfect, holy and righteous–those who know Him want to live the same. They have new hearts that want to obey His Word, follow His example, live for His purposes.

Do you have Christ? Cry out to Him to open your heart so you can submit to Him by turning from sin in repentance and relying upon Him with faith. And all of you who have Christ, how can you not, with humble, soft hearts, thank Him for making you His child, forgiving all your sin, giving you purpose.

How can you not wonder, marvel and praise Him for being born a child–God in the flesh, come to die, rise from the dead and reign forever as King. How can you not give Him your all in service, in gifts, in love for others. And how can you not say, “Come again, Lord Jesus.” Let’s pray.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.
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