I was always disappointed when the speaker got up on a Sunday morning and said, "Iím not going to tell you anything new", or they usually said, "youíve heard it all before." Iím reminded of something that happened between my father and me many years ago. My father had a lot of stories, but he forgot how many times he told them to me, so on one occasion I said, "Pop, youíve told me that story." He said, "I donít care, Iím going to tell it to you again." So, youíve heard this story, but Iím going to tell it to you again.
When I was preparing these remarks, and I guess thatís carried over to today, I was in a bah humbug, Scrooge-like mood. Thereís a lot, too much wrong with Christmas. Thereís too much money spent that you donít have, too much food and drink that you donít need, too many people in closed spaces to catch colds and the flu from, itís the wrong time of the year, itís generally miserable weather, itís built on pagan and heretical religious foundations. Isnít it wrong to be involved with somebody named St. Nicholas, and Christmas trees? I didnít always feel that way, of course. When I was a child Christmas was the zenith of my life. It seemed that Christmas would never get here, and when it got here the night before Christmas was interminable. I can recall when I was a child my bedroom was next to my parentsí and all night long I was sighing, "whew, whew". Finally my mother came in and said, "If you donít stop that sigh, Iím going to whip you within an inch of your life." So, anyhow, thatís the way I felt about Christmas then.
But after Christmas, oh, Christmas afternoon was a terrible episode for any child. The next Christmas was several millennia away. It would never come again. The thing about it though, when you think about it, we start the children off on the wrong foot. Itís all about getting, and not giving. And when you paint with a broad brush like Iím doing right now, you sometimes paint outside the lines. I donít wish to minimize the efforts by many people, better than most of us I expect, who devote their lives, even as we sit here today, people are sacrificing themselves for others. Not only this day, but every day.
I saw in an article in a New York paper last week that said,íI think what we should do is just have a great end of the year celebration, and celebrate the birth of Christ some other time. But these are not the real reasons that I think thereís something wrong with Christmas.
Whatís wrong with Christmas? The principle thing thatís wrong is that over that last 2000 years Jesus has become a gentile. Now itís true that Jesusí birth is all about the love of God, the love of Christ for us, his sacrifice, but this is the time of his birth and we read over and over again that he was born king of the Jews. Let me just read you a few passages. Well, you know, first of all the gospel of Matthew starts off: "The generation of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham", and then the genealogy follows, showing Jesusí Jewish heritage. And then we read in Luke 1. 31, this is the angel speaking to Mary, "And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus. And he shall be great and be called the "son of the highest", and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." In that same chapter thereís this beautiful song of praise that Mary offers to God; itís called the Magnificat in traditional Christianity. Mary says, "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy , as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever." In the same chapter
Zecharias spoke a psalm of praise to God, and what did he say?
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people,
and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us, in the house of His servant David.
As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began,
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant.
The oath which He swore to our father, Abraham, that He would grant unto us,
that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear."
Here, Zecharias recognizes that Jesus is to be the instrument by which the promises to Abraham are to be fulfilled.
Then thereís the story of Simeon and Anna. Both of them were looking for the birth of Christ, by having read the Old Testament prophets, probably Daniel 9, for one, speaking of Jesus first coming, and you know what Simeon said. He said, "At last we have the consolation of Israel." And Anna said she saw in him the remembrance of Jerusalem.
So Jesus was tied to Jerusalem, the Jews, and his kingship over them. Christ himself spoke of his coming kingship in Matthew 19, when the disciples wanted to know what role they were going to have in the kingdom. He said, "Verily I say unto you, that ye that have followed me in the regeneration when the son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Peter, in Acts, says very much the same thing. Heís speaking now to Jews, and he says in 3. 19, "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ which was before preached unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the time of restitution of all things which God has spoken of by His holy prophets since the world began."
And then finally, at his death on the cross, in Greek, Latin and Hebrew was written the phrase, ďThe King of the JewsĒ. Or more particularly it says in one of the gospels, ďThis is the King of the JewsĒ. But many people will say, "Now look. He canít be king of the Jews, because the Jews rejected him, and so he must be king of the Gentiles. I mean it says right in the Bible that "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." So he canít be the king of the Jews." And thatís sort of where things become more complicated. Jesus was never going to be king of the natural Jews, natural Israel. He was going to be king of the spiritual Jews, spiritual Israel. Read, for example in Romans 9, or in Galatians 3 and 4 in more detail for just who it is that Jesus will rule over. Theyíre Jews; theyíre just a different kind of Jew. Theyíre spiritual jews. Paul says in Romans 9, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the holy spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertained the adoption, and the glory and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises. . . Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called, that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." And in the 16th verse, "So that not of him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." Here the lesson is this, speaking naturally, the right to be a subject of Godís kingdom was that of the Jews. But which Jews?
Paul points out that the natural descendants would have been the descendants of Ishmael, because he was the natural son of Abraham. Isaac was not the natural son of Abraham, Isaac was a miracle. God chose not to save those who were of the seed naturally, but those that are the seed of promise. Said differently, Abraham was faithful and it was counted unto him for righteousness. So God says you all err when you think you can save yourself through your flesh. The Jews thought they would be saved because of their flesh. They thought they would be saved because they did remember the law, which were fleshly activities. He says, "No. You donít understand. You donít save yourself, God saves you." And from our standpoint His salvation of us is arbitrary. Jacob and Esau: Esau had the birthright, but God gave it to Jacob. So Jesus is going to be a king, and he is going to be a king over Israel, but the kingdom over which he rules will be a kingdom of spiritual Jews, not natural Jews.
Said differently, natural Jews are not excluded, they are included, but only if they become spiritual Jews. In Deuteronomy 28, God laid out all the bad things that were going to happen to Israel because of their disobedience. But in the 30th chapter, first two to three verses, "And it shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord has driven thee, and thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God and shall obey His voice according to all I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion on thee. . .and will gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord God has scattered thee."
In another context, Jeremiah 31.8: "Behold, I will bring them (that is the remnant, the remnant of the children of Israel) from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, women with child, and her that travailed of child together, a great company shall return. They shall come." And hereís how you know itís spiritual: "They shall come with weeping and with supplications will I lead them; I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble.. . .Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattereth Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock."
And then the telling passage that shows Israel change in Zechariah 12. 10 and repeated in part in Rev 20: "I will pour upon the house of David", this is Zechariah speaking now, "and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of supplication. And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one is in bitterness for his firstborn." Again, showing how natural Israel will become spiritual Israel.
In Zephaniah 3, starting at verse 8: "Therefore, wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey, for my determination to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them mine indignation, my fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy, for then will I return to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering. In that day (here we see their conversion) shalt thou not be ashamed of all thy doings wherein thou hast transgressed against me, for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths, for they shall feed and lie down and none shall make them afraid."
Thereís going to come a time when the world will be grateful for the Jews, presumably spiritual Jews, which includes natural Jews, because in Zechariah 8 we read, "Yea, many peoples and strong nations shall come to Jerusalem to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, in those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold of all the languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying that ďWe will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." No matter how odd it may seem, and I guess thatís the point of it, somebody wrote an essay sometime say, ďHow odd of God to choose the Jew." And one can say, "How odd it is that His scheme is what it is.". But we have to learn the lesson that we canít make God in our image; we canít make rules to suit our purpose in a world of seven billion people. The whole world is in an uproar about a place on the map of the world not as big as a flyspeck. But it is true, what somebody said recently,, "The trouble in the Middle East will never be solved until the trouble in the holy land is solved." And so, out of that carnage and tragedy thatís going on over there, we see a great hope.
To conclude let me read from the 14th chapter of Zechariah: "The day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem and the city shall be taken; the houses rifled, the women ravished, and half the city shall go forth into captivity and the residue shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." And then skipping over to the 9th verse, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth, and in that day shall be one Lord, and his name One."
Over the next few days, the holiday time, youíll be with a lot of people, I expect, and if you have the chance, why donít you ask somebody, "Why is Jesus called King of the Jews?"