Christmas 2020 – Mighty God
I’m not sure how it happened-but today is December 20th-and this coming week is Christmas! Didn’t it just feel like Halloween and all things pumpkin spice? How did Christmas come racing in? And now it’s all things peppermint and gingerbread spice. And let me add that the parade of wild animals has continued at our church-and it’s been very seasonal. Back in November we had our wild turkey, just this past week here’s who showed up-goose pic. A goose just in time for Christmas. So if anyone suspiciously has a Christmas goose for dinner we will know! I’m just waiting for 2 turtledoves to show up-and a partridge in a pear tree! But as usual December has flown by and the holidays are literally upon us. So I want to ask the big question-how is your Christmas shopping coming along? Who’s got all their shopping done? Who hasn’t even started their Christmas shopping yet? About this time in December is the tipping point between the two different types of people that exist. I like what one British author says-Tice, 5-6. Maybe you can relate. And I want you to see on the screen how he’s spelled this out: not-particularly-useful-but-at-least-I’ve-got-you-something present. And we all know this is a real thing-we’ve probably all received one these presents-and I’m sure we’ve all bought one! It’s when you suddenly realize that you’re empty-handed and desperately need to pick up a gift for somebody. The problem in those situations is that the need for a quick present outweighs the ability to find a good present so you usually go with the first thing you see. Whether it’s the secret Santa at work you forgot about, or that somebody new is joining the family at Christmas dinner. Or you’re meeting up with a friend who well in advance purchased the thoughtful, useful, this-is-perfect type of present and you hand them the not-particularly-useful-but-at-least-I’ve-got-you-something present. And of course you both know it as you’re saying Thanks so much-I can’t believe you got this for me-and they’re saying-Yes and thank you for this. But no matter what type of person you are-the planned out, thoughtful giver or the last minute, at least I got you something giver-a big part of Christmas is the presents. I’m willing to bet that for each of us there’s something we want for Christmas, or some sort of gift we’ll unwrap and receive. And that’s the point I want us to understand this morning-that Christmas really is about the presents-it’s about receiving the present that God wants to us give us-and it isn’t the not-particularly-useful-but-at-least-I’ve-got-you-something present-but the most well thought out, perfect present we could ever receive.
Turn to Isaiah 9 in your Bible. This is where we started last week and tells us about this present we’ve received from God-Isa 9:6-7. This is an incredible description of the baby born in Bethlehem-the gift of God’s Son. There’s no one else on the entire planet this could be said of other than Jesus. Last week we examined the 1st of these 4 titles-that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor. We saw how He’s experienced what we experience, that He knows what we’re going through; He hurts when we hurt-and He moves beyond advice and into action by giving His life for us. Today we’re going to examine the 2nd of these 4 titles which is Mighty God.
Now of the 4 titles this one might be the most familiar to us. Many times throughout the Christmas season we’ll hear that name Immanuel describing Jesus which means God with us. During the last few weeks we’ve said that Jesus is the eternal 2nd person of the Trinity who had no beginning and will have no end-yet He entered our world and became a human on that first Christmas in Bethlehem. The Creator entered His creation. I have always liked how Max Lucado describes it. I read this book back in high school but it’s stuck with me ever since-God Came Near, 25-26. And that’s the incredible truth we’re confronted with every Christmas. That’s the miracle of the baby being born, the miracle of the Incarnation-that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. He’s not one or the other. Do not forget that! He’s not God in disguise nor is He just a man with super spiritual powers. Rather Jesus is one person with two natures-divinity and humanity. And so what I want us to consider this morning is the mystery of how those two natures work together. Specifically, I want us to understand that word Mighty-what does it mean in regard to His birth? How is Jesus our Mighty God in human flesh?
First of all the phrase Mighty God in the original Hebrew actually reads God of strength. The word mighty is used as an adjective meaning strong. So what Isaiah is telling us is that if this child is anything-he’s strong. Now that doesn’t mean the first time Mary picked up Jesus she saw some well-defined biceps and thought what a strong kid-he should throw the spot put in track! Mighty doesn’t equal muscles. The strength talked about here isn’t something physical. Normally we view strength as who’s the biggest and toughest, who exerts the most force or intimidates the most people. That was Goliath. Remember him? The 9 footer who wore armor that weighed 125 pounds and had a giant spear. Day after day he taunted and yelled at the Israelites and they quivered in their boots. It was only David who had the courage to face him because Goliath said-1 Sam 17:10-11. I picture Goliath like some sort of professional wrestler standing in the ring yelling and pounding his chest, ready to beat up anybody and everybody. But that’s not the sort of might or strength being talked about in Isaiah. Jesus didn’t go around showing everyone how strong He was-Hey, check out what I can do, rather Pt1: His Might: strength under control.
That’s what real might is all about. Flash forward 30 years in Jesus’ life and we get to see His strength in action. One of the first accounts in Jesus’ life is when He comes face to face with His arch enemy, the devil. So if there’s ever a time for Jesus to exert His strength and show off His might, it’s here. But what does He do-Matt 4:1-3. And if you’re Jesus-not having eaten for 40 days-wouldn’t you say to the devil-You want me to make bread? How easy is that? Give me something harder than bread. I’ll make a steak dinner with potatoes and garlic bread and an appetizer-check that out! But Jesus doesn’t do that. He exhibits more strength by not showing off than doing what the devil’s suggested. Think about it-it takes more strength to hold back and show restraint, than it does to give in. It takes more strength to exhibit self-control than it does to blow up and take matters into your own hands. Remember that the next time you want to march off in anger or pride and show someone who’s boss. It takes more strength to hold back and show self-control than it does to lash out and give someone a piece of your mind. And that’s what Jesus does-even when He hasn’t eaten for 40 days! Matt 4:4-6. And once again, Jesus could have said-Forget the angels, you want to see strength, I’ll just fly off this cliff and circle the globe a few times like Superman! But Jesus doesn’t do that either. He doesn’t unleash His strength just to show off, instead He shows restraint and relies upon God’s Word-v. 7. This is incredible self-control from Jesus because He could have instantly shown the devil how mighty He is. And how many times do we fall victim to this sort of temptation with people far less intimidating than the devil? You want to push my buttons? You want to back me into a corner? I’ll show you! And then we try to assert our might or our strength in vengeful ways. Have you been there? But that’s not Jesus’ model. His strength isn’t for show, it’s strength under control.
Look at what happens at the end of His life-Matt 26:47-50a. Wow! Talk about strength under control! Who wouldn’t want to punch Judas right there and let him have it? I would! It’s what I cheer for every time I read this passage. Time to punch Judas and take that guy out! But look what happens-Matt 26:50b-52. What? Jesus didn’t say-Time to fight-we’re just getting this thing started! No! Jesus didn’t pull out His sword and say-let’s see what you’ve got! Instead Jesus is saying I didn’t come to fight and throw punches or swing swords-Matt 26:53-54. Jesus is showing restraint-knowing that He is fully capable to wipe out all these people. He has all the power of heaven at His disposal-this is like 60,000 angels-but He refuses to use it. It’s the same in Matt 27:27-31. Jesus didn’t have to endure any of that. He could have stopped it all with one word from His mouth as Almighty God; with one wave of His hand all these soldiers would have fallen dead and He would have stood there victorious. But Jesus’s victory is the cross-and He endures it with incredible strength. He holds back because His real power, His true might is displayed in His suffering. As the One who is fully God and fully man this is what He’s come to do, it’s what He was born to do-to be led away to be crucified. Talk about strength under control! Look at Matt 27:39-42. But believing in Jesus isn’t because He had the power to come off the cross and save Himself, we believe in Jesus because He had the mighty power to stay on the cross! Have you ever thought about it like that? He could have come down. He wanted to come down-but the amazing part is that He didn’t. Jesus stayed there and died. He bled and suffered instead of escaping and running free. And that’s what the religious leaders didn’t understand. They thought their Messiah would be this mighty warrior who would show up and destroy their enemies. What they didn’t see was that the Messiah was indeed their mighty warrior-but to destroy their enemy-that being the enemy of sin and death-He Himself had to die. And doing that required strength under control. Facing the cross took the greatest amount of might and strength the world has ever seen. And that’s what was necessary to save us from our sins. There was no other way. Look at-Zeph 3:17 NIV. This is one of my favorite verses. Being saved was something only our Mighty God could do for us. No one else was strong enough.
And that leads to Pt2:Our Might: isn’t mighty enough (only Jesus can save us). Last week we talked about how at Christmas we’re reminded that we didn’t make our way to God, rather He came down to us. We needed a mighty God to enter our world and save us as we were lost and stuck in our sins. What does it say in Rom 3:10-12. That includes all of us. None of us are an exception. None of us can say-I’m not that bad-I know a lot of people who are that bad-but I’m okay. I’ve done the best that I can-it’s all anybody can ask for-so I’m alright. But it doesn’t work that way-none of us are alright according to God’s standard because we’ve all sinned. And the problem is that there isn’t anything we can do about it-Rom 3:20. No amount of moral effort or good works or trying with all our might to be good will ever save us. Our strength, our resolve, our determination, our might in trying to live better and please God will never work. And that really goes against what most people think, especially this time of year. We all remember the famous Christmas villain Ebenezer Scrooge. He was a mean old, selfish, greedy, bah-humbug guy that everybody despised. But after visiting with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future-spoiler alert-he decides to wake up on Christmas morning and become nice. That through sheer willpower and determination he decides to become a new man. It’s a wonderful, heartfelt story-but in my opinion, Charles Dickens ended it too quickly. Sure Scrooge can be a good guy for a day or a week or maybe even a month-especially around Christmas time. Anybody has enough might to be nice for awhile. But was Scrooge still a good guy 6 months later or a year later? What was he like the next Christmas? We don’t get to read the sequel-Scrooge Part 2. Did he have enough strength to permanently change himself into a good person or did he slide back into his miserly ways-once a Scrooge always a Scrooge? The Christmas stories don’t go far enough, they don’t tell the whole truth. What about the other Christmas villain-the Grinch? We all remember his transformation. And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then–the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two! Again great story-but contrary to Dr. Seuss that isn’t possible. We’re not capable of truly changing and transforming our hearts on our own. What happened to the Grinch next Christmas? Did he go back to being a mean one Mr. Grinch? This kind of change might work in stories-but it doesn’t work in reality. We’re not mighty enough on our own to become the people God calls us to be.
We need the One who is. We need the One who is mighty enough, the One who is mighty to save, the One who is our Mighty God coming down to this earth for us. Back to Pt2. That’s the Christmas message-Matt 1:20-21. Or listen to it in-Rom 3:23-24. That’s what Christmas is all about-that gift of Jesus who was given to us; our all-powerful, infinitely strong and mighty Savior who came into our world. And He showed us His incredible strength-not by flexing His muscles or pushing people around or showing off with miracles-but by submitting Himself to the Father’s will of being unfairly treated, arrested and sentenced to the cross. And yet He was willing to do that. Jesus suffered and died because He knew our need for Him was that great.
That’s Pt3:Our Need: for Jesus will never end. Not only do we need Jesus to be our mighty Savior, but we need Him for all of life. Being a Christian isn’t just saying a prayer for Jesus to save you and then going on to live your life however you please- I asked Jesus into my heart years ago so I’m good now. Being a Christian means realizing every day how much you need Jesus to fill your heart with His transforming grace and abundant peace. It means realizing how much you need Him for all aspects of your life. Being a Christian isn’t just that momentary event of trusting Jesus to be saved. That’s where it starts-but it becomes a lifelong relationship of trusting Him-because there will never come a time when you don’t need Him. You will never not need Jesus. I used the ungrammatical double-negative-but it communicates the truth so perfectly. You will never not need Jesus. If you’re a parent-think about how much your kids need you. Without you caring for them, providing a roof over their heads, feeding them, driving them places, changing their diaper when they’re little and telling them to take a shower when they’re older what would they do? Your kids will never not need you. Even when they become adults and think they don’t need you, they still do! They need your advice and wisdom in life; they need your love and support. A child’s need for their parents never ends. Or think about Adam and Eve. Was there ever a time they didn’t need God? No-the one time they thought they didn’t need God and could go it their own way was the time they believed the lie of the serpent and fell into sin. What a shambles that was when Adam and Eve thought they didn’t need God-the world fell apart when they tried to be self-reliant.
And it’s no different for us. We cannot be the people we’re supposed to be, we cannot live the way we’re supposed to live through our own might or strength. You can’t think you can go it on your own. It’ll never work. Your own resolve and determination to be better person isn’t enough- you’ll only make a train wreck of things when you try. Self-reliance is a dead end. You need the Lord to strengthen you. You need Him to transform your heart and shape you. You need His help and His wisdom. And that only happens when you remember how truly needy you are. I think a lot of us are willing to trust the Lord and rely on Him during really hard times in life where we have no where else to turn. But we tend to think of relying on the Lord as the exception, not the norm. That when things settle down in life and get back to normal then we can go back to relying on ourselves and being in control. But the more you follow Jesus, the more He wants to remind you that trusting Him, and not yourself is the norm. That a life of trusting Him is the life you were meant to live. You don’t graduate from having to trust Jesus or move into platinum status as a Christian where you’ve got this all figured out on your own. Instead, following Jesus is realizing that your might isn’t mighty enough-and that your weakness isn’t something to run from-because He specializes in making the weak strong-Isa 40:28-31 NIV. A weary world rejoices! Are there places in your life where you feel like you might faint? Are there places where you’re tired and weary? Where you’re struggling to keep your head above water, feeling like you’re going to sink at any moment? Maybe it’s just getting through this year and you don’t think you’ve got the strength to go any further. Well the Lord doesn’t intend that you go any further-in your strength. Don’t be afraid to admit your need to Him. Don’t be too proud to admit how weak you are. Let Jesus, your Mighty God strengthen you. That’s why He was born, that’s why He’s come. Jesus didn’t come for the strong or the mighty-as He says, He didn’t come for the healthy, He came for the sick. He came for the weak. He came for people who know they need Him. As we said earlier, it’s not the people who are good enough that God accepts-because no is. The people God accepts are those who have been forgiven, those who know how weak and sinful they are but also know how mighty their Savior is.
At the start of the message we talked about gifts-and we said that Christmas really is about the presents-it’s about receiving the present that God wants to us give us-and it isn’t the not-particularly-useful-but-at-least-I’ve-got-you-something present-but the most well thought out, perfect present we could ever receive. I want to return back to this Christmas book because I love the opening question-Tice, 11-13. What did the angel announce to the shepherds on that dark night in Bethlehem? Luke 2:10-12. How incredible-infinite strength wrapped up in swaddling clothes, majesty and might lying in the manger-but that is Jesus, our Mighty God. And He has come for us!