HE CAME AS ONE OF US
one week ago, we celebrated Christmas Day and remembered that Jesus was born in
a stable and laid in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. It’s a special
day in the our faith. It’s also a special day for all of creation because it
marks the beginning of something new in the relationship between God and us.
The amazing thing about Christmas is that Jesus didn’t just come. He came as one of us. That was a new and radical idea. This was not the first time God had come to earth to be with people. The Bible is full of examples of God coming. God came to Abraham in vision (Genesis 15). God came to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3) and in the cacophony of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). God came to Samuel in the darkness of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 3). God came to Elijah in a still small voice or a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19). God had come to many people in many ways but God had never come as a baby – as one of us.
That’s what it says in Hebrews 2:17 (NIV) that I read a few minutes ago: “For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Jesus was made like us in every way. He had a physical body like we do with arms and legs. He had a belly button and arm pits. He ate and he drank just like we do.
baby, every need had to be looked after by his parents. He had to be fed and
burped. He cried when he was hungry. He probably spit up every now and then.
His diaper had to be changed. He would have got sick with the typical childhood
As he grew he would have played with the other children in the village. He would have fallen and scraped his knee and maybe cried as he limped home to Mary. Helping Joseph in the carpenter’s shop, he would have learned that trade and the value of honest hard work.
We believe that Jesus never married but have you ever considered that he might have had a teenage crush on the girl down the street? And maybe he got upset when he discovered that she liked his younger brother better. We don’t often think of those things but all of them are possible – in fact, they’re almost likely – because, as it says in Hebrews 2:17, “… he had to be made like his brothers in every way.”
He also was like us in another way. Jesus was just like us when it came to temptation. We often forget that too. We think that Jesus had a free ride through life. He was perfect because he didn’t have to deal with temptation. In fact, quite the opposite is true. He was perfect because he constantly and successfully resisted temptation. Do you remember what happened with Jesus when he spent those forty days in the wilderness before beginning his earthly ministry? In Matthew 4, we learn that he was tempted by the devil at least three times; once with food, once with trusting God and once with power. I don’t think this was the only time Jesus was tempted. I think he was tempted every single day of his life. I think that’s one of the things the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote that Jesus had to be made like his brothers (and sisters) in every way. That includes temptation. This is affirmed in Hebrews 4:15 (NIV) with says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” This verse is talking about Jesus. It’s saying that like us, he was tempted in ever way with all of the things that tempt us. But it also gives us the other side of the story. Even though Jesus was tempted in every way, yet he was without sin. That’s the difference, not that Jesus was never tempted but rather that he never fell to those temptations. That’s the difference.
HE SUFFERED TEMPTATION
In every way, Jesus was just like us. That didn’t just happen by accident. The stuff of God is never by accident. There’s always a reason for everything that God does. That reason is found in Hebrews 2:18 (NIV) which says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Or to put it another way, because Jesus suffered from temptation, he is able to help us who also suffer from temptation.
That was something very new and different. Until God came to us in Jesus God had never experienced what temptation is like. James 1:13 (NIV) is very clear about that. It says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” So, if you’re being tempted know that it is not God who is tempting you. But also be sure that God cannot be tempted. Until Jesus…
Remember that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. According to what I just read in James 1, the divine Jesus could not be tempted. But that does not hold true for the humanity that existed within Jesus. That human side of Jesus could be and was tempted. It’s odd to think that that was a new experience for God. God had never before experienced temptation and I can just imagine what it was like the first time Jesus was tempted. I think that maybe God had an aha moment. Maybe God said to himself, “Ah, so that’s what it’s like to be tempted. That’s what it’s like to want to do something that you know you shouldn’t do. Or that’s what it’s like to be tempted to not do something that you know you should do. Now I understand why it’s so difficult for my children to resist. This is hard stuff.” And so, for the very first time, God experienced in Jesus what it was like to be tempted.
I think that’s significant because it’s far easier to relate to someone who has gone through the same struggles that you go through. Many years ago, I read a book by Henry Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, called The Wounded Healer. It talked about how to help people who are suffering from any number of afflictions. The basic premise of the book is that if you want to help someone through their suffering, then you have to enter into that suffering with them.
Here are a couple of very insightful quotes from that book:
Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”
And this one:
The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.
I read things like that and I think, wow, that really hits the nail on the head. It describes precisely what is required of us if we want to be with others in their suffering. We all know that in times of hardship is far easier to relate to someone who has also been through similar hardships. Alcoholics can support each other because of their shared addictions. Soldiers who suffer from PTSD are far more comfortable talking with others who also experience PTSD. There is a bond between parents who have lost children that does not exist with those who have been fortunate enough to never experience that tragedy. It is helpful to be able to share where you are with someone without having to explain how it impacts you because the other person with the similar experience just knows and nods their head. That’s a powerful recognition and bond.
If you can understand that, than you can appreciate the significance of God coming to us in Jesus Christ. That’s why he had to be made just like us, to experience life in a physical human body and to experience the temptations that we deal with on a daily basis. That’s why he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way.
Only because Jesus lived like us and experienced temptation just like us, has he the authority and the authenticity to save us. And save us he did. 2 Corinthians 5:12 (NIV) is clear about that when it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because Jesus was made like us in every way, he experienced temptation just like we do. Because he experienced temptation, he can be with us in our suffering. And because he can be with us in our suffering, he was able to pay the price for our sin on the cross of Calvary. By his wounds we are healed. By his death and rising again we have life eternally in the kingdom. And it all started because Jesus was made like us.
BEING JUST LIKE JESUS
Here’s the final thing I want to say this morning. It is simply this; because Jesus was just like us, so too should we strive to be just like him. I know that this side of the kingdom, we will never perfectly reach that goal. He is perfect as we can never be perfect. He did not sin while we continue to sin. He is always loving while our love is often fleeting and inconsistent. But just because we can never reach the goal of being like Jesus, that does not mean that we not look to him for our standard.
Always remember that as a follower of Jesus Christ you are filled with his Spirit. You are like a holy vessel in which his Spirit lives. To be honest, you are like a cracked vessel that has been chipped and marred by life but know also that you are the best vessel God has. God wants to use you, imperfect though you are, to do his will and share his message with the world. To do that, we need to do our best to be like Jesus.
That’s an interesting thought for today. New Year’s day is often considered in our society to be a day of new beginnings. Reflect on the old, let it go and bring in the new. What new do you think God is calling you to bring in this year? What can you do to be more like Jesus: in the way you treat others; in your relationships? How can you be more like Jesus in the way you spend your money; in the ministries you support? How can you be more like Jesus in the way you treat your own body and your physical and emotional health? How can you be more like Jesus in your desire to grow closer to God through worship, devotion and Bible study?
There are so many things we could consider, there are so many ways in which we can be more like Jesus. You can’t do them all in one year. But you can get better at doing one of two of them. You can intentionally seek to do something that will bring you life closer to the one that Jesus would have you live. Maybe in the midst of all the new years resolutions that we hear about you can make one that really will make a difference.
what we read in Hebrews 2: “For this reason, he had to be made like his
brothers in every way…” Now it’s our turn to be just like him.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, your Spirit moves over the greying landscape. It hovers over the bare fields and shines through the stars of the clear winter’s night. The touch of your hand is on all things: the beauty of a snowflake, the frosted designs on the inside of a window pane, houses coloured in bright Christmas lights. We offer our thanks for your blessings and praise you for the wonders of Creation.
Thank you for the most precious of all gifts that you have given to us, your Spirit who lives within those who put their faith and their trust in you. Strengthen us and enable us to live our lives in a way that brings joy and glory to you. Enable us to follow the wisdom and leadership of your Spirit in every aspect of life.
We come to the end of another year as a new page was turned on the calendar this morning. We give you thanks for the year which is past with all of its ups an downs. And we thank you for the year which is almost upon us and we say, “Yes,” to all that it will bring our way knowing that you are in every moment.
We pray for those who are sick at home or in hospital, remembering especially Millicent Wormald, Jacqui Seguin and Helen Upcott. We think of those who have spent the first Christmas without a loved one around the dinner table. Help us to be thankful for good memories and to cherish always those who can not be with us this side of heaven.
We also would pray for our Canadian soldiers in various parts of the world. May your angels guard them as they do this most valuable and dangerous work against terrorism and for peace.
Lord of Life, we need to be single minded and focussed on what you have
called us to do. Keep us wary of distractions that would attempt to delay the
accomplishment of your great goals. As you provide us with the strength that we
need, we look straight ahead with diligence and determination to the tasks that
you have set before us. In all things, we trust in you to direct our paths,
enabling us to make the best decisions as we pray and seek you in all areas of
endeavour and praise. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
January 1, 2017 / Christmas 1
Psalm 148; Isaiah 63:7-9; Matthew 2:13-23; Hebrews 2:10-18
CALL TO WORSHIP
Arise and shine for our light has come.
God’s glory has risen in our midst.
The darkness which covered the earth has been driven away.
Come, let us worship the light that brings true life.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Love, we come to you to acknowledge your power, grace, and glory. We come with the belief that your promises are certain and your Word is secure. May your praise be on our lips during every moment of life, at night or day, whether awake of asleep. You are in all circumstances, in the successes and the failures, the defeats and the victories. Thank you for your great faithfulness and for loving us unconditionally with a love that knows no bounds or borders. Gracious God, hear our prayers. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Most Merciful Heavenly Father, despite your faithfulness, we sometimes do not put our best foot forward. Enable us, by your grace, to better comprehend and understand the power of your words. Teach us to be more responsible for the things that come from our mouths. Help us always, through our words and actions, to bring healing out of hurt, life out of death, restoration out of destruction. Forgive our sins, O God, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
As we meditate on God’s Word, we realize that his love is greater than our deepest and darkness sin. Nothing in all Creation can rob us of the salvation that is ours when we place our faith and hope in Jesus Christ. God’s hears our honest confessions and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our greatest praise is for you, O God, for you provide for our every need in all situation. Keep us watchful that we may notice your blessings when they come our way. For all things great and small, we offer our thanks asking for your wisdom and grace so that all that we have may be used for your holy purpose. Amen.
May God’s praise be always on our lips and Holy
Spirit always in our hearts. As we leave, may we go with the grace of Christ to
love and serve our God and Saviour.