Fear Not
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ConnectUs Church Audio Podcast
ConnectUs Church Audio Podcast

Episode · 11 months ago

Fear Not

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Into the darkness Jesus was born. Fear not. God is with us. Message from Denny Foreman.

Well, good morning, those of you that are here and those of you that are online. It is all is great to be with you and I want all of you to know something. I love this time of year. I know I get it. There are a lot of people that hate all the hustle and bustle. Not Me. Bring it on. I love it and I'd come by it naturally. For most of my adult life I was smack DAB in the middle of the rush. Beginning in my s I designed windows and interiors for three of Lancaster's largest department stores. There were of them back in the s. There were a lot of department stores in Leicester on the Sunday nearest October fifteen. That's October fifteen. I want you to put that down because there's a lot of people to say every year, oh Christmas, see there sending up Christmas earlier and earlier. This is October fifteen one thousand nine hundred and seventy. We were there working on that Sunday, donning the halls, as it were, with holly and Ivy and Christmas trees and all that good stuff. Then when I went to work full time at a church in the s we began planning our Christmas services as early as July. In fact, one year it took a friend and I eight months to compose and write an original Christmas musical entitled Tales of the Wiseman. Everyone's expectations are high at this time of year as we anticipate the holidays. Speaking of expectations, and this is a bad one, I can tell you that leading up to Christmas of two thousand and one, my anticipation was through the roof. That was the year. That was the year that my personal holiday expectations sword, as I anticipated the greatest saga that was ever written, a tale of good conquering evil, as one young man carried the hopes of the entire world on his shoulders. Yes December nineteen two thousand and one, the Lord of the rings movie premiered. Obviously not my highest expectation that year and certainly not the greatest tale ever written about good conquering evil, but a really good example of how our expectations can get skewed this time of year. I do love the holidays. You'll usually find me listening to carols in early fall and the rents. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus have been deeply ingrained since I was a child. The rant reality is, and I suspect for many or other people, it's all too easy to get caught up in the tincil decorating, baking, shopping, movie premieres, Christmas programs, visiting friends far and near, anticipating Christmas. As our busy ness increases, our expectations soar and our stress levels skyrocket. Now, before you get too comfortable in those great, snugly theater seats and start nodding, off the canoe. Okay, here boy, here's another. Let's put Christ back in Christmas sermons. It's not...

...here. We are the CONNECTUS, Church family, and it's our first lesson in a sermon series entitled. Do you see what I see? I want to be real honest with you, friends. With all the expectations surrounding this Holliday's season, having the privilege of delivering the first message of the Christmas season is, to be blunt, scary. I mean, the Christmas story is so well known. What can I say to add to it? Is this really what God wants me to say this morning? There's the fear of saying something that is wrong or are perhaps the could be misunderstood. There's the fear of and that, my friends, is where I'm starting our Christmas series. scariness. Fear because, as I studied the past few weeks preparing for this, I want you to see what I see. If you have your bibles and if you don't have one, the words will be on the screen and if you need a Bible, we'd love to give you one this morning. Just stop by the welcome desk as you're leaving this morning and they'll be more than happy to give you a Bible. So, as I was saying, I'm going to be reading this morning from Luke Chapter two versus eight through ten, and I'm reading from the King James version this morning bolt because, to be honest, the language of j King James just sounds more Christmasy. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, and Lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord Shone Round them and they were sore afraid. Do you see what I see? Fear, it's not the usual way to start a Christmas sermon when most of us long for the simpler days of courier and ives. You know, one of those moonlit nights with snow falling gently through the trees, candles in the windows and Victorian Families Riding merrily and horse drawn sleighs while singing carols, preferably something the kind of carols you might hear on Doubton Abbey. But for the shepherd's tale to make sense, we really need to go back many centuries to someone that passed or Kevin introduced us to a few weeks ago. Do you remember Abraham? God called Abraham to leave his home. God promised him a son, he promised him a land. It had to be a fearful prospect moving from his home in Earth, which is light was likely located somewhere in southern Iraq, near the Persian Gulf. That's over one four hundred miles to the land that God had promised him, and quite a track for a nomad to move with servants and herds of cattle and sheep. Yeah, you can say that Abraham was a shepherd. Not only did God promise Abraham Land, he promised him a son. In fact, children as numerous as the stars. One of these descendants, one child's coming would bless the entire earth having a child had to be scary for...

Abraham and his wife Sarah, since they were both likely in their S. don't be afraid, Abram. A promise of land, a promise of descendants, a promise of protection, and there's a whole litany of fear knots that begin at this point. Fear not, Abraham, if you're not Isaac Abraham am son, fear not. I will be with you, I will bless you. If you're not Jacob, God's promise to Abraham continues, and to Moses, while tending sheep and Midian. Fear not, Moses. God is commissioning you to lead his people out of bondage. I fear not, Joshua, as you parade around Jericho, if you're not Daniel, as you proclaim your faith to Nebuchadny, Nebuchadnezzar, if you're not Israel, for God has redeemed you with hundreds of fear not references in the Bible. We haven't the time this morning to consider each of them, but I asked you this week check out your scriptures and see what I see. Time and time again in the Old Testament alone, the message of God is the saying fear not. I fear not. Don't be afraid. God has promised. God has promised Israel land. God has promised to a son. He's promised a redeemer, a Messiah, a savior. Let's look back at loop to eight. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby guarding their flock of sheep. The shepherds are in the same country, the exact same hills where another shepherd once sat protecting his father's sheep. That boy had a lot to do, guard the sheep from strain, protecting those flocks from Asiatic Lions and bears that prowled nearby. That shepherd boy, like those on that first Christmas Eve, had to be on the lookout for those who might steal his father's sheep, because the hills around but Bufflehem were notorious for robbers and criminals. As the young man sat alone, he looked around, he surveyed nature. Perhaps he counted the stars like his great great, great, great, great, great great great grandfather Abraham did long ago. The shepherd boy relish the wonders of creation, praising and writing songs to his heavenly father. He looked forward to God's coming kingdom. He was thankful for God's provision and goodness, and while it could be a fearsome job tending sheep, this boy knew that even in the shadow of death, he would be safe. It's to this boy, this descendant of Abraham, that God takes his original promise further. God promises...

...this Young Shepherd Boy David, a crown. Not just any crown. God promises this Young Shepherd Boy David a dynasty. From David's line would come one whose kingdom would never end, one who would reign over Israel forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Time and time again, the writers of the Old Testament deliver these words. Fear not, Israel, don't be afraid. Fear Not, God has promised, God has a plan. Don't be afraid, because God has promised a savior, a king whose kingdom will never end. And so the people of Israel waited and waited and waited. They waited as their land fell to the Assyrians. If you're not they waited as Jerusalem was destroyed in five hundred and eighty six BC. They waited when Persia took over, and then the Macedonians. I fear not, Rome comes to power. And all the while Israel waited for Everydeemer, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Joel, prophets calling on Israel. Don't fear, Zachariah, Malachi. And then the Old Testament sages stopped writing. The peers of God had finished speaking, and there are four hundred years of silence. Then, in the stillness of a temple, an old priest goes about his business. Look at Luke One, twelve through thirteen and see what I see. As an angel appears, Zachariah, the old priest was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw the angel. But the angel said don't be afraid, Zachariah, God has heard your prayers. Do you see what I see? An Angel appears and makes a promise to an old man and his wife, Elizabeth. Both are likely in their seventies, somewhat reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah, who were also old and childless. They old priest is freaked out. Was He hearing correctly? He was old, perhaps his hearing was bad. He wasn't accustomed to hearing heavenly voices. After all, God hadn't spoken during the past four centuries. Do you hear what I hear coming out of this Angel's mouth? Fear not, and four hundred years of silence are ended with the same phrase that has echoed throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Do not fear,...

...don't be afraid. And God promises Zachariah a son, oh, not not the one promised to David, but the son who would prepare the way for the one, the promised one. And then the angel leaves, departs, but that angel isn't finished visiting our planet. Do you see what I see in Luke thirty? Do you see what's happening in a backwater town named Nazareth Gabriel? The Angel appears to young teenager named Mary, a virgin. Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You'll give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus. He'll be great and will be called the son of the most High God. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Israel forever. His kingdom will never end. Listen, friends, do you hear what I hear? Did you get what the angels telling Mary? She will give birth to the son of God, the son of the most high. This child, this son, will inherit David's throne and reign forever. After centuries awaiting and four hundred years of quiet, the silence has broken and God is keeping his promise. He's keeping his promise to Abraham, to Isaac Jacob, David and to generations of the people of the promise a savior is about to be borne. No, wait a minute, I fear not Mary. Of course she was frightened. She was engaged to a man named Joseph, and she's still an innocent, a virgin, a very young girl, and there were rules, there were laws about promiscuity, there were ramifications. What would her parents say? After all, parents arranged marriages? What would be the community's response to her pregnancy? Would anyone in their right mind believe an angel had appeared to her? By the way, what is she going to tell her fiancee? Don't fear Mary. and Oh yeah, about her fiancee, Joseph. Here's a decent guy and he was willing to withdraw the Betrothal to help save, or at least salvage some of Mary's reputation. And what about his prestige in the community? What about his reputation. Check Out Matthew Twenty and see if you see what I see. Another Angel, this time in a dream. He says, Joseph, son of David. Do you not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child within her is conceived by the Holy Spirit. She'll have a son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Did...

...you get that? Did you hear what I hear? This child, this son, will say people from their sins. Salvation is coming, world, salvation is coming. Mankind had been hopelessly lost since that awful day in Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Humankind lived in fear, the fear of death. Generation following generation ask the same question. When would God send his promised redeemer? When would the promised deliverer come? Galatians, for for reminds us that when the right time came, God sent his son. Did you get that? Did you see what I saw earlier? A MESSENGER and Angel, specifically the Angel Gabriel, paving the way by announcing the coming of a savior to the key players in our story, Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose son would become the person to announce the way and point to the Messiah. Here's a spoiler alert for those of you that don't know. That son would grow up to be John The baptist, pointing to his cousin Jesus and proclaiming, look, there is the son of God. And then there are the lead actors in our story, Joseph and Mary, who would give birth and parent the long desired savior. So with the key actors in place, now see what I see? God's right time had come. Let's return to the hills above Bethlehem and a group of shepherds. Now you can trace shepherds back to the garden of Eden with Able Adam's son. You can certainly trace shepherds back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Large flocks were a sign of wealth and prestige in those patriarchal societies, but times had changed. On that first Christmas night it was a much different story. Yeah, shepherds were necessary. They guarded and provided protection for flocks. Sheep provided food, sheep's wool was loomed and made into cloth and lambs were sacrificed in the temple. While sheep were very important, their shepherds not so much. In fact, you couldn't get much lower on the social ladder than being a shepherd. They were outsiders. Sheep needed care seven and because of the nature of their jobs, most shepherds could not participate, and we're not welcome in temple worship. The shepherds were so despised they were considered somewhat equal to tax collectors. There was a German theologian and historian named Joachim Jeremias. He was called one of the most significant New Testament scholars in Germany and according to Dr Jeremias, shepherds were deprived of all civil rights. In fact, as you take nothing else from this this morning, I want you to get this. At that time, religious leaders had a name for shepherds, a technical term for despised people, for the outcasts...

...among them, and the term used in referring to shepherds at this time in history was sinners. So if shepherds were termed sinners, low lifes, undesirable, I want you to reread loot to eight with that in mind. And there were, in the same country, shepherds, sinners, staying in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night and low the a jewel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shown around about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angels said under them, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Now most of us have seen, are perhaps been involved in dramatized versions of this scene. A group of excited, probably embarrassed elementary school boys dressed in their dad's bathrobes, falling back in mock horror as one of their schoolmates in a white sheet and cardboard wings makes the big announcement. At best, we think of Christmas cards are artwork depicting shepherds, but when you substitute that term sinners in place up of shepherds, I find myself, we find ourselves, being confronted all of humanity, because a scripture tells us all have sinned, all of us fall short of what God intended. So join me and the other sinners, those shepherds on the hillside. It's nighttime and we're out in the dark. Wild Animals Howl, the rest is silent. God hasn't spoken from Heaven in four Hundred Years, and even if he had, shepherds weren't considered worthy of being in the temple. So they weren't all that familiar with heavenly beings. And then an angel. Angels are described many different ways throughout scripture, and it's true that there are times they appear as men. It's also true that they appear with various heads, numerous folding wings, moving backwards, forwards, up and down, far removed from the Chubby angels with Miniature Wings painted on renaissance canvases. It's scary for those shepherds. Fear not if you're not. And there's something else. The glory of the Lord blanketed them. Now we've seen paintings. In fact, if you saw the recent chosen messengers movie this past few weeks, you might have seen a depiction of flickering, glowing lights radiating from the clouds, kind of like a disco ball thing going on there. That's not quite the same picture as when God's glory descended and blanketed Mount Sinai, when Moses received the Ten Commandments. In fact, at that time, Mount Sinai was covered in fire,...

...smoke, thunder lightning, trumpet blast, a sight so terrifying that even Moses was trembling and afraid. We don't know what the shepherd saw. While it may have been a silent night in the tiny town of Bethlehem up in the hills, the shepherds were enveloped in the presence of glory. And you see what I see? I'm old, but not that old. I wasn't there. It may not have been fire and smoke. It may have looked like the Aurora borealis. It doesn't matter what it looked like. I do know this that, drawing a routinely silent night of shepherding, an angel appears. God's glory bursts through the darkness and these sinners, these shepherds, are scared. I can just about hear one of the UPPARD shaking his head, rubbing his eyes. Hey, Matt, just see what I see. Yell Bro Scared me so much I think I added to the sheep manure. An abrupt appearance by an angel would startle anyone, and these guys shake with fear. And it continues in Luke. Two, ten to twelve. Then the angel said to them, do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings, a great joy which shall be to all people, for there is born to you this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord, and this will be assigned to you. You will find a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I'm hearing? Christ the Lord, the promised one, the savior who had been promised and ancestor to Abraham approximately eighteen centuries ago, the one promised to King David about ten centuries earlier. And the world has been waiting and waiting from Messiah from the closing of the Old Testament until this very moment, on this hill side, on this silent night, and the silence is broken and good news is given to the lowliest of the low shepherds or, as the religious elite called them, sinners. No wonder the heavens couldn't hold back. The armies of Heaven break through the armies of Heaven, hosts of angels break in the night, proclaiming. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? A savior has been born to vanquish sin and ransom mankind. Look too, hundred and thirteen and suddenly there was, with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace, good will toward men. These guys, these shepherds, they weren't learned individuals. These men were not welcomed in the temple. And I just love that God sent angels to the lowest of the low that first Christmas morning. I love to hear the glorious news was to a group of as of religious elite, called them sinners, sinners us like me. Then the...

...angels left. That's silent again. Do you remember Joseph's dream with the Angel told him to take Mary as his wife? Yep, Joseph saw an angel and then he woke up. I always shake my head, I may have said this before to some of you, when I read Luke one hundred and thirty eight. Angel has appeared to Mary and told her she's going to give birth to a son. And after the angel meets with her, his the final words in that Luke passage are and the angel left. The Angel left her. But here's the thing. Mary responded with okay, so be it, no matter what her friends and families might say, she is saying Yes to God. Joseph Responds by taking Mary as his wife and protecting her and the baby. Jesus, no matter what the village elders might think, no matter what his male pride may have been hurt, and Joseph says yes, yes, Lord, I'm going to do this. And those lowly shepherds. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? In Luke to fifteen? Let's go to Bethlehem, let's see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about? To See what I see? They're personalizing God's message. Even though they weren't welcome in the temple, even though they might not have been brought up learning the Torah, they heard the message God sent through his Angelic Messengers. They believed what the angel had to say and they followed through. They said yes, let's go see, and they went and they saw Mary and Joseph and the baby, exactly as they had been told. Do you see what I see? A baby who would grow up, who would be the Good Shepherd? Do you hear what I hear? A baby's cry who's very voice had spoken the world into being and who would cry from the Cross. It is finished, as God's plan for redemption reached its apex. And you know what? I know? After seeing Jesus, those shepherds lives were changed. They couldn't keep their mouths shut. Luke to seventeen tells us that after seeing Jesus, the shepherds told everyone what had happened. I want you to return to your neighbor and repeat with me. After seeing Jesus, Oh, you can do better than this. After seeing Jesus, the shepherds told everyone. The shepherds told everyone what had happened. Thank you. Yes, after seeing Jesus, the shepherds did tell everyone what had happened, what the angel had told them, and everyone who heard their story was astonished. The shepherds, who the religious leaders considered sinners,...

...became the first to share the good news. That's a promised son had arrived. Friends, we live in fearsome times. Anger is all around us, hatred abounds, decency pretty much gone, wars fighting, they're all breaking out on a moment's notice. Everywhere on the globe. They are famines, strange weather conditions. I need mention sickness. I would remind you that's the child born that day is God in the flesh and God is love. And I would remind you according to first John, for eighteen perfect love drives away all fear. To See what I see? That child in the manger. We may not see an angel, Gabriel, may not visit you with a message from God, but we have something Abraham, David and the prophets they never had. We have God's word and his Holy Spirit and, based on the authority of Scripture, I want to proclaim to you this morning fear not. Peace has come. This child has been born for you. Do you know what I know? God has come to reclaim sinners. The Babe born that night is the one whose word broke through the darkness and created the heavens and the earth. The child born that night would become the good shepherd who is love, and perfect love does cast out all fear. Do you know? This child, this lamb of God, would be the sacrifice given to pay for the sins of mankind, for my sins, for yours. Do you see what I see? I see an empty tomb. Do you hear what I hear? And Angel said he is risen, death is defeated. Do you know what I know? October, the last Sunday night in October, one thousand nine hundred and seventy four. I recognize that I needed this savior and I am free because this savior, the boy born that night, has conquered sin. Do you see what I see? Angel Messengers? Do you hear what they're saying? Why are you looking up, folks? The same Jesus that rose into heaven is returning. He's coming back. Fear Not unto us. A child is born, a son is given, his name is called wonderful counselor mighty God, everlasting father, the Prince of peace, and the shepherds, those sinners visited by Angelic Messengers, where the very first to gaze into the eyes of the one who came to bring them new life. Are you fearful this morning? We do live in fearful times. Of course, you could argue. When haven't there been fearful times? Jesus is calling us this morning. Come to me, all you who are weary, tired,...

...struggling, fearful. Come if you don't know this Jesus, I ask you to take the opportunity this morning. I'm going to ask Kevin and the worship team to join me as the service ends. I'd love to share with you how Jesus can be your Lord and Savior, Kevin and I will be here. We'd love to pray with you. So thank you for allowing me to be here with you this morning. Fear not,.

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