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07-12-02 Imagine Seeing as God Sees

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Imagine Christmas: Seeing as God Sees

Luke 1:46-55

Intro:

  1. Video – the Nativity Story
  2. What does our world look like to God? What does He see when He looks at our world?

What I want to say: The whole motive behind Christmas is God’s response to a needy world.  When we see the world as God sees it we better understand what God is calling the Church to do in this world.

I.      God still sees (Luke 1:26-38)

A.    God has always seen a world in need (Genesis 3)

1.    In eternity past God saw a world that did not yet exist populated with lush vegetation, exotic animals and people made in His image.

2.    In Genesis God, through the Son brought this world into being

3.    First Adam, then Eve was created, each in innocence.

4.    God looked at His Creation and pronounced it “Good”.

5.    But they rebelled against their Creator and the world that God had pronounced “Good” was no longer so.

6.    Now, when God looked at the world He saw a place of need.

a)    Sin with all its consequences: pain, suffering, poverty, disease, violence and death had invaded what once was good.

B.    God has always responded to mankind’s needs

1.    God promised a Savior

2.    While He delivered specific people and groups, all the while He was working out His plan to bring a Savior to rescue mankind from sin.

3.    He kept sending messengers to prepare for the coming of this Savior.

C.   It is no problem for God to care for you while caring for the world (Luke 1:26-38)

1.    When we humans do more than one thing at once the quality of our work suffers. When God does many things at once it is always excellent – He is God

2.    When we come to the story of the birth of Jesus we find that God was still doing two things at once:

a)    He was orchestrating His plan of salvation while interacting with individuals

3.    Zechariah and Elizabeth always longed for a child – God moved to meet their desire and set the stage for the coming of Christ.

4.    God wove together worldwide needs with personal longings

5.    God can care for you while He moves history to its grand conclusion.

II.    God’s touch still moves people (Luke 1:39-45)

A.    The Christmas story is seeing what God sees

1.    This season is always one of music and exuberance. Look at the grand, dramatic decorations. And we take our cue from the story of the first Christmas.

2.    I imagine aged Zechariah dancing with Elizabeth after the promise of a child

3.    In my mind’s eye I see the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce her role in God’s plan

4.    I see Mary rushing to see Elizabeth – and doubtless celebrated with her!

5.    While there Mary singing a song of praise to God

6.    Celebration is appropriate for God’s blessings!

B.    There is wonder, joy and blessing when God moves

1.    Wonder comes from amazement that God involves people in His plan

2.    Joy from the very things that God is doing

a)    For the majority of people, Christmas is an infectious season of joy rooted in wonder at God’s intervention

3.    Blessing comes from a good God doing good things for people.  The most amazing thing is that God blesses even those who hate Him!

a)    He gives everyone sun and rain and breath

4.    Are you feeling the wonder, joy and blessing of Christmas?

5.    If not, perhaps you need to do less celebrating and more contemplating. Sit down alone and read the Christmas story as if you have never heard it before. Put yourself in the place of these very real people and ask, “How would I have felt?”

III.   God’s people still respond when they see as God sees (Luke 1:46-55)

A.    Exalting God changes our perspective (:46-47)

1.    When God has blessed you, praise Him!

a)    If we do not get that in proper order, we will end up being thankless and with shriveled hearts.

2.    When you live life with praise for what God is doing, you do not overlook needs, but respond to them

3.    God has personally cared for Mary (:48-49)

a)    His name is holy

4.    His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him (:50-52)

5.    Mary’s song was a bold, risky declaration

a)    Herod was a ruthless king who had killed his own wife and two of his sons. He would later order the killing of all boys under 2 in Bethlehem because he was threatened by the rumor of another king being born.

b)    it was not safe to talk of bringing down rulers -- Herod had his spies as tyrants do (:52)

c)    Mary took risks in praising God’s sovereignty but she was seeing the world as God sees it.

B.    Because God makes it His priority to care for those in need the Church also must respond (:53)

1.    When you see God clearly you are drawn to the needs of others.

2.    She spoke of the needs of the hungry being met (:53) while the rich went away empty-handed

3.    In the joy of the moment she did not lose sight of the needs of the poor people around her. She identified with them.

4.    Just as God acted to meet spiritual and physical needs He has called His people in the Church to care for those around us. And we are responding!

5.    Amber and Brenton – Safe Families; Mosaic Green – Myanmar family

a)    E.g. Study done by Ram Cnaan – a secular Israeli social worker. The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership (Columbia Univ. Press, 1999). In 2002 he and his fellow researchers published The Invisible Caring Hand: American Congregations and the Provision of Welfare (New York Univ. Press)

b)    75% of U.S. churches do social work of some sort in their communities. They consider it normal Christian behavior.

c)    There are some 300,000 churches in the U.S.

The principal finding is that nearly all the congregations in the study provided some form of social and community service. The most common programs addressed the needs of children, the elderly, the poor, and the homeless. Besides formal programs, such as housing projects or neighborhood cleanup activities, churches were involved in a wide range of informal activities, such as pastoral counseling, informal care of the sick or bereaved, referring people to more specialized agencies, and providing space for community groups to meet. Cnaan suggests that were it not for congregations approximately a third of children now in daycare centers would have no place to go, most scouting troops and twelve-step groups would have no place to meet, and large numbers of homeless shelters and soup kitchens would disappear. He also estimates the dollar value of the various services that congregations provide. When volunteer labor is included (at approximately $11 an hour), the average amount per congregation per month is $4,285.78. (about $51,000/year).  Only 3% are receiving any government funding

6.    It has been 26 years since the first documented cases of AIDS. This horrid epidemic has killed more than 25 million people and left untold numbers of orphans.

a)    GNBC have not ignored this but responded to those we have known suffering from AIDS.

b)    I remember being a part of the visiting and feeling joy seeing our people bring meals and visit someone from GNBC who had AIDS.

ILLUS> Latinos in Chicago and across the country remain disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Over 3,300 Latinos in Chicago are living with HIV/AIDS, which is 16% of all the cases reported in the city. (source: AIDSChicago.org)

c)    But there is more to do in our community and we must see Humboldt Park and Logan Square as God sees it – the Church must respond because the Church makes a difference when it gets involved.

A CBS2 news report in March of this year said this:  The West Town/Humboldt Park neighborhood, home to many of the city's Puerto Ricans, is also ground zero for Chicago diabetes. A Sinai Urban Health Institute study found the rate of diabetes among Puerto Ricans here is double that of any other part of the city, and three times higher than the national average.

(Disease Hitting Chicago's Latino Community Hard, Silent Stalker, Type 2 Diabetes, Soaring In Humboldt Park, 3/13/07)

Concl:

  1. Do we see what God sees? How should we respond? What clinics will we run? What personal involvement will we provide for both of these needs? These are questions for God’s people here at GNBC to respond to.
  2. Christmas is the proof that God compassionately responds to human needs.  Since the Church is God’s body on earth, we need to see the world as God sees it. It is the Church that makes the biggest difference in the world because the Church is the hands of God at work on earth.
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