Monday, December 14, 2015

Hark, the herald angels sing...

As the Christmas pageants and nativity scenes begin to depict the Christmas story all over the world, it is important to remember the mission of the 'heavenly messengers' which heralded the birth of the Messiah.  Their mission was not to gain the attention of the world, but to focus the world's attention on the fulfillment of prophesy - the coming of the one who would set mankind free.  All messengers have a purpose - to declare a message.  Back in the day, before telephones were in every household or the advancement of technology to the point we can search anything on the internet, people relied upon messengers to deliver these little messages called telegrams.  Across the miles and miles of wires, signals were transmitted, decoded, and placed upon a small page.  Secured in a distinctive envelope and carried to their destination by one commissioned to deliver that message to the intended recipient, those messages brought news of both joy and disappointment.  On the night of our Lord's birth, the messengers were of a different sort - heavenly in origin and with a message of great joy!  

That is why we ought to pay even closer attention to the voice that has been speaking so that we will never drift away from it. For if the words of instruction and inspiration brought by heaven’s messengers were valid, and if we live in a universe where sin and disobedience receive their just rewards, then how will we escape destruction if we ignore this great salvation? We heard it first from our Lord Jesus, then from those who passed on His teaching. God also testifies to this truth by signs and wonders and miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit lighting on those He chooses. (Hebrews 2:1-4 VOICE)

Of what value is a message, or the messenger who carries it, if it is not ever delivered or heard?  Imagine if the telegraph office employed the swiftest of carriers to take that telegram message to the intended recipient, only to find the recipient of the message didn't even bother to open it.  Wouldn't you think someone going to all the trouble to share that message with you would be extremely distraught to find out you were not even interested in it?  Now, imagine how God must feel when he sees us treat any of his messages in the same manner. The most important one he could send our way is that of salvation - yet so many just turn away as though it were too hard to "open the envelope".  Most of us would open our doors to the teaming throng of folks carrying bundles of balloons, TV cameras posed to catch our every reaction, and that huge check prominently displayed which says we are the winners of the huge jackpot in some raffle or contest, right?  We wouldn't just look out the window, say "that's nice", and keep on doing whatever it is we were doing!  We'd throw push our hair into place, straighten our clothes, and throw open the doors wide!  I wonder if our response to the message may be all in how we attach "value" to the message being delivered.

Look at all the ways God has sent the message of salvation to us through the course of time. In the plagues of Egypt which set Pharaoh's heart in motion to let the Israelite people go from their place of slavery within their nation.  In the voice from the Mount, as Moses communed with God and Israel stood waiting to hear the message.  In the symbolism of the Tabernacle of Moses set up in the wilderness and the Temple built in Jerusalem.  In the prophetic words of the broken heart of Hosea, or the call to repentance delivered by Isaiah. In the heralded message of John the Baptist, urging hearts to prepare to receive their Messiah.  These are only highlights of God's message of salvation - the scriptures are filled with them.  Why on earth would so many choose to ignore such a consistent and dynamic message?  Maybe it is because they just don't "attach the value" to it yet.  Thank goodness God isn't finished proclaiming it, or millions would miss out on it!  Maybe one of the most important things we can learn from our passage today is how God uses various means to communicate his message.  It isn't as though he just speaks it one day and then it is all over.  His message is consistent and frequent.  It is delivered in ways we can see it and hear it.  It hasn't dulled in brilliance through the ages, nor will it fizzle into oblivion in the ages to come.  In the declaration of his love, there is no end to the message! 

Now, a message requires a messenger.  For the message to be of significance, it also requires a receiver.  Salvation is of no value unless it is received.  It is nothing more than words on paper until a sinner's heart opens the pages of the message, embracing the tenderness and compassion of the heart of God in the message.  No message is meant to be heard and then ignored.  In every message sent down through the ages, whether it be from a friend, relative, or agency of the government, there was an intent behind each of those messages.  In the passed notes in the classrooms while the teacher turned her back, or the carved initials in the tree, messages have been proclaimed and received.  In the banners unfurled behind the plane soaring high above, or the neon display radiant with color galore, messages beckon us to embrace some way of life, invest in the wisest of plans, or come experience some awesome discovery.  How much more significant is the message of the Messiah's coming and his actions on our part to provide a means for our deliverance from sin and judgment?  

The message is clear - if we don't pay attention to the message, we will not escape the judgment for our sin and disobedience.  Some may argue they have no sin - but I believe the truth of scripture - no man is without sin (Romans 3:23).  Some may think their own wisdom is sufficient to guide their lives - but I believe no one is truly wise (Romans 3:10-12). Some may argue their lives haven't been "all that bad", so their end will be fine without a Savior - I believe all men will "earn the wages of sin" which are death, unless they embrace the grace only available through the salvation of God (Romans 6:23).  Some may think no message is significant unless they can see the messenger - I believe God has used prophets to declare his salvation, angels to declare his coming, and preachers down through the ages. If God took so much time, used so many means to declare the message, and continues to declare the message of grace all these years, isn't it just possible the problem may not be in the sending of the message, but in the receiving of it?  Just askin?