The Four Gifts of Advent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:19
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Good evening, Gateway Chapel!
Song #1 - Joy to the World
Song #2 - O Come All Ye Faithful
Luke 1:26–38 ESV
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Song #3 - Hark
Song #4 - Angels
Luke 2:1–21 ESV
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Song #5 - Go Tell it On the Mountain
Song #6 - O Come Emmanuel
Matthew 1:22–23 ESV
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
What does Christmas teach us about God? What is he like? How do we relate to him?
As Dorraine and Sandy read, we hear this story every year. What do we take away to grow in our understanding of God?
I think sometimes, God can be like the relative you see once a year at Christmas. I know who they are, I know some things about them, but I don’t really know how to talk with them. It’s usually the crazy uncle, right? So say it’s your mom’s brother and your mom has told you a lot of things about him, but you’ve never really had much interaction with this person. Again, it’s not like you don’t know who they are, it’s your uncle for crying out loud, but if it was just you and them in a room, I don’t know what you’d talk about.
In Matthew 1:23, we see Jesus is given the title Immanuel - God with us. And even as Sandy read in Luke 1:28, the angel tells Mary, God is with you! Christmas teaches us that because of Jesus, we can live with God. There is a with-ness to God. But what does that mean and what does it show us about how we relate to him?
In his book, “With” Skye Jethani makes the argument that we often have a hard time thinking about living ‘with’ God. Rather, we think about living UNDER God, OVER God, FROM God, or FOR God. And tonight we’re just going to look briefly at each of these, reflect on which might be you, and see how living WITH God is the life we all need because of Jesus.

Under God

The first false image of God is living UNDER God. If you grew up in public school, you said one nation UNDER God over and over again. This is not bashing that dynamic at all.
This is the view of God through the lens of most world religions. God is huge, you are small, obey the rules or you will be crushed by God. It’s like living your life under a giant anvil, and if you don’t work to appease the God, the anvil will fall on your head and smash you.
It’s the view of God that says he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes.
It’s the view that if you have a bad Christmas, you must have done something wrong, God is upset and now he’s working to punish you for your sin because he wants to let you know how bad you are.
Maybe this was you growing up, but think of the kid who does chores vigorously at Christmas time to appease their parents because they know if they don’t do everything just right their parents will get mad and ground them.
Why is this view appealing? It gives us a sense of control. Even though we’re living under God, we seek to be above him by puppeteering God through our behavior. If I read enough of my Bible, pray hard enough, and go to church, then I can avoid bad things in life and sneak by the three headed monster.
The second view of life is living

Over God

This is the view of God some may call Deism, or if you don’t believe in God, atheism.
This is the view of God that says Christmas teaches us there is so much wrong with the world, so much pain, so much strife and conflict, so much suffering, so much death, that God is just not in the picture. If he did make the world, he’s not here anymore. And many believe if you look at the current state of affairs, it’s evident he’s like Santa Claus and never existed in the first place.
This is the view of God that says because of modern understanding of science, medicine, psychology, and other things, we know what really runs the world, and it’s not God. Gravity is the reason we stay on the planet, the sun rises every day because that’s just what it does. I have the ability to think and reason and love and hate because I am an evolved person over billions and possibly trillions of years.
There is no with-ness to this God. This God has no interest in being with his people, but is now as distant as a star millions of lightyears away, uninterested and cold-hearted to the world today.
Planner - going about planning my week without praying
Why is this view appealing? It puts us in the driver’s seat. Humans control our own destiny. We are at the helm of this ship. I have no one to answer to but my self, my own heart, my own desires because I am living OVER God.
Under God, Over God, and third...

From God

This is the view of God where he just ends up looking a lot like me. God’s kingdom is my kingdom. God’s will is my will. Whatever I want is obviously what God wants. In our consumer culture, God becomes a means to an end, to just give me what I want.
Did you know the average American sees over 3,500 desire inducing advertisements a day?
We are conditioned to covet. And without thinking about it, God becomes a tool by which we can get what we want.
Jethani says
“...see a divine butler, a cosmic therapist, a holy vending machine who dispense the wares and wisdoms they desire.”
This Advent season we did a sermon series called “The 4 Gifts of Advent.” We talked about Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. In the “From” God view, we don’t really need Jesus, we just want his gifts: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Jesus didn’t come to give us himself, he came to give us his stuff.
God is like your uncle at the Christmas party who just gives $100 to everyone because he wants everyone to have a good time. He’s the funcle!
Why is this view appealing? Again, it puts us in control. I can appease God through some basic things like reading, praying, serving, so he can give me what I really want: good feelings and safety.
I think this is the religion of many in our churches, and sometimes in my own heart.
Where does this image break down? When things go wrong. And we think, “Surely God would never allow this in my life! How could a good God allow me to go through this?” And yet as CS Lewis says...
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains: It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
UNDER God, OVER God, FROM God, and fourth,

For God

This is the view of God that says God loves me, but he doesn’t really like me. He loves me most when I do things FOR him. He’ll be happier with me next Christmas when I read my Bible more, pray more, serve more.
I remember driving home one day from church, telling God, “I promise I’ll never do that again!”
I thought that’s what God wants from me. More good stuff, less bad stuff. He’s kind of disappointed with me right now, but if I can just get things together he’ll be happy.
This is the child who does more chores than any kid in the history of the world not because they love their parents but because they are TERRIFIED of getting coal.
What’s appealing about this view? Again, I am in control. If I can just manage my sin, then God will be happy with me. God makes more sense in this dynamic because clearly how could God love me when I’m failing just as much as when I’m doing well? The focus is not on what God has done for me, but on what I can do for God. Even though it seems humble, in the end it is as prideful and ego-centric as the other views.
So we’ve looked at living
UNDER God - God is a capricious deity who I must assuage through prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance so he doesn’t send bad things my way.
OVER God - God isn’t really in the picture. It’s up to us to determine our fate and make the most of this life.
FROM God - God is a vending machine. He’s a butler. He’s just like me and wants what I want and if I just do some basic Christian stuff he’ll give me the good life.
FOR God - God is a disappointed parent. He’d love me more if I did better, worked harder, and was more excited about him.
Yet what does Matthew say about Jesus? He is God with us.
The Christmas story teaches us that God is the kind of God who wants to be with us. And we see that most clearly in the arrival of Jesus.
Because of Jesus, we can live with God. He is Immanuel, God with us. He came as Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. This is one of the main points of the book of Matthew. Matthew uses the title “Immanuel” from Isaiah, saying Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to save and be with his people. And Matthew ends in Matthew 28:20 by saying
Matthew 28:20 ESV
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God’s with-ness is one of the main points of the Bible. God wants to be WITH us. In the Garden of Eden, in the tabernacle, in the promised Land, bringing the people back from exile, and finally in Jesus. But the problem is sin! Because of sin, we are afraid of God. Adam runs away and hides from God, the people of Israel cower from God at Mt. Sinai, Isaiah hides himself when he sees God’s glory…sin deceives us into thinking that God is not the kind of God who wants to be with us.
Because of Jesus, we can live with God. Not UNDER him. God is more than a divine anvil, but revealed himself in a tiny baby and as a man who was gentle and lowly in heart.
Because of Jesus, we can live with God, not over God. God is near, not far. In Jesus, we see God’s desire to be present in the life of his people.
Because of Jesus, we live with God. And not from God. Jesus came to give us more than hope, peace, love, and joy. He came to give us himself. The bread of life, life itself. He came to save us from our own deception that what we need is more stuff.
Because of Jesus, we can live with God, and not for God. Christmas reminds us of the good news that there really is some one out there who loves you unconditionally. God is with you when you sin and loves you just the same. He did not wait for humans to get their act together, but sent Jesus to be Immanuel and save his people from their sin while they were still sinning. And for you and I today that means he still stays with us.
So how do we get in on this wife God life?
Trust. Faith. Christmas teaches us that God is a person who wants to be in a loving relationship with us. And what is the bedrock of any loving relationship? Trust.
Faith is the gateway and the way in life with God.
Sin is what keeps us from seeing that God is the best part of our life and what we really need is him. When we trust Jesus, he forgives us of our sin because he paid for it on the cross.
Faith is also the way forward. Jesus showed us how to live by faith. It’s not always easy!
Because of Jesus, we can live with God. And that’s really good news.
Maybe you’ve been living under God, afraid of his wrath and unaware of his love for you. Be reminded that God’s wrath was put on Jesus, and he has none left for you. He wants to live with you.
Maybe you’ve been living OVER God, running your life apart from God’s presence. There is a life possible outside the life of fear.
Maybe you've been living FROM God, using him as a means to the good life. Be reminded that Jesus is the best part about life, and nothing is better than getting a life with him.
Maybe you’ve been living FOR God, always worried God is disappointed in you. Be reminded that God will not be more happy with you next Christmas if you sin less, and he will not regret saving you if things get worse. He loves you because he loves you and wants to be with you.
Advent is the season we remember that Jesus is Immanuel - God with us. Because of him, we can live with God. He has come once, and he is coming again to be with us forever.
Revelation 21:1–4 ESV
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Song #6 - The First Noel
Song # 7 - Silent Night
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more