North River Church of Christ: Sermon 20 NOV '05
Holiday Preparation (5 Principles)
For many of us, 2006 promises to be one of the best years in a long time. Ramping up to great things? Or ramping down? The U.S. is rather unique in having 6 weeks of holidays (Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Year's) and family focus. And yet "Holiday spirit" too often involves not the ramp but the rump. That's why today's sermon tackles the theme of holidays in the scriptures. There's no Thanksgiving, of course, and no Christmas (this wasn't common till the 4th century), but still there are many holidays in the Bible to learn from.
Holidays in the scriptures
Has the Holiday Spirit got you?
"Pagan shopping Sprees: Everywhere may be seen well-laden tables. The impulse to spend seizes everyone. He who through the whole year has taken pleasure in saving becomes suddenly extravagant a stream of presents pours itself out on all sides." (Libanius, a 4th century Roman writer describing the scene in pre-Christian Rome)
But is this what the Lord had in mind? What can we learn from the scriptures? Before we get to our passage, let's get an overview of some of the biblical holidays.
* Passover (Exodus 12) -- eat in haste, standing up -- serious.
REMEMBRANCE OF REDEMPTION. Lev 23 -- 7 days and a time of teaching.
* Tabernacles (the most popular holiday)
* Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) -- rejoicing. REJOICING.
* Trumpets (New Year) -- religious new year after the exile.
* Day of Atonement (the Fast) -- end of Sept/beginning of Oct. Confession of sin.
LIVE THESE HOLIDAYS BEFORE GOD = REVERENCE.
* Purim (400s) -- escape from holocaust because Mordecai and Esther spoke up! An excited and noisy
* Hanukkah (100s) (John 10) (established in the Intertestamental period -- see 1 Macc 4)
* Sabbaths: Sabbatical Year; Jubilee Year (Lev 25).
* Lots of holidays! (=>We need them.)
Please do your own study of the biblical holidays! Need to develop our own convictions about these things!
Deut 16:16 -- Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the (1) Feast of Unleavened Bread the (2) Feast of Weeks and the (3) Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.
READINESS TO GIVE: Men: sensitivity to women and family.
4 principles so far: REMEMBRANCE, REJOICING, REVERENCE, READINESS. Yet we find resistance! Let s look at one Passover in Jerusalem some 2700 years ago: 2 Chronicles 30:1 our text and a fascinating chapter!
Context: 2 Chron 29-32. Time of national apostasy / revival. The revival fortifies the people spiritually to the point that they are able to resist the onslaught of the Assyrians (about 700 BC). The revival centers around the reinstitution of the long-neglected Passover.
1 Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to come to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD the God of Israel. 2 The king and his officials and the whole assembly in Jerusalem decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month. 3 They had not been able to celebrate it at the regular time because not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem. 4 The plan seemed right both to the king and to the whole assembly. 5 They decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel from Beersheba to Dan calling the people to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD the God of Israel. It had not been celebrated in large numbers according to what was written. 6 At the king s command couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials which read: "People of Israel return to the LORD the God of Abraham Isaac and Israel that he may return to you who are left who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and brothers who were unfaithful to the LORD the God of their fathers so that he made them an object of horror as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked as your fathers were; submit to the LORD. Come to the sanctuary which he has consecrated for ever. Serve the LORD your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the LORD then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him." 10 The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh as far as Zebulun but the people scorned and ridiculed them. AND YOU MAY BE RIDICULED IF YOU DECIDE TO FOLLOW GOD S HOLIDAY PRINCIPLES!
11 Nevertheless some men of Asher Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. 12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered following the word of the LORD. 13 A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. 14 They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley. 15 They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the LORD. 16 Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood handed to them by the Levites.
SPIRITUAL HOUSECLEANING -- same in time of Josiah some 80 years later (2 Kings 23:23) REVIVAL -- the 5th biblical principle
17 Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate their lambs to the LORD. 18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim Manasseh Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them saying "May the LORD who is good pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart on seeking God--the LORD the God of his fathers--even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. Surely there is lesson in there somewhere for us! GOD S GRACIOUSNESS
21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing while the Levites and priests sang to the LORD every day accompanied by the LORD s instruments of praise. 22 Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good understanding of the service of the LORD. For the seven days they ate their assigned portion and offered fellowship offerings and praised the LORD the God of their fathers. 23 The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. 24 Hezekiah king of Judah provided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep and goats for the assembly and the officials provided them with a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep and goats. A great number of priests consecrated themselves. 25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled from Israel including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in Jerusalem for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people and God heard them for their prayer reached heaven his holy dwelling-place.
2 Kings 23:23 -- Josiah's Passover 621 BC -- people had celebrated it wrong for 6 or 7 centuries! Even better than in Hezekiah s time!
DURING HOLIDAY TIMES WE SHOULD BE GOING FORWARD NOT BACKWARD! How do you feel about this sermon so far? The kind of holidays we were planning?
Jesus had the holiday spirit Luke 2 Busy time. His family literally forgot the Lord were not on the spiritual wavelength; Jesus saw this as an opportunity to grow (holidays: less prayer -- after all we are much busier need time for overindulgence). THIS IS THE HOLIDAY PARADOX. We don t want to "forget the Lord"!
A. Buying into consumerism -- Spending way too much! Kids & TV: Xmas all over again! January debt! Our family does not start off the new year in debt. Need help? See Vicki or me in fellowship or visit website.
B. Worry: USA Today: Men women same except for $ / relatives PRAY!
C. As mentioned little quality spiritual time with the Lord
D. Also little quality spiritual time together as families
E. Gratitude may be missing. Do not spoil children -- that is not "giving."
F. Time of deeper feelings than at other times of year. People open up. Don t just remain absorbed in your own little world. Reach out! You can affect others! One of most enjoyable aspects of travel is talking with and affecting new people. We can affect others: Depressing passenger seat control!
G. Impatience -- rush rush!
H. Can be a very sad time for many too. Not all bad but not all nice. Bittersweet. Like early March for Vicki and me (anniversaries of deaths of her father and my sister). Be sensitive!
I. This can be a time to grow (2:52) if we are wise. (Not physically!)
1. Exodus -- redemption
4. Psalms of Ascent
5. Amos Haggai prophets -- materialism
6. Philippians (perspective)
7. 1-2 Pet Jude -- preparing to reenter a potentially worldly situation.
Let's all remember the five biblical holiday principles:
If we forget them, we are in danger of slipping into a 6-week-long food-induced coma.
Twas the Night Jesus Came and all through the house
Not a person was praying (not one in the house!):
The Bibles were left on the shelf without care
For no one thought that Jesus would come there.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby in her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap:
When out of the east there arose such a clatter
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters and lifted the sash!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here!
The light of his face made me cover my head --
It was Jesus returning just as he had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth
I cried when I saw him in spite of myself:
In the Book of Life which he held in his hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as he searched for my name
When he said "It s not there " my head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to his father above.
With those who were ready he rose without a sound
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees -- but it was too late --
I d waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight!
Oh if only I d known that this was the night!
In the words of this poem the meaning is clear:
The coming of Jesus is now drawing near.
There s only one life and when comes the last call
We ll find that the Bible was true after all!
So let's all enjoy the season -- but let s also agree together to "keep Christ in Christmas" and "thanks" in Thanksgiving!