Malachi 3: 1-4; Micah 5: 2-4
"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight"
-- are the familiar words of Phillips Brooks in his beloved Christmas hymn,
"O Little Town of Bethlehem."
These words are so meaningful because all the hopes and fears of all humanity meet in Jesus Christ.
Gratitude should flood our hearts as we think of Jesus, who arrived in Bethlehem's cradle
and departed by way of Calvary's cross, in order that, He may bring salvation to each one of us.
Let us look at the Scriptures in anticipation of the joys of celebrating the birth of our Saviour.
There is no better way that we can prepare our hearts for Christmas, than to allow
these great words to speak to our hearts.
There are two passages from the minor prophets that indicate the Messianic hope that was
in the hearts of the people of the Old Testament.
He Was An Unexpected Messiah!
"The Lord Almighty answers, 'I will send my messenger to prepare the way for me.
Then the Lord you are looking for will suddenly come to his temple.
The messenger you long to see will come and proclaim my covenant." (Malachi 3: 1-4)
The people were looking for the coming of the Messiah.
Although the people had sunk to such a low ebb, and their hopes had been dashed by the failures
in their national life, they had begun longingly to look forward to the coming of the Messiah.
They took the attitude that there was nothing they could do about the deplorable conditions
around them; so, they would just fold their hands and wait for divine deliverance.
There was a complete misunderstanding of the prophecies, which predicted the coming of the Messiah.
These people became too much like another group, in another day, who put on white robes,
climbed to the highest hill, and waited for Jesus Christ to come back.
If the people in Malachi's day were expecting the Messiah's coming, how can it be said
that He was unexpected?
The answer is that He came in an unexpected way to do an unexpected work.
The people were expecting Him to come to rebuke their enemies and to restore the national Israel
to its lost glory.
Imagine their surprise, when He rebuked His own people.
The same misconception prevailed during the life of Christ.
Jesus constantly disappointed the leaders of His nation.
Often, they perceived that He would throw off the yoke of Rome and set them free.
But Christ did not come to battle Caesar.
He came to battle Satan.
Malachi's word was that the Messiah would come suddenly to His temple.
The nature of His coming leads the prophet to ask, "But who can endure the day of his coming,
and who can stand when he appears?" (3: 2)
"They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam'st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry!"
-- George McDonald
The Place Of The Messiah's Birth
"The Lord says, 'Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah,
but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.'"
(Micah 5: 2)
It Was An Unexpected Place.
Not only was Christ an unexpected type of Messiah, but the very place of His birth was unexpected.
From a human viewpoint, it would have seemed most fitting that the Messiah be born
in the capital city of Jerusalem, because the religious and political life of Israel was centered there.
How could the Almighty pass up Jerusalem as the place of the Messiah's birth?
It was not at Jerusalem that our Lord came into the world.
It was at the little, obscure village of Bethlehem that our Lord came.
However, God chose this little place, which He identified as "little among the clans of Judea,"
- He could have been born in one of the great metropolitan centers of the world,
such as Athens, the intellectual center of the world.
- He could have been born in Rome, the political center of the world.
- He could have been born in Alexandria or some other great city.
to be the birthplace of the Saviour of the world.
It Was A Natural Place.
Although it was obscure and small, it was made significant by its relationship to David, the King.
(1 Samuel 16: 11-13)
The Old Testament prophets constantly identified the Messiah as the Son of David.
The long, expected deliverer would rule with the glory of divine power, even greater than David
and greater than Solomon.
It was so natural that God should have chosen David's home as the Saviour's birthplace.
It Was A Predicted Place.
This is important because it leads us to think of the divine element in the Scriptures.
There is no other book in all the world like the Bible, for it carries the import of divine authority upon it.
The fulfilled prophecies of the Word of God give indisputable evidence of its inspiration.
More than 300 prophecies of the Old Testament have been counted as fulfilled in the life, death,
and resurrection of our Lord.
It would seem that this fact alone would be enough to end all the skeptic's arguments,
and bring them to a humble submission to Jesus, who is Himself, the living Word of God.
At the time of the birth of Jesus, there were those who believed God's Word, and who had studied it
with meticulous care.
These scholars understood where the King's birthplace would take place.
It was from these that Herod sought information when he heard that a King had been born.
(Matthew 2: 3-5)
Let us see Christ as the messenger of the covenant. (Malachi 3: 1)
The important thing is not so much that Christ came, but as to what kind of Christ He was,
and the kind of ministry He had in the world.
The covenant idea is presented here, as it has been presented so often, throughout the Old Testament.
God's covenant was His agreement with which He entered into a relationship with His people.
In Genesis 12, God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to make him a great nation,
and one that would bless all nations.
In Exodus 19, God entered into covenant with His people at Mount Sinai, promising to bless them
if they keep His commandments.
That covenant is commonly referred to, as the "old covenant."
Its fulfillment was conditional, based upon the obedience of the people.
We must not forget that!
When the people failed to respond to the will and purposes of God, the Lord would no longer keep
His part of the covenant.
One by one, the latter prophets began to realize the inadequacy of the old covenant to bring salvation.
(Jeremiah 31: 31-34 is where Jeremiah predicted the day when God would make a new covenant.)
There would be three essential differences between the old and new covenants.
The new covenant is the one referred to in our passage from Malachi, when it refers to Christ
- First, the old covenant was external, while the new covenant is internal. (Jeremiah 31: 33)
The old covenant concerned itself with outward observance of rituals and ceremonies,
while the new covenant centered mainly in the change of a person's inner thoughts and attitudes.
- Secondly, the old covenant was one that granted special privileges,
whereas, the new covenant placed all people on an equality -- all will know the Lord,
"from the least of them to the greatest." (Jeremiah 31: 34)
This was in anticipation of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers
which affirms that each person must approach God directly for himself.
- Thirdly, the old covenant simply covered sins temporarily, while the new covenant offers
forgiveness forever. (Jeremiah 31: 34)
as the messenger of the covenant.
Christ did not come to keep the people under the stern restrictions of the law, but came to shed
upon them the beams of God's glorious grace.
("For this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for many,
for the remission of sins.")
Jesus Christ not only brought the message of that new covenant, but He ratified it
in His own blood. (Matthew 26: 28)
Bethlehem and Calvary go together.
We cannot understand the meaning of the cradle, unless we see that the purpose of Christ
was to die on a cross for the sins of all mankind.
This Christmas we must remember to be grateful for "the messenger of the covenant."
One cold Christmas eve, a ragged, little boy was seen pressing his nose on the department store window.
He was looking at the beautiful toys on the inside.
Finally, he turned, with his mind far off in the land of fantasy, and started across the street.
Not looking where he was going, he did not see the onrushing car, which struck him.
He was rushed to the hospital.
The people, who saw that scene, could not forget it.
They decided to buy all the toys in that window, and place them in the hospital room of this poor little boy.
When he regained consciousness, he saw the room filled with all the things,
which his little heart had desired.
"Just think," he gasped in wonder, "there ain't no glass between!"
That story tells us, in some small way, what Christ did at Christmas.
He removed the glass, so that those things people need could be given to them.
In a sense, He removed the glass and allowed us to see the face of God smiling upon us.
Jesus came into the midst of time to make known the ways of God, and to provide eternal salvation
to all who would receive it!
It is Christmas!
All the Christian world will be celebrating the coming of Christ, as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
The question is: "What kind of Christ will we be worshiping?"
We will see Him as He truly is -- the Saviour of the world, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
and the One who will judge all -- the small and the great!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
- Let us approach this Christmas season with a spirit of adoration and worship.
- Let us bring to Jesus the best gift that we can give.
- Let us give to Jesus the gift of a loving, obedient heart.