How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Wonder!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Wonder'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Wonder'!

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CHAPTER 12

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Wonder'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:18)

INTRODUCTION: The shepherds, on that historic night, were filled with amazement and wonder. Have you ever been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience? What does it mean to 'wonder'? To wonder is to marvel, to admire, to be surprised, to hold one's breath, to be electrified, to be taken aback, to be startled, to be astonished! The sense of awe and wonder and amazement and surprise is what gives mystery and splendor to life. It is a quality unique only to human beings!

What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. Amazed That He Who Is So Big Could Become So Small.

II. Amazed That He Who Is So Strong Could Become So Weak.

III. Amazed That He Who Is So Removed Could Become So Near And So Personable.

IV. Amazed That He Who Is So Rich Could Become So Poor.

V. Amazed That He Who Is So Sinless Could Become So Close To Sinners.

VI. Amazed That He Who Was So Glorified In Heaven, Could Become So Obscure On Earth.

VII. Amazed That He Who Was So Beautiful Could Become So Battered And Disfigured.

CONCLUSION: As you celebrate Christmas this year, take some time to get alone with God and with God's Word – and let yourself WONDER! Bow at the manger and marvel at the child! Then rise to your feet and live a transformed life! Be daily 'lost in wonder, love and praise'!

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CHAPTER 12

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Wonder'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:18)

INTRODUCTION: The shepherds, on that historic night, were filled with amazement and wonder. Have you ever been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience?

What does it mean to 'wonder'? To wonder is to marvel, to admire, to be surprised, to hold one's breath, to be electrified, to be taken aback, to be startled, to be astonished!

When you think about it, life is full of 'WONDER'!

It is that feeling that you have when you look through a microscope and discover a whole new world of brilliant color and strange and fascinating shapes. Or when you first see the craters on the moon for the first time as you peer through a powerful telescope. A feeling of awe and amazement!

It is that feeling that you have when you come away from studying the various theories which modem engineers give in their attempts to explain the ancient marvels of the Egyptian pyramids! 'The Great Pyramid' – the largest of them all- contains more than 2 million stone blocks that average 2 ½ tons; it covers 73 acres and stands about 350 feet tall!

Why do we talk about the Seven Wonders of the Word? Because each is an accomplishment that seems to defy human reason. They are out-of-the-ordinary, the amazing feats of men's hands. Stand before an Egyptian pyramid and you will be taken aback, you will marvel, you will be filled with amazement. The Seven Wonders of the World will leave you with your 'mouth open'!

It is that feeling that you get when you make a serious study of the human body! How amazing is the human body! The human brain is the most incredible creation of God that we know about! "Tucked beneath the skull in each of our heads is a three pound, jellylike mound that looks like crinkled putty, but is actually a collection of between 10 billion and 100 billion neurons. Each neuron is as complex as an entire small computer, and consists of a central nerve-cell core attached to a long tail and several thousand wispy 'dendrites'. The dendrites reach out to make contact with other dendrites, and if we could count the number of contact points (scientists call the connecting points 'synapses'), it is estimated

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that there may be as many as 1 quadrillion in every human brain." (Magnificent Mind; page 23; Gary Collins) Truly, we feel like declaring with the Psalmist I am fearfully and wonderfully made".

It is that feeling which comes over us when, along with millions of others, we view the launching of a multi-toned rocket into space! We declare with others, "It takes away my breath!"

Talking about traveling in space, I never cease to be amazed when I watch a 747 Jet take off from the Denver International Airport! It seems impossible to me that a gigantic, heavy object like a plane could actually overcome the pull of gravity and fly in mid air! Can't you imagine how the skeptical on-lookers must have felt when the Wright brothers actually took their first flight? Recently I was interviewing some of my older relatives – those in their late 70's and 80's (and one was 90), and they told me how when they were kids in the little rural community of Fountain, Colorado, they were fascinated when they saw their first airplane fly over the town. Some kids were on the three story school building roof – totally awe-struck as they saw this 'flying object' go over their building! What a wonder!

It is that feeling that I get when I see the drawings of Joni Eareckson. Those intricate drawings, produced by the small brush, manipulated by the lips and tongue of Joni (who is paralyzed from her shoulders down) make me stand back aghast! I can hardly believe it!

The sense of awe and wonder is what you feel when you see a baby born – a new life, a never-dying soul, an eternal creature made in God's own image, a person with amazing potential. One school teacher used to come into his classroom of boys and first make a small bow to them, before he started his lesson. Asked why he did this, he said, "Who knows, I may be bowing to a future king." As I recall the story, one of those young children in that classroom was Martin Luther – the man whose revolutionary ideas changed the whole fabric of modem history! Do you have a sense of awe and wonder and reverence when you are in the presence of a group of children?

It is that feeling I had when I went to my first opera! I was awestruck (with my mouth opened in amazement) as I heard what seemed like angelic voices! I will never forget that operatic play! After it was over, I went back stage and met one of the young opera singers. I knew I was in the presence of one of the greatest young singers in America!

A sense of awe and wonder comes over me when I observe a world marathon runner (like at the Olympics) who can run 5 minute miles for 26 consecutive miles without stopping! I can't run one mile at that speed, let alone 26 miles! I am amazed, and I am dumb founded! How can any human body move that fast and continue to run for that distance without stopping?

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When I go to a circus and watch the tight rope walkers, my breath is taken away as I watch in wonderment! I hold my breath, wondering if that person is going to slip and fall to the floor, forty feet below! I want to close my eyes when I see him carrying someone on his shoulders!

The sense of awe and wonder and amazement and surprise is what gives mystery and majesty and splendor to life. Whether one recognizes it or not, this feeling of awe is a so-called 'religious feeling'. It is a quality unique only to human beings! As far as we know, there is no animal that has the capacity to stand back with it's mouth open, beholding the wonders of life, appreciating the beautiful creation of God and the amazing feats of man. It is a spiritual quality that is evidence of our unique creation.

This sense of awe regarding the mysteries of nature and regarding the amazing feats of men – this response of wonderment is meant to take us to deeper depths! To the depths of spiritual realities! When Paul meditated on the ways of God, he was often "lost in wonder, love, and praise."

The Psalmist was filled with wonder when he wrote about the Lord and the Lord's marvelous ways: "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts." (Psalms 145:3-4)

PROPOSITION: What is the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. Amazed That He Who Is So Big Could Become So Small.

Have you ever thought for even a short time of the magnitude of the universe? There is no way our finite minds can comprehend sizes and distances in the universe. For instance, our sun is 1 million times bigger than our earth! And yet our sun is a small star compared to the size of other stars. Our Milky Way Galaxy is but one small Galaxy compared to the billions of other Galaxies in our vast Universe. And yet, if we could travel 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light) it would take us 100,000 years to travel across only this one galaxy (the Milky Way Galaxy)!

Considering the size of this Universe, by way of comparison, our own planet Earth is smaller than a piece of dust in this room (compared to the space of the entire room)! I find myself 'lost in wonder' that the Creator God could ever or would ever come and live in a human body on this planet! But, remember, God is Creator of the universe, and, as such, He is separate from this universe.

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Just think, the Creator of all became confined to a human body for a space of 33 years! How big He is, and yet how small He became! How wonderful, how amazing! Notes J. B. Phillip, "It is a fascinating problem for us human beings to consider how the Eternal Being – wishing to show men His own Character focused, His own Thought expressed, and His own Purpose demonstrated – could introduce Himself into the stream of human history without disturbing or disrupting it. There must obviously be an almost unbelievable 'scaling-down' of the 'size' of God to match the life of the planet. There must be a complete acceptance of the space-and-time limitations of this present life." (The Newborn Christian; J. B. Phillips; page 6, 7)

It is hard to imagine that God – the One who is omnipresent (able to be everywhere at one time) – could confine himself to one human body for over three decades! Jesus is God focused, God scaled-down, and yet, while it is true that He is God limited, He is nevertheless authentically God!

Can you imagine a junior angel having a conversation with a senior angel, the latter teaching the former about the realities of the small planet called earth? Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:

"I want you to watch that one particularly," said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.

Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me," said the little angel. "What's special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"'Visited'?" said the little one. "You don't mean visited by —"

"Indeed I do. That ball, which 1 have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and perhaps not over clean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory." And at these words he bowed his head reverently.

"But how?" queried the younger one. "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendors of His Creation, and millions more that I'm sure 1 haven't seen yet, went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?"

"It isn't for us," said his senior, a little stiffly, 'to question His 'ways', except that 1 must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers as you seem to be. But that He really went I

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know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why He became one of them …. how else do you suppose could He visit them?"

The little angel's face wrinkled in disgust.

"Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?"

"I do, and I don't think He would like you to call them 'creeping crawling creatures' in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him." (Ibid; pg. 32)

Think of it! "The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man – a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language, weighing so many pounds. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby and before that a fetus inside a woman's body. It you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab." (The Joyful Christian; C. S. Lewis; p. 51)

II. Amazed That He Who Is So Strong Could Become So Weak.

The story of Christmas is the story of the omnipotent (all-powerful) God becoming a man – a man who was subject to human limitations and weaknesses. A man who became weary with work, who needs like all humans to sleep, to eat, and to clothe himself. A man who wept with the weeping, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Jesus was fully God, but Jesus was too fully Man. A man who needed others, a man who longed for companionship, a man who suffered being tempted, a man who was moved with compassion as He looked upon the multitudes, a man who was acutely aware of physical pain as the nails were driven into His quivering flesh on the rugged cross – the very cross that was so heavy that he fell beneath its load on his long journey up Calvary's Mountain!

How amazing to think that He (Jesus) who made the sun would be so weak and so helpless as a babe in a lowly manger, that he would, on the day of his birth, need the warmth of swaddling clothes and the warm breath of a nearby ox! "That He, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk." (Bishop Fulton Sheen)

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III. Amazed That He Who Is So Removed Could Become So Near And So Personable.

By His very nature, God is transcendent, i.e., He is holy, separate, far removed from man. is ways are higher than man's ways, as high as the heavens are above the earth.

How amazing that He who is so far above and far removed from man, could Himself become a Man! Wonder of wonders that this God would bow so low as to become one of us! The transcendent One is now the immanent One – the One who is closer to us than hands or feet or breathing!

Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!"

Jesus is God focused, God approachable, God knowable, God touchable, God seeable, in short 'God domesticated'!

One man – a worldly man who was a bundle of nerves and on the brink of an emotional breakdown – visited a doctor, seeking help and wanting a release from his nervous tension. Said the doctor to the man, "The only way you are going to get relief from your nervous tension and mental anxiety is to pray." "What!" said the man, "you mean to tell me that I need to talk to that up there? You just as well could tell me to shake hands with the 'Milky Way"'!

To this worldly man, God was at best an abstract force or impersonal entity, far removed from the concerns of mankind. To him, 'God' (whatever that term means) was totally unapproachable and far removed and uninvolved in the affairs and the problems of man.

The Incarnation teaches us that God, far from being detached and disinterested in man, is instead the God who has taken the initiative in seeking and saving mankind! There is a story of a woman who was trying to find God. "She had a certain dream which she dreamed more than once, namely, that she was standing in front of a thick plate glass window. As she looked at it, she seemed to see God on the other side. She hammered on the window, trying to attract His attention, but without success. She grew more and more desperate, and began to call to Him and found herself shrieking at the top of her voice. And then a quiet, calm voice at her side said: 'Why are you making so much noise? There is nothing between us.' Perhaps that illustrates our difficulty, does it not? We have been groping around for a long time, and all the while He is standing beside us." (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master; Peter Marshall; pg. 131)

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The amazing news in the Christmas story is that God is in our world, that He is not far removed but that He is totally personal and personable. It is a great thing to know that God loves the human race — corporately yes, but more amazingly, individually. Paul Rees tells of a community canvass being made. "At a certain door the questioner asked the woman who answered his knock what children she had. She began, 'Well, there's Willie, and Horace.' But the canvasser interrupted, 'Never mind names, I just want numbers. Then she grew impatient and a bit indignant. 'They haven't got numbers,' she protested. 'Everyone of them got a name.'" Concludes Paul Rees: "They had personalities that spoke with all the eloquence of their individual characteristics ….. So God looks upon His human creatures." (Stand Up In Praise To God; Paul Rees; pg. 23 – 24)

"You may or may not be aware of Him. But He is, at this very moment, sharply aware of you. He knows you – as you are." (What Is God Like? By Eugenia Price; pg. 23)

Regarding God's personal love for him as a sole individual, the Psalmist wrote, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book! How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!" (Psalms 130:13-18, Living Bible)

Do you realize that "the very hairs on your head are all numbered"? (Matthew 10:30)

"Another passage says: 'He hath visited and redeemed his people'. The only way to redeem His people was to visit them. He couldn't sit on a cloud and utter commands, or pick us up and take us to heaven with celestial tongs, not soiling His fingers with the messy business of human living. No, He dwelt among us – amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our oppositions and disappointments, He lived among us and showed us how to live by living." (The Word Became Flesh; E. S. Jones; pg. 34)

God loves you as if you were 'an only child'! If you would have been the only one who would have ever lived, Jesus would have died for you! That's how much He loves you!

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'Immanuel' – the name given for Jesus – means 'God with us'! As John Wesley lay dying in his bed, the last thing he was heard to say was: "The best of all is that God is with us!"

Yes, I stand amazed to think that He who is so removed (transcendent) could become so near (immanent) and so personable! One of the great wonders of the Incarnation!

IV. Amazed That He Who Is So Rich Could Become So Poor.

Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity, was the Creator of everything. "Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can't; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory." (Colossians 1:16, Living Bible)

How amazing, that He for whom all riches in creation were made, left all those riches to be reduced to earth's poverty. No room even in the inn, born in a stable where animals live. "He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting as beasts, was born among beasts." (Bishop Sheen)

"Out of the ivory palaces 
Into a world of woe, 
Only His great eternal love ... 
Made my Saviour go." 

Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poorness of humanity! If he lived as the wealthiest King on earth, that status would still be lowly, compared to His place of royalty that He enjoyed in heaven, but he did not live like a king. Instead, he lived in poverty. Not out of self-pity, but merely to state the nature of His incarnate state, Jesus once said, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but I the Messiah, have no home of my own – no place to lay my head." (Matthew 8:20, Living Bible)

His calloused hands testified to the fact of his hard work as a carpenter. He, the oldest child, worked with his hands, as a skilled carpenter, until he was 30 years old. Tradition holds that Joseph died when Jesus was relatively young, and that Jesus financially supported His mother and several younger brothers and sisters. Life was not easy for Jesus.

Wrote Paul, "You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was; though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor

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he could make you rich. " (2 Corinthians 8:9, Living Bible) Jesus chose voluntary poverty that He might die for the lost!

V. Amazed That He Who Is So Sinless Could Become So Close To Sinners.

Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was called "the friend of publicans and sinners." What He was called in derision, He was in reality!

He who knew no sin, became our sin bearer on the cross! "When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for Him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn't expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8, Living Bible)

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, 
And wonder how He could love me, A sinner, condemned, unclean. 
He took my sins and my sorrows; He made them His very own; 
He bore the burden to Calvary, And suffered, and died alone. 

Chorus:

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be; 
How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Saviour's love for me! 

"And can it be that I should gain 
An interest in the Saviour's blood? 
Died He for me, who caused His pain? 
For me, who Him to death pursued? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 

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"He left His Father's throne above, 
So free, so infinite His grace! 
Emptied himself of all but love, 
And bled for Adam's helpless race; 
'Tis mercy all! Immense and free, 
For, O my God, it found out me! 
'Tis mercy all! Immense and free, 
For, O my God, it found out me! 

"Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" 

"There's the wonder of sunset at evening, 
The wonder as sunrise I see; 
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul 
Is the wonder that God loves me 
O, the wonder of it all! 
The wonder of it all! 
Just to think that God loves me 
O the wonder of it all! 
The wonder of it all! 
Just to think that God loves me 

One cannot understand the significance of the Incarnation without understanding the importance of the atoning death of Jesus! Jesus was born to die! To die for sinners like you and like me! "He went to the cross and made identification with us complete – there He was identified with us at our lowest place – the place of our sin. 'He became sin for us'. He was crucified between two sinners as one of them. So identified with us in our sin that He cried the cry of dereliction which we have to cry when we sin: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' 'He bore our sins in His own body on a tree.' The identification and, hence, the incarnation were complete. He was identified with our sins. But the identification was not quite complete – sin and death are always connected. So having tasted our sins, He would have to taste our death too." (The Word Became Flesh; pg. 60)

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"Love so amazing, so divine, 
Demands my soul, my life, my all!" 

VI. Amazed That He Who Was So Glorified In Heaven, Could Become So Obscure On Earth.

If Jesus was God, why was He not recognized as God when He was on earth? Because He stripped Himself of all his divine prerogatives – save one, love – when He became man.

"Many years ago, when the Duke of Windsor was the Prince of Wales, he one day left Buckingham Palace, journeyed west into the coal mining country, put on a miner's cap, and went down into the dingy tunnels to see for himself the conditions in which men toiled in a difficult and dangerous branch of British industry. As a member of the Royal family he was as much a prince in the coal mine as he was when he lived in the palace in London. But, while his essential equality with royalty was unchanged, there was no longer an equality of experience. He had consented to enter into experience that never came to him amid the elegance and immunities of the palace." (proclaiming the New Testament; Paul Rees; pg. 44)

When the Prince of Wales was in the dingy coal mine, dressed in miner's clothes, his identity as royalty was obscured. When Jesus, the Heavenly Prince of God, was dwelling for 33 years in the 'coal mines' of earth, amidst the filth of man's sinful environment, most failed to identify Him as the pure and the spotless Son of God.

Notes Swindoll, "Who could have cared about the birth of a baby while the world was watching Rome in all her splendor? … Political intrigue, racial tension, increased immorality, and enormous military might occupied everyone's attention and conversation. Palestine existed under the crush of Rome's heavy boot. All eyes were on Augustus, the cynical Caesar who demanded a census so as to determine a measurement to enlarge taxes. At that time who was interested in a couple making an eight mile trip south from Nazareth? What could possibly be more important than Caesar's decisions in Rome? Who cared about a Jewish baby born in Bethlehem?" (paper from R. C. Sproul)

Jesus was born in obscurity. He lived in obscurity, as a common laborer, until he was 30 years old. And even during his 3 year public ministry, during which time He drew many followers to Himself, Jesus was not without His enemies. His popularity waned, and finally through intrigue and evil plotting, He received the sentence of death by crucifixion!

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It is amazing to me that He who was so glorified, occupying the center of attention in the universe and in Heaven itself, should become on earth an object of cruel scorn and heartless rejection, eventuating in crucifixion!

He gave up the glory of heaven to receive the shame of earth – all because He loved a lost race! "Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as to actually to die a criminal's death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8, Living Bible)

VII. Amazed That He Who Was So Beautiful Could Become So Battered And Disfigured.

The beauty of Jesus in heaven, before He was born in Bethlehem, was unsurpassed. He was the "Bright and Morning Star", and the glory of God shone upon Him. All other beauties, compared to that of Jesus, fade into insignificance. The angels are glorious in appearance, but the angels cannot be compared in beauty to the Son of God. "God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God." (Hebrews 1:3 a, Living Bible)

Whether or not Jesus was actually a handsome man when he lived here on earth (and some speculate that he was not, based on Isaiah 53:2 b: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him"), one thing is certain: Jesus was not beautiful to behold when he was led away to be crucified and while he hung on that rough, splintery cross! Blood, caused by the deep pricks of the crown of thorns on his brow, came rushing down his face, to combine with the blood from the wounds on his face (where his beard had been plucked out) and with the blood from the deep slashes that were visible on his back as a result from the terrible whip lashes! A stark and pitiable sight to behold – the crucified Christ!

Is it not amazing that the repentant thief, the companion of Jesus who was being crucified beside Jesus, could see past the blood and the sweat and filth and flies on Jesus body, and could believe that Jesus was Lord? He said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom!" Amazing was Jesus' selfless and yet authoritative reply: "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!"

There is enough evidence to make the contention that Jesus, in His resurrected form, bore in His resurrection body the marks of his humanity, and that He ascended to heaven where He continues forever to bear those marks of identification with the human race. After his resurrection, he showed his doubting disciple, Thomas, the wounds from his crucifixion that he still had in his hands and in his side. Is it not conceivable (and likely) that Jesus maintained those wounds in his body when he ascended to the right hand of his Heavenly Father, following the

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forty days after the Resurrection? I believe that Christ is immediately identifiable to the heavenly saints, among other reasons, because of the visible wounds in his resurrected body!

"In the Christian story God descends to reascend … One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in midair, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too." (C. S. Lewis; The Joyful Christian; pg. 54, 55)

Jesus is eternally identified with the human race! He forever bears the marks of his crucifixion for mankind! Jesus has permanently been 'colored' (as it were) because of his 'dive' into the depths of the 'sea' to recover the precious object of his greatest longing – lost mankind that lay at the bottom of the ocean of sin and corruption!

What makes the Incarnation so amazing? It was the Incarnation (God becoming Man, Philippians 2:4-11) that made it possible for God to save mankind, through the death of Jesus! But, the Incarnation is not the end of Jesus' identification with mankind! It is the consistent belief of the New Testament that Jesus ascended to make intercession for us. It is Christ who is at the right hand of God who indeed intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34) He always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9: 24). In Him we have an advocate in the presence of God (1 John 2:1). He is the mediator who stands between man and God to bring man and God together, and He continues that mediating work in the presence of God (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:5). "Jesus ascended, not to end his work for men, but to continue his work for men, that in this or in any other world he may still carryon his ministry of intercession and mediation for men … In the Ascension the manhood of Jesus was taken up into the heavenly places, and, therefore, our manhood will also be so taken up. As Denney finely says, the Ascension is the proof that manhood is destined for heaven and not for the grave, that manhood is destined, not for dissolution but for glory." (The Mind of Jesus; Barclay; pg. 320)

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CONCLUSION: How should we celebrate Christmas? By being lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise. Let the "Seven Wonders of The Incarnation" of which we have spoken today, capture your attention. Meditate upon these Wonders and let God transform your thinking! Be amazed! Be full of Wonder!

I. Be amazed that He who is so Big could become so Small!

II. Be amazed that he who is so Strong could become so Weak!

III. Be amazed that He who is so Removed could become so Near and so Personable!

IV. Be amazed that He who is so Rich could become so Poor.

V. Be amazed that He who is so Sinless could become so Close to Sinners!

VI. Be amazed that He who was so Glorified In Heaven could become so Obscure on Earth!

VII. Be amazed that He who was so Beautiful could become so Battered and Disfigured!

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As you celebrate Christmas this year, take some time to get alone with God and with God's Word – and let yourself WONDER!

"I wonder as I wander out under the sky, 
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die; 
To save lowly people like you and like I, 
I wonder as I wander out under the sky." 

Celebrate Christmas! Take time to Wonder! Take time to marvel, to admire, to be awe-struck, to be surprised, to be electrified, to be astonished! Bow at the manger and marvel at the Child! Then rise to your feet and live a transformed life! Be daily "lost in wonder, love, and praise!"

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Chapter 12

Questions

  1. Have you ever really been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience?

  2. What does it mean to 'wonder'?

  3. What was the greatest of all God's mighty acts?

  4. When you contemplate the vastness of the Universe, does it seem almost "unbelievable" that the Creator of the Universe actually came to live on this tiny planet called Earth?

  5. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Jesus is God focused, God scaled-down, and yet, while it is true that He is God limited, he is nevertheless authentically God!"

  6. Do you believe, among Christians generally, that there is more emphasis upon the deity or the humanity of Jesus? Do you find it difficult to comprehend that the One, who created the world and all that is therein, actually was at one time a helpless baby, totally dependent upon a young human mother?

  7. What is meant by the 'transcendence' and the 'immanence' of God?

  8. What evidence is there that God is not an impersonal, abstract, unreachable 'entity', but that He is instead a personable, concrete, approachable, available and caring Being who desires to establish an intimate fellowship with every human being?

  9. Do you, as one individual in a world of teeming billions of human beings, really believe that at this very moment God is sharply aware of you, that He knows you perfectly and that He loves you unconditionally, and that He understands all of your personal problems, and wishes to fellowship with you personally? Why or why not? (Note Psalms 139:13-18; Jeremiah 1:4-5; John 1:47-51; Matthew 10:30; 1 Peter 5:7)

  10. Give your reaction or response to the following statements: "God loves you as if you were 'an only child'! If you would have been the only one who would have ever lived, Jesus would have died for you! That's how much He loves you!"

  11. Who actually was the Creator of this world? (Note John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)

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  12. If it is true, according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, that Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poverty of earth, for the purpose of making humans 'rich' through His life of earthly poverty, how then should true believers define and experience their life of 'richness' as children of God? When Christ promises to make those who believe in Him rich, does this mean that Christians will always be materially rich?

  13. To what extent did Jesus identify with the human race when He was here on earth? (Note Matthew 27:46; Romans 5:6-8; Philippians 2:5-8)

  14. During His time on Earth, how well known was Jesus?

  15. Tell what is meant by the statement: "Jesus was not recognized by many people as the DIVINE Son of God, because when He came to Earth Jesus stripped Himself of all of His divine prerogatives – save one, love."

  16. Why was it so amazing that the repentant thief – the companion of Jesus who was being crucified beside Jesus – would believe that Jesus was Lord and that Jesus had an unearthly Kingdom to which He was going?

  17. What evidence is there to make the contention that Jesus, in His resurrected form, bore in His resurrection body the marks of His humanity, and that He ascended to heaven where He continues forever to bear those marks of identification with the human race?

  18. Do you believe that when you meet Jesus in heaven some day, you will immediately identify Christ, among other ways, by the visible wounds on His resurrected body – wounds which He received when He was crucified for the sins of all people on Earth? Why or why not?

  19. Would it have been possible for an all-holy God to have saved a sinful race, without the Incarnation and the Death of Jesus? Why or why not?

  20. Following the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus, what heavenly activity did Jesus enter into, which activity He is still involved in? (Note Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:5)

  21. Share you personal reaction or response to the following statements: "In the Ascension of Jesus the manhood of Jesus was taken up into the heavenly

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    places, and, therefore, our manhood will also be so taken up. The Ascension is the proof that manhood is destined for heaven and not for the grave, that manhood is destined, not for dissolution but for glory."

When you consider the phenomenon of the Incarnation (God becoming a Human for 33 years), should not you be "lost in wonder, love, and praise?"

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