#210 (04/12/05)
Christmas: When God Visited Earth

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

He is a young man who faced tragedy at a very young age. Growing up with no hands, fingers, no toes, no facial features but through it all Joel Sonnenberg continued to feel the same as everyone else on the inside. At only 22 months old he became the miracle baby of a terrible 18-wheeler accident. Over 85% of his body was burned and doctors gave him only a 10% chance to live. Well Joel decided to live and he decided to make a life and he decided to make that life through Jesus Christ. Today Joel speaks to youth and to organizations about focusing on making over the heart. In his new book Joel Sonnenberg shares how God has continued to bless him and teach him to forgive in spite of the accident.

Special Music

" O Come, All Ye Faithful "
" Go Tell it on the Mountain "
" Come, O Long Expected Jesus "

” E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come ”

MATTHEW WEST – “Welcome to Our World”
VOCAL ENSEMBLE – THE KING’S MEN – “Mary, Did you Know?”

The Message

My favorite Christmas verse is from Matthew 1:23 which quotes the Old Testament prophecy that says, "He shall be called Immanuel, God with us." Yes, God came to visit the earth. That's an awesome sentence because there are people who do not believe there is a God. And there are others who have a belief in a god that I could never believe in. I would be an atheist if I were taught to believe that God is what some people believe. Then there are the agnostics who don't know what they believe. So when you get down to the bottom line, you have to start with the word "IF," because it takes faith to believe. And it takes faith to say, "If there is a God, can you imagine an eternal, invisible, intelligent, SOMEBODY coming into a material form?"

There is a theological word for this. The word is incarnation: To incarnate something is to take a concept and turn it into a reality ... To take a dream of a building and turn it into an actual structure, that's incarnation. To take a feeling that you have of love for your special one and become one in marriage, that's an incarnation of your feeling. Incarnation is to take something that is SPIRITUAL and turn it into something that is MATERIAL. Now we say God did that when God visited the earth. That・s phenomenal! God visited the earth!

In my book, Hours of Power, the new 365 page motivational daily guide, I wrote, "The greatest news in the world is that God has visited this earth. He has walked this planet. He has made His great pronouncements. He has uttered His voice. He has spoken His mind. He has declared His will. And God revealed His heart when He visited this earth as a human being."

The word "visit" is an interesting word. As I was preparing this message, I thought of the early years in this ministry. It started fifty years ago next month and in that first year I didn・t have meetings. I didn't have a board. I didn't have a congregation, so I spent my time ringing doorbells and visiting homes to introduce myself and invite them to come to a brand new church. And I was reminded of my first church in Chicago where I was an intern pastor after graduating from seminary.

I remember one day calling on the home of the church elder, James Tysse. I rang the doorbell and his little five year old boy came to the door, looked at me and yelled, "Yikes, it's the preacher!" ...And slammed the door. I never forgot that. Today he is a very famous and successful surgeon. Dr. Tysse, Johnny, do you remember?

And then I remember calling at another home and I was on a small salary, $200 a month, and my worn out shoes badly needed new soles, but I thought nobody could see the hole on the bottom of my shoe. As the community preacher, I was sitting with great dignity in that very lovely home. I was sharing the faith as their little boy was crawling on the floor. Suddenly I realized he crawled under my crossed legs and could see the hole in my shoe and he stuck his finger in that hole. I can still feel it. Oh, my goodness, I was so embarrassed. I wanted to say, "Yikes!"

The Grandest Visit

The grandest visit of all was when God visited planet earth. Isaiah said it beautifully. I learned to memorize some of the verses in Hebrew for my studies in seminary. I love the Hebrew language because it is all on vowels with very little consonants. I enjoy quoting the beautiful verse from the prophecy of Isaiah:

"Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people! saith your God." (Isaiah 40:1)

Out of that Hebrew setting, God came to comfort His people when He visited the earth. All through the Old Testament God was making presentations and revelations through His people. God revealed to Moses a moral law that heaven requires from planet earth, and today it is more necessary than ever. Before that, God revealed to Abraham that He was one God, not many gods. Ethical monotheism, we call it. The greatest concept in religion is that there are not many gods, but there is one God and that concept of ethical monotheism is embraced first by the Jewish people, then by the Christians and, of course, in the seventh century, by the Muslims. Ethical monotheism sets us into a camp by ourselves compared to polytheism.

The Incarnation: God came to visit earth.

I want to share some points on the incarnation in the limited time we have.

1) The need for the incarnation ... why?
2) The wonder ...how did it happen?
3) The motive ... what was the reason?
4) The ultimate purpose ... what is it?

1 - The need: Why did God come to earth? I said years ago in one of my theological papers that God was morally obligated to reveal Himself to the human family. Well, I happen to be a Calvinist in my theology. I wrote a 273 page Calvinist thesis in seminary, but some Calvinists argued. They said, "Well, God is sovereign, He is not morally obligated." I contend that in the incarnation, Jesus lived under the moral obligations of humans so we can say God was morally obligated. But if you have a problem with that, or you don't understand and you are starting to get bored, let me give you a simpler sentence: God's love compelled Him to self disclosure! Think about it.

If God had never come to earth to show us that He is real, that He is loving, that He is the Ultimate Intelligence. If God had kept Himself a secret, I couldn't love Him. His love compelled Him to step out of the silence, the shadows and the secrets so human beings wouldn・t have to go on trying to guess if God was real, and guess what He was like and then create their own concepts of God. God was morally obligated to let us know. If God had stayed in heaven and left us to guess, we would be guessing wrong. Then God would be immoral. That is the compelling reason for the incarnation, God's visit to this earth.

2 - The wonder of the incarnation! Think about it. God became a human being. He had to.

I・ll never forget how Archbishop Fulton Sheen taught this to me when he gave a sermon in this church many years ago. He said, "If God wanted to communicate to a dog, He would have to become a dog. If God wanted to communicate to a bird, He would have to become a bird. If God wanted to communicate to human beings, He would have to become a human. That is what God did." Just think of the wonder of the incarnation.

God came not as a celebrity

The eternal God, whose majesty absolutely surpasses any concept of human imagination, could have come with a million angels and He, God, could be soaring in the middle, probably a thousand feet tall with arms that were a hundred feet long. What a show that would have been. The world would never forget it. But no, God came as a helpless infant, born in a stable. In the lowest condition possible. God came in simplicity, not as a celebrity! Think of that. He came as a baby, born in poverty, and He was born in Bethlehem, a little town that was a put down town by those who lived in Jerusalem. God came in total simplicity, that・s the wonder of the incarnation.

3 - The motive of the incarnation: Why did God come in a child? Because His ultimate purpose in coming was to bring dignity back to the human family. We lost our dignity when Adam walked out of the Garden of Eden and his chevrons of dignity were removed. He walked out of the Garden of Eden as a nobody, when he was a somebody. The great loss and the great sin is the loss of healthy, holy pride that has been replaced with human shame and disgrace. We live in sin in this world and in shame instead of honor.

And God came as a baby in a manger to bring dignity to the child, to bring dignity to the poor, to bring dignity to the oppressed, to bring dignity to the marginalized and to the have nots.

The incarnation:

(1) God needed to show Himself so we wouldn・t have to doubt all the time and guess and fall for a lot of the ridiculous teachings of religion in the world.

(2) The wonder of the incarnation: Can anything be more dignified as innocence in a baby.

(3) The motive of the incarnation is to save us from shame to self respect, self confidence and self dignity. Without dignity we have no self respect and we don・t believe in ourselves, and without this dignity we don・t trust the dreams that come into our minds because at the outset they are impossible. And God can・t communicate to people who don・t even believe in themselves. The reason behind most atheism is not science. Atheists can・t even believe in themselves so they can・t believe in God. God・s purpose was to put dignity back into human beings so we can become His creative children. Then we can believe in the impossible dreams that come from God. "I can do all things through Christ." Yes, the purpose of the incarnation was to turn the human race into His creative children on planet earth. God wants us to connect with Him and He can live in us and love through us and then build a beautiful world where human beings help each other, where we are. Whatever you do, whatever job you have ... if you are a truck driver, you are probably the most important person on the world because you deliver the food.

I remember visiting a member of this church, a young man, who had severe cerebral palsy. He is now in heaven, but he said to me, "Dr. Schuller, I always felt I was worthless. I had no value. I couldn・t do anything. I couldn・t have a career. I could read and write. I felt useless. And I spent so much time in a hospital and this one nurse was so nice to me. One day she said, "I go to the Crystal Cathedral also, and in Dr. Schuller・s sermon last Sunday he said, Every life has a purpose.・ Then the nurse said to me, .You have a great purpose too, because without you I wouldn・t be working and because of you I can I feed my kids. I am a widow. All the people in this hospital are like you. Without all of you, we wouldn・t have the opportunity to give our love and show you how worthy you are. Everybody has a purpose. That is the message God shares with all of us. So Dr. Schuller, I know I can do my part too to share God・s love by just being me!"

4 - The ultimate purpose of the incarnation. When God visited the earth, everything changed. Faith ... intelligent, affectionate, responsible and healthy, came into our world. Ethical monotheism went beyond Abraham, beyond the Ten Commandments, until God Himself decided He would visit this earth. And He, God, would pay the price and He would die on a cross, and His love would change the world. Then people would become believers! Yes, they would believe and they would change their world. It wouldn・t turn into a perfect sinless world, no, but people scattered all over the planet would meet Jesus, invite Him into their lives and then they would love people the way Jesus would love, help people the way God would help them. That is the Good News of Christmas. And it all happened because God decided to pay us a visit. That is the way to celebrate Christmas, isn・t it?

Let us pray:

Lord, thank You. Thank You that You came to visit us. And now we trust You. O God, we listen to what Jesus said and what He taught and look at how He lived and we know we are looking at God coming to earth to give us all the proof that He is alive and He loves us and He wants to save us. Hallelujah. Amen

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