I suppose my favorite Christmas verse is from the Old Testament and the prophecy where it says that He shall be called Immanuel, God with us. God came to visit the earth. Now let that try to sink into our consciousness. It’s an awesome sentence because there are people that don’t believe there is a God. Then there are people that have beliefs in God that oh, you know, I would be an atheist if I were taught to believe that God is what some people believe. And then there are people who are agnostics and you get down to the bottom line you have to start the sentence with the word “if,” because it’s a faith. And if it starts with faith then we have to say if there is a God, can you imagine that eternal, invisible, intelligent, somebody coming into a material form? There’s a word for this and most of you are theologically trained, you know the word. The word is incarnation. To incarnate something is to take a concept and turn it into a reality. To take a dream of let’s say 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’s spiritual and turn it into something that’s material. Now God did that and we say that’s when God visited the earth. Phenomenal, visited the earth. Wow!
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. He has revealed His heart. God visited this earth in a human being. Visit: that’s an interesting word because I was preparing this message and I thought of the early years in this ministry and in that first year I didn’t have a meeting, I didn’t have a board, I didn’t have to do anything except I rang doorbells and visited houses, interesting. And it reminded me of my first church where I did some internship before I came here.
And I remember calling one day on the home of the elder, James Tise. And I rang the doorbell and his little 5-year old boy came to the door, looked at me and yelled, ‘yipes, it’s the preacher,’ and slammed the door. Never forget that. He’s now a very, very famous and very successful surgeon. Dr. Tise, hey, Johnny, do you remember?
Oh, and then I remember calling at a house and you know, we did have a small salary, $200 dollars a month, and so putting a new sole on a shoe had low priority and nobody could see the hole I had on the bottom. And I was sitting in that dignified house sharing the faith as a community preacher of prestige, and their little boy was crawling on the floor and I didn’t realize he crawled under my crossed feet and could see the hole in the shoe and he stuck his finger in that hole. I can still feel it. Oh my goodness. That’s what I wanted to say, yikes!
The grandest visit of all when God came to Planet Earth. And Isaiah, the Hebrew is beautiful. Let me quote it for you: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God.” I love the Hebrew language because it’s all on vowels, very little consonants. (SPEAKS HEBREW) “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, says your God.” Or in the Old Testament, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (SPEAKS HEBREW) Out of that Hebrew setting God visited the earth as a Hebrew. Very interesting.
All through the Old Testament God was making presentations, revelations through people. A revelation to a man named Moses that there is a moral law that heaven requires from Planet Earth. Wonderful! And God revealed to Abraham that He was one God, not many gods. Ethical monotheism we call it. The greatest concept in religion, that there aren’t many gods but there is an ethical monotheism, one God and that concept of ethical monotheism is embraced first by the Jewish people, then by the Christians, and of course, in the 7th century by the Muslims. Ethical monotheism sets us into a camp by ourselves compared with polytheism. God came to visit the earth. Wow!
And I want to give you some points on this in the limited time. The need of the incarnation, why? The wonder of it, how did it happen? The motive of it, what was the reason? Number four: the ultimate purpose, what is it?
Quickly, 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 did the Calvinist thesis in seminary and 273 pages, I’m proud of that, 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 obligation of humans so we can say God was morally obligated. But if you have a problem with that, that’s too deep for you and you’re 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’s real, that He’s loving, that He’s ultimate intelligence, if God had kept Himself a secret I couldn’t love Him. His love compelled Him to step out of the silence and the shadows and the secrets so human beings wouldn’t have to go on try to guess if He was real, and guess what He was like and create their own concepts of God. God was morally obligated to let us know. He stayed back there and left us guess and we’d be guessing wrong, He’d be immoral, be terrible. That’s the compelling reason for the incarnation, His visit to this earth. Wow, the wonder of it all!
Think of it. Think of it. He became a human being. He had to.
You know I’ll never forget Fulton Sheen was the first one that taught this to me and it was in a sermon in this church many years ago. He said if God wanted to communicate to a dog He’d have to become a dog. If He wanted to communicate to a bird He’d have to become a bird. If God wanted to communicate to humans He’d have to become a human. That’s what He did. Now think of the wonder of it. The eternal God whose majesty absolutely surpasses any concept of human imagination, Wow! Had He come, He could have come with a million angels and soaring in the middle, probably a thousand feet tall with arms that were a hundred feet long. Wow! What a show. Gang busters! World would never forget it.
He came in simplicity not in celebrity. Think of that. A human being, and then a baby, and then a baby from poor parents, and then in Bethlehem a little town that was a put down town by the people who lived in Jerusalem. Total simplicity, the wonder of it. And three, the motive; why He came in a child. Because His ultimate purpose in coming in the incarnation 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 power were removed. He walked out of the Garden of Eden a nobody when He was a somebody. And the great loss and the great sin is the loss of healthy, human pride. In it’s place, shame, disgrace. And we live in sin in this world and you know it’s when you see shame instead of honor. Wow!
So He came as a baby in a manger with smells. Why? 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 not’s. The incarnation, the need God had 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. The need and the wonder, can anything be more dignified, innocence in a baby? The motive, to save us from shame to self respect and self confidence and self dignity. Wow! And the purpose of it all, why? Because without dignity we have no self respect, without any self respect we don’t believe in ourselves, and without this dignity we don’t trust the dreams that come into our mind because at the outset they’re impossible. And God can’t communicate to people who don’t even believe in themselves. And the reason behind most atheism is not the science that’s put forward improperly, atheists can’t even believe in themselves. They can’t believe in God. Why? What’s God’s purpose? Putting dignity back into us? Now we can become His children, creative children. We believe in dreams, they came from Him. Impossible dreams, they came from Him. We can do anything if we can believe it and believe in Him. Yes, the purpose of God, the incarnation was to turn the human race into a creative class of creatures on Planet Earth instead of just barbaric animals.
He wants us to build a beautiful life, a beautiful world where human beings help each other, where we are connected with Him and He can live through us, He can love through us. And whatever you do, whatever job you have, you’re a truck driver; you’re probably the most important person on the world because you deliver the food. Without you we wouldn’t be able to get what we need.
And I remember talking once to a young man who had horrible cerebral palsy. He was a member of this church. He’s dead now in heaven but he said to me, he said, Dr. Schuller, your one sermon 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 and that was about all but I was useless. But then I spent so much time in a hospital and this one nurse was so nice to me and she said you go to the Crystal Cathedral? So do I. She said you hear Schuller’s sermon last Sunday? He said no I wasn’t there. Oh, you should have been. And she told him what I said, every life has a purpose. She said you have a great purpose too. He said what? She said, without you I wouldn’t be working, wouldn’t need a nurse. Oh, and I feed my kids, husband’s dead. All the people in this place, she said, are like you. Without them we wouldn’t have the opportunity to give our love, show people how worthy they are. God’s purpose, everybody has a purpose.
I guess God knew you needed me and He set this whole thing up. Wow! Wow!
God visited this earth. When that happened everything changed. Faith, intelligent, affectionate, responsible, healthy faith came to this world. Ethical monotheism went beyond Abraham, beyond the 10 Commandments, until God Himself decided He would visit this earth and He would pay the price and He would die on a cross but people would become believers, yes, they would. And that would change the world. It wouldn’t turn it into a perfect sinless world, no, but it would raise the people scattered all over the planet who would meet Jesus, invite Him into their life, love people the way Jesus would love them, help people the way God would help them. That’s the good news of Christmas. And it all happened because God decided to pay us a visit. That’s the way to celebrate Christmas, isn’t it? Let’s 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’re looking at God coming to earth to give us all the proof He’d ever give us that He’s alive and He loves us and He wants to save us. Hallelujah. Amen