At Gateway Church in South Austin we celebrated Christmas!
The one thing we all have in common is that we all need hope. No matter your level of wealth, your nationality, or even your religion, our need for hope connects us all. Jesus promises the hope we all desire, and we don’t have to do anything to prove we’re worthy of His love. We can come as we are. Will you accept the love and hope that’s offered so freely?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Audio Part One:
Message Audio Part Two:
Message Notes from the Teaching Team:
Right here at Gateway in all of our Austin campuses, we probably have close to 100 different nations represented.
Though we all celebrate the birth of Jesus, we may not all celebrate Christmas the same.
I found out some interesting ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.
- For instance, in Mexico and many South American countries—Christmas means eating tamales!
- In Venezuela they go to church early Sunday morning—on roller skates.
- In the Philippines, they have a Lantern festival where everyone makes lighted paper lanterns, but over the years the competition has gotten stiff, and almost an extreme sport–Giant Lanterns.
- In Iceland, you get the Yule Lads who leave gifts in kids shoes—not to be confused with Yo Dudes from Southern California, who leave wax in little surfers shoes.
- In Austria, they have the equivalent of Bad Santa—named Krampus, who goes around scaring kids who have been naughty.
- If you’re an arachnaphobe (fear spiders) avoid the Ukraine at Christmas because many decorate their trees with glistening spiderwebs from a folktale about spiders decorating the tree of a poor family one Christmas.
- In Nigeria, families throw parties that may go all night long as children shoot fire crackers late into the night.
The most important thing that all nations have in common is that Jesus came as the Hope of all Nations.
Every person, in every nation, needs hope.
Think about what we all have in common around the world.
I don’t care who you are, rich or poor, black or white or brown, no matter your religious background or nationality, we all struggle.
I’ve been overseas several times over the past 30 years—talking about real world stuff with people in multiple countries, and in all those places I’ve had people get honest, and tell me their struggles.
They have fears, worries, they’ve been hurt, abused, the rich struggle with relational poverty, contentment, stress and anxiety, the poor struggle with dismay over corruption and feeling helpless or worthless, it doesn’t matter who you are—we all struggle, we all need hope.
We all know things need to change, but we all struggle to change, to make things better, to make ourselves more kind, loving, patient, joyful, peaceful–to stop medicating the pain running from the past…but if we’re honest, we struggle.
God knows all the struggle we go through. He cares deeply about you, knows you intimately, and loves you more than a parent loves a child. So God did something about it—He didn’t just preach, he stepped in and did something.
That’s what Christmas is really about. Yes, it was the night Jesus was born, but how do we know it’s not just another mythical tale?
- Myth doesn’t bring Hope. Hope comes from confidence that something better is really available.
- Hope in the Bible is always tied to a person—the person of God.
- For 1500 years before Jesus was born, God foretold how He would bring Hope to the Nations—to all people, everywhere.
Matthew shared that what Jesus did fulfilled what was spoken through the Jewish prophet Isaiah, and he quotes Isaiah 42. Isaiah wrote this in 780 BCE, 700 years before Jesus came. We have proof in the Dead Sea scrolls, all this was written before Jesus came. There are 61 different prophecies telling where, when, why, how he would bring Justice.
In fact, in Isaiah 42 God says:
“I am the Lord; that is my name…9 Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.” Isaiah 42:8-9, 780 BCE.
God wants to be known, and he says “Here’s how you’ll know the One True God—I’m the only one who stands outside time, who can tell you the future before it happens. “
Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:21-22, 780 BCE
Who God Really Is
Some people think God is the one who puts heavy burdens on them to be religious, follow all the rules, do more and more, feel guilty and shamed and condemned if you struggle to do it perfectly.
But Jesus came to show us that God is not like that at all.
In fact, one time the religious Jewish Pharisees of the time confronted Jesus because they saw God as the finger-wagging Cosmic Cop. The religious Pharisees judged themselves by judging others and looking down on people who struggled to keep the rules of the Jewish religion. They didn’t like Jesus because he showed mercy and compassion for the outcast, the prostitutes, the sinners, the lepers, those who struggled and had almost lost all hope.
One of the laws that God gave to Moses and the Jewish people, was to rest 1 day out of the week. It was God’s way of helping us take care of ourselves—so we don’t work ourselves to death out of fear, worry, and anxiety. So God said in the 10 commandments—honor the Sabbath and do no work, just rest, enjoy, play, be restored. That’s the good heart of God—who cares for his children.
But the religious of Jesus day made up all kinds of extra rules about what was or wasn’t work, but the missed the point).
So one time, Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath and there was a man struggling—he had a deformed hand.
- A deformed hand in those days would mean you couldn’t do most jobs, so would struggle to earn a living.
- The religious were watching Jesus closely, because they knew he had a soft spot for struggling people, and they had heard he could do the miraculous to heal.
- But to heal would mean work, breaking the rules.
[Jesus] said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:11-12
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man’s hand was healed.
But the Pharisees went out and plotted to kill Jesus. They were convinced his power was satanic because their power was threatened.
God Did Something About What’s Wrong
And Matthew, who saw this, writes:
This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:18 “Here is my servant [Messiah] whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” Matthew 12:17-21
All people of all nations struggle with the same things–lack of peace, fear of the future, fear of judgment and condemnation (it’s found in every religion as you look at the similar moral code, and the universal realization that we all fall short).
God did something about all that is wrong with this world. This passage says God sent Jesus to bring Justice to all nations—to all people.
God knows we struggle, and he will make everything right for all nations.
God will bring justice, salvation to all nations.
- Jesus name means “salvation.”
- In Hebrew, Jesus’s name is “Yeshua” so throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, you see his name over and over: “Yeshua” … “Yeshua”… “Jesus” … “Jesus” … isn’t that amazing?!
[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
But how will God bring Justice? Not in the way we would expect.
- God says he will bring Justice and Hope to all nations through his Servant his Messiah, who won’t quarrel or cry out.
- He’s not going to use the world’s means to bring Justice.
- He’s not going to force people with power or control.
- He’s not going to protest or demonstrate or use political means.
- He’s not going to yell or use violence to try to get his way like we do.
- God’s way of bringing Justice and Hope—of making all things right—is surprising.
- The God who created all people, from all nations, to be His children will come live with us. “Emmanuel” we sing at Christmas means “God is with us.”
- He would come as Messiah, live among us, but overthrow evil not by force or by preaching at us to try harder, but by Love demonstrated.
A Judo Move
A Judo master does not use force to overthrow his opponents. A Judo master learns to take the force and attack of his opponents and turn it against them to neutralize the opposition.
Jesus lived among us, and the injustice and evils of a world attacked him just like it does us.
- He didn’t use force to stop it even though he could have.
- He claimed to be God revealed, and He had the power to heal and restore.
- He brings about Justice not by force or power, by making us all do God’s will, but by sacrificial love—in a world that continually does evil, unjust, hurtful things.
- He let’s evil kill him, but uses His love against evil to forgive all who want God’s forgiveness and leadership.
- God shows his Tenderness and Compassion for the wounded and hurting and despairing or “end of their rope” people comes in.
- We get there because of a world gone its own way (away from God), so by winning people freely, he can lead them to be people who sacrificially love and serve others like God does.
If you read the religious texts from the world’s religions, like I have, you realize—they all say basically the same things about right and wrong—the rules.
Which is uncanny, really, that in all cultures for all times, we’ve known basic right and wrong.
This confirms what the Bible tells us: God has put his moral law in our hearts, in our consciences—so it comes out in our religious texts.
But even though humanity has known basic right and wrong for all time, our history is one of failure, struggle, wanting change but just feeling preached at—do better, try harder, keep the rules—it doesn’t work. It just causes guilt, shame, feelings of condemnation, and eventually we give up—we struggle and feel Hopeless.
Now the Bible is very unique from other religious texts too.
- The fulfilled prophecies.
- It’s consistency from beginning to end even though written by different people over a long period of time.
- And did you know: No other religious texts speak to all people of all nations.
Life and Freedom For Real People
Kwon who grew up Buddhist started coming to Gateway because he felt like he was drowning. He had tried and tried to change himself, and he had done everything his Buddhist teachers had said, but he said to me “It was like I was out at sea, exhausted and drowning as the waves crashed on me, and my Buddhist teachers were shouting swimming instructions from the beach—but I didn’t need instructions, I needed a boat to rescue me.” Kwon discovered Jesus the Hope of Nations, put his trust in him, and he did found his guilt and fears and burdens eased. He found rescue.
Our friend Jaya founded Impact India which is the partner we hope to fund with the funds we give above and beyond what we normally give. Jaya discovered liberation from bad karma and the cycle of samsara—not by his own dharma (good deeds) or by trying harder, but by God’s salvation that forgives and sets us free of the effects of all our wrongs—God doesn’t want us living in fear of condemnation, but to live confidently and freely in His love so we will follow Him.
Aman grew up Muslim, and he tried to do all the right things by the muslim faith, yet evil had wounded him so deeply—he could never do enough to ease the burden of guilt and shame until one day he cried out to Jesus to rescue him, deliver him. Aman found freedom and Hope, he is a leader and board member of our church today.
And I can tell you many stories of friends who grew up Catholic or Baptist or Methodist or some form of Christianity or another who realized that religion was not what God wanted. He wanted a relationship which is possible through surrendering our past, present, and future (all of our lives and regrets and hopes and dreams) to Jesus.
God is the God of all people, from all nations, and intended us all to be His children.
He doesn’t want his children burdened, beat down, hopeless.
But we all get that way. Why?
Because we all wander away from God, we go our own way, we seek our will much more than we seek God’s will—so we end up with a world of wills at war—all trying to force “My will be done on earth and in heaven.”
But God’s ways are the opposite—God, surprisingly is humble and gentle, does not force His will be done.
Because what God wants is not just moral compliance, but loving, trusting Children. God wants a family from all nations—a family who want God to be God instead of trying to play god.
But let’s be honest, often we won’t even consider giving up our façade of control unless we feel the pain and struggle.
Imagine you go to the doctor’s office because something’s wrong. The doctor looks at your chart and then begins a simple examination. As the doctor gently rubs and pushes on your stomach, she says, “Now tell me if this hurts.” She pushes deep into your left side and unexpectedly you cry out, “Ouch, that hurts!” Your doctor says, “I thought so because you have been bruised.” In the same way a doctor may uncover a hidden pain, God doesn’t just expose your pain to make it hurt again; He shows you your pain and struggle to bring healing and hope for the future.
All God wants is your love—your trust—it’s how things will ultimately be set right on earth—one life at a time given back to God. That’s why God came among us in the form of Jesus. Are you struggling?
“A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break”
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” Matthew 12:17-21
This is a bruised reed. A bruised reed, some trauma bruised and bent it over—winds, storms, rain, hail bruises it—it droops over and it’s fragile—and it doesn’t take much for it to break. Ever felt like a Bruised reed?
External circumstances have come against you.
Maybe the wrongs of others—abuse, trauma, damaged sense of self, or maybe relational trauma, financial trauma….
Maybe you’ve experienced loss recently. Tragedy has struck in South Austin as we lost Heidi Broussard and Brooke Mathis this past week.
Some of us are grieving in this Christmas season.
The true meaning of Christmas is this. God came to be with us.
God tenderly cares for you. A bruised reed, he will not break.
He knows you’re tender and bruised and he cares—He will one day bring justice for you, one day He make it all right…but he’s not gonna let you break if you trust yourself to Him.
He is a healer—that’s what Jesus showed God to be.
Jesus came to assure you, God doesn’t just preach at you, try harder.
It’s not God who wants us to live with guilt, shame, heavy burdens.
Jesus said to the religious:
You crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden. Luke 11:46
The religious had no compassion or mercy for struggling people, but Jesus did. Jesus claimed to reveal the heart of God…which is the exact opposite:
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Whatever the burden, the struggle, the bruise you feel tonight. Jesus came to show you, God is humble and gentle and won’t let these things break you—Give your Life to him, He wants to unburden you, heal you, set you free.
“A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out”
Then it says, “A smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” When we think about “smoldering wicks” we may picture the smoking candles on a birthday cake–the flame is gone. But in Jesus’ day they used oil lamps, like this one [light it?]. When the wick was saturated with oil, it could light up a room, it’s fire burned bright…but if it ran dry–if the oil ran low–then the wick would smolder and smoke, until the light went out.
Ever felt your light flickering—your soul feels depleted, running on empty emotionally, relationally, spiritually? Hope is dim, maybe despair is rising in your soul—feels like you might not make it, any last flicker of hope is about to go out? God sees, he cares, he wants to bring you hope tonight. He will replenish the oil of life, He will pour into your dry soul His love, His joy, His peace to keep your light going—to restore you and even make your life a bright light for others.
“In his name the nations will put their hope.” Matthew 12:21.
Think of all the things you’ve put our hope in that have let you down, all the ways we try to numb the pain, run from the hurt, drink away the sorrows, prove we’re good enough or worthy of love—But God sent Jesus to prove, you ARE loved already. You’re not god, but you are Loved by God, and God wants you to have Hope. Have you put your Hope in Jesus? You can tonight.
God invites you into Loving Relationship forever, but He won’t force it. Some of you are ready to respond with “yes I want your forgiveness and leadership Jesus—I want relationship.” If you have a relationship with Jesus, we can still fall back into old soul depleting ways. But Come to him.
For some of you this may be the first time you’ve heard this invitation and are ready to respond with “yes, I need you Jesus.”
For others of us you should know this is not a one time invitation. Even if you have a relationship with Jesus we can get sucked into the ways of this world. We can try to fix things relying on our own power. We can try to yell or get angry when things aren’t going our way rather than dying to self as Jesus did and calls us to do. We can become depleted.
As we end 2019 and look towards 2020. Come to him.
- Perhaps you are burdened and weary in your marriage, he can heal you.
- Perhaps you are burdened and weary because of financial struggles, he can heal you.
- Perhaps you are overwhelmed with anxiety and fears of the future, he can heal you.
- Perhaps you are physically or emotionally unhealthy, He can heal you.
- Perhaps you are grieving, He can heal you.
- God can heal you AND give you faith bigger than your circumstances because you can put your hope in him – a person who loves you.
So start afresh on this Christmas Eve.
Surrender everything to him and allow him in this new year to make you new.
In him all Nations will put their hope.
You can put your hope in him tonight.
God sent Jesus to prove, you ARE loved.
Have you put your Hope in Jesus?
You can tonight.