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Good morning church. It’s great to see everybody’s faces out this morning. Thank you for choosing to worship with us this morning. And it’s the official kickoff of Christmas, right? It’s a Christmas season, officially December. I can no longer put up a fight with my children. As far as having Christmas songs in the car, I have to give in and just let them do it. So Merry Christmas. Thank you for being here. And of course, we’re going to start December off with a Christmas themed message. And uh, as I was reading one of my favorite authors, I came across this that kind of started this whole process of, uh, this message on keeping Christ at our center. And this is what he said. He said, when the sun is at the center of the systems, the planets and moons don’t cease to exist. In fact, they exist more securely and more beautifully in their proper positions and proportions. And with God at the center of your life, all other good gifts, people and pleasures, thoughts and things takes their proper place and proportion in our lives. They are more pleasing and enjoyable because they give the pleasure they they are designed to give and no more. And I said, I read that. I thought, man, that’s just such a great, um, uh, illustration of what it means to keep Christ at the center of not only this holiday season, but in our lives as well. You know, we have so many different distractions and so many things, especially during this holiday season, you know, wanting to keep take our center off of what this season for us as Christ followers is really about.

People want your money, right? And they use this holiday to get into your pocket. Or we have just a world in chaos and all these different things going on. That boy, it’s so easy to get a frightened and afraid and to get our eyes on and focus off of what really matters. And so it’s my prayer this morning that we can take this time to begin this Christmas holiday, to to remember, to keep Christ at our center, to keep Christ and His gospel at our center. And I thought the best way to do that would be to, um, do a short survey on Bethlehem. Right? That is the focus of the Christmas message, at least geographically speaking. That is where Christ our Savior was born. And Luke two it says, Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house of lineage of David. Um, he had to go to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. And so it was my paper that are attacking me here. And so it was that while they were with while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And so in Bethlehem, geographically speaking, that’s where the center of the Christmas story had taken place. But as we get into the Scripture and dig a little deeper, we find Bethlehem has much deeper meaning and had played a more significant role in God’s redemption story. And one place you can find Bethlehem is in the Book of Ruth. And many of you know this story. Hopefully. Uh, Ruth is occurs back in this is the time period of 1398 through 1043 BC. And, and it says here in Ruth one it says, now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled that there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. And so we see here the book of Ruth, opening it up with this passage, saying that this man came from Bethlehem. But notice there it says it was during the days that the judges ruled. So it was this time in the children, the nation of Israel, this time of history, in which wasn’t very good at all. God had delivered the children of Israel had given them the promised land, had done many great things. And during this time period we see a people that had turned their back on God.

We see people that had, as you read the book of judges, had not only turned their back on God, but just rampant immorality. Uh, there was chaos in their cities, a foreign invaders attacking them. All these things were were going on during this time. And if you were a citizen at this time, you were looking around and saying, man, there’s not much hope, there’s not much future for our nation. And and it doesn’t look, things don’t look very bright. And the guy who wrote judges there, he he summed it all up about what that time was like there in judges 2125. In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. These people put themselves above God. They did not submit to God and His his rule. They chose what was right and what was wrong, and they’ve turned their backs on him. And so it was just this time of darkness and and chaos and, and and so you could be discouraged greatly. But at the same time, the book of Ruth comes along and we see that God actually had even though in the midst of all this chaos and darkness and people turning their back on him, he can still had his he was still, um. Using people in his plan of redemption. Even things look even though things look dark and grim.

God was using people. And Ruth, is this story of God’s plan of redemption being played out. He was still in control. He was still doing these things even though things did not look good. And so it’s an encouragement for us this morning. God continues to work. In spite of the chaos and darkness and, uh, wickedness that runs amok around us, as in the book of Ruth. God, it continues to this day, uh, to proceed with his plan of redemption. He’s still in control, but it’s only when we keep our focus on him and his redemptive work, when all those other things find its proper place and perspective. And so we see here the book of Ruth starts off with this family going into Moab. There was a famine in Bethlehem. And so they decided to go into Moab, right. There’s greener pastures, they think. And as they go on, the story takes a very dark turn. It gets gets even worse. Naomi is the wife. That’s her name. In the first chapter, Naomi’s husband dies. And we can we can look at this and we can say, well, what’s this have to do with us? But try to put your place, put yourself in her place. Right. They move. They abandon all that they’ve known in Bethlehem. They go to this foreign and strange land looking for greener pastures. And instead death follows them. The husband dies. And then at least she has our sons.

And our sons find two Moabite women and they marry. One is called Orpah and the other one is called Ruth. And so, even though the death found this family in Naomi’s, um. Husband. You know, there was still. Our future to be had with this marriage. And then, as the story goes on, her sons die as well. Could you imagine what that would feel like to lose your husband then? To lose your sons? You look at the future and say, wow, there’s really no hope. I have no future. I have nothing to offer my daughter in laws. I’m old. I’m barren. I can’t provide them any more sons for husbands. And so she turns to her daughters and he says. She says, turn back, my daughters. They will. Why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb that they may be your husbands? She’s like, look, I have nothing to offer you. I have no hope. My which? And it was so important for the people of Israel, for their family line lineage to continue on. None of that. Naomi had to offer them, and she’s like, go back to your people and to your gods. Turn back. I have nothing good to offer you. And so the story goes on and Orpah decides to go back. But Ruth. Ruth decides to stay with Naomi and by Naomi’s side. And could you imagine that as a young woman deciding that she was going to follow Naomi into a future that looked bleak and dark with not a whole lot of promise? She had no guarantee of meeting anyone that she could marry or anything like that.

She was, in fact, going into a society that frowned on marrying outsiders, especially Moabites. If you know the history between the children of Israel and the Moabites. But Ruth says to Naomi there in verse 16, entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you. Forever. Wherever you go I will go. And wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. And so, in spite of what looked like a bleak future, Ruth decides to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem. She’s. Naomi was going to go back to where her people lived, and she was going to find a rest and solace there. She had hoped. And so Ruth and Naomi make their way back into Bethlehem, and this beautiful story begins to unfold of what looks like a desperate and dark future and not a lot of hope. God begins to unravel and turn for the good. There’s a rule. There’s a law in the in the nation of Israel that those who are less fortunate, they could go into the wheat fields. And after the harvesters had come in and remove the wheat, those who are less fortunate could come behind them and pick up the gleanings in which they can have and take home with them, and so they can be fed.

And so Naomi sends Ruth into the fields, and she begins to glean so they can have some food when they get back to Bethlehem. And then the love story starts, right? Right. There’s this man named Boaz. He actually owns the land, and he takes kind of starts to take notice of, of this righteous woman, Ruth. And and the story goes on to where Boaz is a is a near kinsman to Naomi. And so there’s this other law that says that if if there’s a widow who has lost her husband, the brother is supposed to take that widow in and treat her, treat him as their wife. And if there was no brother to take that that widow in, then a near kinsman, a next kinsman, could do the same. Right? But with that came all her debts and all that stuff. And and so there was this law. And so Naomi is like, guess what? This Boaz guy, this take notice on you, he’s the nearest kinsman. He can redeem us. He can restore us back to she had land and all that, and the nation of Israel. And she had sold it because their family had sold it. And so they were just kind of living off the off the support system. And but Boaz had the ability to redeem her and to redeem Naomi and the family and redeem and restore all that back.

And so the story goes on that Ruth comes to Boaz. He’s sleeping at the inn in one of his barns, and and she lays at his feet and he startles he startled by her, and he says, who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your under your wing, for you are a close relative. And so Ruth is asking, Will you be my kinsman redeemer? We are. You are a close relative to us. We have no hope unless you decide to redeem us. And so Boaz by law had the ability to do it, but he didn’t have to do it. And it was an expression of love and and mercy extended to them. And the story goes on. And it was done. And Ruth and Boaz, right, are are married and they live happily ever after, right as the story goes on. And Ruth four 417 saying, uh, the, the people of the nation of Israel were just so excited that God had done this miraculous thing that Boaz and Ruth had come and saying, there is a new born, a son born to Naomi. And they called his name Obed. And that’s the great part about this story. It’s not just about them living happily ever after God’s plan of redemption. Even though the nation looked bleak, God’s plan of redemption was still being played out. He was still sovereignly using this family to carry out his plan to redeem mankind.

And we see that because his father is the Obed and he is the father of Jesse and the father of David. David, that shepherd boy out in the field that Samuel came after, he inspected all the seven brothers of Jesse and said, God said, nope, he’s not my king. He goes first. Samuel 16 how the Lord said to Samuel, how long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him? Saul is the first king of Israel. He’s disobedient. God says, I’m rejecting him. Go to Bethlehem, for I have provided myself a king among his sons. Among Jesse’s sons, we know that to be King David. And so God’s playing this out in spite of what this world looks like and what’s going on. And that’s the deeper stories that we find as we study scripture, that it’s not just a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, that God’s purpose in all these things throughout him in history, his plan of redemption is being played out. And he’s he brings prophets into human history like Second Samuel. So Samuel, David’s king here, and David comes or Samuel comes up to David and he says, in your house, and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever. It’s a messianic prophecy. God sends Samuel to David and says, your throne will reign forever through your throne. You will reign forever.

And I’m like another prophet. These are 250 years removed from one another. Talks about Bethlehem I met another messianic prophecy here. He says, but you, Bethlehem Ephrathah Ephrathah is the ancient name of Bethlehem. It’s where actually Abraham and Sarah died. Where Sarah died was in Ephrathah, now Bethlehem. That’s why that’s there. This is as though you are a little among the thousands of Judah you are. Yet out of you shall come forth to me, the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old and from everlasting. A prophecy pointing that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, and above that a prophecy saying that through the lineage of King David this Messiah would reign forever. It’s a beautiful picture. And Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. And it’s it’s written to those with a Jewish descent or lineage, and it’s written with the design to point everything back to all those Old Testament prophecies. And so Matthew begins with this, the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. All those prophecies are fulfilled through Jesus Christ and the lineage through King David who was born, or yeah, through King David, um, through Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem. And it goes on there. Verse 8 or 5, looks like Solomon begat Boaz by Rahab. Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, and Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.

And so we see Ruth here, right? Didn’t look. Her future did not look very bright, didn’t look like there was very much hope for her. Yet she desired to be faithful, and she desired to have Naomi’s God to be her God. And because of her faithfulness and and her pursuing him, she has the honor of being in the lineage of Jesus Christ our Savior there in Matthew. It’s an amazing story. But it looked dark and grim. It looked like there was no hope. God made for the good. And his redemption story continues to this day. Matthew goes on says, now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. So important here. And so all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. This is Prophet Isaiah here saying, behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. Which is translated God with us. So we have this lineage. We have these Old Testament prophecy prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ. And, um, we can stand and have comfort in knowing that our faith rests on these prophetic evidences and archaeological evidences of the of the Scripture that backed these up. But it’s also important to see and discern the doctrine which is being told to us here in Matthew.

The Holy Spirit became upon Mary, and it ends up that Jesus is actually Emmanuel, which being translated is God with us. Why is this so important? Well. It starts way back in Genesis. All right. God creates. Everything is good. And then we have the fall. We have death. We have separation from God because of sin. And all those who are in Adam are separated from God. That’s the bad news. Romans 518 kind of sums it up this way. It says, therefore, as through one man’s offense, judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation. All right, that’s the bad news. We are separated from God because we all hail from the lineage of Adam. And with that, we are born separated from God. And that’s the bad news. But the good news is this. Even so, through one man’s righteous act, the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. You see, the Christmas story is about God with us, God invading his creation in the form of a baby Jesus so that he could step in and take on the form of a servant and live the righteous life that we are unable to live because of our separation, because of our sin nature. Jesus does not have that same lineage or problem we have because he is God and he does not help. His bloodline does not hail back to the first Adam. He is God with us.

And that’s why the virgin birth is so important. Because Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. Just as Boaz was to Ruth. Jesus fulfills what Ruth is trying to. God is using the book of Ruth to to try to convey to us that Jesus had to take on the form of a servant, the form of a man being God, 100% God, and 100% man, so that he could be our kinsman redeemer. He could be a man that could go to the cross, and that he could pay the penalty for our sin that you and I have committed. That God the Father poured out his wrath upon him, so that those who believe and trust in that wonderful gospel message can be imputed the righteousness of Christ on their behalf. And as Romans 512 says, it’s a free gift. It costs us nothing. We do nothing to earn it, but it costs Christ everything. He stepped into his creation. He willingly went to the cross as the Lamb of God, without sin or spot or blemish to be punished on our behalf. He redeemed us. He paid the ransom. He paid our penalty. He paid our debt. Mark 1045 Jesus said this, for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. And there’s an important distinction to have here. This isn’t a universal thing. All paths lead to God. Christ came. He is the exclusive way.

He is the way in which we can be redeemed. We can’t add to it or take away from it. And we must believe it’s it’s for the believing ones. Scripture says over and over again. I have lots of verses to back that up, and if you want to know about them, we can talk afterwards. But there’s two distinct people, those that are believe and trust in this gospel message that are by their belief and by their faith, are regenerated and born and adopted out of the old the First Addams Family and into the family of God. And the distinction lies between what you’re trusting in and what you’re believing in. John. In John chapter eight, there’s this real it’s kind of an aggressive exchange between Jesus Christ and the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day, and they’re going back and forth. They’re trying to catch Jesus up and and all these things. And this is just before, um, he declares himself to be the great I am of the the God of, you know, of Exodus, right before they pick up stones to try to stone him because he just declared himself to be God. Um, he’s going back and forth with them, and he tells them this. He said to them, you are from beneath. I am from above. I am God in the flesh. I am from above. You are from beneath. He says, you are of this world.

He says, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins. If you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. It’s not an all parsley to God. It is the exclusive way to believe and trust in Christ’s accomplished work. I’ll never forget the day when that gospel message was presented to me, and I was in a Baptist church, and I was just overwhelmed by me trying to prove to God through my whole life how you know that I couldn’t be good enough, and I couldn’t be good enough, and I couldn’t be good enough. And this wonderful message of salvation by believing and trusting and I’m like, there’s got to be more to it. I’m in a Baptist church. I have to get baptized or something. I got to do something. But the message was, believe. Trust in what Christ has done. Believe that he is from above and we are from beneath, and trust that he is our kinsman Redeemer. That is the gospel message of Christmas. Christ has come to be our kinsman Redeemer. To purchase us we must, in order to accept that gift, believe only in that wonderful message and believe only and trusting in his accomplished work alone. We can’t add anything to it. And the second point is keeping Jesus and and his gospel at our center. As I opened up this message, there’s so many different things going on in this world that caused us to, you know, be scared.

And this is the time. This is the time when we can refresh and go back and keep what’s really important at the center of our lives. And that is Christ and his, his gospel, his gospel message at the center during this holiday season and throughout the coming New Year, as we do that, all those other things, yeah, we have to worry about this world and we have to worry about what’s going on. And, and, and we have to worry about buying gifts for people. But all those other things take its proper perspective, because just as the solar system, as we keep our focus on the sun as the center, everything else makes sense. As we keep our focus on God the Son and His redemptive story. Everything else makes sense. It’s a little easier to get through. Oh, you thought you were done, huh? And so this message that started in Bethlehem again, we look at our world and and things are going crazy and chaos runs amok. And, you know, I see people even, you know, turning their backs on God and just deciding for themselves, like the time of the judges, that what they think is truth is truth, and it doesn’t matter. And we can all just get along with your truth is truth and your truth and you’re just you’re so you get so overcome with anxiety sometimes.

And and then we, we focus back on that. Christ, no matter what’s going on, he’s still at work. His plan of redemption still continues to this day. But it’s not in the little town of Bethlehem anymore, right? What? But because of what happened in the little town of Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago, we have this ability to be adopted into God’s family, and we’re told that we’re given the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is our down payment of the inheritance that is to come and the heaven to come. And it is him who desires to do a work through us. And God’s plan of redemption continues not in a small town in Bethlehem, but in the hearts of every believer. God desires for you to be a voice in this world and to be his representative. He desires for you to be light in this darkness. But it’s only when we have our focus on Christ. And remember what he’s done for us. And out of that, we do those things that it all makes sense. And Peter kind of sums us up well for us. He’s talking to believers and I’ll just read it here. It says, but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. Who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

As most of you know, I’m a biblical counselor, and that’s the majority of my work is just trying to get people to understand who they are in Christ, that they should no longer define themselves as who they once were, or their family history, or where they came from or what’s going on. But they should define themselves as children of God. And as we do that, as we focus on Jesus and what he’s done in our lives and in our hearts. Everything begins to take its proper perspective in life. And we understand. We begin to identify with our creator as not only our creator and our God, but our father. Because he’s adopted us, he’s purchased us through His Son. And it’s through that we say, man, we’re children of God, and we begin to want to reflect his image in this world. And so he goes on to say, beloved, I beg you, as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. And the good works come after. We know who we are, and we desire to reflect that image to those around us. You know, there’s no greater honor as a as parents, as a father especially.

I don’t want to speak for my wife. That’s why I said that she’s here. So I can’t say that. Anyway, um, sidetrack. Um, there’s no greater honor. My kids are getting to the age now where they’re they’re they’re growing up, you know, almost in the teenage time. But I begin to see these little snippets of them when they desire to obey and do what’s right and do what they know is what we desire of them out of their love and respect for for us, instead of out of just this feeling of I know I got to do it, or out of this feeling of fear of being punished. If they don’t do it, it’s great, right? I starting to see little snippets of it, man. They’re doing that because they want to reflect back to me their love and appreciation to me and what I’ve done for them. And the gospel is the same way. It’s only when we understand what God has done, and we want to give back and reflect that his image, because of our love and respect for what he’s done, because of what he’s done on the cross and he’s purchased us and redeemed us, it’s when we do that we go out into this world, and we are lights to this darkness that’s all around us, and that God will receive the glory, right? Glorify God in the day of visitation. That’s what he desires of us, that we keep our eyes on him and our focus on His Son, Jesus as our King and Redeemer, and as we do.

Uh, his gospel message continues. His plan of redemption continues through all of us and our interaction with those around us, our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones. And you might be sitting here today going, well, I don’t I really don’t have a lot of influence on people. I don’t have a lot of, you know, friends or, you know, my you know, I just my past is really for him to be from being able to serve God. And, you know, I just ask you to look at Ruth. She had. To make a decision. She didn’t. Her future did not look bright. It didn’t look like there was a lot of hope if she followed Naomi. But she knew the God of Naomi’s and she knew that through him he can do anything. And now she’s named in the lineage of Jesus Christ. God can use you in his plan of redemption. It just depends on what your focus is on. And so I just my prayer this morning is that as we start this holiday season, let’s again refresh our view and our focus back on what needs to be focused on. And that’s Christ, his gospel and his redemptive story that he continues to play out in the heart of believers.


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