STEP INTO CHRISTMAS
December 25, 2008
[Ed comes on stage carrying a duffle bag.]
Illus: I want to share something with you extremely personal. Do you mind if I do that? It’s around the holiday season and it’s time to talk about things that are really near and dear to our hearts. So in these bags I have some things that reveal a lot about my life and I thought here during the Christmas season I would take some liberties and share them with you. These are some of my shoes.
These are my favorite shoes that I have ever bought in my life. These babies are 11 years old. I got them in California. I was out there speaking years ago. They’re a boot called a Richter boot. They’re waterproof. They’re rugged. They’re fashionable with the leather laces down the side. There’s one problem. I have searched high and low, online, everywhere you can think and they don’t make these anymore. But I love these boots, Richter boots. Does anybody have Richter boots in the house? No, there’s no way you do.
These next shoes really bring a tear to my eyes. These are the boots I wear fishing, my fishing boots. I wade around in the water with these things. They have some cuts on the bottom from corral and rock and all of that. They still have sand in them. Wow. These bring back memories, fishing boots.
What else do we have? My bedroom shoes. I just started wearing bedroom shoes over the last few years. I don’t know why I fought it, I just did. Now I wear these things. They are made by Ugg. Lisa got these for me several Christmases ago. They don’t really smell that bad. But if you look in the bottoms, my Dobermans have eaten the inside out. Feel that for a second. They’re really soft. They love that. In one of the services someone smelled the shoes. I don’t want you to smell the shoes. Does anyone like to wear bedroom shoes, anybody? Who despises bedroom shoes? I used to. But I’m telling you, as you get older you’ll join the club.
Now these last shoes are truly vintage. Some of the young people talk the vintage game, but these are the real deal. Are you ready? Are you ready? My shoes I wore at Florida State University. Back in the day, Nike sponsored us and we could pretty much get shoes whenever we wanted them. These were some of the ones I wore in the game. You might be thinking, “But they still look brand new.” Well, I rode the bench. FSU; how many Seminole’s do we have here? That’s it. I’m sure the people in Miami aren’t happy.
Have you ever wondered about your shoes and wondered if your shoes could talk to one another, what would they say? You throw these in the closet, the FSU shoes would be like, “Hey man, I sat the bench and saw this great game and I spilled Gatorade on my shoe laces.”
“Yeah, man, I was walking with Ed through the house, but then he took these off and these Dobermans grabbed me.”
Shoes tell a story, they really do. In fact, I want to get you to do something just for a second. Look at your shoes. Don’t take them off, just look at them. Think about what you’ve done in those shoes. Have you ever thought about that? What if your shoes could talk? What people have you hung out with? What places have you frequented? What have you done in your shoes?
T.S. One of the interesting things about shoes, you can look at your shoes, the bottom sole, and everybody wears their shoes differently. Like mine, I kind of wear them on the edge of the heel. I put a little pressure on the ball of my foot. Usually, I can get some scuffs on the right shoe. Not the left, but that’s just me. Everybody walks in a unique way.
Our soles tell a story about our souls. Have you ever thought about that? Your soles and my soles on these shoes tell a certain story about our souls. Because where we walk, the direction we’re headed in is where our heart is pointed. So our soles and our souls have this connection. It is very interesting.
Have you ever thought about why we have shoes, anyway? Shoes are important because they protect the feet, they’re comfortable, and they protect the feet from being hurt and bruised and battered. Shoes matter. Our shoes are made for walking. And I think all of us have done a lot of walking over the Christmas holiday.
I bet we have walked miles and miles in different malls and shopping centers. We have walked through shopping centers. Maybe we have walked a lot on the tread mill to try to shed those extra pounds we have picked up as we have partaken in the feeding frenzy at all of these different parties. We have walked a lot.
And during that first Christmas, during that inaugural Christmas, there was a lot of walking going on, a bunch. There was a sole to soul connection.
Jesus left the comfort of the Trinity and he walked, 2000 years ago, across the cosmos and was born in a crib. Think about, just for a second, in your mind’s eye the baby feet, the feet of Jesus. Then think about Jesus as he grew and became a teenager. He was hanging out in his Father’s house and his parents couldn’t find him. Think about his feet. Think about the feet of Jesus as he walked on water, as he challenged others to follow him, to walk with him. Think about the feet of Jesus as they were anointed with perfume. Think about the feet of Jesus as they carried the cross to Calvary. Think about the feet of Jesus as nails were pierced in them for your sins and mine. Think about the feet of Jesus when they were wrapped in burial clothes. Think about the feet of Jesus as he rose again. The feet of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph walked a lot. There were walking fools. Have you ever thought about that? They walked a long way, Mary sitting on the back of a donkey and that donkey was walking with the Christ child.
The shepherds, sipping espresso, pulling an all-nighter. They saw these angels walking around them singing. They left it all and they went to the manger.
But there was a group of guys that I want us to focus on just a little bit today, because these guys really relate to a lot of us in the house. And I’m referring to the wise men, you might call them the Magi.
If you think about a manger scene, you have the wise men bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. You’ve seen that. Really, the manger scene does not hold biblical water. The wise men showed up after Jesus was about two.
People think the wise men followed a star. “I bet it was just this star, this beautiful star that just pointed them like a big arrow, maybe like a sign in Las Vegas: ‘There he is. There’s the king of the Jews.’”
I don’t believe it was like that. As you study the Scriptures you see this star appearing and reappearing. I believe, quite frankly, that it was the glory of God that pushed these pagans, these first century seekers, to the manger.
But let’s go back for a second and see what the Bible says about these wise men, these Magi, these wealthy guys, these heavy hitters, these scholars. If you have your Bibles turn to the book Matthew chapter 2. Now the Gospel of Matthew talks about the birth of Jesus. Also in other areas of the gospels we hear about the birth of Jesus.
So Matthew 2:1‑2, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod…”
Now let me stop here. King Herod, during the time of King Herod. That’s huge. Say Herod with me. 1,2,3, Herod. And I’m not talking about the department store in London; I’m talking about the guy. Some of y’all got that.
“…during the time of King Herod, Magi came from the east to Jerusalem…”
Wise men, Magi. Now we think there were three, but there were probably a lot more. Why do we know that? Because when they showed up it snapped the heads of everybody in Jerusalem. They jumped out of the limos. They had all of this bling on and people were like, “Who are these cats?” And it freaked Herod out.
Matthew 2:2 says that they asked this question: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw a star in the east and have come to worship him.” Say that with me ‑‑ worship.
So again, check this out, the Magi, the wise men, saw this light, the glory of the Lord, this star, and they began to seek the star, seek the light. A two year trek to follow the star. I love that. A sole to soul connection. Their soles were pointing in the direction of their souls.
Every time we’re a sincere seeker; every time we’re truly investigating the Lord, God always places a person, a place or a thing in our lives to point us to Jesus. Some of you today are seeking. You’re investigating the Christian life. There are some people who are sincere seekers, you’re actually taking steps towards Jesus. Because basically, we’re going in one of two directions. We’re either moving toward Jesus or walking away from Jesus. We’re following Jesus or we’ve turned our backs on Jesus.
If you’re away from God, are you a seeker or are you a pseudo seeker? There are sincere seekers and pseudo seekers. Pseudo seekers aren’t really seekers; they’re cynics. You maybe saw some documentary about Jesus on some channel or maybe you had a liberal professor in college say this about the Bible or this about Jesus and you just lob questions toward heaven. You’re a cynic. But you’ve never become a seeker. You have never really studied the Scriptures. You have never really taken steps toward Jesus. You have never really read a lot of the scholarly work about the validity of the Bible, and validity and the historicity of the person of Jesus Christ.
So if you’re a seeker, come strong. Do what the wise men did. Pursue the light. But if you’re a cynic, just be honest with yourself and say, “You know what, I’m a cynic. Because if I really followed the person of Christ the implications in my life, they’re pretty crazy. So I don’t want any of that.”
But let’s just be honest about who we are. But these guys, the wise men, they followed Jesus.
Now they began to talk to Herod and Herod was crazy. The guy was nuts. He was king; he was manipulative; he was someone who liked to use people up; he was someone who was divisive and destructive.
And I have to stop and ask you the same question: Do I have any Herods in your life? Anybody try to betray you or use you or mess you around? Anyone ever try to take advantage of you, to tell you one thing and to do another?
Well that’s what happened here when the wise men talk to Herod. Because Herod hears the wise men talking about the king. He’s thinking, “But I’m the king.”
And these wise men are saying, “No, we’re trying to find the king of the Jews to worship him.”
Well here’s what Herod does. Herod calls together the scribes and the religious leaders of the people. He says, “Guys, come on. The king of the Jews. Where is this king?”
And the scholars, this is unbelievable, the scholars say, “Oh, over in Micah 5 and 2 Samuel 2 it says he is born five miles down the street in Bethlehem.”
Now let me press the pause button and tell you something. Isn’t that whack? That is totally crazy, because these religious leaders of the people knew that Jesus was born five miles away, yet they wouldn’t walk five miles just to worship him.
So Herod was walking away from Jesus. He was worshipping basically himself. These scholars were worshipping knowledge. They talked a good game, but they didn’t walk it. Do you know anybody like that, somebody at work? They can talk it, but they don’t walk it? Have you ever met someone like that in the whole realm of athletics? They talk a good game but they can’t walk it? Do you know what I’m saying to you?
They were talking it, but they weren’t walking it. So they were worshipping knowledge.
Then, though, we’re going to find out the wise men ‑‑ and believe me they were wise ‑‑ they were worshipping Jesus. So then the plot really clots. To show you how powerful these guys really were, they had this secret meeting, just Herod and the Magi. He said, “Guys, find the king of the Jews and then,” he says this, “tell me where he is. Report back to me where he is and I want to worship him.”
Say “worship” with me again. Worship. This is the second time we see this. Matthew 2:7, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”
Now we jump down to Matthew 2:10-11, the wise men, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. ”
So it’s a war over worship, isn’t it? Everybody here worships. Everybody we see on planet earth worships. I hope you know that. Some people think, “Well, he must be a worshipper. She must be a worshipper. And I guess she’s not or he’s not.”
No, we all worship. But the question is, do we waste our worship or are we worshipping who we’re supposed to worship? Are we bowing at the feet of Jesus? What are you worshipping?
Are you worshipping some activity, some recreational pursuit? [Ed picks up the fishing boots.]
Are you worshipping laziness, this victim mentality that is so prevalent around our world? [Ed picks up his bedroom shoes.] “It’s their fault; it’s his fault; it’s her fault; I’m just a victim; people have to take care of me; the government will take care of me; my parents will take care of me for the rest of my life; I will just chill and relax.”
Or maybe, just maybe, you’re worshipping intimacy and sex. I don’t know. We have a lot of worshipping going on.
Are you worshipping athletics? [Ed picks up his basketball shoes.] In our culture today, do we worship athletics? We bow at the soccer ball or the basketball or the football or the hockey puck or the snowboard. Man, we have some worship going on. Don’t be thinking we don’t worship. We all worship.
Then some of us worship cool shoes, Richter boots.
But we worship. And where we walk is where we worship. What we’re walking toward is who we’re worshipping. So if our shoes could speak, the soles in our feet would tell us a lot about our souls.
Think about the soles of the wise men. Think about the direction of their lives, of their hearts, of their soles and their souls.
The wise men worshipped Jesus. What did they give him? They gave him gold. That’s a gift for a king. Frankincense. That’s a gift of deity. Myrrh. That’s something that you would use when a body would die and you would clothe the body in burial clothes and put the incense to help with the odor. A foreshadowing of the person of Jesus, isn’t it?
The king of kings, totally God and totally man. The fact that he was going to die and rise again. This is heavy stuff, supernatural stuff.
So we celebrate Christmas not because of presents, but because of the presence of God. We celebrate Christmas not because of the crib ‑‑ I mean, it is partly because of the crib. We celebrate it because of the cross, because Jesus walked perfectly, because Jesus performed flawlessly; because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, something we don’t deserve, yet he rose again. These wise men, they worshipped.
And then whenever you bow at the feet of Jesus, listen to this, you’re going to have perspective. I know today in this crazy economy so many of us want perspective. We need discernment. We need wisdom. And we’re trying to read this and talk to this person and study that and all that stuff is fine and dandy. However, we’ll never have perspective on this one and only life until we worship Jesus.
Because when we worship Jesus here is what’s going to happen, his feet will become our feet.
I ask you: how in the world will the world see unconditional love? Through your feet and mine.
I ask you: how in the world will the world see forgiveness and reconciliation? Through your feet and mine.
How will the world see the significance and purpose of souls? Through your feet and mine.
How will the world see what marriage is all about, that marriage should be reflective of God’s relationship to his people? It should be a selfless thing and an unselfish thing and a servant driven thing. How will the world see that? Through your feet and mine.
How will the world see someone who understands that our resources are not ours but they’re God’s and that we should be totally thinking about other people? Through your feet and mine.
It is a sole to soul connection. And that’s what we have here with the wise men, because the wise men worshipped, they dedicated themselves to the Lord, they devoted themselves to the Lord.
And because of their devotion and dedication, God gave them a new direction. You haven’t worshipped until you’ve left by a different direction.
Matthew 2:11-12, let me read it again, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. ”
Now we get into verse 12, the context, “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod….”
Not to go back. Say that with me, “Not to go back.” Turn to your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, don’t go back.” As we face this new year, I have some words for you: Don’t go back. Don’t go back to the Herods in your life. Because see, Herod thought he was using them. But in reality, God was using him to point them to Jesus. And I’m thankful for the Herods in my life, aren’t you? Now at the time, I didn’t realize that God was using them to point me to him. But now looking back I say, “Wow, Lord, thank you for the Herods in my life.”
But right now you have Herods hovering over your life. You have Herods helicoptering over you. Don’t go back to the old way of thinking. Don’t go back to the negativity. Don’t go back to the discouragement. Don’t go back to people who use you and abuse you because when you worship you always will leave by a different route.
“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod they returned to their country by another route.”
What is Christmas about? It is about another route. It is about another route. I can’t worship, I can’t truly understand the glory of God until God touches me, until he changes me and until I leave by another route.
You want discernment? You want direction? You want to have a read on life? It is all about another route. I took the route of rebellion; so did you. We’re natural born sinners. What did Jesus do? Jesus took the route.
Jesus walked the route righteously, perfectly, and sinlessly. He died sacrificially and rose bodily. That is something that no one here can deserve. We can’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it; you don’t deserve it. I don’t care how good you are, how sweet you are, how generous you are, how kind you are, how religious you are, how knowledgeable you are, how other’s centered you are; you don’t deserve it nor do I. It is called grace.
And I have to ask you, have you received the grace of God? Because the work has been done. Jesus walked the route and he offers you eternal life. How do I get into it? I mean ‑‑ it is all about the soles and the soul. We’re going down our route doing it our way and we ‑‑ the Bible says we have to repent.
What does it mean to repent? It means to change direction. It means to go an opposite way. So I’m going this way and I go that way.
“But Ed, you don’t know what way I’m going, brother. You don’t know how deep in rebellion I am.”
You’re right, I don’t. God does. And he says if you repent where you are today and open your life to the Lord, bow at his feet, ask him to take control of your life; when you dedicate yourself to him and devote yourself to him; when you take a step of faith towards Jesus that begins this walk with the Lord.
So because Jesus has lived the route and because he died on the cross for your sins and rose again, we can discover what life is all about.
Have you made that decision? Because it is about the route. Are you moving toward Jesus or walking away from him? If you are a sincere seeker, I promise you God has placed someone in your life to point you to the person of Jesus.
Illus: Just recently I talked to a student that God has placed strategically in the life of a family who is totally and completely far away from God. But for several years this family has been seeking, they have been investigating, they have been doing the wise man thing. And just recently I had a prayer with this student and I said, “You know what, I believe you’re the only feet of Jesus that this family will ever see.” And this student looked at me like, “Wow!”
That’s the kind of responsibility, that’s the kind of adventure that so many of us have in this house. So maybe someone invited you to Fellowship and they are that person that God has placed in your life to point you to the glory of God. Others of you are not sincere seekers; you’re pseudo seekers. You’re a cynic. It’s time for you to take off the masks and take off the shoes and say, “You know what? I’m going to seek Jesus. Because if this is true, the implications are eternal, what we’re talking about.”
So you better know if it’s true or not. If it’s not, do what you want to do. Walk down your own path. Make your own route. But if it is the real deal, wow!
Illus: Just a couple of Sundays ago I was driving home and I called a man in our church who was on his death bed. Cancer had devastated his body. His family put me on speaker phone. I talked and I prayed. And then I discovered minutes after the prayer he died. This man took his step of faith at Fellowship Church in 2004. This man repented and went Christ’s route in 2004. And I watched him, I watched his feet, his hands become Christ’s feet and Christ’s hands as he served in the body, as he pointed other people to Jesus Christ.
What if that were you? Are you ready to die? Because you’re not ready to live, you’re not ready to walk until you’re ready to die. It is a sole to soul connection. That’s Christmas. It’s not about just a crib; it’s about the cross. And because of the cross we can celebrate life.