A Savior… For You!

Hello faithful readers. I want to wish all of you a warm Christmas greeting. And with it apologize for being away from these pages for so long. Part of it is all the challenges with learning a new job; part of it is that I still don’t have Internet in my home, but it is inexcusable. Hope you have not abandoned me yet. :).

Below you will find the message I shared with my church at our Christmas Eve services. It is longer than my usual stuff, but I think you will like it. 

I have to tell you something about myself. As you can see, I am neither too big nor too small, which is a problem, especially when it comes to buying clothes. I have a hard time finding clothe that fit me, especially shirts. So I end up having to go to the Youth department in the store, but then I feel self-conscious. Maybe some people feel like I don’t belong there?

But one day, as I was traveling in Cambodia, I found a little shop in the town of Siem Reap. It was just a hole in a corner, a place you could never find, unless you knew someone who knew where it was. I walked in and met the lady who was in charge. She was surrounded with fabric of all types and stripes. She told me she could make me a shirt that would fit me perfectly. I was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try.

She took my measurements without writing anything down. Then she let me pick the fabrics and tell her exactly what I wanted the shirt to look like. I did all that and decided to order not one but two shirts. She said, “Fine. I will have them ready for you in 5 days.” But I was leaving the country the next day.

I knew we were going to have another team come through there in a couple of months, so I decided to keep my order. It was only $24.

Two months later, I received a package in my office with my shirts and I opened it right away and put the shirt on without ceremony. To my amazement, the woman delivered on her promised. The shirt fit me perfectly well. It was like the first time in ages I felt I was putting my own shirt on. My own, personalized, stylized, built to specification shirt. I was elated.

Well, in some ways, the words of the angels we will look at tonight remind me of my shirt story. For the last three Sundays, we’ve been looking at the words the angels said or sang on the night Jesus was born, but we’ve saved the best for last. The angels spoke of good news, peace, and gave glory to God in the highest, but what was the good news that promised peace on earth and shook the high heavens?

Well, let’s look at their words in one of the biographies of Jesus, written by Dr. Luke, chapter 2:10-12:

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10-12).

These words have echoed through the corridors of time and been repeated by billions throughout history, but they never lose their fascination. And yet if you ask me what fascinates me the most about these words, I would say it is this: “A Savior is born for you.” A savior… for me!

Listen, I already know of the worldwide impact of those words. I know that billions around the world have embraced the Messiah. In fact the angel himself said it when he made the initial announcement,

“… I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide…” (The Message)

But he goes on and says “A Savior is born… for you.” For me? Now he got my attention because just like that lady did to my shirt, he is customizing the Savior. “You mean, a Savior for me?” “Yes, one that understands you better than anybody else!” “You mean, my own personal Savior?” “Yes, one that you can count on for the rest of your life” “You really mean one with my name attached to him?” “Yes. One with a tag that says ‘Ivanildo’s Savior.” “No way,” I am thinking. “I don’t deserve it!”

You can probably relate to how I feel, but if you don’t, let me give you a picture. About five years ago as part of the outreach ministry to under-resourced families in Wooster, our attention was drawn to a single mom with three small children who needed a van to go to and from work. A family from our church donated the van and we gave it to Sarah, the young mom.

But we didn’t just give her a van, you see – we personalized it. We had it cleaned thoroughly, brought some flowers, which we put in a vase inside the van, wrote messages on a card, and made a beautiful sign which read “Sarah’s Van.”

When Sarah saw what we had done, she started jumping up and down and tears began to flow. She kept saying, “Is this really mine? My own van?” We said, “Yes, this is Sarah’s van.” And she was practically screaming now, “I feel at the top of the world!!”

And this is exactly how I feel when I read here that a Savior was born… for me! God thought of me when He came up with the idea of a Savior and He personalized it… for me. I have no adequate words to express my gratitude because I know too well how much saving I needed!

But you may be sitting here and thinking, “Well, that’s great, preacher, but I am not digging it. The whole idea of a Savior is for weaklings. Enjoy your Savior but don’t try to tell me I need one. I am fine just the way I am.”

If that is the way you feel, you are not alone. Millions of people around the word also think they are just fine and don’t need anyone to save them from anything. I am not offended by that.

Recently, I was part of a religious panel at a community gathering where one of the presenters said that the beauty of the religion she represented was that they did not need a Savior because they didn’t believe there was anything they need to be saved from. And she said that with an air of superiority, almost as if saying, “And the rest of you… you will eventually get it.”

Again, I was not offended by that statement, maybe just a little irritated with the condescending way with which she spoke. But my lack of taking offense does not mean I am in the least convinced that we don’t need a Savior, so I would ask you to indulge me for a few moments as I share with you why I believe we all need a Savior.

Now there are many reasons why we need a Savior, but I want to focus on only one tonight. Let me put it bluntly: in light of the terrible losses of innocent lives this country has experienced lately, I don’t know how anybody cannot see that there is something terribly wrong with the human race.

I know some could say, “Yes, these stories are tragic in the worst possible way, but don’t try to pin that on me – I didn’t kill anyone.”

Fair. But isn’t that exactly what the problem is? We forget that we are cut out of the same cloth and that cloth was already defected when it came from the factory. Just like computers that come with certain default modes already programmed on them by the manufacturer, we also have a default mode within each of us that is bent on rebellion and law-breaking. And if not addressed properly, that default mode will tend to undo us.

You don’t have to go very far. Simply look carefully inside of you. Even if you don’t ever carry out the intents of your heart, do you thoughts of revenge, even murder? Do you plot in your head to bring someone down? Do your rehearse words that you should have said to someone when they confronted you with something? Do you punch walls, go on a verbiage rampage? These are all signs that you need a Savior. You need a Savior who can save you from yourself first!

Come to think of it, I never had to take my children aside when they were little and give them a seminar on how to lie. They learned that on their own. I never had to sit them down and demonstrate how to throw a tantrum in the grocery store if mom was not buying the exact brand of cereal they liked. That was all part of the stuff that came from the manufacturer.

In fact, if I were a doctor and you came to me with all the tendencies I just described, I would tell you without hesitation that you had all the symptoms and you got it really bad. The prescription would read, “You need a Savior, and you need one right now!”

Here is how the Christian thinker, G. K. Chesterton, a British writer who lived in the earlier 20th Century put it. In response to a newspaper article that posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” he wrote these words:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton.”

I submit to you today that we all have the same problem: WE are what is wrong with the world and that is why we need a Savior. I need a Savior who can save me from myself first. Forget all the other things that are wrong with the world – I am what is wrong with the world!

The Bible calls these default mode things “sin” and the prescription it gives us, the only way to undo those factory settings and restore the computer of your life to what God always intended it to be is by embracing this Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose Birth we celebrate tonight. He is the one who can re-set your life to the way God wants it to be.

Here is what Paul said to the believers in Rome:

“But now you are free from the power of sin and have become servants of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the reward of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23, NLT).

Now if you are here and you feel so defeated that the thought of a Savior is indifferent to you, I also want to talk to you for a few moments.

I understand that we all have bad days. Maybe you’ve even had a string of bad days or even years and you’re ready to throw in the towel.

Perhaps you feel a little like Alexander from the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, a classic children’s book written by a mom based on her own son.

From the moment Alexander wakes up, things just don’t go Alexander’s way. When Alexander gets out of bed, he trips on the skateboard and drops his sweater into the sink while the water was running. At breakfast, Alexander’s brothers, Anthony and Nick reach into their cereal boxes and find amazing prizes, while Alexander ends up with… cereal.

On the way to school, he gets squeezed in the middle back seat while his other friends get the window seats in the carpool. At school,Mrs. Dickens doesn’t like his picture of the invisible castle (which is actually just a blank sheet of paper), criticizes him for singing too loud. His best friend deserts him for his and there is no dessert in his lunch. At the dentist’s, the dentist, Dr. Fields tells Alexander he has a cavity, the elevator door closes on his foot, Anthony pushes him in the mud, Nick says he is a crybaby for crying, and Mom accidently hits him as she was trying to punish Nick.

At the shoe store, they’re sold out of Alexander’s choice of sneakers (blue ones with red stripes), so Mom has to buy him plain white sneakers, which he refuses to wear.

At home, the family has lima beans for dinner (which he hates), there is kissing on TV (which he also hates), bath time becomes a nightmare (too much hot water, soap in his eyes, and losing a marble down the drain) and he has to wear his railroad train pajamas (he hates his railroad train pajamas). At bedtime, his nightlight burns out, he bites his tongue, Nick takes back a pillow, and the family cat chooses to sleep with Anthony. No wonder Alexander wants to move to Australia.

The book ends with Mom’s assurance that everybody has bad days, even people who live in Australia.

Now we can have some fun with this but I realize that for some of you, life is not fun. You may feel like the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, who were at the bottom of the totem pole. And you may feel like the people of Israel who were living in uncertainty because they were not in control of their own destinies.

Yesterday I prayed with a gentleman who was telling me that both he and his wife have been without jobs for quite a while. Times are tough, money is tight and here I am talking about Christmas cheers.

Let me remind you that in spite of the bleakness of your situation, this Savior is still for you. If you don’t believe me, listen to these words from the prophet Isaiah, who lived 700 years before the Birth of Christ:

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

The people who walk in darkness
    will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
    a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:1, 2).

You say, “What do the words of a prophet who lived over 2700 years ago have to do with my situation?” Ah, that is the beauty of it, you see, this text also refers to a group of people who were out on their luck. They were the despised and rejected people of northern Galilee and they had been taken captives by a mighty empire called Assyria.

They came by horses and chariots and ransacked the land, making their people slaves and carrying them off to a far away land. Then they repopulated their lands with foreigners.

From then on Galilee became forever known as a land of mixed race peasants, a backwards country, filled with darkness and despair. People told jokes about Galileans. Their accent was funny; they smelled; they were repulsive to the eyes of the people in the South, and considered worthless by the rich who inhabited the cities.

In fact, you remember during the night Peter betrayed Jesus, when he tried to deny Jesus, a simple servant told him, “You can’t fool me; your accent tells me you are from Galilee.”

And earlier a wealthy and well read man by the name of Nathaniel ridiculed the idea that the Messiah was from Galilee, when he said point-blank, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” one of the towns in Galilee.

So why is this message from Isaiah important? Here it is why. Because it reminds us that God never forgets those who are despised and rejected. Little people matter to God. He says here that their darkness and despair will not go on forever. There will be a day when “Galilee of the Gentiles,” the butt of jokes among snobbish southerners, “will be filled with glory.”

“The people who walk in darkness
    will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
    a light will shine.”

And what is that light, may I ask you. Are you ready for the answer?

The light is no other than the Messiah Himself! Wouldn’t you believe this? The message about salvation coming to the world through Jesus Christ was first announced to the despised people of northern Galilee, the people walking in darkness, those who had been taking captive and were no longer in control of their destinies. It was to them that Isaiah announced in the same text:

“For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).

So if you are here and you have lost hope, I have great news for you. A SAVIOR WAS BORN FOR YOU AND HE IS CHRIST JESUS, OUR LORD.

And no matter your circumstances or what the rest of the world, this Savior is still FOR YOU and God offers you today the opportunity to embrace this beautiful Messiah called Jesus. Would you invite him to come into your life, forgive your sins, and help you navigate through the trials of life.

If you do that, I guarantee you: it will set you on a different course for the rest of your life. Now I am not saying that it will solve all your problems, but I am saying that it will give you the power to deal with life’s challenges no matter what happens to you and that is the best gift you could have this Christmas!

But it gets better. For those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, that light that shone bright on the night Christ was born is now living within us and God’s plan is for us to let it shine as we share his hope and love with people who are in need.

The story that comes to mind is already a few years old but it is worth telling. A woman nicknamed “Tinkerbell” posted on an Internet forum that her family (husband and six children) were going to lose their home in 20 days. She was not asking for help other than prayers for her family, and especially her children.

As a result of that post, though, “Tinkerbell’s” virtual friends stepped up and quickly raised the $7,000 she needed to save her home. One person called it a “virtual barn raising.”

I don’t know where you are and I have no idea how God can use this story in your life, but if you are in a position to help someone today, please find a way to do so. If you can’t do it alone, gather other people and get it done. Let your light shine in the world, beginning with your Jerusalem, right here in our town, and then going to the rest of the world.

But if you find yourself down on your luck, we are here to pray and encourage you. At the end of the service, I will stay upfront for a few minutes, if you need prayers.

But remember, no matter what happens, Jesus is still a Savior for YOU, and you can go to Him and ask Him to give you the strength to keep moving forward.

Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year!

Ivanildo C. Trindade