Christmas and the nature of the beast - December 15, 2013 _____________________________________________________________________________
Pastor Dale Lloyd Scripture Reading: Isaiah 11: 1 - 10
Because of scheduling and various
activities I decided against doing an Advent series this year. I can’t say I am
exactly happy with that but sometimes things just take us in a different
If you were here last week you
recall that our guest speaker used these scriptures in his presentation. And by
the way, if you were not here I strongly recommend that you get a DVD or CD of
that service. Pastor Rigby – well, I just can’t say enough about this man and
his message to our Fellowship.
As I intently listened to Pastor
Rigby last Sunday there was a particular word that got stuck in my mind. That
word will form the heart of this message this morning – but it will not be
revealed until the very end of the message. Until then keep this thought in
mind: “Christmas and the nature of the beast.”
When I read the Old Testament
prophets I am always struck with the poetic nature of their writing; they
painted pictures with their words – pictures that were poetic and prophetic in
nature. These words of Isaiah the prophet fit that frame exactly.
Just consider that opening
statement: Then a shoot will spring from
the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. That is a
word picture and it is pregnant with prophetic meaning and substance.
In these ten verses we have two distinct pictures – one in the first five verses and the second in the last five verses. And when we bring these two
pictures together we have the full meaning of Christmas. First we see the actual reality or substance of Christmas. Secondly, we see the guaranteed
results of Christmas. Let’s begin with the first picture.
We have no time for details save
this – this prophetic picture is Messianic in nature. Isaiah has caught a
glorious vision of someone coming in the future. While this event relates to
and is tied to history, (the stem of
Jesse), it is unprecedented in all of history as well as all of the future
that comes after it.
Here we are face to face with the
true Biblical meaning of Christmas. God
Himself would send a Man into this time/space continuum. He would do so sovereignly.
This act of God would be unprecedented. The Holy Ghost would come upon and
overshadow a virgin maiden and she would conceive. The Word of God – that is
God Himself – would become incarnate in flesh. The invisible God who was always
spiritually present from those first words forward – ‘In the beginning God created...’ would now be physically present
in the form of flesh and blood; Messiah,
the Anointed One, Son of God, Son of David, Son of man.
And in His humanity He would
accomplish forever and perfectly everything mankind would ever need for
salvation and deliverance.
That’s the first picture.
The second is found in the next five verses and what a picture it is.
Look at it: wolves, lions, leopards,
bears, cobras and vipers. We shrink back from such a picture. It strikes
fear and panic. And then it seems to become worse – even bizarre. Introduced
into the presence of these creatures
of aggression are lambs, baby
goats, calves, cows, little boys, and nursing and weaned children.
We hold our breath. How volatile can
it get? Given the nature (and I use the word nature with
intentionality) of things we anticipate the normal outcome of such a mix – such
But the picture presents something
wildly different than what we expected; wildly different than what nature
dictates. We stand with gaping mouths and can’t believe our eyes. Look at it!
Wolves and lambs are dwelling under
the same roof and sharing the same space. Leopards and baby goats are curled up
and sleeping together. Young lions and calves are playing together. And over there
a cow and a bear are grazing side by side and the bear has no impulse to graze
upon the cow. In fact their babies are lying down together.
And wonder of all amazing wonders
the lion has become vegetarian. (Let’s not start a new doctrine with that).
What an incredible picture it is – a little boy leads them all, and topping it
all off, the playground of babies and young children is shared by cobras and
Bring the two pictures together. If
the first is the picture of the true meaning of Christmas – the sovereign act
of the sovereign God of sending His only begotten Son, the Messiah into this
world of humanity, then the second picture is that of the consequences of
Christmas; the true Christmas outcomes. Those outcomes are supernaturally abnormal
to what I will rightfully call “the nature of the beast.”
You cannot experience and live in
the reality of this second picture without coming to a living faith regarding
the first picture. And that explains the profound frustration of present
society and culture both outside and inside the church. We all want to live in
the second picture but we want to get there our own way while denying the one
and only way provided; it’s called
Christmas, it’s called Christ.
So what was that word that got stuck
in my consciousness last Sunday? What is the one word theme of this message?
The word at the heart of this Isaiah picture is “transformation.”
You are not required to see it this way but this is how I envision it: I read
through the first five verses of Isaiah
11, and right there in that white space between verse 5 and verse 6, I
envision in giant letters this word – TRANSFORMATION!
In that single word I find the hope,
the promise, the possibility, the wonder, amazement and mystery of Christmas – TRANSFORMATION!
While I believe there is a literal
fulfilment of these prophetic words that will be demonstrated in the entire
realm of nature its first realisation is
within the hearts of mankind. Before the heart of man is regenerated there
is resident within his nature a certain wolf, leopard, bear, lion, cobra, and
Given the right set of circumstances
we know how to rip and tear, how to bite and devour like the lion. We know how
to overwhelm and monopolise like the bear. We know how to maximise the slippery
stealth of the leopard. When we are backed into a corner we know how to strike
and lash out like the cobra. We have this inherent ability to inject venom into
relationships and poison entire communities and environments. And like the wolf
in the pride of his strength we know how to conquer and prey upon the weak, the
vulnerable and disadvantaged. It happens every day in our justice system, our
economic system, our political system and social structures. And yes, it even
happens in the church.
This is what I meant earlier in my
reference to “the nature of the beast.”
And so the prophet Isaiah concluded: They
will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain.
And again I say – “What an incredible picture!” The very
things within nature itself (including human nature) that once caused hurt and
brought destruction are no longer resident, and out of that very nature there
now come blessing and goodness, and grace, and selfless service.
That is transformation! That is Christmas! That is Christ!