1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
Written by Robert R. Hostetler
In a bold and controversial decision, Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ in Latin, the language of Pilate and the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus, and in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and His disciples. He intended for the film to be shown without subtitles, thereby combining modern media (film) with languages almost no one speaks (or understands) anymore. By the time of the film’s release, however, Gibson changed his mind, adding the subtitles.
That decision is oddly reflective of one of the dilemmas preachers face today. Often, churches tell the old, old story in languages (music, terminology, symbols, etc.) that only the initiated understand, leaving any newcomers or non-Christians in the dark. In contrast, “seeker-friendly” churches target a different crowd: People who are willing to hear the story but don’t necessarily speak the language of the traditional church. Some churches try to build a bridge between the two, providing subtitles, so to speak, to interpret what’s going on for the uninitiated. Interestingly enough, the sermon itself can be that bridge because, in the end, both Christians and non- Christians seek basically the same things from the sermon.
What are those things? In my view there are ten basic elements that both seekers and Christians want from a sermon. Here is the countdown:
10. Grab my attention as soon as you start speaking. The great preachers of the past knew how to connect with an audience very quickly, but many modern preachers, even the good ones, tend to start with riveting phrases such as, “Turn in your Bibles to Obadiah.” Such tactics won’t do. You must grab your listener’s attention any way you can—with a dramatic statement, question, story, film clip, etc.—and give them no choice but to listen from there.
9. Teach me something I didn’t already know. Ask yourself, “If I were listening to this sermon, what part or points would I feel compelled to write down so I won’t forget it?” If the answer is “nothing,” start over. Every listener wants to discover new information, new insights, and new perspectives.
8. Tell me what God says, not what you say. Even seekers are far more interested in what God says on a subject than in what you say. Good sermons—whether targeted primarily to seekers or Christians—rely heavily on the Bible as God’s Word and let it do the talking.
7. Don’t try to make me feel foolish because I don’t know my Bible as well as you do. Often seekers and long-time church members don’t use their Bibles in church. Many are embarrassed at their inability to find Haggai or Ruth in a few seconds. That’s why in my church, when it comes time to turn to the biblical text for the morning, we project on the screen the Bible table of contents with that book highlighted, and say something such as, “Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible, and it begins on page 184 in the Bibles we provide for your use.” 6. Make me like you; help me get to know you a little bit. Every speaker is encouraged to seize opportunities to give listeners an introduction and insight into their own life and personality. It’s so much better if what we reveal is a little vulnerable, self-effacing, and/or winsome.
5. Make me smile. Not everyone can tell a humorous story, but that is not the only way—and far from the best way—to inject humor into a sermon. Candid observations about our own follies are among the most effective ways to use humor.
4. Show me that you understand what I’m going through. One of the most crucial— and earliest—tasks of any preacher is to identify with listeners. In one message on “How to Survive Suffering,” I began my sermon with, “Sometimes a speaker bites off more than he can chew,” and went on to detail why I felt ill-qualified to speak in a room filled with people who had suffered far more than I had: a family losing their business, a couple in which each one was dealing with debilitating illnesses, a mother who’d lost her son, and so on. A sincere admission of our own struggles, or a brief acknowledgment of the real-life issues others are facing, is key to identifying with both seeker and Christian.
3. Touch my emotions. Seekers and Christians alike want to be inspired. They want their heartstrings to be plucked. And, while seekers in particular are alert to manipulation, they’re nonetheless longing for a preacher who will help them not only to think but also to feel. Any sermon that fails to engage both mind and heart is likely to disappoint.
2. Meet a felt need. The first question a writer or speaker must answer is, “So what?” If as a reader or listener I am not promised something that I want when you begin, I will quickly start thinking about the upcoming sport event, or where I should take the family after the service. Even worse, if I was promised something that you never delivered, I’ll be far less likely to return next week.
And, finally, the number one thing both seekers and Christ-followers want in a sermon:
1. Tell me clearly how I can apply this to my life today, this week. When I conclude a message, I assume that all my listeners are interested in following through on what God has said to them. So in addition to giving them opportunity for private prayer and counsel, I try to suggest practical ways they can follow up on what they’ve learned. I’ve encouraged listeners to write their own mission statement, give away one possession in the coming week, or mail a postcard inviting someone to church the following week.
When it comes right down to it, it’s not so different preaching to seekers or to Christians. With Christians, of course, you can assume some knowledge and take some liberties. And with seekers, you might face fewer taboos. But both groups seek essentially the same things from a teacher of God’s Word—none of which are anything new but all of which we need to apply to every message we speak from now until Jesus returns.
Why are we so far from peace?