1. Come
2. Adore

Throughout this Advent season, we have been looking at familiar Christmas Carols to help prepare our hearts for Christmas. Three weeks ago, we looked at, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Two weeks ago, we looked at "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." Last week, we looked at "Joy to the world." We come to our fourth and final hymn this Sunday morning: "O Come, All Ye Faithful." It's Hymn #249 in your hymnal. So, I invite you to take your hymnals and open them to #249.

It is one of the more popular hymns that we have. It has been translated into at least 125 languages. That means that this hymn is sung all over the world!

Now, I said it has been "translated." That's not from the English. It's from the Latin. What we have in English is the translation from the original Latin. The Latin title is, Adeste Fideles. Which are the first words of the hymn, more accurately translated, "be present (or near), ye faithful." It's the second line of this hymn that brings in the idea of coming, Venite, venite in Bethlehem (reads the Latin).

Look at the bottom left of the page in your Hymnal. It says that the text is a "Latin Hymn; ascribed to John Francis Wade." Now, we know very little about this man, John Francis Wade. He wasn't a pastor. He wasn't a theologian. He was a music teacher in the 1700's who happened to write church music. And we aren't even sure that he actually wrote this hymn.

The byline says, "ascribed to John Francis Wade." That is, he is our best guess as to who wrote the hymn. There are some who would maintain that this work has its origin in Portugal. But, they can't argue with the fact that this hymn was first published in John Francis Wade's collection of hymns, Cantus Diversi, published in England in 1751.[1]So, I think that John Francis Wade is the best guess.

Anyway, this hymn is a bit different than the all of the other hymns we have looked at thus far in our series. This hymn is a bit less theologically robust than the others we have examined. The first hymn we looked at, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," worked through various names of Christ as it pleaded for the Lord to come and rescue Israel. Emmanuel, Dayspring, Wisdom, Desire of Nations, come and help us!

The second hymn, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," speaks much about the joy in heaven at the incarnation of Christ. The hymn is very insightful as it refers to Jesus as the "Newborn King," the "offspring of a Virgin's womb," the Godhead "veiled in flesh," the "incarnate Deity."

The third hymn, "Joy to the World," is a loose paraphrase of Psalm 98, which is rich indeed. The hymn speaks of God coming to earth, reversing the curse and coming to reign. In return, all creation sings His praise.

But, our hymn this morning is different. It gives very little by way of theological insight into the birth of Christ. Stanza 1 mentions Bethlehem. Stanza 1 calls Jesus the "king of angels." And, the very last phrase of stanza 3 identifies Jesus as, "Word of the Father" and says that He came "in flesh appearing." But, other than that, the hymn is very light on theology. Instead, the hymn aims at a response. It aims at your heart. It's a call for you to come and worship Jesus. This makes it a good hymn to end our series.

In fact, look at the first stanza. Four times we see the call to "Come."

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
and behold Him, born the King of angels;

And if you add to that the chorus, the total rises to seven!

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

My outline this morning has two points.

1. Come
2. Adore

This is what the hymn is calling us to do. It's calling us to come to Jesus. It's calling us to adore Jesus. Let's sing that first stanza together.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

And you have caught the heart of the hymn. Let us come to Jesus! Let us adore Him! Not a lot of theology, just a lot of heart.

Now, in all fairness to the hymn writer, there is a second stanza that is left out of our hymnal, which is packed with theology. I want to put it up on the screen. Let's read it together.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin's womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

This language is pulled from the Nicene Creed, which was written in the early fourth century A. D. It was written during the first ecumenical council. If you remember your church history, the church faced some intense persecution in its early years. The persecution came fiirst by the Jews and then by the Romans. And this persecution lasted for two hundred and fifty years.

You read in the book of Acts how the early Christians were persecuted. Shortly after the day of Pentecost, Peter and John were imprisoned and beaten for preaching Christ (Acts 4-5). James was killed by the sword (Acts 12:2). And almost everywhere that Paul went with the gospel, he was opposed by the Jews. He was thrown out of multiple cities. He received 39 lashes on five occasions. He was beaten with rods on three occasions. And on one occasion, he was stoned and left for dead.

Such persecution only continued under the direction of the Roman Empire. At times it was minimal and localized. At other times, the persecution spread over all the Roman Empire, to all who would claim the name of Christ.

Finally, relief came in 311 A. D. when the Roman emperor, Galerius, issued the famous "Edict of toleration." This declaration ended the official persecution of Christians. This meant, that for the first time, Christians were able to unite across the entire empire. For two hundred years, they had met together in pockets. But now they were able to gather and wrestle through the core beliefs of the faith.

Because, there were questions like, which writings should comprise the canon of Scripture. What about Jesus? Was He God? Was He man? What sort of being was He? What was His nature? What about the Holy Spirit? Until the persecution ended, the church simply had no opportunity to gather and wrestle through issues like this.

Well, the first ecumenical council was in Nicea, called by Constantine, the Roman emperor, himself, who was a professing Christian. He saw the division within the church concerning the nature of Christ. One group within the church was saying that Jesus was fully God, of the same nature as the Father. Another group was saying that Jesus, while being divine, was a created being, and therefore not co-essential with the Father.

Their leader of the first group was a man named, "Athanasius." He is on our side. We believe exactly what he believed about the nature of Christ. Their leader of the second group was Arius. Arius believed exactly what the modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses believe. There is nothing new under the sun.

But, this debate raged in the early church. And Constantine, the emperor was aware of the controversy. And he wanted the leaders of the church to get together and resolve this issue once and for all. So, he brought together the church leaders from all around the world in 325 A. D. They gathered and talked and debated and prayed and worked hard to discern the meaning of the Scriptures.

And they wrote the following:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth;

And these words have been recited in churches ever since. One can hardly miss their point, as over and over again, the Nicene Creed pounds the idea of the equality of Jesus with the Father: The essence of the Father. God of God, Light of Light. Very God of very God. Begotten, not made. Being of one substance with the Father. It's because this was, and still is today, a huge issue. Was Jesus merely a man who obtained a level of sanctification? Was Jesus an angel? Was Jesus a new type of being, slightly less in dignity than God, Himself. Or, was Jesus the Lord of hosts come into the flesh.

And the missing second stanza affirms the latter, ...

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin's womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

And this is the mystery of Christmas, that God, the true God, the God of gods, would come into the womb of a virgin and dwell among us as a man. And not only that, but that His coming would be unto death. He would not be received as a king. He would be humiliated as a criminal, dying upon a cross.

But, the good news is this: that His death upon the cross was for our sins! Jesus died in our place, that we might gain eternal life with Him. We simply need to repent of our sins and believe in the name of Jesus. Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." And if you are here today and haven't confessed Jesus with your mouth, and if you haven't believed in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, I invite you to, ...

1. Come

Come to Jesus. Adore the God-man.

Yesterday, I went to Cherryvale Mall to support Ryan and his outreach efforts. Unfortunately, Ryan was sick all day. But, Danny, his father-in-law, picked up the slack and manned the booth all day. Chuck was there for several hours, as were Tom and Ellie. Phil also showed up to help.

Anyway, the mall was absolutely packed yesterday, with it being the last Saturday before Christmas. It's one of the easiest outreaches you can have. Scores of people are walking by, and you simply say, "Merry Christmas," and hand them a tract. And almost everyone takes one. Half of the people say, "Merry Christmas" back. Danny told me that thousands of tracts were given out yesterday.

Periodically, someone stops and says, "What's this?" You tell them that it's a tract about Jesus and the Bible. Sometimes they go on their way. Sometimes they stand there, and you have an opportunity to talk with them. One guy I spoke with said to me (and his buddy who was shopping with him). "That's funny. I just started reading the Bible. I went to a church service for the first time a few weeks ago."

I asked him, "Do you know that the main message of the Bible is?" He said, "No." I said, "How much do you know about the Bible?"
He said, "A lot less than you."
Then I said, "No. Really, now much do you know?"
He said, "Nothing."
I said, "Would you be interested in hearing what the Bible is about?"
He said, "Yes."

So, I took about two minutes to tell him the story of the Bible. It begins with God creating the world. But, the first two people in the garden, Adam and Eve, sinned and brought sin and corruption into the world. Soon after that, the world was destroyed by a flood, as the whole of the earth rebelled against the creator. But, God chose a man, named Abraham, who would be the father of Israel, to whom God would show His grace. They were enslaved in Egypt. But, Moses led them out of slavery and into the promised land.

At this, point, I asked if he knew about Moses. Perhaps he saw the movie that just came out? He said, "Yeah, I know about Moses. He wrote the 10 commandments, right?" I said, "Yep. You got it."

Anyway, the Bible tells the story of how God showed favor to Israel. Yet, they still rebelled against their creator, sinning against Him. But, in the Old Testament Scriptures, God prophesied that a Messiah would come to save us from our sin. That's what Christmas is all about. Jesus is the Messiah come to earth. But, men hated Him. They crucified Him upon the cross. But, three days later, He rose from the dead. And those who repent of their sins and believe in Him may have eternal life. But those who don't will be cast into eternal punishment.

We talked on for a bit. He seemed genuinely interested. I found out that he and his friend were from DeKalb, so I directed him to a church in DeKalb where he might be around people who know the Bible, who can answer his questions and show him what it means to walk with God.

At one point in the conversation, his friend said, to me, "So, what do you need to do?" I said, "Confess your sin. Turn from your sin. And cry to Jesus for mercy." Essentially, I was telling him to ...
1. Come

Come to Jesus. He's the only hope for sinners like you and me. I can only pray for him, that God might direct his heart to the LORD.

But, getting to our hymn this morning. The call of the hymn isn't a call for sinners to come to Christ. It's a call for believers to come and worship Jesus. Look again at the first stanza.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

It's a call to the faithful. It's a call to the joyful. It's a call to the triumphant. Such a call is throughout all the Scriptures.

Psalm 95:1-2
O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Psalm 95:6
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Psalm 96:8
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.

Psalm 100:1-2
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.

All of these are calls to believers to come and worship the LORD. Like here in our hymn.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

The simple question to you is this: Are you coming? Are you continually coming to Jesus? How do you do that? You simply pray. As the writer to the Hebrews says, ...

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Any time. Any place. You can pray, and Jesus is there, awaiting you with grace and mercy ready to dispense. In fact, the Bible calls us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is our life -- one of prayer. Constantly coming to the Lord; constantly communing with the Lord; constantly praying to Him.

Now, in the hymn, we are taken back to the night on which Jesus was born. Because, we are being summoned to go to Bethlehem and join the shepherds. Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke, chapter 2. Let's pick up the familiar words in verse 8.

Luke 2:8-20
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men
with whom He is pleased."

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Now, of course, we can't go to Bethlehem this morning. And it would be difficult, but not impossible, to go to Bethlehem during the Christmas season. In fact, many Christians each year make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem during Christmas Eve. They desire to be there in the city, where God visited the virgin's womb, during the very day that we celebrate His coming. It's a special time for many. But, even if you go to Bethlehem today, Jesus isn't there. Jesus is in heaven. And we can come to him.

But, this hymn is using poetic language, calling us to metaphorically join the shepherds who were summoned to Bethlehem on that night, some 2,000 years ago. It calls us to imagine what it was like when they were simply out shepherding their flocks, as they did every night.

Can you imagine what it was like to be a shepherd that night? I can do no better to bring you back into Bethlehem 2,000 years ago than to show you a short little video of a guy who put himself in situation of one of those shepherds. Here's what he said.

It was a night like any other night.
Except for that angel.
Ain't seen nothing like it before or since.
As shepherds, we don't get a lot of excitement like that out in the pasture.
But that angel. ...
It was so bright!
So beautiful.

I know what you're thinking.
You're thinking, "Sam, you've been out in that pasture just a little too long."
And you would be correct.
But that all changed when that angel came right up to us.
And the angel said, "Don't be afraid!"

It was like, "too late."
And then the angel said, ...
No, I wrote it down. I need to get this right.
Hold on.
OK, the angel said, "Milk, ... bread..."
No. That's my grocery list.
Then the angel said, "I have good news of a great joy that should be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord."
And then the angel said, "He's lying in a manger, wrapped in cloths. Go find him."

So, we're all sittin' around and one of the shepherds (I think it was Steve), he's like, "Hey, what are we doin'? Let's get out of here. Let's go to Bethlehem."
So we high-tail it out of there.
And we found that beautiful baby.

I'll tell ya.
I was a different man after that.

God chose me.
And nobody has ever chosen me for anything.

I'll never forget what that angel said, though.
The angel said, "I bring good news to all people."
That means, "you too."

This video captures it! The shepherds weren't the educated folk. They were simple country workers who spent their nights away from the villages tending their sheep. But, God chose to bring the news to them, as the first to see the Christ And indeed, they saw everything just as the angel had told them. They found Mary They found Joseph. They found the manger. They saw the cloths. They saw the baby.

And they told Mary and Joseph all that they had experienced. Verse 17, ...

Luke 2:17
When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And then, having come, they adored. My second point. Let us, ...

2. Adore ... Him.

That's what's happening in verse 18.

Luke 2:18
And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

That is, they thought on the things that the shepherds had said. They pondered what they said. And it was so incredible that they "wondered at the things which were told them" (verse 18). This gets at the idea of what "adore" means. Certainly, it has the idea of worship. But, it bleeds into the idea of love. It bleeds into the idea of searching and being amazed in praise and awe. As all who were there that night in Bethlehem were doing.

Look, especially at verse 19, ...

Luke 2:19
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Again, we see the idea of pondering and thinking and marveling at what God was doing. And I'm sure that they didn't fully understand what was going on in that moment. Just like the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus. They knew a little. But, after the fact. When they had time to reflect on everything; when they had time to digest it all; when they could filter what they experienced through the Scriptures; and when the Holy Spirit gave illumination, then they understood that Jesus was the Christ and that He had to come and suffer and die for our sins.

Surely Mary was the same way. It was a whirlwind that brought her to this moment. An angel appearing to her, saying that she will be with child. Joseph ready to divorce her, but in comes another angelic appearance, this time to him, telling him to stay with Mary. Then, the census, which took Mary and Joseph off to Bethlehem to register. Then, the suddenness of birth pangs. And before long, this promised boy was born. And soon afterwards, in come the shepherds, describing everything that they saw in the fields and telling them of the angelic visit.

I'm sure that it was too much for Mary to take in. But, it was all there. She was "pondering [these things] in her heart."

I'm sure as time went on it became more clear to her. She knew that she was a virgin. She knew that this was a miraculous baby. Imagine her thoughts, then, when reading Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." "I'm the virgin!" "Jesus is Immanuel." "Jesus is 'God with us.'" Imagine her continued wondering when eight days later they presented Jesus in the temple for His circumcision (Luke 2:21).

Luke 2:25-35
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed -- and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

By the time the wedding of Cana came around, she knew that Jesus was unlike any other son. Remember, they ran out of wine and Mary said to Jesus, "they have no wine" (John 2:3). Then, she instructed the servants who were there, "Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5). And, of course, Jesus performed the miracle of turning the water into wine.

And as Mary was at the foot of the cross, surely many of these things came flooding into her mind. "This Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel and for a sign to be opposed" (Luke 2:34). He was being opposed, all right. "And a sword will pierce even your own soul" (Luke 2:35). Indeed, that was true. No mother can watch her child die without great grief to her own soul.

But, His death served a greater purpose. Through His death, we can come to God through faith. That's what Christmas is all about. He came to the manger that He might go to the cross.

And His work on the cross call us to sing His praise. The angels were praising God that night (Luke 2:14). "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased" (Luke 2:14). The shepherds were praising God that night. "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them" (Luke 2:20). We are called to adore Him. We are called to sing His praise this morning.

These are the second and third stanza of this hymn.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

And so, the simple question comes to you. Are you adoring Jesus? This Christmas season, let us come and adore Him.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on December 21, 2014 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/devotions/Come_Faithful.aspx

[2] You can preview this powerful video here: https://skitguys.com/videos/item/first-christmas-shepherd.