Christmas: God's Mission Trip
Planning for the Trip!

Sermon Summary
This message is the first of a three part Christmas series titled, Christmas: God’s Mission Trip. In this first message we examine the planning that went into God’s mission trip. The place He went and the conditions of the culture when He arrived are first discussed. The purpose of the trip is then examined. The needs of a broken, confused, and lost humanity, coupled with His love for those He had created served as His motivation to take the trip. All mission trips have a price and the price of God’s mission trip was prophesied thousands of years before the actual trip. The second message will look at the actual trip and how God’s enemy tried to prevent the trip from ever happening. The last message of the series will evaluate the results of God’s mission trip to earth!

Community Group Discussion Guide

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, discuss why you chose to go and the purpose of your trip. If not, discuss why you think other people go on mission trips.

2. As we approach this Christmas season, maybe we should think about the context of the first Christmas and the fact that God was on a mission trip. He came to the earth to bring a gift to humankind we desperately needed: a way back to God! The culture surrounding Jesus’ coming was religiously messed up and confused. Does this sound anything like our world today? Discuss.

Galatians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

3. The purpose of God’s mission trip was to show us His love. The following prophecy about Jesus describes four things God wants to be in our lives. Name and discuss these four things.

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

4. God’s mission trip to the earth was extremely costly. Discuss the cost and why you think God was willing to pay such a high cost.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Full Sermon Notes
This morning we've sung songs about God's mission trip. A trip He took many years ago. Over the next three weeks, we're going to study that mission trip: the planning that went into it, the actual trip, and then the results of His trip. My prayer is that you will discover how God's mission trip was very much focused on you! Let's pray!

Father God, thank You so much for planning Your mission trip so many years ago and for actually going through with your plans. We were Your mission and how grateful we are! Today I pray you will touch our hearts in such a way that we will never forget how You reached out to us and that we will recognize our need to reach out for You! Please teach through me the awesome reality that Your Christmas mission trip continues to change lives even today! Amen!

When you go on a mission trip, you have to plan the trip. There's so many things to think about! Where are you going? What's it like there? What's the need? What can you do to help? What supplies and tools will you need? What is your purpose? What do you hope to accomplish? And what's going to be the cost? Every mission trip has a price tag!! rGod is the ultimate planner! Nothing catches Him off guard. His mission trip was not spur of the moment. He planned it right down to the very smallest detail! In fact, did you know there were over 350 Old Testament prophecies concerning His mission trip. We'll talk about some of these this morning! Ok, let's talk about the place God was going to go on His mission trip!

The Place

Where was God going on His mission trip, and what was it like there? The place was planet earth.  A place He had created. A place He had great plans for. A place where He created human beings in His image and breathed into them the breath of life! He gave them the responsibility over the earth.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”

He also gave them the freedom to choose whether or not they would love and trust Him and follow His guidance as they lived their lives on this earth! And what happened? Let's take a quick look at a little world history.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

So humankind rejected it's Creator and decided to do things on their own. Let's see how that worked out for them...

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

It had gotten really bad! Some of the recent Hollywood movies about the days of Noah and Moses, while they didn't follow the text of Scripture, they did graphically show just how wicked the world had become.

What we have in the Old Testament is the progressive revelation of God seeking to redeem the creation He loved so much, principally the people! Humankind was given a second chance in Noah and his family. Direction from God, in the form of the Law, came through Moses. He then sent prophets, teachers, and poets, to explain His principles. However, people, for the most part, once again turned away from God and rejected the prophets and their teachings. Now you might wonder if, at this point, God would simply just give up or maybe just change the rules. He didn't! He chose to go on a mission trip.

So let's look briefly at the place and time of God's mission trip to earth, the time surrounding Jesus' birth. Here's an historical description of those times.

"During this era the average man was overcome by the rapid advance of history. Old systems, traditions, and loyalties were swept away… In Rome ambitious leaders gathered a following and struggled for power. This led to civil wars…National patriotism gave way to cosmopolitanism. Men became citizens of the world. The people lost faith in their ancestral gods. Individualism asserted itself in art, literature, politics, society, morality, and religion. This was an age of change and upheaval. The changes brought with them a feeling of insecurity for the masses. It became increasingly difficult for them to adjust to this new order of life…" Broadman Commentary

Many philosophies developed to help people cope. Epicureans said the highest good in life was pleasure and rejected anything to do with fear, so they rejected a belief in immortality and since there was no afterlife to worry about you could live any way you wanted.

Stoics, on the other hand, said the duty of man was to harmonize oneself with the "world soul" or the "spark of the divine." Mystery cults developed and blended with Oriental cults which gave a "satisfying message on suffering and answered the craving for immortality."

Astralism was the "Scientific religion" of the day. It believed the stars determined the course of human events. Known today as Astrology. Then there were the Gnostics, who believed salvation was found in a secret, special knowledge that only the "enlightened ones" were privy to. Add to this mix the practice of emperor worship, in which people sought their answers in a political savior or king and the complicated picture of the place God chose for His mission trip emerges! What a challenge! Sound anything like our world today? It was mind numbing to try to find truth in all of that confusion! And that leads us to the purpose of God's Mission trip!

The Purpose

Why would God even want to come in to a world so messed up and confused? For this we have to take a look at the heart of God. I think we find a great example in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel...

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

The Purpose of God's Mission Trip was to show us His Love!

God's love never stops for us even when we reject Him! There's nothing you could say or do that would cause God not to love you! You can break His heart and you can choose to step out into eternity separated from Him, but even if you did that, He would still love you. We see this clearly in the book of Ezekiel and it's why God took a mission trip!

Ezekiel 10 “Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live? ” ’
11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’

So we know He took His mission trip to earth because He loved us and wanted to bring us forgiveness from the guilt of sin, freedom from the bondage of sin, and spiritual life rather than spiritual death! He knew we were confused about religion, spiritual truth, and didn't really understand who God was and what He really wanted. We didn't know He wanted a personal relationship with us, that He wanted to be a friend, not a taskmaster. So He planned a way for us to really know Him, to see Him, and to experience Him in our very lives. God decided to do the unthinkable. He decided to become a part of His own creation. He decided to take on flesh and become a man! It was the only way to fulfill His mission purpose. Check out this prophecy written some 700 years before God's actual mission trip to earth...

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Is that not simply one of the most beautiful passages ever written? What does this have to do with the purpose of God's mission trip? Everything!! God saw the condition of the world in Isaiah's day, in the days when Jesus was actually born, and the difficult times in our world today. He saw the needs. He saw your needs, my needs, the needs of every man, woman, boy and girl who has ever lived or ever will! Anybody in here need a Wonderful Counselor to guide you throughout the good and the bad times in life?

The Purpose of God's Mission Trip was to become our Wonderful Counselor!

I know I could never make it without the Godly counsel I receive from God's Word and His precious Holy Spirit! Listen to the Psalmist...

Psalm 119:24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.
25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
26 I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.
27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.

Ok, but this talks about God's Word or law being our counselor. How does that translate to Jesus? Let me show you. John 1:1ff

John1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

 And then verse 14 makes an amazing statement about God's Mission Trip...

John1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Purpose of God's Mission Trip was to become our Mighty God!

Anybody need a Mighty God when you feel like the weight of the world is going to crush you or that your enemies are going to overcome you? I'm reminded of Moses' words to the Israelites as they watched the Egyptian troops advancing towards them as they were trapped on the banks of the Red Sea...

Exodus 14:13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

The Purpose of God's Mission Trip was to become our Everlasting Father!

Anybody in this room need an everlasting Father? Sometimes earthly fathers will let you down. They're only human. You may have had a wonderful father figure in your life, or you may have had a terrible example of fatherhood, but God took a mission trip so He could show us what a true Father's heart should look like! Sneak preview from next weeks message "The Actual Mission Trip!" Remember Jesus' words to His disciples? "If you've seen me you've seen the Father!" Why did He say that? Because Jesus was God on Mission! The arms of a father should be strong, and yet at the same time loving. Listen to Isaiah's description of God the Father...

Isaiah40:10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Was Jesus not the Good Shepherd? Yes He was and still is. Sometimes my mind and emotions are scarred to death, and my body reacts in fear. I worry about tomorrow and the future, but then something happens. I'm reminded in my spirit that I have an everlasting Father who not only created me, but who has loved me with an everlasting love and has drawn me with loving-kindness, and He gathers me in His arms and carries me close to His heart!

The Purpose of God's Mission Trip was to become our Prince of Peace!

Jesus, God on mission, God in the flesh, told His disciples this...

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Regardless of the circumstances around us, we know God's purpose for coming to this earth was to bring personal peace to all who would believe in Him and trust Him. And listen to God's promise in His Word...

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Ok, so we've talked about the place where God went on His mission trip and the condition it was in. Planet Earth! We've talked about the purpose of His mission trip.  To show us His love, to be our Mighty Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace.

The Price

Every mission trip has a price, a cost! Someone has to pay for the mission! God had planned this mission trip with great detail. Did He know the cost? Did He know what was going to happen when He came to this earth? Did He fully understand the payment that would be exacted? How early in the planning did He know? He knew all the way back in the beginning. Remember how we talked about the choice Adam and Eve had been given and how they chose to so their own thing and not trust God? God knew when He made them in His image and made them a living spiritual being, that if they made the wrong choice it would require a costly mission trip to fix. And listen to this description of how Adam and Eve tried to cover things up…Gen. 3:7

Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

But what did God give them to wear? Gen. 3:21...

Genesis 3:21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

You've got to remember, Adam had named the animals. It must have been a shock to him when God gave him the skins of an animal to cover with. This was the first foreshadowing of what was to come. The ultimate cost that God would have to pay in order to give humankind another chance at eternal life!

And we know that God knew the ultimate price would be the sacrifice of the Lamb of God! Listen the words of the Psalmist written some 1,000 years before Jesus was crucified and at least 300 years before the invention of crucifixion as a tool of torture…Psalm 22:1-22

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

Now, lest you think this is a terrible way to end a Christmas message, let me tell you God also knew about the resurrection and the fact that the message of His mission trip would in fact be successful, as we will see in the coming weeks, but check out the next few verses of the prophecy in Psalms...

19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

And declare His name to His brothers He did!! Check this out in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews...

Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil —
15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

What a mission trip!!! Let's pray!