- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

The following are excerpts from a sermon preached yesterday by the Rev. Philip Powers of Forcey Memorial Church in Silver Spring.

Last Christmas we were thinking about all the things we didn't have; this Christmas we are thinking about all the things we do have. Last Christmas we were placing wreaths on the doors of our homes; this Christmas we are placing wreaths on the graves of our heroes. Last Christmas we were lighting candles to decorate; this Christmas we are lighting candles to commemorate.
Isn't is amazing how one day can change so many things? How September 11 can affect all the days that follow? But not only think of the change that came to our nation and our lives because of the day that terrorism invaded us in a way it had never done before, but think for a moment with me if God Himself were to invade. What would happen if God showed up unannounced for a visit? "Of course," you say, "that's what Christmas is all about."
But what really strikes me is that a September 11 tragedy can have such long-term effects from some terrorist, but if God himself were to come for a visit, it doesn't seem to affect life very much at all. Why is it that people aren't different because of that? Why is it Christmas is just a "happy holiday" and Santa Claus and snowmen overshadow completely the baby in Bethlehem?
Look at the reason for God's visit. In Luke 1, verse 68, "He has visited us and accomplished redemption for his people. He has set them free." But it's not just the political deliverance. The day that God visited was not just to change their environment, it was to change their hearts. Notice in verse 77: "God visits also to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins." You need a changed life; you need a changed heart. And the day that God visited, He not only took care of life, all the situation around it, the enemy around it He took care of your heart.
But many people refuse to admit they are in trouble, that they need to be rescued. We think we are in control and don't need help. "It's everyone else's fault." "It's that wife that keeps nagging."
On another occasion, Jesus said, "You see I have power to heal your diseases. You need to trust me that I can also forgive sins." But most of the people really didn't realize the day. They recognized that "God is visiting us," but they didn't really recognize the day. Because just like us, they say, "OK Jesus, God has visited us. Look at the good things He can do. He can get me out of financial trouble. He can heal my mother. He can keep me from problems. Jesus, you take care of me, but if you cross the line here and say I need to admit my sin and give my life over to you, forget that. That's too far, Jesus. You just make life good for me. You take care of my problems. You do your thing and I'll do my thing." You haven't really recognized the day. He came not only to show us power, but to show us grace and truth.
God is going to visit again, but it's not going to be a pleasant visit, at least for a lot of people. Jesus said in Luke 17:30, "It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed." They were warned about judgment, but they said, "That day will never come." But it did come, and they weren't ready.
God is coming again for a visit. Will you be ready? We want this to be not just the best Christmas for you; we want you to be ready for the next visit when God comes.

Next week: A sermon by Elder Ken Snedden of Upper County Seventh-day Adventist Church in Clarksburg, Md.

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