This evening is a continuation from this morning, a part two, to our new year’s emphasis on the importance and value of reading God’s Word faithfully. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a story about the adequacy or sufficiency of Scripture. The rich man basically said Moses and the Prophets aren’t enough to convince someone of their need for salvation. He wants something more than the Word of God. Maybe another miracle, maybe some dramatic experience, maybe someone rising from the dead? What God said isn’t enough. If I told you that God told me that the Scripture is sufficient for our faith and practice and eternal salvation, would you believe me? Would you believe me about the part where I said that God told me? You should only accept one reason for me saying that. If I say it based on Scripture.
I love when God plans things without our knowing it. Helene came to my study about a month ago to tell me about tonight’s Children’s Program and the theme she had chosen of One Night in Bethlehem. Back in September I had already decided to focus on the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem this morning, a great American carol. I say American carol just to highlight how few of the Christmas carols in our hymnal are from America. I think the only others are I Wonder as I Wander and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and this one. O Little Town of Bethlehem is a truly wonderful hymn and even more so know when you know it’s history. It was written in 1868 by Phillip Brooks, a Boston-born, Harvard-educated, much loved Episcopal pastor. In fact he was one of the most famous American preachers of his generation, like a Billy Graham or Charles Stanley. When he died in 1893 10,000 people stood outside his church in Copley Square in Boston for his funeral. There is a statue of him outside Trinity Church there. But before he became great, God humbled him. After graduating from Harvard he started teaching at the prestigious Boston Latin School. He lasted 5 months. It’s not clear if he quit or was fired. He was told if he couldn’t teach he would fail at anything else. He went to seminary where his first sermon was a disaster. God humbled him, so He could use him. He wrote this carol while pastoring Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia from 1862 to 1869. Think about those dates for just a moment. What was going on in America? He was preaching during the time when our country was ripped apart by a great conflict, tens of thousands of young men taken from their homes and churches and killed on the battlefield. And in April of 1865 just a month before the end of the war, President Abraham Lincoln has assassinated. Our country was in turmoil and crisis and mourning. 1865 was a hard time in America, the great and devastating war between the states was just ending. The great president was dead, there was a darkness and sadness over the land.
Now, I’m sure, you will agree with me, that joy & happiness are always associated with Christmas. ▪ there is joy in the sound of bells ringing & carols sung & greetings & gifts given. ▪ there is happiness for merchants with the noise of cash registers, busy shoppers, sales being made. ▪ there is laughter as family & friends get together, shrieks of delight at the beautiful Christmas decorations displayed, & at presents being unwrapped.
Well, friends, you are in for a treat this morning. I have an awesome sermon, one of my best efforts, no brag just fact. What can I say, when you’re as good as I am, it’s hard to be humble. And here is where you start running for the doors to avoid the lightning strike. Gregory the Great said pride is the root sin, the poisonous root from which all the rest grow. Jonathan Edwards called it “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all sins.” C.S. Lewis called it the great sin and said all the other sins are fleabites in comparison. Calvin begins his comments on this passage saying simply, “there is no more deadly disease than pride,” it’s so deeply rooted in us that it’s almost impossible to root out. Of the seven things God hates pride is the first sin listed in Proverbs 6. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. We are starting this morning with the deadliest of the deadly serious sins.