Just as They Were Told
The week of Christmas is upon us. I have already heard more than one person say they can’t wait for Christmas to be over. The schedules have been tight and all of us have rushed and sighed at some point this season. I want to remind you this morning that all that busi-ness and effort….is appropriate.
How? You may ask? We spend time with what’s important. I read this week that the celebration of Christmas actually started in the 4th century when the Christian Emperor Constantine, in an effort to reach as many unbelievers as possible, renamed a pagan festival for the birth of Jesus….
4 centuries before this however, a Christian doctor named Luke sat down to write, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit stated his purpose to his friend.
Luke 1:1-5 (NIV)
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
So we lean on Luke, not Constantine, to give us the details of the first Christmas, and we discover…. In Luke Chapter 2 verse 1
1. God Accomplishes His purposes Through People.
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
God stepped into time. He did not call us up to heaven. He deliberately and intentionally came to earth. Into our circumstances, into our time, our culture, and our lives.
The Apostle John declared:
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.
I notice that the Romans did not stop running the world when Jesus came. The census took place just as ordered. I also notice that there was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem. That is a fact. The humility and normalcy of the circumstances can’t be over-stated. He came here
2. God’s Message to Us Is Specific…
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christa the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
You see God sent Jesus with a purpose…the Angels declared it specifically….
All the People
The Redeemed Pharisee Paul the Apostle was later to declare:
1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
All the People
In the Christ Hymn of Philippians, Paul recited:
Philippians 2:6-11 (NIV)
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3. Worship is an Appropriate Response to God’s Revelation
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
JAMES MONTGOMERY CAPTURED THIS MOMENT SO WELL IN HIS HYMN….ANGELS…FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY….as if to say…ANGELS????? FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY!!!
Angels, from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth; ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Shepherds, in the fields abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night, God with man is now residing; yonder shines the infant Light:
Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar; seek the great desire of nations; ye have seen His natal star:
Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear, suddenly the Lord, descending, in His temple shall appear
Refrain: Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the new-born King
4. God’s Grace Changes Everything
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
When Jesus comes along He can Turn a Shepherd into an Evangelist
He can turn a Pharisee into an Apostle
A Liar into a Leader
A Sinner, into a Saint
Paul addressed this to the Corinthians…..how Grace Changes Everything
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Jesus comes into our world, into our lives to change us for the better!
a Or Messiah. “The Christ” (Greek) and “the Messiah” (Hebrew) both mean “the Anointed One”; also in verse 26.
Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions. Includes indexes. (372). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 2:1-20). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.