2008-12-25 Matthew 1.18-25 Christ Is Born!
Christ is Born! Do you think that if they’d had the printing press and the modern newspapers back there in Bethlehem all those years ago, that that would have been the headline? On Sunday we’ll look at what Herod’s reaction would have been.
If they’d had the internet back then, there probably would’ve been all kinds of bloggers debating it like crazy, debunking it, challenging it and defending the king’s birth.
One remarkable thing about Jesus’ birth was who came to celebrate and who refused to come. Some shepherds came rejoicing and some magi came to worship.
Where were the Jewish leaders? Where were the members of Joseph’s family? Didn’t they know? Or did they refuse?
How many people actually witnessed the incomprehensible reality of the incarnation?
Christ is born. The messiah, not some hack, not some fake, not some wack job. The actual messiah is born. All the scriptures that prophesied about Christ’s birth came true.
Last Sunday evening, the Sunday School children acted out some of the possible expectations that people had concerning the coming of the messiah. Did few people come to see Jesus because he did not come in the way they expected?
Do you know why He came?
No, he didn’t come simply so that we’d have an excuse to get together with family and friends. No, he didn’t come simply so that we’d have an excuse to give each other gifts. No, he didn’t come simply so that we’d be able to have a whole pile extra worship services in what would otherwise be a potentially dull month.
Jesus came to save his people from their sin, and that is something worth celebrating, with more than just extra worship services!
This morning, we’re going to look at some of the theology around why Christ had to be born. This is so important, so I’ll try hard not to be boring.
It says in verse 21 that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.
What is sin? Sin is breaking God’s law. Everyone who has ever lived, except for Jesus, is guilty of breaking God’s law.
You might think, “Well, that’s not fair! What if a person didn’t know that they were breaking God’s law?
Suppose you’re driving in Alberta for the first time. As you travel down the highway, you are so engrossed in the rugged beauty of the flora and fauna; you fail to see the sign warning you to slow down when passing emergency vehicles. And wouldn’t you know it, a little while later, you go past an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road, lights flashing.
You carefully pass, going no faster than the speed limit, so you’re surprised when a police officer gives chase.
You dutifully pull over and have your license and registration in hand when the officer comes to your window.
After exchanging greetings, the officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
To which you respond, “Honestly, I do not. I was about to ask you that very question.”
The officer responds, “You failed to slow down to 60 when passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road.”
“Oh, but I was doing the speed limit.”
“Yes, but in Alberta, you are required to slow down to 60. Didn’t you see the warning sign a ways back?”
“No officer, I did not.”
“Well, I must still cite you a ticket because ignorance does not make you innocent. You broke the law.”
Now in this very hypothetical situation, the B.C. driver is guilty even though he did not know the law, he did not know he’d broken it.
The same is true in life. We’re guilty of breaking God’s laws, even if we don’t know what they are.
Nor can we say, “Well, even though I’m guilty of lying, at least I’m not guilty of murder.”
Let’s go back to our B.C. driver and the kind police officer.
Suppose the driver said to the officer. “I’m sorry I broke the law, but at least I haven’t murdered anyone.”
Would the officer then say, “Well, in that case, you can go.”
Of course not, so why would we expect God to be any different?
Now when it comes to sin, we’re not talking about a fine, or even a prison term.
The scriptures make it clear, the penalty of sin is death. Whether you’re guilty of lying, stealing, or murder, the penalty is the same, death.
Now, we might think, wow, that’s a pretty harsh penalty, for something as insignificant as lying.
But that’s because we look at it from our perspective. We’re unholy, so sin is no big deal. We sin and others sin against us, and well, we might get upset for a bit, but we get over it pretty quickly, or we hold it against them for the rest of their life. Either way, we’re so used to it that we don’t think about it too much. Sinning is simply a part of life, we’ve even made it a part of being human, we say things like, “well, I’m only human.
But with this cavalier attitude about sin, the underlying problem, the root issue of sin never gets dealt with! And God does not look at sin like we do. God abhors sin. God is perfect, pure and holy. God cannot be in the presence of Sin. So, as long as sin existed there is a separation between God and people.
So God sent Jesus to deal with the root cause of sin. He came to take all the sins of the world upon His shoulders.
This is what grace is. God could have punished each person for their sins. But in His graciousness, He placed the full burden of sin on His Son instead. Christ willingly took all of this upon himself, in order to set us free!
But this brings us back to Jesus birth. Why did God have to send His Son? Why couldn’t He have just forgotten all about the sin? Why couldn’t he have found something else to punish, why His own Son?
Who sinned against God? Humans did. So a human must atone, or pay for sin. In the Old Testament, people sacrificed animals in order to atone for sin. But those animals didn’t actually do any atoning, they simply pointed to Christ, they were a witness, a representation of Christ.
Still you might ask, why can’t an animal sacrifice atone for sin? Consider this scenario. A thief breaks into your house, steals all your belongings, but eventually gets caught. You want justice. So you say, okay, throw the book at him. He’s proven guilty and the judge says, “Okay, fluffy gets it. Put his dog in jail.”
That somehow wouldn’t seem just would it?
It makes sense that the Old Testament sacrifices were pointing to Christ who would make a sacrifice for sin. But again, we have to ask the question, why God’s own Son?
Why did God send Him to be born of a woman in order to save people from their sins?
Jesus had to take on humanity, become human in order to offer a sacrifice for humans.
But Jesus also had to be God in order to pay for the sins of all people.
Jesus, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he is both human and divine. He is able to pay for the sins of others.
And that is precisely what He has done. That’s exactly what He came to do!
He came to save His people from their sins.
Think of it. Jesus, God’s own Son, eternal, entered time, entered His creation, in the most humble, most mean, most natural and supernatural way. And He came with the express purpose of saving people from sin.
You can’t get away from that reality. Unless we know how abhorrent sin is to God, we’ll think that we deserve Christ’s birth, life and sacrifice. And if we think we deserve God’s love, then we’ll have a very poor understanding of grace.
Grace, demonstrated in the birth, life and death of Christ is that God gave an undeserving world, the greatest gift imaginable. His very own Son.
How many of us have welcomed the homeless into our homes this holiday? How many of us have spent hours trying to get the perfect gift for our loved ones? How many of us would take the time, energy and determination to give a perfect gift to a person on the street, to a total stranger, to a thief, drunkard, murderer or maniac?
That’s precisely what God has done in Christ!
God gave the greatest treasure in the universe to people who barely gave it a response!
And those in the know, those who should have known better, they didn’t even show up!
Examine your heart. Have you really come to terms with the sin in your life? Confess, repent, believe and receive Jesus Christ.
Examine your heart. Have you really come to terms with the gift of Christ in your life? Have you changed the way you think about yourself?
I confess this is an area I have to work on in my own life. I like to wallow in my sinfulness and use it as an excuse for mediocrity. I like to define myself as a sinful person, so that I don’t have to try to feel good about myself.
But because I have received Christ’s gift of grace, because I know that my sins are fully paid for, because I know that I’ve been set free from sin, I need to change my attitude.
I need to think of myself, and identify myself as a Child of God!
Are you thinking of yourself in that way? Are you seeing yourself as a child of God?
A child of God lives like a child of God.
A child of God repents of sin, strives to live for righteousness, strives to do good works. A child of God understands that God loves him or her. A child of God understands that difficulties in this life are never, never, ever punishment, but rather are loving discipline, so that we might grow to become more and more holy and righteous.
And do you know what the reward of all of this is?
Yes, yes, everlasting life.
But there’s more. This everlasting life starts here and now! This everlasting life translates into eternal security. Nothing can rob us from God! No amount of sin, or sorrow, or anything can take us from God!
Eternal life translates into present joy.
Joy is not just feeling happy. Joy is being content. Joy is knowing that things will get better, even when they look hopeless. Joy brings hope. Joy brings courage and determination.
Joy is enduring everything, even wrongs against the innocent, and not letting it get under your skin.
Joy is the knowledge that in Christ, we have everything we could ever need. Christ Is born. Today we celebrate that reality. Christ was born to save His people from their sins. If you’ve put your faith in Christ, your sins are forever forgiven! You are saved! Amen.