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Back to the Best of Christmas

Part 1: Mary’s Message to Us

Luke 1:26-38

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 4, 2011

*Did you ever wish you could go back to the first Christmas? Back to Bethlehem, back to the angels, the shepherds, and the baby Savior in the manger?

*We can't go back to Bethlehem, but we can go back to the best of Christmas!

-God wants you to experience the best things about Christmas.

-And we can see them in this Scripture.

1. First, God wants you to have the gift of His grace.

*One of the best things about Christmas is the gift of God’s grace, and we see this in vs. 26-30:

26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

27. to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

28. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!''

29. But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

30. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

*When you read that, you might think that Mary had done something very special to earn God’s favor, but she was only 14 or 15 years old.

-That’s not a lot of time to do anything for the Lord.

-And that word “favor” in vs. 30 is the same Greek word we translate as “grace.”

*“Mary, you’ve found grace with God!” This means you have found God’s sweetness, loveliness, joy and delight. You have found God’s good will and His merciful loving-kindness.

*Mary did no great feats to earn the blessing of being the Lord’s mother.

-Did she have great knowledge of God’s Word?

-Had she won great battles?

-Had she given great sums of money to help the poor?

-Had she preached to thousands?

-Had she healed the sick?

-Had she devoted years of service to God?

-Had she done anything noteworthy for the Lord? -- Not that we know of.

*There was nothing Mary did to be born a woman.

-There was nothing she did to be born a descendant of King David. (And that was essential for the mother of the Messiah.)

-There was also nothing Mary did to be living in Nazareth. (That was important, because the prophets had said that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene.)

*All of these essential qualifications came only by the grace of Almighty God.

*Don’t get me wrong. Mary was surely a Godly and special woman. But just like you, she was a sinner who needed a Savior. And Mary found the gift of God’s grace. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

*This was a fairly common expression in the Old Testament. The first time we see it was when God decided to destroy the old world with a flood. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen 6:8)

*There was a wonderful word picture behind the Old Testament word for “favor” or “grace”:

-Someone who was superior stooping down in kindness to help.

-Someone who was superior stooping down to have mercy on someone inferior.

*Think of a loving parent who stoops down to help a child in need. That’s a picture of God’s grace. And He wants you to have His grace.

*Mary found the gift of God’s grace. How did she find it? -- The same way that anybody can find it, the only way that anybody can find it: Through faith.

*Christians are saved by grace through faith in God, so Mary had already been trusting in the Lord. Now she would have to trust Him much more, as He called her to miraculously be the mother of the Messiah.

*And she did trust in the Lord. By faith, Mary found “grace” or “favor” with God.

-And so can you. God wants you to have the gift of His grace.

2. And He wants you to know about His kingdom.

*One of the best things about Christmas is getting to learn about God’s kingdom. And there are some vital things to learn in vs. 31-35. Here Gabriel told Mary:

31. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

32. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.

33. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34. Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35. And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

*God wants you to know about His kingdom, and we find much of this knowledge in the Christmas story.

*Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about Christmas. Most people do not understand that Christmas is about the Kingdom of God.

*James Fallows was a long-time correspondent in Asia for “The Atlantic Monthly”. He once saw an unusual Christmas display in a large Japanese department store. This bizarre display featured Santa Claus holding the baby Jesus in a sleigh pulled by the seven dwarfs. (1)

*Many people close to home are just as clueless about the true meaning of Christmas. Rodney Buchanan told about a friend who gave a Bible to someone who was going through a difficult time. This man was in real need. His life had been marked by one disastrous decision after another. And he had no idea how much he needed the Lord.

*Rodney said, “As my friend gave a Bible to this person, and encouraged him to read it, he suggested that he might start by reading the Christmas story, since it was that time of year.”

*The man looked at him with real surprise and said, ‘You mean the Christmas story is in the Bible?’” (2)

*I know that sounds ridiculous to us. But this is the world we live in today.

-People desperately need to know the true meaning of Christmas.

-People desperately need to know about God’s Kingdom.

*The angel Gabriel revealed this Kingdom knowledge to Mary. And here in His Word, God reveals it to us.

[1] In vs. 31 we learn that God wants to save your soul.

*We can see it in the Lord’s name. Gabriel told Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” This name, His name “Jesus” means “Jehovah is salvation.”

-And Jesus wants to save your soul!

[2] Next in vs. 32 we learn that Jesus is the Son of the Highest. That is to say, He is the Son of God.

*God became a man:

-Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.

-Born in Bethlehem to die on the cross for our sins.

-Risen from the dead to reign over an everlasting Kingdom.

*As we learn in vs. 33: “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

-Jesus Christ has an everlasting Kingdom, and He wants you to know about it.

*Knowledge of His Kingdom is the most important knowledge we can ever receive. If I had 20 degrees from LSU and 20 more from Harvard, I would never learn anything more important than what we see right here.

*Jesus wants you to know about His Kingdom, so you can be part of it.

-But the only way to really know about the Kingdom is to know the King!

-And you can know Him personally by opening your heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.

*God wants you to know about His kingdom.

3. And He wants you to believe in the possibility of His power.

*One of the best things about Christmas is the possibility of God’s power.

-We see this infinite possibility in vs. 36-37, where Gabriel told Mary:

36. “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.

37. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

*Elizabeth was too old to have a baby.

-She was called barren.

-The world had written her off.

-She had probably written herself off.

*But nothing is too hard for God! He turned the impossible into the possible.

-And so Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist.

*God will not always give us a baby, but He will always do the right thing for us.

-And all things are possible with God! -- He works wonders every Christmas.

*Don Shelby tells about a teenage girl who came from a solid, loving family, but was lured into drugs through her friends at school. In spite of the best efforts from her parents, and professional help, this girl kept going back to drugs. She left home and dropped out of sight for awhile, then showed up again at Christmas, more depressed and confused than ever.

*One night, her mother went into the daughter's room and told her again how much she loved her. Mom also told her how she was praying for a miracle that would save her. A little while later, the girl left the house and returned about midnight.

*The next morning, the mother woke up to find her daughter making breakfast. She had a smile on her face, and looked like a new person. Mom couldn’t believe her eyes.

*Then that young woman told her mother about the long, desperate walk she took that night. She came back ready to take her own life, because she felt she had failed her parents, her God, and herself.

*She sat in her room figuring out the best way to do it. But as she sat there, she found herself looking at a Christmas card someone had sent to her. Her Mom had left it on her bedside table.

*The daughter opened the card and saw a painting of Mary responding to the news of the miraculous baby who would be named Jesus. The young woman held the card to her chest, and began to cry out to God for help.

*She said she heard a voice saying to her, “Why didn’t you ask me for help long before this? I've been here all the time."

*She knew it was the voice of the Lord. And she spent the rest of the night walking the floor, while she talked to God and held on to that Christmas card with the picture of Mary saying “yes” to God.

*All at once a peace and a release came over her. Her life turned a corner, and began a process of change that continued to grow. (3)

*What a wonder! -- God used a Christmas card to turn someone’s life around.

-God works wonders every Christmas. He works wonders every day.

*God wants you to believe in the possibility of His power.

4. And He wants you to be a submissive servant.

*One of the best things about Christmas is the blessing of submissive service.

-We find this kind of service in Mary’s answer to the angel.

-In vs. 38, “Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”

*Could Mary have said, “No”?

-I have to believe that she could have said, “No.”

-I cannot conceive of God forcing someone to bear His child.

*Mary didn’t have to say “yes.” But she did say “yes” to God.

-Mary said “yes,” even though her world was about to be turned upside down.

-Mary said “yes” and she was blessed.

-Mary said “yes” and the whole world was blessed.

*How will you answer God?

*God had an important assignment for Mary. As the angel explained in vs. 31-33:

31. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

32. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.

33. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

*God had an extremely important assignment for Mary. But God also has important things for you to do. God has some things for you to do that maybe no one else can do. How will you answer God?

*Thank God Mary said, “Yes.”

-“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

*Mary submitted herself to be the servant of the Lord. She had the same kind of spirit we see in the heroes of our faith like Lottie Moon.

*Most of us have heard of Charlotte Moon, Lottie for short. Our Christmas Offering for International Missions is named after her.

*Lottie Moon was only 4’ 3” tall! -- But she was a giant in serving the Lord.

-Born in 1840, Lottie grew up in an old Virginia family.

-Her dad’s plantation house looked out on the Blue Ridge Mountains.

*Mom was a devout believer who read the Bible to Lottie. There was no church nearby, so Mrs. Moon held services every Sunday for family, neighbors and servants.

*As a little girl, Lottie loved God’s Word and missionary stories. But she did not receive Christ as her Savior. And as she got older, Lottie went through a time of rebellion.

*She liked to play tricks on people. In college one April Fool’s Day, Lottie wrapped the school bells up so they wouldn’t ring. Everyone was late to class. And Charlotte got in trouble for that one.

*In 1858, Lottie got saved at the age of 18. It happened because some of her school friends invited her to a revival meeting.

*And I cannot stress this too much:

-All of the good that has ever come through Lottie Moon...

-All of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been given to missions...

-All of the hospitals built, people healed, people fed...

-And all of the thousands upon thousands of people who have been saved...

*All of this good for God’s Kingdom has come in large part, because some concerned, Christian, college students invited Charlotte Moon to church one day.

*It is always a good time for us to invite people to church. But Christmas is an especially good time, because people are generally more open to hear about Jesus.

*Ask God to help you invite more people to church. And then invite everyone you possibly can. Who knows? -- You may be inviting the next Lottie Moon to church this Christmas.

*Lottie Moon only went to that revival meeting because she wanted to be with her friends. And she went with a mocking attitude. But God got hold of her heart that day, and she decided right then that she wanted to become a Christian.

*Then, in the spring of 1873, she heard a sermon on John 4:35, where Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

*Right then, Lottie Moon made up her mind that she would become a missionary to China. And that fall she was on her way.

*When her ship was caught in a terrible storm and appeared to be sinking, she wrote: “As I watched the mad waste of waters, howling as if eager to engulf us, I think I should scarcely have been surprised to see a Divine Form walking upon them, -- so sweetly I heard in my inmost soul the consoling words, ‘It is I, be not afraid.’”

*Lottie faithfully served the Lord in China for 40 years. She faithfully served the Lord through poverty, war and plague.

*When Lottie was in her early 70s, a terrible famine struck China. She gave her food and her last dollar for famine relief. Lottie grew so weak and undernourished that her doctor ordered her home.

-She died on the way, Christmas Eve of 1912.

*Lottie once said, “I would that I had a thousand lives that I might give them to the women of China.”

*She gave her one life, and millions have been blessed.

-How will you answer God’s call?

-How will you respond to God’s assignment for your life?

*Be like Lottie Moon.

-Be like Mary.

-Say “yes” to God.

-Be the blessing that God wants you to be.

*Go back to the best of Christmas.

-You can get started right now, as we go to God in prayer.

1. Source: Al Mohler in “The Christian Index” -

2. Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by: Rodney Buchanan

3. Adapted from sermon “The Trance of Non-renewal” by Maxie Dunnam - Zechariah 9:9-13 (Dunnam wrote: “Thanks to Don Shelby for this story, retold by Jack Heacock, ‘They Have No Wine,’ January 15, 1989.”)

4. Sources:

“In Other Words” - Fall 1999 - p.11 - Influence

“White for the Harvest” - August 31 - Nelson Stories

KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 29393 - SOURCE: Http:// - TITLE: The Life Of Charlotte (lottie) Diggs Moon - AUTHOR: Courtney Denihan



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