Let Christmas Put Hope in Your Heart
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 23 2012
*People cannot make it without hope. A former instructor for the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Unit explained this in what he called “The Rule of Threes”:
-“You can survive 3 weeks without food.
-3 days without water.
-3 hours without shelter.
-And 3 minutes without air.
-But you cannot survive 3 seconds without hope.” (1)
*People can’t make it without hope. But Christians, we have hope. And one of the best things about being a Christian is that no matter how bad things may get in our lives.
*We have hope. Where does it come from?
1. First: Our hope comes from the work of God.
*And we can see some of the ways God works in vs. 1-6:
1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 These vs. remind us that God works through ordinary circumstances.
*God wanted His Son to be born in Bethlehem. And He used the most ordinary circumstances to get Him there: A census for taxes.
(Note: I held up a 1040 Tax Form, and said:)
-God can use this to give glory to His name? -- Yes!
-God can use this o give guidance to His saints? -- Yes, of course!
*God can use:
-A traffic jam.
-A new job.
-A stopped up drain.
-A broken shoe-lace.
-A chance meeting at the store.
*God can use the smallest thing to change your life forever, because He is in control. That decree from Caesar Augustus had to go out at just the right time. And it had to pass all the way across the Roman Empire by ship and horseback, at just the right time.
*God works through ordinary circumstances.
 And He works in the lives of ordinary citizens.
*God worked in Joseph the carpenter, and Mary, the Jewish girl. But He also worked in the lives of the shepherds we see in vs. 8-9:
8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
*Who were these shepherds? -- Brian Bill gave some important background on the shepherds, when he said: “Throughout the history of Israel, shepherding was a noble profession. Abel was the first to have this job, followed by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and of course, David.
*But by the time we come to the first century, shepherding had lost its luster. Shepherds made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of lepers.” (2)
*Alan Perkins tells us that: “Shepherds were borderline social outcasts. Since they were constantly on the move to find new pasture for their flocks, they were looked on with suspicion. Kind of the way people today might look at gypsies, or carnival workers. Shepherds were often accused of being thieves. If something came up missing, it must have been those shepherds. They weren’t allowed to give testimony in court, because their word wasn’t considered trustworthy.
*And on top of all that, they really didn’t have much contact with other people.-Most of the time, they were ‘living out in the fields.’ This was not a 40-hour a week job. They didn’t come home at night. They were with the sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” (3)
*They worked all night, but as Ron Mehl points out: “God works the night shift!”
-So, these shepherds remind us that God hasn’t forgotten us.
-God hasn’t forgotten you!
*And if He could work in those shepherds’ lives, He can work in our lives too.
-Our hope comes from the work of God.
2. And from the wonder of God.
 Think about the wonder of His glory.
*We get a taste of God’s glory in vs. 9-14, where Luke says:
9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
*The shepherds were overwhelmed by it, and the angels were overjoyed by it: The glory of the Lord!
-Here we see the wonder of God’s glory.
 But in vs. 7, we also see the wonder of the Lord’s humility.
7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
*I can’t imagine that Joseph was happy about taking Mary to Bethlehem. That baby was due any minute. -- Not a time you want to get too far from home, much less make an 80 mile journey by donkey and on foot.
-No Holiday Inn Expresses.
-No Cracker Barrels.
-And then, when they got there: No room in the inn.
*Have you ever gotten off from home, and not been able to find a place to stay?
-I’ve driven around a couple of times till 2 in the morning looking for a room.
-Not a pleasant experience.
*One time Zig Ziglar’s brother asked for a room. And the manager told him that they were all booked up. Zig’s brother said, “Now be honest with me. If the President of the United States walked through that door just now and requested a room, -- would you have a place for him to stay?”
*The manager replied: “Well, if the President needed a room, we’d find one for him.” And Zig’s brother said, “That’s great. I know for a fact that he’s not coming. So I’ll take his room.” (4)
*Jesus Christ could have had the best room in the world for His birth. (Even that would have been a shack compared to the glories of Heaven.) But Jesus humbled Himself to be born in a dirty stable. He even humbled Himself to die on the cross for our sins.
*The Apostle Paul put it this way in Phil 2:5-8:
5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
*Jesus humbled Himself to be born in a stable and die on the cross for our sins. So the wonder of God’s glory and His humility come together in the God-Man Jesus Christ!
*I like the way Brian Bill put it:
-“He was just like us, and yet He was nothing like us.
-He walked among us, and yet He came from God above.
-He grew up in Nazareth, and yet the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
-He is our friend, and yet He is our Savior and Lord.
-Little children love him, and yet He baffles the greatest minds.
-He was called ‘son of Mary,’ and yet He is the ‘Son of God.’” (5)
*Molly Brown explained the wonder of it all with these words: “Christmas is love tugging men’s hearts back to God, -- with the powerful grip of a tiny hand reaching out from a bed of straw.” (4)
*Our hope comes from the wonder of God.
3. And from the will of God.
 What is God’s will for our lives? -- God’s will is our salvation.
*And God’s Word makes this clear to us in vs. 10&11, where the angel said this to the shepherds:
10. . . “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
*Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins! But again, it never would have happened without the suffering of the cross. It is not possible for us to fully comprehend the physical and spiritual suffering the Lord went through. But Isaiah 53 helps us understand. There the Bible says this about the Lord’s suffering:
2. . . He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.
8. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
*Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day to suffer and die on the cross for our sins.
*Melvin Newland tells about a Christmas play that asks an interesting question: “What did Joseph do the day after Jesus was born?”
*Of course, on the day Jesus was born, Joseph helped with Mary and the baby. He did everything he could to make them as comfortable as possible. And Joseph welcomed the shepherds in to see the new-born Savior in the manger.
*But what about the next day? -- The play imagines that since Joseph was a carpenter, he began making a crib for Jesus. And as he did, he thought about the celebration with the shepherds the night before.
*Joseph wondered, “If they treated Him like this when He is just a baby, how will they treat Him when they find out He is the Son of God?” At just that moment in the play, the lights suddenly went off. And all you could hear was the sound of the hammer driving a nail into the wood. (4)
*How would they treat Jesus when they found out He was the Son of God? They would nail Him to a cross.
*But He went through all of that willingly, because it is God’s will for us to be saved. Jesus died on that cross for us!
*As the song by Gordon Jenson says:
-“I was guilty with nothing to say
-And they were coming to take me away
-But then a voice from heaven was heard that said
-Let him go, take me instead!
*I should have been crucified
-I should have suffered and died
-I should have hung on the cross in disgrace
-But Jesus, God’s Son took my place!” (6)
*God’s will is to save us from our sins, eternal death and hell.
-God’s will is for our salvation.
 And for our celebration.
*God wants us to celebrate the birth of our Savior. But this can be hard when people we care about are suffering and hurting. I think about Billy & Dena and their family, such a difficult situation.
*How can we celebrate Christmas in times like this? -- Jesus helps us in Hebrews 12:1-2. Here Christians are urged to follow the Lord’s example. And the Scripture says:
1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2. looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
*That last verse in the International Standard Version says that we should be “looking off to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
*Please notice that Jesus looked BEYOND the shame and suffering of the cross to see the joy set before Him. And in a sense, that’s what we have to do to celebrate Christmas in the hard times. It doesn’t make the pain go away.
-But we can look beyond the pain to see the hope and joy of Christmas.
*We can have a celebration like we see on the first Christmas day. Again in vs. 10&11:
10. . . The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
*Good news, Bethlehem. Good news, Grayson. Good news, World, -- “for unto you was born that day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
*The heart of Christmas is the good news about Jesus Christ.” And it brings great joy, because yes, Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. But thank God, He rose again from the dead!
*One church put on a Children’s Christmas program that included a manger scene. There was a little 5-year-old boy on the drama team. I think he was a shepherd that year. And I know he was energetic to say the least!
*This little boy was a handful. During rehearsals he was all over the place. He distracted everyone, and turned the director into a nervous wreck! She was really worried about how he would do during the performance.
*At rehearsal all week, they had used a baby doll for baby Jesus. But during the play, the couple playing Joseph and Mary put their own baby in the manger. And our little shepherd didn’t know it. During the play, he started edging over to the manger.
*Suddenly he saw that it was a real, live baby. And he shouted out: “He’s alive!” At first everyone laughed. But then a holy hush fell over the church, as people thought about the Living Lord who was born into our world. (7)
*Jesus Christ was born to die on the cross for our sins. But the Risen Lord is alive today. -- “He’s alive!”
*That’s why Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. -- But is He your hope?
*Melvin Newland says: “I know that there are empty lives. I know that there are hurts and pains. We all have them. But you see, Christmas comes to help us deal with those things. A little hand reaches out of the manger and says, ‘Grab hold. I’ll lead you to the throne. I’ll lead you to the Father. Grab hold. I will lead you, if you’ll only follow me.’” (8)
*The Savior invites you to hope this morning.
*He has given His blood and His life for your sins.
-Now He waits to see if you will accept His great gift, and find hope.
1. Online sermon “Christmas and Covenant” by Rodney Buchanan - Luke 1:68-79 - 121006
2. SermonCentral sermon “The Shepherds’ Joy about Jesus” by Brian Bill - Luke 2:8-20
3. SermonCentral sermon “The Shepherds” by Alan Perkins - Luke 2:8-20
4. SermonCentral sermon “A Savior Has Been Born!” by Melvin Newland - Luke 2:1-20
5. SermonCentral sermon “The Birth” by Brian Bill - Isaiah 7:14
6. SermonCentral sermon “The Cradle, The Cross, The Crown” by R. Deem - Phil 2:5-11
7. Original Source Unknown
8. SermonCentral sermon “Christmas: Joy or Despair” by Melvin Newland - Matthew 2:1-18