Revelation of the gift
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. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” 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.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Most people love the Christmas season, especially as children, in our own home there is eager anticipation for the gifts to be opened tomorrow. Do you know that when you open gifts you will be doing revelation? Do you know that that first Christmas which we have read about was the most anticipated opening of a gift in the history of the universe?
Intro – Revelation of Gifts – to disclose, to bring into the open a thing once hidden
Calls the coming of Jesus – the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past,
- That is the idea behind wrapping our Christmas gifts – for in the weeks leading up to Christmas in our home (where Beth wraps most of the gifts) , Bradley and Emily and I, will look, feel, weigh, smell and shake in some hopes of discovering what is in those gifts.
- Gift Predictor – not always accurate Surprise of the Incarnation
1st Surprise in Christmas is the humility of Christmas- wonder of Christmas
Humility of Christmas
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
- Humility of Shepherds
God revealed his gift of gifts – the packaging was underwhelming - Nature of gifts – the world looks to power and splash (I know I do, why do I need a 2GB memory card- because they make them)–world always assigns greatness to power and strength
o We have the wrong idea of shepherds -Shepherds union – Pastoral Symphony 1809- Pastoral Pictures
o And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby - Shepherds - Simon Kistemacker - They were indeed a despised class. Not only was it difficult for them, because of the very nature of their occupation, to observe all the regulations of the Mosaic law—and especially all the man-made rules superimposed upon that law!
o In today’s society it may be the equivalent to a bouncer at a bar-
§ In a probability – they were watching sheep that were bound to temple sacrifice- and in ironic twist the sheep were more worthy to enter the temple then the shepherds. And marvel at this – to unworthy shepherds – God sent the Lamb of God – to give them access to God!
- Humility of Christ
o In a Baby
o To Mary
o In a Stable
o In Bethlehem
o As Calvin Miller says,
§ Oh the things that God experienced in becoming a man:
§ The blistery summer sun
§ The shivering rains of winter
§ The blight of hunger when he fasted after his baptism
§ The desperation of bereavement when his earthly father died
§ The empathy of a mother’s tears when she stood at the cross
§ The disappearance of all friends at His arrest in Gethsemane
§ The pain of a friends denials when Peter quaked before the truth
§ the staggering shock of treachery by his friend Judas
§ the horror of naked judgment with no one to speak on his behalf
§ The agony of crucifixion where He experienced the status of a convict
§ The agony of death
§ The loneliness of being forsaken by everyone
- Call to you and me of humility- to understand the glory of Christmas you must first understand the humility. A careful and honest look at ourselves would reveal that we are far more like the Shepherds than we would like to admit – that like the shepherds we do no deserve entrance to temple of God. In fact an honest look at ourselves even around Christmas reveals that the way we treat tand our attitudes towards those who we love the most demonstrates that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We try to meet even our own expectations for Christmas and come falling down on our faces. From getting out cards, to anticipating who may give you gifts so you should give them gifts it is madness. You see while we might not smell like the shepherds, we have the same hearts that the shepherds had and have the same need for a savior to be born for us.
- The story is told of A woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.
Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.
As the doors closed, she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!"
A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.
Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: "Don't worry. They already crucified him."
- You see we have even taken God’s gift of Christmas and messed that up.
After understanding the humility of Christmas we can understand the 2nd Surprise of Christmas which is the Glory of Christmas
The Glory of Christmas we see expressed in two ways – in the messenger and in the message
The Messengers of course is the angels -
- Image of Angels –misconception - like shepherds suffers from popular notion – we tend to think of them with a white glow about them, we almost think of them as fairies, with wings and a halo perhaps even a harp probably as female
- Have you ever noticed how Scripture describes them?– it is scary – the first hint is that just about whenever angels show up the first thing they have to say is, “Don’t be afraid” it makes you wonder if the angel you have in your nativity set just a bit too nice looking. Instead they reflect the holiness of God and that is a holy terror to sinful man.
- Luke 2:9 - An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
- Angels – Did you ever notice that Angels seem to be present whenever a significant event in the redemption of man occurred? – from Guarding the garden after the fall, to the garden of Gethsemane. We sing about it in the Carol Angels from the Realms of Glory- ye who sang creations glory – now proclaim messiah’s birth
- 1 Peter 1:12 “Even angels long to look into these things” - outstretched necks- when the gift is revealed it is amazing –
n - The verb look into in the original actually means “to gaze at with out-stretched necks.” (In his epistle, James uses the same verb with reference to a mirror, presumably fastened on a table. People would bend their bodies to look into the mirror [1:23–24]). Angels will learn about salvation through the church. As Paul says, “[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10).
2ndly Glory of Christmas is expressed in the message
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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
- The magnitude of the gift is expressed in the statement – this is good news of great joy for all the people- today a Savior has been born to you!
- Throughout scripture – the coming of Christ is described as the most amazing gift – from John 3:16- for God so loved the world that he GAVE his only son, 2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul says- Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (have you ever been at a loss for words over a gift! Scripture is!)
- The Glory of the Christmas message is also expressed in the fact that it is a gift of grace.
- There are many reasons to give someone gifts
o Sometimes as rewards – but nothing we have done has earned us anything but the wrath of God
o Sometimes we give gifts in return for what someone has given us – called exchanging gifts – but we have given our creator nothing but our rebellion and sin
o So, the amazing thing about the gift of our Savior is that it is given only by grace – in spite of us
You know the Shepherds understood the glory of God’s gift and we see that in their reaction (they did 3 things)
1. Luke 2:16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (the shepherds would not have hurried off to find a savior unless they thought they needed one)
2. Luke 2:17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, (the shepherds couldn’t help talk about this event)
3. Luke 2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (they would return to being shepherds but they were not the same shepherds they were before that first Christmas- in fact they were the first new testament Christians)
Test our reaction to God’s gift
- Is it what you expected? Is this what you would anticipate what God would do to this world?
- Is this a gift you like, is this something you would desire above all else?
- Do you appreciate the gift?
- Gifts are incredible tests for us. Gift tests us.
o Great works of art or great pieces of music
o Our appreciation of something always tells us something about us. Do
o Do you understand the cost of this gift?
§ Father, Son and Holy Spirit from eternity enjoying perfect fellowship. Cost the Father to send his Son to a sinful, painful, word. And to the son.
o Do we see the need of this gift?
§ Shepherds did
§ If you don’t see your need for Christ - if you don’t see the humility of Christmas you won’t appreciate the glory
§ Do you want to know more about this gift – consider Christianity Explored starting January 7th.
o Do you understand what this gift of God provides for us?
§ It provides exactly we need and immensely more
§ Do you understand that because God so loved the world, that he send his only begotten son that who
§ Free Pardon, deliverance from the punishment we deserve
§ Reconciles us to himself, restored to the favor of God, Adopted, new life,
§ Augustine – son of God became a Son of Man so that the sinful sons of men might become sons of God – and so we are heirs of God and Joint heirs with Christ
§ John the Baptist called Jesus the man sent from above – and he was sent from above to raise us up
§ At first sight the package seems a small one but as you open it up and see that in the incarnation – in God becoming Man in giving us everything we need and more!
We have seen the glory and humility of that first Christmas – do you know there will be a second Christmas when Christ comes again – and we as God’s people will fill the role of redeemed Shepherds and Angels – 1 Peter 1:7
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
There is a second revelation of Christ – and our worship of God, our walk of faith will be sung with the Angel’s – Luke 2:14
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Lord Jesus, I recognize that you are God and have the right to control my life. I have rebelled against you, sinning in my thoughts, my words and my actions; sometimes unconsciously, sometimes deliberately. I am sorry for the way I have lived and ask you to forgive me. As best I can, I want to turn away from rebellion and obey you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the cross. Please come into my life and take complete control of it. Amen.
2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!