TEXT: Luke 2:1-20
TOPIC: The Message from the Manger
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point
December 24, 2006
When William Gladstone was Prime Minister of Great Britain, he was asked by Queen Victoria, “What do you consider to be the world’s most important book?” He quickly answered, “The Holy Bible.” She then asked, “And what do you believe to be the most beautiful part of that book?” Again he answered quickly, “the Christmas story according to Dr. Luke.”
It is again today that we turn to that most important second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Stand with me to honor the reading of God’s word, Luke 2.
Luke 2:1-20, KJV
1And 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.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And 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:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And 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.
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Three times in these twenty verses, this astute historian speaks of a manger, (Luke 2:7, 12, 16). The Greek word phatne refers both to a stall or manger from which cattle were fed. Several of the Christian fathers assert that the manger itself was actually a cave.”
Here’s a staggering thought, the place where the King of Glory first opened His eyes and uttered His first cries was not in the ivory halls of a king’s palace, nor in the satin-laced bedchamber of a princess. Our Lord’s first human glimpse of our world was in a dark, dingy, damp and dismal barn. The stench of animals filled His nostrils and His ears heard the bittersweet sound of His mother Mary as she sobbed with both pain and joy.
God speaks to us in the simplest of ways. In this unique and unlikely maternity ward, God spoke and still speaks to our world and to us today. The greatest message the world has ever received is what I have chosen to call The Message from the Manger.
I. THE MESSAGE FROM THE MANGER OFFERS ABUNDANT JOY, Luke 2:10
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Joy burst across the evening skies of Bethlehem like fireworks on the 4th of July. But it wasn’t the rockets red glare that brought this message of abundant joy to a darkened world. It was the babe in the manger.
Isaiah spoke of this seven centuries earlier. Isaiah 9, The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined……….6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.
God sent this joyous message to the shepherds, but not to just any shepherds. These shepherds were the religious outcasts of their day. These represent the poor, the recluse, the condemned of society.
God also sent this message of joy to the sheep, but not to just any sheep, but to sacrificial sheep. These sheep were being kept for the temple sacrifices when they would be offered up as sin offerings on behalf of the people.
It was as if God were saying to these sacrificial sheep, your time is drawing to a close. Time to die no more, for the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world has come.
That is the good news that brings great joy!
T/S – Not only is the message from the manger a message of abundant joy, but it is also a message that offers absolute salvation, Luke 2:11.
II. THE MESSAGE FROM THE MANGER OFFERS ABSOLUTE SALVATION, Luke 2:11
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
The Jewish people had long awaited the coming of their Messias to free them of their oppressors. It has always been someone, the sons of Anak, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and now the hated Romans. The Jews have always been an oppressed people!
Into this oppressed and depressed generation our Savior was born. Galatians 4:4-5, 4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
APPLICATION: From our own world of oppression or depression, the message of the manger still resounds loudly. Jesus still saves!
You may think, “But I’m not oppressed. I live in a land of freedom. I’ve never been enslaved!” Well, you may be and not know it.
Everyday many of us are enslaved by sin. Enslaved to greed; locked up by jealousy, cast into prison by hatred and bitterness; tortured by lust. To find true freedom we must turn to the manger scene in Bethlehem.
ILLUSTRATION – I want you to do something this Christmas to remind you that the message of the manger offers absolute salvation.
Every time you see a Christmas tree I want you to remember something. Remember this. Remember that the tree that was used to bring salvation to mankind wasn’t an evergreen. It was a cross.
For far too many people, the true gift of Christmas is still under the tree. That tree is the cross, and that gift is the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
T/S – The Message from the manger offers one last word,
III. THE MESSAGE FROM THE MANGER OFFERS ALL-ENCOMPASSING PEACE, Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.
EXPLANATION – The angels sang “peace on earth good will toward men.” Someone has well said that peace never comes before salvation, but it always follows it. The more perfect rendering of this verse would be “peace toward men of good will.”
Some might wonder if it is possible to have peace in our world today. We speak of peace in a world that is riddled by war. Newsweek magazine reported that our world currently has 68 warring conflicts. Since World War II, there have been over 300 wars fought on our planet.
This doesn’t touch the number of killings and murders that take the lives of countless tens of thousands everyday in our world. For example, did you know that in N.Y. City, every minute someone losses their life. In the U.S. alone, 5000 people die every day. The number 2 cause of death among young people is suicide.
How can there be peace in the face of such overwhelming pain and death? The answer is simple. There can be no peace until we know Jesus.
Jesus’ peace is an individual peace, but it is also an international peace. He offers His peace to one person at a time. But whole nations will one day bow at the feet of the Prince of Peace.
May the fragrance of the Season
Wreath round your heart today;
May you find a tiny margin
Of time in which to pray.
Let the message from the manger
Bless you, lead you, guide you still;
Join the choir of heavenly angels
Sing, “Peace on earth…good will.”