Christmas Sunday 2011
Luke 2:11, “He’s been born!”
Imagine the scene. Out on the barren hills just outside of Bethlehem – a little town far overshadowed by its nearby neighbor Jerusalem – lie a band of shepherds. Although we typically celebrate Christmas in the wintertime, we don’t really know when this all took place. It’s possible that the shepherds would not have been staying outside with their sheep in the dead of winter – but historical evidence suggests that the flocks outside of Bethlehem were specifically used for Temple sacrifices, and their shepherds would have been outside with them year-round. Thus it’s certainly possible that the birth took place in winter-time; we just can’t say with certainty.
Regardless of the date, there came a certain night that was unlike any other night these shepherds had ever experienced! Here they were, doing what they normally did at the night when all of a sudden, an angel of heaven stood before them & they were surrounded by the brightness of the glory of God. … The angel gives his message and then the curtain between heaven & earth is pulled back as a multitude of angels appear & start to praise God, saying (singing) “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth pace, goodwill toward men!” Amazing revelation!
The 1st evangelistic sermon of the gospel era was brief & to the point, as given by the angel. Yet it is absolutely packed with truth. In his few words, the angel told the shepherds of the incarnation – the promise – the Savior – and the Lord. He told them of the greatest tidings of great joy because he told them of Jesus!
Luke 2:11 (NKJV)
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
- Just in the announcement, there is grace! The shepherds were outcast people – the lowest of the social classes. They dealt with uncleanness all day long, and they never had the opportunity to go to the temple for cleansing. People normally did not want to hang around shepherds all day – they were pushed to the edges of society. Yet where does the angelic host declare the birth of the Son of God? Among the shepherds.
- Have you felt despised & rejected? God has good news for you today! God offers His grace.
- Going to take this phrase by phrase – there is much to unpack here!
For there is born to you … The incarnation
- The word became flesh. Almighty infinite God became a man. John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  The Son of God (the Word) is not less than God; He IS God. Theologically, we understand that Jesus is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one God, and God is unified within Himself. At the same time, there are different Persons within the One Godhead that are revealed: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. None are less than fully God, none ought to be confused for the other, yet there is absolute unity in substance and power among them. (It can be confusing for our understanding, but that ought to be expected when we’re talking about the infinite eternal God!) What is so unique about Christ is that GOD became man. The Creator became as His creation. It would be amazing enough for the Creator to become like His creation in some form, but that’s not what happened. The Creator became His creation. “The Word became flesh…” Think of an adult human becoming a dog & then multiply the intensity by infinite billions. God actually became man. This speaks of…
- The humility of Christ. The grand condescension that comes with God putting on flesh and dwelling among US. It would seem somewhat natural for God to become an angel, and come in the form of an angel. And in fact, that’s exactly what God the Son did prior to His incarnation in Bethlehem. Many times throughout the OT, God the Son appears as “the Angel of the Lord,” looking like an angel, but having the power and authority of God Himself. Yet when God the Son became Jesus, He demonstrated infinite humility in His descent from heaven to be among & one of us. Philippians 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 bondservant, 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 had the infinite glory of God in heaven, with no needs at all. Yet when He came incarnate, He experienced for the first time hunger & thirst, cold & heat, uncomfortable sleep, the need to go to the bathroom, and much more. Although the Bible never specifically tells us, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Jesus experienced the “normal” inconveniences of life like upset stomach (bad hummus!), blisters on His feet (bad sandals!), cold, flu, etc. Jesus even experienced temptation to sin – an amazing thought in itself! In heaven, what temptation does God face? None. There’s nothing He desires that He doesn’t automatically receive. There’s no action He cannot take. Yet as a man, Jesus could be (and was) tempted to actually commit sin. (Though He never gave into temptation.) THAT is humility! And He did it for the glory of God & for our salvation. 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." 
- Literal birth. Mary & Joseph. Didn’t appear out of nowhere – didn’t have an angelic-like appearance. This was a real baby born to a real mother and laid in a real manger. As much as Jesus is indeed God, He is also Man. This is what theologians call the “hypostatic union.” It explains the fact that Jesus has two entirely different natures (Divine & Human), yet absolutely bound together and inseparable. Once God the Son became incarnate, we can no more separate His humanity from His divinity as we could separate our own father’s & mother’s DNA in our own cellular structure. Once Jesus became a physical man, He stayed a physical man – He is a physical man today seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Yet that does not take away from His Godhood. Jesus is quite plainly God. He’s been God from eternity past & will continue to be God in eternity future – simply stepping out of heaven & putting on human flesh can never change that. There may be times that He empties Himself of His divine prerogative, but He never once stopped being God. Literal God had a literal birth & became literal man to save us.
- Miraculous birth. This wasn’t just any king, like every other king that had been born of the line of David. This was a miraculous birth. The Holy Spirit had overcome a young virgin girl, and Mary gave birth to Christ Jesus. Everything about the birth was soaked in the supernatural, ranging from the separate announcements to Mary & Joseph – to the revelation given to Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) – to the star shining directly overhead as a massive birth announcement – to the angelic proclamation to the shepherds – to the prophetic revelation given to Simeon & Anna – even all the way to the point many months (to years) later when the family was visited by the Magi & Joseph was warned to flee. This was a birth that was absolutely surrounded by miraculous occurrences. And note that the miracles were both public and private. Sure, Mary could have made up a false story, but Joseph had no reason to do so…yet he had his own vision. Beyond the family, the shepherds and magi had no reason to lie. And anyone in the vicinity would have been able to disprove the existence of a supernatural star, yet Matthew’s account stands.
- Jesus stands apart from the self-proclaimed religious leaders around the world. The miracles surrounding His birth could have been publicly verified even by His enemies. Jesus stands apart from self-proclaimed political leaders around the world in that He was miraculously set apart by God even at His birth.
- Prophesied birth. Adam & Eve. This had been expected from the Garden. Genesis 3:15, "(15) And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”"  Since the dawn of humanity, a physical child was expected (to be born of a virgin) that would bruise the head of Satan and reverse the curse of the fall. A physical birth of a virgin-born Messiah was absolutely essential, or God would have been a liar.
this day in the city of David … The promise
- Jesus came at just the right time. The fullness of time. Galatians 4:4–5, "(4) But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." 
- Expected from the prophesies related to the genealogical lines. The Messiah was to come from the line of Abraham (Gen 12:3), the line of Isaac (Gen 17:19), the line of Jacob (Gen 28:4), the line of Judah (Gen 49:10), the line of David (2 Sam 7:13-14), but not of the line of Jeconiah (Jer 22:30). Once the monarchy has passed, and the people were back in the land after the Babylonian captivity, they were eagerly awaiting the promised Messiah. It had been 400 years since God had spoken to them through the prophets – the time was ripe!
- Expected from the prophesies of Daniel. Daniel had very specifically written of the time that Messiah the Prince would present Himself in the temple: 69 7-year periods (483 years, using 360 day calendar) starting from the command to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. (Dan 9:25-26) Some scholars date this precisely to the day that Jesus walked through the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. For the Messiah to present Himself as an adult at just the right time meant that He needed to be born at just the right time – the fullness of time.
- Came according to the prophesies relating to the 2nd appearance of Elijah. The words of the OT end with a promise of God to send Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal 4:5). Of course, we know this role was fulfilled in John the Baptist. For John the Baptist to come in the role of Elijah meant that the Messiah had to be close at hand – and He was! God timed it perfectly.
- Looking back historically, there’s no better time that Jesus could have come. Jesus fulfilled the need for sacrifice before the temple of sacrifice was destroyed for 2000 years. If Jesus had come any earlier, He would not have fit the Messianic prophecies of Daniel & others. Because He came during the Pax Romana, the message of the gospel had the perfect opportunity to spread. Because He came in an era prior to modern technological advances, His miracles could not be written off & denied. … Absolutely perfect timing of God!
- Jesus came in just the right place. A little bitty town by the name of Bethlehem. Bethlehem probably gets romanticized through our carols far more than what it actually was. Historically, it was just a little town a few miles out from Jerusalem – no one really paid it too much attention…no one that is, except God. Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”  Why Bethlehem? This was according to the Davidic covenant. God had promised to build David an everlasting house (2 Sam 7:13-14), and Jesus is the fulfillment of the Kingly line.
- Think about the amazing way that God works in all of this! Joseph & Mary were the right people, but they lived in the wrong city for the Messiah to be born. Granted, Jesus would have been the Son of David no matter what city He was born in, but to properly fulfill prophecy Jesus needed to be born in Bethlehem. So God used a half-pagan paranoid king following the orders of a fully pagan Roman Caesar to forcibly bring Joseph & his pregnant betrothed wife to Bethlehem. Who in their right mind would begin a nearly 90 mile trip by foot/animal with a pregnant woman? Yet God used circumstances beyond Joseph’s control to bring them to the perfect city to fulfill prophecy.
- If God can use something like that in Joseph’s & Mary’s life to such amazing results (the birth of the Messiah!), surely God can use our own circumstances in the same way. How many things are going on that are beyond our control? Perhaps even forced upon us by someone who seemingly is working against us. Yet God can even use THAT for His infinite glory!
- Jesus came in just the right way. Again, the virgin birth was prophesied from Genesis to Isaiah. Every single prophecy that applied to His first coming was absolutely fulfilled.
- If it was fulfilled exactly with His first coming, we can be sure it will be fulfilled with His 2nd coming as well!
a Savior … The Savior
- We need saving. This is the 1st thing we need to understand! The Jewish shepherds were well-accustomed to their need for a sacrifice for sin – especially shepherds that tended the flocks for use at the temple. But today we’ve tended to lose sight of the idea that we NEED saving. Of course, if we don’t think we need to be saved, it makes little sense why God would send a Savior. We need to understand our need before we understand the good news.
- God’s perfect
- We’re not
- We’re guilty
- It’s because of our guilt that we need salvation! We need to be saved from the earned consequences of our sin against the Almighty Creator God. It’s not that God is vindictive, it’s that He’s absolutely just & righteous. God must punish sin wherever it’s found, or He wouldn’t be good. So what is God to do? He absolutely must pour out His wrath on our sin – but He also loves us greatly as His creation. Are we doomed? No – God had a plan from before the foundations of the world, which is what the angel revealed in the skies over Bethlehem.
- God sent a Savior. Jesus is our Savior – our Deliverer! We were in desperate need of salvation, and that’s exactly what God provided in Christ Jesus. We were drowning & about to be overcome in our sin, and God Himself reaches out and offers to pick us up out of our certain death, if we would but respond to Him in faith. … What does it mean that Jesus is our Savior?
- Jesus saves us from death. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but Jesus gives us the victory (1 Cor 15:56-57). Jesus is the Resurrection & the life – whoever believes in Him shall never die & the one who dies will live (Jn 11:25). Every man & woman will one day face death, but those who have received the Savior have been delivered from its consequences!
- Jesus saves us from the power of sin. Sin no longer has any mastery over us – we’ve been freed from sin! (Rom 6:7) In the name of Christ, we have been washed from our old sins, sanctified unto God, and justified as righteous (1 Cor 6:11). In Christ, we are new creations – the old things have passed away & all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17). Because of His work, we can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit & not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:16).
- Jesus saves us for eternal life. We are not saved from eternal death and hell to exist in a meaningless limbo, or simply decay in the grave – we are saved for eternal life with God! Whosoever believes in Christ will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Right now, Jesus is preparing a place for us with His Father, that where He is, we might be also (John 14:3). This is a place where we will dwell with God forever and experience no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Rev 21:3-4). Heaven is a very real place, and God’s desire is that all men would come to repentance & experience it with Him through Jesus Christ!
- Jesus saves us for abundant life with God. Our relationship with God is not only future – it begins right NOW! Jesus specifically told us that He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We can know the joy of our salvation as we walk with Christ (Ps 51:12). We can know the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7). We can know the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Cor 12:9). We can know the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). We can know what it’s like to walk as a child of God the Father, and a joint-heir with Christ (Rom 8:16-17). There are amazing promises in this life for those who know Jesus as the Savior!
- BTW – notice when it was that God sent His Son as a Savior: while we were in the midst of our sin. The world desperately needed a Savior, but they/we had done nothing to deserve a Savior to be sent to us. This is the amazing love of God! (Rom 5:8) While we were still enemies in rebellion against God, God sent His Son to be incarnate among us and be our Savior. From the moment He was born, Jesus was already the Savior of the world – even if the world had no idea at the time.
- How important was the birth in Bethlehem to our salvation? Without the humble 1st coming, we would never have a Savior. God the Son cannot save without first becoming a human. Jesus had to live life as a human to be able to be a perfect substitution for us. Sure, there were other sacrifices under the OT law, but the blood of bulls and goats could never truly take away sin. They could only temporarily cover over people’s sin and point to the need of a greater, final sacrifice. That was the entire point of the 1st coming! Jesus HAD to become incarnate man in order that a perfect man would die a death for all men & women. And Jesus was indeed perfect! He was tempted in all ways like we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15) Although Jesus faced everything we face in our daily struggles, Jesus never once gave in and faltered under sin. He was a perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish. This would have been impossible if Jesus did not first come in humility, as the Suffering Servant. Yet He did! And because He did, He could offer up Himself as the sufficient sacrifice for all mankind. His one offering at the cross forever perfected those who put their faith in Him. (Heb 10:14)
who is Christ the Lord … The Lord
- The Savior is the anointed chosen one of God. “Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah” which simply means “anointed one.” Priests & kings were anointed because they were set apart for service unto God. The anointing was a symbol showing the presence of the Holy Spirit upon the person. … Jesus is the anointed one of God. He was chosen to serve. Jesus serves as a prophet (Deut 18) – Jesus serves as a Priest (Heb 5) – Jesus serves as the Savior & all that is entailed with that. Isaiah prophesied about Him, saying that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon Jesus, anointing Him to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Isa 49:8-9) There is none like Christ Jesus – He is truly unique & set apart, anointed by God to seek and to save the lost.
- The Savior is the King of Israel. Beyond the idea of anointing, the Messiah was uniquely thought of as the King. Of course, Jesus is both King & Priest (Heb 5). His sacrifice upon the cross demonstrates His priestly role, but the world is yet to see Jesus as the king…yet we will! Jesus is indeed the King of Israel and will reign over all of the earth. [Millennium]
- In Jesus’ 1st coming, He may not have reigned as King, but that doesn’t change the fact that He still WAS the king the whole time. Even in Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem, Jesus was still born as the King. When He ministered to the masses, touched the lepers, endured the scorn of the scribes, and suffered upon the cross, Jesus was still the King the whole time. What king ever willingly suffered on behalf of his subjects? … Yet King Jesus did so for you!
- Because Jesus is the King, He has authority. He has been given authority over all heaven and earth (Matt 28:18), but more specifically, as the King, Jesus has authority over you & me. At its core, sin is rebellion – treason against the Lord God of the Universe. Jesus is the King – God in human flesh with the right to rule and command all the earth, and especially those who recognize Him as Lord & have received Him as such. What Jesus says, goes. When Jesus tells us to forgive, we are to forgive. When Jesus tells us to believe & be baptized, we do & are. When Jesus commands us to make disciples of all the nations, we do. Why? Because He’s the KING. We are simply His servants – graciously given the opportunity to serve Him because we have been saved through His blood.
- The Savior is God Himself. There were many kings over Israel, but there is only one God. This King that was laid in a manger was none other than God in the flesh. He is “the Lord.”
- Have you recognized Jesus as the Lord God? Sometimes it’s easy for us to ignore a baby. Babies are cute, but they do not demand our allegiance. Jesus is the Lord God Himself! Recognize Him as such…
It was a simple statement from the angel, but oh the importance of what was proclaimed to the shepherds that night! They were told of:
- The incarnation
- The promise
- The Savior
- The Lord
How tragic it would have been for the shepherds to have heard this message, witnessed the glorious host of the heavenly choir singing, and then simply shrug & go back to their business-as-usual. How inconceivable! Of course they had to go and investigate for themselves – what other option did they have?! If God indeed had become incarnate, offering salvation according to all of the promises of the Bible, that was something that simply could not be ignored. Eternal life rested upon the issue, and they had to see if it was true!
Yet sadly, many people today will hear the same message from the angel, shrug their shoulders & turn away, not giving the Christmas miracle a second thought. God forbid that would be any of us! The fact that God would clothe Himself in human flesh to provide our salvation is not something that can be confined to a trite Christmas card – it’s not something that can be whitewashed away with Santa Claus – it is the powerful proclamation of God & concrete demonstration of His glory and great love for mankind. We MUST acknowledge it, go to the manger for ourselves & see Christ with eyes of faith. To ignore Him is to do so at our own eternal peril!
As a believer in Christ, may this Christmas (and every Christmas) be a renewing of awe and wonder. Be amazed again at the grandeur of the love, humility, faithfulness, and glory of God. Allow yourself to be overjoyed at the fact that Jesus came to seek YOU out and provide for your salvation. Free yourself of the stress of gift-giving to be thankful for the best gift ever given: the Lord Jesus Christ, and give worship & praise to His name.
If you have not yet received of the forgiveness of Jesus, may this be the day that you do! Jesus is indeed the Savior. He’s already provided for your salvation. His birth among the stench of the barn animals was only to lead to the suffering of the cross. Thankfully He did it – it’s done. He’s risen from the grave, and there remains no more sacrifice to ever be done. Yet you must receive of His sacrifice, or you cannot experience His forgiveness. The work is done, but you still must respond. Turn to Him today: the Savior, Christ the Lord.