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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 25, 2011
The Birth of Our Savior
Merry Christmas to all. While we miss the many who are away that have traveled out of town to celebrate Christmas with their family, we also rejoice for those of you who are here as our guests today to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We live in very strange times. Christmas is an official Federal holiday, but I read in the news on Monday that those in Congress are prohibited this year from wishing anyone “Merry Christmas” using any official government vehicle – mail, email, website, etc. They also may not use the colors associated with Christmas. The Senate is not under this prohibition because it only a House rule, though it is probably only a matter of time before the Grinch gets there too. Since there is within me a certain amount of rebellion against such foolishness, I think if I were in Congress I would send out the following letter and website post to my constituents.
It is with great regret that I cannot wish you either a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year since such has been prohibited by the House committee that has oversight of these matters. I also regret that in this communication to you I cannot use any of the colors that might remind you that this is a holiday season in which Christians celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ since that has also been prohibited. I have chosen to send this informational notice on white paper with black ink with the wish that it will both keep me out of trouble and convey the intent of my communication. Since black is the absence of color, that should satisfy the Grinches on the House Franking Committee. Since it has to be contrasted with something to be legible, I have chosen white since it is neutral and the greatest contrast to black for all colors are reflected by it. You may choose whichever colors you wish from it. However, I may suggest that you consider that the Federal Government has decreed an official holiday at this time of year in recognition of the birth of a particular individual who is described as coming to be the “light of the world” and one day will return to Earth in white robes on a white horse.
I do extend and express to those of you who have some religious faith my sincere and profound desire that whatever celebrations you hold within the next thirty day period are filled with joy, hope, peace and love. For those of you who are not religious, may you have a pleasant time celebrating or not celebrating as the case may be whatever you think of the significance or insignificance of any particular day. For those on the House committee monitoring this message, may your days be filled with emotions in keeping with your view of life. (All expressions of pleasant desires for others are void where prohibited by law).
Indeed, we live in strange times. Even stranger than the increasingly bizarre rules coming from government agencies are the practices so many church are adopting in order not to offend anyone it would seem except God. I have become aware that there are churches which consider themselves to be evangelical that have cancelled their regular worship services today so they would not interfere with the celebration of Christmas. That may seem as odd as it can get, but that is really only in keeping with the man centered gospel proclaimed at such churches. Salvation for them is not about the glory of God, but about man having a better life. The seeker sensitive or emergent mentality that controls such groups would rather offend God by perverting the gospel and the purpose of life than offend men by telling them the truth. Ultimately, their worship services are more about themselves than about giving honor, praise and glory to God.
I mention all of this only to make a greater emphasis on the point of my sermon this morning. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our savior. The major focus of the world is on the story of His birth. A baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes has been made into a romantic scene that offends no one except the ACLU – the Anti-Christian Legal Union. Our focus as Christians is on the person who was born and His purpose in coming. The world was and is in need of a savior for it is under the curse of sin and condemnation of God. Jesus came to save the world from sin.
The Coming of the Angel of the Lord – Luke 2:8-9
Turn to Luke 2. The first seven verses recount the story of the birth of Jesus. They set the time of the birth as at the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. They set the location of the birth as Bethlehem of Judea, the city of David for Joseph was of the house and family of David. They set the place of birth as in a stable for there was no room in the inn, and a manger was used for a bed for the newborn boy.
The next 13 verses describe the angel coming to announce the birth to the shepherds who were out in the nearby fields watching their flocks and their reaction to the announcement. They took to heart what the angel said and went into Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph and Jesus there just as they had been told. The shepherds told them about the angels and then left there telling others and praising God for what they had seen and heard. I want us to concentrate this morning on what the angel said to the Shepherds.
8 And in the same region there were [some] shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.
As I have pointed out in our study of Daniel, the appearance of an angel is frightening to a human unless that angel has disguised himself to appear as an ordinary man. Understandably, the shepherds were terribly frightened when the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them with the glory of the Lord shining about him. Any of us would be too. The angel had to calm them down which he did by telling them not to be afraid because He had good news. Certainly if an angel is telling you he has good news for you, it would have to be the most wonderful kind of good news, for angels are messengers from God, and so this was good news coming from God. This was also good news with great significance. For while there is always a happy element to any good news, this was even more so for it was news of a great joy, and it was not limited to just the shepherds. This was good news of a great joy that would be for all the people.
The Savior, who is Christ, the Lord – Luke 2:11
The angel announces this good news in verse 11. “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The birth of a child is always good news, but how is it that the birth of this child would be good news of a great joy for all the people? Let us carefully examine the announcement of the angel so that we make sure we understand its significance.
A Savior: A generic announcement that a savior had been born would have been good news b
ut may or may not have been news of a great joy for all people. That would depend on his purpose. A savior is someone that saves you from something. The significance of the savior is directly related to the danger from which he saves, and the means by which he saves, and the extent to which he saves. For example, it is good news when you talk with a tax consultant and they save you money by teaching you about the tax code and using all the deductions for which your eligible. It is even better when you find out you have been saved from the trouble you are having with the tax collector because someone else has paid your taxes for you. That is a great joy for you, but it does not have affect on all people. It would be a great joy to all people only if wasteful spending by the government was eliminated and a corresponding a tax reduction for everyone.
There is also a huge difference between someone who catches you and saves you from injuring your knee when you stumble and someone who saves you by swimming out and rescuing you from drowning. The first is good news, but the latter is a great joy for you and your friends. Of more significance is the solider that risks his life and stops an enemy’s plans to use weapons of mass destruction. That is a great joy to all the people.
An undefined savior, even one that would be the cause of great joy for all people, could have referred to many things. A great military leader like Joshua that would defeat those who were evil. A great king like Solomon who would rule the people well with justice and equity. A great high priest like Ezra who would teach the people the ways of God. A great inventor like Jubal who created musical instruments or Tubal-cain who discovered the means of forging metals. There had to be more information in order to identify this savior and the reason he would bring great joy to all the people.
The first identifying clue the angel gave to the shepherds is that this savior was born in the city of David. While that potentially could have been just a reference to location of birth so they could later find him, the location itself is significant. There are two places referred to in the Scriptures as the city of David. 1 Chronicles 11:5 records that the stronghold in Jerusalem that David captured from the Jebusites was thereafter called the city of David. This location is also called the stronghold of Zion. It was where David built a house for himself and his family in Jerusalem. It is also the place where many of the kings of Judah were buried.
The other city of David is identified here in Luke 2:4 as Bethlehem in Judea which was the ancestral home of the house and family of David (1 Samuel 17:12). Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” was a name used for cities in other places, so this particular Bethlehem is also identified in the Hebrew Scriptures as Bethlehem Ephrathah since that is the name of the clan that had settled there and which David’s family was a part.
The shepherd’s would have understood the reference to being born in the city of David as meaning that this savior could be of the lineage of David and possibly even the one fulfilling the prophecy in Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah , [Too] little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” Any doubt about this was removed when the angel specifically said that this savior was Christ, the Lord.
The Christ: The term “Christ” is a Greek word which means “anointed.” It is the word that is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, for the term “Messiah” which also means “anointed.” This savior was the individual that had been promised from long ago that would come as the savior of Israel.
There was an expectation that the Messiah would bring salvation on several levels. At the time the angel came to the shepherds in the field, the nation of Israel was under the control of the Romans. The Jews had a great hope and desire to see the Messiah come to save them from the political oppression that had been upon them to various degrees since the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. Many of the prophecies connected with His coming and reign speak of the nation breaking its bondage to other nations and being free again.
Isaiah 9:2-4 “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. 3 Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.” Jeremiah 30:8 adds, “And it shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck, and will tear off their bonds; and strangers shall no longer make them their slaves. 9 ‘But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” Many other prophets also spoke of their future deliverance. There was also the expectation that the coming of Messiah would also bring great prosperity for Israel. They would be saved from want for Messiah would care for them and they would have an abundance. Ezekiel 34:23-24 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24 “And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. One of the most expressive passages of this abundance is Amos 9:13 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine, And all the hills will be dissolved.” The harvest will be so great they will have not even finished bringing it in from the fields when they will be plowing to plant the next crop. (See also Isaiah 60:4-5 and Joel 3:18).
There was also an expectation that the coming of Messiah would bring about an enlightenment of all the nations. He would bring about justice and world peace with Jerusalem as the center. They would be saved from the ignorance and injustice that had plagued mankind since the beginning. Isaiah 60:1-3 “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. 3 “And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” Psalm 22:27-28 states, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations will worship before Thee. 28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, And He rules over the nations.” Zechariah 8:20-22 adds, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘[It will] yet [be] that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. 21 ‘And the inhabitants of one will go to another saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go.” 22 ‘So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.”
These three expectations were not met by Jesus so He was rejected as the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish religious and their followers. However, they ignored some additional very important prophecies concerning the Messiah and what He would do and so could not understand how Jesus fulfilled them and will fulfill the rest of the prophecies in the future when He returns. The same is still true among the unbelieving today.
There are several important prophecies that were missed then and are still often missed today in Daniel. We find two of these in Daniel 9 which we studied a couple of weeks ago. First, Daniel 9:25 specifically states that the Messiah would come
within the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks time period which started with the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This means that Messiah could only come within a limited time frame which is long past, so those who reject Jesus and are looking for another Messiah are looking in vain. No one else can fulfill the prophecy. Second, Daniel 9:26 states that after that period “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.” This means that it was told before hand that Messiah would not accomplish all that was prophesied about Him at that time, but would do it at a later time according to Daniel’s prophecies. It would be after He had made a complete destruction of “the one who makes desolate.” The vision in Daniel 2 of the stone that would crush the image and then grow to fill the earth in an eternal kingdom would be at a later time after the Messiah had been cut off. The vision in Daniel 7 of the Ancient of Days sitting on His throne and judging the world and the Son of Man being given dominion would occur at a later time after the Messiah had been cut off and then later destroyed the boastful horn. (See: Understanding the Vision and the Seventy Weeks & The Vision of the Four Beasts)
Admittedly, it would have been confusing to see how the prophecies of a military, political and economic savior could be reconciled with one that would be cut off and have nothing. Yet, from Daniel’s prophecies it should have been recognized that there would have to be two distinct periods of activity for the promised Messiah. The first would end and would appear to be failure. This would be followed by a later second period in which Messiah would conquer and set up His eternal kingdom.
The Savior from Sin: However, the first coming of Messiah was not a failure. He accomplished exactly what He had been sent by the Father to do. This work of Messiah is the most significant prophecy that was ignored then and is still ignored today. It is also the work that best defines what the angel meant that the child born in the city of David was the savior that would bring great joy to all the people.
The prophecy in Isaiah 53 is the most detailed, but the promise goes all the way back to prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that there would come from the seed of the woman one who would crush the serpent’s head. It is the promise given to Abraham that through him all the families of earth would be blessed. There would be someone in the future that be able to deal with the curse of sin. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 describes the suffering servant of God that would be despised and forsaken of men, who would be oppressed and crushed and be poured out in death as the sacrifice for sin. Isaiah 53:4-6 explains, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being [fell] upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” Verses 11 & 12 add, “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see [it] and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.”
This was the purpose of the first coming of Messiah. Just as it would have been hard to reconcile Messiah being cut off and having nothing with the prophecies that He would be a military, political and economic savior, so it would have been hard to understand how this prophecy of His suffering and sacrifice would fit in. Yet, it is really the central purpose of His coming. That is what the angel told Joseph.
You will recall that after Joseph found out that Mary was with child, he did not believe her and was going to put her away privately. An angel had to go to Joseph to convince him that the story was true. Matthew 1:20-21 records, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins .” The child was to be given a name that reflect His purpose. The name Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh is the Savior.” The central purpose of Messiah was to redeem man from his sin so that he could be forgiven and reconciled with God. That is exactly what Jesus did.
Jesus was born without human father, so He was not under Adam’s curse. Though He was tempted in all points as any human, He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He then willingly gave His life as the payment for sin by His death on the cross. His resurrection from the dead proved His claims about Himself, that the sacrifice had been accepted and that His promises are true. Jesus can forgive sin and grant eternal life to all who believe and follow Him. That is the hope of every true Christian. That is good news without parallel. It is the cause of great joy for all the people.
The Lord: One last thing the angel said to the shepherds needs to be pointed out about this child born in the city of David. He is the savior, who is Christ the Lord. This is a truth that is often missed even today even among those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The term lord can be used as a title of respect similar to “sir.” That is the way that the women at the well used it John 4 when she first met Jesus. However, the term Lord is also used as a title of God. It is the term used to translate all the Hebrew scriptures in which that occurs. It is used that way extensively in both the gospels and epistles. When the term Lord is joined with the title of Christ, it is a reference to the deity of the Messiah.
Any man can be comfortable with Jesus as a baby for a baby is not a threat. The threat comes with the identity of that baby as something more than just an ordinary child. Herod was threatened because Jesus had the proper lineage and was the rightful king. The ACLU files lawsuits against manger scenes because it represents the beginning of the story of Jesus and God’s intervention into human affairs. What they and others are afraid of is that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection prove that they will be held accountable by God for their own sin. They do not want any reminder of that truth, a truth they are under the delusion they can make go away by denying it. There are also the many that like the story of Jesus in the manger and may even respect Him as a religious figure and teacher of ethics. However, their denial that Jesus is the savior, Christ the Lord leaves them under God’s condemnation for their sin.
Many people like the idea that Jesus can save us from Hell and so they claim Him as their savior, yet they reject His true identity of also being the Messiah and Lord to whom they need to submit and obey. They want to be saved from Hell, but not from sins they love. They want to escape God’s judgment, but still practice the things that bring them under that judgment. They live under two delusions. First, that salvation’s purpose is escape from Hell instead of escape from sin and its consequences. Salvation in Jesus is not a fire insurance policy; it is those dead in trespasses and sin being resurrected to new life in Him (Romans 6; Ephesians 2).
Second, they think they can have Jesus as their savior without Him being their Lord. In doing so, they reject the identify of the Savior and end up believing in another Jesus and therefore a false g
ospel. Jesus was born the savior, who is Christ the Lord. No other Jesus is or can be the savior from sin and its consequences.
Confirmation – Luke 2:12-14
After announcing Jesus’ birth, the angel gave them additional information by which they could verify the veracity of the announcement and also know this was not some illusion. This in turn was confirmed by even more angels.
12 “And this [will be] a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
It would be normal to wrap a baby in cloths to keep him warm and comfortable, but it was unusual for a baby to be using a manger as a bed. This would be the evidence to them that the angel was telling them the truth and this was a revelation from God. All of this was then confirmed with a multitude of the heavenly hosts – other angels – suddenly appearing and praising God.
The declaration by this host of angels was fitting and the shepherds would have understood its implications. Even shepherds were well trained in the Hebrew scriptures to know that this was a reference to the Messiah for the prophet Isaiah had said, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of [His] government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7)The Messiah would be the Prince of Peace and would bring peace.
The fact that you are here this morning tells me that you understand that Christmas is about Jesus. I pray as well that you also know Jesus as the Savior, Christ the Lord. If not, then talk with me or any of our church leaders and we would be glad to talk with you further, answer your questions and pray with you.
For all that do know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let today be a great day of rejoicing and celebration. The shepherds went and told others what they had seen and heard. Take advantage of every opportunity to tell others the reason for your great joy which is for them as well.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Count how many times the terms Messiah and Christ are used. Discuss with your parents the significance of Jesus being the savior, Christ the Lord
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What strange rules are you aware of that the government has made regarding Christmas celebrations? What are some of the conclusions that can be made about churches that purposefully cancel their worship services because it is Christmas Day? Why were the shepherds out in the fields? What was their reaction to the coming of the angel? What elements determine the significance of a savior? What makes news good? What makes news a great joy? What two different locations are designated as the “city of David”? What was the significance of the angel announcing the place of the baby’s birth? What is the meaning of the term “Christ”? In what ways do the prophecies say that Messiah will bring salvation? Which of these expectations has not yet been fulfilled by Jesus? How do the prophecies in Daniel help us to understand that there must be two separate comings of the Messiah? What was the primary purpose of the first coming of Messiah? Explain what Isaiah 53 tells us about the Messiah? What was the purpose of Jesus’ coming? How does He accomplish that purpose? What is the relationship between that and Isaiah 53? How can it be determined with the term “lord” is just a sign of respect and when it is referring to God? What does it mean when Jesus is called “Lord”? Why? What fear prompts lawsuits against public displays of manger scenes? From what does Jesus save people? Can a Jesus who is not Lord save anyone from sin or Hell? Why or why not? How was the announcement of the angel confirmed as being true? Is the Lord Jesus Christ your savior? If not, what is hindering you from repenting and believing? What do you need to do to overcome that hindrance?
Sermon Notes – 12/4/2011
The Birth of Our Savior – Luke 2:8-14
Strange Government restrictions __________________________________________________________
Bizarre Churches ______________________________________________________________________
A world in need of a Savior ______________________________________________________________
The Coming of the Angel of the Lord – Luke 2:8-9
Vs 1-7 sets the time, location and place which are ____________________________________________
Vs 8-14 is the angelic announcement ______________________________________________________
An angel appearing in glory is _________________
The angel announced God’s good news of a great joy for ________ the people.
The Savior, who is Christ, the Lord – Luke 2:11
The significance of a savior is related to: The ___________ and the means & extent of salvation
An _________________ savior could refer to many things: military leader, king, priest, or even inventor
The City of David
1 Chronicles 11:5 – the stronghold in ______________ captured by David; Mount Zion
Micah 5:2 ____________________________________________________________________________
Christ = “anointed” = ________________
Jesus has not yet met these three expectations and so has been _______________ by many
Additional Messianic prophecies in Daniel
Daniel 9:25 – had to come ___________ the 69 weeks
Daniel 9:26 – would be cut off & have nothing ___________ the 69 weeks
Daniel’s prophecies show two distinct periods in which the Messiah would act.
He would be ___________the first time He will ___________ the second time
The Savior from Sin
Genesis 3:15 _________________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 _____________________________________________________________________
The angel’s message to _____________ – Matthew 1:20-21
Only Jesus has or even could ____
___________ the first part of the Messianic prophecies
Lord when connected to Christ = ___________
An ordinary baby is no threat, but a child born as king and God in human flesh is a threat to __________
Many want to be saved from Hell, but not from the _____________ they love
Salvation is from sin & its consequences; It is not ______________________________
A Jesus who is not Lord is ______________ & cannot save from sin or Hell
Confirmation – Luke 2:12-14
Swaddling clothes are normal, but lying in a _______________ is not.
The _______________________________ confirmed the angel’s announcement
Isaiah 9:6-7 __________________________________________________________________________
If you do not know the ________________ , the Lord Jesus Christ – meet Him today
Rejoice and Celebrate the birth of our ______________ – and tell others His stor
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