Read at beginning of service:
John 1:1-14 (NIV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I want to begin this morning with a short Christmas quiz.
Q: On December 24th, what was Adam?s wife known as?
A: Christmas Eve
Q: What do you call an opinion survey in Alaska?
A: North Poll
Q: When the salt and pepper say, “Hi” to each other, what are they passing on?
A: Season?s Greetings
Q: What do you call a holy man with no change in his pockets?
A: St. Nickleless
Q: What do Spanish sheep say when they wish each other a Merry Christmas?
A: Fleece Navidad
(taken from the message, “A Savior is Born: God?s Christmas Message by Brian Bill”)
One reason things are funny, or punny, is because words are powerful. I want to suggest this morning that the message of the incarnation (what we are to remember in celebrating Christmas), is often misunderstood because we don?t pay enough attention to the words. Many of us get a bit sentimental during this season as we skim right by on a superficial level, missing the magnitude of what happened on that holy night.
I want to begin by asking some questions: “Who was this Jesus? What did He come to do? Why did He come to earth? What child was this?” If we can figure out the answer to these questions, we will come to the conclusion that this message does in fact change everything.
Congregational Singing? “What Child Is This?”
In order to understand more about who this child was, and who Christ is, we?re going to look at Luke 2:10-11:
Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)
10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
One of the best ways to fully understand the identity of Jesus and the impact of His message is to focus on the What, When, Where, Who, Why and the How of Christmas
The “What” of Christmas
As the angel appears to the shepherds who are just out doing their jobs, his first concern is to calm them down because they are terrified. As we learned in my previous message in this series, God wants us to move from fear to faith. The reason the shepherds did not have to tremble was because the angel was about to announce the “what” of Christmas: “I bring you good news?” This phrase means to “announce, declare, or show” the evangel (good news), which is where we get the word “gospel” from.
In the midst of that dark night, and into a world filled with bad news, God is ready to reveal some good news. Notice that this news is “of great joy.” The word “great” here is the word megas in the Greek. It has the idea of “mega joy” or super-sized “cheerfulness.” This good news is exceedingly exciting because God is bringing about the solution to the sin problem. And this good news is “for all the people.” God?s mega message was never intended to just be for one group of people in one part of the world. The “what” of Christmas is God?s good news, which is “joy to the world.”
The “When” of Christmas
Verse 11 begins with the word “Today.” The birth of the baby had taken place that day and now they were given the announcement of His arrival. The timing of the Incarnation was impeccable. Galatians 4:4:
Galatians 4:4 (NIV)
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,
Everything came together at last for God to make a visit by sending His Son to redeem us from our sins. The world system was ready, people were searching for meaning, prophecies were fulfilled and the Christmas characters were prepared. God was in no hurry, but when the time was right, He moved into action! The incarnation (the birth/death/resurrection of Jesus) is the hinge on which the door of history swings. We live on a visited planet and that visit happened at a precise point in history. Friend, you can count on Christmas being true because of this fact. We don?t celebrate a fable; we commemorate the birth in the stable.
The “Where” of Christmas
The “what” is the mega message of amazing news. The “when” was a specific time in history. The “where” of Christmas is in the “town of David.” This is a reference to Bethlehem. This little village was called David?s town because it was where his grandpa Boaz and his father Jesse were from, and where David grew up. In fact, David used to take care of sheep just like the shepherds were doing the night the angel showed up.
It was no accident that the baby was born in Bethlehem. This fulfilled a 700-year old prophecy found in Micah 5:2. After Jesus was born, Matthew 2 tells us that a group of astrologers from the east came to Jerusalem because they wanted to find the one who was born king of the Jews. They had followed a star but now they needed more specific directions. They knew when he was born but they didn?t know exactly where.
Herod, who was the king in Judea, was very disturbed and threatened by the news that a king had been born so he called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the law. He had one very specific question for these experts: “Where is the Christ supposed to be born?”
I want you to notice how quickly they answered his question in Matthew 2:5. They didn?t have to talk about it, or even consult their official documents. No one even needed to open the Old Testament:
Matthew 2:5-6 (NIV)
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”
These religious guys knew it in their heads but they didn?t know Him in their hearts. It?s quite possible to be so close to Jesus and still be far away from His impact. They held the truth but they didn?t allow the truth to hold them! It?s not what you know, but what you do with what you know that makes the difference.
The “Who” of Christmas
The next phrase in Luke 2:11 actually reads, “Has been born to you Savior, Christ, Lord.” When Luke penned these words, he didn?t use any articles in front of these three titles. Each of these words is extremely important.
This word means, “deliverer.” Jesus came to set us free from sin, and to deliver us from the dominion of the devil. His role as Savior was spelled out to Joseph in Matthew 1:21:
Matthew 1:21 (NIV)
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Someone has said:
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
Because we?re sinners, we need a Savior. This title would have caused the people of that day to be startled because they knew that God alone was their Deliverer. Isaiah 43:3:
Isaiah 43:3 (NIV)
3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior?
To call Jesus “Savior” is to acknowledge Him as God and to admit guilt before Him, and thus the need for forgiveness.
This is the Greek word for “Messiah,” which means, “the anointed one” and is used over 500 times in the Bible. The nation of Israel always lived in the future as they waited eagerly for the anointed One, who would bring salvation to them. We hear this expectation from the mouth of John the Baptist when he wondered if Jesus was in fact, the Messiah in Matthew 11:3:
Matthew 11:3 (NIV)
3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Later, when Jesus was wanting to find out what his followers thought of Him, Peter spoke up in Matthew 16:16:
Matthew 16:16 (NIV)
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Ultimately, Jesus was anointed to suffer and then die as substitute for the sins of the world.
This amazing title is reserved in the Old Testament for God alone. The angel here is declaring that Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is not just from God; He is God Himself. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 8:6:
1 Corinthians 8:6 (NIV)
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
God had become man! The infinite had become an infant. As Lord, Jesus is Master. He?s in charge. He?s supreme. And as such, I must bow before His supremacy. Philippians 2:9-11:
Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the third verse of “Silent Night” we sing of his Lordship as a baby. This baby was a normal baby in terms of his humanity yet truly was Lord in his divinity.
The “Why” of Christmas
The Christian church has adopted Christmas as calendar event for one reason. To celebrate the incarnation ? the coming to earth of God as man, the birth of Immanuel ? God with us. He was holy and human, right from the start. The baby in Bethlehem was born to die on the cross. As important as everything is I?ve said so far, Christmas must become a personal confession in order for it to make a difference in your life. Notice the two words tucked in the middle of verse 11: “to you.” The shepherds did nothing to deserve the privilege of hearing the good news of great joy. They were just out doing their jobs. It was by grace that God announced the news that would change their life: “A Savior has been born to you.” And when they heard this, verse 16 says that they “hurried off?and found the baby.” The proclamation from the angels went into their ears, down into their heart where they personalized it, and then out to their feet as they responded in faith.
Friends, the Savior can never save you until you cry out, “Christ came for me and then died as my sin substitute. I accept the anointed one into my life and I surrender to His Lordship.” Martin Luther once said,
“Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would be daily sung in my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own.”
The “How of Christmas”
Let?s look now at the “how” of Christmas. After the one angel appeared to the shepherds, suddenly an entire army of angelic messengers filled the sky with an outpouring of adoration in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest?” They couldn?t help but break into praise because Savior-Christ-Lord had been born. Their praise then led them to declare a message of peace: “?and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” It all starts in heaven with God?s perfect plan and it arrives on earth where peace comes to those who personalize the message.
In the Old Testament, “peace” is the word shalom, and is a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to resonate in all relationships. When used as a greeting, shalom was a wish for outward freedom from disturbance as well as an inward sense of well-being. To a people constantly harassed by enemies, peace was the premiere blessing. In Numbers 6:24-26, God gave Moses these words to use when blessing His people:
Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
24 “‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘
The New Testament describes at least three spheres, or planes, of peace:
Peace with God ? that?s the vertical dimension
Peace of God ? this takes place internally
Peace with others ? when we have peace with God and we experience the peace of God, we can then extend peace horizontally
Peace with God.
Before we can understand this first dimension of peace we must come to grips with the state of our relationship with God apart from Christ. While God loves us and cherishes us, He is also repulsed and filled with indignation because of our sinfulness. Romans 1:18:
Romans 1:18 (NIV)
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Romans 5:1 gives the good news:
Romans 5:1 (NIV)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, you and I can now be at peace with God. This word can also mean, “to set at one again.” God the Father poured out His wrath, fury, and indignation on His Son, who died in our place, as our sin-substitute. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus reconciled Himself to all things “making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
Listen carefully. We don?t deserve this peace to men on whom His favor rests. In fact, what we deserve is death and eternal punishment. But, because of God?s great love, He provided a way for us to be set at one again with the God of the universe. God?s joy and His justice converge on the cross of Calvary. His love and His law find full satisfaction through the sacrificial death of His Son. God is both just and the justifier. His anger is fully absorbed in the sacrifice of His Son.
Peace of God.
In order to have the peace of God internally, we must first experience peace with God vertically. The upward dimension must be taken care of before inward peace can permeate our lives. Those at peace with God can experience the peace of God.
Shortly before Jesus died, He declared in John 14:27:
John 14:27 (NIV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
This inner peace is a gift from Jesus and comes to us as a key element of the fruit of the Spirit. We will experience this peace in proportion to the room we give the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Peace with others.
Peace with God enables us to have the peace of God. Christ as Savior brings peace with God; Christ as Lord brings the peace of God. Another way to say it is that we can?t have the peace of God until we know the God of peace. When we?re at peace with God, and we have internal peace, we can then be at peace with others.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:9:
Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
I find it interesting that Jesus didn?t tell us to be “peacekeepers,” but instead “peacemakers.” This could be translated as “peace workers.” It takes effort to bring conflict to an end. When we work at preventing contention and strife we are doing what God does. We?re called to make peace when we?re involved in conflict. Romans 14:19 lays out our responsibility:
Romans 14:19 (NIV)
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
The only way to have peace with God, to have peace inside, and to be at peace with others, is to personalize the message of the Incarnation. Peter summarizes the essence of the Incarnation when he declares in Acts 10:36:
Acts 10:36 (NIV)
36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Let me summarize.
The what of Christmas is “the good news of great joy for all the people.”
The when of Christmas is “today.”
The where of Christmas is in the “town of Bethlehem.”
The who of Christmas is “Savior, Christ, Lord.”
The why of Christmas is “to you.”
The how of Christmas is “Glory to God?and peace to men?”
Is Jesus your Savior? Is He your Christ? Is He your Lord? This baby was God?s own Son and He came to change the world. Has He changed your world? Instead of trying to figure out a pun, put your faith in the Son. Some day God will give each of us an exam. It will have one question on it: “What have you done with Jesus?”
Possibly play or sing the song “The Final Word”