December 19, 2021


Christmas Message ❧ Part 1 of 1

Luke 2:1-20 ❧ December 19, 2021

            Merry Christmas! Not long ago I came across a statement that continues to echo in my thoughts as I think about Christmas in 2021.  It simply said, “God is sovereign, all is well.”  Reading those six words filled my heart with the reassuring joy and truth that God is in control, I can let go of my fears, my concerns. The world may not make sense, but God knows what He is doing. I can trust Him. All is well.  The Bible says those who’ve place their trust in Christ have been given a living hope – a hope that is alive. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Elsewhere, the Bible calls our hope and anchor for the soul (Heb. 6;19).  If you’re like me, I need to be reminded God is sovereign, and because He is, all is well.  I need my hope refreshed and anchored on a regular basis. I want to take a few minutes this morning and refreshen and strengthen your hope.  

  It was in December of 1903 after many attempts, the Wright brothers were finally successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He totally missed the big news — man had flown!  

            In a little less than a week from now billions of people will be celebrating the most renowned holiday in the world – Christmas.   People are excited.  The stores and the internet are flooded with frenzied last-minute shoppers. Trees are decorated. Lights are hung.  Anticipation is building.  Christmas is coming. 

Yet, sadly, many in the world are no different than the editor of the local newspaper hearing the news that the Wright brothers had flown for the first time and would be home for Christmas.  They totally miss the big news! Christmas is not about gift shopping, trees and lights and partying! It’s about Jesus – the birth of the Savior of the world! This message seldom comes through all the din of Christmas noise.  Many may give honorable mention to Jesus name, but Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch often take center stage. 

            I read about one person who decided to put this theory to the test.  He took a survey asking Christmas shoppers what they were celebrating this Christmas.  “I’m celebrating that I made it through another year,” offered one person.  I’m celebrating being home with my family,” commented another.  Still another announced, “I got a Christmas bonus.”  One person bluntly answered, “I’m not celebrating anything. I’m just trying to survive.”  The truth be known, I think a lot of people feel that way this year – they’re just trying to survive.  This morning I want to talk about the real big news of Christmas – Jesus our Savior was born!

            Open with me in your Bible’s to Luke 2 (Read: Luke 2:1-20). Luke reminds us, Jesus is the big news of Christmas.  Our Savior is born!  Jesus’ birth is still as relevant and vital today as it was more than two-thousand years ago. My question for us is: What does God want us to see about Him in this passage that is important to us today?  Let me give you three.  God want us to see His providence, His presence, and His promises. 

  1. God’s Providence. In God’s providence, He is saying, “I am in complete control of the world, of history, of your life. I am working all things for your good. Nothing, not even the smallest detail takes place in your life outside of My loving control or knowledge.”  We see this in the very first verse: Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth (Luke 2:1).  Have you ever wondered why Luke included this little historical detail? What does Caesar Augustus, the emperor of the Roman empire have to do with Jesus’ birth? After all, Rome is more than two-thousand miles away.  The answer is – a lot!

Luke is the only Gospel writer who ties world history with Jesus’ birth, and he does so for a very important reason.  Luke is reminding us that God is sovereign over all the affairs of the world.  Before Jesus was born, His parents lived in Nazareth, a little remote village some seventy miles away from Bethlehem.  With Mary now being nine-months pregnant, how was God going to get her to the place where Jesus was prophesied by the prophet Micah seven-hundred years before to be born (Micah 5:2)? For God, this was merely a simple exercise of His incomprehensible sovereignty – He put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus to take a census of the entire Roman world. Proverbs 21:1 says, The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes (Proverbs 21:1).

Think of it, God moved the heart of a world emperor just to set two ordinary and seemingly insignificant people on a journey that would change the course of the world for all eternity! Everyone thought the census was the big news.  But the reality was, a young Jewish woman was about to give birth the biggest news of all – Jesus our Savior! 

Let’s face it, living in a world teaming with 7.9 billion people, it’s easy to feel inconsequential.  Where matters of real-world consequence are taking place among the heads of states and of nations. Where world changing significance is rests in the hands of the powerful, the rich, and the movers and shakers – people who, by all appearance, are living lives of real significance, real importance.  But God is reminding us here, this isn’t so.  God’s real attention and care is focused on those who trust Him. We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). And that is by far more important than gaining the attention of the world. Jesus reminds us, Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? (Matthew 6:26).

Theologian John Piper points out that if we feel insignificant in the world, we should not let it dishearten us or make us unhappy.  For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people – the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  God wields an empire to bless His children.

We may not understand it, we may not see it, but God is moving in the hearts of world rulers and leaders today to follow His providential plans for His children’s best interest.  John Oxham summed up God’s providence in our lives well when he wrote: He writes with characters too grand for our short sight to understand; we catch but broken strokes, and try to fathom all the mystery of withered hopes, of death, of life, the endless war, the useless strife – But there, with larger clearer sight, we shall see this – His way was right.  What is God telling us about Himself? He’s reminding us of His providence. He is sovereign, all is well.  

  1. God’s Presence. Through God’s presence He is saying, “I am always with you.  There will never be even a moment in time when I am absent from you.  There may be times when you feel like I’ve abandoned you, deserted you. But I haven’t.  I will never leave you or forsake you.” Verses 6-7 spell this out. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:6-7). 

Leaving Nazareth and making their way to Bethlehem easily took three days travel covering a distance of about seventy miles. Where in their difficult journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem does God make His guiding presence known? It seems nowhere.  There are no miracles, no angelic appearances, no voice from Heaven.  It says nothing about God making the journey easy for Mary and Joseph.  If anything, they experienced unnecessary hardship.  It almost seems like God was taking a nap while waiting for them to arrive in Jerusalem.  You might even be led to think He overslept, or at least wasn’t paying attention when they were in need. 

Luke tells us there was no room for them in the inn.  Tired, travelworn, and feeling the sharp pains of childbirth coming, Mary found herself homeless and helpless; stranded on the lonely people-packed streets of Bethlehem with no place to go.  No privacy.  No answers. No Divine intervention.  Alone, abandoned.  You can almost feel the sense of urgent desperation and vulnerability they must have felt being turned away from every inn.  Even their relatives seemed to have given them the cold shoulder! Bethlehem, after all, was the birthplace of David – Mary and Joseph’s family.  Surely there were family they could have stayed with, but not one is mentioned.  Perhaps Mary and Joseph wanted to avoid the painful sting of rejection they’d already felt in Nazareth.  Memories of being condemned under furrowed eyebrows of cold judgment were still fresh in their minds when they arrived in Bethlehem.  We really don’t know why they couldn’t find someplace to rest.  Luke is silent at this point and didn’t feel the need to explain beyond the fact there simply was no room in the inn for them.    

If we did not know any better, we might be tempted to conclude God was silent, distant, unconcerned.  Much like we do in our own lives when things go awry, and we don’t understand.  Where is God? Does He really care?  Is God punishing me?  But He does care and is more aware and more involved than we have any idea.  Joseph and Mary’s response to their difficult circumstances reveals their faith in God was not shaken.  They didn’t complain.  They didn’t collapse under the strain.  Far from it.  They knew, despite their inhospitable circumstances, God was with them.  They understood better than anyone the decree of Caesar Augustus was part of God’s plan to get them to Bethlehem where the prophet Micah seven-hundred years before revealed the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  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 (Micah 5:2). God’s presence was clearly seen through His sovereign ordering of events.  They no doubt knew well of God’s prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace.

No doubt, they prayed and felt the pressure of finding someplace for Mary.  But they knew God had an answer, somehow, someway.  Mary’s prayer revealed her absolute trust in God’s attentive presence in her life (Lk. 1:46-55). She was confident His special concern for her in this time of need had not diminished (Lk. 1:48).   God’s ways, wrote John Darby, are behind the scenes; but He moves all the scenes which He is behind. We have to learn this, and let Him work

I like the words of the Australian Theologian J. Sidlow Baxter: He Never Fails. He never fails the soul that trusts in Him; Tho’ disappointments come and hope burns dim, He never fails. Tho’ trials surge like stormy seas around, Tho’ testings fierce like ambushed foes abound, Yet this my soul, with millions more has found, He never fails; He never fails. He never fails the soul that trusts in Him; Tho’ angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim, He never fails. Tho’ icy blasts life’s fairest flow’rs lay low, Tho’ earthly springs of joy all cease to flow, Yet still ‘tis true, with millions more I know, He never fails; He never fails. He never fails the soul that trusts in Him; Tho’ sorrow’s cup should overflow the brim, He never fails. Tho’ oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long, I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng, And there I’ll sing, with millions more, this song— He never fails; He never fails.

Christmas 2021 may find you wondering if God really is in control and if He knows your concerns, your needs.  He does. He is in control, and He will never leave or forsake us. That’s what He’s reminding us of in Mary and Joseph.  God is sovereign, all is well.

  1. God’s Promises. What do God’s promises mean? God is saying, “I will always keep My Word in your life.  There will never be a time when you cannot trust in what I say or command.”  He always keeps His Word. 

            Luke tells us after Jesus was born, an angelic host appeared to a small band of shepherds watching over their sheep in the nearby hills.  The angels announce that the long-awaited prophecy of the birth of God’s Son has been fulfilled. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… (Luke 2:10-11).   There are two promises the angel tells them. The first is Jesus was born to be their Savior. The angel is very specific, there is born for you a Savior… And the second is this is good news for all the people. God’s salvation is freely available to anyone who seeks it.  God’s promise of salvation is both personal and global.  It does not matter who you are or where you come from.

            How do we know this true?  Because when God announced the good news of Jesus birth, the first people to hear about it were shepherds.  This must have been mindboggling to people.  In most people’s minds, shepherds were the last people God would have offered salvation. 

Luke says when the angel suddenly appeared before them it scared the living daylights out of these poor unsuspecting shepherds. The first thing the angel tells them is: “Don’t be afraid.”  A lot of people are afraid of God (Theophobia).  Why is that? Guilt. Shame. Judgement.  That was certainly true for these shepherds who were ambushed by God.  Shepherds were not a respected profession; many of them gave their vocation a black eye because of their sleazy character.  They had the reputation of being low-life thieves and often were not allowed in town let alone church.  Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t.  They were considered ceremonially unclean and could not worship God like everyone else.  They probably had a lot of reasons why they were afraid and didn’t want God in their lives.  That’s what makes God’s promise all the more amazing – He was offering personal forgiveness to them.  Based on their vocation as shepherds, I suspect they did not feel very forgivable.

A lot of people can relate to them today.  Forbes recently released a study of the least trusted professions.  Ranking lowest were members of congress at 58%.  Next, were used car salesmen at 44%.  Following them were journalists at 34%.  But the angel was very clear, God sent His Son to be a Savior for all people. He came to be our Savior not our judge. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17). 

            The truth is, all of us have skeletons in our closets stuffed as far back as we can get them.  God is not interested in your past as much as He is interested in you.  God knew these shepherds and regardless of their reputation He said, “Don’t be afraid.  I didn’t send My Son to bring condemnation in your life but forgiveness.  I didn’t come to judge you. You can relax.”

            What are you afraid of God knowing about you?  What’s in your past that makes you shudder at the very thought of?  What are you afraid of?  God already knows.  He knows your past.  He knows your fears.  There’s nothing He doesn’t know.   So, what does God want from you? He wants you to turn from your sins and accept the invitation He offers you through His Son for forgiveness.  That’s what the big news of Christmas is really about.  God sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins – no matter who you are or where you come from. 

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