Christmas And Giving

Isaiah 9:6, NIV

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Introduction

Last week we talked about CHRISTMAS WORDS in Isaiah and specifically-LIGHT, JOY and PEACE. Today we want to talk about the word we didn’t have time to get to last week–the word is GIFT“To us a Son is given.”

What would Christmas be like without GIFTS?

Christmas began with a GIFT, the GREATEST GIFT ever given…John 3:16 states it clearly…For God so loved He gave His only begotten Son. No giving, no Christmas–You cannot divorce GIVING from CHRISTMAS.

Matthew tells us the wonderful story of the WISE MEN. After Jesus was born, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” These wise men were no doubt influenced by the writings of Daniel and they were sincere in their search for the Christ Child. A star guided them and the bible says, When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The giving of gifts is a long tradition that goes all they way back to the first Christmas. A lot of people don’t like this tradition and they cry “Commercialism.” Bah humbug, this is the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, all miserly people hate Christmas–the extravagant giving drives them crazy. They have the spirit of Judah, “Why all this waste, this could have been given to the poor.” But Judas wasn’t really concerned about the poor: He was greedy. {John 12:6}

Three Good Reasons To Give

[1] Giving Is An Act of Worship

The wise men came to worship; they came to adore the Christ Child. You cannot divorce worship from giving. Adoration is as much a part of worship as praise and when you love someone, you cannot restrain yourself from giving.

YOU CAN GIVE WITHOUT LOVING BUT YOU CANNOT LOVE WITHOUT GIVING

I have meet people, know people who professed to love Jesus but did not give; never gave. I’ve heard every excuse in the book: God is infinitely wealthy–He doesn’t need my money. I give in time and talent–that’s more important than money. [try paying the light bill with time and talent]. If a husband or father came to me and said, “I love my wife and children,” and yet I knew that he did not live with them nor support them financially, I would laugh in his face. LOVE GIVES–IT DOES SO BY NATURE–YOU CANNOT STOP LOVE FROM GIVING.

[2] Giving Is A Great Investment

Remember the story of the RICH YOUNG RULER…

Jesus said to him, “If you are really sincere about following Me, go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”

This young man was given a once in a life time opportunity to invest in the Ministry of Jesus, the KINGDOM OF GOD…by, of all things, giving to the poor. But he foolishly declined and decided to hold on to his wealth? Who has his wealth today? Can you hold on to your wealth?

[3] Giving is a Joy

Luke quotes Jesus as saying [Acts 20:35}, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Folks, in a nutshell, it is much more fun to give than to receive. Some of you have learned this truth and others just can’t believe it. THERE IS GREATER JOY IN GIVING THAN RECEIVING. Seriously, how man of you want to go back and be a little child with no responsibility? You just get up Christmas morning and their are toys everywhere and you didn’t do anything to deserve them. I am not saying that it was not fun getting toys…what I am saying is there is a greater joy. Adults, you must read between the lines but I had rather be the giver than to be the receiver.

Conclusion

The Wise Men gave out of their treasures–they gave material gifts. Many believe the Gold they gave funded the trip that Joseph took to Egypt to evade Herod’s tyranny.

Mary gave herself, she devoted her life to God…she was a poor peasant, she had no money.

Your money is not the issue, it is your heart…GIVE YOUR HEART TO JESUS and the money will take care of itself.

Christmas Words In Isaiah

[Before I read the scripture: I want you to listen for three Christmas words or you might hear four]

Isaiah 9 New International Version (NIV)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

The Three words are light, joy, and peace.

I. THE FIRST WORD IS LIGHT

If you read chapters 7-8 of Isaiah, you will see the prophet talking about Judgment and dark days for Israel. The Assyrians are going to invade the North [Galilee region] and they are going to displace or enslave the Israelites. Darkness has always been a symbol of bad things: ignorance, depression, bondage, storms, lostness, tribulation, trials, suffering. Light is always a symbol of good things: knowledge, understanding, guidance, direction, warmth, joy, celebration. No one other than demons celebrate in he darkness. Evil loves darkness.

Of course you understand that the GREAT LIGHT that Isaiah is referencing is JESUS. Remember the scripture we quoted last week…John 1…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankindThe light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The song writer said, “The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin…The LIGHT of the world is Jesus. Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in; The Light of the world is Jesus!

JESUS WAS BORN INTO A DARK WORLD and His very birth lit up the skies at Bethlehem. Our problem today is that we have so much light, we do not appreciate light the way the ancients did–they literally lived in a world of darkness. They did not have street light, flash lights, head lights–they had the moon and stars on clear nights and candles, oil lamps and torches. If you do not appreciate light: there is a chance that you don’t understand darkness. We are celebrating the coming of light: Jesus brightened this world.

I know preachers who hate Christmas lights, trees and decorations: Why? Christmas is a celebration of LIGHT.

II. THE SECOND WORD IS JOY

Isaiah said in verse 3, the birth of this promised child will bring joy and rejoicing. Do you know any of the Killjoys, they have negative genes and they love to rain on parades. CHRISTMAS is a time of JOY.

Look at verse 3… You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

This joy is like the joy that accompanies the harvest or a victory in battle. Most of us do not know the joy of winning a battle, at least not in the military sense but many of us can relate to the joy of the harvest. Of course in ancient times the harvest was their life. If there crops did not produce, they starved. Famine was a real problem in the ancient world--before herbicides and pesticides. Even I can relate to the joy of the harvest: there was some money at harvest time, not much but some.

Christmas was a time of great joy for me as a child. I had a grandmother who loved Christmas and of course there were family get togethers with eating and playing with my cousins. I can’t lie, it was the one time of year that we got at least one toy. I was always excited about Christmas for the wrong reason–getting a toy. Over the years the reason for my joy has changed. I understand now that CHRISTMAS is a celebration of the incarnation. A celebration of Christ coming to this earth. When the wise men saw His star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. If you find no JOY in Christmas, it’s because you do not understand what it is about. It is not about eating, parties, presents: these are the manifestations of our JOY [things happy people do] but not the source. Happy people like to party, eat, sing and give but all these things are by-products of JOY. The source of our JOY is JESUS!

Go back to verse one: I think the key is here:

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The LORD does not want us to walk in gloom and distress: He does not want us to live in the PAST. Isaiah knows that the Jews are going to have some dark days ahead but he points them to the distant future–to the coming of Christ to the birth of a child, to the gift of a Son.

What was future to Isaiah and the Jews is history to us. They never saw the birth of the child but they had the promise. Faith rejoices in the promise. We know the CHILD was born and the Son was given–this is what we are celebrating.

We must look to the future!

This brings us to our THIRD CHRISTMAS WORD…

III. THE THIRD WORD IS PEACE

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

There are exceptions to the rule which is why we have war but most of us want peace.

John Lennon of the Beatles wrote a Song that has become a Christmas classic…So This Is Christmas

So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over and a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one the old and the young.

A very Merry Christmas and a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones, the world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas for black and for white
For yellow and red one let’s stop all the fight.

A very Merry Christmas and a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

On the second stanza you hear the voice of children singing in the back ground. They are singing…WAR IS OVER…IF YOU WANT IT…WAR IS OVER…NOW?

I agree with Lennon on one thing: war is a horrible thing and I took would like to see world peace but the root cause of war is sin and the only solution to sin is Jesus. The first step to peace is to make peace with the PRINCE OF PEACE.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was living during the days of the war of civil war, one of the most brutal and unnecessary wars in America History. Longfellow lost his wife to a fatal accident in 1861 and on Christmas Day of 1863, he was standing outside his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts when he heard the church bells playing a familiar Christmas tune. His oldest son, Charles, had been wounded in combat and narrowly escaped death. In his grief and under the dark cloud of civil war and unrest, he wrote “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play; In music sweet the tones repeat, “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”

I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along th’ unbroken song…Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Look at verse 7 one more time… Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Conclusion

Christmas is a celebration of the past {Birth of Christ} and the future, the reign of Christ as KING of Kings and LORD of lords. But the real celebration doesn’t begin until you in humility and faith accept Him as your Savior and LORD.

Immanuel

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

Matthew 1:18-23, NLT

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Introduction

Christmas is without doubt the most wonderful time of the year and this is true for only ONE REASON, the birth of Christ. I love the music and it is the only time of the year that the secular world plays our music and I also love the parties and festivities but without the birth of Christ, none of these things would be happening and December would be just another month on the calendar.

The wonder of all wonders is celebrated at Christmas–that is God becoming a man.

Isaiah the prophet said in Isaiah 7:14… Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

When Isaiah made this prophecy Ahaz one of the more wicked kings was on the throne. Many prophecies have an immediate fulfillment and a distant fulfillment. Some think that Hezekiah was the sign to Ahab but Matthew knew that the ultimate fulfillment was CHRIST. Hezekiah was a good king, very close to being the best but he was not the Messiah.

I. WHAT MAKES CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS IS THAT JESUS IS GOD

1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.

He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

Jesus was essentially God, equally God and Eternally God.

I John 1

We proclaim to you the ONE who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.

So the first thing that you must believe is that JESUS IS GOD.

Gnosticism was a first century heresy and it put the emphasis on man’s knowledge but there was two forms: both very wrong. One denied that Christ had a human body and the other denied that He was equally God.

I have never discovered an exception to the rule: all heresies stem from a false concept of Christ. You get your Christology right and everything else will fall in place.

The world we live in does not deny the historical Jesus. They do not deny that He was human, they deny His deity. The world does not believe that Jesus was God. They believe He was a revolutionary and a great teacher, a moralist if you would. This is not possible and C.S. Lewis pointed this our many years ago: EITHER JESUS IS WHO HE SAID HE WAS [GOD] or HE IS A LIAR AND A LUNATIC. The one thing He cannot be is a good man.

He said He was God. The Scripture says that He is God and His disciples [all Jews] believed He was God. Jesus even accepted worship and it did not affect His nature. A mere human can not handle worship.

II. JESUS IS GOD…HE IS GOD WITH US

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Literally in the Greek, THE WORD BECAME HUMAN AND TABERNACLED [pitched His tent] AMONG US.

Moses and the Israelites: God’s desire was to be among them and he did that in two ways: through Moses His high priest and the Tabernacle. The point I wish to make is that God’s desire from the very beginning was to be among us; to be with us.

The Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. [Titus 2:11]

Have you ever paid close attention to the second verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing…

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

When I was 12 years old, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly in space. His flight took place on April 12, 1961. Nikita  Khrushchev was the Premier of the Soviet Union at the time and of course, the communist were atheist. Khrushchev, defiantly declared that his cosmonaut returned from outer space and had not found God, a New York magazine had asked C.S. Lewis to respond. His rebuttal on the absurdity of trying to find God in space was absolutely brilliant.

“Looking for God — or Heaven — by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth, nor is he diffused through the play like a gas.
“If there were an idiot who thought plays exist on their own, without an author, our belief in Shakespeare would not be much affected by his saying, quite truly, that he had studied all the plays and never found Shakespeare in them…..

“To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find him on earth are unlikely to find him in space. (Hang it all, we’re in space already; every year we go a huge circular tour in space.) But send up a saint in a spaceship and he’ll find God in space as he found God on earth. Much depends on the seeing eye.”

He went on to say that Hamlet or other Shakespearean characters had no knowledge of Shakespeare their creator unless he choose to reveal it to them.

Dorthy L. Sayers was an English novelist who wrote crime fiction, though somewhat younger, she was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis. Dorthy’s favorite character, who appeared in almost all of her novels was a British aristocrat by the name of Lord Wimsey. In her later Lord Wimsey novels, he meets and falls in love with Harriet Vane who is an intelligent but not attractive lady. Those who knew Dorthy and read her novels knew what she had done: Dorthy was Harriet Vane. She had fell in love with her own created character and had written herself into the story.

Paul Harvey Story about the birds:

God who is love, has always loved us and He wrote Himself into the script so that he could be near us. Our praise and worship leader Dale Windsor sang the OLD RUGGED CROSS the other day and the second stanza struck me…

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world

Has a wondrous attraction for me

For the dear Lamb of God, left His Glory above

To bear it to dark Calvary.

We cannot fathom what Christ gave up to be with us. What are we willing to give up to be with Him?

Wise Men

Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12


1  Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,] and we have come to worship him.

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you

    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’]

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

Introduction

As you know, I am an incurable list maker. Today, I have a list of things that WISE MEN DO and they come right from the scripture. It is not my list and that is what makes it worth sharing.

  • WISE MEN SEEK JESUS:
    “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? [V.2] These wise men are probably students of Daniel. They are highly intelligent, scholarly men. No doubt men of great wealth and they are GENTILES. Are you not glad that Jesus came to save the world–rich or poor, shepherd or kings, Jews and Gentiles, the elites and the lowly.
  • WISE MEN ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS AS KING
    “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,and we have come to worship him.” [V.2] Herod was a cruel man who had wives and children [his own] executed. Herod was an Idumaean which means he was only half Jew. The Idumaeans were descendants of Esau the hedonist, but he was familiar with prophecy, that the Jews were waiting on a DAVID LIKE king to appear and deliver them from their oppressors. Herod felt threatened. The WISE MEN are Gentiles and they are seeking to worship the King of the Jews yet the Jews show little or no interest in what the WISE MEN have to say. Jesus is born less than 6 miles from where they are standing and they never check it out: UNBELIEVABLE! What gross pride and indifference!
  • WISE MEN CELEBRATE JESUS:
    When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 
    [V.10] The AV reads, “They rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Exceeding Joy is more than we can contain–it overflowing joy. The Greek word for GREAT is Mega and refers to weight and size. The Williams Translation reads…”They were thrilled with ecstatic joy.” I seen a picture of this exceeding great joy, ecstatic joy a few weeks ago when Alabama came from behind and won the SEC championship game. The entire room erupted with ecstatic joy.
  • WISE MEN WORSHIP JESUS
    They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  [V.11] Their bowing was an acknowledgement that Jesus {Child} was greater, that He indeed was their Sovereign, their king. But bowing doesn’t authenticate worship, giving does! As an act of worship, they presented their gifts: Gold [king], frankincense [priest] and myrrh [savior].
  • WISE MEN SEEK TO PLEASE GOD RATHER THAN MEN
    When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.  [V.12] Herod is a type of the devil: Herod was a liar and a murderer just like Satan. Satan is the prince of this world system, he wants you to bow to him, not Jesus. He loathes Jesus. He hates Jesus with all of his being because Jesus is the center piece of heaven and Satan became jealous. He wants to be the center. There is a huge difference between the prince of this world and the PRINCE OF PEACE. Jesus loves you: Satan only wants to use you to get at Jesus. Don’t let him con you into bowing to this world.

Mary

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

New Living Translation

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.33 And he will reign over Israel[f] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.37 For the word of God will never fail.[g]

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. 

Christian Standard Bible

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man? ”

35 The angel replied to her: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth ​— ​even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. — Luke 1:26-38 (CSB)

INTRODUCTION

We have two things to consider this morning: One is our celebration of the first advent–Christmas and the second is this incredible passage of scripture that we just read. I am a sequenctial learner which means I make a lot of list and as I studies and pondered this passage, I saw a list of things about Mary that I want to talk about this morning.

First of all….

I. MARY IS HIGHLY FAVORED [V.28]

Just what does this mean, “You are highly favored or you have found favor with God?” Let me tell you first of all what it does not mean: it does not mean that Mary is the source of GRACE; it means that she was a recepient of grace. Is this a special favor? Sure, no doubt about it. God choose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus. This is an honor that no other human will ever know. But let me remind you that although Jesus brought Mary incredible JOY, He also brought her incredible sorrow. Being the mother of Jesus was not an easy thing: it required a special grace. Our Catholic friends have misinterpreted this passage. They believer that Mary is the source of grace, the despencer of grace. They have elevated Mary to a divine status but Mary was as human as you or I. I find it very interesting that Mary was a descendant of Aaron, a resident of Nazareth [a despised town or village] and poor. No Jewish scholar would have chosen Mary but God choose her to confound the wise.

The scripture makes it abundantly clear that although Mary, a mere human like you and I, would give birth to a son who would not be merely human. Oh, He would be fully human but not merely human. The son that she would give birth to would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. Mary was not God but she would give birth to His Son. She would name Him Jesus because He would be a Savior. God’s way of incarnating His son was through the normal process of maturation in the womb of a woman. Her son would be a KING, and not just a king but the KING of kings, an eternal king. Mary would be inferior to her Son from day one. Jesus is God: He is the one we worship, not Mary. Mary we love, Mary we admire, Mary we honor as no other, Mary we long to see and talk with in heaven but we do not worship Mary. She recieved God’s grace just as we did.

II. MARY WAS DEEPLY TROUBLED [V.29]

The word means perplexed, confused, shocked or agitated. Mary did not expect a heavenly visitor. An angel showing up in your bedroom would shock you, would it not! Everything he said to Mary was a revelation of new things. She had no idea what God was up to and no prior warning that she would be central to His plan of redemption. I don’t blame her for being shocked, bewildered and afraid. Again, this is evidence that Mary was as human as you or I. If an angel showed up at my house and told me that out of 7 billion people on earth, God had chosen me to be a recipient of a special favor, I would be more than shocked.

III. MARY IS GREATLY COMFORTED [V.30]

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Another way of saying this is…”Don’t be afraid Mary, God has a special favor He wants you to do because He finds you very special Himself. He has favored you above all women. I also like what Gabriel said in the greeting, “Greeting, favored one, the LORD is with you.” In there anything more comforting than the LORD’s presence!

IV. MARY WAS DIVINELY OVERSHADOWED [V.35]

When Gab told Mary that she was going to have a son, she knew there was a problem: she was a virgin. So she wanted to know how she could give birth to a son without knowing a man. Gab said, “That’s simple, God will take care of it…you will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will cause you to concieve.” God is going to be the Father of your Son. Basically, he is telling Mary…”Just relax, you don’t have to do anything…God is going to take care of it.” Everything about this birth and life will be a miracle. It is a God thing.

V. MARY IS SUBLIMELY SUBMISSIVE [V.38]

I absolutely love verse 38, “I am your servant, be it unto me according to your word.” You got to love Mary’s attitude. She had a servant’s heart. Mystified and bewildered, she said, “OK LORD, I don’t fully understand all that is going on but I submit to your will, You do whatever You think is best.” I am going to share a little secret: there are two ways to live life–Your way and God’s way. You may think I am crazy but I promise you that life will be sweeter and much more meaningful if you submit to HIS way and stop trying to live life your way. I dare you to try it!

VI. MARY IS INCREDIBLY HUMBLE [V.48]

Many years ago, some 30 or so, we had a lady who attended the church where we served and she was constantly bragging on her children. She not only exalted her children over other children, she taught them that they were better than others. One of her children tested to be in the gifted class and somehow she worked that fact into every conversation. Some of you may get upset with me but I’m going to tell you to truth whether you like it or not: Your children are not exceptional, they are merely children. They aren’t any better than my children or anyone else’s children. Do not teach children that they are better than others. You will create a social misfit if you are not careful. With that said, MARY HAD A PERFECT CHILD. You have to admit, that would be hard to handle. Can you imagine a group of the Nazareth women talking about their children. Suppose Mary is conversing with the Carpenter’s wives and one of them says, “My son drove his first nail this week.” Then Mary interupts, “That’s nothing, Joseph can make a miscut on a plank and all he has to do is hand it to Jesus and when he hands it back, it is the perfect length.” Can you imagine how tempted you would be to brag if you had a perfect child. Mary doesn’t brag. She treasures her time with Jesus but she doesn’t brag. By the way, she gave birth to at least 6 more children, maybe more.

VII. MARY WAS A BELIEVER [John 2:5, “Do whatever He says.”]

Jesus brothers did not believe in HIM but His mother did. His brothers were converted later but Mary believed from day one. ARE YOU A BELIEVER?

 

Joseph

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-21 {NLT}

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 
21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Introduction

This is the first of four Christmas sermons on Christmas characters and today we begin with Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. I know, you have never heard a sermon on Joseph but LORD willing, you will hear one today. There are three things I want to say about Joseph.
I. JOSEPH WAS A GOOD MAN
  • This is rare praise: only four men are referred to as being good men in the N.T…. Joseph, Jesus, Barnabas and Applles.
  • The KJV translates it just: it can be translated righteous, law abiding, upright,  virtuous.
  • It describes a man who does what he ought. A man who makes right decisions
  • Joseph illustrates his goodness in not wishing to embarrass Mary.

II. HE WAS A MEEK MAN or A GENTLEMAN

  • Joseph is not flashy. He is humble, meek and quiet. He never speaks. When Jesus stayed at the temple and Mary and Joseph go back looking for Jesus, Mary does the talking.
  • Not a single word of Joseph’s is quoted in the NT.
  • He is the kind of guy who does his job and expects no praise.
  • Joseph was content to work in the background. He was happy playing second fiddle.
  • This puts him in a very small group of great men who stood in the shadows: John the Baptist, Barnabas, Jonathan. Had the humility necessary to be a supporter, an encourager instead of being the star in the spotlight.

III. HE WAS AN OBEDIENT MAN [Our heavenly Father loves obedience]

  • Every time we see Joseph in scripture: he is obeying
  • Matthew 1:24-25–When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 
     But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
  • Matthew 2:13-15 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.
  • Matthew 2:19-22 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee.

Joseph is always obeying.

Till He Appeared

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 2:1-11

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a Ruler will come from you
    who will be the Shepherd for My people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the Child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The beloved Christmas Carol, O Holy Night, was written by Placide Cappeau (October 25, 1808 – August 8, 1877). He was a French poet and wine merchant. It was later put to music by Adolphe Adam. A local clergyman ask Cappeau to write a poem for Christmas. Even after the poem was set to music, it was rejected by the church and did not become popular until years later.

Today, I want to take the time to read this great poem and then we will listen to it in song and perhaps hear some things we have never heard before.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born…

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever…

There is one phrase I want you to listen for, “Long lay the world in sin and error pinning, Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”

{Play Josh Groban’S version with scenes from the NATIVITY}

Someone was interviewing a Seminary graduate and they ask him, “If we call you as our pastor, what would be your purpose?”  Without a moments hesitation, he said, “To change the world.”Yes,” said the interviewer, “ultimately that is our goal but what is your immediate goal?” He said, “To change the world.”

Actually, this should be every believer’s purpose.

Getting back to O Holy Night and that second line“Long lay the world in sin and error pinning.” We don’t use the word pinning any more but it was word that was used when I was young…we referred to a person pinning away. It simply means, that a person has lost hope and is slowly dying. It may be due to grief, sickness, an unrequited love. It is basically a state of hopelessness. Now, lets put the entire phrase together…Long lay the world in sin and error pinning, Till HE appeared and the soul felt its worth.

  • We were stumbling in darkness–until He appeared.
  • We were lost, like sheep without a shepherd–until He appeared.
  • We had no hope–until He appeared.
  • We had no joy or peace–until He appeared.
  • We had no freedom–until He appeared.
  • We had no Christmas–until He appeared.
  • We had no Easter–until He appeared.
  • We had no ministries of mercy–until He appeared.

Jesus changed everything and continues to change lives today. But whereas Shepherds and Wise Men celebrated His birth: Herod tried to kill him and the Jewish religious leaders did not even pursue the lead. They were not even curious about this new born King of the Jews. Later, they would reject Jesus all together.

Why so much hatred for Jesus? I think the answer is found in John 3… “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

CONCLUSION

Great story in Our Daily Bread last Wednesday. A p0liceman stopped a woman because her child was not in the required child’s seat. Legally, he could have written her a ticket but that was the last thing she needed. Instead, he asked her to meet him at a department store where he bought her a child’s booster seat. The mother was going through a difficult time and could not afford a seat. Although she legally deserved a fine, she got a free gift instead. An act of kindness from a policeman.

That’s us folks, we deserve a fine, a penalty, punishment but because of God’s mercy we got a gift, the greatest gift–Salvation through the LORD Jesus Christ. Let Jesus change you world this Christmas.