A few days ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. We had a great Christmas Eve service followed by an outstanding Christmas Eve party. But now what? Many people experience the “Christmas blues.” It is hard being away from family during Christmas when there are so many traditions that our families do that many times we take for granted until we are not there.
The theme for tonight is “So what?” Christmas has come and gone and the question before you is stated in James, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.”
SIGN ON CHURCH BULLETIN BOARD "Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck. SOURCE: Jeff Strite, Church of Christ at Logansport, Logansport, IN.
Again, the question is, “What do you believe?” and “So what? What difference is it making in your life?” What we believe should have an impact on what we do. What we believe should make a difference in our lives. I am a firm believer that where our mind goes our butt will follow.
We are going to start tonight by looking at some of the characters we have already mentioned in previous weeks leading up to the birth of Christ and we are going to look at a couple of new ones.
Let’s read our Scripture passages beginning with Matthew 2:16:
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Let’s look first at the Magi. We know from Scripture that they were from the east. We do not know exactly where they came from but it is thought that perhaps they were Chaldeans or Assyrians. The Magians were a priestly caste and the office was hereditary. During the time of Daniel they uttered prophecies and interpreted dreams. Magi were people of learning and they devoted their studies to astrology and the natural sciences and over time were no longer necessarily required to be of the priestly caste. The Magi that visited the Baby Jesus were obviously skilled in astrology and were earnestly seeking after Jesus. They left their homeland and all the comforts of home to follow this star to wherever it was leading them. They did not know the destination but they knew what they were going to find there. They were going to find the King of the Jews. Their purpose for finding Him was so that they could worship Him. Their belief that they would find Jesus motivated them to take action and find him and also to bring great treasures along with them to give to Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Little did they know at the time that Joseph and Mary were going to need these treasures to provide passage for their family into Egypt and live there for several years. They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod so they obeyed and went back home using another route.
Here is the quick summary: The Magi studied the sciences, believed in God, acted on their belief and sought after God, were led by God through the sciences they were familiar with, found God (Baby Jesus), were spoken to by God again this time in a dream and they obeyed God.
Now let’s look at Joseph.
Joseph is an average guy. He’s a carpenter looking to make a normal life for himself. He is planning on getting married to Mary when he finds out that she is pregnant. At that point he plans on quietly divorcing her until an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him not to divorce Mary because she is carrying the Messiah. Joseph obeys.
Mary gives birth and Joseph sees the shepherds come to worship the Child and the Magi bearing treasures for them come to worship the Child. His jaw must have been on the ground.
Later, an angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child and kill him.” What did Joseph do? He obeyed. He got up in the middle of the night and with his wife and child fled to Egypt. God had already provided financing for the trip through the gifts of the Magi. Later, Joseph would be visited by an angel again and summoned out of Egypt and again he obeyed, left Egypt and settled his family in Nazareth.
To summarize, Joseph was an average person who heard from God and did what God told him to do.
Let’s take a quick glance at Mary. She was an ordinary teenage girl who was betrothed to marry an ordinary carpenter named Joseph until God decided to do something extraordinary through very ordinary people. She was also told by an angel that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. She was actually placed in a very difficult and life threatening position when looking at it through human eyes. She was going to be pregnant without being married. She could have been stoned to death. But God always works out the details. Her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Mary decided to trust God at the very risk of her own life. Later Mary would see different things happen and the text says in multiple places that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Mary is an average girl about to marry an average guy and live an average and ordinary life until God intersects her life and Mary chooses to obey allowing the miraculous to occur out of the ordinary.
Let’s read our second passage, Luke 2:25-38
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismissc your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.d She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Let’s take a quick look at Simeon. The text says he was devout and righteous. This doesn’t mean he attended church on Sunday without missing a day. His life and relationship with God was characterized as devout and righteous. He pursued after God and cultivated his relationship with God over the course of his life. He was expectantly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Simeon had an active relationship with God such that He could sense what the Holy Spirit wanted him to do. He was confident because of the promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he personally saw the Messiah. At just the right time the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the Temple courts and there he laid eyes on Baby Jesus and knew that this was the Messiah.
Anna was a prophetess and was at least 84 years old. She too was devout. She worshipped, prayed and fasted day and night. She too recognized Baby Jesus as the Messiah.
Each of these people came from different walks of life and were at various age stages of life. What they had in common was a zeal and devotion to God. They pursued their relationship with Him and what they believed motivated their actions. They encountered God, responded to God’s prompting, were used by God and their lives were never the same.
THE CHRISTMAS STORM: A Modern Parable by Paul Harvey "This is about a modern man, one of us, he was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with others. But he did not believe in all that incarnation stuff that the Churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense to him and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just could not swallow the Jesus story about God coming to earth as man. I’m truly sorry to distress you, he told his wife, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he would much rather stay home, but that he would wait up for them. He stayed, they went. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. Well, when he went to the front door, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter -- if he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes, trampled through the deepening snow to the barn, opened the door wide, and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in and he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow lighted wide open doorway of the stable, but to his dismay the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms -- instead they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn. Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature, if only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. How? Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. If only be a bird myself he thought. If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language, and tell them not to be afraid, and show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I’d have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand. At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind. He stood there listening to the bells. Adeste Fideles. Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow. SOURCE: Paul Harvey Contributed by Jeff Strite, Church of Christ at Logansport, IN.
Does your belief in Jesus Christ dictate your actions? God speaks to us just as clearly today as He did at the birth of Jesus. God wants to be the top priority in your life. He wants to come before your career, before your hobbies, before your monetary stuff, and yes before your spouse and family. If you put God ahead of your family and you become the father, husband, wife, or mother that He wants you to be then your family and relationship is going to be better and stronger than ever. He wants you to seek Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. He wants you to know Him through prayer and He tells us to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. His word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. He leads us and guides us continually. When we study the word of God we are entering into the very mind of God. We begin to understand his thoughts, his desires and plans for us. We begin to hear his voice and know his voice. It is then and only then that we can begin ordering our lives in such a manner as to be able to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How is God leading and speaking in your life? If you can’t hear Him then ask Him what you need to change so that you can hear him. How will you respond to Jesus?
Next week, God willing, we will look at Resolving to Know Christ.