Summary: The final sermon in the 2008 Summer Series God is.

(The sermon began with the Reader’s Theater piece ‘A Baby, A Stable, and A Manger’ published by Carson-Dellosa Christian Publishing.)

(Slide 1) (Come in with my Irish Christmas Stocking Cap on and hand out candy.) Do you know that as of today it is only 117 days till Christmas? (And only 115 days to Shad ___ and I’s birthday!) How many of us here this morning have started doing some Christmas shopping?

I think that we need to have a Christmas in July party next year… maybe tie in our church picnic… do secret gift bid and donate the money to a local ministry that needs it… (finish handing out candy)

This morning, I want to read the story of Christ’s birthday from both Luke and Matthew’s accounts and I am hoping that we can take some time to digest them both together in a way that I think we cannot often due in December because of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

I am going to ask you to share with me your observations as I read them and you can follow along in your Bibles or on the screen or just listen…

(Slide 2) At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) (Slide 3) 3( All returned to their own towns to register for this census. 4And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. (Slide 4) 5He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

6And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.

(Slide 5) 8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened (Slide 6), 10but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

(Slide 7) 13Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”(Slide 8) 15When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

(Slide 9) 16They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.(Slide 10) 18All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.

What do you see or hear in this very familiar story this morning that you may not have noticed before? (Have the congregation share)

Now I have some questions about this text. (Slide 11) First, how did the shepherds know which manger the angel was talking about? How long did it take them to find Jesus?

Second, why was Joseph up north in Nazareth? Was Nazareth his place of his birth? Or had he moved there for work or other family reasons? (The reason given for Bethlehem as Joseph’s census destination is that it was David’s ancient home. And also, as we will read in a moment in Matthew’s account, Bethlehem is identified in the Old Testament as the birthplace of the Messiah.)

Yet there are two things I observe in this story that are worth noticing. (Slide 12)

There was commitment. Mary stayed committed to following God even thought she probably had trouble understanding (at first) what had happened to her. Joseph, embarrassed and perhaps ashamed and angry, stayed committed to Mary through it all once a heavenly visitor explained what was going on.

There was love. God had love for both Joseph and Mary and was further expressing His love for all of humanity in the baby Jesus. I also think that there was a deep love between Joseph and Mary in spite of their vastly changed circumstances.

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