Summary: Rather than painting a picture of an angry, brooding God, the Christmas story reminds us that God actually likes us and wants what is best for us.
Living in God’s Favor
Luke 2:7-14 7 and she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Intro: Many of you have read or watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. The Grinch hated Christmas and went down to Whoville, in an attempt to steal Christmas. He took every gift, every ornament, everything he could get his hands on, thinking that if the Who’s lost all their stuff then they would cry instead of sing and Christmas wouldn’t come. But high up on the mountain he heard all the Who’s in Whoville singing and Christmas came anyhow. Now here is one of the most famous quotes in the book and movie that helps point to the meaning of Christmas.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
-Well, most of us would be quick to agree (at least in theory), Christmas does mean a whole lot more than what comes from a store. The word Christmas literally means Christ’s Mass (coined in A.D. 1038), and carries a very detailed history going as far back in church history as the 2nd century. There is little evidence to suggest that the first century church celebrated the birth of Christ as a feast day or festival, although the virgin birth of Jesus was an important part of their creed and doctrine. Christians have viewed Christmas in various ways from all extremes. Some outright reject Christmas calling it a pagan holiday, while others insist that Jesus was conceived in Mary during the Spring Equinox (March 25- 9 months prior to the Winter Solstice- Dec. 25). Others suggest that early Christians utilized the culture in which they lived to introduce the Savior of the world to the pagans around them. The winter solstice was referred to by John Chrysostom, an early Church Father. He said, "They call it the ’Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .?"
-I’m not here to set the record straight about Christmas, however. What I’d like to accomplish today as we look at what we call the Christmas story, is to remind us that God has offered us His favor. Favor is defined as friendly or kind regard; good will; approval; liking; acceptance. When God’s favor rests on someone, they are accepted by Him and are free to become His friend. Rather than painting a picture of an angry, brooding God, the Christmas story reminds us that God actually likes us and wants what is best for us. Let’s look at some facts about God’s favor.
I. God’s favor is good news to all (10-12)
-Instead of fear of God’s anger and judgment, the news that God wants us to be friends with Him is good news indeed! The angel brought good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
-Is God’s favor available to all people? To the rich? Upper class? Middle class? Blue collar? White collar? Poor? To the down and outers? To sinners? To people living in immorality? To people addicted to painkillers? To people who are suffering from depression? To people who have been tossed aside and feel worthless?
-God says to the person who comes to the end of himself or herself: I accept you. I like you. I want to help you. I have sent you Someone who can help you.
-Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:19 “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” God is not our accuser. Satan tries to do that. Romans 8:31-32 “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”