Introduction: A woman was frantically going through her Christmas “To Do List”, when she discovered she had not sent her Christmas Cards out to her friends and family.
Rushing to the local card store she found an appropriate set of cards and mailed them out just in time to guarantee Christmas Eve delivery.
A few days later she opened the inside of the card to read the message she had sent to her friends and associates. She was shocked to discover her Christmas card was not a Christmas card but a Christmas announcement which read;
THIS IS SIMPLY A NOTE TO SAY – A CHRISTMAS GIFT IS ON THE WAY!
We have to admit it things are getting a little confusing this time of the year.
After all there are gifts to buy, parties to attend, relatives to see and cookies to be made – Christmas gets very busy, but probably no Christmas was busier than the first Christmas. After all, all of Rome was participating in a great census; Luke records the scene this way…
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. Luke 2:1-3
Imagine what was happening suddenly the entire Roman Empire is involved in Mass Transit. Vs. 3 tells us everyone went to his own home town to register. Rich and Poor, people of influence and those who were seemingly insignificant were all on the road trying to fulfill their obligation to Rome.
Now while Luke tells us everyone was being counted, was focused on one peasant family from Nazareth.
Luke 2:4-7, So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she 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.
Luke gives us very little detail about the journey – he tells us the starting point – Nazareth and the stopping point – Bethlehem.
In all actuality the trip would have been very difficult. The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem was approximately 90 miles, if they could travel three miles an hour for 10 hours each day it would take 3 days to make the trip. Imagine a women pregnant in her 9th month, walking 10 hours a day
Once they arrived in Bethlehem, they discovered all the rooms were filled to capacity – there was no place to rest from their travels.
Not finding any room would have been fine for Joseph, he would have slept in the town square along with other men who were traveling to Bethlehem, but Joseph had a wife, and sleeping in the town square was not an option.
Luke does not tell of a long search for a place to stay or of an insensitive innkeeper who made Mary and Joseph stay outdoors. In fact an innkeeper is never mentioned in the account of the birth of Jesus. The text merely describes the arrival in simple terms: She 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.
Max Lucado described the birth of Jesus this way… (“God Came Near”)
It happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. This moment was like none other. For in a moment God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. The all powerful became breakable. The one who was larger than the universe became an embryo. The one who sustains the earth chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus; Holiness in a womb, the creator of life, now a part of creation
That moment went unnoticed by the world. No fanfare from kings, no public announcement in the town square. But it was a moment that changed the world.
In Luke the 2nd Chapter we realize the potential of Christmas, what can happen through the power of one.
One angel – Gabriel who told both Mary and Joseph they were going to have a special Child
One man – Joseph, who chose to look past the traditions and rules and graciously took Mary as his wife.
One woman – Mary who asked how can this be, and then responded "I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said."
One Son – Jesus who chose to remove his robe in glory and be wrapped in swaddling cloth in a manger
One God – who sought us in a holy pursuit – so in love with us he orchestrated the entire event.
Because God knew what we needed most…
If our greatest need were for information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been for technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our need were for money, God would have sent a banker of financier.
If our need were for entertainment, God would have sent an entertainer.
But our greatest need was none of these. Our problem was sin and our need was forgiveness, And therefore, God sent a Savior.
Understanding the potential of One – what will you do this Christmas to let people know God is with us? I believe the answer is found in verses 8-18 of Luke’s narrative.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
The Angels’ Response was one of celebration
A. The Bible gives us quite a bit of information about angels.
We know that almost every time they appear to man in a physical form, the angels tell people not to be afraid. They must have been awesome in appearance and stature
Scripture tells us angels are created beings
Psalm 148: 2, 5 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
We know they have names such as Michael and Gabriel. There are several types of Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim and Guardian Angels just to name a few.
Regardless of their name, or their stature or their type angels have but one role in the God’s kingdom and that is to be the messengers of God
B. Their message from God caused them to celebrate
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
I bet they could not contain themselves, can you imagine the angels who were assigned the task of telling the shepherds this message? They must have been filled with excitement and enthusiasm as they left the throne room of heaven to announce the birth of Jesus. They had a reason to celebrate, god was doing something spectacular – Jesus was born!
C. Unfortunate many people find it difficult to celebrate at Christmas.
The month of December has the highest rate of depression and suicide according to mental health professionals.
Materialism has forced many people into spending what they cannot afford, putting people in financial bondage for months at a time.
Amazingly with all the parties and celebrations of the season, mental health professionals tell us many people feel the loneliest at Christmas
D. How can we celebrate at Christmas?
By looking at the angel’s message – "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." The angel’s message is one of peace
The peace the angels announced is not the absence of fighting, rather it is having the right relationship we have with God
A relationship with God gives one peace of mid for today and hope for tomorrow.
If you desire to celebrate Christmas let me urge you today to begin focusing on your relationship with God – He desires a relationship with you, do you desire to have a relationship with Him?
Choose today to make him your savior
Begin now to submit to his Lordship, by living for him using your resources, time and talents to bring glory to his name. How?
Celebrate by being generous to others – make it a secret, no one need to know.
It might be a gift of money, or a service to someone such as helping take down their Christmas lights
If you are handy why not offer to put together someone’s “some assembly required” item.
Give some batteries to a child – Simply be Jesus to someone! Celebrate your relationship with God – That is PEACE!
Not only did the angel’s respond to Christmas, note…
The Shepherd’s Response
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
A. The shepherds responded with action
The journey of the shepherds began with a step of faith. They said, “Let’s go.” And they “hurried off.” That is the right way to respond to a word from the Lord – take action – take the step of faith.
B. The step of faith led them to…
Find Jesus (v.16-17) – The only people to visit the stable that evening was the shepherds. They acted on their faith and as a result they saw God’s gift to man – Jesus. But it was not enough to see Jesus
They began to tell others (v.17) – What they had witnessed was so great that they couldn’t help telling everyone they saw. These became the first evangelist of God’s new kingdom!
They left the stable transformed by the presence of Christ.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen
The shepherds returned to their sheep but they did not return as the same shepherds who had left hours before. While their outward circumstances didn’t change at all. They were still shepherds.
What did change was their heart.
For when they found Jesus, They found a joy that the world cannot deliver and cannot deny.
They found a wholeness they could not achieve through materialism.
They found a peace no back account could produce.
These men found a love that no person could ever give them. They found the Lord.
And because they found the Lord they could rejoice.
The message of Christmas always calls us to action.
For some, God calls you to the most basic and essential action to give your life to Him.
For others Christmas calls for a recommitment to our faith
For others Christmas calls us to a fresh start to throw off the habits of life that are hindering our relationship with Christ.
The potential of Christmas is quite amazing – One GOD sent his one SON, with one MESSAGE I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
How do you respond to that message?
I believe the Christmas Carol says it best…
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.