INTRO: 1. ILL. Pastor once made an eye-opening discovery when visiting a nursing home and asked the residence there to recount their most memorable Christmas – they all remembered Christmas experiences from their childhood.
a. Why can’t adults who understand the most about Christmas enjoy it like a child?
b. What would it take to make this Christmas our most memorable?
2. What can children teach us about Christmas?
a. They know how to stop and see. To make memories.
b. They believe the unbelievable. (What are you believing for this Christmas?)
c. The magic of Christmas for them is a wide-eyed faith in the miraculous.
3. The shepherds and the wise men shared the same wide-eyed faith that we see in children.
a. Saw this time in their lives as a miraculous time.
b. Willing to believe the unbelievable.
c. Willing to get involved in what God was doing.
(God doesn’t take a Christmas break, so many opportunities to see a miracle)
4. But their greatest key is when they determined in their hearts to find Jesus in the shadows of Bethlehem.
a. Jesus will not intrude on our Christmas, but chooses to remain in the shadows of Bethlehem, revealing Himself only to the wide-eyed seeker.
b. ILL. My brother-in-laws dad passed away just before Thanksgiving, talking with my sister we thought how wonderful it must be to spend his first Christmas in heaven, to hear the accounts from the lips of those who where there, to embrace the Jesus we sing about. I felt envious. But then realized, we can all spend Christmas with Jesus.
5. Micah let us know that our search for Jesus doesn’t start with the Christmas story but much earlier in the book.
I. WE’LL FIND JESUS IN THE SHADOWS OF ANCIENT BETHLEHEM.
a. Micah proved to us that Bethlehem wasn’t a happenstance location, but always stood as the place that Christ would be born. (the same passage scribes used to inform the wise men)
b. Micah lets us know that we can find the Christmas story in the O.T. as well as New.
c. Throughout the Old Testament Bethlehem cast shadows on what was to come.
d. ILL. Pastor told of a house years ago in his neighborhood that kept their Christmas lights burning long after the season was past. They burned through January. Even through the first of February those outside lights burned every night. Finally, about the middle of February he became a bit critical and said, "If I were too lazy to take my Christmas lights down, I think I’d at least turn them off at night."But about the middle of March there was a sign outside of their house that explained why they’d left the lights on. It said simply, "Welcome home, Jimmy." We learned that their family had a son in Vietnam, and they had unashamedly left their Christmas lights on in anticipation of his return. It wasn’t Christmas until Jimmy came home.
e. O.T. anticipated the Messiah, but knew it wasn’t Christmas until Christ appeared.
A. IN THE SHADOWS OF BENJAMIN’S BETHLEHEM.
1. Before Bethlehem was a town, Jesus cast a shadow over it.
2. In Genesis 35, the bible tells of an event that happened in the proximity of Bethlehem.
3. It was here that Rachel had to stop and give birth to a son – Benjamin.
4. The bible said that the delivery was a difficult one that would cost Rachel her life.
5. Before she died she called her child “Benoni” which means ‘son of my sorrow’, because of the pain of his birth.
6. But after Rachel’s passing, Jacob changed his name to “Benjamin” which mean ‘son of my right hand’
7. Little did they know they were casting a shadow of what was to come.
8. In Bethlehem would be born a son, born as the ‘Son of Sorrows’, but the Father would highly exalt Him and make Him the ‘Son of my Right Hand.’
9. This story so touched me, that I determined to call my son Benjamin - Joel’s middle name.
B. IN THE SHADOWS OF DAVID’S BETHLEHEM.
1. Bethlehem was David’s home town.
2. David would become an unexpected King, chosen by God.
3. David didn’t know either that he was casting a shadow of another King, the greatest King of all that would sit on the Throne of David and rule forever.
C. IN THE SHADOWS OF MICAH’S BETHLEHEM.
1. Seven centuries before Christ, Micah in the spirit pinpointed Bethlehem as God’s choice for a cradle.
2. God chooses to take the mighty things from the small, insignificant things.
3. You’re never a ’nobody’ when you’ve surrendered to God’s plan.
II. WE’LL FIND JESUS IN THE SHADOW OF THE MANGER.
a. Found by those willing to seek Him.
A. WE CAN FIND HIM IN SPITE OF THE MADNESS OF THE SEASON.
1. ILL. Two men opted to go sailing instead of Christmas shopping with their wives. Got caught in a violent storm, capsized in freezing water, clinging to the capsized boat barely made it to land. One says to the other “This sure beats Christmas shopping.”
2. People of Bethlehem can relate to the madness we experience this time of year.
a. A time of inconvenience. (Taxes, Travel)
b. A time of crowds and business.
c. A time of disappointments. (No rooms in a full city)
3. But nothing can hinder those who truly intend to find Him.
B. WE CAN FIND HIM IF WE’RE WILLING TO RECOGNIZE HIM.
1. The shepherds found Him because they wanted to recognize Him as the Messiah.
2. The wise men found Him because they wanted to recognize Him as the King of the Jews.
3. Only those who can pause from the busyness of life can recognize Him.
4. ILL. Children’s Christmas pageant at school one year represented Jesus as a single light bulb in a manger meant to light up the stage. When the stage hands accidentally turned that light bulb off one child yelled out “Hey you switched off Jesus!”
5. Have we switched off Jesus this season?
III. WE’LL FIND JESUS IN THE SHADOW THAT BETHLEHEM CASTS.
a. The world is content to leave Him in a manger - stop there.
b. For us, Bethlehem was just the starting place, only the ribbon on the greatest gift of all.
c. Christmas is a celebration not of a baby in a manger, but a Savior alive and well.
d. ILL. Practice of one family was to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus every Christmas, one of the children in this family was asked if she got all she wanted for christmas responded, “No, but it’s not my birthday”.
A. BETHLEHEM CASTS THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.
1. Even the first mention of His name – Jesus meant Savior.
2. Wise men’s perfume foreshadowed when perfume would prepare His body for burial.
3. Jesus was the only man ‘born to die’.
4. ILL. Merchant in London with a 6” nail in his cash register. Curious customers would ask it’s meaning to which he’d respond, “It reminds me of the great price he paid for me and how little I do for Him in comparison.
CONCLUSION: ILL. My earliest recollection of Christmas was at child’s pageant in first grade at the St. Stephen’s Elementary School where I played Joseph, I remembered very little about the program, or anything that went on - I just remembered that my parents had taken the time to be there and that made my day and that made it special - give Jesus the gift of your presence this Christmas.