Summary: I pray by the time we’re done today, every heart here will prepare Him room and receive the King of Christmas.
Receiving the Promise
Rev. Brian Bill
December 24, 2018
Joy to the World
Written over 300 years ago, “Joy to the World” is now the most published Christmas hymn in North America.
I love these words:
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
I pray by the time we’re done today, every heart here will prepare Him room and receive the King of Christmas.
One of our family traditions is to drive around to see Christmas lights and yard displays. When we see one that’s impressive we say something like, “ooooooh!” and when we come across one that looks lame, I lay on the horn. This always makes our daughters laugh. We went out last night and saw some good ones and others that got the gong. One yard we saw had only one decoration – an inflatable of the Grinch!
Since moving to Moline, our favorite every year is “Henry’s Christmas Yard.” This gets multiple “oooooh’s” from everyone. For nearly a decade, Scott Hildebrand has been putting up an elaborate Christmas display that thousands visit each year. His display was even featured in the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK. In the middle of the yard in the gazebo is an elaborate manger scene with the Christmas characters giving their attention to the Christ child.
Every year we hear reports of the baby Jesus being stolen from outdoor nativity scenes across the country. Because this happens so often some owners of outdoor manger scenes are embedding GPS devices and using surveillance cameras to catch the crèche criminals.
Instead of preparing Him room, I wonder if we’ve allowed the Savior to be stolen from our celebrations. Our society has sanitized the spiritual. For some of us the Savior has been swiped from Christmas and we haven’t even noticed.
Are you aware there’s only one verse in the Gospels that describes the actual details of the birth of Jesus? It’s found in Luke 2:7: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” During this time of the year we often turn to the opening two chapters of Matthew and the first two chapters of Luke to be reminded of what happened at Christmas.
I counted the verses that recount the narrative surrounding the nativity and came up with 99. That means only about 1% of the Christmas account focuses on the actual birth of Jesus! The other verses deal with the various reactions and responses to His birth.
On top of this, while the birth of Jesus is incredibly important because it explains how Jesus is sovereign, sinless and substitute, are you aware the Bible never tells us to remember His birth? Surprising, isn’t it? We are told to remember His death in passages like 1 Corinthians 11:26: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Having said all that, the birth of Jesus Christ is absolutely essential! Without the incarnation, there would be no crucifixion, no resurrection, no ascension and no Second Coming! And without Christmas, there would be no forgiveness and no way to go to heaven when we die. We would be stuck in our sins with no hope of change.
So why do Matthew and Luke spend so much time giving the details of what happened before and after the birth of Jesus? Why do these gospel writers include so many people from different cultures, generations, genders and socio-economic backgrounds? Here’s why. While the reality of the birth of Christ is essential, God puts all these individuals in the narrative to show that He is concerned about our response to the birth of Christ. As the video proclaimed, “God thunders in the heavens and whispers in our hearts.”
I hope you hear either the thunder or the whisper – and that every heart here will prepare Him room and receive the King of Christmas.
Let’s briefly look at some of these responses. We’ll begin in Matthew and then head over to Luke.
1. Herod hated. Matthew 2:16 tells us when King Herod “saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” The word “tricked” can be translated as “mocked, trifled with, and made a fool of.” As a result, he becomes “furious” meaning he was, “violently enraged and exceedingly indignant.”
Herod then does something worthy of Hitler or Stalin and orders the cold-blooded murder of all males less than two years of age. Herod the Great became the Butcher of Bethlehem. He was perhaps the ultimate oxymoron in history. Rich in what most of us consider valuable, he was totally bankrupt as a human being. He was addicted to power, obsessed with possessions, focused on prestige, and filled with paranoia.