The Saviour is Born
Reading: Luke 2:1-
A recent survey of 2,000 British families found that children between the ages of 10 and 13 didn't know why we give each other presents every December 25 – and political correctness is to blame.
Apparently half our population in the UK considers that Jesus's birth irrelevant to their festive celebration. Frankly I would have thought that the percentage would be far higher than that! It seems that as we get richer, people think they no longer need God.
The same survey also suggested that not only is it children who are ignorant of Christmas but adults are too with only one adult in 10 being able to state four facts about the Nativity.
Well it's my aim this morning to try to rectify some of this. I want to draw your attention to some of the facts about that first Christmas and more importantly to highlight what these facts really mean and what their significance is.
Some Fundamentals First
Mary was pregnant.
Mary's pregnancy had developed normally over nine months but it had not begun that way. The baby she was carrying was unlike any other because her baby was the result of direct divine intervention. When Mary conceived it was truly miraculous. We sometimes use the word "miraculous" to describe an event which is simply highly unlikely. But miracles in the Bible are related to God. The Christmas story can only be understood when this simple fact is recognized. And, indeed, any attempt to eradicate the miraculous from our understanding of Christmas is effectively to write another story!
The Romans were in power.
There was only one superpower at that time and it was Rome. The Emperor was a man called Caesar Augustus and he determined that an empire-
Joseph's family connections.
Joseph belonged to the family of King David who had ruled Israel some 1.000 years previously. And because of that Joseph had to head off south to the ancestral family home of Bethlehem in order to be registered. Joseph had entered into a legal contract to marry Mary and she accompanied him on his journey to Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was crowded.
The officials of the Roman Empire would have had first priority in the local inns and doubtless many other folk had had to journey to Bethlehem to be registered. Space was at a premium, the "No vacancies" sign was everywhere to be seen.
Mary's Baby is born.
Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when the time came for Mary's child to be born. Doubtless the couple would have preferred to find other more suitable accommodation but at least there was a place to lay the new born baby even if it was only an animal's feeding trough, a manger.
Such are the basic details concerning the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the World. He was the most important of men, he was the God-
Well there were some other people who were about to find out what had happened and they were a pretty unlikely bunch too! Not only were they about to learn the facts of the case but a clear cut explanation about the significance of it all too!
Shepherds. Why shepherds? After all shepherds weren't thought of as being fine, upstanding members of the community and in fact shepherds had a somewhat dubious reputation. You see, they didn't seem overly particular when it came to matters of ownership especially if the item in question belonged to somebody else. And so shepherds were regarded much the same way that gypsies and travelers are in our own day. If their light-
So why should they get the type of special treatment that we're about to consider?
Well I suppose a simple answer is that Jesus didn't come into the world for those who thought they were the bees-
Lk.5:31 "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."
There is something similar taking place even at the moment of his birth as the shepherds – those worthless untrustworthy shepherds get to hear just how good God is the undeserving sinners!
These shepherds were about to receive their own private news bulletin – who needs satellite TV, certainly not those shepherds that night?! They would hear:
A remarkable explanation, about…
A remarkable event, given in…
A remarkable manner
Some more Extraordinary Facts
An unexpected messenger: – an angel of the Lord
An unexpected light: – the glory of the Lord
An unexpected message: – good news
– great joy
– a Mighty Saviour is born
– an opportunity to check things out
An unexpected concert: – a veritable choir of angels which is praising God
– and giving further explanations – peace with God
A Reasoned Response
They say that all good things must come to an end and as the angelic celebrations came to an end on the Bethlehem hills the shepherds had some thinking to do. Given all that had just taken place what were they going to do next?
I suppose they could have settled down to a comfortable sleep after all the excitement had now died down – but you wouldn't expect them to do that, would you? Surely they would have to do something with all this extraordinary news that they have been told about in such an unusual way!
And, yes, that is just what we find. They encourage one another to go and check it all out. After all this info must have been given to them for a reason.
The shepherds had heard what the angels had had to say. Did you know that the word "angel" means "messenger"?
Your "messenger" this morning is not an angel but a preacher but he is telling you the same message: Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners!
The shepherds acted upon what they were told – will you?
When the shepherds went down into Bethlehem they found that what the angels had told them was true – they found a baby lying in a manger. But there was no further sign that this tiny baby might be a powerful Saviour, no superman-
Jesus was born in order that he might save his people from their sins. He would secure this salvation by living every stage of his life just as his Heavenly Father wanted him to – in fact his entire life would have his Father's ringing endorsement:
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt.3:17)
But Jesus wouldn't save his people by leaving them the example of a perfect life, he would save them by giving his life as an innocent substitute and dying in their place upon the Cross of Calvary – and of course he didn't stay dead but rose again to life on the third day!
(It is interesting that at the beginning of his earthly life the shepherds went to see the place where he lay in a manger yet at the end of his earthly life an angel encourages some of his female followers to see where he had lain but where he lay no longer for he was alive again!)
Well there is a brief presentation to you of some of the details concerning that first Christmas when Jesus Christ was born into our world.
I want to urge you not simply to be content to go away having listened to it but to go away and take it all to heart.
Don't try to trivialize or sentimentalize the Christmas story rather remember the explanations that have been given which tell us just why it all took place. Don't fixate on a helpless little baby – this is the Incarnate Son of God about whom we sing in our carols true words such as these:
Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies,
LET earth and heaven combine,
angels and men agree,
to praise in songs divine,
the incarnate Deity,
our God contracted to a span,
incomprehensibly made man.
And this baby grew into manhood. As a man he accomplished what the angelic declaration had said of him – he triumphed in his life's mission and victoriously secured the salvation of his people.
Have you understood that? Have you understood that you are to respond to this message? As the shepherds were privileged to hear their message so you have been privileged to hear about God's Son the One and Only Saviour of Mankind. But have you put your faith and trust in him?
May God grant us all the grace we need that we might trust the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the peace with God which only he can give.
To God be the glory.