“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them . . .” Luke 2:8-9a
God sent the birth announcement to shepherds because shepherds were not allowed in church.
The shepherds were such outcasts in society that they couldn’t even enter the temple.
They were not allowed in, though the very animals they were in charge of keeping would be used for religious sacrifice.
They were looked down upon by church people and not allowed in.
But God . . .
God went to them, FIRST. God shared the news with them, FIRST. God went to them because if He hadn’t there is a good chance they would have never known.
The reality that God went to the shepherds with the birth announcement shines some light for us on God’s heart. God loves all people and desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Christmas isn’t for church people. Why? Church people already KNOW about Christmas!
Christmas is for those who don’t think they are worthy to come to church. Christmas is for those who aren’t worthy. Christmas is for outcasts and sinners and the broken and lonely.
It’s Christmas Eve. Many of us church people will be attending a Christmas Eve service. We should. I hope you go and reflect and worship and grow in your love of Jesus tonight. But let’s remember God’s heart for those who aren’t church people, yet. Let’s be intentional today. There will be those you see today who can’t get to a Christmas Eve service because we are buying last minute items from them or ordering food from them for our stomachs. Say a word to them about Jesus. Ask how you can pray for them. Thank them for serving your city by working.
There will be those you can invite to the Christmas Eve service tonight. Those who would never come unless they are invited. Call them. Bake them some cookies and take them to their house . . . invite them to come with you to the service before you leave.
Family members will be coming in today who do not consider themselves worthy to be “in church.” Love them. Be gracious to them. Invite them to church in a way that expresses there will be no judgment if they say no.
The fact that God went to the shepherds first is a reminder that the message of Christmas isn’t for church people. It’s for those who aren’t there yet. Sure – church people never outgrow their need to marinate in and understand the Gospel. But let’s remember – there are those who have yet to hear it for the first time and/or understand what it means for them. The heart of the Father is also for those who would never even think about attending tonight’s Christmas Eve service.
So, Go – Tell it on the Mountain. . .
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. . . The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son —the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him.” John 1:1-3, 14, 18
In today’s reading from Louie Giglio’s Advent devotional he wrote, “Tomorrow the church celebrates the dawn of grace in the coming of Jesus – the only Person who chose to be born.”
Wow. That is something I have NEVER considered. Jesus is the only Person who chose to be born.
I didn’t choose to be born. You didn’t choose to be born. We didn’t ask God to put us in the town and state and country of our choosing. We didn’t ask God for the parents or siblings we ended up with. We didn’t ask Him for the physical features we exhibit. All of it was planned and determined by Someone other than us.
But not Jesus. He chose to be born. He chose His parents, His town, His physical features, His birthplace, etc.
We didn’t. He did.
We didn’t ask to be born broken, with a sin nature beyond self-repair. But He did ask to be born, to come and dwell among us sinful people, as the only sinless human.
To behold His glory. To look away from ourselves, toward Him who reveals the fullness of God. God did it the way He did it and chose to come to earth in order for us to observe the majesty of the Son. God planned your life and my life and directed Himself to come to earth in order to fix what was broken and give us eyes to marvel at Him in the Person of His Son.
Our lives will never be full or complete or satisfied until we have tasted and seen how good He is and pursue His glorious presence with all that we have. The One who chose to be born has revealed God to us. We didn’t choose to be born. But we didn’t force God to do what He did, either. He could have gotten this whole thing started, watched us mess it all up, and left us to our own vices. But He didn’t. The One who chose to be born loves those of us who didn’t. He expressed this love by choosing to be born, choosing to live with no place to lay His head, and choosing to die so that those of us who have no choice in death might behold His glory – now and forever.
You didn’t choose to be born. But you do have a choice of what and who you will worship.
“. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'” Matthew 1:20-21
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.'” Matthew 1:22-23
The angel tells Joseph to call the newborn “Jesus.”
Matthew looks back to Old Testament prophecy and says His name should be “Immanuel.”
The angel says “Jesus.” Matthew (and Isaiah!) say “Immanuel.”
Which is it, “Jesus” or “Immanuel”? “The LORD saves” or “God with us”? Do Matthew and the angel disagree? Do they need to go out in the parking lot and settle it? What’s up with this? What do we call the baby?
You already know, don’t you?
You can’t have one without the other. The baby is named “Jesus” because of what He came to do: “save His people from their sins.” The baby is also called “Immanuel” because of what His work accomplished: “God with us.” Again, you can’t have one without the other. Or, at least, the very purpose of the one is so the other can happen.
Why do we need forgiveness? To be with God!
Why can’t we be with God in close relationship? Our sin!
The angel and Matthew and Isaiah agree completely. We need Jesus so we can have Immanuel. What was lost in Genesis 3 because of sin has been restored in this baby.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:18
You see? Even Peter got it!
Sing choirs of angels! Sing in exaltation!
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
When Joseph and Mary got engaged, I’m pretty sure they didn’t imagine themselves giving birth to a son in a Bethlehem manger “before they had come together.”
I seriously doubt Joseph imagined himself being engaged and married to a woman carrying a baby that wasn’t put there by him.
It is highly unlikely Mary envisioned the birth of her first child being surrounded, not by her parents, but by shepherds she couldn’t name.
Mary never dreamed of having to send her wedding dress back for a much larger size.
Such is the way of the Lord, however, isn’t it? We have plans. We have dreams. We have thoughts about how the future should look. Many are the plans in our minds, says the author of Proverbs, but the Lord’s purpose always wins out.
Today is the Pearson’s final day in El Dorado as Pastor and family of its First Baptist Church. Never did any of us dream we would be moving to Franklin, TN – much less moving there only 30 months after arriving.
Last night I signed a contract selling our home. Yesterday was our 15th wedding anniversary. Never – ever – did I think on December 18th, 1999 I would be selling a home in El Dorado, Arkansas as I packed my car to head to an apartment in Tennessee.
God’s purposes always – always – always prevail. We have and make plans (and we should, by the way). We should always carefully and wisely prepare for the future. But let’s allow the Christmas story to remind us that, as we prepare and think and plan for the future, we must always do it as we offer it to the Lord “to do what seems best to Him.”
His ways are not our ways. No. He is always working to cause and allow us to seek and find Him in our plans.
Make your plans. But make them in pencil. Your sovereign Lord has the right to interrupt them at any time. And, by the way, He loves you more than you could ever imagine.
“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Matthew 1:17
Ever wonder why in the world the Holy Spirit would inspire Matthew to take an entire verse to summarize what he had just done in the first sixteen verses by dividing up Jesus’ genealogy into fourteens????
From Abraham to David – Fourteen Generations
From David to Babylon – Fourteen Generations
From Babylon to the Christ – Fourteen Generations
What is the point?
Matthew has a Holy Spirit inspired agenda: Jesus is King over everything.
In Old Testament times, names were assigned numbers. Don’t ask me how or why all of this was done (go ask the smart guys). But they did. Every name was also given a number to represent their name. Guess who had the number fourteen? The greatest King Israel had ever had up until that point – King David. Matthew is setting the birth of Jesus up beautifully. . .
The Spirit of God inspired Matthew to summarize Jesus’ genealogy by showing how it divided neatly into three separate generations of fourteen in order to point us to a major theme of his Gospel – Jesus is King.
Think about one of the last things Matthew records Jesus saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus is King, period. He is your King whether you acknowledge it yet or not (see Philippians 2:10-11). For those who bow in submission to Him now – everlasting joy. For those who reject Him as King over their lives – everlasting pain.
Christmas reminds us that the baby born was and is and always will be a King.
Come and Worship, Come and Worship, Worship Christ the newborn King.
“Then Herod, when he 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.” Matthew 2:16
The first Christmas wasn’t full of joy for some momma’s and daddy’s. Because of the first Christmas, scores of boys were killed by government authorities. Future Christmas’ for many heartbroken parents weren’t celebrated with tidings of comfort and joy. They were remembered for the time a scared and jealous king killed their son.
Last night the Pearson 5 tuned into NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Me (37), Katie (36), Luke (9), Seth (7), and Birti (7) all watched as Mr. Williams reported on the massacre in Pakistan where 145 people/children were killed in a school yesterday. That story was followed by another where 2 were shot and killed while being held hostage in Sydney, Australia. In the middle of one of the stories, Luke asked aloud what we were all thinking: “Why do people do that?”
Great question, son.
I am sure one of the sisters of one of the boys whom Herod killed that first Christmas season asked their parents the same thing. “Why would Herod do this mommy?”
In short, we live in a world sick with sin. The world God originally intended (see Genesis 1 and 2) is now groaning to be put back together (see Romans 8:22). When Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, all hell (quite literally) broke loose. Everything was subject to futility (see Romans 8:20). Translation: everything in all creation is going crazy due to sin. Herod killed all the boys 2 years old and younger for the same reason men held innocents hostage in Sydney and gunmen killed innocent children in Pakistan yesterday: sin, fear, jealousy, greed, power, and deception.
But here’s the thing: the first Christmas was the dawning of all things being made new again. Jesus has come to repair what was broken. Jesus was sent by the Sovereign Creator to restore what we messed up. He’s bought the right to have all authority in heaven and on earth. He is coming again to put everything back as it should be. In the meantime, our job is to help as many sin sick people as possible know this news, pleading with them to trust in this Jesus who has come and is coming again.
Our hope is not in the here and now. It’s in the “what is to come.”
Our job is to urge others to know about this hope that we have.
I don’t know what all the parents of the boys Herod killed that first Christmas knew and understood. I simply cannot imagine, fathom, nor have any categories for how they felt. But what happened (the death of their boys due to Herod’s sinful heart) and what caused the event (Jesus’ birth) simultaneously demonstrated the need for, and the answer to, this world needing a Rescuer.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel.