Dec 19, 2014
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Christmas Special: LOVE was born 2000 years ago

“Love was born 2000 years ago”

Merry Christmas everyone.

“Love was born 2000 years ago”

Today will be a time to reflect on God’s goodness in reaching out to us through His Son.

Let’s open in prayer…

 


I’d like to start by sharing a quote with you from a pastor Fred in Africa that I am working with:

“In this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose love has given us everything we would ever need for life and godliness, I pray that you would experience the reality of this love in your family.”

He just gets it. 

And the Holy Spirit has been leading us to read our own Bibles, and look at the relationships in the Bible. 

Why look at relationships?  Because then we can “relate”, and isn’t that what’s it’s all about?  Don’t we want to understand how to apply God’s Word to real life?

And so understanding relationships can help us do this.  And this comes from reading our Bibles in context.

We can learn so much when we humble ourselves in this way.

 

About 2000 years ago, the most amazing miracle that ever occurred in human history took place.

2000 years ago LOVE was born.  A virgin became pregnant by the Spirit of God, and therefore the child that was born was called the Son of God.

As we know from many scriptures, this baby was known as God among us, and also “God is love” in 1JO 4:8.  

God Himself became flesh, and out of love He became the replacement in man’s judgment.

His name was Jesus, according to what the angel told Mary, and one of His titles was Immanuel, which means “God with us”.

And therefore, through the man Jesus Christ, we see God Himself, and His sacrificial love for His fallen creatures.

Jesus is our example, and our illustration of God.

This Christmas season is a time we as Christians rejoice in remembering the birth of the Christ.  We rejoice because God did not forget His people! (which He could have and should have, by human standards)

The purpose of this message is for us as believers to enjoy this whole Christmas season; to take it slow, to sit back and dwell on the fact that, out of pure love, God became a man for you and me.

Maybe even watch a movie about the birth of Christ, and spend some time with Him, abiding in His Love and Truth.

My hope is that you bask in the glory of His Word.  Let the water of the word wash over you and cleanse your heart.

Bask in the glory of His love and grace.

 

And the passages we will read today, I hope you go home and read them over and over this weekend, and see all the wonderful details that God fulfilled for the Messiah’s birth to be effective towards our salvation.

I greatly enjoyed reading just 4 chapters over and over.  Mat 1 and 2, and Luke 1 and 2.  These are the only chapters in the gospels that record the events of the Lord’s birth into the human race.  And some of the details that are presented I have never noticed before.  (it’s truly amazing how endless the Word of God is)

So we will go back and forth and use these chapters in the Word of God for reflection; Reflection on HOW BLESSED WE ARE that our God and Creator LOVED US so much that He DID SOMETHING to save us from our hopeless sinful condition.

The simplicity of the Gospel leads to simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ…

Christ’s love has given us everything we will ever need for life and godliness.

Let’s read our Bibles.

Turn to Luke ch. 1.

And as we read this, remember Luke was a doctor, and Paul’s companion on much of his missionary journeys.

Luke, as a doctor, had a unique viewpoint, and was an excellent witness, who was educated (and probably experienced) even in things like childbirth. 

Look what he says to begin his book…

Luke 1:1-4  “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning (sounds like a doctor to me), to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

NASU

We can see Luke’s concern for accuracy and truth, and he lets us know that he has done full investigation, and as a doctor he is now going to eagerly report about the virgin birth!

In Luke’s gospel, we see the virgin birth from Mary’s viewpoint.

And remember, people like Luke lived at the same time as Mary, and possibly he even heard directly from her mouth her story of how God came to her and made her pregnant.

This is not specifically revealed to us in the Word, but Mary was alive after the resurrection of Jesus and she gathered with the apostles in the Upper Room in Acts 1:14.

Back to relationships, and how they help us relate and even apply our faith.

Where was Luke at this time?  We are not given detail, but is it possible Luke was even part of the 120 disciples in the Upper Room that day?  After all, Luke is the author of the book of Acts too.

We do know that Saul was converted shortly after this, and Luke became one of his companions. 

So Luke and Mary very likely crossed paths, among the relatively small group of committed believers that existed at this time.

Here is what Luke reports:

Luke 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, " Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. 16 "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18 Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." 19 The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."

NASU

So there we have an introduction to John the Baptist, who would be born 6 months before our Lord, to be the voice crying in the wilderness that the Messiah is coming.

Now let’s see the response of Mary to the angel’s announcement to her…

Luke 1:26-38  “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, " Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." 34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered and said to her, " The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 "For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Why did the angel Gabriel tell her this??  Was this really necessary for Mary’s plan to give birth to the Messiah??) 

The humility of Mary.

As a humble woman of God, Mary was chosen to be a vessel of mercy, to carry our Lord into this world.  She calls herself a “bondslave of the Lord” and therefore we see she is His WILLING servant; a God-fearing young Jewish woman, who accepted this amazing calling by faith.

What also is worth noting: the priest Zacharias, who was a good man of God, obeying all the commandments of the Lord, a man who everyone rightly respected; he lacked faith at this opportunity (vs. 18-20), questioning the angel Gabriel, and therefore was made mute.  

The teenage girl Mary, who had much less religious education than Zacharias, and no respected position in the Jewish religion, HAD FAITH at this opportunity, and therefore she said “may it be done to me according to your word”.

Anyone can have faith, and as the Spirit’s been revealing to us, the believer with less Bible doctrine in their soul can have the trusting faith of a child; trusting faith in the love of God that truly brings glory to God with their life.

What a great visual aide Mary is to us, and by relating to her as a human being, we can learn from her having faith in her opportunity from God.

As you read your Bibles, allow faithful believers like Zacharias and Mary to minister to your soul.  They were just people too, and we can learn greatly from their mistakes and successes.

 

And now let’s look at the virgin birth from Joseph’s viewpoint, provided by Matthew.

And again let’s remember, even though the Holy Spirit directed Matthew in what to write, Matthew lived at the same time as Mary. 

He may have talked with Mary about Joseph’s encounter with the angel, as Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. 

Imagine how many times over the years that Joseph and Mary intimately shared and recalled their personal encounters with the angel before Jesus came. (we don’t know how long Joseph himself lived)

So Mary probably knew very well Joseph’s supernatural encounter with the angel of the Lord, and she possibly shared that with Matthew, personally.

Again, God uses the power of relationships and real people living the spiritual life.

MAT 1:18-25 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together (speaking about sexual union) she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, " Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

So there we see Joseph’s encounter with the angel, but Joseph was also a humble and willing servant, and a man of faith!

And so, Joseph and Mary were on the same page, by their individual grace meetings with the angel Gabriel, but they still had to be WILLING participants, and by faith they accepted this beautiful calling on their lives.

Now let’s go back to Luke and see Mary’s response to the good news of her carrying the Messiah and Savior into the world.

Luke 1:39-56  “Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  

(remember in vs. 36, the angel reported to Mary that Elizabeth was also now 6 months pregnant in her old age!  Imagine being Mary!  Was this for real?  Was she dreaming?  So she got up “in a hurry” to confirm that Elizabeth was also having a miraculous pregnancy, as the angel had told her)

What would you have done?  And was she doing anything wrong?

And this was not a lack of faith, but a way God provided for her encouragement, to confirm His extremely unique calling on her life.

So Mary hurried to go see Elizabeth, but she did not arrive very quickly!

I want to read you a quote from Logos Talk, the Logos Bible Software Blog, written by Rebecca Brant on November 16, 2012.  “Mary came from Nazareth, a Galilean city west of the Sea of Galilee (see Luke 1:26). Her journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah covered between 80 and 100 miles. Luke does not mention whether Mary made any preparations for the trip or how she traveled; she may have gone on foot or as part of a caravan. In Mary’s day, a person traveling by foot could cover about 20 miles per day. If Mary walked to Elizabeth’s home, it would have taken her four to five days. If she accompanied a caravan, she would have arrived in about three days. (on a side note, this was probably the same path they took by caravan years later, when they brought the 12 year old Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover, later in Luke 2.)

In either case, Mary demonstrated her courage as well as her desire for confirmation of God’s plan—such a journey would have been dangerous, especially for a young girl alone. Mary serves as a role model, not only for her obedience, but for her action. She overcame any fear she may have had about surrendering to God’s call on her life or facing the possible danger involved in confirming his will. Such complete surrender freed her to act in confidence.”

(a quote from Logos Talk, the Logos Bible Software Blog, written by Rebecca Brant on November 16, 2012)

 

LUK 1:39Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 "And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?

(notice, did Mary say anything yet to Elizabeth about her pregnancy?  Here we see supernatural confirmation to the young lady Mary, who may have needed this reaffirmation in her soul, even though she was a positive believer!) 

44 "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."  (here we see Mary’s faith, she was not doubting, but accepted and believed the angel’s message about her special calling)

And now Mary rejoices in this great confirmation by Elizabeth, and she just starts praising God!  Vs. 46-56

46 And Mary said: " My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.

50 "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION

TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.  51 " He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 "HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.  54 "He has given help to Israel His servant,  In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers,  To Abraham and his descendants forever."  56 And Mary stayed with her about three months (probably until the birth of John the Baptist), and then returned to her home.

NASU

The truth about Mary.

Notice Mary rejoiced in “God my Savior” in vs 47, admitting she needed God to save her.  Here is proof that Mary was a sinner just like all of us, so she is not someone to be worshipped or prayed to.  But she was a beautiful God-fearing woman whom God was able to use for His glory.

 

Luke 2:1-20  “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, " Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 " This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 " Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." 15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they came in a hurry  (anything wrong with being in a hurry?  Not if it’s to act on the conviction God has given you.)  and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

NASU

So in Luke we see the shepherds mentioned, and we see their encounter with the angel, and them confirming Jesus as the Son of God.

In Matthew we hear about the wise men (the magi) coming to see baby Jesus, however some scholars believe this was not actually at the time of the actual birth at the manger, but some time later.

 

Matt 2:1-12  “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, " In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,

ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;

FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER

WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

NASU

Here we see the prophecy of Bethlehem fulfilled, and we see the baby Jesus being worshipped as Lord.

Now let’s close by going back to Luke’s gospel and read what happened after the Lord’s birth, in terms of His preparation and confirmation as the Chosen One.

And please notice, everything was done according to the Law, because Jesus had to fulfill the Law to fully satisfy God the Father’s requirement of perfect righteousness.

Luke 2:21-40  “And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, " A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS."

Here we see Jesus fulfilling the Law in every way, which He would do His entire life, so He could be presented as a spotless and blameless sacrifice, acceptable to God, as a payment for the sins of all mankind.

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

 According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,

And the glory of Your people Israel."

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. (why were the amazed?  Maybe because they are human like you and I and needed confirmation.  Maybe their flesh got in the way and they started to rationalize it all away?)  34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed —  35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul — to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him (baby Jesus) to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

NASU

Spiritual Encouragement.

God used spiritual people like Simeon and Anna to confirm the baby Jesus as Messiah, and even prophesy to all the seekers in the temple that the Messiah had just been born for their salvation!

My hope again is that you go home this long weekend and bask in the glory of His Word.  Just sit back and read the first 2 chapters in Matthew and Luke, and simply rejoice. 

Allow God to encourage your soul, through the spiritual encouragement of other positive believers.

And mostly through Jesus Christ, through whom Love was born for our salvation 2000 years ago.