The birth of Jesus is one of the greatest events in history. From it we learn three important practical truths about our incredible God.
Before we get into the birth of Jesus, let’s do a little Christmas history. Let’s answer some questions.
- When did Christians begin celebrating the birth of Jesus? Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus around 300 A.D. Until then, the focus was always on the resurrection of Jesus.
- Why is Christmas on December 25th? The reason we celebrate the Lord’s birth on December 25th is not actually known. Some believe it had something to do with providing an alternative to a pagan holiday on the same day. The Christians wanted an alternative so they chose to begin celebrating the Lord’s birth on the same day. Others think December 25th was chosen because it was believed that Mary’s miraculous conception was on March 25 and if you move nine months later you are at December 25th. So, Christians chose that date, which happened to fall on the same date as a pagan holiday at the time. The bottom line is, we don’t know for sure why we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th.
- What about kissing under the mistletoe? Kissing under the mistletoe came from a Druid custom. When enemies wanted a truce or a time of peace they would meet under mistletoe to agree upon the peace. Overtime, it evolved into kissing and making up under the mistletoe.
- When was the first Christmas tree? The first recorded Christmas tree dates back to 1510.
- First Christmas cards? The first Christmas cards were sold in London in 1843.
- What about Christmas stockings over the fireplace? In the fourth century a man known as Saint Nicholas was known for his generosity and kindness. One story about him is the time he rescued three daughters of a poor family from being forced into prostitution by providing dowries for them so they could marry. After doing their laundry, the girls hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. That night Saint Nicholas placed a small bag of gold coins into each girl’s stocking. The custom of hanging Christmas stockings derives in part from that event. Saint Nicholas had a Dutch name, which was Sinte Klaas, that eventually became Santa Claus.
Now, let’s get into the main event. Let’s take a look at the Biblical Christmas story and see what God would say to us today. Take a look at Luke 2:1.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. (NLT)
The Christmas story tells us three things.
The Christmas story says “God is in control.”
First, the Christmas story says, “God is in control.” The Christmas story puts God’s sovereignty and power on display. Here is where God says, “I am in control and in charge.”
Take a look at verse 1 carefully. Luke says, At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. Unknowingly, God moved upon Augustus’ heart and caused him to decide that it was time for a census. This set in motion a chain of events that was perfect in timing. God had said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph were currently living in Jerusalem. This particular census required them to go back to Joseph’s hometown in order to register for the census. While there, Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. That fulfilled the prophecy about Jesus, the Messiah, being born in Bethlehem. Behind all this is God’s sovereignty. God is in control.
Let’s now hurry through this thought. Augustus was the Roman emperor. He was not interested in God or God’s people. He worshipped the gods of Rome. In his home there would have been various statutes of gods and goddesses. But God used Augustus to get Mary and Joseph where they needed to be in order for God’s plan to be fulfilled.
The same is true for you. You have an Augustus in your life. That Augustus is not thinking about God’s plan for your life. He is not trying to be mean, he is trying to do his job.
- Sometimes your Augustus shows up at work. The boss calls you in and tells you they have to let you go or cut your hours back for financial reasons. That causes you to look for another job that causes you to work in a new environment, maybe a new town, or in another state. But God used that Augustus moment to get you where He wants you in order to fulfill His plan for your life. God is in control. He is sovereign.
- Sometimes your Augustus shows up when you are trying to decide what school to go to. You get a scholarship to one school, but not the one you wanted. So you follow the scholarship. But it’s at that school God wanted you to go to because He wanted you to go there because it would be there that God’s plan for your life would become more clear. God is in control.
- An Augustus can show up in many ways. That Augustus moment is that moment, that person, or that event that causes you to change something about your life temporarily or permanently. It doesn’t feel spiritual. It usually feels inconvenient and unwanted. It can also appear to be from the devil. However, in that moment God is doing something very significant in your life. Through that Augustus moment God is demonstrating His sovereignty and control.
Sometimes God uses something or someone that is very normal and secular to get you where you need to be. He did it for Mary and Joseph, He will do it for you. I guess my question is, “What is your Augustus moment right now? Who or what is God using to get you where you need to be?” This is a tricky question, because often times the Augustus moments in life are difficult to recognize, but even then, God is in control. You simply have to trust Him.
The Christmas story says “God keeps His promises.”
Second, the Christmas story says, “God keeps His promises.” The Christmas story puts God’s faithfulness on display. Here is where God says, “I do what exactly I say I am going to do. You can count on me.”
Luke tells us in verse 4, And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. Sometimes when God keeps His promises, it doesn’t feel like He is keeping His promises. Sometimes for God to keep His promises, He has to set things up for you and get you where you need to be and that can be difficult for you and uncomfortable. Let me show you what I mean.
A few hundred years earlier God spoke a promise about the Messiah in Micah 5:2 saying, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah [God is talking about Bethlehem], who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days…. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace” (Micah 5:2, 4-5; ESV). God promised that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. To keep His promise, God orchestrated the events around Mary and Joseph in order to get them where they needed.
Remember, I said that when God keeps His promises He doesn’t feel like God is keeping His promises. Let me explain. God moved upon Augustus to do a census. That decision by Augustus caused Joseph to take his pregnant wife back to Bethlehem (his home town) to register. At the time, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth (about 70 miles away). They got a donkey, put Mary on it, and took off on this several day journey while Mary was nine months pregnant. Can you imagine how uncomfortable she must have been? They probably had to stop more often. She would walk some, ride some, and rest some. This journey was inconvenient, cost them money and time. For them, the timing of this census could not have come at a worse time.
However, it was the perfect time for it. It had been designed by God. He had orchestrated everything. To keep His promise about the Messiah, God had to get them from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
The same is true for you. God has made some promises to you. He plans on keeping them, but He will need to orchestrate some things in your life to get you from your Nazareth to your Bethlehem. He will move you from one environment to another. He may use an Augustus, a census, or something else in your life but He will keep His promise to you. More than likely, it will feel inconvenient and you will think the timing is wrong. But it’s exactly the right time and the right place because your God is an on time God. He keeps His promises.
One of the promises He has made to you is to grow you spiritually. God’s Word says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT). God is not done with you yet. He is still working on you. He has not given up on you. He loves you, that’s why He sent His Son to be born in a manger, live a sinless life, and die on the cross for you so you could be saved, rescued and transformed for His glory. He promises to do a good work within you and to return for you.
Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises.
The Christmas story says “God became one of us.”
Third, the Christmas story says, “God became one of us.” The Christmas story puts God’s incarnation on display. God becomes a human so He could rescue us from our sins. The Christmas story tells us that God loves us.
Notice how Luke describes this incredible event in verse 6, And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. What’s amazing to me about Luke description of this incredible event is the simplicity of it. Luke describes the most profoundly significant event in all of history up to this point in startlingly simple, straightforward, unembellished language. I think the reason for this simple description is to reflect Jesus’ humanity. The God-man Jesus has just arrived. The Word has become flesh. God has become human. He has entered our world just like every other human.
Think about it.
- About nine months ago, angels appeared to tell Mary what would occur. An angel appeared to Joseph to reassure him of what Mary said was true.
- An army of angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.
- A star appeared to the magi that guided them to where Jesus would be.
But at the moment the actual birth, there was no appearance of an angel, no star over the stable, and no bright lights in heaven, and no shekinah glory of God. If you would have been there that night it would appear like a normal birth by a normal couple welcoming a normal baby boy into the world. By all appearance there seemed to be nothing significant happening in that stable. Yet, God had arrived. God had become one of us.
That night the Savior of the world was being born. The Messiah God had promised for centuries had arrived. The devil would finally meet his match. Sin would be conquered. Death would lose its sting. When the angel spoke to Joseph about Mary, nine months earlier, he said, “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NLT). Christmas is about God coming to us to save us from our sins.
God tells us in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NLT). [Explain salvation]
The Christmas story reminds us that God is in control, God keeps His promises, and God became one of us so He could save each of us.
Before you go this morning, Kate is going to conclude our service with Silent Night. When she is finished you are free to go. Merry Christmas everyone.