Sunday, December 11, 2016

Luke 2:1-11 – the REAL Meaning of Christmas

Luke 2:1-11 – the REAL Meaning of Christmas
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

How do YOU feel about Christmas??
For MANY, this is their favorite time of the year.  A time of love, of giving, of friends and family get-togethers, for special services at the church…all the singing…the kids…the smells…the decorations – everything about Christmas is GREAT to them!
For OTHERS, Christmas is a lonely time – a season of depression… where memories haunt and family and friends too often forget. Maybe DEATH robbed them or DISTANCE prevents them from enjoying this day.
For SOME, Christmas is a time for overindulgence – to get off work, drink, overspend, and overeat.
And for a few, Christmas has become so commercialized that it has lost any real meaning it once had.  They feel that Christmas has been stolen from the church in order to make rich people richer – as was illustrated by one Christmas card I saw recently that cited Revelation 11:10 in its opening greeting… “And they exchanged gifts and made merry!” hoping that no one would actually check the reference and discover that this was actually satanic.
Rather than “God-honoring,” SOME believe that God has been left totally out of the picture – and therefore, it would almost be better if we scrapped Christmas altogether.
That’s how the Puritans felt.  Yeah – the Puritans – Those folks who were so spiritual that they thought it was a sin to have a good time.  They got so fed up with everything ABOUT Christmas that they got rid of it!  They believed it had been corrupted by pagan rituals.  They especially objected to the fact that the holiday had become an excuse for people to miss church.  

But they did MORE than just complain about things.  In Puritan settlements across 17th century America, it became illegal to celebrate Christmas.  Stores were required to be open as if it was just another day.  It was even against the law to make plum pudding on December 25th - I kid you not!
Is THIS the approach WE should take since the world has hi-jacked Christmas?  Abolish it???  

I’m not for that at all, but I do think it is high time we get back to teaching the real meaning of Christmas so our children understand what it’s all about!
Frankly, I am sick and tired of the politically correct crowd and their “holiday trees” and “winter celebrations.”  I am tired of those who are so offended by Jesus that they call the ACLU over a plastic nativity scene on the town square.  Christmas IS about Jesus – if you don’t like it, stay home!  Don’t go shopping.  Don’t send cards.  No one is forcing you to believe in Christ.  Be an old scrooge if you want to, but don’t take Christmas from me! It’s time the church reclaimed the meaning of Christmas.
Well then, what does Christmas mean???
If we sat down with our children and grandchildren and asked THEM to articulate the purpose of our celebration, what would they say?  I want to help you with that, by taking you back to that glorious night over 2,000 years ago, in order to remind you of the meaning of this day…

1.  First, I want to remind you of the Circumstances of that first Christmas.  On that eventful night, the angels of heaven rang out the news, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!”  We cannot examine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus without coming to the conclusion that something wonderful, something supernatural had taken place.  3 miracles in fact:
First, the BIRTH of Jesus was miraculous.  IF we accept the Bible as God’s Word, then we MUST conclude that the birth of Jesus was unlike any other.  Almighty God, born of a virgin Jewish girl, is a mystery too great for man to comprehend.  Luke tells us how it all transpired in chapter 1, where we find the Angel of the Lord saying to Mary, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called ‘the Son of God.”  Though many great men grace the pages of history – none have ever been born of a virgin – none have been the only begotten Son of God - but Jesus.
Also, the timing of His birth was miraculous.  If you look at it objectively, you can easily see the hand of God working behind the scenes of human history to bring this event to pass.  As Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 – “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.”   

Think of it…according to historians, this was the very first census of its kind. Families were forced to return to the land of their forefathers in order to pay taxes.  Little did Caesar Augustus know that he was being used as an instrument of the Almighty to bring about the birth of Jesus in the right place. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, yet despite her condition, law forced them to travel some 90 miles by foot to Joseph’s ancestral home of Bethlehem.  This had been prophesied 700 hundred years before by the prophet Micah, who said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Third, the multitude of prophecies that were fulfilled at his birth is also miraculous.  Out of the 333 prophecies in the OT concerning the FIRST coming of Jesus, a great many of them were fulfilled the night of his birth.  The birth of Jesus, validates the truth claims of the Bible – it PROVES that the Bible IS in fact God’s Word.  

When the Magi came to the palace of Herod the Great and asked to see “the newborn king,” the scribes emphatically told Herod that Christ MUST be born in Bethlehem in order to fulfill prophecy.  And… He was.

The Circumstances of Christmas.

2.  Second I would remind you of the Crime of Christmas, the Crime in verse 7 which says, “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  

What a crime… that… God’s Son… the object if heaven’s praise… would be born in such a pitiful place.

When Joseph and Mary arrived at the Inn and requested accommodations for the night, they were told ‘NO ROOM!”  The innkeeper’s refusal to take in these weary travelers has been the crime of Christmas throughout the centuries, not only for the fact that he turned them away… but the attitude of the innkeeper has come to define the action of depraved mankind.
Notice first his Woeful Ignorance.  This man had no idea of the significance of this night – nor of the couple who stood before him.  But the same God who rewarded the anticipation of the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna, would have done the same for THIS man had his heart not been blinded by gold.  His heart was neither sensitive NOR searching.  He was Woefully Ignorant.
We live in an age where the gospel can be heard in almost every language on earth.  Bibles abound… Churches by the thousands line our streets.  Hundreds of sermons can be heard every day on the radio and satellite…and yet there is an appalling ignorance of God and the things of God in this world.  Man is much like the innkeeper – too wrapped up in the THINGS of this life to recognize the significance of the birth Christ.
We also see his Willful Indifference – standing before him was a woman GREAT with child.  A woman in this condition deserves tenderness and consideration – but the innkeeper was indifferent…

just like OUR generation.  The Bible tells us that IN CHRIST and Christ alone we will find the answer to our every longing.  In HIM we have peace with God and the peace OF God.  Our sins are forgiven, our lives are changed through HIM!  But how many people remain unmoved by this offer – willfully indifferent?
And third, the Crime of Christmas is seen in the Innkeeper’s Worldly Involvement.  Too busy to be concerned with Jesus.  The census had made for good business – too good in fact.  He was raking in the cash hand over fist.  At a more convenient time he might have gone the extra mile – but at this important time when God would visit man, he had OTHER things on his mind.
As you think about all that Christmas means, as you look at the things going on in our time – How many folks do we see that are blinded to the truth of God because they are so wrapped up in this world?  Too busy…their lives too full of other things…and they push Jesus outside and shut the door, “No ROOM.”  “Come back at a more convenient time and I'll  see what I can do…but right now, I can’t be bothered with Jesus.  I’ve got my own stuff to worry about.”  

The Crime of Christmas.
3.  And third, after noting the Circumstances of Christmas and the Crime of Christmas,
I want to close with the CLAIMS of Christmas.  There are three – see if you can find them in the angelic announcement: “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.”  

This statement spells out, in no uncertain terms, God’s claim upon each one of us.  He will not allow us to remain neutral about His Son.  God visited man for a reason.  And the names - the titles used here were chosen carefully in order that we might understand from the very beginning that Jesus Christ came into this world to claim a people for Himself.
First, Jesus has a SAVING Claim upon your life – He is called “Savior” for a reason.  When the angel of God first appeared to Joseph, he said, “Thou shalt call his name ‘Jesus’ for He shall save His people from their sins.”  Man needed a Savior.

  • Had we needed educating, God would have sent the very best teacher.
  • Had we needed a scientist, God would have sent the brightest.
  • Had we needed a political leader, God would have sent the most savvy.

But we didn’t need those things.  We needed a Savior.  We have prophets, preachers and politicians galore… but there was no one to take away our sin – but HIM!  As Paul explained in 1 Timothy chapter 1, “Christ Jesus came into the world -- to save sinners.”
Not only does he have a Saving Claim, He also has a SANCTIFYING Claim on your life, for He is also called “Christ.”  “Christ” means ‘the anointed one.’ Anointed ... set apart by God to give us life and enable us to stand before the presence of God forgiven and free, clothed in His righteousness.  This One Who was ‘set apart’ has come to set YOU apart too - to separate you from sin - to make you God’s child.
But not only does He have a Saving and a Sanctifying Claim upon your life, He also has a SOVEREIGN Claim – for - He - IS - LORD!  This is why men despise Him.  They refuse to humble themselves before their sovereign – everybody wants forgiveness and blessing…everybody wants heaven, they just don’t want a King.  They want to sit upon the throne of their OWN heart and call their OWN shots - they will not have Jesus rule over them.
But I would remind them that Jesus isn’t just A Lord, but THE Lord…He isn’t just A king, but THE King of Kings.  Man will never know peace, purpose, or power, until Christ reigns, unchallenged and unrivaled as Sovereign of their lives.  He is MY Lord, and will be YOUR Lord.  He will not share His throne with another.  He came to reign.  And man will bow to Him – one day…either now or in eternity.  For the Bible declares, “Every knee show bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ - is - Lord.”
THIS is what Christmas means to me.  It’s not about tinsel and lights, gifts, or trees, or fat guys in red suits.  It’s not even about the love and generosity we show one another.

Christmas IS Jesus –  

What a crime it would be if we made no room for Him.  What a shame it would be if we did not recognize Him for WHO He is and yield to Him His proper place as LORD of our lives… and teach our children to do the same.

I often find myself wondering – ‘what if I lived back then?  What if I was that innkeeper?  Would I have recognized the importance of that moment?  Would I have felt the Spirit of God that day – alerting me to the significance of that night?
You know, we can shake our heads all we want to at that innkeeper’s hard heart… but here’s what I know ⇒  If I don’t give Christ first place – in my life – in my priorities – RIGHT NOW – it isn’t likely I would have then. If I am too busy to have Him rule my life NOW, if I am so self-willed that I refuse to obey Him NOW… I would be no different than that man who was more concerned with his wallet than his eternal destiny.
Is He in the rightful place in your home this year??  What are you going to do about it?