It’s all about the Messiah

A Christmas message, based on Luke 2:1-20

I read an old legend about a Christmas party that satan and his pack of demons were having in hell.  As the demonic guests were departing, one laughed and grinned and sarcastically said to Satan, “Merry Christmas your majesty!”  At that, Satan replied with a growl, “Yes, keep it merry. If they ever get serious about it, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The focus of Christmas is Jesus, the Messiah and we need to be serious about it.  It is the coming of God in the form of a person.  It is the intervention of God’s presence among humanity.  What we celebrate at Christmas is all part of God’s rescue plan for His created world.

But what a time for God to come to earth in the form of His Son Jesus.  There was great tension between Israel and its overlord, Rome, who ruled harshly by imposed their military might.  Many Israelites refused to toe the Roman line.  There was sedition and plots whispered throughout the land.  Revolution seemed to be close at hand!  It was into this apocalyptic environment that Jesus came into the world… the son of David born in the ancient, holy, royal city of Bethlehem.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, (Luke 2:1-7)

Sadly, too many people don’t know the true meaning of Christmas; they don’t know the events of the season.  Today we’ve just heard them through the readings we listened to, and the carols we’ve sung.

Luke told us that Joseph and Mary went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to the sleepy village of Bethlehem because Joseph’s heritage was from there.  The Old Testament prophet Micah wrote 700 years before the birth of Jesus that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-2).  The meaning of Bethlehem is “house of bread.”  What an appropriate place for Jesus to be born.  Later in His life He said of himself, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35a) and continued in that verse to say to people, “Whoever goes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35b).

The gospel writer sketched in another character in his story…the innkeeper.  This businessman has been painted as a villain by most of us.  Probably, with a full inn he was just hassled and busy!  He had no idea who he was refusing a room to at that moment.  Tell me, what paying customer would he kick out?  Wouldn’t you be upset if he tried to take your room?  He did the best that he could with the situation at hand.  He was being expedient like most of us today.  So don’t be too hard on him.  It’s too easy at this time of year to get so busy that we lose sight of what Christmas is all about.  We fail to make room for Jesus.  Like the innkeeper, we are not villains; we’re just preoccupied and harried.

Joseph and Mary took the stable offered by the innkeeper.  It was there that Mary gave birth to her son Jesus, the Messiah.  Messiah means “anointed one” who one day would spread the knowledge of the true God to the very ends of the world.  So this baby Jesus who would grow into manhood and become God’s Messiah for the world.  Today He is still our Messiah who came directly from heaven for our salvation!

So, Christmas is about the Incarnation of God (Luke 2:8-14)

Entering the scene were shepherds and angels… humans and celestial beings from the realm of glory.  Going about their nightly duties, these shepherds of the temple flocks encountered a sobering and life-changing event.  As they were watching over the sheep, no doubt sleepily — suddenly an angel stood by them, and the glory of God — that radiating, brilliant splendour or majesty of God, dazzled them.

Their unexpected guest told them not to fear for he had wonderful, glorious news for them.  He was there on God’s behalf to tell them a secret.  But the secret would soon be out for all the world to hear!  He was there to tell them about the Saviour…. the one who would take away their sins… help them in their most desperate moments… who would save them from eternal hell… that Saviour was being born that very night!  He was the divine Saviour the very incarnation of God himself.

We Christians firmly believe that the eternal second person of the triune Godhead joined himself with a complete human nature and was born as Jesus, the God-man.  The apostle John wrote,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!” (John 1:14).

Jesus, The Messiah, our Saviour has thrown himself from the heights of heaven so all have an opportunity to hear the heavenly music that the shepherds heard on the hillside two thousand years ago.

Because of this, Christmas is about sharing the story of God (Luke 2:15-20)

The shepherds journeyed to find the baby, which they did. The Bible says that after they had seen the child, they spread the word concerning what had been told them…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. They were truly the first evangelists of the gospel of Jesus!

That is our job once we have encountered this Jesus… Incarnate God… Saviour.  We are to share with others the good news that we are loved by God.  He has given his Son to us for our salvation!

Yes, they went back to the fields, back to being shepherds, back to the routine of life, but I’m sure that their lives were changed; they had a whole new perspective.  This is to be true of us.  Each year as we celebrate the joyous services, the festive parties, all of the excitement and thrill of the season, what have they done to change our lives?  What difference will this Christmas mean when we go back to the lives we lead in our jobs, homes, families and daily lives?  If we believe the message of the angels, we must go back to the ordinary with a new focus… a better focus… a spiritual focus on Jesus!

Do you know Jesus?  The more people who turn to Jesus, the bigger the trouble satan will be in and we will experience less woes in the world!

Is Jesus your Christ, your Lord, your Saviour?  He wants to be.  That is the reason He came into this world, and that is the reason you’re here, to know Jesus personally for yourself!

Amen


A Commitment to Hope

From 2nd Sunday in Advent, 5th December 2021

The story is told of young boy in a church Christmas nativity play who had one line to remember.  His role was that of the Angel of the Lord and his one line consisted of: “Behold, I bring you good tidings.” He wasn’t clear about the word “tidings” so he asked his mother what it meant. She defined it as “news.”

Sunday morning came, the play was going smoothly and all was well.  He was sent on to the stage as the Angel of the Lord announcing to the shepherds about God’s message.  When he got on stage and looked out at the crowd he froze!  Stage fright overcame him and his brain went to mush.  He couldn’t remember the line for anything.  Then all of a sudden his mum’s definition flashed back and he blurted out to the shepherds, “Hey! Boys, have I got news for you!”

John, the cousin of Jesus, is the man God had chosen to be the instrument that would lay the foundation for the ministry of Jesus.  God called John to preach and his message sounded like the prophets of Old Testament times.  John preached that the people had to repent of their sins and change their lifestyle from complacency and carnality to hope and holiness in the God of Israel.  He was laying the foundation for the one who would come after him who could actually forgive their sins and bring purity to their lives.

Making preparation for hope (Luke 3:4a).

The preparation that John made was an announcement of good news! The one that the people of Israel had long been waiting for was in their very presence.  The long awaited Messiah stirred among them.

The message of hope is that “all people will see God’s salvation” (Luke 3:6).  John’s message comes approximately 30 years after the shepherds on the hillsides around Nazareth heard basically the same message.  The angel said, “…behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour.” (Luke 2:10-11a). What does a Saviour do for his people?  He saves them from their predicament.

John’s role at that Advent season was about preparation.  His message to us today is the same.  We need to prepare our hearts, soul and spirit, as well as our homes for the Christ who has come to save us.  This is a celebration of the birth of the Saviour.  He is saying to us, “Get ready.”  Make preparation for the night we celebrate the entrance of the Saviour into the world.  Think, pray, meditate, and put your actions where your heart is now! God has sent the Saviour to change your world.  We are making preparation for the hope of salvation that comes through Christ.  Someone once wrote that John’s bold and brazen call for repentance is not something we can do on our own — no matter what we do or say, or how much we try we fall short to produce our own salvation.  As many good deeds as we do, we still cannot succeed.

The hope of salvation is the work that God has provided in the way we humans are to be delivered from our sinful condition, by the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus on the cross and the authorisation through the resurrection.  Death on the cross would only be a martyr’s death if it were not for the power of the resurrection.  Jesus’ entrance into the world marks the beginning of our rescue…our salvation deliverance.  John is preparing the way for our grasp of that glorious truth.

Making Preparation for the good news (Luke 3:4b)

The world has trouble with the good news scenario because it started with a baby in a humble setting.  The Jewish people wanted a warrior king who would emancipate them from foreign rule and bring back the Davidic dynasty of power and authority.

The Good News is the incarnation of Jesus combining God and humanity as one.  That is difficult for us to wrap our minds and hearts around, but as a matter of fact and faith it is true.  The incarnation is the living embodiment of the invisible God seen through the human Jesus.  He is the Messiah and is the very expression of God come to earth to bring God’s love, salvation, and hope to a world lost in its own sinful ways.  The Good News is God is more than capable of identifying with us.

In Jesus, God has come to identify with our pain, hurts, struggles and failures.  He knows the joys of life as well as the temptations.  In the Bethlehem stable He came, not just looking like one of us, but truly as one of us.  He has come to be our Saviour and will leave no one out who will accept Him into their lives.

Making preparation for salvation (Luke 3:6)

Luke quoted the prophet Isaiah to remind us that everyone will see the salvation of God.  Who is the salvation of God? Jesus is His name!

His salvation is more than an intellectual pursuit; it is also a spiritual endeavour. Christians are on a spiritual quest when they follow God on His journey of salvation.  This journey is to last a lifetime.  For some this journey is many years, for others it may only be minutes.  Regardless of how long our journey of salvation is, with God all are welcomed equally; all are loved equally.

God’s salvation of an individual’s soul is of utmost importance to Him.  C.S. Lewis wrote that this individual soul is “…more important than the production of all the epics and tragedies in the world.”  This vital importance is summed up in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The reason for the season? God gave us all His Son. His salvation lights up my world.  His light dispels the sin of legalism, the insatiable vices of morality, hatred, racism, injustice, and the fear of satan, evil and hell!  No longer do you and I have to live in darkness. Every person in the world can come to Jesus for He is the shining light for all of us.

John the Baptist looked forward to the dawn of life.  The cry from John and the cry from heaven on that Christmas night was “Behold the SON!” and the son of righteousness has come.  Salvation has come to all who will receive Him.

Amen

Living thoughts

Read Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  1. Who is Jesus?
  2. Why did Jesus come?
  3. And what does Jesus demand of me?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is unseen is eternal” 2 Cor 4:18

What difference can this passage possibly make in our lives in the 21st century as we go out into the routine of a new morning?  Does it really need to make any difference?

Prayer Response

Father, I have decided to walk and live by faith.  I’ve made my choice.  By faith I believe Your Word.  I am living in two realms at the same time.  I am on the earth, and I am seated at Your right hand, in heaven, with Christ Jesus, at the same time!  Through me the two realms converge on a daily basis.  Like Jesus did when He was on the earth, I bring heaven down!  Your Kingdom has come.  Your will shall be done.  It’s going to happen on earth as it is in heaven, and it’s going to happen through me!  I enter this day determined to make Kingdom impact in every meeting, conversation and activity I engage in today, because my life brings heaven and earth together!  I am an agent of supernatural change!  I declare this by faith.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus – The Messiah

Matthew’s Gospel demonstrates over and over again that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Over and over again He points out all the prophecies that He fulfilled.  His genealogy tracing back to David, being born of a virgin, being born in Bethlehem, going to Egypt and then to Nazareth.  Being confirmed by the Father and the Holy Spirit at His baptism and His later transfiguration.

He had the correct supernatural message and proved His deity over and over again by demonstrating complete power over all disease, sickness and other physical afflictions, including death. He had absolute authority over both the natural and supernatural. He even had authority to forgive sins. Jesus fulfilled all of the Mosaic Law and taught the true meaning of that Law with an authority that they had not seen before. 

So when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, described in Matthew chapter 21, the crowds shout,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Did the people really understand what they were saying?  No doubt what they were shouting was true, but I don’t think that they really fully understood it or believed it.  They were still looking for a king who would save them from Roman oppression, not someone who would bring them salvation from the oppression of satan and sin.

What an opportunity for those present that day to say something about Jesus to those who were looking on. You see, those in the crowd praising Jesus and shouting, “Hosanna,” were either from Galilee where Jesus had done the majority of His miracles, or they were the ones present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  These people had seen so much evidence demonstrating who Jesus was, they had heard Him teach in a way no mere man could teach. Yet, instead of boldly proclaiming Him the Son of David, the Messiah, the promised one, this was reduced to “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

True, Jesus was a prophet, but He was so much more than that, and they failed to recognise it. The King of Kings was there.  The prophecies were fulfilled.  The Messiah had come and… they had even shouted that out themselves, yet they still failed to truly discern who He was.

There is not much difference today. People say all sorts of true things about Jesus, but many, including those who call themselves Christian, do not really believe it.

Some call Jesus a great teacher, yet they do not study what He taught nor follow His teachings.

He was a great example, but they do not follow it.

Many people claim Jesus as their Saviour, yet are still busy striving to save themselves through whatever means by which they think they can earn it.

We cannot earn His favour; it comes by His grace:

“Not by works which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5-6)

Some people, convicted of a need for Jesus, claim to love Him, yet they refuse to give up their sin and really follow Him 24/7. Such people are liars because Jesus Himself said in John chapter 14:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

There are others that may even really believe Jesus is who He claims to be, but out of fear, they will not share this belief with others.

I am sure there were those in the crowd that did think Jesus was the Messiah, but were afraid to say so for fear of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees.

Do not let that fear control you, if you do, it says a lot about what your really do believe, namely that Jesus is not worthy of your being possibly persecuted and ridiculed.

Jesus gives us a stern warning,

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33).

Particularly at this time don’t be like the fickle crowd that surrounded Jesus that day, proclaiming one thing but not acting in accordance with what you say. If you know Jesus, then boldly proclaim Him to everyone.  Don’t forget you are called to be a living Bible.

(Based on a sermon from Palm Sunday, 5th April 2020)