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Glory and Humility of Christmas

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Luke 2:7-20
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Giving of gifts – mankind is unconsciously bringing out the greatest and most important aspect of this day

All of our giving our gifts – is a pale representation of God’s gift

Surprise with God’s Gift

Shepherds - They were indeed a despised class. Not only was it difficult for them, because of the very nature of their occupation, to observe all the regulations of the Mosaic law—and especially all the man-made rules superimposed upon that law![1]

In a probability – they were watching sheep that were bound to temple sacrifice- and in ironic twist the sheep were more worthy to enter the temple then the shepherds.

A woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.

Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.

As the doors closed, she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!"

A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.

Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: "Don't worry. They already crucified him."

Homiletics (November/December 2006), Volume 18; submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked "No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

—Peter Larson

The other night I took our family dog for a walk. It was a full moon, so bright that we cast a shadow as we walked along. But of course the moon has no light of its own. It shone, and it lit us up so brightly, because the sun was shining on it. It merely reflected the sun's light. In the same way, we have no glory of our own, only such as is reflected from the light of Christ that shines upon us. That is what we live for: to bask in that radiance, to reflect it, to bring it to the world around us, not for our own sake but for the praise of his glory.

John Guest in Only a Prayer Away. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 2.

Sermon Seven

Title: Soli Deo Gloria

Subtitle: Learn from the eyewitness testimonies of that first Christmas season.

Text: Luke 2:8–16

Subject: What the witnesses of the first Christmas encountered

Purpose: To help the listener re-capture the mystery of godliness by exploring what happened to the shepherds, the angels, and Mary during that first Christmas

Relevance: Most people love the Christmas season, especially as children. But all too often, we are trained to love it for all the wrong reasons. That being the case, we miss the mysterious wonder of that first night. To recapture it, we need to look through the eyes of those who were there to see.

Big Idea: The shepherds, the angels, and Mary all encountered the mystery of godliness: that God would manifest himself in the flesh.

Sermon Strategy

Introduction
• Luke 2:8–20
• Luke's gospel offers a series of ten stories, or vignettes, that depict Jesus' coming into the world from various perspectives.
• "Story Six" is Jesus' actual birth in Bethlehem.
Transition: "Story Seven" tells us that the shepherds knew exactly where to find Jesus, so let us go, then, to Bethlehem, to see this great sight!

The shepherds watching
• Some have thought these shepherds represent some kind of ideal existence—some kind of rustic nobility or rural charm, perhaps a restoration of Eden.
• In reality, shepherds were despised by the people of the 1st century.
• Once again, God is saying, "Not Your way, but my way" in the outworking of the story of redemption.
• Luke 2:16, 20
• The shepherds demonstrated unquestioning obedience.
• The shepherds demonstrated heartfelt praise and worship.

The angels praising
• Luke 2:9–14
• Do you notice that angels are always present whenever God does something redemptively significant?
• The angels sing about the birth of Jesus and the story of redemption—that which God has been doing from the Garden of Eden until now. It's all focused on God's glory.
• Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who brings peace—who reconciles sinners to a holy God.

Mary pondering
• Luke 2:19
• Mary has been wondering about the child in her womb for a long time before the shepherds announce what they angel declared.
     - Isaiah 9:6–7
• Perhaps she pondered the story that God had brought into the world from Genesis 3:15.
• Perhaps she pondered that God would use her—a fallen daughter of Adam—in the story of redemption, in the deliverance of sinners from the curse of Adam to bring us to glory through Jesus Christ.
     - Luke 1:46–55
Illustration: While pondering the mysteries of Christ, Augustine said, "I see the depths, but I cannot see the bottom."

Conclusion
• As we approach Christmas in just a few day's time, that's the mystery of godliness: that God was manifest in the flesh.

Illustrations and Quotations

Just an Ordinary Night
An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an "extra" on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away.

But God dances amidst the common. And that night he did a waltz. The black sky exploded with brightness. … Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherd was dead asleep, the next he was rubbing his eyes and staring into the face of an alien.

The night was ordinary no more.

The angel came in the night because that is when lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed. God comes into the common for the same reason.

Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven; found in Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 14

Jam Session
One Sunday evening, I overheard my 5-year-old daughter, Julie, practicing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"—a song she'd been rehearsing that morning in church for next week's Christmas program. It was all I could do to suppress my laughter when, in place of "with angelic host proclaim," Julie sang, "with the jelly toast proclaim."

Marilyn Clark, Cincinnati, OH; Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."

Surprise of the Incarnation

-          Revelation- to bring into sight something once hidden

-          That is the idea behind wrapping our Christmas gifts – for in the weeks leading up to Christmas in our home (where Beth wraps most of the gifts) , Bradley and Emily and I, will look, feel, weigh, smell and shake in some hopes of discovering what is in those gifts.

-          1 Peter 1:12  “Even angels long to look into these things”  - outstreached necks- when the gift is revealed it is amazing –

-          Although, I have shared in the past that for boys the weight test is fairly accurate

-          and a way to sniff out oncoming shirts and sweaters – every so often the revelation in a package is surprising.

-          That is clearly the case in the Gift of Gifts – the packaging was humble

-          For what do shiny pristine white angels – shooting forth their glory and humble dirty rotten shepherds have in common?  It is Jesus – they are both worshipping Jesus and they show us the two aspects of Jesus

 
Son of Man and
John 3:31     “The one who comes from above is above all


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[1]Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 11: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Accompanying biblical text is author's translation. New Testament Commentary (149). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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