· Trip to pastor’s conference in Disney world – Didn’t get to go in the park, but I could feel the glory. Pixy dust falling on my head. Ryan, “Do you want to go in?” Me, “No, I can’t go without my wife.” Greatest regret of my life. What was I thinking?
· Christmas story is a story of unexpected glory – unexpectedly in Christ we can come close. Think OT – Think Mt. Sinai – Ten Commands – Couldn’t get close. Think Moses – Could only see God’s backside. Think Joshua, Isaiah, other OT saints who saw God’s glory – it invoked fear, awe, wonder. A God you couldn’t get too close to. A God you couldn’t touch.
· John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In Christ, God has come close.
· This morning, we go to Bethlehem and gather at the manger, to behold the unexpected glory of God – a glory that you can share in, celebrate, and stand in awe of. So what that God has come close? Incarnated? Three truths:
1. Embrace the invitation to know the glorious King.
· A reminder that the whole world was under the rule of the Roman empire – Caesar Augustus, the emperor, had no idea that a child was going to be born that would be the real ruler of the world.
· Caesar Augustus doesn’t know it, but he’s doing God’s bidding by calling for a census. Joseph forced to go home, Bethlehem – fulfills prophecy – (Micah 5:2)
· No mention of donkey, stable, etc. 90-120 mile, 3-day journey – nine months pregnant.
· No room in inn – likely a guest room (Luke 22:10) – not commercial inn. Perhaps no room at Joseph’s relatives so they stay in the room attached to the home that was for the animals. No privacy – and Mary gives birth to a baby boy and places him in a feeding trough.
· Here’s your king! Born in an overcrowded city in an overcrowded home to two worn out parents.
· On that first Christmas evening, no one in the world knew that God was stepping into the world.
· In a close by field were shepherds. Not a respectable occupation. Most never married. They lived as nomads. They had a reputation for thievery. Because they dealt with sheep, they were ceremonially unclean. They couldn’t worship without going through various cleansing rituals. They never had time for that – so they never had the opportunity to go to the temple to worship. Because of close proximity to Jerusalem – the sheep probably raised to be sacrificed on the altar.
· All of a sudden – angel of the Lord appears – “Good news… Great joy… You will find…” An awesome sight. “For unto you is born… Come and see… God has come for you.” (Staci coming to keyboard festival in December 2006 – She came to see me – I knew she wanted me. God has come for you – He wants you – come and behold His glory.)
· The shepherds get the invitation that no one else got – “You come and see God in the flesh…” History has waited for this moment – the moment that God would reveal His glory to the world once and for all – Moses never got to see this. Abraham never got to see this. King David, and so on – but these outcasts of society receive the invitation to come and see.
· It’s an invitation for you as well. Come close and see glory in a manger – see the plan of God to save you from your sins. See this baby who will grow up to be a man who goes to a cross and dies for you. Come and see. The invitation is open to you – Regardless of your lot in life, your economic status, your educational background, and even in spite of your past rebellion. You have an open invitation to come and see – to behold the glory of this babe born for you.
2. Acknowledge that the glory of the King is unmatched.
· Multitude of angles singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
· Can you think of any other times in Scripture where a multitude of angels appears to sing Glory to God? God has always been a glorious God, but He receives the highest praise at the birth of His Son. The angels show up at the birth and give glory!
· The multitude of angels had seen many glorious acts of God – creation, parting of the red sea, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, God’s showdown with Baal on Mt. Carmel, etc. But, the multitude of angels do not appear at one of those glorious displays of the power of God. Instead, they appear over a field in Bethlehem to a group of lowly shepherds to announce the birth of this child.
· Why? Through this baby God would perform the greatest miracle the world had ever seen – a miracle greater than creation itself, greater than the collapse of the walls of Jericho, or the parting of the Red Sea – The shepherds tended sheep that were used as sacrificial lambs to atone for sins. Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb – He would die and atone for sins once and for all. His sacrifice would restore a broken world to the God of all creation. His sacrifice would undo the mess that we had made through our sin. His sacrifice would make us right before the Father so that we might be declared innocent and be freed from sin and death. His resurrection three days later would guarantee for us eternal life. All glory to Jesus – He deserves our highest praise because He has brought real peace – peace with God.
· The glory of the King is unmatched. There is no one who will ever live who deserves the honor, the glory, the majesty that Jesus deserves.
· “Hey yo, bossman…” If we teach our employees that our customers deserve respect, or if we teach our children that our elders deserve our respect, how much more does Jesus deserve our respect? Our honor? And our praise?
· How do we give Jesus the highest praise that He is due?
· Jesus must be the priority of your life and not just a priority on a list of priorities. If Jesus receives the highest praise in your life, then everything in your life revolves around Him. Everything in your life finds meaning and purpose in Him. Your job isn’t just a way to provide – it’s an opportunity to be on mission. Your hobby isn’t just something to kill time – it’s an opportunity to make investments into the Kingdom. Your family is an opportunity for discipleship. You give Jesus the highest praise in your life as you allow Him to be the King of your life.
3. Live to treasure the glorious King.
· Note that the angels say nothing to the shepherds about a star. That was a sign for the wise men, not the shepherds. There sign was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Imagine the scene. Frantic shepherds running through the streets of Bethlehem. “Have you seen a baby?” Knocking on doors – waking people up – “Has a child been born in this house?”
· Finally, they find the baby. They see Him with their own eyes. They see the glory of God lying in a manger – the baby who would grow up to be their sacrificial lamb. The baby who would die for these despised shepherds.
· The shepherds leave to tell the news of this baby born in Bethlehem. They were the first witnesses. Imagine what people thought when they heard this rag tag group of shepherds declare that the Savior of the world had been born. People wrote them off. Who believes shepherds anyways? But, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
· Treasured and pondered. She thought about what it all meant – this baby really was the Son of God – born in an unexpected way, visited on that Christmas morn by unexpected visitors. She treasured and pondered.
· Truth is, she needed to treasure these moments because there would be days when she needed to remember these moments. When she saw her son ridiculed and rejected – when she saw her Son tortured and beaten – when she saw her son hanging on a cross – she needed to remember this first Christmas morn – she needed to remember the virgin birth, the angelic announcement, the shepherds coming to worship, and later the wise men coming to worship. In the agony of watching her son die on a tree, she needed to remember that He was the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world. She needed to remember that the most glorious act of God in all of human history would be the crucifixion of His Son on the cross. She needed to treasure these moments and ponder the reality of who Jesus is.
· For us, who know the story, who have placed our faith in the resurrected Lord, we need to treasure this baby in a manger as well. How can we treasure this One who came and lived, died, and rose again for us?
o Think about Jesus deeply. Ponder the mysteries of grace. Let’s get past the clichés, the platitudes, the surface Bible studies, and let’s dive in deep. I’m tired of surface level Christianity that never dives deep into the riches of the mystery of God. I want us to know this One who died for us.
o Worship Jesus passionately. He’s worthy of the highest praise. He worthy of your excitement, your passion, and your joy.
o Share Jesus regularly. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve received the greatest news ever.
· Unbeliever: Today you can receive the greatest gift ever. Come and repent.
· Believer: Today, return to the manger – see the glory of this child. See His life lived for you, his death died for you. Repent of not beholding His glory. Repent of passionless worship. Repent of surface level Christianity.