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The Response of Christmas

Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:50
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What is your response to roller coasters? Some like them, some hate them, so are terrified of them. I can remember when I was a kid being terrified of roller coasters. I didn’t want anything to do with them. Until one day I worked up enough courage to try one. And from then on I have been hooked. I love going on roller coasters. They are so much fun.
I use that illustration to highlight the change in response. This morning I want to examine the Christmas story from Luke 1-2 and evaluation the responses of three different people. And I want us to see how Christmas, how the Son of God coming to earth clothed in human flesh, changed their response. Christ will be the focus of our study this morning.
Because of Christ and His birth our response to God can be wonderfully transformed.
How does Christmas transform our response to God?
This morning I want to look at three different people, at three different responses, and discover how Christmas transformed their response or their heart attitude toward God.

I. The Response of Zechariah

A. His initial response

Luke 1:5–7 KJV 1900
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
Luke 1:8–12 KJV 1900
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Did you notice his initial response?
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Luke 1:13–16 KJV 1900
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
Luke 1:18 KJV 1900
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Luke 1:19–20 KJV 1900
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
So far what has been Zechariah’s response to the things of God? Fear & Unbelief.
Let’s find out how that changes:

B. His changed response

Luke 1:21–25 KJV 1900
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Now skip down to v. 57
Luke 1:57–64 KJV 1900
57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
Did you see his changed response toward God?
And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
Response = obedience
And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
His response has changed from fear and unbelief to obedience and worship. This kind of drastic change is only possible because of Christmas, because of Jesus Christ and His ability to drastically change our response or our heart attitude towards God.
Luke 1:67–79 KJV 1900
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; For he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, Which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, And from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, All the days of our life. 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord To prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people By the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; Whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.
Zechariah makes this prophecy about his son John, but really this prophecy is all about the One for whom John was to go before and prepare the way- this prophecy is all about Christ! And I want you to see, because this is so beautiful, I want you to see how Christ, how Christmas, changes our response to God.
V. 74
(That we) Might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him,
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God;
Whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
Do you know what the word dayspring means? It is talking about the dawn, it is talking about a sunrise. God Himself has visited His people through the person of Jesus Christ. And when Christ was born, as God in the flesh, it was like a brilliant sunrise, it was like the dawn of the light of God upon the world of men. And what did this dawn, what did this sunrise of the person of Jesus Christ accomplish?
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.
The coming of Christ to earth, Christmas, made it possible for our response to a holy God to be radically altered and changed. Christ like a sunrise has given us light. He has given light to us who previously sat in darkness and were under the darkness of the shadow death. What does it mean that we were in darkness and under the shadow of death?
It means that we were lost in the darkness of our sin, we were separated from the light of God because we had sin in our hearts. And a holy God, a God of light cannot abide sin. And so we were completely separated from the light of God. And not only were we in darkness, but we were under the shadow of death. Because of our sin were were separated from the light of God, and if we were to die while still in darkness, while still in our sin then that death would damn our souls to an eternal hell.
Hebrews 2:14–15 KJV 1900
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Hebrews tells us that the devil has the power of death and through that power he enslaves people through the fear of death. Deep down inside every person is a fear of death, everyone at one point in their lives lives in the darkness of the shadow of death. This is Satan’s greatest weapon because he knows that if he can keep people from believing in Christ until they die, then their death becomes a gateway to an eternal hell separated from God forever. But Christmas has done away with all of that. We no longer have to fear death. Jesus came all those years ago as a little baby in a manger. And his coming was like a brilliant sunrise.
Illustration: I used to be terrified to go down into our basement. It was more like a dungeon than a basement. And you could go down and it had rooms and tunnels and hidden places. If you wanted to get something out of the freezer you had to go to almost the very back of the basement and right next to the freezer was the room that had the furnace in it. There was stuff piled all over and it was dark and it was scary, it terrified me. The only way that I would possibly go down into that basement was if I turned on every single light possible. I would turn on every light downstairs, the main light, dad’s office light, the freezer room light, and the furnace room light. Sometimes I would carry a flashlight for good measure. And then I would leave the lights on just for good measure when I was done (drove my mom crazy). It was the light that dispelled the darkness that dispelled the fear.
Jesus is that light for our souls! He is like a brilliant sunrise and He:
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.
The birth of Jesus, and then his death on a cross, and finally His resurrection from the dead makes it possible for those who would put their faith in Christ alone, to be saved from their sins, to be saved from darkness and the shadow of death. And instead Christ gives us light and peace.
Christ makes it possible to change our response to God. He can change our hearts from fear and unbelief to worship and obedience and faith and light and peace.
How about you this morning? What is your response to God? Are you living your life in fear? In the fear of death? Do you fear the shadow of death? Do you respond to God with fear and unbelief?
Or have you experienced the light of the salvation of your sins made possible because of Christmas? Because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Have you ever placed your faith in Christ alone to save you from your sins? Have you ever asked Jesus to take away your sins and dis-spell the darkness of sin in your heart? You can do so today! You can be free from the darkness of your sin, and the fear of the shadow of death! All you need to do is to put your faith in Christ, turn from your sins and follow Him. We would love nothing more that to help you make that decision today!

II. The Response of Mary

A. Her initial response

Luke 1:26–29 KJV 1900
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And when she saw him, she was (greatly) troubled at his saying
To be deeply upset, to be greatly confused or perplexed.
Luke 1:30–33 KJV 1900
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Notice Mary’s second initial response:
Luke 1:34 KJV 1900
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
How shall this be?
Speculation, bewilderment, confusion
Luke 1:35–37 KJV 1900
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Many a person in the world today respond to God as Mary initially did. They respond with confusion, speculation, bewilderment, and fear. They don’t understand God and so they reject him with speculation. Yet Christ has the power to change that response. God does the impossible through the Lord Jesus Christ.

B. Her changed response

Luke 1:38 KJV 1900
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
I don’t necessarily understand it, but I will believe it.
Luke 1:39–45 KJV 1900
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance (fulfillment) of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Again Mary’s changed response is one of faith. Faith that God would do the things He said, and faith in the babe in her womb, the Son of God.
Again we see how Jesus changed Mary’s response to God in her following words.
Luke 1:46–47 KJV 1900
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Mary went from a state of being perplexed and bewildered and confused and speculation to one of faith and worship and joy! All because of Christ, the Son of God, taking on human form.
Luke 1:48–55 KJV 1900
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him From generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, And exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; And the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, In remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, To Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
Here I see an attitude of humility
He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden
I see an attitude of awe at the grace of God
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name.
I see an attitude of awe at the mercy of God.
And his mercy is on them that fear him From generation to generation...He hath holpen (helped) his servant Israel, In remembrance of his mercy;
What an amazing change of response in Mary. It was only possible because Mary believed!
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.
Blessed is she that believed
Because of Mary’s faith in the Word of God, ultimately in Christ Himself. God changed her response from that of being perplexed and bewildered and confused and full of speculation…to worship and joy and humility and awe over the mercy and grace of God. This is what Christ can do in your life is you place your faith in him.
This is hard to give you an illustration other than telling you what this was like in my life. I can remember growing up singing the song Amazing Grace. I sang it dozens and dozens of times and can remember being quite board with the song. Then I believed in Christ truly and He saved me from the darkness of my sin. I can remember singing Amazing Grace in chapel at MBU and just being in awe at the reality of the meaning of the song for me personally. It literally brought tears to my eyes as I sang
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we’d first begun.
What happened? Same words I had sung before right? Christ changed my response. He changed my response from that of being perplexed and bewildered and confused and full of speculation…to worship and joy and humility and awe over the mercy and grace of God. I truly understood why His grace is so amazing. This Christmas season if you will put your faith in Christ He will do the same for you. He will transform your fear and unbelief and doubt and speculation and confusion to worship and joy and awe. For those of you who have trusted Christ…remember the awe of your salvation! Remember this Christmas season how Christ changed your response to God and respond to Him all over again in genuine worship and joy and awe!

III. The Response of the Shepherds

A. Their initial response

Luke 2:1–7 KJV 1900
1 And 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.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And 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.
Luke 2:8–9 KJV 1900
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
The glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid (great fear).
Notice in all three initial responses fear was the first response. This is appropriate. The proper response of a person that does not know Christ to the glory of God is great fear.
Luke 2:10–11 KJV 1900
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not
Why?
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
I bring you a message of one who casts out fear. I bring you joy, great joy for all people. Your Savior, Christ the Lord is born and He is able to bring you to God and remove all fear and instead bring great joy.
Luke 2:12–14 KJV 1900
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.
This is the proper response! This is what Christ makes possible! A multitude of creation with a loud voice saying, Glory to God!
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.

B. Their changed response

Luke 2:15 KJV 1900
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth-lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Shepherds = outcasts separation, now drawn nigh to God
Luke 2:16–20 KJV 1900
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
From fear and separation to drawing near and glorifying and praise God and telling others the things that they had heard.
What a change in response!
All three responses have one thing in common- worship! That is the primary purpose of Christmas. To change your response to God from fear to worship! For the shepherds the worship of God caused them to then tell the saying abroad concerning the child. This too must be our response this Christmas season. Out of a heart of worship we must tell others the truth about the child of Christmas.
Because of Christ and His birth our response to God can be wonderfully transformed.
How has Christmas transformed your response to God?
I trust that the babe in the manger has brought to you the dawn of the light of the glory of God this Christmas season.
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