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Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!” The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” The first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!” The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell. The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” the once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful.” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world. One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler feel asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth. One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
Now I recognize that this story isn’t necessarily true. But in talking about this story with my wife she said something about it that I think captures the heart of Christmas. She said these trees realize how precious Christ is and that is why each tree felt that it had accomplished its life-long goal. I believe that what lies at the heart of Christmas is how precious Jesus Christ is. Jesus is the greatest gift ever given! Christmas has become a time for Santa Claus and presents. Though giving presents and getting presents is fun, the true meaning behind Christmas is Christ! And so this morning we want to talk about Him! About His birth and what it means to us. And as we do that I believe we will come to recognize the true meaning, and importance of Christmas. Let’s look first of all at…
1. The Prophecy and Fulfillment of the Birth of Christ
When asked what Christmas is all about, those of us who are Christians would be quick to say that it is about the birth of Christ. Now, we realize that Christmas is not when Jesus was actually born; it is simply the time we have chosen to remember and celebrate His birth. But to understand the true meaning of Christmas we can’t start with the birth of Christ, because it actually starts many years before that with the OT prophets. And even before that with the different promises that God made since the Garden of Eden. Allow me to do some brief background this morning. To start with, God promised Moses that a prophet like him would be raised up. It was prophesied that the Messiah would come through Noah’s son Shem, his descendent Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, and the house of David. We see these things fulfilled in the genealogy of Christ in . So in talking about the birth of Christ these are some things that He had to fulfill in order to be the Messiah! We are going to look now at some very specific prophecies that are fulfilled by Jesus. First of all…
a. His birth and identity predicted and confirmed
foretells the Messiah coming and delivering Israel. Specifically notice verses 6, 7. Not only does Isaiah tell us that He will be born and given, Isaiah tells us exactly who His is! Let’s read the verses again. These verses leave no doubt that Isaiah is talking about God in the flesh! So this one who would be born, who would deliver Israel would be God! We find out who that one is in…
there is so much that could be said about these verses. But for right now focus on verses 31-33. Here Mary is told exactly who her baby would be. What she is told leaves no doubt that the one Isaiah prophesied about is going to be born. So Isaiah made a prophecy, a prediction, and it came true in the birth of Jesus Christ. Isaiah told us exactly who Jesus would be and the angel who speaks to Mary confirms that what Isaiah said, came true in Christ. So Jesus birth and identity are predicted and confirmed. Our second specific prophecy is…
b. The place of His birth predicted
Micah here names the exact place where Jesus would be born. Micah says He will be the ruler of Israel, sounds a lot like what we just looked at, and that He is the one who has been from old, from everlasting. Now if He is going to be born in Bethlehem…how can He have been from everlasting? Because He is God! Manifested in the flesh.
tells us where Jesus was born. One thing I love about this passage is how God works things out so that prophecy is fulfilled. Had Caesar Augustus not made this tax than Mary and Joseph would have stayed in Nazareth! And so what probably seemed like an inconvenience and trial to them was actually all part of God’s plan! If Caesar new that He was causing God’s Word to be fulfilled, do you think he would have still had his tax? We are told that Mary was “great with child” that is how my wife has been feeling lately. Today it is about 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and takes 2-3 hours by car. When Mary and Joseph did the trip it was probably about 80 miles. I realize that most drawings or paintings have Mary riding on a Donkey, but we are actually not told how they got to Bethlehem. If they went on foot they would probably travel at about 2.5 miles per hour meaning that it would take 32 hours to get to Bethlehem. I figure they wouldn’t have walked more than 6 hours or so a day with her being pregnant so that means it probably took around 6 days to get to Bethlehem. If she did ride on a donkey it would still be about 4 days. Talk about a tough trip! While they are in Bethlehem the time for Jesus to be born comes and after His birth He is placed in a manger. I can’t even imagine all that Mary and Joseph must have felt through this whole ordeal. But what I find so awesome is that God’s Word is fulfilled. As impossible as it may seem someone writing hundreds of years before Jesus birth predicted the exact town where He would be born! That is the God that we serve! He knows the future all the way down to the most minute detail! We have seen His birth and identity predicted, the place of His birth predicted. And now we will see…
c. His miraculous conception predicted
Isaiah is told to give a message to Ahaz; this verse is part of that message. This is a prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah says that He will be born of a virgin and the child that the virgin has will be Immanuel which means God with us. So here we have not only a specific prophecy of the future, but also an impossible one. Everyone knows that children are not born to virgins! But with God all things are possible. Isaiah tells Ahaz that the sign God will give is that a virgin will conceive, a miraculous conception and birth! But not only that, the child that she will conceive will be God with us! What a promise! What a prophecy!
Now go to where we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. When we looked at we saw that Mary was a virgin. She asks the angel how she can have a Son when she has never had sexual relations with a man. The angel tells here that God will perform this miracle. Here in Matthew we are told that all of this was done so that the words of Isaiah would be fulfilled. Once again we are told His name will be Immanuel, God with us. Luke records that the angel told Mary the child would be called the Son of God. So we have this miraculous conception and birth displayed in these verses. This is what Christmas is about! It is about Christ, and His birth.
But what do these passages teach us? First of all we can trust the Word of God. When God promises something, when He inspires a prophet to predict the future, it will happen exactly as God said. In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight prophecies regarding Christ. He says, "The chance that any man might have ...fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000." (one hundred quadrillion) Stoner suggests that "we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state 2 feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir them all up... then we blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up only that one marked silver dollar. What chance would he have of getting the right one?" Stoner concludes, "The blindfolded man would have the same chance of finding that one coin as the prophets would have of writing those eight prophecies and having one man fulfill them." We just looked at 3 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and in the course of His life He fulfilled hundreds! What that means is that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be! He is God in the flesh! So we learn in these verses about who Jesus Christ is. Because He is God, because He fulfilled these prophecies, He is the Messiah. Next we want to talk about…
2. What the Birth of Christ Means for Us
So we see that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be, He fulfilled prophecy and had a miraculous birth. So what? What does it matter that we can trust God’s word, so what if He is who He claimed to be, so what if He fulfilled prophecy? What does it matter to us? First of all…
a. It means we have a Savior
Sometimes I think we are guilty of separating Jesus birth from the rest of His life and ministry. We tend to disconnect sweet little innocent baby Jesus from the Jesus who drove out money changers, or died on a Cross. We seem to forget is that if Jesus had not been born in the way that He was, He couldn’t have done these other things! In order for Jesus Christ to be our Savior He had to fulfill the OT prophecy. Go to John calls Jesus the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. In order for Jesus to be the sinless sacrifice offered on the Cross to take away our sin He had to be born of a virgin, he had to be Immanuel, God with us. You see, the miraculous birth of Jesus is what made His death on the Cross as our substitute possible! The whole point of Jesus miraculous birth was so that He could die. In Paul tells Timothy “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” The reason Jesus came to this world, the reason He was born was to save sinners through His death! In when the angels announced Jesus birth to the shepherds they said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Jesus Christ is the savior! That is why He was born! Had Jesus Christ not been born in exactly the manner that He was than He could not have died to pay for our sins. So the miraculous birth of Christ means that we have a savior! That is what God sent Jesus for! Turn to . God sent Jesus Christ to redeem us! , tells us “For God so loved the world…” Jesus Christ was sent by God to be our savior! That is what the birth of Christ means! Not only does the birth of Christ mean we have a savior, but also…
b. It means we have an Intercessor
Because of His birth, and His life, Jesus Christ is able to be our High Priest and intercessor. says “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Jesus Christ came to this earth so that He could die to be our Savior. And now as Hebrews says He ever lives to make intercession for us. The idea is that He goes before the Father on our behalf! He pleads for us. He is able to do this because He died for our sin, and so the penalty that comes with sin has been paid by Christ. Had Jesus Christ not been born in exactly the way He was, He couldn’t have died in our place and He wouldn’t be able to be our intercessor. There would be no one standing between the wrath of God and us! Because of His birth, because of His death, He is able to intercede before the Father on our behalf! The birth of Jesus Christ means that there was someone who took the wrath of God on Himself and delivered us from death. The birth Christ gave us an intercessor. The last thing about the birth of Christ is that…
c. It means we have a Responsibility
I believe that as Christians today we have a responsibility to share the truth about Christmas whenever we get the chance. Not just the truth that Jesus Christ was born, but the truth about why He was born, and what His birth means to the world. In our opening illustration we talked about 3 trees. These three trees felt that they had accomplished their goals because Christ is precious. John Newton was a rough, dirty sailor with a foul mouth and an appetite for rotten living. But after he was saved he went all over England sharing his faith. Well past his "retirement" age, he had to have an assistant stand in the pulpit with him on Sundays. He was nearly blind and spoke in whispers, but nothing could keep him from preaching while he still had breath. One Sunday, while delivering his message he repeated the sentence: "Jesus Christ is precious." His helper whispered to him: "But you have already said that twice." Newton turned to his helper and said loudly, "Yes, I've said it twice, and I'm going to say it again." The stones in the ancient sanctuary fairly shook as the grand old preacher said again: "Jesus Christ is precious!" I believe that it is that truth that lies at the heart of Christmas, “Jesus Christ is precious”! And it is that truth that we need to share this Christmas Season.
The birth of Christ is more than just a story about a cute baby in a manger! The Birth of Christ is about the Birth of a Savior. The birth of a redeemer! As Paul said, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! What Christmas is really all about is Jesus. He was sent into this world to live a perfect sinless life enabling Him to become the sacrifice for our sins. Because of His sacrifice our sins have been forgiven. Jesus Christ is precious, that is what Christmas is all about. So as you spend time with family this week, remember, and tell others that Jesus Christ is precious and that is why we have Christmas, to celebrate Him.
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