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Christmas: How and Who?

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Luke 1:26–38 ESV
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Verse 26: “In the sixth month [that is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist] the angel Gabriel was sent from God . . .”
Romans 5:5–8 ESV
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:3–8 ESV
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Verse 26: “In the sixth month [that is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist] the angel Gabriel was sent from God . . .”
Verse 26: “In the sixth month [that is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist] the angel Gabriel was sent from God . . .”
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
There is one ultimate fact about Christmas.
There is the most important fact about Christmas and about the incarnation and about the universe and about you.
Christmas starts with God…Christmas starts with God. It comes from God. An angel was sent from God. Mary was chosen by God...Christmas has no meaning without God.
Of course it has an American meaning without God.
It has a European meaning without God.
It even has Buddhist and Hindu and atheist…and secular...and for some even a Jewish meaning without God. It has a Walmart and Amazon meaning without God...
But it doesn’t have an ultimate or important or for that matter historically true meaning...a biblical meaning without God.
We are lingering for the third week over the conscious experience of being loved by God described in verse 5. What I have been stressing is that this experience is something we feel. Something we know in the heart that is more than a fact that we infer from argument. You can know some things from argument that you don’t experience in your heart. You might argue (1) the Bible says, “For God so loved the world” (); (2) I am part of the world; (3) therefore, God loves me. That’s one way of knowing you are loved by God.
Christmas is about the Creator of the universe, doing the seemingly impossible…because with God nothing is impossible…and breaking through...himself…into His creation...in the person of Jesus, into the universe that he made…as one of us…to save us from ourselves…and from the power of sin.
Let me ascend a flight of five stairs with you this morning from the invisibility of God to the great Christmas truth—that we may receive (even this morning) grace upon grace from Jesus Christ. The five steps are here in this text. And we will take them one at a time.
We are lingering for the third week over the conscious experience of being loved by God described in verse 5. What I have been stressing is that this experience is something we feel. Something we know in the heart that is more than a fact that we infer from argument. You can know some things from argument that you don’t experience in your heart. You might argue (1) the Bible says, “For God so loved the world” (); (2) I am part of the world; (3) therefore, God loves me. That’s one way of knowing you are loved by God.

1. God Is Invisible

And what makes this fact even more remarkable, even scandalous, is that this universe and all of the people in it…are (or were) in rebellion against its Creator...and yet he came into the universe that he made in order to save those who are or were active rebellion against him and are therefore sinners....
“God’s love for us is something poured out and felt in the heart.”TweetShare on Facebook
Christmas is about the Creator of the universe, who is not himself part of the universe, moving himself, in the person of his Son, into the universe that he made. And what makes this fact even more remarkable is that this created universe — the personal part of it, the moral part of it — is in rebellion against its Maker, and yet he came into the universe that he made in order to save those who are in active rebellion against him. One of the clearest statements in all the Bible is , “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
The first and lowest step in the flight of five stairs is that God is invisible. Verse 18: "No one has ever seen God." What fools we can make of ourselves by denying what we cannot see.
Or you might go further and say, (1) Christ told his disciples, “Greater love as no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (); (2) I am one of his friends because I follow him and keep his commandments (); (3) therefore, Christ loves me with the greatest love.
So Christmas is about something God did — in history.
Christmas is about how we who were created by God…can turn back to God and be in relationship with the one Being who is absolute — no beginning, no end — he simply is who he is.
that his name is “I am who I am.”
Christmas is about how this God relates to us and how we relate to him.
I received a video recently, put out by the Fund for the Feminist Majority, called "Abortion for Survival." We watched it as a staff a few weeks ago. It is a powerful visual statement of why pro-abortionists think abortion is utterly necessary as a means of birth control especially in poor countries. The miseries caused by unwanted pregnancies among the poor are all graphically portrayed.
These are ways of knowing you are loved by the use of argument. And that is important. We need to see these things and use them as part of our arsenal in our fight of faith. But that is not what is talking about. :5says that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” This experience of God’s love for us is not mainly a logical inference. It is something poured out. It is something felt in the heart. Known in the way the heart knows.
So then what does — — is tell us?
It tells us 2 things tonight...
(1) how this absolute God broke into his creation to save sinners, and
(2) who came to save sinner.
So that is what I would like to talk about: the how and the who of Christmas.
How did Christmas happen and who came?
And I will end with the 2 word question…so what?
What difference should this make for you?

Four Points About the Experience of God’s Love

1. How did the Creator God of the universe break into his universe?

I wondered if the reality of the unborn child would ever be referred to in the video. It wasn't. The tacit assumption was that it didn't exist. Why? Because you can't see it. Just like God. At two points in the film they took a large syringe and squirted a bloody mass into a dish and said something like, "This is the result of an eight week abortion; hardly a child." Which is like getting your finger caught in a meat grinder and looking at the remains and saying, "O, I guess it wasn't a finger after all. So I really won't miss it. No harm done."
So, let’s begin with how...
At no point in the video was a picture of that baby shown before it was ground up by abortion. Why? Because the invisibility of the unborn child is a great help in building up faith in the child's non-existence or insignificance.
Last week I made two points from this text concerning this experience of being loved by God.
It's the same approach that Yuri Gagarin the first Soviet cosmonaut used in 1961 when he said in space, "I don't see any God out here."

1. This experience of the love of God is poured out through the Holy Spirit.

On Christmas God did the seemingly impossible.

, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
So when John says in verse 18: "No one has ever seen God," he poses a problem. If you can't see him, how can you know him? That's step number one in the flight of five stairs in this text: God is invisible.
I based the first point on the last phrase in verse 5: “through the Holy Spirit which was given to us.” This experience is supernatural, not worked up by human means.
Gabriel says this to Mary as the answer to here very reasonable question ...how God can become man in the womb of a virgin.
When all our logical and scientific objections become what they are…which is our attempt to strip God of His power...this truth remains: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
God had been preparing the world for this impossibility for thousands of years.

2. God Revealed Himself in the Law of Moses

: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

2. This experience has factual, objective content.

: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
: “Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
And in Bethlehem...the time had come for the most impossible thing to be done: God enters his creation as part of it, and without ceasing to be who is is and always has been…the uncreated...all powerful…all knowing...sovereign God.
The second step is this: God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.

On Christmas God broke into the universe by choosing to enter through a virgin.

It is mediated, or communicated, through objective truth about Christ. You don’t get the experience by emptying your head. You get it in seeing the glory of the love of God in the real historical work of Christ.
This is found in verse 17. Let's read verses 16 and 17, "And from his fulness have we all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Does that mean that the law of Moses is contrary to grace and truth—that the law is not gracious and not truthful? I don't think so. What verse 17 says is that before the REALITY—the embodiment—of grace and truth came through Jesus, a WITNESS to that reality came through the law of Moses.
I based the second point on the connection between verse 5 and verses 6–8. Notice again the connection, for example, between verse 5 and verse 8. In verse 5 says the love of God for us has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. In verse 8, the love of God is being demonstrated by God in history through the death of Christ. Read verse 8 carefully and notice something: “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
In Luke says, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin. . . .”
The angel says to her in verse 31, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”
And Mary responds in verse 34, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”.
That is, I have never had intimate relations with a man. I am betrothed…but I am not married. Joseph and I have not slept together.
The reason I don't think verse 17 intends to make a sharp contrast between the law of Moses and Jesus is what John says about Moses and the law in other places. For example, in he says, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Here Moses does something gracious and truthful that points to the grace and truth of Jesus.
Do you notice anything unusual in the time of the verbs? Look at the last clause, “Christ died for us.” That’s past. That’s history. That is fixed, objective, unchanging. How natural it would have been, then, for Paul to write: in this historical act, God “demonstrated his own love toward us.” But that is not what he wrote. He wrote, “God demonstrates his own love toward us.” Present tense. Ongoing action. God demonstrates his love today. He commends his love today through the past, historical, objective fact of the death of his Son for us.
This was God’s choice. An angel sent from God to a virgin. God’s way of breaking into the universe was that he would be conceived in the womb of a woman.
Why? The clearest answer is in verse 35, “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God.”
Now tie that in with the outpouring of God’s love through the Spirit in verse 5. Do you see the connection? God pours out his love in our hearts, and God demonstrates his love by directing our minds to consider the death of his Son. This is why I said the experience of God’s love has factual, objective content. It is mediated, or communicated, through objective truth about the death of Christ. You don’t get the experience by emptying your head. You get it in seeing the demonstration — by seeing the glory of the love of God in the real historical work of Christ.
Another example is where Jesus says, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" Here Moses is in harmony with Jesus and writing truth about Jesus and his grace. Finally in Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven." This means that the manna in the wilderness was a gracious gift of God, but it was not the true bread. It was not the reality of grace itself. It was a witness to the grace to come, a foretaste of Christ.
God chose to be conceived in the womb of a virgin so that the fatherhood of this child would be absolutely unique and undeniable— he is the Son of God, not the son of Joseph. He has a divine Father, not a biological human father.
So John's point in verse 17 ("The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ") is that the law was not the reality—the embodiment—of grace and truth themselves, Jesus was. The law was a witness to grace and truth. Jesus was the fulfillment not the contradiction of the law of Moses.
God chose to be conceived in the womb of a virgin so that the fatherhood of this child would be absolutely unique — he is the Son of God, not the son of Joseph. He has a divine Father, not a biological human father. He is therefore divine as God’s Son, and human as Mary’s son. God chose to break into the universe by choosing to enter through a virgin.
Today I want to make two more points about this experience of God’s love.
He is therefore divine as God’s Son, and human as Mary’s son. God chose to break into the universe by choosing to enter through a virgin.

3. It is experienced by all Christians in some measure.

On Christmas, however God broke into the universe by choosing for his Son a legal human father who was an heir of David, the king of Israel.

That's step number two in our flight of five stairs. First, God is invisible. Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus.
Why do I say this? The reason I say that all Christians have this experience in some measure is because that is what Paul says in verse 5: “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Notice the “our” and the “us” are the same group. The same group of people who received the Holy Spirit also have had the love of God poured out into their hearts. But to whom was the Holy Spirit given?

3. God Became Human

, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.”
Let Paul answer from : “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” Here he uses three terms: Spirit, Spirit of God, and Spirit of Christ. It is the same Spirit, not different Spirits. Then notice what he says in verse 9:b, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” That means that all true Christians have the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit.
The third step in the flight of stairs is this: God became human.
For two thousand years, since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God had been preparing for this moment in history. Promise after promise had pointed to the day when a son of David would come, a king, an eternal heir to the throne.
And at the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation (22:16), Jesus waves his banner over all of history with the words, “I, Jesus . . . am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
“All true Christians have tasted the outpouring of God’s love in their hearts.”TweetShare on Facebook
The text begins with this statement. Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Now to hear the full force of that verse you have to go back up to verse 1: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Word was God and the Word became flesh. If the Word was God and the Word became flesh, then God became flesh. God became human. Jesus Christ was human and Jesus Christ was God.
God broke into the universe not as a generic human being, but as a Jew, in fulfillment of thousand years of covenant promises so that we would know and would glorify God for his truthfulness and faithfullness and all the nations would glorify God for his grace and mercy.

And on Christmas, God broke into the universe by sending his Holy Spirit with divine power to the virgin Mary so she would conceive a divine child.

Therefore, that is who Paul is talking about in :5when he says, “the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” “Us” is all true Christians. Therefore, that is also who “our” refers to earlier in the verse where it says, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” — us believers in Christ, our hearts.”
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The word for "dwelt" is the word for "set up a tent" in Greek. I used to think that implied mainly that he was here only temporarily. But when I looked up all the places this word occurs in the New Testament, I found that it doesn't imply temporary status. For example, in where the eternal new heavens and new earth are described, it says, "Behold the dwelling [tent!] of God is with men. He will dwell [pitch his tent!] with them, and they shall be his people."
So I conclude that all true Christians have at least tasted the outpouring of God’s love in our hearts. Every true Christian knows the love of God not just as an argument, but as an experience. The Holy Spirit has opened the eyes of the heart to see the preciousness and beauty of the love of God in Christ for what it really is, and we have been moved by a spiritual sense of that love in the heart to cherish and value and treasure and trust this Christ and the love of God in him. That is what it means to become a Christian.
Mary asks in , “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the next verse () may be one of the most important statements that has ever been made in all of history.
I think what pitching a tent with us implies is that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction. If you come into a community and build a huge palace with a wall around it, it says one thing about your desires to be with the people. But if you pitch a tent in my backyard, you will probably use my bathroom and eat often at my table. This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human backyard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him.
Luke 1:35 ESV
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
You ask “How,” Mary? Here’s how: “
You ask “How,” Mary? Here’s how: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God.”
That's the third step in our flight of stairs. First, God is invisible. Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus. Third, God became human and set up his tent among us.
God himself, the Holy Spirit of God, with will do the impossible — the power of the Most High — will take the place of a human father — and do something pure, holy,and unseen, mysterious — you will become the mother of the Son of God.

4. The experience varies from time to time and person to person and can be (and should be) pursued in even fuller measures.

God broke into the universe by

4. In Jesus We See God

Now, why do I say this? First, because the tenses of the verbs are different in verse 5 between the outpouring of God’s love and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Notice: “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” The difference here is that the first tense implies in the original Greek that there was a past act for all believers but there is also and ongoing effect or an ongoing act as well. But the tense of “was given to us” implies a completed and once for all action.
by doing the impossible,by choosing to enter the universe through a virgin,by choosing a legal human father who would be an heir of David, the king of Israel,by sending his Holy Spirit with divine power to impregnate the virgin Mary with a divine child.
1. doing the impossible
The fourth step is that in Jesus we see God. Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father."
We were given the Holy Spirit, but the outpouring seems to have ongoing and varied expressions. The Spirit who was given once for all, and who poured out the love of God in some measure in all Christians, acts in varying manners from time to time and from person to person.
2. by choosing to enter the universe through a virgin
3. by choosing a legal human father who was be an heir of David, the king of Israel,
4, and by sending his Holy Spirit with divine power to Mary with a divine child.
Now we turn to the question:

Three Other Texts to This End

Notice: "we have beheld—seen—his glory." Who does "his" refer to? It refers to the Word. "The Word became flesh, and we beheld HIS glory." "And the Word was with God and the Word was God." So in Jesus we behold God—the glory of God.
Who?
Who is this child of God?
And what difference can this make for you?

2. Who?

First, consider : “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” Here we have Paul praying that God would do something now for the Thessalonians. What does he want God to do now? He wants God to “direct their hearts.” This is a remarkable phrase! The heart has directions. It moves toward one thing or another. It moves toward what it regards as attractive and satisfying and valuable. So Paul is praying that God would give the heart a sight of the love of God as more attractive and satisfying and valuable than ordinary earthly things. “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.”
God Wants to Be Seen and Known in His Son
Let’s start with the controversial and breathtaking fact that the baby who came is a king. says,
What would this be other than an experience of God’s love? And it must be that, even though we are Christians, this movement from where we are into the love of God is needed. Otherwise Paul would not pray it. Therefore, the experience of the love of God is different from time to time and from person to person. Here we are as Christians. We have all tasted of God’s love for us and have been drawn into trusting all that God is for us in Christ. But our hearts are not always steadfast. They drift and they waver. As the Puritans used to say, “There is much insensibility to divine things among Christians.”
God came to live in a tent so we can watch him more closely. God wants to be seen and known in his Son.
Luke 1:32–33 ESV
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
This is why we need revival. And this is what revival is. Revival is not first the conversion of the lost. Revival is first the answer to Paul’s prayer in , “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” When the Lord takes hold of the hearts of his people and directs them into the love of God, they experience the outpouring of the love of God through the Holy Spirit. When that happens to lots of people in the same place at the same time, we call it revival.
The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
The same point is made in verse 18. "No one has ever seen God; the only Son [other older manuscripts say "the only God"], who is in the bosom [in the lap or the embrace] of the Father, he has made him known." Here the point is that even though God is a Spirit and is therefore invisible (), he has now revealed himself in an utterly unique way—by the incarnation of himself in his Son Jesus. In Jesus we see God.
“Throne” — “The Lord will give to him the throne of his father David; “Reign” — “And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;” “Kingdom” — “And of his kingdom there will be no end.”
As I said on Wednesday…the power and glory and awesomeness of Christmas…is that Jesus is not in the manger anymore.
You don't have to wonder today if there is a baby in the womb of a woman eight weeks pregnant. And you don't have to wonder what it's like. We have pictures and videos and models and detailed physiological descriptions.
Three words tell us that this person will be a king: “Throne” — “The Lord will give to him the throne of his father David; “Reign” — “And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;” “Kingdom” — “And of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Second, consider . This is a closing benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” Now what is Paul doing here? He is calling on God, in the presence of the people, to make his love manifestly present and real to them. “The love of God be with you!” — be manifestly present to you!
Our King is not walking around Jerusalem.
Our King is not on the cross.
And the best news in all of the universe…our King is not in the tomb …he is not dead…the cross and the tomb and the manger are empty...
This baby…is the King of Kings…He is the Lord of Lords…ruling every inch of this universe and every millisecond of time…right now.
Our King is seated on His throne…and one day soon…this Jesus...will return.
says “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
He is not just a baby in a manger. All authorities in this universe…all presidents and dictators and rulers and and powers are under Him…our King.
says“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus is not just baby in a manger: That baby was was there in the very beginning…because He is God.
And…he is the creator of all things!
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Tonight I want to end by asking:
And so it is with God. You don't need to be in the dark about God. He has gone beyond parchment and paper. He has gone beyond tapes and cassettes. He has gone beyond videos and even beyond live drama. He has actually come and pitched his tent in our backyard and beckoned us to watch him and get to know him in the person of his Son Jesus. When you watch Jesus in action, you watch God in action. When you hear Jesus teach, you hear God teach. When you come to know what Jesus is like, you know what God is like.
What do I mean by “manifestly” present? For Christians, isn’t the love of God always present with us? and 39 say that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So if nothing can separate us from the love of God, why does Paul pray, “The love of God be with you”? The reason is because, even though the love of God is always present with believers, we do not always experience the love of God as present. Therefore, we want God to make his love more manifestly known. More obviously. More experientially. Therefore, I think what Paul is really calling for in is that the love of God be poured out more fully and more consciously in our hearts.
Let me respond to this very soberly and very simply: the only legitimate reason that kingship is not attractive to us is because in this age and this world the only kings available are finite and sinful. Listen to C. S. Lewis describe why he believes in democracy:
What Is God Like?
Finally, consider Paul’s extraordinary prayer in . He is praying for Christians, which makes some of what he prays remarkable.
So what is God like? What do we see when we see Jesus? John is very clear in what he wants to stress. We see the glory of God's grace and truth. Verse 14: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Then John repeats this in verse 17, "The law was through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
If there could be a king who is not limited in his wisdom and power and goodness and love for his subjects, then monarchy would be the best of all governments. If such a ruler could ever rise in the world — with no weakness, no folly, no sin — then no wise and humble person would ever want democracy again.
What kind of king is he?
What kind of king is he? What difference would his kingship make for you?
I think that some day I will preach fifteen messages on those verses. No passage in the Bible has filled me with longings in prayer as often as this one. It has layer upon layer of meaning. But very superficially consider what Paul is asking for as we read the prayer backward. In verse 19, he is asking that we be filled with all the fullness of God. That is an experience. We don’t always have that. We want it. We pursue it.
The point is this: the essence of what God reveals about himself in Jesus is, first, that he is true—that is, he is real, more real than all that you can see. In a sense everything that looks so real to us is like a short dream. (, "We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.") God is truth. God is reality. And that is what we see in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
If there could be a king who is not limited in his wisdom and power and goodness and love for his subjects, then monarchy would be the best of all governments. If such a ruler could ever rise in the world — with no weakness, no folly, no sin — then no wise and humble person would ever want democracy again.
What difference should his kingship make for you?
And second, God is grace. Or as John says in his first letter: "God is love" (). God is free and overflowing and lavish in his goodness to sinful creatures. This is grace. This is the essence of God's reality because nothing reveals the fullness of his deity more than the freedom of his grace. He is full, happy, and sufficient in himself so that he does not need us to meet his need but is surging with infinite energy and fullness to meet ours. That's his grace. And that's the capstone of his glory. "We saw his glory . . . full of grace and truth."

How Does the Experience Come?

The question is not whether God broke into the universe as a king. He did. The question is: What kind of king is he? What difference would his kingship make for you?
That's step four. First, God is invisible. Second, God revealed himself in the law of Moses before he revealed himself in the Lord Jesus. Third, God became human and set up his tent among us. Fourth, in Jesus we see God and know what he is like: true reality and fullness of grace.
There are four words in our verses from Luke to answer the question, and they all imply that our joy comes by submitting to His kingship.
How does it come? It comes through an experiential knowing of the incomprehensible love of Christ — “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” And how does that experiential knowing of the love of Christ come? In verse 17, Paul asks that they be “rooted and grounded in love” so that they “may be able to comprehend” this incomprehensible love. Well, how does that rooting and grounding in love happen? Paul prays for it to happen (in verses 16–17) by the strengthening of the Spirit in the inner man so that Christ dwells (manifestly) in the heart by faith.
So here we are at the work of the Holy Spirit again. And is not all this astonishing experience in simply an unfolding of the simple sentence in that the love of God be poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us?

5. God Came to Give Us Grace; We Must Receive It

Our King is Holy

, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy.”
Which brings now to the top of our flight of stairs to the practical Christmas truth.
And if so, then is it not clear that the experience varies from time to time and from person to person? Otherwise Paul would not pray for it as often as he does.
Holy means pure and perfect in goodness...without any defect or deficiency or blemish. He is perfectly set apart from all of creation because he is perfect in His goodness and righteousness. All He does is good…He is the maker and definer of goodness…our King is Holy.
I hope you can see the hope and glory in this…this baby is not only the King of Kings…this king is Holy! He is the perfect King...
And because our King is Holy...this baby is also spotless…this perfect King is also the spotless Lamb of God who came to die in our place.
Unholy kings create the need for democracy. A perfectly holy king would create universal peace and perfect justice. This is who he is. He is holy.
What is the connection between all this revelation and you? Verse 16 gives the answer: "And from his fulness have we all received grace upon grace." So step five is this: God came not just to show us grace but to give us grace; and we must receive it.
“We don’t empty our heads, but fill them with the truth of Christ and the demonstration of his love.”TweetShare on Facebook

Our King is the Son of God

God doesn't just want to stock your head with knowledge about his truth and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it. This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and reality to stand on so you won't cave in under stress. This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace—to forgive all your sins—all of them!—to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day, and to fill you with hope and joy and peace. Isn't that the meaning of grace? And isn't that why he pitched his tent among us?
And, finally, is it not clear then how we should seek the fullness of this experience as a people? First, we do not empty our heads, but fill them with the truth of Christ and the demonstration of his love for us when he came and lived and died and rose. Second, we pray for it. Really pray for it!
, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God.”
These are the two things Paul did again and again. He wrote to his people to direct their minds to the truth of God in Christ. And he prayed that the Holy Spirit would give them eyes to see the glory of what he was writing about.
But note well the word: "From his fulness we have received grace upon grace." Don't spurn it this morning. Receive it. Welcome it for what it really is. And let it fill your heart with everlasting joy—joy to the world!
And , “He will be . . . called the Son of the Most High.”
, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God.” And , “He will be . . . called the Son of the Most High.” This means that when God broke into the universe the person he became was both divine and human. The king who rules the world is not just the king of Israel as the son of David. He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords as the Son of God. To have this king as your king is to be protected by infinite power. No one can destroy you.
This means that when God came down as a man into the universe the person he became was both fully divine (fully God) and fully human.
The king who rules the world is not just the king of Israel as the son of David.
He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords as the Son of God.
To have this king as your king is to be fully protected by infinite power. No one can destroy you…if He is your King!

Our King is Jesus

That is my call to us all this advent season. Read the demonstrations of the love of God in Christ. Think of them just that way. And pray with all your heart the prayers of Paul. Like the one in :
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe.
, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
Let’s read that together!
Luke 1:31 ESV
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
God chooses the name of his Son: Jesus.
God chooses the name of his Son: Jesus. And adds, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus transliterates the Greek, Iēsous, which corresponds to the Hebrew name Joshua and means savior. Therefore, the king of the universe is given the name savior. Not savior of the righteous. But savior of sinners. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (). All his holiness, all his deity and power stand in the service of his saving mercy. God broke into the universe to be a holy, divine, saving king.
And adds,
Matthew 1:21 ESV
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The king of the universe is given the name savior. Not savior of the Jews, or Gentiles, or righteous. But savior of sinners. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (). All his holiness, all his deity and power stand in the service of his saving mercy.
The king of the universe is given the name savior. Not savior of only of the Jews, or only Gentiles, or the righteous.
But savior of sinners. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” ().
All his holiness, all his deity and power displayed in his saving mercy and grace for those whom He came to save!
God broke into the universe to be a holy, divine, and saving king.

Our King is Forever

When the eyes of our hearts are opened to the greatness of God’s love, the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Seek this. Seek this in its fullness will all your might
Luke 1:33 ESV
and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
: “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The king of Israel, is also king of the universe, will never be replaced.
The king of Israel, is also king of the universe, will never be replaced.
There will never be elections for a new king of the universe.
There will never be a need for a successor to sit upon the throne of Jesus. His kingdom is forever.
Therefore, if you are His this Christmas your salvation and his protection over you are forever.
Our God…the one and only true God…entered His creation as a baby in a manger...to be a holy, divine, saving king forever. And His name is Jesus!
That is the answer to the question: Who is it that came of Christmas?
And on this Christmas day, I want you to hear…before he sat down on the throne of the universe , where he is right now ruling all things for His glory...he died for the sins of His people...so that whoever would believe on him and live for the king…would not perish but have eternal life.
Whoever surrenders from their rebellion to the Lord of Lords...receives the forgiveness of the King of Kings...
Your true and everlasting joy comes by seeing the power and glory of that baby in the manger...and devoting your life to him because He is alive and rules and reigns as the holy, divine, saving King forever…and because of Him…we will live forever.
This Christmas…in the name of our king Jesus, may we come and receive this gift…in all joy.
Amen!
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