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Alêtheia Christian Fellowship, Christmas, Dec. 25, 2005 #102

Some deny Jesus even existed. The Mishnah, Josephus & Philo, as well as first-century Gentile historians, Thallus and Tacitus etc. --all testify that the one called Christ lived in Palestine and died under Pontius Pilate. "The historicity of Christ is as certain as the historicity of Julius Caesar"

The man lived and so He was born. WHO CARES?

Who cares? Why celebrate a birth? We only do that if the person so honored is I personally important to us. I celebrate my wife’s birthday and those of my children, I’m sure you celebrate birthdays of people who mean something to you.

1- Most people today don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, they simply enjoy the party, because Jesus doesn’t mean anything to them, they don’t celebrate Him they celebrate Santa Clause.

2- Others, assemble because of guilt, duty, insurance or to appease other people. Two times some people go to church are Christmas and Easter. Both extremely pleasant rememberances His birth and His ressurrection. Yet the Lord specifically commanded his church to regularly remember Him in His death.

3- Some of us are different, some of us genuinely celebrate the birth because Jesus is important to us, but not because He was born in a manger, it’s because of what He did with His life after that night.

That's the crux of it. We either believe there is something worth celebrating or we don't. I personally applaud the honesty of people who do not act as Christians throughout the year not insulting my intelligence by acting like Christians two days a year.

It’s not enough to be great though, the birth of some guy, no matter how great he was, is nothing to celebrate unless His life has an impact on our own. Alexander the Great was arguably the greatest General-King in human history. He was truly great, conquering the known world by the age of 32. Yet as much as he interests me I don’t celebrate his birth!

So what is it that Jesus accomplished, who was He and why does it matter?

According to the eyewitness accounts, Jesus was born of a virgin who was literally impregnated by Almighty God. Jesus was therefore fully human and at the same time fully God.

John 1:1 ~ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
3&4 ~ All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
14 ~ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
18 ~ No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

1, says that in the beginning, before anything was created there already existed the Word and the Word was in perfect harmony and equal relationship with God and the Word was the same perfect essence as God. In verse 3, it goes on to say that through the Word all things were created and that nothing came into being apart from the active agency of the Word.

In verse 14, it says, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the scandal of Christianity that God would give up a portion of Himself to become human.

Very carefully read and examine the first 34 verses of chapter one of John's Gospel

Hebrews 1:2-3 ~ in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Not only did God create all things through the Word, it is the Word that actively holds all things together. Without the active work of the Word we and our universe would literally fly apart at the speed of light. This Word who is a portion of God is the Bridge between God and man. He humbled Himself and stepped out of light into darkness to enable peace between God and mankind because God loves you so much.

John 17:3-5, Jesus Himself praying to the Father says, “This is eternal life: that people can know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ the One You have sent. “I glorified You on the earth, by accomplishing the work which You gave Me to do. “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world began.

The Bible says God is our Savior, but what are we saved from?  God, of course, He is the only possible judge but is full of mercy to those who are righteous.  What is righteousness?

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Rom 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

We resist accepting God because He may want something from us, we may not get our own way, so we say there is no God. The Bible says in Romans 1:20 that since the creation of the heavens and the earth God’s invisible qualities have been obvious and so people are without excuse because simply from the world around us we know in our heart that God exists.

Since we know that there is a God we must contrive a way so that we don’t have to listen to Him. We say you can’t know for sure what God wants so why try?

We resist accepting the Bible because if we do then we have to make a choice to either obey what it says or to reject God.

You see if it is God’s Word, His revelation to mankind we are no longer rejecting religion or a preacher or an ancient book, we are actually rejecting God Himself. So it’s far easier on our conscience to say that we can’t know what God wants.

It's far easier to remember a helpless baby. A baby lying in a manger is harmless, non-threatening. But a man dying on a cross--a man who claims to be God--that man is a threat! He demands our allegiance! We cannot ignore him. We must either accept him or reject him. He leaves us no middle ground.

But why resist doing what God wants?

We are, by nature, totally self-involved. It is like the scorpion on the foxes back, we can’t help it, because it’s who we are.

True Christianity based on the plain reading of the Bible is God’s Truth and is completely different than what man creates. It says we are nothing, totally incapable of any good in the eyes of a perfect God and therefore fall before Him humbly pleading for mercy which is selfless love. Fortunately that’s what God is, selfless love.

He has already paid the ultimate price, but you must accept with your heart. Jesus is the Word, He is God and He humbled Himself to a life among humans and an imbuement of sin and a sacrificial death and then death could not hold Him.

What are the facts?

The Gospels tell us that his birth was shortly before Herod the Great died. Herod's death can be fixed with certainty.

We can pinpoint Herod the Great's demise as occurring between March 29th and April 4th in 4 B.C. (In A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to figure it out {he translated from Greek into Latin 401 ecclesiastical canons, and the decrees of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis}) Through a variety of other time indicators, we can be relatively confident that Jesus was born no earlier than the Spring of 6 B.C. and probably in either late 5 or early 4 B.C.

If we were to accept a December 25th date then the year 5 B.C. is right and Jesus would have been about 3 months old when the babies were killed.

Three Kings Day Celebrated Jan. 6 Also known as the Epiphany, (Día de los Reyes) They weren't kings and we have no idea how many there were.

They show up at the house probably in Nazereth not the manger in Bethlehem. Lk 2:39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.

The ancient magi were reilgious and political advisors to eastern kings

If we're right then today, which is almost tomorrow, Jesus would be exactly 2,009 years old.

The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria says that certain "overly curious" Egyptian theologians assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth

The tradition for December 25th is first found in the writtings of anti-pope, Hippolytus, in 202 A.D. (a disciple of St. Irenaeus) We know the Western churh was celebrated Christ's birth on Dec. 25th no later than 340 A.D.

In 386 A.D., John Chrysostom, (347-407 Born in Antioch, bishop of Constantinople) argued that December 25th was the correct date and from that day till now, the Church in the East, as well as the West, has observed the 25th of December as the official date of Christ's birth. Faithfulness in little things is a big thing.

John Chrysostom a contemporary of Jerome and Audustine. He was a prolific writter/speaker Golden-mouth.

"Mercy imitates God and disappoints Satan."

"Although it be with truth thou speakest evil, that also is a crime."

"To be another than I am, I must abandon that I am."

Now admittedly, the sheep around Bethlehem were the exception, not the rule. But these were no ordinary sheep. They were sacrificial lambs. In the early spring they would be slaughtered at the Passover.

But an early winter date seems as reasonable a guess as any. And December 25th has been the frontrunner for eighteen centuries. Without more evidence, there seems no good reason to change the celebration date now.

We can blame the ancient church for a large part of our uncertainty. You see, they did not celebrate Christ's birth. At all. To them, it was insignificant. They were far more concerned with his death . . . and resurrection.

But modern man has turned that around. A baby lying in a manger is harmless, non-threatening. But a man dying on a cross--a man who claims to be God--that man is a threat! He demands our allegiance! We cannot ignore him. We must either accept him or reject him. He leaves us no middle ground.

This Christmas season, take a close look at a nativity scene once again. Remove your rose-colored glasses--smell the foul air, see the cold, shivering animals. They represent the Old Testament sacrificial system. They are emblems of death. But they are mere shadows of the Babe in their midst. He was born to die . . . that all who believe in him might live.

Daniel the prophet was the chief of the magi in Nebuchadnezzar's court. Through his influence, undoubtedly many of the magi carried on their religious and political duties as worshippers of the One true God. although a few believe that the 'star' they saw was a natural phenomenon--such as a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter--this cannot explain how the star stood right over Bethlehem. Clearly, the 'star' was completely of supernatural origin. If so, it probably had nothing to do with astrology.

Bethlehem was a small community--almost a suburb of Jerusalem. The village itself--and the surrounding countryside--would hardly have more than 30 male infants under two. Most scholars today place the number between 20 and 30. Josephus tells us much about Herod. The best word to describe his reign is 'overkill.' He murdered his favorite wife's father, drowned her brother--and even killed her! He executed one of his most trusted friends, his barber, and 300 military leaders--all in a day's work! Then he slew three of his sons, allegedly suspecting them of treason. Josephus tells us that "Herod inflicted such outrages upon (the Jews) as not even a beast could have done if it possessed the power to rule over men" (Antiquities of the Jews 17:310). Killing babies was not out of character for this cruel king. And killing them up to two years old--to make sure he got the baby Jesus lines up with his insane jealousy for power.

Josephus might have omitted the slaying of the babies for one of two reasons: first, he was no friend of Christianity and he left it out intentionally; or second, just before Herod died he locked up 3000 of the nation's leading citizens and gave orders that they were to be executed at the hour of his death. He wanted to make sure that there would be mourning when he died. . . Israel was so preoccupied with this that the clandestine murder of a few babies might have gone unnoticed. . . 

He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, they were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of this call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had afforded ground for accusations; and when they were come, he ordered them to be all shut up in the hyppodrome, (9) and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them: "I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king's death. For that he was not unacquainted with the temper of the Jews, that his death would be a thing very desirable, and exceedingly acceptable to them, because during his lifetime they were ready to revolt from him, and to abuse the donations he had dedicated to God that it therefore was their business to resolve to afford him some alleviation of his great sorrows on this occasion; for that if they do not refuse him their consent in what he desires, he shall have a great mourning at his funeral, and such as never had any king before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only. He desired therefore, that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with their darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; and that he shall have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral.

When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven. (11) A man he was of great barbarity towards all men equally, and a slave to his passion; but above the consideration of what was right; yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king; and though he were encompassed with ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all, and continued his life till a very old age.

Stauros means an upright stake which took various forms at different times.

  • This is the word used of the Roman instrument of crucifixion in Matt. 27:32, 40, 42; Col. 1:20; 2:14; Heb. 12:2; Phil. 2:8, to name just a few passages.
  • It was also used by metonymically for the death of Christ on the Cross  

Xulon-- This word is used of both a tree and of the cross. The point is that one of the words used in the New Testament for the cross is a word that also means "tree," "wood," or "a piece of wood" and hence, anything made of wood.

  • But it is likewise used of the cross in Acts. 5:30; 20:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; 1Pet. 2:24.
  • Interestingly, xulon was also used of a tree. On the way to the cross, hearing the women mourning and lamenting over what was happening to Him, the Lord Jesus said, "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:31) (NIV) The Lord was speaking of Himself as a green tree because of His living power and capacity to give life.
  • Finally, it is used of the tree of life in Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14, & 19.

1) He is portrayed as a shoot or branch which would grow out of the cut down stump of the house of David (Isa. 11:1). Isaiah 11:1 reads, " A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." (Isa. 4:2f; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). God's tree is not decorated with lights and ornaments or tinsel, nor surrounded underneath with gifts or presents filled with perishable items purchased from our vain manner of life. Rather, under God's tree are imperishable gifts of infinite value which were purchased by the death of God's Son on God's tree, the Cross. Listen to these words of the apostle Peter:

1 Peter 1:18-19 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (NASB)

1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross (xulon), that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (NASB)

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

Paul defines it as the Gospel of the Grace of God:

As a work of God's grace which means "unmerited favor," salvation then is A FREE GIFT. The words grace and gift stand opposed to the concepts of merit and works as a means of receiving what is given. The Scripture make this clear in bold statements and by the many references to salvation as a free gift from God without cost to us. God's Christmas Tree, or Salvation in Christ is free, but its not cheap. It cost God the death of His very own Son, the Lord Jesus.

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