Sermon: Getting Christmas Right (Luke 2)

Getting Christmas Right

Luke 2:1-20 (ESV) 

    In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  [5] to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  [6] And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  [7] And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    [8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!” [15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  [16] And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  [17] And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

From the beginning, God has related to man by covenant. A covenant is a promise to do something. A covenant is a bond made between two parties. God has made a covenant with His people. It began in the Garden of Eden and has been made again and again through the Old Testament. In general terms, it is God saying, I will be their God and they shall be My people. This is the covenant vow God has made. He says I will do this thing. I will be their God.

I want us to see the storyline through the Scriptures. I want us, today, to see the big picture of Christmas. I want us to get Christmas right. It’s not really about gifts we give each other, but it is about the gift God gave His people. His people were in spiritual bondage and were crying out with no hope and God answered… Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

I want to begin our walk through the Bible today with our first stop in Genesis.

1. God’s Promise to Adam Genesis 3:15

God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. He told them to do certain things and not to do certain things. At first they obeyed and had great fellowship with God. They spoke with God all the time.

Genesis 1:28 (ESV) 

    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Then God also told Adam something not to do.

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV) 

    And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  [17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Satan comes along and tempts Adam and Eve to eat of the tree that God said not to eat from. The very instant they ate, they died a spiritual death and then later also died physical deaths. But God is a loving God. He does not allow His children to remain in a condition that will break His covenant. God takes the first step to restore His disobedient people.

After the fall into sin, God makes a promise that is called the first Good News.

Genesis 3:15 (ESV) 

    I will put enmity between you and the woman,

        and between your offspring and her offspring;

    he shall bruise your head,

        and you shall bruise his heel.”

God tells Satan that there is coming a man who will be born of a woman who will crush him. Jesus Christ did just that when He died on the cross. He alone paid the penalty for Adam’s crime against God and for Adam’s fallen race.

So the bad news is that mankind is fallen, but the good news is God has made a promise of a future Savior and God has a covenant to keep.

2. God’s Promise to Noah Genesis 6:18

For our next stop, we come to the covenant being renewed with Noah. As the redemptive purposes of God continually get closer to being fulfilled, we see God doing more and more.

The bad news during the time of Noah is found in,

Genesis 6:5-7 (ESV) 

    The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. [6] And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. [7] So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Mankind, since the fall, had been becoming more and more evil. It says in these verses that everyone living on earth did only evil all the time. Every act they committed was an evil act. Every thought they had was evil.  However, God showed Noah grace. He showed favor to Noah. From the mass of people, God directed His love toward one man, Noah.

The Good News can be seen in,

Genesis 6:8 (ESV) 

    But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

As a free gift, not depending on anything that Noah had done whether good or bad, God because of His great mercy loved Noah. God would see to it that He had a people that would worship Him and keep His covenant.

Genesis 6:11-18 (ESV) 

    Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. [12] And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. [13] And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. [14] Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. [15] This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. [16] Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. [17] For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. [18] But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

God provided for Noah and his family a way of escaping the coming judgement. Noah was saved from the flood by God’s grace.

3. God’s Promise to Abraham Genesis 15:18

Next, we trace the storyline to God’s dealings with Abraham.

For some reason unknown to us, God chose Abraham from among all other pagan unbelievers to be the father of faith. God charges Abraham to get out of his country and go to an unknown land. The Lord renews the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. However, Abram was 90 and he has still not received the promise of an offspring. How would God multiply him greatly if he is 90 years old and still has no children?

God gives Abraham a sign.

God asks Abraham to gather a number of different sacrificial animals. God tells Abraham to cut them in half and spread them apart. Then God as a smoking pillar passes between the halves of all the animals in essence saying to Abraham, If this promise is not fulfilled may what happened to these animals, happen to Me.  

Genesis 15:12-14 (ESV) 

    As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. [13] Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. [14] But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

The bad news is Abraham is 90 and still no children. But he must not despair even though it seems to him the promise is delayed.

Genesis 17:1-8 (ESV) 

    When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, [2] that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” [3] Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, [4] “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. [5] No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. [6] I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [8] And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Again the covenant is renewed with Abraham. God has determined to have a people and be their God.

4. God’s Promise to Moses Exodus 19:5-6

Hundreds of years pass. The Hebrew people have been in Egypt as slaves for 400 years just as God said they would. They were treated very badly. God remembers His promise and raises up a deliverer named Moses.

Exodus 2:23-25 (ESV) 

    During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  [24] And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  [25] God saw the people of Israel-and God knew.

Through Moses, God frees the Hebrew people and destroys Egypt. God leads His people out of slavery and bondage into the Promised Land. On the way to the Promised Land God renews the covenant with Moses. On Mount Sinai God gives Moses the covenant which includes the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 34:27-28 (ESV) 

    And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”  [28] So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

The bad news was that Israel was in slavery in Egypt, in despair and in a hopeless situation. The Good News was that God freed them from slavery and led them out. That same pillar of smoke Abraham saw making a covenant vow kept His promise and led His people out of Egypt.

 There is a very close relationship between the covenant and the Ten Words or Ten Commandments. They depict how the people are to keep their part of the covenant. Today is no different. If we, God’s people wish to experience the full blessing of God we must strive to keep His law. We must obey God’s Law and the commands of Christ.

5. God’s Promise to King David 2 Samuel 7

We now move forward about 500 years to King David. King David had been engaged in military conflicts. In 2 Samuel 5 He had taken the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites and had established his throne there. In Chapter 6 he brings the Ark of the Covenant to the city. Then in 2 Samuel 7 God gives King David rest from all his enemies. As we briefly look at this covenant we should realize that all along while the Israelites have be living in tents a traveling from place to place, God had gone with them.

2 Samuel 7:8-13 (ESV) 

    Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  [9] And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.  [10] And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly,  [11] from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.  [12] When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  [13] He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

God’s covenant again is: I will be their God and they will be My people. Through King David’s line God will bring an eternal King, One that will rule and reign forever.

6. The Promise of a New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34

During the time of Jeremiah and Jerusalem’s destruction God turns destruction into hope, pain into promise. Again God reminds His people of a coming day of promise.

God gives His people a promise of a new covenant, one that far exceeds the old.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) 

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  [32] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.  [33] But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  [34] And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God desires a people that worship Him. He desires a people completely devoted to Him. God desires His people to love and obey His covenant commands. God will stop at nothing to see this through…it will happen. As Jeremiah, the weeping prophet looked around at his destroyed city and mourned the destruction and death that was all around him, he heard from God.

7. Jesus Christ, God’s Promise Fulfilled

Well we have traveled full circle back to the real meaning of Christmas. Getting Christmas right is to understand that God sent Jesus, His only Son born of a virgin to keep His promise. No more would God’s people be in bondage to sin. No more would His people be waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. The promise was realized in Jesus Christ. Christ is the pinnacle of the storyline of the Bible. He is the reason every event took place in the Bible. All of God’s redemptive work finds its end in Jesus. For 4000 years people had waited. From the first promise to Adam to the announcement of the angels mankind had waited and waited for God to show the answer to our sin dilemma. It happened when Jesus Christ was born.

[8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!” [15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

God would finally fulfill the covenant. King Jesus came, lived and died gathering for God a people. God would forever be with His people. No more hiding as a cloud or a pillar of fire. Now because of the incarnation God would gather from the four corners of the globe a people who would know Him and love Him and worship Him. Don’t look for any more covenants. Don’t look for anymore Scripture to be written. Look to Christ and be included into the Kingdom of Heaven. If we are to get Christmas right, we must see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is through King Jesus that God can say, I will be their God and they will be My people…Praise the Lord!!! 

  Lord’s Supper

Just as God had to continually remind His people of the covenant He made in the Old Testament so He wants to remind us of the New Covenant. That’s what the Lord’s Supper is all about.

Jesus came and initiated the New Covenant in His own blood.

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