Christmas 2013 – the birth of the King, the Savior, and Immanuel
As I understand it, the official start date is the Friday after Thanksgiving – the day it all begins, Black Friday – the shopping, the decorating, the Christmas Tree, the lights. Then, before long, the eggnog, the mistletoe, the sitting on Santa’s lap at the Mall, the non-stop marathon of the shoot your eye out kid movie, the occasional
- Home alone
- Christmas vacation with Griswalds
- It’s a wonderful life
- miracle on 34th st
- Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
- Jingle bell Rock
- Silent night
- Joy to the world
- Hark the herald angels sing
- Deck the halls
And then it all culminates on December 25th with a family get together, the meal, and of course the exchange of gifts. Here, in America, we have an entire season dedicated to the celebration of Christmas.
In a sense we could say that there is a time and a season for every activity under the sun.
- A time to purchase gifts, and a time to pay your visa bill
- A time for a pumpkin spice latte and a time for a refresher
This Christmas season is full of these elements that just go hand in hand with Christmas, whether cultural or traditional – things that tend to usher us into the Christmas spirit. And there is a sense of beauty in some of these things.
Those are some of the beautiful things about Christmas. But THE beautiful THING about Christmas is Christ, the birth of Jesus.
To bridge the gap between this mornings’ Christmas message and our current series in the book of Ecclesiastes, I will point out that regarding the beautiful things about Christmas, there is a spectrum when it comes to our interaction with them.
On one end of the spectrum, we can be so focused on these beautiful things that we neglect the beautiful thing. We can be so focused on putting up lights, trees, and buying presents, and making preparations for family gatherings and meals that we lose sight of Jesus and the fact that Christmas is about the celebration of his birth – we could forget about the Christ in Christmas.
On the other end of the spectrum, we can be so excessively righteous and overly wise, that we become so over-protective of the reason for the season that we have no room for other Christmas traditions, no allowance for these other beautiful things.
- Can’t have a nativity scene because those are statues, graven images, that’s idolatry
- Can’t have a Christmas tree because it has pagan origins
- Can’t celebrate on Dec 25th because that’s not even when Jesus was born – it was probably closer to the spring time
Either end of the spectrum can be unhealthy. I believe the healthiest place to be is in a balanced place. In the balanced life you can enjoy those things along with THE beautiful THING. You can maintain full awareness of the reason for the season and keep the focus on Christ while still making room for and even enjoying the other traditions that have made their way into the Christmas season.
And if we have strong convictions against certain traditions, we have the freedom not to practice them, but we should be careful not to impose those convictions on others and allow them the freedom to practice them. After all, I don’t know anybody who ever fell into the sinful trap of worshipping a nativity scene as an idol. So during the remainder of this beautiful season let’s strive for balance. Let’s maintain our focus on Jesus and enjoying his beauty as he is THE beautiful THING about Christmas and not be too legalistic to enjoy the other beautiful things about Christmas.
Let’s read the story together. Turn in your bibles to Luke 1:26-38
As you turn there, I want to give you a simple outline for this morning’s message. This outline is structured based on the names given to this newborn child. You see, in ancient times, names had meanings, and while they still do, their meaning carried a far greater significance then than they do now. So this morning, let’s celebrate the birth of this child, the birth of the Christ by examining three names given to him in the Christmas story.
Here is the simple outline – in Christ we have the birth of the:
- Son of David (King of Kings)
- Yeshua (Yahweh saves)
- Immanuel (God with us)
In this Jesus, we have redemption, restoration, reconciliation, relationship.
Hopefully, you have made your way to Luke 1. Luke 1 opens with the story of the promised birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, the one who went before him to pave the way for the Messiah and prepare the people’s hearts. Let every heart prepare him room. That was John’s job. He was born to Elizabeth. I wanted to share that because we will begin reading in verse 26, which mentions Elizabeth.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
As you can see from this text, we have a virgin who is told that she will conceive and give birth to a son, who will be called the son of the Most High, so he is the son of God, but that he will also be given the throne of his father, David. So not only the son of God, but the son of David.
I covered this in depth in our Kingdom series. Grab a disc if you want more on this. It is fascinating stuff and if you really want to grasp the power of what is happening here, you must understand this. I’ll give you the cliff notes version.
Israel (the descendants of Jacob) was God’s chosen people, a monarchy at one point, with a King on the throne. It was promised that David, king of Israel would always have a descendent on the throne. Eventually, due to disobedience, the nation was destroyed, their temple, and land were destroyed, king carried off into captivity. No more king on the throne, they were subservient to the gentile nations, at that time Babylon. Over time political power changed hands as the Babylonians were defeated in 539 BC by Medo-Persia, who were defeated in 330 by Alexander the Great and the Greek armies, who were eventually overtaken by the Romans in around 63 BC. By the time of the first century, when this angel visited Mary, they were anticipating God’s redemption. They were looking for release from their bondage under the Romans. Their prophecies pointed to that very time, they knew that they were living in the last days of this bondage to other nations and based on the prophecies, they were expecting God to raise up a King to sit on the throne of Israel and deliver them from bondage, give them victory over their enemies, and elevate Israel to status as a nation of nations, whose king was the king of kings, setting them high above all the nations, as they were supposed to be a city on a hill, a lamp on a stand. Jesus is that. Jesus is the King, who descended from David, who is the son of God, who will sit on the throne of David forever. As the text says, v33 he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Many people of the day, however, missed the Messiah due to their earthly perspective and earthly expectations. Since they wanted a king who would head up a military campaign to overtake their physical oppressors, they rejected and crucified Jesus, the King who was born unto them, fitting him with a crown of thorns instead of a crown of glory. But their rejection by no means changed the reality that he was and is indeed the King of Kings.
Talking very specific here – Israel. Where do we come into the picture and why are we celebrating the birth of Israel’s king? In short, Jesus came to establish and reign over a new Israel, a spiritual Israel that is based grace not on race and includes as citizens even those not of the fleshly family tree of Israel. We, those of us in Christ, are the descendants of Jacob by faith. We are the descendants of Jacob over whom this King reigns.
While they clinging to the old order of things which was obsolete and fading in their day, this Jesus brought an end to the old order of things and ushered in a new order in which Israel is no longer defined by geographic boundaries, but is a heavenly kingdom, no longer descendants of Abraham according to the flesh but by faith, no longer circumcised according to the flesh but by the spirit, in the heart, no longer under the Law of Moses, but under the Law of Christ, and no longer worship at a physical temple making physical sacrifices, but are living stones who comprise a spiritual temple where his true worshipers worship him in spirit and in truth. This is the essence of the Kingdom over which Christ reigns forever, the kingdom that will never end; this is the church, the heavenly Kingdom to which we belong.
This King is the one whose birth we celebrate this morning. Let us bow the knee to King Jesus and honor his reign over this kingdom and seek to serve him diligently, out of a love and reverence for him. Before his death, he washed the feet of His disciples and said I have done this as an example to you; go and do likewise. Those who are disciples of Jesus are to serve the body of Christ. Keep in mind that when we serve others, when we serve the church, we are serving the Body of Christ, we are serving Christ, himself.
And in this upside down Kingdom, the last go first and the first go last as exemplified by the King himself. The one worthy of being served, came NOT to be served but TO SERVE. In the Kingdom the blessing is not to be served but to serve. Let us follow our King’s example by serving others, serving the body of Christ and in so doing, serving the King whose birth we now celebrate.
So to continue reading in the text v34:
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 2 1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place whileQuirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
What a humble beginning for this great child.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
This introduces our second name. The angels brought good news that will cause great joy. That day, in the town of David a Savior was born. A savior. More on that in a moment, but for now, I want to point out that this news that the angels brought was such good news that causes such great joy that we are here on the other side of the globe thousands of years later celebrating this very event. It’s the reason most of us will not be at work on Wednesday morning. It’s the reason that many, if not most, establishments are closed Wednesday.
And it is the greatest news ever shared, for this is the greatest story ever told, it is a true story that has the power to change our lives if we let it and change it for the good with an overflow of joy. What greater joy than that of the salvation of the soul? And of all the things under the sun that change, the ebb and flow of life, the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the prosperity, the adversity, the hirings and firings, there is a multitude of things that have the potential to affect our joy. If our joy hinges upon these temporal things in life, then our level of joy will fluctuate like the tides. But, this one event in human history, has the power to fill us with great joy, joy that cannot – or at least should not be stripped by anything earthly, temporal, mutable – changeable. For unlike our circumstances, this child born into the world, this Jesus, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is an anchor of joy for our souls.
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Note that in response to this good news of the birth of the Savior, the shepherds worship God. And that should be our response as well. May our souls cry, “Glory to God in the highest.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Given the name Jesus. Jesus from Greek Iasous. Iasous from Hebrew Yeshua, which means Yahweh saves. Remember, the good news was that a Savior was born. With the birth of Jesus comes salvation. Salvation from what?
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth sheds a little more light on that. Flip back a couple of books to the book of Matthew. Matthew chapter 1.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”
So we have already explored the name Son of David in application to this child as being the king of the everlasting Kingdom. Now we are looking at the name Jesus, or Yeshua, and it means God saves. Jesus is the savior. But from what exactly does God in Christ save his people? According to Matt 1:21, Mary is told you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Save his people from their sins. They wanted salvation from the Romans, who they saw as their captors. But Jesus came to show that it was sin that held them in captivity and the very thing that was given to them as a light and guide to righteous living actually became God’s instrument to magnify sin. They were living under the Law of Moses, a Law that had around 600 commands dictating conduct; do this, don’t do that. The essence of the law was do this and live. If you walk according to the law, you will be in right relationship with God, live in his favor, and thus in his presence. Sin separates man from God and incurs God’s wrath, the result is death, being cast out of God’s presence and a severed relationship with him. For the wages of sin is death. The more commands, the more opportunity to break commands, to trespass, to sin. The Law magnified and multiplied Death. But according to Eph 2:15, Jesus came to do away with the Law and its commandments that stood against God’s people.
Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law and lived a perfectly righteous life before God. He paid the penalty of sin by taking the sin of the world upon himself. God’s wrath is satisfied and for those who place their faith in Jesus, there is no condemnation. Jesus goes to the cross and bleeds, shedding his blood, as a perfect sacrifice for sin. On the cross he cries out, my God why have you forsaken me? He feels the separation from the Father caused by sin as the sin of the world is imputed to him and he is charged with the guilt of sin, bearing God’s wrath for sin. So in this way, he bears our guilt and our punishment. He saves his people from their sins. Removes our sin from us, God no longer sees us as guilty.
Since God no longer sees us as guilty of sin, we are free to have a relationship with him as sin is no longer a barrier that relegates us to the exile of death, outside of his presence, which leads to the third name of this child.
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).
Immanuel – God with us
What an amazing reality that wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger, was not only the King, not only the savior, but God himself who condescended to take on human flesh and tabernacle amongst his people.
In the first century, Jesus, the God-man was literally walking in their midst. But just prior to his departure, he promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell within them as a Comforter, that his presence would remain with them. So while Jesus went to the cross and died, He rose from the grave, ascended to heaven and then sent His Spirit to dwell in his people. According to Paul in Eph 1, this Spirit was a deposit, a down payment so to speak, of the fullness that would come at the end of age when the fullness of God would make his dwelling in the new Temple that was under construction in the first century.
Upon destruction of the Old Temple in AD 70, the old order came to an end and the New Covenant order was fully established. God’s presence in the old order was in a sense restricted to the Holy Land, more specifically, to Jerusalem, and even more specifically, to the Temple, and even more specifically, to that inner room, known as the Holy of Holies.
Today, in the New Covenant Order, the same is true in a sense, that God dwells in the Holy of Holies, but the temple of God is not a physical building in the Holy Land. According to Paul in 1 Cor 3, the temple of God is us.
So this morning, as we celebrate the birth of this child, we are celebrating the birth of Immanuel, God with us. And God with is not simply a first century reality, but it is still a reality today. Jesus, the child whose birth we celebrate this morning, is still Immanuel, God with us, and better, God within us.
If you are in Christ and have been saved, then you are part of the heavenly tabernacle the temple of God in which the Spirit of Christ resides. You have full access to the Holy of Holies.
This is highly relational. In Jesus, we have restored fellowship to God and a means by which to enjoy a relationship with Him. Now, relationships take work, they take effort and they can be messy.
Think about some of our relationships. Have you ever thought or said, “I wish I was closer to my brother or my sister”? “I wish I was closer to my mom or my dad.” “I wish I was closer to my husband or wife.”
Those are interesting statements if you think about them. In most cases we can be closer. In most cases we are as close to that person as we want to be. Because when we survey the relationship and we ask ourselves, “Have I been texting enough, calling enough, visiting enough, spending enough quality time with that person?” In most cases, we could be doing those things more. If we called, texted, or visited more, we would be closer to those people and have a stronger relationship. In a sense we could truly say, we are as close to our friends, brothers, mothers, and wives/husbands as we want to be. Now, there are exceptions and variables.
Perhaps we are trying extremely hard and putting forth a lot of effort, working diligently to improve the relationship. We call, but they won’t return the calls. They insult but we overlook the insult and still show love in spite of their hate. We visit. We do everything in our power, but they won’t let us in. Though we have made every effort on our part, on their end, there is resistance, there is a wall. There are limitations and variables. I believe that then and only then can we truly say, I wish I was closer to my mom, bro dad sister friend husband wife. Then and only then are we not as close as we want to be.
When it comes to our relationship with God, those variables and limitations are removed, so in a sense, the statement, I wish I was closer to God can never truly be validated. When it comes to God, you and I truly are as close to God as we want to be.
He has sent his son into the world to save sinners that they may dwell in his presence and his very name Immanuel means God with us. If we are the temple of the Spirit of Christ, then He resides within us and the curtain to the Holy of Holies is never closed off. We have full access. He is there with arms open wide. Hurt a brother mother friend they may cut us off. Worst sinner on earth and his arms are still open wide. He is there with us and you and I are as close to God as we want to be.
Consider this water bottle. If I were to say, “I wish I could drink this water.” What questions come to mind?
- Is it poisoned? No, it’s perfectly good.
- Is it contaminated? No, it is contaminant free.
- Have you been given doctor’s orders not to drink water? No.
- Is there a malfunction with your epiglottis? No.
- Are you paralyzed? No.
- What, then, is keeping you from drinking that water that is right there in your presence, of which you claim the desire to partake?
In the same way, the water of life is in our midst in Christ Jesus, Immanuel – God with us. He is not contaminated or poisonous, but without defect, stain, spot, or blemish. I have been given no authoritative orders to refrain from drinking of the water of life, in fact, just the opposite, I have been commanded to drink and live; it is for my benefit. What is keeping me from being closer to my God other than myself? You and I are as close to God as we want to be.
Unlike earthly family or friends, His door is wide open. His arms are wide open. His heart is wide open. No walls, except the ones that we erect.
- Go to him
- Draw near to him
- Converse with Him
- Love him
- Embrace him
- Enjoy a thriving relationship with Him
When it feels like you don’t have a friend in the world, when it feels like those closest to you are abandoning you, when it feels like you have no one to talk to, you have him. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Choose to be as close to God as you want to be and make it a reality; practice the presence of God, for in Christ, Immanuel, he is with us.
In Christ we have the birth of the son of David, the king of kings, Yeshua (Yahweh saves) God in the flesh who brings salvation to his people, saving them from their sins and we have Immanuel (God with us), the God who dwells in and among his people.
What a treasure we have in Jesus Christ, and what a reason we have to celebrate this morning his birth. I don’t care what time of year he was born, spring time or summer or winter or fall. The birth of a child such as this is worthy of celebration year round. Nonetheless, I am thankful for the tradition we have to set aside a day, arbitrary as Dec 25 may be, a day when we dedicate our focus to the celebration of the birth of this King, savior, and friend. Let us in a balanced way, celebrate and rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas.