A Sermon (#561) Preached By William “Bill” Touchton
Edited & Preached By Michael D. Lawson
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Luke 2:8-20. This morning, of course, we want to continue looking at the birth of Jesus as we celebrate his incarnation.
Christmas has always been a very special time of the year for me, and I guess over the course of my life, I have received hundreds of gifts…
I remember when I was a boy, my mother gave me a Bible with my name engraved…zipper…and pictures that illustrated the stories…I still have that Bible.
In December of 1886, my wife gave me one to honor my last semester of school. I have used it so much that the cover is coming off…and the pages are coming out. It was and still is, a very special gift.
While living in GA, our first semester, a man in my SS class brought a box, it contained a 25lb ham. We took that man to the meat market and had it sliced and ate off that for a month!
One of our widows brought me a new suit.
I have received so many wonderful gifts, but the best gift I have ever received came from God.
When He took His only Son and wrapped him in human flesh…He empowered Him to live a sinless life and to die on a cross and rise again.
Then He offered His sinless life to replace my sinful life and gave me eternal life. That’s the best gift I have ever received. And I want you to know that same gift is available to you and that’s what we see in this passage. This is the first gospel message in the New Testament.
Look with me at Luke 2.8…and this morning I want to preach on “The Gospel of Christmas.”
For years scholars have debated as to when Jesus was born…
They debate as to the season. As you know, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25…and Christians have done so for more than 1600 years, but now they say that Jesus could not have been born in December for 2 reasons:
The first reason is that during December in that part of the world, many of the roads are impossible to travel and Ceasar would have never ordered his people to travel when it was impossible to do so.
The second reason they say, that Jesus could not be born in December is that the grass doesn’t grow in that month, and so the shepherds would not have been in the fields.
So they debate as to the season…
And now they debate as to the Century. As you know, our calendars are based on the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, his birth has always been the dividing line of history. All that came before his birth was called BC…”Before Christ” and all that came after was AD…”Anno Domini”, or in the year of our Lord. But now they say we messed up, And that He may have been born as early as 5 or 6 BC.
Well what does the Bible say? the Bible has very little to say about the timing of his birth, because the Bible was more concerned with WHO was born, not WHEN he was born.
But if you were to ask me to pick a verse that best describes the timing of his birth, I would chose a verse, not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but I would chose a verse written by the Apostle Paul, hear what he said:
But when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the las, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4.4,5).
In other words, when God had the world ready, He sent his son and just the perfect time.
Let me explain. Between the books of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, and Matthew, the first book in the New Testament, there is a 400 year gap. They call this “the silent years” because during this time, God did not speak through His prophets.
One liberal scholar said God got tired and took a nap, but I assure you that God was very much at work preparing the world for his Son.
During the 400 year gap, God allowed Alexander the Great to conquer the world. As he conquered, he taught the world the Greek culture and language, and for the first time since Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel, the world had a universal language. Everyone could communicate with everyone else.
After Alexander died off, the Romans came to power and gave the world freedom of access. They built and elaborate road system that spread over the Roman Empire, and people had the freedom to travel unhindered from city to city, from nation to nation. They world had never known that kind of freedom before, or since that time.
Now listen, when Jesus was born, He was born into a world with a universal language and the freedom to travel unhindered anywhere in the world.
Folks, that was extremely important! think about it.
In Matthew 28, when Jesus told his disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, they could literally do so because
They had the ability to communicate with any man.
And the freedom to travel any where in the world.
So, the the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman…and that woman was a young virgin by the name of Mary.
Now in Luke 1, we are told that she was highly favored by God and chosen to be the mother of God’s son, but God always tells His people what He’s doing, so he sends an angel to inform Mary…
I imagine she was alone in her house when suddenly this mighty angel appeared. We know she was afraid because the first words the angel spoke were the words, “Fear not.”
And on this night the angel told Mary that she was to bear in her womb the Messiah, the Savior of the World.
In her mind she could not comprehend how a virgin could conceive, and yet the angel told her that the power of the Highest would over shadow her and in humble faith Mary said, “Be it unto me according to your word”…and by the miraculous power of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was conceived in her womb.
But, who would believe such a story? I’m sure she thought that and the angel discerned her thoughts and told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, had now conceived in her old age. Another miracle of God. So Mary packed her things and stayed several months with Elizabeth.
And when John the Baptist was born, May went back home. Now get the picture. Mary has been engaged to Joseph, and has been gone for several months, and then returns, and I can see in my mind as Joseph ran across the field to welcome back the love of his life…
Now the Bible doesn’t say, but I imagine the conversation went like this…
Joseph said, “O Mary, I’ve missed you so much. I’ve been workin on the house and we can move in the day after the wedding. You really look good, but it seems that you have put on a pound or two…In fact, it almost looks like you’re pregnant.
And Mary says, “Well, you’re not going to believe this, but I am pregnant. with God’s Son.” Would you have believed her? Neither did Joseph. And he went home that night tried to decide how he could graciously dissolve this relationship. But as he thought, the angel came to him and said, fear not, but take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and Joseph obediently, and with faith, took Mary to be his wife.
Now God had a mother, and God had a father, but there’s a problem. They lived in Nazareth, and Micah said the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, but God moved on the mind of Ceasar Augustus and suddenly he decided to tax the world and he told everyone to return to their home town.
And Joseph put Mary on the back of a Donkey and made the 90 mile trip and that night, surrounded only by the animals, God’s son, the Savior of the World was born.
Now listen, things were quiet on earth, but there was quite a celebration going on in Heaven. In fact, I believe the angels wanted to share the news with someone and God sent them to the shepherds.
Now, let me show you 3 things:
Why they came to the shepherds
The meaning of their message
Why they went back to heaven
Why would God send the angels to the shepherds?
Think about it. These men were considered to be the low-lifes of the first century. Because of their occupations, they were considered to be social outcasts. Many years ago, shepherding was a family business, but in Jesus’ day, they were despised members of society. They always wore the same old smelly clothes and never took a bath. They were often accused of robbery and using land they weren’t supposed to. People despised them. In fact, listen to this, the Jews were a benevolent people, the would send the priests around to every home weekly to collect money to help the poor. But listen, they never gave a dime to the shepherds, they were social outcasts, and the Jews would just as soon not have them around.
They were social outcasts, but they were also religious outcasts. The church rejected them because they could not participate in all the rituals, because they were always labeled as ‘unclean.’
Why would God send his angels to preach the gospel to these men? Because they needed to be saved, and listen, I think they knew it!
You see, scholars say these shepherds were keeping watch over the temple sheep, the sheep that would be used in the sacrifices to atone for sin.
And I imagine on that lonely night, they sat on that mountain side wondering, how the blood of a lamb could atone for their sin. In fact, they probably thought, there’s not enough sheep in the world to cover my sin…and they were right. And it’s to those shepherds that God sent his angels to present the gospel message.
Why not send them to Ceasar? He thought he was a god. He didn’t need a savior. He wasn’t interested. He slept right through the night.
Why not send them to the chief priests? They trusted in their own self righteousness. They weren’t looking for a savior. They slept right through the night.
I think God sent his angels to give this good news to the shepherds because they knew that needed a Savior!
Listen. Jesus said, “I’ve come to seek and save that which is lost. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentence.
You see, He sent his angels to the shepherds because they knew who they were…and what they needed.
The Meaning of their Message
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
1. A Simple Message
Joy doesn’t come from something you earn or possess. Joy comes from God’s gift.
2. The Sign was Selective
There’s salvation found in no other name.
Look at verse 12. They would have never looked for the Savior in a barn, wrapped in rags. Why did God do that? So that he could become our sympathetic high priest.
Like the shepherds, Our Savior experienced poverty, rejection, pain.
2 Cor. 8.9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
So, the angels came and preached the gospel and the shepherds believed and went to see Jesus.
Why they went back to Heaven
Why? Because they could never preach like the shepherds. In fact they picked up right where the angels left off. Praising and glorifying God.
If you have encountered the mercy and grace of Jesus in a personal way, There’s no better person to talk about that mercy and grace than you!
Will we pick up where the shepherds left off? Will you proclaim with your life good tidings of great joy?