Sermon delivered December 22, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

CHRISTmas

Luke 2:1-7

I would like to speak with you this morning about Jesus. You know, two thousand years ago if they had newspapers in Palestine, I think I know what the headlines would be. The headlines might say something like this in big bold dark print: "Romans Raise New Taxes!" Or: "A Census is about to happen!" Everybody was fretting over the new tax. These Caesars, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar! They just can never get enough money! And so, in all the newspapers of Palestine the big story was about the taxes. All throughout the world moaning could probably be heard through the Mediterranean basin about these high taxes. Taxes were already high.

On that same day, what do you suppose the headlines were in all the newspapers out there in the Universe? (If the Cosmos people living out there and if they had newspapers.) By the way, they do live out there (Revelation 12:12). The cosmos is full of other people. What do you suppose the major news story was on that same day two thousand years ago? I can just picture the headlines, bright glowing headlines in big print in twenty million glorious colors, shimmering:

"RESCUE PLAN BEGINS! HUMANS TO BE RESCUED BY BABY!"

It wouldn't be operation Desert Storm, but it would be something like this:

"JESUS, THE SAVIOR of the WORLD WAS BORN TODAY!"

You see, we completely missed it. Heaven was cognizant of what was going on. All throughout the universe, I could just picture singing and praising the Lord could be heard. "God is going to intervene in human affairs. Intervention has started today, the Baby was born. Isn't that great news?

The Universe had good news: the world had bad news. On the same day, we missed the boat, didn't we. Nobody hardly caught it as to what was going on. We humans have no clue as to what Heaven's agenda really was on that day. The best event in the world just left us clueless. We didn't even know. Rescue was happening. Restoration was beginning. Redemption was in the process. And all we thought about were taxes.

Let's read this story Luke 2:1-4 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

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.

Now, why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Did they live in Bethlehem? No. Wouldn't it have been more convenient to be born in your home town? That' sort of an ideal situation. You never want to have to give birth when you're on vacation, do you? If you're away from home you'd like for all the family to be there. You'd like for your support base to be there. This didn't seem to make much sense, did it. It didn't seem to be the ideal time. But I want you to consider six things that, show me at least, that God's timing was ideal.

First of all, they had a UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. Do you realize that the language of the whole Mediterranean basin, the fertile crescent of that day, pretty well was Greek. Alexander the Great gave the Greek language to that area of the world and for the first time since the tower of Babel, everybody spoke the same language in that area pretty well. And they were able to communicate through the same language. What that meant was the knowledge of Jesus Christ would be easier to spread because you simply have one language to deal with. And in fact, I have here in my hand a Greek New Testament. This would not have been possible without Alexander the Great or somebody like him because he gave us the universal Greek language which covered that whole area. And so we have the Bible written in Greek: the New Testament in one language. That's a blessing. Today we don't even think anything about it. Of course, the New Testament is in English. The Old Testament is in English. In those days it was all in one language. How different things would have been had Jesus been born five hundred years sooner. Or, what if Jesus had been born today? The book of Hebrew would have been written in Hebrew. The book of Romans would have been written in Italian. The books of Galatians and Ephesians would be written in Turkish. I fact, people going over here to Southern Adventist University with theological majors would have to study all kinds of different languages. Isn't it a blessing that we have the New Testament in just one language? Greek is enough.

Number 2, another thing that made this ideal timing as far as heaven goes is the fact that THERE WAS GOOD TRANSPORTATION. It all starts in Bethlehem and it's going to spread from there and it's going to spread a lot easier with a good transportation system. The Roman Empire had built a fantastic road system, almost tailor-made. Have you ever thought about this? Tailor-made for the Gospel missionaries to go out and spread the Gospel of Jesus on these roads. Not only did the Romans have a good road system, but they invented the highway patrol. Our modern highway patrol has its beginnings at that point. And so you can see for the message of Jesus Christ here is everything all set up. It's wonderful! It's perfect timing.

Look at Paul's missionary journeys. He goes to all these different places by ship. A lot of it was walking on Roman roads, but also ships. The Romans had a ship at every port. They operated like water-taxis. It was all set up for the spread of the gospel.

Imagine if Jesus had been born today, with the internet. It would have been easier, right? Are we sure? The wise men would have arrived by jet aircraft, landing in Tel Aviv or some place, taking a taxi or a helicopter over to Bethlehem. I would have been different. Very very different. The angels would have had to sing real loud to compete with the sirens. I've been in Bethlehem. It wouldn't have been too good. TV cameras would have been there. Newsmen, reporters from everywhere. I think it happened at the right time. God's timing is always best.

In fact, come over here to 2 Corinthians. I want you to know that the third factor here was GOD'S PROPHECY CLOCK WAS ABOUT TO STRIKE. You always hope that when the alarm clock goes of that it will wake you up. Well, God's alarm clock was going off. Daniel's great prophecy prophesied hundreds of years before that, of the seventy weeks and the four hundred and ninety years. The last week was just about to take place. Jesus was baptized at the beginning of that week. He was crucified in the middle of that week. Right to the hour of being on schedule. God's prophecy clock was going of. Let's look at 2 Corinthians 6:2. It says: I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of Salvation. The time was right. God's timing was perfect. The clock was striking. Jesus was born on schedule.

Number four. Another reason that this was the ideal time for Jesus to be born is THE JEWS HAD BEEN SCATTERED EVERYWHERE. The diaspora had taken place and was in the process of taking place. Before Jesus birth, God was in the process of scattering the Jewish people throughout the Roman kingdom. There were synagogues all over. Remember when Paul would go to a certain area he would look up the synagogue and go there and start preaching, start teaching. This was an ideal setup. Each of those pockets of God-believing Jews became a fertile seed bed for the gospel of Jesus to take root and grow. Had Jesus been born earlier this favorable climate would not have existed.

Number five. Here's another reason. There was A LEGAL LOOPHOLE THAT BENEFITTED THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY. Did you know Romans required everybody in the empire to acknowledge that Caesar was God. They required that. And they came into Palestine and met up with the Jews and said , "You're going to have to announce that Caesar is God." The Jews said, "No way. We can't do that." So, there was all kinds of bloodshed and civil strife until finally the Romans granted a legal loophole for Jews toe exempt them from that requirement.

Now, listen how this all fits together. While that loophole was in operation, until the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Romans could not see that Christians were a separate religion. So, we were grandfathered in. We were not persecuted any more than the Jews were. We (Christians) came under that same loophole and we were allowed to spread. It was an ideal time. We were classified in the same pot with Jews. God's timing allowed a window of thirty five years there where we could propagate our Gospel without near as much problem. That's amazing.

Come over here to Acts seventeen in your Bible. Here is point number six. Here's another reason why this is ideal timing for God. THE FIELDS WERE ALREADY PLOWED! Now you think about that. The Gospel is going to be sown by the apostle Paul, Peter, by Timothy, by all kinds of these people. And before you sow something, you need to plow the field. I will tell you that the fields were already plowed. Greek thinkers like Aristotle and Plato had questioned everything while at the same time providing few answers. People had a much more open mind than they did before Jesus was born. And if you look at Acts 17, you can see what happens. Acts 17:23. Paul came on the scene. He came to a new area and he saw there an altar. And verse 23 says that that altar was erected to the "unknown god." Do you see how open- minded they were? They had a god for everything. "Now, let's make one for the one that we don't even know about." This was an open-minded culture into which the seed of the gospel could be planted. And it would spread. I'm certain the God's timing was exactly right. Mary and Joseph probably didn't think so.

I want you to notice five mistakes that God seemed to make when we look at this story from the human perspective:

  1. - Joseph and Mary probably thought that this was BAD TIMING. "Here we are. We are going to have this baby. This is awful." Have you ever thought about that? The timing could not have been worse for Joseph and Mary as we will see in the next few verses. Caesar's Census threw a monkey wrench in their life. Ever had your plans spoiled? How did you feel? Out of control? Cheated? Helpless? If life has you spinning and you are barely hanging on then listen afresh to the story of Jesus untimely birth.
  2. - MARY WAS STILL SINGLE. "How can I be the mother of God and be single? To have a child now is not very intelligent." Mary must have thought this was an awful time to be expecting. Look at Luke 2:5. Speaking of Joseph, He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Did you get that? She was pledged to be married to him. They were not married yet. She was expecting. Mary was Pregnant! The trouble was that she was not married yet.

    This was not the right time for her to have a child. This child would be born out of wedlock. So, this would be an illegitimate child. Well, let me correct that. No child is illegitimate. Every child is legitimate. Every child has the right to be here because the child is here. The only illegitimate ones are the parents, illicit parents, some immoral parents. She is pregnant without a husband. Is this good timing? It doesn't seem like it, does it. Not from the human perspective. Actually, Jesus was born through the Holy Spirit. I suppose today we would call that a test tube baby. But then it was called the Immaculate Conception. That's the term that we have coined for that phrase.

  3. Maybe God made a mistake by choosing THE WRONG LOCATION. Come to Luke 2:6. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born Here they were, unmarried, and away from home, in a strange community, with no support system. You want your parents to be there. You want the help from aunts and uncles. They didn't have hospitals in those day. They wanted their sisters to be there. They didn't have any of that. They were away from home. Bethlehem was a strange town to them. Probably Mary had never been there in all her life. People did not travel very far in those days. Strangers gazed at the poor pregnant girl. And she was young. Never be away from the home, especially at a time when your first born is coming. Mary was uprooted from her home.

    I want you to compare that with Jesus, because Jesus was also uprooted from His home. Jesus was born away from His support team. Jesus was born away from His Father, away from the angels, away from everything He had known up in heaven. Jesus was born into this cruel cold dark dank world. Not very good circumstances.

    And that brings us to number four.

  4. - THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE BAD. In fact, they were broke. They didn't have any money. You should always have some money when your child comes into the world, because you have to care for that child. They always seem to wait until you have a wrong schedule, or something is just not right. Jesus was born under bad conditions, especially for Mary and Joseph. They didn't have any money because they had to save that money to pay that new tax. Caesar would be after them. It took money, and this was their firstborn. They weren't even married yet. And you know how people are when they're dating. They don't have anything. You guys that are single usually don't have a whole lot. If you single girls find a man with a big wad of money, you better go get him. They're rare. Or if you guys find a girl with a whole lot of money.

    If only the Baby could wait until they could get married. And to add injury to mishap, they were broke. All their extra money had to be saved to pay the new tax to the wretched Romans so they could build more new roads or something. The circumstances weren't right.

    Jesus was also broke. Jesus was born as a baby. He didn't have any money when He entered this world. Babies aren't born with a credit card. Jesus had no line of credit. He was penniless. In fact, He was wrapped in cloths or rags. He was helpless. Jesus was broke. He was disconnected from the celestial golden streets, crowns, from all of the beautiful things of heave, and from His Father's vast resources. He was reduced to a helpless penniless baby wrapped in rags.

    Number five. Here's another reason God's timing could have been wrong.

  5. THE ACCOMMODATIONS WERE INADEQUATE. There weren't any accommodations. "Why would God send us here?" Let's look at Luke 2:7. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Had they tried to contact the inn? Yes, they said there was no room there. Obviously they had gone to the inn. Why didn't they have reservations? How can you get reservations. Did the inn have email? Did the inn have an 800 number? How could they have had reservations? They couldn't. There was no way they could get an 800 number to the Bethlehem Western.

    I was born in a Hospital. Were you? Jesus did not even have the luxury of being born in His house, or a neighbor's house, or even in a motel. Jesus was born in a barn or wherever this manger was. What is a manger? It is nothing more than a cattle feeding trough. That' all it is. Where the cows are, I would consider that a barn. It may have been a cave barn. Probably a building barn. I don't know. And every barn that I've ever been in there are spiders making cobwebs. Look at the ceiling above where the cows eat, where they make your milk that you drink. There's cobwebs up there. There are spiders that live there. There are mice that live in barns. It's a dirty, it's a crude, it's an inadequate place. Barns are not good. And that's exactly where Jesus was born. How Mary and Joseph must have missed home.

    On the other hand, Jesus was away from home, too. Jesus was not in heaven. They were not the only ones missing home. Jesus also left His perfect bright rich peaceful home in the heavens to descend down to this place. It is a major step from the golden palaces of heaven to the feeding trough of a cattle barn. That's just what Jesus did to save us. Ah, I love my Savior. What a Savior we have! But Jesus was willing to step out of His heavenly environment into our Earthly Environment that we might some day live in His Heavenly Environment. Praise God for Jesus. I love my Savior.1

Mary and Joseph had obvious reasons for questioning God. Probably many times you have said, "Lord, why is this happening to me? My wife wants to divorce me. What's the matter with her? My husband is leaving me. What's the matter with him? Why am, I going bankrupt at this time. Why has this disease come up on me at this time? Why?!" We question God. "Is there not way out of this?" I want to suggest to you that sometimes we can't understand. I would suggest to you that we are one little puzzle piece in a puzzle of a million pieces, six billion pieces. We are one piece of that puzzle.

And for us to understand all that God is doing is impossible here. But when you get to heaven you see the completed puzzle. You can praise God. And you can see how your piece through all that you have had to go, has been exactly what was needed. Ours is not to understand but to submit and accept God's plan. David had it right when he said in Psalm 31:15 My times are in your hands. Our life is in God's hands, only if we place it there. And He's in charge. He's in charge of you. You have bad things happening in your life, but God is in charge. You're in His hands. In His hands you are safe.

I want to tell you one thing that Christmas did. Christmas opened His hands that we may enter His hands and enter His heart and that He can enter our hearts. Christmas is more than a Baby being born in a manger. Christmas is a Baby being born in your heart. One of the grand meanings of Christmas is that even though we may not understand all the timings and our headlines may be dark, God's headlines are bright. And if you can just trust God, everything is going to work our all right. Our exciting portion of this is to trust in Jesus, to accept Him as our Savior. I wonder, have you accepted Bethlehem's Baby in your life? Have you? Would you be willing to stand for Jesus right now and give your heart to Jesus?

Merry Christmas to each of you!

Bulletin

Hymn of Praise: #142, Angels We Have Heard on High
Scripture: Luke 1:26-31
Hymn of Response: #122, Hark!  The Herald angels Sing

011222Gettys#215



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