This is the time of the year that most of the people of the world begin to think about the birth of Jesus Christ. So, it's a good excuse for us to think about it, too. So, whether you are from South Africa or Escanaba Michigan or Collegedale, Tennessee, we would like to discuss with you this season of this year, a Hallmark Christmas. Let me share the Christmas story with you.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse... Is that the Christmas story? No! That's not it. The real story is that right after lunch the Raiders battle the Cowboys as they face off in the Apple Pie Bowl... Is that the Christmas Story? No, it's not. In the majority of homes unfortunately this scenario is significantly true. That is the Christmas story for so many people. I'm afraid most of us celebrate Christmas as if Jesus were dead, or never existed.
I would like for you to come in the Bible to the book of Luke, chapter two. And let me try again, the third time, to share with you the real Christmas story. It's found only in one place, and that's in the precious Word of God. Speaking of Mary, Luke 2:7 begins: and 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.
They weren't in some fancy place. This was not like the Hallmark cards show Christmas. It wasn't that pretty. It was nice. Mary and Joseph did not check in to a Conrad Hilton followed by a large entourage of reporters. They didn't do that. If Jesus would have been born in some palatial mansion very few would have identified with Him or felt comfortable around Him. He would be too far above them. However, anybody, high or low, rich or poor can enter a barn. Anybody is always welcome in a barn. Jesus was born in a dark smelly dirty unsanitary Barn. I grew up around barns. They are the last place you would want to bring a brand new baby into.
And, Jesus came as a humble king. When pregnant Mary rode her Donkey into Bethlehem and brought Jesus into the barn, God Himself was making a statement. A Hollywood star would arrive in pomp and luxury, but not the King of Kings. It was like Jesus purposefully skipping the Limo and arriving in town on a tricycle. He was making a statement. So actually why was Jesus born in a humble barn? Well, when you think about it, where else should a Lamb be born? Wasn't jesus a Lamb? Aren't some lambs born in barns? He came as a little humble sacrificial Lamb. Jesus came to give us His life. You see, He came to pay a debt that he did not owe, that we might pay a debt that we could not afford to pay.
Jesus was born near the Inn but not in the inn. The inn had no room for Jesus, but the barn door stood open to welcome him. I will tell you that Jesus only comes where He is welcome. Jesus only comes where the door is open. Is your heart door open for Jesus? The barn door was open. So, Jesus came in the barn. Revelation 3:20 speaks about your door to your heart. Revelation 3:20 (KJV). Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. So, that's where Jesus came because the door was open. And Jesus will come into your heart if you open the door to your heart.
Now, when Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, and Jesus was born, they did not email their family members, letting everyone know, "Here's where we are. We've just had a baby and that we named Him Jesus and you can come and visit." In fact, no one would ever know where to visit Jesus unless they were led there by sensing the Divine direction, and only those who were in tune with Godly guidance would even know this special location. So, did anybody know? Yes they did, because they were in tune with heaven. You've got to be right in your heart and then you will be on the inside track.
Let's examine Matthew 2:1-12. I want you to see how the first Christmas produced four classic reactions to Jesus. Everybody who ever comes to Jesus, or is faced with Jesus, has four possible reactions.
1. SEEKING JESUS
Who did that? Well, look at Matthew 2:1. Matthew 2:1-2 and 9. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." These were the wise men. Indeed they did come. They came to worship. And did they get the answer as to where he was? Did the people in Jerusalem know? They didn't have a clue as to where Jesus was. They said, "Well, let us know if you find Him."
Are you seeking Jesus? Make sure to follow the right star. If you follow the wrong star you'll never get there. We like to follow stars, movie stars, heros, famous people. We elect stars as governors of states, we elect them as presidents of nations.
But there are reasons Hollywood stars might mislead you. Firstly, they might take up time that rightly belongs to Jesus. They might divert your attention away from where you really need to be looking. The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time. We only have so many hours in a day. If you spend your time watching the wrong star you will be diverted from the real Star.
Jesus is the Star of Stars. Jesus created all the other stars. Jesus gives life to all other stars. To focus on them is to take away from our potential for spiritual growth. So, focus on Jesus Christ. Behold Jesus and you will benefit.
These three Eastern sages sought Jesus. If you go into the stores around Hamilton County, you will find Nativity scenes. In the Nativity scenes you will see generally some shepherds worshiping Jesus. And you see three wise men. They're all together in almost every Nativity scene that I've ever seen. And yet, the wise men didn't come the night the shepherds came. We display Nativity scenes that have the Shepherds and Wise men together as they look in on the Baby Jesus, but in Matthew 2: 9 it says Jesus was a child already. He was not a baby anymore, He was a child. It took the wise men 2 or 3 years to find Jesus. It might not have taken them so long had they stopped to ask directions they might have gotten there much sooner, but real men would rather die than stop to ask for directions.
But, wise men still seek Jesus. I will tel you the directions are here in the Bible. All you have to do is read them.
How do we seek Jesus? Well, there are four ways.
2. IGNORING JESUS (The scribes and priests)
There was a group that was seeking Jesus; there was also a group that was ignoring Jesus. And these were the scribes and the priests. Matthew 2:4-6. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
So, did they jump up and say, "Oh, let's go with you."? Did the priests and the teachers and the scribes and the Pharisees say to the wise men, "We'll join you. Let's go. You're looking for Him; we're looking for the Messiah, too. If you think He's here, we want to be the first ones to find Him."? Is that what their reaction was? No, not at all. They said, "If you find Him, let us know." They were sort of ignoring Him. They should have been more anxious to find the Messiah than the eastern sages were.
Now, why were the scribes and priests opposed to Him? In the first place, they probably feared the real truth. And second, Jesus was endangering their job and income.
One of our church members said, "Pastor, consider Christmas how we celebrate is like when Jesus upset the money tables in the temple." Jesus entered the mall area of the Temple and upset the tables of the money changers (John 2:15). The Priests had commercialized religion, temple worship; buying and selling of animals, changing money, making money had replaced true heart adoration of God. Similarly, the way too many modern Christians celebrate Christmas is far too commercialized. We think Christmas is a time of buying and selling. Money changers set up small booths all through the mall selling their wares. That's what we think Christmas is all about.
Just imagine, if you lived in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and you got on your Delorean Donkey time machine and truly do go Back To the Future and you land at the Hamilton Place Shopping Mall the week before Christmas. And you see these motorized electronic Santas waving at you and speaking to you. They're everywhere. There are dazzling lights and bells galore. People are shoving and lines are long. People are snapping up remote controlled toys and overpriced plastic junk at the big pre-Christmas sales.
And you ask someone, "What is all this about". They say, "Well, don't you know? Where are you from?" You ask, "What?" We are getting ready for Jesus' birthday. You know, 'Christmas.'" What would you think? You would be horrified, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you be sad and confused. Wouldn't you think, "They don't know anything about it. They don't have a clue as to what this is about." The distance between 2003 and Jesus' barn is how far we have drifted from the real purpose of Christmas.
All this festivity is for what purpose? Supposedly to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. But millions of so-called Christians exclude Jesus from His Own birthday celebration. If Jesus were to arrive on His birthday and see everybody scurrying through the stores buying expensive presents to give among themselves, would Jesus again be tempted enter the stores and upset the money changer's tables?
We have drifted way off course. Jesus is the only reason for the season. 2 Corinthians 6:17. "Therefore come out from them and be separate," says the Lord. Now, I'm not calling for us to abandon Christmas but to use it to build our love for Jesus. Let's use this time of the year to enhance our worship to Jesus Christ. We have thrown the Baby out with the bath water. We've missed Jesus.
The Scribes and Rabbis rejected the light. The Light came to them and they rejected it. Christmas has a lot to do with light. I would guess there are several Billion small Christmas lights lit up at this season. My wife and I drove through Floodtown, Georgia last week and as we crested a hill our eyes were met with thousands of colorful Christmas lights. It was really grand down there near Cohutta Springs. I think we need to let each little Christmas light remind you of the true Light of Jesus Christ because Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world." (John 8:12)
Never ignore the light. The Wise men didn't. They followed the light. Can you ignore a Star? Our sun is the nearest star. Can we pretend it is not there? Can we ignore Jesus?
The Priests and Rulers were focused on the problem of the age. It wasn't finding Saddam Hussein, it was Rome and deliverance from Roman authority. That was the problem. So, that's what they focused on. They were focused on deliverance from Roman authority. Because of their wrong focus they missed Jesus. They ignored His arrival.
Let me list several ways to know if you are ignoring Jesus:
Well, let's go to the third reaction to Jesus.
3. RESISTING JESUS
Who did that? This is the reaction of Herod. He didn't like it that another king had arrived. Look at Matthew 2:3,4. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. Now, many Herod's are alive today. And they want to know about Jesu, but not so they can worship Him, but so they can get rid of Him. They fervently resist Jesus because Jesus was so unique. He's not what they expected. They maybe expected some king to come as their Messiah. He didn't come as a king, came as a baby.
Jesus' His mother was a Virgin! So they scoffed, "How can this be?" But This was predicted in Isaiah 7:14. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
So God became a baby. He was large enough to become small. He was strong enough to become a weak baby. Herod couldn't accept that. He couldn't understand a God like that.
Not only that, God came to this world to die. By age 33 he hung from a cross. Jesus was born from a virgin womb and rose from a virgin tomb. Jesus did not come to deal with the Roman occupation of Palestine. He came to deal with the sin occupation in the human heart. And Jesus comes to you today not to deliver you from some occupying force, but to deliver you from sin.
Herod could not imagine such unparalleled folly. Herod thought Jesus was a competitor, somebody who was going to take over. But Jesus really wanted to be his Savior. Herod wanted to kill Jesus; Jesus wanted to die for him. Herod resisted Jesus and most likely lost eternal life.
The fourth reaction to Jesus. RECEIVING JESUS
One group received Jesus: the wise men. Look at Matthew 2:10-12. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
They came by starlight and returned by Son-Light. The Light of the world now shone from their hearts. This dark world needs more light. Just as Tomorrow is the longest night of the year, just so we are living in the long night of sin that has gone on now for more than 6000 years. But the eternal day is about to break and we will soon be basking in the eternal light of Jesus at His second coming. I believe Jesus' coming is soon. That's why we're Seventh-day Adventist Christians.
Do you know what present Jesus would really like for His birthday? He wants you to give Him your heart. You don't get that from the mall. You've already got the gift. Just give Him your heart. It won't cost you anything, but it might cost you everything.
How to do you give Him your heart? How do you surrender to Jesus? Here are four steps to giving your heart to Jesus:
Hymn of Praise: #122, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Scripture: Responsive Reading # 730 Hymn of Response: #133, Now Is Born the Divine Christ Child 031220#545
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last updated 4/12/04 by Bob Beckett.