It's just such a privilege to be a Christian in this day and age. I really think that we're living in the last days, don't you?
Just imagine if Jesus had not come. When I woke up this morning, the house was still dark. I walked out in the living room and there was a Christmas tree. That would not have happened if Jesus wouldn't have come. Because of Jesus you go to the mall and there's lots of people shopping. The whole world is different. There are wreathes and bells and manger scenes and all sorts of things that would not be here if Jesus had not come.
I can imagine that, as a pastor, maybe if I were called to go and comfort somebody who's in trouble and Jesus would not have come, I would say, well sure, I'll be right over. I'll bring my Bible and I'll open it and the last book of the Bible is the book of Malachi. No New Testament. No promises of the Redeemer, of the Messiah. All gone. It would be hard wouldn't it? Very hard.
The real story is in the Bible. I'd like for you to turn to Luke. Luke 1:30 and 31. It says, fear not Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son and shall call him Jesus. And here are the details of how this happened in Luke chapter 2. It came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed and this taxing was first made when Cyreneus was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed, with Mary, his espoused wife who was great. He had a great wife. Great with child. So it was that while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered and she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
So where was Jesus born? In a barn. Animals are born in barns. Would that lead us to conclude that Jesus was an animal? Was he an animal? He was a lamb. The lamb of God. And where are lambs born? Well, not at a veterinarian clinic. They're usually born outdoors in the pasture, but once in a while, a lamb is fortunate enough to be born in a stable. And that's what happened to Jesus. A barn is a perfect place for a little lamb to come in to a cruel, cold world. Privileged lambs are born inside. Jesus was born in a cruel world. Why do I call it cruel? Well, for every lamb that is born what is the future of that lamb? Why is that Lamb born? That he might be eventually sacrificed and consumed.
So there are two primary things that make a lamb valuable to a farmer. One is its wool, and one is its body. The wool is a free byproduct of the growing of the lamb into a sheep while it's growing toward slaughter. Jesus is valuable to us because of his covering. In fact, his robe of pure, perfect righteousness, that covering, is available free to us. To obtain it you must come to the lamb and you must take it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, what did God immediately do. He killed a lamb. Sacrifice for their sin. Abraham told Isaac, God will provide what? A lamb. In Egypt, the Israelites put the blood of a what, a lamb on the doorpost and nobody was killed in that house. Isaiah 53:7 predicts that the Messiah will be led like a lamb to the slaughter. John the Baptist said, behold, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world. Revelation 5:12 says worthy is the Lamb who was slain. The lamb goes from Genesis to Revelation. That's Jesus. Lambs, the wool of the lamb, his righteousness will cover our sin. His righteousness covering us means that he is our substitute.
Number two. Jesus is not just valuable to us because of his covering, but he is valuable to us because of his body and his blood. It is by his sacrifice that we are saved. This lamb was born in a manger to die. No wonder the little baby Jesus was so pretty. He was wrapped up in straw as our first Christmas present. Really, the only true, valuable Christmas present any of us have ever been given. He was born for us. Isaiah 9:6 says, for unto us a child is born. Isaiah 7:14 says that you will call him Immanuel because he will save his people from their sins. Immanuel means God with us, and Jesus was God from the first day. From day number one he was God in the manger.
He was born in our world to be one with us, and they could not afford a big motel. The five-star Bethlehem resort was not for Jesus. Jesus was born in a one star hotel. The wise men saw that star clear from the eastern lands and came. So there were kings there from the East. Einsteins from the East and there were also Shepherd from in town. So you have the humble and the elite who were there to attend to his birth. That one star hotel was a group of Angels. Jesus was born in a donkey motel.
I well remember being born into a poor family as a small boy back in Indiana. My sister and I and my mother and dad lived in Hartford city and the four of us in a 700 square foot house. When the wind blew it was kind of fun to watch the linoleum on the floor rise up and down. Do any of you still know what linoleum is? You knew how windy it was by watching the floor. For many years the siding on our house was tarpaper.
My allowance was $.10 a week. You kids take note of that. If I did my work. My job was to mow our 1 acre of land and to attend to some of the 100+ or minus chickens that we had, which means feeding them, watering them and cleaning out the stuff. Also it means washing the eggs. Putting them upside down. You would call them right side up. There's only one way for an egg to be in a carton. So I worked.
My dad worked. He worked in a laundry downtown, and I noticed patches on his pants. One day, I don't know why, I noticed that the patches were touching each other and I thought, oh my. My poor daddy. So the next time we went to the square around the courthouse, we went into Montgomery Ward and I went to the men's clothing section. There was a really nice work outfit for almost 4 dollars. I thought, how long will it take me to save up four dollars. $.10 allowance.
I started saving, and I saved in a little metal bank, and before Christmas I had saved up enough to buy that pair of pants. With mother's help I wrapped them up for Christmas and I watched on Christmas morning my daddy's face as he opened that package. I never saw my daddy cry but his eyes were full of water that day. He hugged me with his strong arms. What a day that was. It's a Christmas I'll never forget.
I hope that Christmas means a lot to you. The eastern wise men came. The shepherds came. Everybody was there. Matthew 2:2. The wise men make a statement which is full of meaning. It says, where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? Do you realize that when Jesus was born, he was a king. The day he was born he was a king. It's amazing.
If you look at the circumstances of Jesus' birth you will find very few indicators of royalty. He was born in a barn. He was born to parents who didn't have any money. They could just barely pay their taxes.. He didn't have a throne. He didn't have a scepter. He didn't have a crown. He didn't have a royal robe. He didn't have an army. He lacked everything that an earthly monarch possesses.
Let me assure you, Jesus was not a king because of what he had, but because of who he was. You are a child of the owner of the universe, not because of what you have, but because of who you know. Who are you born to. If you don't know Jesus, you're lost. If you do, you're a child of the King. So you're not saved because of what you have. You're saved because of who you have. Because of your relationship to Jesus.
I thought that when Jesus was born he probably was not the only baby in town that night. There were probably other babies in town. Most towns here have births as they come right along. Notice how carefully the Angels described the baby so that the shepherds would not have to guess at what baby it was. The signs are very specific identifying the true Christ child. Since satan usually counterfeits all the major workings of God. Satan has a counterfeit for the Sabbath, doesn't he? He has a counterfeit for everything. Satan is going to impersonate the second coming of Christ, why wouldn't he impersonate the first coming of Christ? I think he would. Maybe he even tried to pull that one off. In the last days, only the very elect will not be fooled, and those humble shepherds were not fooled. They were actually wise men. They found the correct baby and they worshiped the Christ child.
Turn to Luke 2. It seems logical that Satan could have impersonated this first coming. What were these critical signs? Luke 2:12. It says this. This will be a sign to you. Here's a sign. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Now why would a baby wrapped in a cloth be a sign? Well, almost every baby you see is in a cloth diaper or a cloth baby blanket.
Here's how I see it. In the Bible days, when you left on a long trip, you prepared for the worst. Sickness, accident, might happen. You don't know. It brought death to many a traveler because there were bandits in those days and the police forces weren't like they are today. Today you can't even drive from here to Collegedale without risking a ticket if you go too fast. They're waiting for you. So you obey the law. But in those days, you were on their own.
And how do you deal with an in journey death? Well, the body could not continue to be transported. A dead body, you know what happens. So you had to deal with. You had to deal with it then and there. Archaeological and historical evidence suggests that swaddling was widely practiced in Jesus' day's. Travelers often took thin, light-weight cloths with them. It was a cloth that was reserved for death and if somebody died during the journey their friends would just simply wrap them up and dispose of the body. The baby Jesus was probably wrapped in Joseph's death cloth. That's what I would take on this. Maybe it was all they had.
So the sign for the shepherds wasn't that they would find a baby wrapped in a blanket, but that they would find a baby prepared for death. Jesus came to die. In fact, the wise men, and there may have been more than three. The Bible never does tell us how many. The wise men brought gifts of gold and frankincense and what? myrrh. What was myrrh used for? It was an embalming spice. Used for death. Jesus came to die. Jesus did die for you that you might be saved from Adam's curse of eternal death. As a baby, he was there to die.
Another very specific signs was that the baby would be found in a manger. That is very unusual also. This little detail is mentioned twice in the Bible. Luke 2:7 and Luke 2:12. Jesus was a very poor baby in a meager manger, but eventually that little baby, the manger baby, overthrew the largest empire in the world. The kingdom of Satan. He overthrew it. It was doomed by the manger baby. So to see a baby boy born in Bethlehem would be a very specific sign that that was the Messiah.
Mangers are in stables. Stables stink. We used to live in Hartford, Michigan. One of my church members, Mr. Unrap, had a farm. I used to go and he would say, I know you're my pastor, and do you want to learn some of this? I said, Yeah. He said, well here's where you start. Not on the manger end of the cow, but on the other end. Here's a shovel, and I did that. I learned a lot. The ground is mostly hard, but in some places it's soft and oozing over your shoes. You wear boots. The hay is there. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling. Mice scurry around. It's about the lowliest place that could exist.
Meanwhile, in Jesus' day, there in Bethlehem, the city was humming. The merchants were unaware that God had visited their town. The innkeeper could not believe that he had just sent God out into the cold.
Why did God announce the birth to the shepherds. Why didn't he announce it to the Pharisees, the leaders, the chief priests? God goes to those who have time for him. He goes to those who have room for him in their heart. So on this cloudless night, he went to the simple herders of sheep, and he gave this world a Christmas miracle.
Have you experienced the Christmas miracle in your life. I hope you have. Because I would like to submit to you that the manger today is your heart. It's a foul place. It stinks. It's not good. Is the human heart good? No. But Jesus is good and Jesus wants to come into your heart and change your heart, and to be your king.
One of our church members here at McDonald Road, named Ima Jean, sent me a story of a Christmas miracle that happened to her. This is a true story. It happened in 1940, December 24, the same day as today, 1940. It happened in New Mexico.
They were out living in the country and there were quite a number of family people there and they wanted to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, so some of the family members took the one and only car and drove into El Paso, which was several miles away, to do some Christmas shopping. All of a sudden, there was screaming, and Ima Jean heard somebody screaming, and lo and behold, little six-year-old Austin had fallen into the stock tank. How long he'd been in there I don't know. He looked blue. He looked dead when they got him out. He was drowned.
The mother pulled the drowned boy out and they started rolling him over a log, which is what you did in those days. Water came out. But he was still dead. Finally, Ima Jean's husband ran down the driveway, out to the highway which was in front of their place, way down there. He wanted to flag a car down to see if they could get some help. Maybe they could take the boy into town, maybe they could help him.
Finally a lone car appeared over the horizon. He frantically waved his arms as the car got closer. Stood right in the middle of the road. You've got to help us. The car stopped, and the driver just happened to be Dr. George Schwartz who was traveling from Hayward, California. He was a doctor.
He rushed to the boy's side. The boy had swallowed his tongue. The doctor knew what to do. In just a very short time that boy started breathing again and lived out a normal, boyhood life. Saved by the one and only car that just happened to come along at that instant. That's a miracle.
Do you need a miracle in your life? Do you? I do. At Christmas time the biggest, the most important thing, is not that present under that tree with your name on it. It's not. The biggest thing to me; I view the Christmas tree as a symbol of the cross. Now you might not, but the cross held Jesus, the light of the world on itself. That's what the cross did. And that Christmas tree holds up all those lights. Lights remind me of Jesus, because Jesus is the light of the world. But the question is, is Jesus the light of your life? Is he? If he is, then be lit up.
I'm going to ask you to stand if you agree with what my appeal is. If you would like to give your heart to Jesus, if you want to be baptized, God knows why you are standing. Maybe you've never given your heart to Jesus before. Maybe you just want to rededicate your life to Christ, so whether you want to be baptized or give your heart to Christ for the first time or re-give it to Jesus. I do this every day. I'm going to ask you to stand. Would you stand please, anybody at all who want to give your heart to Jesus. Let's have prayer.
Dear father, you see everyone who is standing, and some who can't stand, and some who didn't. Bless all of us, and may a Christmas miracle happen in our lives. May we truly be your child, and as we unwrap our presents, may we unwrap the most valuable present of all, the present of Jesus Christ. May we open that gift. Utilize it. And may Jesus lead us to eternal life. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
Hymn of Praise: #115, O Come, O Come Immanuel Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 Hymn of Response: #141, What Child Is This? Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 1/11/12