Easter Sunday

I Understand!

(Luke 24:36-49)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Patsy Clairmont beautifully and movingly portrays the reality of recovering from grief. I quote her words because they are so strongly and lovingly written: “We buried my friend’s 26–year–old son last week. An accidental gunshot took Jeff’s life. We have more questions than answers. We are offended at people who have all the answers and no experience with devastating loss.

 

‘I watched the heart-wrenching scenes as the family tried to come to grips with their tragedy. I can still hear the travailing of the mother’s anguished heart. I can still see the wrenching of the father’s grief-worn hands. I can still feel the distraught sobs that racked the sister’s body as I held her. I can still smell the hospital and the funeral home. Memories march before my mind like soldiers, causing me to relive the agony. If it is this difficult for me, Jeff’s godmother, how much more magnified it must be for his birth mother! I can’t imagine.

 

As I watched Jeff’s mom, Carol, the week after his death, I observed a miracle. I saw her move from despair to hope. From franticness to peace. From uncertainty to assurance. From needing comfort to extending it.

 

I witnessed a mom face her worst nightmare and refuse to run away. Instead, she ran to Him. When grief knocked the breath out of Carol, she went to the Breath Giver. I watched as the Lord placed His mantle of grace around her and then supported her with His mercy. The grief process has just begun for Jeff’s loved ones. The Lord will not remove His presence from the Porter family. But there may be moments when He will remove their awareness of His presence. That will allow them to feel the impact of their loss. For He knows it would be our tendency to hide even behind His grace to protect our fragile hearts from the harsh winds of reality. He offers us refuge, but He also promises us wholeness. Wholeness means we are fully present with ourselves and with Him. Therefore, we have to own our pain. If we do not, part of who we are we must either shut down, avoid, or deny. That would leave us estranged from ourselves and divided in our identity. Also, we would never heal in a way that would allow us to minister to others’ (Under His Wings, [Colorado Springs: Focus on the Family, 1994], 139ff.).

 

The death of Jesus Christ left his followers devastated with grief similar to the Porter family’s. They had lost their best friend, their leader, and their life’s goals, hopes, and dreams. All meaning had disappeared from life. Meeting the resurrected Christ gave them the assurance and power they needed to recover from their grief realistically, regain their wholeness, and renew their commitment to the goal Christ set before them. We have trouble feeling the same grief and loss the disciples felt at Jesus’ death, but we can feel the glory of his resurrection and the joy of being part of his goal for living and for dying.”

 

[Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary, Luke, 413-14].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Alternative guitar chords

        • When I first started playing guitar in high school, I took lessons and began to learn scales and chords

        • It was awkward at first trying to get my fingers to hold the position for each chord

        • Once I learned the individual chords then I had to learn how to transition between the various chords, so I could play songs

        • Many years later, while living in California, the worship leader at the church we attended, introduced me to some alternative chords for E, B, A, and C#m

        • This knowledge made it so much easier to transition between those chords and to play many worship songs

        • Let me illustrate it for you this morning on my guitar [Use the song Almighty and show the original chord locations, then show the alternative chord locations]

        • It took me a little bit of time to retrain my brain with the new location for these chords, but once that happen it made playing so much easier

        • I was finally able to say, I understand!

 

  • WE

    • The nine times table

        • How many of us know our nine times table?

        • Would it be helpful to learn an easy way to remember the nine times table?

        • [Have everyone hold up their hands with their palms facing out]

        • [Show how to lower one finger based on the formula 9 x _ and how the remaining fingers will give them the answer]

    • My guess is that every one of us has a memory of struggling to understand something

        • It may have taken several people explaining it to us in various ways before we got it

        • Once we got it, we were able to say, “I understand!”

 

The women that went to the tomb early in the morning and the apostles and disciples that were gathered together in Jerusalem did not have a resurrection mindset when it came to the first day of the week after Jesus’ crucifixion. ​​ They had not fully understood Jesus’ teaching from the Old Testament about His purpose on earth and what was going to happen to Him. ​​ So, they were not expecting Him to rise from dead on the third day. ​​ After His resurrection, though, Jesus did something supernatural for them that enabled them to understand the Scriptures and it transformed them all. ​​ This transformation is what motivated them to preach the Gospel to all nations. ​​ We can experience the same transformation today. ​​ Through the Holy Spirit that lives within each follower of Jesus Christ, we have the same power as the apostles and disciples. ​​ We’ll learn from Luke 24:36-49 that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Understanding God’s Word, empowers us to witness.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Luke 24:36-49)

    • Physical proof (vv. 36-43)

        • While they were still talking about this

          • We have to go back to verses 13-35 to understand what they were still talking about

          • Those verses share the story of the two believers who encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus

          • If you remember they were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus when Jesus began to walk and talk with them

          • Jesus wanted these two men to express, openly, what they were thinking and feeling about His death and burial, so He acted as though He wasn’t aware of everything that had just transpired in Jerusalem

          • After hearing their hearts, Jesus began to use Scripture to explain that everything that had happened over the past several days had been foretold by Moses and the Prophets

          • The two disciples asked Jesus to stay with them when they arrived in Emmaus, which He eventually agrees to do

          • As they were sharing a meal together, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them

          • At that moment, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus

          • They weren’t able to talk with Him anymore, because He disappeared

          • They returned to Jerusalem immediately, found the other disciples, and told them what they had experienced

          • This is what the group of disciples was talking about when Jesus appeared to them behind locked doors

        • Jesus’ supernatural appearance

          • Jesus stood among them and greeted them with Shalom

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is all-powerful (omnipotent).

            • The disciples were gathered together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews (John 20:19)

            • Jesus didn’t have the key and He didn’t need a key

            • He was able to supernaturally appear to them

            • We don’t know exactly how He did it, but we know that He did do it, because He is all-powerful!

            • This principle and truth should give us hope as we face life’s struggles

              • The disciples were experiencing fear because of the political and religious atmosphere of their culture

              • Some of us can definitely identify with the disciples – we are experiencing fear because of the political and religious atmosphere in our culture

              • Maybe our fear is centered around our health, with the coronavirus and the vaccine

              • Perhaps our fear and anxiety stem from financial struggles as a result of the coronavirus or the loss of a job

              • There are those who are experiencing fear, anxiety, and depression due to the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship

              • Hebrews 4:15, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.

              • Jesus is able to sympathize with us through our weaknesses, heart break, fears, anxiety, and depression

              • He’s not only able to sympathize with us, but He is able to do something about it, because He is all-powerful

              • He is waiting for us to sacrifice our independence and self-sufficiency, and rely completely on Him

              • Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ​​ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize Jesus’ omnipotence by crying out to Him with my fears, concerns, and anxious thoughts.

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus’ presence brings peace.

            • When we cry out to God and present our requests to Him with thanksgiving, then we will be able to experience His peace

            • It’s a peace we cannot understand, because it’s supernatural – it comes from a source outside of ourselves

            • I’ve experienced it when I’ve gone through difficult times, and I can’t explain the feeling of peace when I should be experiencing a churning stomach and unrest

            • Perhaps there are those of us here today, that have experienced God’s peace that doesn’t make sense to our finite minds

            • We can rejoice and worship the Lord for providing His peace

          • It appears as though the disciples were not experiencing peace, though

        • Disciples’ reaction

          • The disciple’s fears were elevated

            • They were terrified and thrown into fear

            • They were already fearful and on alert because of the Jews

            • And now someone or something had gained access to their secure location

          • It’s a ghost!

            • Ghost stories

              • I remember as a child, waking up in the middle of the night, once, and thinking that I saw the doorknob on my bedroom door twisting. ​​ I tried to work up enough courage to walk past the door to my parent’s room, but it took a couple of tries. ​​ In fact, I didn’t walk – I ran. ​​ I was already wearing glasses at that age, so I’m certain, now, it was just my eyes playing tricks on me

              • My sister has always been attuned to the spiritual realm. ​​ It wasn’t until I was in college or perhaps after Judy and I were married that she told me about seeing the Grim Reaper standing at the foot of her bed. ​​ It didn’t happen just once, but multiple times.

            • Since the disciples had not understood Jesus’ teaching about His resurrection, they were not expecting Him to show up, in person

            • So, their assumption was that this was Jesus’ ghost

          • Jesus realized what they were thinking, so He asks them a question and then gives them two physical proofs that He is real – He is alive – He has been resurrected!

        • Question

          • “Why are you troubled [frightened], and why do doubts rise in your minds [heart]?”

          • If they had understood Scripture and Jesus’ teaching they would not have been frightened or had doubts – they would have been celebrating Jesus’ appearance

            • It meant that He was alive!

            • Scripture had been fulfilled!

            • Jesus had defeated sin and death!

            • God’s plan of redemption for humanity had been accomplished!

          • Perhaps there are those here today who are afraid of death and/or have doubts about life after death or about who Jesus is

            • The Gospel writers and New Testament writers tell us who Jesus is

              • The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

              • He is the way, the truth, and the life. ​​ No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6)

              • He is the light of the world (John 8:12)

              • He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)

              • He is the bread of life (John 6:35)

              • He is the stone the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone and salvation only comes through Him (Acts 4:11-12)

              • He accomplished this through His death, burial, and resurrection

            • We don’t have to fear death or have doubts about life after death, because Jesus has defeated sin and death

              • We may still have to experience physical death, but eternity with Jesus will far outweigh that experience

              • Physical death, for followers of Jesus, means eternal life with Him in a perfected body

              • You can have assurance about life after death, because of Jesus

                • First, we have to admit that we are a sinner (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23) [Ten Commandments]

                • Second, we have to believe in who Jesus is and why He came to earth (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

                • Third, we have to choose to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation

                  • 2 Corinthians 7:10, Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

                  • Repentance is intentionally and purposely turning away from sin and toward righteousness

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Choose to repent of my sins and turn to God for His salvation.

                • As followers of Jesus Christ we can claim the promise found in Hebrews 13:5b-6, . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ​​ So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. ​​ What can man do to me?”

                • God is always with us – He is omnipresent!

          • Jesus provides two physical proofs to ease the disciples fears and doubts

        • Two physical proofs

          • His body

            • Nail marks in His hands and feet

            • “I have flesh and bones, touch me – I’m real! I’m alive!”

            • “Ghosts don’t have flesh and bones, but I do”

            • This first proof didn’t seem to convince them, probably because they were in shock

            • They were so happy to see Jesus alive, but they were struggling to understand how it happened

            • Nothing like this had ever happened before (someone coming back to life on their own – they had seen Jesus raise Lazarus and others from the dead, but that was different)

          • Food

            • While the disciples are trying to wrap their minds around what they are seeing, Jesus asks them for something to eat

            • This is part of His second proof

            • A ghost was not going to be able to take something tangible, solid and eat it

            • Jesus proved that He was alive by taking the broiled fish and eating it in their presence

        • Jesus provided physical proof on the day of His resurrection that He was real, He was alive!

        • At a later time, He provided intellectual proof also

    • Intellectual proof (vv. 44-49)

        • We don’t know the exact time frame between verses 43 and 44, but it was sometime during the 40 days that Jesus spent with His disciples between His resurrection and ascension

        • Jesus fulfilled Scripture

          • Jesus reminds His disciples that everything that happened to Him while He was on earth was in fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture (Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms)

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – God keeps His word, even when it involves things that seem impossible.

            • God promised to send a Savior

              • Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

              • 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 (Immanuel means God with us)

            • Jesus is that Savior – He is alive!

          • Jesus opened their minds so they could understand Scripture

            • It’s not that the disciples didn’t know what Jesus was about to tell them

            • They had heard it countless times, even more times than its recorded in our Bibles

            • They were struggling to make the connection between Jesus and what was written in the Scriptures

            • Electrical illustration

              • In an electrical circuit, all the components are there to have power

              • In order for power to run through the circuit the switch has to be engaged, completing the circuit, otherwise no electricity and no lights

            • This is similar to what had happened with the disciples

              • All the components were present – Jesus and the Scriptures

              • The circuit had not been completed in the disciple’s minds – the switch needed to be engaged

              • When Jesus opened their minds, the switch was engaged, the circuit was completed, and the light came on

              • “We understand! ​​ Why didn’t we see this before?”

          • Once the switch was flipped, Jesus reminded them of the past and foretold the future

            • The recent past

              • While it was written about, hundreds of years before, the events had just happened days before

              • The Christ will suffer (Isaiah 53)

              • The Christ will rise from the dead on the third day

              • Both of those things happened to Jesus

            • The future

              • Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem

                • Jesus was telling them what they would be doing in the future

                • They would tell others what they had seen and heard concerning Jesus and His ministry (that’s what being a witness is)

                • They were going to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known world

              • They had to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit before they began their mission

                • Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

                • Acts 2:1-4, When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. ​​ Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. ​​ They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. ​​ All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

                • We know that Peter stood up with the Eleven and preached the Gospel boldly and about 3,000 were added to their number that day (Acts 2:14, 41)

            • Application

              • Understanding God’s Word, empowers us to witness.

              • PRINCIPLE #4 – The Holy Spirit gives us power to witness for Christ.

                • The same power that the Eleven experienced at Pentecost is living inside of every follower of Jesus Christ

                • The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when we repent and turn our lives over to Jesus Christ

                • The command and commission that Jesus gave to His disciples is for us also

                  • Mark 16:15-16, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. ​​ Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

                  • Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ​​ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ​​ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

                • Fear

                  • Many of us have fear about sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others

                  • Remember, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to help us share

                  • The Holy Spirit has opened our minds to Scripture and with that understanding we are empowered to witness for Christ

                • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to empower me, through the Holy Spirit, to be a witness of the Gospel to someone this week.

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to recognize Jesus’ omnipotence by crying out to Him for help today?

    • Do you need to rest in the fact that Jesus’ presence brings peace?

    • Will you repent of your sins, today, and turned to God for salvation?

 

  • WE

    • Who will we witness to this week?

    • Who will we pray for and then invite to the revival services on May 17-23, 2021?

 

CONCLUSION

“After years of urban living had ground down my childhood love of nature, I found it suddenly rekindled through my friendship with a young photographer named Bob McQuilkin. I was working as a magazine editor at the time, and Bob seemed determined to drag me out of my stale routine and reintroduce me to the joyous world outside.

 

Once Bob drove his jeep to my office and insisted that I come see two baby owls he'd just rescued. For months he fussed over those scraggly orphaned owls, chasing barn mice and lizards to feed them, then trying to teach them to hunt on their own, and to fly. (Bob teaching a bird to fly!) They'd flutter in soaking wet from a rainstorm—not wise enough yet to find shelter—and Bob would patiently pull out his electric hair dryer and blow them dry. …

 

Bob was as fully ‘alive’ as anyone I have ever known. And so when I heard [in the fall of 2000] that Bob had died on a scuba-diving assignment in Lake Michigan, I could hardly absorb the news. Bob, dead? It was inconceivable. I could picture Bob doing anything at all—anything but lying still. But that is my last image of him: a 36-year-old body in a blue-plaid flannel shirt lying in a casket. … I would never ski with Bob again, never sit with him for hours viewing slides, never again eat rattlesnake meat or buffalo burgers at his house.

 

Susan, his widow, asked me to speak at Bob's memorial service. Without a doubt, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. When I stood before them, the magazine editors and art directors and family and neighbors and friends, they reminded me of little birds—Bob's owls—with their mouths open begging for food. Begging for words of solace, for hope. What could I offer them?

 

I began by telling them what I had been doing the very afternoon Bob was making his last dive. That Wednesday I was sitting, oblivious, in a café at the University of Chicago, reading The Quest for Beauty, by Rollo May. In that book the famous therapist recalls scenes from his lifelong search for beauty, among them a visit to Mount Athos, a peninsula of monasteries attached to Greece.

 

One morning, Rollo May happened to stumble upon the celebration of Greek Orthodox Easter, the tail end of a church service that had been proceeding all night long. Incense hung in the air. The only light came from candles. And at the height of that service, the priest gave everyone present three Easter eggs, wonderfully decorated and wrapped in a veil. ‘Christos Anesti!’ he said—‘Christ is risen!’ Each person there, including Rollo May, responded according to custom, ‘He is risen indeed!’

 

Rollo May writes, ‘I was seized then by a moment of spiritual reality: what would it mean for our world if he had truly risen?’

 

I read Rollo May's question the afternoon that Bob died, and it kept floating around in my mind, hauntingly, after I heard the news. What did it mean for our world that Christ had risen? Why were monks staying up all night to celebrate it? The early Christians had staked everything on the Resurrection, so much so that the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’

 

In the cloud of grief over Bob's death, I began to see the meaning of Easter in a new light. …

 

On Friday Jesus' closest friends had let the relentless crush of history snuff out all their dreams. Two days later, when the crazy rumors about Jesus' missing body shot through Jerusalem, they couldn't dare to believe. … Only personal appearances by Jesus convinced them that something new, absolutely new, had broken out on earth. When that sank in, those same men who had slunk away in fear at Calvary were soon preaching to large crowds in the streets of Jerusalem.

 

At Bob McQuilkin's funeral, I rephrased Rollo May's question in the terms of our own grief. What would it mean for us if Bob rose again? We were sitting in a chapel, numbed by three days of grief and sadness, the weight of death bearing down upon us. What would it be like to walk outside to the parking lot and there, to our utter astonishment, find Bob. Bob! With his bounding walk, his crooked grin, and clear, grey eyes.

 

That image gave me a hint of what Jesus' disciples felt on the first Easter. They, too, had grieved for three days. But on Sunday they caught a glimpse of something else, a startling clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter hits a new note, a note of hope and faith that what God did once in a graveyard in Jerusalem, he can and will repeat on a grand scale, for the world. For Bob. For us.”

 

Source: Philip Yancey, "The Great Reversal," Christianity Today (April 2000).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2009/april/2040609.html].

11

 

ADVENT – ANGELS (Love)

Don’t Be Afraid!

(Luke 1:5-38; Matthew 1:18-25)

 

INTRODUCTION

What was your greatest fear about going to the doctor as a child? ​​ Most children are afraid of getting a shot. ​​ As a parent, we try to call them down and let them know they don’t need to be afraid. ​​ It only takes a couple of seconds and it will be over.

 

As adults, we can be fearful of the unknown. ​​ Anything new can cause us to be fearful. ​​ Starting a new job, moving to a new city or state, going to college for the first time and being out on your own, going to a new school. ​​ All of those can cause us to be fearful.

 

We’re going to talk about three Biblical characters today that had reasons to be fearful. ​​ They were confronted with things that were new for them that included a visit from an angel.

 

After 400 years of silence, I can only imagine that the angels were eager to share the good news that Jesus was coming into the world. ​​ They were very busy for a period of time, as we will see today.

 

The angels had a common theme – Do Not Be Afraid!

 

BIG IDEA – God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

 

Let’s pray

 

BODY

  • Zecharias’ Angel Encounter (Luke 1:5-25)

    • This was during the time of Herod’s reign

    • Their background

        • Zecharias (Jehovah has remembered) was from a priestly family – Abijah

        • Elizabeth (God is my oath) was also from a priestly family – descendant of Aaron

        • They were both upright in the sight of God – observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly

        • In the midst of ungodly surroundings, they were in the world but not of the world

    • The priesthood at this time

        • There were nearly 20,000 young men that were eligible to serve in the temple at this time

        • They were broken up into 24 courses/divisions

        • That meant that each priest served two weeks each year

        • The rest of the year, they took care of their own farms

        • They used the lot system, “according to the custom of the priesthood,” to determine who would serve in what capacity

          • First Lot – cleanse the altar and prepare its fire

          • Second Lot – kill the morning sacrifice and sprinkle the altar, golden candlestick and the altar of incense

          • Third Lot – burning the incense (once in a lifetime opportunity)

        • Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord

          • This is a practical example of that verse

          • God needed Zecharias to be in the Holy Place on this particular day

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign! ​​ (God is in control)

            • Do you believe that today?

            • Are you struggling to believe that God is in control?

            • What situation are you going through that’s making you feel like God isn’t in control?

            • There is nothing too hard for Him

            • He can handle whatever fear and anxious thought you are experiencing

          • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

        • Zecharias was going to need that reminder

    • The Angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appears

        • Zecharias had been chosen, by God, through the lot, to burn the incense

        • As he is standing in front of the altar of incense, Gabriel appears

        • Zecharias’ is startled and gripped with fear

          • startled/troubled – Greek word is tä-rä’s-sō which means “to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread

          • fear – Greek word is fo’-bos which means “fear, dread, terror

          • Can you imagine burning the incense, which was a once in a lifetime experience, and being confronted with an angel from the Lord? ​​ What was going through his mind

            • Was he thinking – “Does this happen to everyone?”

            • Was he thinking – “I’m a dead man. ​​ Did I do something wrong with the burning of the incense.” (it could have meant divine judgment)

        • The angel dispels his fears

          • “Do not be afraid”

          • Your prayer/petition has been heard – Greek word is
            de’-ā-sēs, which means contextually, of prayers imploring God’s aid in some particular matter

            • This matter could have been his prayer for a son

            • It could also have been the prayer of every priest that burned the incense, that God would send the Messiah

          • Because of the next statement, the angel is probably referring to his prayer for a son

            • God answers prayer three ways: ​​ Yes, No and Wait.

            • Zecharias and Elizabeth had been waiting a long time and perhaps had stopped praying for a child

          • They are to name him Johanam/John (The Lord is Gracious)

            • He will be a joy and delight

            • There would be great rejoicing

            • He will be great in the sight of the Lord

            • He is to be a Nazarite – no wine or fermented drink

            • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth

            • He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah

            • He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children

              • Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. ​​ He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

              • “This quotation from Malachi 4:5-6 is meaningful for more than its reference to Elijah. ​​ These were essentially the last words in the Old Testament, and now God’s revelation is resuming where it had left off.” ​​ [Guzik]

    • Zacharias’ Doubt

        • He asked the angel a question

          • How can I be sure of this?/How will I know this (for certain?)

          • I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.

          • Zacharias is looking at the natural instead of the supernatural

          • He looked at the circumstances first, and what God can do last

          • “It is simply that he feels it must be too good to be true, and he has probably protected himself from disappointment by not setting his expectations too high. ​​ We rob ourselves of many a miracle by the same attitude.” ​​ [Guzik]

          • “This, of course, was unbelief, and unbelief is something God does not accept. ​​ Zacharias was really questioning God’s ability to fulfill His own Word! ​​ Had he forgotten what God did for Abraham and Sarah? ​​ Did he think that his physical limitations would hinder Almighty God?” ​​ [Wiersbe]

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is all-powerful! (omnipotent)

            • Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. ​​ Nothing is too hard for you.”

            • Are you questioning God’s ability to do the supernatural in your life?

            • Are you questioning God’s ability to handle the struggle that you’re currently experiencing?

              • Are the physical issues you’re having too hard for the Lord?

              • Is the rift in a relationship with someone in your family, at work, in your community, or at church too hard for the Lord?

              • Are the financial struggles you’re experiencing beyond God’s ability to deal with?

              • Is the emotional rollercoaster you’re on too difficult for God to help with?

              • Is the political divide and racial tensions we’re experiencing in our country, right now, out of God’s reach?

              • Are you experiencing fear about any of those situations?

              • Take heart!

              • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

          • Zecharias was doubting God’s ability to fulfill His Word and we are guilty of the same thing

        • How is your faith in an all-powerful, sovereign God?

        • Zecharias’ faith was going to be strengthened, because the angel was going to give him a sign that would prove God’s power and sovereignty

    • The Angel’s sign

        • First the angel identifies himself as Gabriel

        • He explains that he stands in the presence of God

        • Zacharias will not be able to speak until John is born

        • The people are concerned about Zecharias

          • Zecharias had stayed in the temple longer than most priests who burned the incense

          • They realized that something supernatural had taken place while he was in there, because he couldn’t speak when he came out

          • He tried to communicate what had happened by making signs

            • He was using body language to communicate with them

            • Did you realize that 55% of our communication is nonverbal?

            • Tone is 38%

            • Content is 7%

            • Zecharias should have been able to communicate what had happened with just hand motions and facial expressions

        • When Zecharias had completed his temple service, he returned to his home

    • Zacharias returns home to the hill country

        • After his service was done, we went back to see Elizabeth

        • Elizabeth becomes pregnant

        • Zacharias’ unbelief did not stop the work of God.

        • “Your unbelief will not stop the work of God. ​​ It will not hinder the purposes of God.” ​​ [Chuck Smith]

 

  • Mary’s Message From God (Luke 1:26-38)

    • Gabriel is busy again

        • Six months after appearing to Zacharias, he is back to earth to speak with Mary

        • He greets her by saying that she is highly favored and that the Lord is with her.

    • Mary was troubled/perplexed by this greeting

        • Greek word is dē-ä-tä-rä’s-sō which means “to agitate greatly, trouble greatly.

        • Why would Mary have been troubled greatly?

          • She was from a poor family and not considered great in the eyes of society

          • She was a simple young girl (15-16 years)

          • Why would she be highly favored

          • This really expresses her humility as a young lady

    • Gabriel sets her mind at ease and then gives her the Good News

        • “Do not be afraid”

        • You have found favor with God

        • Gabriel tells her everything

          • You’re going to be pregnant and give birth to a son

          • Name Him Jesus (Greek) – Jehoshua/Joshua (Hebrew)

          • He will be great and called the Son of the Most High

          • The Lord will give Him the throne of David

          • He will reign over the house of Jacob forever

          • His kingdom will never end

    • Mary’s reaction

        • How would you react if you heard all of that in three quick sentences

        • When a woman is pregnant, they usually tell you that and then pause for your reaction

        • Gabriel didn’t pause

        • I wonder if Mary heard anything after, “You will be with child and give birth to a son . . .

        • Her response leads me to believe that she didn’t

          • How will this be, since I am a virgin?

          • This statement is different from Zacharias in the fact that Mary believed what Gabriel said, but needed some clarification of how it would come about

          • “Her question in Luke 1:34 was not an evidence of unbelief; rather, it was an expression of faith. ​​ She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. ​​ How could a virgin give birth to a child?” ​​ [Wiersbe]

    • Gabriel’s clarification

        • The Holy Spirit will come upon you

          • Greek word for “come” is ep-e’r-kho-mī which means “to come upon, overtake one, of the Holy Spirit, descending and operating in one

        • Power of the Most High will overshadow you

          • “The word overshadow means ‘to cover with a cloud,’ like the cloud of Shekinah glory.” [Guzik]

          • “It is the word applied to the presence of God in the holy of holies in the Jewish tabernacle and temple (Ex. 40:35). ​​ Mary’s womb became a holy of holies for the Son of God!” ​​ [Wiersbe]

        • He relays the news that Elizabeth is six months pregnant even though she had been barren

        • He declares the power of Almighty God – “nothing is impossible with God.”

    • Mary’s submission

        • The dream, the hope, the desire of every Jewish girl was coming true for Mary – to be the instrument through which God would send the Messiah.

        • “Many young Jewish girls, when they had a boy born to them, would call his name Joshua. ​​ Hoping that maybe God would use that child to be the instrument of His salvation. ​​ And that was a reason, one of the reasons why being barren was considered such a curse.” ​​ [Chuck Smith]

        • I am the Lord’s servant. ​​ May it be to me as you have said

          • What faith

          • What strength

          • She was willing to be scrutinized by her culture to fulfill the purposes of God

          • “All this took more trust in the Lord than we might think. ​​ Mary agrees to receive a pregnancy that will be seen as suspicious, and this in a culture that had a death penalty for adultery. ​​ Mary identified herself with sinners so that the purpose of God would be fulfilled.” ​​ [Guzik]

          • “A ‘handmaid’ was the lowest kind of female servant, which shows how much Mary trusted God. ​​ She belonged totally to the Lord, body (Luke 1:38), soul (Luke 1:46), and spirit (Luke 1:47).” ​​ [Wiersbe]

          • Mary didn’t need to be afraid of how this supernatural pregnancy was going to happen and how her family, friends, and neighbors would react, because God was in control

        • Application

          • God may call you to do something for Him that seems counter cultural

          • It may be supernatural

          • It will probably cause you to be scrutinized and criticized by your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors

          • But you don’t have to live in fear about following the Lord

          • God is in control, so don’t be afraid!

    • We’ve seen two supernatural appearances by Gabriel, but there was one more important visit that needed to take place

 

  • Joseph’s Dream (Matthew 1:18-25)

    • Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant

        • “Probably, it was after her return from her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she continued three months (Luke 1:56), that she was perceived by Joseph to be with child, and did not herself deny it.” ​​ [Matthew Henry]

        • Imagine for a moment how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant

        • He knew what his cultural responsibility was, but he loved Mary

    • Joseph was a righteous man

        • He was very concerned about keeping the commands of God

        • He is also merciful

        • “He is a moral man who stands for rightness, but he is also merciful, which is a rare combination. ​​ Most people are either moral or merciful.” ​​ [Courson]

          • Would you agree with statement?

          • Are you more moral or merciful?

          • I would have to say that I fall more towards the moral side, but realize that I need to be more merciful

        • This rare combination would serve Joseph well

          • He was planning to divorce her quietly, so she wouldn’t be criticized and scrutinized by the community

          • Also, he was basically saving her life, since the punishment for adultery was death

        • While Joseph is trying to decide what to do, the Lord steps in

    • He is considering divorcing her when an angel appears to him in a dream

        • How many of us have experienced a dream that gives us insight into a problem we’re trying to solve?

          • Did you realize that your brain is a powerful tool?

          • It continues to work even while you sleep

        • Joseph son of David – this was serious, pay attention

          • The angel uses his full name

          • Most of us have probably experienced this with our mothers

          • When they use our full name, we know we have to listen and pay attention

        • Do not be afraid, take Mary as your wife

          • It would be very difficult for Mary to explain to Joseph the supernatural overshadowing of the Most High

          • It would not make sense in the natural world

          • Guys, we have to honest with ourselves. ​​ We strive to understand things on our own and work things out on our own before we consult God. ​​ Women are much more open to the things of God

          • We should work to be the spiritual head of our household, instead of letting our wives take the lead

        • Joseph was going to need some instruction about naming this baby

    • Naming the baby Jesus was to be a fulfillment of prophecy

        • God communicated that to Mary directly through Gabriel

        • Now he has also communicated it to Joseph in a dream

        • Naming your son after you was very important, culturally

        • They would be breaking tradition

        • Zecharias was going to be breaking tradition when he named his baby boy, John (no one in his family had that name)

    • Joseph obeys immediately

        • I’m just as impressed by Joseph’s obedience as I was with the shepherd’s obedience

        • Lord, help us to obey immediately!

 

CONCLUSION/ACTION

When you are faced with supernatural situations or difficult cultural circumstances, you need to remember several things:

 

  • Do not be afraid, God is in control

    • He knows what is best for you and He has not been caught off guard by your situation or circumstances

    • Psalm 56:3-4, When I am afraid, I will trust in you. ​​ In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. ​​ What can mortal man do to me?

    • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Put my trust in God concerning the situation I am currently fearful about.

  • You may not understand God’s plan, but you can trust Him by faith, because He is sovereign and all-powerful

  • Just Obey

    • Zachariah’s obedience in naming his son, John, brought healing to him – he was able to talk again (Luke 1:62-64)

    • Mary and Joseph’s obedience brought about the Messiah, the Savior of the world (becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit, taking Mary as his wife, fleeing Bethlehem at the prompting of the angel, returning to Nazareth)

    • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Obey what the Lord is telling me to do, because He knows best.

 

Mary and Joseph probably had a lot to be fearful about

 

“The Holmes Rahe scale assigns points to various life stressors. These points are called LCUs or a life change units. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe concluded that an individual experiences a total of 300 LCUs is at high risk for illness. Among other things, the list includes such events as:

 

Marital separation 65

Marriage 50

Marital reconciliation 45

Pregnancy 40

Adding a new family member 39

Change in financial state 38

Trouble with in-laws 29

Change in living conditions 25

Change in working conditions 20

Change in residence 20

Change in church activities 19

Change in social activities 18

Change in sleep habits 16

Minor violation of the law 11

 

Joseph and Mary could conceivably have experienced all of the events listed above for a total LCU count of 435. This total excludes divorce (73 points), as it was threatened but not carried out. Neither jail terms (40 points) or minor violations of the law (11 points) are included in the previously mentioned total, but Mary's pregnancy out of wedlock was a violation of Jewish law which, some contend, could have resulted in stoning. Christmas (12) is also excluded.”

 

David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/december/3120715.html]

 

Instead of being fearful, Mary and Joseph were hopeful, because they knew that God was in control.

13

ADVENT – SHEPHERDS (Joy)

Men Of Action

(Luke 2:8-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

Do you remember the excitement of the birth of your first child? ​​ It was a joyful occasion and you wanted to tell the whole world. ​​ Instead, you made a few phone calls to family members and close friends and the grape vine took over from there.

 

After returning from the hospital you probably wrote out special announcements and sent them in the mail to a larger number of people, with all of the statistics about your new baby. ​​ Maybe you handed out pink or blue bubblegum cigars to everyone that you came in contact with.

 

Today it can be almost instantaneous if you have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook on your cell phone or tablet. ​​ The minute the baby is born, you can broadcast it to the world within seconds.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Social media

        • We didn’t have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for any of our boy’s births

        • We had to use a regular camera or digital camera

          • Do you remember the days when extended family, who lived far away, had to wait until you developed the film in your camera and then mailed a picture of your new baby?

          • Those days are long gone

          • How many of you still use a camera that takes film?

        • We did have a video camera for all three births

        • We had email capabilities for Seth and Levi’s births, but not Wade’s, if I remember correctly

    • Cell phone

        • We didn’t have a cell phone for Wade’s birth and if we had one for Seth’s birth, there was a cost per minute to use it

        • We may not have had a cell phone for Levi’s birth, but if we did, it wasn’t like cell phones today – it would have been a flip phone with calling and texting capabilities (no internet or camera capabilities)

    • Waiting by the phone

        • Our parents and siblings had to wait by the phone to hear about the birth of our children

        • I had to go home and use the land line phone in order to communicate with family and friends

        • Things have certainly changed

        • It wasn’t instantaneous

 

  • WE

    • How many of us remember those days gone by?

    • How many of us don’t have any idea what I’m talking about?

 

Well, God used an instantaneous delivery system when His Son was born. ​​ He didn’t Tweet, create a post on Facebook or Instagram, Snap Chat, or make a TikTok or YouTube video, since the electronic age had not yet arrived, instead He Angeled and used Shepherdbook.

 

The angels told the shepherds and the shepherds spread the news from there. ​​ They jumped into action to go see the baby and then tell everyone they saw about the news!

 

BIG IDEA – Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

 

Let’s Pray

  • GOD

    • The Birth Announcement

        • Mary has just delivered Jesus by herself and is wrapping Him in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a manger.

        • At the same time, there are shepherds living out in the fields around Bethlehem taking care of the flocks at night.

          • These were the third shift shepherds, who spent the night around a camp fire watching the sheep

          • It was probably a pretty uneventful job to have, although they would have seen things that others would not have

            • They probably saw shooting stars

            • They knew the various constellations

            • Perhaps they saw certain planets in the night sky

            • Maybe they saw the aurora borealis

          • These shepherds, by most commentators’ writings, were known to care for the temple flocks – these were the perfect sheep, without blemish used for sacrifices.

          • This would seem like an unlikely group of people to send your instantaneous message too, but God had a perfect plan.

            • These shepherds would have been ceremonially unclean, because of their work

            • They would have been away from the temple for weeks at a time so they couldn’t be made clean

            • The shepherds were hearing about Jesus, whom scripture identified two ways:

              • Lamb of God (John 1:29)

              • Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)

          • God revealed His grace to mankind when He sent the angels to visit the shepherd’s first

            • They were the unclean ones, the outcasts

            • Wiersbe states, “God does not call the rich and mighty; He calls the poor and the lowly.”

              • Luke 1:51-53, He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. ​​ He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. ​​ He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

              • 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Brothers think about what you were when you were called. ​​ Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. ​​ But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. ​​ He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

          • While these lowly shepherds are hanging out in the field, checking out the night sky, they see something they’ve never seen before

        • An angel appears

          • In the middle of the night outside Bethlehem, a bright light pierces the darkness and an angel appears.

          • Shepherds were not usually fearful of much – think about David taking on the bear and the lion.

          • They were terrified/sore afraid – Greek is fo-be’-ō, meaning “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm, of those startled by strange sights or occurrences.”

          • The angel reassures them, “Do not be afraid.”

          • The angel’s announcement

            • I bring you good news – Greek for good news is
              yü-än-ge-lē’-zō, “in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation.”

            • It literally means that they preached the Gospel to the shepherds

            • Of great joy! – this was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Anointed One. ​​ This was definitely something to be excited about. ​​ Jesus was going to bring great joy, because He came into the world to provide a way to bridge the gap that sin had created between God and man

            • For all people – this meant everyone. ​​ No one will be excluded. ​​ It was for the Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor. ​​ It includes us today. ​​ This Good News is for you!

            • A Savior was born today in the town of David, Bethlehem

              • They identify Him as Christ the Lord

              • Messiah

              • the Anointed One

            • They gave the shepherds specific instructions, so they would know that they are in the right place.

              • A baby wrapped in cloths – this was not unusual and could have identified any newborn baby in Bethlehem

              • Interesting note – the strips of cloth used to swaddle a baby were very similar to those used in the embalming process. ​​ John Courson states, “This was fitting because Jesus came to die. ​​ Although death interrupted the ministry and teaching of Socrates, Plato, Buddha, and every other philosopher and thinker throughout history, it did not interrupt the ministry of Jesus Christ. ​​ Rather, death fulfilled Jesus’ ministry because Jesus alone came to die.”

              • Lying in a manger – this would have been very unusual, a baby lying in a feeding trough?

              • These two combined would identify the Christ Child for the shepherds.

              • They already knew that the baby was born that day (Today!)

          • The shepherds receive an amazing free concert from heaven

            • A great company of the heavenly hosts join the angel

            • They glorify God

            • They speak about peace on earth to men on whom His favor rests

              • This was a welcome message to the shepherds and to the Israelites.

              • This was the first time in centuries that the glory of God returned to earth.

              • The Roman world had been under much war, so peace sounded great!

              • They were currently living under the “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace), but they were not experiencing the peace that they had hoped and prayed for.

              • We see that the absence of war did not bring peace to the Jewish world. ​​ They were experiencing some of the same things we are experiencing today – high taxes, high unemployment rates, poverty, immorality, division, disorder, etc.

              • The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. ​​ He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

              • Wiersbe shares, “The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. ​​ It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. ​​ It has to do more with character than circumstances.”

    • The Shepherd’s Obedience

        • GO

          • We see from verse 12 that there is an expectation that the shepherds will go to see baby Jesus – “This will be a sign to you

            • The shepherds were expected to do something with what they just heard from the angels.

            • They were to be doers of the word and not hearers only

            • This is an example for us today – when God speaks to us through His Word, we need to be men and women of action.

          • The shepherds have a quick meeting

            • They decide to go to Bethlehem

            • They recognized who the message was from, the Lord

            • They left the flocks immediately and went to Bethlehem to find what was told to them

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • We need to obey God immediately

              • Has God spoken to you?

              • What has He told you to do?

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Obediently do what God has told me to do.

          • The shepherds obediently left the fields outside of Bethlehem and went into the city to begin their search

        • SEARCH

          • They hurry off to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph and the baby

            • The verb found in the Greek is ä-nyü-rē’-skō, which means “to find out by search” or “found after a search

              • NASB renders it this way – “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

              • They knew they had to look in a stable since the baby was in a manger

              • They probably started going from stable to stable looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

            • Luke reminds us again about the specific sign that would identify baby Jesus – “who was lying in a manger.”

            • That is exactly where the shepherds find Him

            • They followed the signs given to them and continued to search until they found the right place

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • We need to follow the signs that God gives us through His Word and the wisdom of those around us and search diligently until we find the place where God is leading us.

              • Have you diligently searched until you found where God is leading you?

              • Many times we search tentatively, but not diligently because we don’t want to be obedient to what God has told us to do

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Diligently search until I find the place where God is leading me.

          • After finding Jesus, the shepherds can’t keep silent!

        • TELL

          • Just imagine seeing the heavenly host and having an angel speak to you and then finding exactly what they told you

          • You would be really excited!!!

          • After the shepherds see Jesus, they spread the word

            • They share with everyone about what they were told about this child

            • They share the Gospel with others, just as it was shared with them

            • They share that the Messiah, “the Anointed One,” has arrived

            • This was the long-awaited Savior of the world. ​​ Everyone would have known who they were talking about when they used the words, “Christ the Lord” or “Christos kyrios

            • They shared with everyone the Good News about Jesus

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • When we are obedient to God, follow the signs and search until we find the right place, we can’t help but share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ because we have been transformed by it.

              • Have you taken time to tell others the result of being obedient to God and searching diligently?

              • If you have had others praying for and with you, it is important to let them know how God faithfully answered your prayers

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Tell others how God faithfully guided and directed me when I was obedient to what He told me to do.

            • We can experience the same response from others that the shepherds experienced

          • Everyone that heard what they had to say was amazed

          • They returned to their sheep, glorifying and praising God

            • They were thankful for what they had heard

            • They were thankful for what they had seen

            • They had experienced God’s trustworthiness firsthand, because everything they saw and heard, was just as they had been told

            • We can claim the promise today that God is trustworthy

              • We can count on Him to speak to us about His plans for us and to guide us as we seek to be obedient to His plan

              • When He proves to be trustworthy, we can rejoice and tell others what He has done

        • While the shepherds are excitedly sharing the good news of great joy, Mary is quietly thinking about all that has happened

    • Mary is a very mature young lady for her age

        • She treasured all these things – She kept them within herself, lest they be forgotten

        • She pondered them in her heart – she brought them together in her mind, she went over them again and again in her mind.

        • She did not want to forget how God had used her to further His kingdom and bring salvation to the world

        • She had experienced some pretty incredible things, that most everyone else had not

          • She was visited by the angel of the Lord and told that she had found favor with God

          • She had become pregnant as a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit

          • Her relative Elizabeth tells her how her baby leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice

          • Joseph still takes her as his wife even though she is not pregnant by him

          • She has strangers visit her in the stable worshipping the baby Jesus because an angel told them about this child

 

  • YOU

    • Has the Lord spoken to you and told you to go do something? ​​ Have you been obedient?

    • Have you diligently searched until you’ve found the place where God is leading you?

    • Have you shared with others how God faithfully guided you when you were obedient to Him?

 

  • WE

    • We have a responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to be people of action

    • The Christmas season is a natural time to share with family and friends about the joy we’ve experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ – His birth has transformed us in a powerful way!

CONCLUSION

Jesus’ presence on earth had transformed these shepherds. ​​ They would never be the same again, because they had experienced the glory and majesty of the Lord!

 

“Did you ever read Bret Harte's story The Luck of Roaring Camp? Roaring Camp was supposed to be, according to the story, the meanest, toughest mining town in all of the West. More murders, more thefts – it was a terrible place inhabited entirely by men, and one woman who tried to serve them all. Her name was Cherokee Sal. She died while giving birth to a baby.

 

Well, the men took the baby, and they put her in a box with some old rags under her. When they looked at her, they decided that didn't look right, so they sent one of the men eighty miles to buy a rosewood cradle. He brought it back, and they put the rags and the baby in the rosewood cradle. And the rags didn't look right there. So they sent another of their number to Sacramento, and he came back with some beautiful silk and lace blankets. And they put the baby, wrapped around with those blankets, in the rosewood cradle.

 

It looked fine until someone happened to notice that the floor was so filthy. So these hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees, and with their hardened and horny hands they scrubbed that floor until it was very clean. Of course, what that did was to make the walls and the ceiling and the dirty windows without curtains look absolutely terrible. So they washed down the walls and the ceiling, and they put curtains at the windows. And now things were beginning to look as they thought they should look. But of course, they had to give up a lot of their fighting, because the baby slept a lot, and babies can't sleep during a brawl.

 

So the whole temperature of Roaring Camp seemed to go down. They used to take her out and set her by the entrance to the mine in her rosewood cradle so they could see her when they came up. Then somebody noticed what a dirty place that was, so they planted flowers, and they made a very nice garden there. It looked quite beautiful. And they would bring her, oh, shiny little stones and things that they would find in the mine. But when they would put their hands down next to hers, their hands looked so dirty. Pretty soon the general store was all sold out of soap and shaving gear and perfume and those kinds ... the baby changed everything.

 

That's the way it is for those of good will. That's the way it is for those who please God. The baby enters into their lives, and he slips into every crevice of their experience, until they say ‘Hark! Listen, the herald angels sing! God is for us. And Christmas is forever.’”

 

Bruce W. Thielemann, "Hark! The Herald Angels," Preaching Today, Tape No. 63.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/october/3435.html].

9

ADVENT - BETHLEHEM

Born In The Middle of Nowhere

(Luke 2:1-7)

 

INTRODUCTION

How many of you know where Florida, MO is? ​​ (show picture of MO with Florida marked on the map). ​​ Now you know where it is, but do you know why that place is significant? ​​ It was where Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born. ​​ Does that help at all? ​​ What if I told you that Samuel’s pen name was Mark Twain, would that help? ​​ Most people don’t know where Florida, MO is.

 

Most places where famous people were born were unknown prior to their rise to popularity. ​​ (Show picture of states where U.S. Presidents were born) The birthplaces of most of the Presidents of the United States are not familiar cities to us that we would be able to locate immediately without Googling it.

 

In the 1st Century there was a town that most people of the day cared little about. ​​ It was an insignificant place that would soon be well known. ​​ Its popularity was the result of it being the birthplace of someone very special.

 

Today we are going to learn about a well-known man that was “Born In The Middle of Nowhere.”

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Our families birthplaces

        • Florida

        • Indiana

        • Missouri

        • Ohio - 2

  • WE

    • Where were you born

        • Would most people know the place where you were born?

        • It may not be hard to know the place where you were born, especially if it was around this area

        • Would anyone like to share their birthplace with us to see if you can stump us? [If you’re joining us online, you can put your birthplace in the comments section of Facebook Live]

 

  • Facts about Bethlehem

    • Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

        • What an appropriate birthplace for someone who would later identify Himself as the Bread of Life

        • John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. ​​ He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

    • Historic heritage

        • It is where Rachel died after giving birth the Benjamin

          • Gen. 35:16-20, Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. ​​ And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” ​​ As she breathed her last – for she was dying – she named her son Ben-Oni. ​​ But his father named him Benjamin. ​​ So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). ​​ Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

          • That’s a sad story related to Bethlehem

        • It was where Ruth was married to Boaz

          • Here is a happier story related to Bethlehem

          • Ruth 1:22, So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

          • Read Ruth 4:1-16

        • David had many exploits there – it was the city of David

          • 1 Samuel 16:1, The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? ​​ Fill you horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. ​​ I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

          • 1 Samuel 17:34-37a, But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. ​​ When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. ​​ When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. ​​ Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. ​​ The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

  • From Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)

    • Caesar Augustus

        • His birth name was Gauis Octavius

        • His grandmother was the sister of Julius Caesar

        • Julius Caesar adopted him and made him the official heir in 45 B.C.

        • After Julius Caesar’s death, he ruled with two others until 30 B.C. when he became the soul ruler

        • He assumed the title of Caesar from his great uncle

          • Caesar in Greek means “severed”

          • As the Roman Emperors rose to power, we realize that they were severed from friends and family.

          • They could not trust those around them.

        • Augustus was added after he rejected the Roman Senate's suggestions of “king of Rome” and “dictator of Rome

        • Augustus means “exalted” and “sacred” and has as its background, “though, of the gods

    • Decree

        • God had allowed Caesar Augustus to rise to power in order that His will and the prophecy of Micah could be fulfilled (Read Micah 5:1-5a)

          • NASB – “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. ​​ His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” [Micah 5:2]

          • Ephrathah means “ash-heap: place of fruitfulness”

          • Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)

          • Micah 5:3, Israel will be abandoned – there was 700 years from the time Micah spoke these words until Jesus came. ​​ We also know that there was a 400 year period where Israel had no prophet who spoke for God.

          • Micah 5:3, The returning of the brothers – part of this is fulfilled when the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, but the remainder will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

          • Micah 5:4, Jesus’ rule and reign will reach to the ends of the earth

          • Micah 5:5, Jesus will not only bring peace, but He will be our peace. ​​ Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14 that, He is our peace

        • Poor Caesar Augustus had no idea that he wasn’t really in charge

        • We may not understand why certain things happen in politics, the medical community, or the financial world today, but we can rely on the fact that God is ultimately in control. ​​ We may not see the end result of what He is doing, but we know that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

            • Perhaps we all feel apprehensive right now

            • Presidential election

              • Who should we believe concerning the Presidential election?

              • Did Joe Biden or Donald Trump win?

              • Was there widespread election fraud?

              • It all depends on who you get your news from

            • COVID-19

              • When should I go get tested for COVID-19?

              • Are the COVID-19 tests reliable and accurate?

              • Is COVID-19 really that serious, especially with a survival rate in the 99th percentile?

              • Will a mask and social distancing really keep me safe?

              • Should we shut down or remain open?

              • Again, it depends on who you talk to or listen to

            • Financial world

              • Will there be another financial stimulus package provided by our government?

              • Will the economy ever bounce back after COVID-19?

              • Will I lose my job?

              • If I lose my job, how will I survive?

            • We can take all of these concerns to a sovereign God who is ultimately in control

            • None of these concerns, or any other concerns we may have, come as a surprise to God

            • He knew about all of these things prior to them happening

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s sovereignty concerning my feelings about our nation’s physical, political, social, and financial struggles.

        • Caesar Augustus was the one who made the decree about the census, but it was by God’s sovereign plan and will – He is in control!

    • Census

        • This was a registration of everyone in the Roman world.

        • Each Jewish male had to return to the city where his father was born to record his name, occupation, property, and family

        • This was not for statistical purposes like we have today, but was designed to efficiently and effectively tax everyone in the Roman empire

        • Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, said that in his own day, more than a hundred years after the time of Jesus, you could look up the registers of the same census Luke mentions.

        • Chuck Smith states, “in Egypt there are records that they have discovered where it said that the people had to return to their family homes for the census to be taken, completely confirming this account in the scriptures.

    • Parenthetical note by Luke

        • This was the first census that was taken

        • From this point on there was a census every 14 years

        • Giving the name of the governor of Syria, Quirinius, is another historical “anchor” that confirms that this really happened and was not a fairy tale or something that Luke dreamt up after Jesus death in order to confirm His life.

    • Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem

        • They leave from Nazareth in the region of Galilee for Bethlehem in the region of Judea [show map with route]

        • It would have been approximately an 80-mile journey

          • Like walking from Sunbury, PA to Idaville, PA [show map].

          • It probably would have taken them 3 to 4 days if they traveled 8 hours a day.

        • Mary was not required to accompany him on the trip, but several factors probably led to her coming along

          • She was also of the line of David, so there was potential for seeing family while they were there

          • She was in the middle of a controversial pregnancy that was probably the talk of the town

          • Liefeld states, “It is possible that he used the emperor’s order as a means of removing Mary from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village. ​​ He had already accepted her as his wife (Matthew 1:24), but apparently continued in betrothal (Luke 2:5), pledged to be married, till after the birth.

          • Wiersbe says that “Mary and Joseph were already husband and wife but since they did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born, she is called his ‘espoused wife’

    • Jesus is born!

        • We don’t know how long they were there, because it says “while they were there”

        • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

          • It does not mention that anyone else was there to help Mary with the delivery

          • Usually there was a midwife to take the child and to wrap it in swaddling clothes and to take care of it

          • Mary was only 16 ½ to 17 years old giving birth for the first time on her own

          • Bruce says, “The narrative runs as if Mary did these things herself

          • We know from studying Acts that Jesus had other half-brothers, so this was Mary’s firstborn, Jesus.

        • Cloths/Swaddling Cloths

          • Mothers in that day wrapped their infants in long bands of cloth to give the limbs strength and protection

          • The fact that Mary wraps Jesus in cloths is another indicator that she probably went through deliver by herself

        • Placed Him in a manger

          • It can mean a feeding trough or an enclosure for animals

          • Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in a cave and not a wooden shed/shack as we see in modern manger scenes

        • No room in the inn

          • We realize that Jesus struggled to be accepted all of His life

          • His brothers thought He was crazy and didn’t believe in Him

          • The Pharisees thought He was a blasphemer

          • Isaiah 53:3, He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. ​​ Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

          • Many people have gotten so caught up in the materialism of Christmas that they have no room for Jesus either

          • We have time for everything else in our lives except for Jesus

 

  • YOU

    • Whether we’ve believed in Jesus for salvation or not we can all get caught up in the cultural pressures of the Christmas season

    • Perhaps as a follower of Jesus Christ you need to stop and reflect to see if you have made room for Jesus

        • If you recognize that He has been pushed to the side, what steps do you need to take in the coming weeks to make room for Him

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Evaluate whether or not I have made room for Jesus during this Christmas season and make the necessary changes.

    • Perhaps you’ve never made room in life for Jesus Christ before

        • Christmas is a celebration of the fact that Jesus came from heaven to earth

        • His purpose was to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10)

        • You may be thinking, “I’m not lost!”

        • Isaiah 53:6 – we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way (we are lost to God’s plan of redemption for mankind)

        • Romans 6:23 – wages of sin is death (separation from God for all eternity)

        • Luke 15:7, I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

        • Acts 16:31, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make room in my life for Jesus and believe in Him so I can be saved.

CONCLUSION/ACTION

“The Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar [was] probably the most meaningful ‘crib’ I have ever seen. Three small wood-carved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand – nearly too small to attract attention at all.

 

But then – a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world. While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. ... Without the radiant beam of light shining into the darkness there is little to be seen. ... But everything changes with the light.”

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen in The Genesee Diary. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 14.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/october/3430.html]

8

 

Christmas Sunday

Seeking the Savior

(Luke 2:1-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

“For reasons I cannot quite remember (perhaps the guidebooks or the guide himself told us it wasn't much to get worked up about), I wasn't excited to visit the birthplace of Christ [while on a study tour of Israel in the summer of 2000]. I recall wishing we could spend our time in Jerusalem, but I didn't have a choice. If the group was going to Bethlehem, I was, too.

 

We walked through the dusty streets of the town and soon came to the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. We stood in line for what seemed like hours, winding our way downward into a series of caves (though we often have nativity sets of barns and stables, Christ was actually born in a cave).

 

Once there, I was hushed by the holiness of it all. There were candles lit here, there, and everywhere. Hundreds were on their knees in prayer, scattered about on the cold, damp floor. We made our way to the traditional cave of the birth where we read Matthew's story once again. Soon we were singing. ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ and ‘Silent Night.’

 

Right there in a church building that has been ravaged by war and terrorism and today is owned by four different religious groups, we prayed for peace. We offered a continued invitation for shalom. It was one of the more sacred moments of my life.

 

As we left, I passed by all the pilgrims yet again. Some were from Germany, Poland, or Italy and others from England, Spain, or China. They, too, sang and prayed. Anger and violence wrestled about in all our worlds, but in that moment we had all come together in Bethlehem to worship and celebrate the Prince of Peace who, if anything, was working shalom into the folds of our lives as he will until the day he returns to work it into all things, once-for-all.”

 

Brian Lowery, "Still Unto Us," Christian Standard magazine (12-17-06).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/november/6112408.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Seeking the perfect Cabbage Patch Doll

        • During the Cabbage Patch Doll craze my sister wanted one

        • She had specific things she wanted for her doll (blonde hair and saddle shoes were two things)

        • Our family was traveling over the holidays and decided to stop at a Hill’s Department store in some town

        • They were getting ready to hand out Cabbage Patch Dolls at the doors to their back storage area

          • Everyone was told, by the employees, that you had to take whatever doll was handed to you (you couldn’t request a specific doll)

          • While we were waiting, another family stepped in line in front of us

          • I remember that our family was pretty irritated by that, but we didn’t say anything

          • When my sister was handed her Cabbage Patch Doll, it had blonde hair and saddle shoes – just what she wanted

        • God is in control of everything and He allowed that family to step in line in front of us for a reason

          • Had we protested, my sister may have gotten a different doll

          • We had to trust God and be obedient to our Christian values, of being kind and compassionate, even in difficult situations

          • While it was frustrating for a little bit, the end result was beyond our imagination and fulfilled the desires of a young girl

 

  • WE

    • Perhaps all of us can think of a time when we were confronted by frustration concerning something we’ve been seeking

        • Maybe we were seeking a certain item, especially during Black Friday shopping, only to find out that the item had already sold out

        • There are times when hunters have done all of the right things to prepare for the season, only to find out that someone else has harvested the buck, we’ve been scoping out and tracking, prior to opening day

        • It may take quite a bit of travel to eventually find the thing we’re seeking

    • In God’s sovereignty, He allows difficulties to come our way, so we’ll trust Him and many times the end result is beyond our wildest dreams and fulfills our heart’s desire

Through the very familiar Christmas story found in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll see that Mary and Joseph had to travel a long distance in order to be obedient to God through the census decree. ​​ It was probably a difficult journey, especially for Mary who was close to full term in her pregnancy. ​​ The shepherds also had to travel a short distance, after experiencing a frightening encounter with an angel and the glory of God, in order to be obedient to God. ​​ Luke wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Finding the Savior requires obedience.

 

The Jews were seeking the Messiah (Savior). ​​ They were looking forward to His arrival.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Luke 2:1-20)

    • Mary & Joseph’s Obedience (vv. 1-7)

        • PRINCIPLE #1 – God controls all history.

          • God uses the events of this world to accomplish His purposes

          • That’s exactly what He was doing with Caesar Augustus and his decree about a census of the entire Roman world

            • Anyone who doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t believe that God is sovereign will look at Luke’s Gospel and say that the census decree was just a coincidence

            • Individuals who believe in God and that He is sovereign will recognize that God is in control of all history

            • Two examples

              • John Cafarchio told me last week that the Sunday school lesson he taught hit some of the same points that the sermon did last week (that’s not coincidence, that’s God’s sovereignty and His control)

              • Pastor Marc and I were discussing the message he will be sharing on December 29, 2019 and it struck me that God moved some things around, in the preaching schedule, so that the passage of scripture Marc will be sharing fits perfectly with the beginning of the new year and an incredible initiative that will be introduced (I won’t step on Marc’s toes, but God is in control and He orchestrates things perfectly)

              • We could try to manufacture these kinds of things, but it’s much more powerful when God orchestrates them on our behalf (my prayer is that we’ll have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying to us, so we don’t miss out on praising and glorifying Him)

            • Application

              • How has God used events or circumstances in your life to accomplish His purposes?

                • Can you recall a specific situation where you saw God work things out, so that you knew He was in control?

                • Are you attuned to what God is doing in your life and at Idaville Church?

                • Are you listening to His voice?

                • Too often we have a preconceived idea of how we want God to work in our lives and how we want Him to answer our prayers

                  • When we focus on that, we will miss what He is doing and saying to us

                  • We have to be willing to submit to His will and plan

                  • When we focus on Him, it will be easy to see what He is doing and hear what He is saying to us

                • God is in control of every circumstance in our lives, so we need to trust Him and follow His lead

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Watch and listen for ways that God is showing me that He is in control and then praise and glorify His name.

            • So, Caesar Augustus’ decree was not by chance, but by God’s sovereign providence and plan

          • Everyone went to his own town to register

            • “‘Own Town’ means one’s ancestral home.” [Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke, 106]

              • This is a little different for us today, because the United States is a melting pot of ethnic groups from all around the world

              • Perhaps you’re able to trace your lineage back to a specific country

                • Judy’s maiden name is Doolittle

                • That last name is pretty easy to trace back to England

                • Maybe you have a last name that’s easily traced back to a particular country

                • [Let the congregation share their country of origin]

              • Others of us have a more difficult time of determining our lineage

                • My own lineage is a melting pot

                • We are part Irish (Kennedy), part Swiss German (Rife [Reif], Hykes, & Johns), part Native American (Seneca, from my mother’s side)

                • Tschantz (Swiss German farmers) became Johns in the United States

              • The simplest way for us to relate to our “own town” would be to think about the town where we were born or perhaps the town where our parents were born

                • My parents would claim Chambersburg and Greencastle as their birth place

                • I was born in Huntington, IN

                • [Let the congregation share where they or their parents were born]

                • Just imagine if we had to return to the town where we were born in order to register for taxation

                • “The census, which could be controversial, uses customs that would be the least offensive. ​​ For Jews an ancestral registration would be a most natural way to sign up for taxes (2 Sam. 24).” ​​ [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Luke, 204]

                • Caesar Augustus was using the path of least resistance in order to accomplish his goal of tax income

            • That’s what Joseph and Mary had to do, but they had to trace their lineage back hundreds of years to King David and what was considered his home town

          • So, Joseph and Mary set out on their journey

        • Their journey

          • Joseph and Mary were living in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee when the decree was communicated

          • They had to travel 70 miles south to the town of Bethlehem in the region of Judea, or 90 miles if they bypassed Samaria

            • [show map]

            • It would take about 33 hours to walk that distance, so it was at least a three to four-day journey for them

            • Bethlehem was at a higher elevation than Nazareth, which explains Luke’s use of, “went up,” even though they were traveling south

          • While it only mentions that Joseph belonged to the house and line of David, we know that Mary could also trace her lineage back to David

            • Mary would not have been required to go to Bethlehem to register with Joseph, because the registration would have been for the entire family

            • But, I can only imagine that Mary wanted her husband to be there for the birth of her first child

            • Both Mary and Joseph had been visited by an angel telling them about the child Mary was carrying

            • I’m sure Joseph didn’t want to miss this incredible birth of the Messiah

          • All of this was taking place because God is in control of all history

            • It was foretold hundreds of years before, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

            • Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

          • So, Mary and Joseph had to be obedient to God, through the census that Caesar Augustus had decreed, in order to see the Savior

          • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

        • Jesus is born!

          • While they were there” is a non-specific time identifier

            • Luke doesn’t give us the exact timeframe of how long Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem before Jesus was born

            • He just tells us that “the time came for the baby to be born

          • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

            • She does what all mothers did at that time, and used pieces of cloth to wrap Him up

            • The cloths helped to keep the baby warm, but it also helped to keep their arms and legs straight

            • We call this swaddling today

              • Seth and Emily were pros at this with our granddaughter, Kinsley

              • When she would be fussy, they would wrap her up tight in a perfect swaddle and Kinsley would settled down and be able to sleep

              • It gave her comfort and warmth and she felt secure

              • They can’t do this anymore, because she’s rolling over on her own

            • Mary also did something that most mothers probably did not do at that time

              • After she swaddled Him, she placed Him in an animal feeding trough (manger)

              • The reason Luke gives, is that there was no room for them in the inn

                • The inn should not be mistaken for a hotel or motel in our day and age

                • It would be more like a hostel where everything was shared

                • “The ‘inn’ probably refers to a public caravansary (a crude overnight lodging place for caravans), which was the one lodging place in Bethlehem.” ​​ [Stein, 107]

                • The stable was perhaps beside this public shelter in a cave

                • Mary and Joseph took refuge in the stable since there wasn’t any more places available in the public shelter area

              • The unique cradle for Jesus was again by God’s design and purpose

                • We don’t know if there were other babies born that night, but if there were, Jesus would be the only One using a feeding trough as a cradle

                • This would be an important sign for the shepherds, as we’ll see

        • Mary and Joseph have been obedient to God by following the decree to register in their ancestral home town of Bethlehem

        • Luke then tells us of a group of guys hanging out in the fields outside Bethlehem

    • Shepherd’s Obedience (vv. 8-20)

        • Shepherds (v. 8)

          • Who were these shepherds?

            • Some characterize shepherds as dishonest and despised by the culture of the day, but those views come primarily from 5th Century literature and writings

            • “Shepherds in an agrarian society (crops and farmland) may have small landholdings, but these would be inadequate to meet the demands of their own families, the needs of their own agricultural pursuits, and the burden of taxation. ​​ As a result, they might hire themselves out to work for wages. ​​ They were, then, peasants located toward the bottom of the scale of power and privilege.” ​​ [Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke, 130]

            • This did not mean that they were dishonest

              • In fact, the shepherd motif in the Bible is primarily positive

              • In the Old Testament we find that Abraham, Moses, and David had all been shepherds at one time in their lives [Bock, 213]

              • The New Testament even uses the concept of a shepherd to identify leaders within a church, and how they lead the church as shepherding (taking care of the flock) [Bock, 213]

            • The shepherds were perhaps taking care of the sheep that were used for sacrifices at the temple

            • Because of their occupation, they were considered ceremonially unclean and could not worship at the temple

            • Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

          • So, these peasant farmers who had hired themselves out as shepherds were watching the sheep in the middle of the night, when something incredible happened!

        • Angel’s announcement (vv. 9-14)

          • The shepherds are minding their own business and perhaps talking quietly around a camp fire when all of sudden there is another person there with them

            • They don’t mistake this person for another shepherd or a townsperson, because God’s glory is shining around them

              • Isaiah 60:19, The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

              • Revelation 21:23, The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

            • In the darkness of night, it becomes like daylight

              • What do cockroaches do when we turn a light on? ​​ (they scatter in fear)

              • What’s our reaction when we’ve been in the darkness for a long time and sudden a bright light is turned on? ​​ (we may jump because of being startled)

              • The shepherd’s reaction is no different (they are terrified)

          • The angel’s words

            • Do not be afraid

              • This is not the first time that the angel of the Lord has had to comfort those to whom he has visited and brought a message

              • He had to do the same thing with Zechariah (Luke 1:12-13) and Mary (Luke 1:29-30) [Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary, Luke, 29]

            • I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people

              • Good news

                • The Greek word for “good news” is euangelizomai and means “to proclaim and preach the good news” [Bock, 215; Stein, 108]

                  • The good news was that on that same day in Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord

                  • Savior (soter) – Jesus will deliver His people [Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s (Luke 1:67-79) hymns expressed this truth]

                  • Christ – it comes from the Greek word for “Anointed One” and speaks of Jesus’ as the Messiah (the promised One)

                  • Lord – “the holy, unspeakable personal name of God himself” [Butler, 30]

                • This Greek verb (euangelizō) and noun (euangelion) are where we get our English word evangelism

                • We’re commanded to do the same thing that the angel did with the shepherds, proclaim and preach the good news of Jesus Christ

              • Great joy

                • The message of the Gospel (good news) should bring us great joy

                • “Gospel elicits joy, not fear. ​​ Joy is the inward feeling of happiness and contentment that bursts forth in rejoicing and praise.” [Butler, 29]

              • All the people

                • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus came for all people.

                  • Now this doesn’t mean we’re automatically guaranteed salvation and heaven

                  • We’re all born with a desire to have our own way (it’s called our sinful nature)

                  • David spoke about being sinful from the time he was conceived, which means from the time life begins in the womb (Rom. 3:23)

                  • Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve, for our sinful, rebellious nature (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

                  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for my sins on the cross and receive God’s gift of eternal life.

            • The sign

              • The angel doesn’t command the shepherds to go into Bethlehem and find Jesus, but what the angel says next is specific information on how to identify the correct baby

              • So, it’s implied that they should go to Bethlehem and check out this incredible baby

              • They’ll know they’ve found the right place when they find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (feeding trough)

          • What the shepherds get next is a heavenly choir concert

            • A great company of angels join the angel who had told them about Jesus and they begin to worship God

            • They glorify God, because He has fulfilled His promise of sending a Savior

            • This Savior is going to bring peace between God and those in humanity who believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and accept His gift of eternal life (on whom his favor rests)

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus brings peace between God and humanity.

              • Romans 5:1-2, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. ​​ And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

              • Ephesians 2:14-16, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. ​​ His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

          • As soon as the angels returned to heaven the shepherds started talking among themselves

        • Shepherd’s response (vv. 15-20)

          • Let’s go!

            • The shepherds understood the implied message from the angel

              • They couldn’t wait to see with their own eyes what the Lord had made known to them

              • They had to obey what the Lord had told them through the angel

              • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – God’s desire is that His people seek Jesus.

              • That’s exactly what the shepherds did

              • They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger

              • The idea behind the word found is that they searched, without stopping, until they found the right baby

              • That’s perhaps where some of us are today

                • We’ve been searching for true peace

                • We’ve looked at many different religions, but still haven’t found the peace of God

                • If that’s you, I want to encourage you to keep searching, keep seeking, until you find Jesus

                • Don’t ever give up

                • He came for you!

            • After the shepherds found Jesus they didn’t just sit there at the manger for the rest of their lives, rather, they started telling other people about Him

          • Let’s share!

            • They told everyone what they had seen and heard about Jesus, the Messiah

            • Those who heard were amazed

              • That doesn’t mean that they believed in Jesus as the Messiah or their Savior

              • The same will be true for us when we share with others about Jesus

                • They may see a radical change in us and think how amazing that transformation is, but still not believe in Jesus as their Savior

                • Some people are excited for us and that it “worked” for us, but still not believe it will “work” for them

                • Our responsibility isn’t to save them, but to faithfully share the Gospel (good news) with them

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Faithfully share the Gospel with those I come in contact with.

                  • I would encourage you to begin praying each day for divine appointments to share the Gospel and then be on the look out

                  • Jesus commanded His disciples and us to do this continually (Matt. 28:18-20)

                  • Making disciples is more than just a quick Gospel presentation and a prayer

                  • When someone responds to the Gospel it means walking together with them as they grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

                  • That takes a lifetime

              • Mary was contemplative and took Jesus’ miraculous birth and the incredible story of the heavenly host that the shepherds shared with her and remembered them with fondness – it would be something she would never forget, but return to continually as she raised Jesus

            • The shepherds weren’t done

          • Let’s rejoice!

            • After seeing Jesus and telling others about Him, they returned to the fields outside Bethlehem, but they didn’t do it quietly

            • They glorified and praised God for all that He had done

            • Application

              • Have we done that recently?

              • Let’s do that this morning

                • We added 2 new members this past year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We know of 2 individuals who accepted Jesus as their Savior (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 8 people baptized this year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 5 children dedicated to the Lord ((“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were healed this year through supernatural means or through surgery (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were spared even though they went through an accident (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were individuals and families who experienced restored relationships (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We had individuals in our lives who were promoted to heaven (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

            • God is worthy of our praise and worthy to be glorified!

 

  • YOU

    • God controls all history, including the circumstances you are currently going through

    • Jesus came for all people to bring peace between God and us

    • God’s desire is that we seek Jesus

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers we need to share the Gospel with others

    • As a body of believers we need to rejoice in what God has done

 

CONCLUSION

As you celebrate Christ’s birth with family this Christmas, take time to remember the significance of what God did in fulfilling His plan of salvation through His One and only Son, Jesus Christ. ​​ Make sure that you are seeking the Savior during this season and all year long.

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3rd Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Joy

(Luke 2:8-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Joy Bumper video

 

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and we’re glad you’re here journeying with us through this season. ​​ We’ve been spending the last couple of Sundays talking about Advent and how it is a season of preparation and expectation. ​​ We’ve already learned about the journey of hope and love.

 

Our guiding symbol through the season is the star. ​​ Just as that Star of Bethlehem drew the wise men toward the Savior thousands of years ago, the star guides our focus on a spiritual journey of hope, love, joy, and peace that all connect us to the Morning Star, the light of the world, Jesus.

 

As we continue to follow the star toward Christmas, it leads us today to focus on the journey of joy. ​​ Joy can be the fuel that brightens our journey, and it is a fascinating concept. ​​ Joy is often misunderstood. ​​ It is often confused with happiness. ​​ And it regularly shows up in situations where it may be least expected.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Birth of our children

        • I remember with the birth of all three of our boys that while Judy was experiencing labor pains, there was extreme joy that followed as soon as they were born

        • At least for a short period of time, after giving birth, Judy didn’t notice the pain her body was experiencing

        • With Seth’s birth, she was told for the last two months of the pregnancy that she couldn’t have the baby yet

          • She wasn’t able to mentally prepare for his delivery like she had done for Wade’s delivery

          • Then one day, they told her she could have the baby

          • That delivery was probably the most difficult of the three

        • While I didn’t experience labor pains, I was filled with joy and wept at the birth of all three of our boys

    • Being laid-off

        • While working at the headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in Missouri, I was caught up in one of the layoffs that took place

        • There had been financial struggles for many ministries that year and CEF was not exempt

        • The night before the layoffs were announced, I remember thinking that they would never lay me off, because of how much I did and how much I knew

          • It was that night that God told me I was one of the ones who would be laid off

          • So, I went to work the next day anticipating that I would not a job by the end of the day

        • There was definitely fear associated with being laid off

          • I had a wife and three boys to take care of

          • We had a beautiful home and a mortgage to pay each month

          • We had two vehicles with monthly insurance payments

          • I had no idea where I would get a job

          • Yet, the next day when the Vice President of USA Ministries came into my office and explained that I was being laid off, I was filled with joy

          • As he prayed for me, I remember raising my hands (under my desk) and thanking God for showing me that it was time for me to leave CEF and pursue other opportunities

          • I had some growing to do and that experience was the catalyst that started that growth, both personally and spiritually

 

  • WE

    • What fears are you facing right now?

        • Health concerns?

        • Financial concerns?

        • Relational concerns?

        • Employment concerns?

        • Educational concerns?

        • Spiritual concerns?

        • Governmental concerns?

        • Societal concerns?

        • The list could go on!

    • Are those concerns stripping you of joy?

        • Are those concerns consuming every waking moment?

        • Are they keeping you awake at night?

        • Are you struggling to find joy in the difficult situation?

 

Through this journey of joy, today, God wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We can have joy in life’s journey.

 

Let’s pray

 

As we look at the journey of joy today, we’ll see that joy and pain co-exist, that joy connects us with others, and that our response to joy should be worship.

 

  • GOD (Luke 2:8-20)

    • Joy and Pain (vv. 8-14)

        • Sometimes it’s easier to find joy in our circumstances when we stop focusing on them and begin to focus on the needs of others

          • In America, we are blessed in so many ways

          • We have plenty of food at our fingertips and clean drinking water

          • Most everyone has a safe place to live

          • We have multiple educational opportunities for our children

          • We have a governmental system that provides certain freedoms

          • We have our own toothbrush and toothpaste

          • We have multiple versions of the Bible and many of us have multiple copies of the Bible

          • Yet, there are individuals around the world who have so much less than we have and find joy in it

          • Operation Christmas Child is an organization that provides boxes filled with items we take for granted, but that children around the world cherish and find great joy in

          • Show VIDEO – LoveGrowsinUkraine [https://video.samaritanspurse.org/love-grows-in-ukraine/]

            • I just love the children’s faces with those huge smiles on them

            • Their faces say it all – they are filled with joy!

            • Even though they live a life that we would consider hard or difficult, they find joy in the simple things

          • As we think about joy and pain or joy and fear, I’m reminded of the shepherds the night Jesus was born

        • Shepherds

          • Read Luke 2:8-14

          • The shepherds were a strong, ruddy group

            • They didn’t lead easy lives

            • They were considered ceremonially unclean because of their work and therefore weren’t able to worship at the Temple

            • They continually had to guard their flocks against wild animals

              • We’re reminded of David, the shepherd boy, who killed Goliath

              • When he came before King Saul to offer his services against Goliath, he told the King that he had killed the lion and bear to protect his father’s flocks

            • They also laid in the opening to the sheep pen throughout the night and became the “door” to protect the sheep from thieves

            • The shepherds had their fears and pains, but I’m sure they experienced joy also

          • The angels appearance brought fear

            • While these shepherds were a hardy bunch, the appearance of an angel in the dead of night terrified them

            • They didn’t know what to think about what they were seeing

            • The angel and his group came in peace with the world’s greatest birth announcement, but first he had to help the shepherds get over their fear

              • He calms their fears by telling them not to be afraid

              • They weren’t the first ones to hear those words from an angel

              • Mary and Joseph also heard those same words when they each had their own individual meeting with an angel

            • Once the shepherd’s fear was taken care of, they were ready to hear the angel’s message

          • The angels message would bring joy

            • The angel had good news that would bring great joy to all of humanity

            • There was a baby that was born in Bethlehem that night

            • It wasn’t just any baby, but it was Christ the Lord!

            • The angel gave the shepherds specific information to identify the baby they were to look for (the baby would be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – a feeding trough for animals)

            • Before the angel left he was joined with a choir of angels, praising God

        • Application

          • It’s a strange thing about joy – it seems the natural reaction for most of us is to think joy could only come when pain is removed

            • But the truth is, in our fallen world, joy and pain exist side by side

            • Our lives are a constant balance of joy and pain as we walk through the experiences of life

            • In fact, it is often the pain or struggle that magnifies the power of joy

            • And it’s here in this dichotomy that the message of the angel is for us as well: ​​ Do not be afraid!

          • The struggles you’re going through – health, finances, relationships, school, employment, society, government, etc. – those are the exact places where the words of the angel can penetrate the most deeply and powerfully

            • The angel’s message is for you!

            • There is good news of great joy

            • James writes about joy in trials and makes a pretty astounding statement

            • James 1:2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ​​ Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

              • Can James really mean that?

              • It’s not a “fake it ‘til you make it” idea

              • It’s understanding that through our trials we can grow and become mature in our faith as we seek God

              • As we walk in relationship with God, we can grow to experience a sense of joy that comes from understanding there is more than the pain we’re currently facing

            • We can have joy in life’s journey

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Not be afraid of the difficult things I’m currently going through and remember that I can have joy in the middle of it with God’s help.

        • The shepherds experienced joy and fear co-existing, but they also realized that joy brings connection with others

    • Joy and Connection (vv. 15-19)

        • Thinking back about the video from Operation Christmas Child, did you notice that they bring all the children together

          • The children are experiencing the joy of receiving their gift with other children who are also receiving a gift

          • It’s a time of building community and togetherness

          • They are also hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they gather together

          • In Ukraine, the children continue to gather together to learn how to read

          • The joy each child experiences is done in connection with other children – they experience joy together

        • Read Luke 2:15-19

        • The shepherds were experiencing the joy of Jesus’ birth together

          • Scripture doesn’t tell us how many shepherds were together that evening, but it was more than one

          • They had experienced a heavenly choir and the incredible news that the Messiah had been born

          • This was who Israel was waiting for!

          • As the shepherds were processing everything they had just seen and heard, they decided to go and see what had happened

          • So, they hurried off into town and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby – just like the angel had said

          • The shepherds didn’t just keep this incredible news to themselves

        • The shepherds connected with others in Bethlehem after seeing Jesus

          • They began to spread the word concerning what they had been told about Jesus

          • He is the Savior, He is Christ the Lord

            • Those were two important terms for the Israelites

            • They were looking for a Savior from Roman rule

            • Christ was even more important for them

            • Christ can be translated Messiah

              • In Greek it was “The Christ”

              • In Hebrew it was “the Messiah”

              • Both mean “the Anointed One”

            • John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

            • What do we need to be saved from?

              • The Israelites thought they needed to be saved from Roman rule

              • We may be feeling like we need to be saved from the difficult circumstances we’re currently in (health, finances, school, employment, relationships, government, society, etc.)

              • In many cases we need to be saved from those things, but there is a greater concern we need to be saved from – the darkness of sin in our lives

                • Sin is an age-old problem that every generation and every individual has been enslaved to since the fall of Adam and Eve

                • Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

                • We are born with a desire to have our own way

                • It is not a condition that only certain people struggle with – it’s a condition that all humanity struggles with

                • Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

                • God knew from the beginning of time that we would reject Him and go our own way – we would choose to be separated from Him

                • That is what we earn or deserve for our sin – ​​ for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

                • Since God knew we would choose to reject Him, He already had a plan in place to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives

                • He was waiting for just the right time

                  • Romans 5:6, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

                  • Galatians 4:4-7, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons. ​​ Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ​​ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

                • God’s plan was to send Jesus from heaven to earth, grow up to be a man, live a perfect life, die on a cross to take our punishment for sin, be buried, and come alive again on the third day, conquering sin and death

                • Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Jesus fulfilled God’s plan that was prophesied by Old Testament prophets – He died, was buried, and came alive again in three days

              • Romans 10:9-10, 13, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ​​ For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved . . . for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

                • You have to admit that you are enslaved to sin

                • You have to be willing to turn from your sin (Repent)

                • You have to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to save you from your sin

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus, confess that with my mouth, and be saved from the darkness of sin in my life.

              • When you make that decision to be saved from your sins, you are connected with millions of other believers around the world

              • The good news of great joy wasn’t just for the shepherds, the Israelites, Americans, or all Christians

              • The good news is for the whole world (everyone), regardless of borders, governments, nationalities, races, or socio-economic levels

          • The shepherds connected with those in Bethlehem and shared the good news about Jesus

        • The response of those they told was amazement!

        • There is one more aspect of joy that we need to investigate

    • Joy and Worship (v. 20)

        • Questions

          • What is our response to joy?

          • What do we do when joy interrupts our everyday lives and sets up camp alongside our fears and pain?

          • How do we live in the balance of joy and pain/fear until Jesus comes again?

          • How do we foster and experience this joy that is offered to us?

        • Feelings about joy

          • Sometimes it’s easy to embrace joy

          • Sometimes our struggles and hurts are so overwhelming that we are trapped and bound by our fear

          • Joy can feel so far away, so distant, maybe even impossible

        • The Bible shows us that the appropriate response to joy is always worship

          • It is even possible that worship can jump-start joy as we fix our eyes on God and His greater reality and plan rather than on our immediate problems or the fears we are facing at the moment

          • In the Christmas story we see the response to joy from three different groups

            • The angels, Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

            • The shepherds, The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

            • The wise men, 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. (Matthew 2:10-11)

          • All of creation rejoices and worships the Lord

            • Psalm 96:11-13, Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. ​​ Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.

            • Isaiah 55:12, You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

        • Application

          • We can experience the same kind of joy that causes us to worship this Advent season

            • Peter told us our walk of faith in Jesus brings us a sense of joy

            • 1 Peter 1:8-9, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

            • When we change our focus from the fear and pain we are currently experiencing and focus on eternity, we begin to realize that what we going through may not be that bad – it gives us perspective

            • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ​​ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. ​​ For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

          • We have a choice

            • We can wallow in self-pity, fear, and pain

            • Or, we can change our perspective and focus, by worshiping God in the fear and pain

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Focus on the unseen by worshiping God in the middle of my fear and pain as a way to jump-start joy in my life.

 

  • YOU

    • Not experiencing joy in your life

        • The brokenness of our fallen world stands at odds with Christ’s joy

        • We straddle the tension between our physical and spiritual realities

        • While we talk about the angels, shepherds, and wise men worshiping God, because of Jesus’ birth, it may be a very difficult and lonely time for many of us

        • What can we do when we find ourselves in that position?

          • First, take the time to connect with others – joy can be contagious (this room is a great place to start if you need to find someone to listen, to pray, and to worship)

          • Second, take time and make a choice to be purposefully thankful (gratitude has a way of reminding us of joy and the reasons we have to rejoice even in the midst of pain – even make a list so you can refer back to it when you’re experiencing fear and pain)

          • Third, let’s worship God for who He is! (we can worship God for who He is, because His eternal love and faithfulness never change and His goodness and mercy never run out)

    • Experiencing joy in your life

        • Make yourself available for those who are struggling this Christmas season

        • Practical ways

          • We will be taking up a love offering during the closing song this morning for a family in the church who is struggling financially

          • There are many individuals within our church and even outside our church who are lonely and would welcome a visit (we can recommend individuals to you)

          • There are individuals who just need someone to pray with them and encourage them

 ​​ ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_4_-_Joy_English_Version”

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