Christmas Stories: Christmas Sermon Series
The Wise Men’s Story
The guiding light of the star was a point of reference for the searching Magi. It pointed the way and helped them to navigate to the destination of their journey. In our contemporary society, what will be our spiritual point of reference? Which star will those who continue to search follow?
This morning we are going to see that those who seek God will find Him, He will make a way for them to come to know Him. This morning we answer the question, “How Do We Find God?” Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
Look For God While He Can Be Found (vv. 1-2)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
“The main purpose is to show the reception given by the world to the new-born Messianic-King. Homage from afar, hostility at home; foreshadowing the fortunes of the new faith; reception by the Gentiles, rejection by the Jews.”
God, in His mercy, wanted the world to know Jesus and He wanted the world to know how to find him. Today we see that there were men (Magi) who were seeking God, they looked for truth beyond the clouds and observed the stars, and the stars pointed the way to “king of the Jews.”
It is not explained to us, but this group of “wise men from the east,” were watching the skies for a sign, they knew that a God king had been born, and they were desiring to worship Him. But, When we look at the OT and see where God’s people were carried off into captivity (Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc.) because of their sin, we think to ourselves, what a waste. But God’s people would have taken their copies of Scripture with them – forced missionaries are still missionaries.
Romans 1 also tells us that mankind can easily become so focused on the creation and not think that it points to creator Himself. He knew that the world was consumed with the worship of the stars, and looking to them for guidance. So as the creator of the stars, He moved them to get mankind’s attention.
Today we would call this a miracle, where the normal way the universe works, is superseded by the all-powerful hand of God. He guided a star that men were looking to, and moved the star over to the one who would give them what they truly were looking for.
Moses when he was in the desert, was keeping his sheep and as he was going along a path he saw a strange sight. It was a bush that was on fire, yet feeling the heat and seeing the light – the leaves did not burn, it was not damaged in any way. So Moses was intrigued and went to take a look – and there on that spot God spoke to Him. Moses’ life changed forever that day.
It makes sense that a king would be found in a palace. But we are going to see that this king Messiah, Savior, is different than anyone had expected. He will constantly turn everything upside down. Also, there is a false king, sitting on the throne, where the true king should be sitting – but that will be made right.
Not much is known about the Magi other than they were a group of men who were seeking truth, knowledge, and God. They had a belief system that mingled astrology with astronomy; religion with science. Myth with Mystery. They had heard of stories of a special king who would come.
These men were not followers of Christ, but they were seeking something. They were looking for something to fill the vacuum in their lives that science, myth, religion, and riches could not.
This morning if you are here searching for truth, and wanting more than you have ever experienced to fill the void in your soul let me point you to the light that God sent to the world – His name is Jesus, and God moved heaven and earth so that you could meet Him.
Look For Him No Matter Where it Leads (vv. 3-8)
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
The priests and teachers give a paraphrase of an Old Testament reference (Micah 5:2) for where the Messiah, the promised king, the Savior would come from. This prophecy gives the town of Bethlehem, but there is something special about Bethlehem. It was despised and thought very lowly of.
But the priests and teachers of the law add “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; What was once thought lowly of, now is a city of honor and love. The Savior of mankind was born in Bethlehem.
I don’t know what people think about you, I don’t know what your reputation is, I don’t know what you even think about yourself. But when Jesus comes into your life – all that changes. You are by no means least among people. You become a child of the king, you become forgiven of sin, you get to start over.
Now the priests and teachers could have stopped at (v. 6) “. . . rulers of Judah,” but they went on to say, (v. 6) “for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Herod was not a shepherd. A good shepherd guided the sheep with gentleness and love. A Shepherd was willing to sacrifice his own life for the sheep. A shepherd fought off wild animals that would divide and hurt the flock. This genuine king of the Jews would rule, as a king should – as a shepherd.
Herod taxed and worked the people heavily. When the people discovered that the Magi were seeking the true king of the Jews, it says, “[Herod] was troubled (disturbed), and all Jerusalem with him.” The people were terrified of Herod. There is only one way to make sure that no one challenges Herod’s rule – kill all of them.
This is why Herod asks the Magi secretly when did they see the star. If they saw it two years ago – then kill every male child two and under. It was done secretly so that none would escape.
The star is moving all throughout the story. It moved or shown to get the Magi’s attention. It moved from the palace to the house where Jesus was – but why did God direct the star to stop at Herod’s palace? Why not just direct them straight to the house?
Herod has to come into the story. Herod is an evil king. He killed wives, children, advisors – anyone, at any time that he viewed as being competition – he killed. The Ceasar Augustus gave a famous line that he would rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son – he would live longer. The birth of Jesus exposed Herod as a counterfeit king of God’s people.
There are two people who are being called “King of the Jews,” one was placed over the government by man (Rome), and the other was placed on earth as king by God.
God has to show that His son Jesus is the true, “King of the Jews.” What we see with the birth of Jesus is a radical change from how things were done. God stops the star over the Jerusalem palace and the house with Jesus because you have to choose one or the other.
Jesus’ birth sparked a time of turning the world on it’s head – which king should we follow? Which god/God should we bow down to? Jesus’ life directly challenges the powers of this world. Jesus’ birth forces the world to make a choice. You either have passionate love Him or have passionate disdain for Him. If you are somewhere in the middle, then you don’t understand what the gospels are saying.
The star did not stop half way between the palace and the house, it did not say to the Magi – “this is the stop for you guys who want to hang out between the false king, and the real king – this is a safe spot in case you are wrong.” You can live a life that is pleasing to the world and to God – you don’t have to choose – just stay in the middle.
Two kingdoms war against each other on earth. One is led by Herods and Caesars; the other by Jesus Christ. One is built on war, oppression, power, self-interest, and control; the other on love, faith, hope, freedom, grace, compassion, and truth. One demanded sacrifice; the other offered it in our place.
Jesus’ birth demands that we make a choice between the two kingdoms. Christmas is more than buying and getting stuff. It’s more than catching up with family, or sitting next to a warm fire, or decorating your home. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that we get to choose a new king. There is another option to oppression, fear, guilt, and dread. We can choose a king who gives us freedom, love, and forgiveness.
Also notice in (v. 6) “for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people” – “In Hebrews 13:20 Jesus is called “the great shepherd of the sheep.” Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Peter call Christ “the chief shepherd” (1 Peter 2:25). “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd” (Rev. 7:17). Jesus told Peter to “shepherd” the lambs (John 21:16). Our word pastor means shepherd.” Which king will you choose?
Do More Than Just Look (vv. 9-12)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned win a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
When the Magi found what they had been looking for after all this time, there was joy in their heart. There was success in their searching! The Magi at last find the true king, they have two responses. They bowed down before Jesus and worshipped him and they presented him with gifts out of their treasures.
To worship is to “give worth” to something or someone. When a person bows down, they are attributing honor and respect to the person they are bowing before. It shows an attitude of reverence, respect, and humility.
Gifts From the Treasury
A treasury is a place for the storing and keeping of precious and valuable items. Notice it says, “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” They seemed to have lots of things they treasured, even enough to keep in treasure boxes, and upon seeing Jesus they dig through the treasures and present three specific gifts.
If you were to rummage through your treasure box, what would you give to Jesus as a gift? The Magi recognized who Jesus was, with their gifts. Gold for royalty, a priest with incense, and myrrh was an embalming perfume – he would die for the sins of the world. The only thing Jesus truly finds of value is your heart and a recognition of who He is – Our Savior.
These men seem to know and understand who Jesus was – why did they go home? They were warned in a dream of Herod’s wrath – they had to leave. Moses could not stay at the burning bush, Daniel’s three friends couldn’t stay in the fiery furnace, and the Magi could not stay at Jesus’ feet – there always comes a time when we are drawn to Christ, we meet him, and then we are sent off.
In order for the Magi to see the star they have to be looking. In order to see where the star leads they had to follow it – they couldn’t stay in the east and at the same time find the Savior. In order to worship the Savior, they have to bow before Him. In order to determine what to give the true king, they had to know the king.
This morning God has shown you a great light, Jesus, are you interested in following Him. It requires that you bow your heart before Him. Another way to think of this is to realize that you are a sinner “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Also, Recognize that you are separated from God by your sin. “. . . the soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.” Ezekiel 18:4
Realize that the reason Jesus was born on Christmas was to come and die as a sacrifice for our sins. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity (sin) of us all.” Isa. 53:6
If you are interested in receiving this free gift, you can pray this prayer with me: “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose again from the grave to purchase a place in heaven for me. Lord Jesus, come into my life; take control of my life; forgive my sins and save me. I repent of my sins and now place my trust in You for my salvation. I accept the free gift of eternal life.”
 Josephus shows that Herod died in BC 4. He was first Governor of Galilee, but had been king of Judea since BC 40 (by Antony and Octavius).
 Herod “discouraged Messianic hopes, and, now that they have revived in spite of him, he must deal with them, and his first step is to consult the experts in as quiet a way as possible, to ascertain the whereabouts of the new-born child; it is not a historical question he submits to the experts as to where the Christ has been born, or shall be, but a theological one: where, according to the accepted tradition, is His birthplace? Hence present tense.” W. Robertson Nicoll, Editor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Grand Rapids Book Manufacturing, 1967) 71.
 (quoting Bruce) Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 14.
 Robertson, 18.
 Another translation could be “caskets.”
Christmas Stories: Christmas Sermon Series
The Shepherd’s Story
In his 2014 Wall Street Journal bestseller, Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo discusses why Ted Talks are so popular, and why some in particular go viral and others do not. And if I were to give you the cliff notes version, it essentially says, when you present information to an audience tell stories, and how presenters should “master the art of storytelling.” Jesus was a master story teller, and he told stories often (the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, The Sower, etc.)
Today the Shepherds will tell us their story from Luke 2, and how God did something amazing in their presence, and used them for something wonderful. We are also going to discover, that like the shepherds and their story, God desires to show you something amazing today and use you and your story to change the world.
I. God’s Favor Given to Shepherds (vv. 8-14)
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The word “And” signifies for us that there was something that came before this passage. In the preceding verses we see that a census was issued by the Roman emperor, so Mary and Joseph have to travel to their ancestral home, Bethlehem. And upon arriving can find no place to stay except a barn, Jesus was born and laid in a manger.
While Christ’s birth is drawing to a close, angels are dispatched to tell a group of people about this very special child’s birth. This is the most important event that had ever or will ever take place on this planet. The very first people to hear of Christ’s birth were shepherds.
Shepherds did not live in luxurious homes, they did not carry many possessions, and as we find them here often have the few things they can carry and devote themselves to the care of their sheep. On this night, they are awake, and are living outside, and watching their sheep at night against predators, they were “keeping watch over their flock by night.”
What was it about these shepherds that made them worthy of such honor? The answer is found in verse 14, there will be “peace among those with whom he is pleased” God did some awesome things that night just because he wanted to favor some shepherds who were sleeping in a field, watching their sheep. God had it in His heart to favor these men.
There is nothing that indicates they were super-shepherds, or that they had in any way earned or deserved this outpouring of God’s favor – but let’s look at how God favored them.
A. God Sends A Heavenly Messenger
First God sends them a heavenly messenger, and when they see this messenger Luke tells us that they were very afraid. It says an “an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” In just about every instance where an angel appears before a person, they are struck with fear.
B. God Gives A Heavenly Appearing
“and the glory of the Lord shone around them” We see the glory of the Lord in Exodus 16:7,10 where in a cloud the people could look upon His glory and God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat after they had complained.
In Exodus 24:17 God fills the top of Mt. Sinai with smoke and blasts of thunder. It appeared “as a devouring fire.” In Exodus 40:34 the Israelites had completed the Tabernacle and God’s presence entered it and appeared as a cloud, and as pillars of smoke and fire.
If you combine an angel and God’s glory shining around them, what you get is some very scared shepherds – why are they afraid? Because when sinful mankind comes into the presence of a holy God or even His messengers, our sinfulness stands in stark contrast to God’s holiness.
All of our misgivings, flaws, evil deeds – everything is exposed, all of who we truly are is seen by God’s eye, and man’s natural response is to try and hide as best they can, we fall to our face before a consuming fire and close our eyes to try and shut out God’s glory. But there is no place to go.
The shepherds are scared because they know that they are sinful the fear of a holy God causes them to shutter. At this moment, when they are scared to death, the messenger speaks.
C. God Gives A Heavenly Message (vv. 10b-12)
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
He begins by saying don’t be afraid – I bring you some good news. The good news of the gospel, a way is given to them for them to be forgiven of their sin and a way for them to be able to stand before God, not in fear, but in worship and love. The messenger was giving these shepherds the most important news that has ever been told. Not only was this good news for them, the good news is “for all the people.”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” – In the book of 2 Samuel when the prophet Samuel went to anoint a new king for his people God told him to go to Jesse’s house, and it was his youngest son David whose head would be anointed.
David had to be brought in from watching the sheep. Later when appealing to king Saul to allow him to fight Goliath, David gives examples where he had defended his sheep from bear and lion. Not only does Jesus being born in Bethlehem fulfill prophecy, but it also describes to his people what this Christ will be like. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
The Savior would be just like them, except without sin. They were sleeping out in field, Jesus was lying in manger. They were shepherds of sheep, Jesus was the Good Shepherd. They had a humble lifestyle, Jesus emptied himself of glory and became a man, a suffering savior, and was described as having “no place to lay his head.”
Bethlehem was a tiny town, the Savior’s lineage would come through a little shepherd boy named David, and the eventual good news would be given first to a group of unknown shepherds. God delights in pouring His favor on the young, the little, the weak, and the unknown.
“a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” What is a Savior? What are they being saved from? Jesus who would grow in wisdom and stature, would teach as one who had authority, he would perform miracles to prove what He said was true. He would die on a Roman cross and He would rise again three days later – he did all these things as a Savior.
The law shows us that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s requirement to go to heaven. We have all lied, stolen, dishonored our parents, thought lustful thoughts, been angry with someone – any one of these eternally separates us from God – He is holy and we are sinful. And we stand before God guilty of committing sin, and we have no way of getting rid of it.
Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus by dying on the cross saved us by taking the punishment that we deserved.
God tells the shepherds in His grace and mercy how to find this child – who is the Savior of the world. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” This same grace and mercy is held out to us as well, He tells us clearly that this good news is for us as well today – we, like the shepherds, are given clear instructions as to how we can be saved from our sins.
D. A Heavenly Host (vv. 13-14)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
“In heaven God’s glory, on earth God’s peace.” God favors these shepherds by sending a heavenly messenger, shining His glory upon them, giving them the most important message ever given, and then to top it off, a vast number of angels sing a praise and worship song and they have a worship service – right there in the pasture. Good news leads them to praise God.
Mary and Joseph had an angel appear to them on separate occasions, God spoke to Joseph in a dream. But for this unknown group of shepherds, God gives them favor, upon favor, upon favor, upon favor. Blessing, upon blessing. What do you do when God offers such grace, forgiveness, mercy and love?
They knew that they were a sinful bunch, but they had received the good news of God. This morning you too can meet the Savior of the world, he no longer can be found in a manger, because having defeated death, hell, and the Enemy – he sits at the right hand of the Father and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
II. Now What? (vv. 15-20)
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
A. Go and See (v. 15b-16)
Many times we try to define faith and we make too complicated. Faith is simply taking God at His Word. The shepherds had just been given a message – There is a Savior, you can meet Him, Here’s how you will recognize Him. The step of faith for the shepherds was to go to Bethlehem. “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
The step of faith that God requires us to take is not to run to a nearby barn, but Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God offers us forgiveness and salvation as a gift – the step we take is to receive or reject this good news as a gift. (Christmas gift around the tree)
B. Go and Tell (v. 17-18)
There was something within this group of shepherds that told them that they simply could not go back to the pasture to watch the sheep. They knew they had to tell others the good news – they had a story to tell. The town was amazed – but what the Bible doesn’t say is how the town responded. Did they go and see the Christ child? Did anyone who went offer them a place to stay?
C. Treasure and Ponder (v. 19)
Mary had just given birth in a very difficult place to deliver a child. A barn is filthy. Was there clean water? Did they have blankets? Mary would have been exhausted from labor, pushing and the pain of delivery. She would have looked a mess.
Sometimes God takes us through things were all we can is just sit there and take it all in. She had just delivered the Savior of the world. He was healthy and there weren’t any complications. Animals were nearby, shepherds were arriving, soon townspeople would be getting there. Later magi from the east would be arriving.
But you know what? People weren’t coming to see her or Joseph – they were coming to see Jesus. You cannot dress up the gospel – it is what it is. Life is messy, the way God dealt with our sin was messy, ministry often times is messy, life many times is messy. But if we point people to Christ – it really doesn’t matter what we look like.
What if Mary had turned people away – “no you can’t come in right now, Mary is resting.” “no one come into the barn right now, Mary is putting on her makeup.” When people came to the door she only had to point to the manger. Jesus was the main attraction.
Many times we as Christians think it’s all about us, and how we look to the world – as though we must be perfect and put together before the lost, and lonely, and seeking can come in – all we have to do is point to Christ.
This morning I want to invite you to think about your story – he invites all people to enter into a relationship with him. The Bible says that “He wants none to perish.” If you would like to meet the Savior of the world, today, you can say a prayer and invite Him into your life – you can say something like this,
“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins, I now invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as Lord and Savior.” In Jesus’ Name.”
 Protecting them from the lion and the bear, 1 Samuel 17:34-35.
 Herschel Hobbs, An Exposition of The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books, 1972) 53.
My grandfather first introduced me to what it means to be a craftsman. When a person exercises a trade, whether it be carpentry, plumbing, farming – whatever; it is an expression of that person. When the work is done well and in accordance to the accepted standards of the day then that person is a proficient tradesman. But when they exceed expectations and go beyond the accepted standards, to the point of amazement and beauty then they are expressing craftsmanship.
My grandfather was an example of such a person. He would toll away in the extreme southern sun, with its humidity and scorching heat to build or repair something for his family or loved ones. His picnic tables required multiple men to move them, and his decks and houses still stand today even though they are several decades old.
As I approach the fifth decade of my life, I have come to realize that I am a builder at the core of who I am – an echo of my grandfather. But like any builder I can go about my trade according to the acceptable standards or I can seek to bring true beauty into the world through an expression of craftsmanship.
Men in their youth want to be known and recognized for their contributions – older men want to leave something behind, to leave an expression of beauty. Having tipped the scales toward the eternal, I am seeking to build something with a craftsman’s touch, that will stand the test-of-time and demands of life.
The thing about craftsmanship is that what is produced will not fall into the categories of trends, fads, and niches’ – the craftsman’s creations are beautiful in their own way. There are some things, because they are so well made, people will always understand their worth.
As I was writing this post, I stopped to finish a project that went unfinished since my last opportunity to work on projects. As I was screwing in a brass screw the head snapped off because the pilot hole was too small. Not only did I not know how to fix this, I knew it would not end up with a “beautiful” (see above) outcome.
I ended up drilling out the remains of the brass screw and fixed the repair by adding a brass washer to hide my attempts to get the brass screw out. As I went through the process I was once again reminded that I am not a craftsman. I build things, but they never go as planned and rarely do they end up beautiful. My creations may be functional, just as crocs are functional shoes – but never beautiful.
So there I am standing at a workbench between novice and master craftsman trying to build something with my life, looking to people like my grandfather for inspiration and to be some kind of an example for those that follow. Come and build something with me, but don’t stress it probably won’t end up like you think – and that’s ok.