Merry & Bright
A Christmas Sermon Series
“Why Should A Weary World Rejoice?”
Rejoice Because He is the Lord of Interruptions (vv. 1-5)
Rejoice Because He is the Lord of Time (v. 6)
Rejoice Because He is the Lord of Location (v. 7)
“7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
“wrapped him in clothes” was a normal child care method. Other translations say that she wrapped Jesus in “swaddling cloths,” these were strips of cloths used to bind a baby tightly. They sought to keep the limbs of the child straight and it kept the baby from scratching itself in the face.
Luke 23:53 says “Then he (Joseph of Arimathea) took it (the body of Jesus) down (from the cross), wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.” The grave clothes, though tightly bond could not keep the Savior of the world in the ground.
The irony of the most important event in history taking place in a manger should not be lost sight of; it reveals how God elevates the lowly and humble and rejects the proud and mighty of this world.
Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
The manger is believed to be a feeding trough for animals. Yet the Creator and sustainer of all that exists was laid in a dirty, foul smelling, feed trough. If Jesus lived life this way, why should we expect any difference? If we live better than His conditions, it is by the grace and love of God.
This morning you may be struggling with where you are in life. You may ask “why has God brought me here?” You must understand that He has a plan and even when you can’t see His hand, you can trust His heart. This morning we will look at how while Mary and Joseph are in deplorable living conditions for a woman who had just given birth – they have an open house to the world. People from all over began to stop by and see the wonder of all wonders.
Rejoice Because God Loves All People (vv. 8-14)
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
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.
What was it about these shepherds that made them worthy of such honor? Why would God want these guys in His house? The answer is found in verse 14, there will be “peace on earth to all whom God favors” God did some awesome things that night just because he wanted to favor some shepherds who 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.
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 “angel of the Lord appeared to them.” In just about ever instance where an angel appears before a person, they are struck with fear.
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.
God Gives A Heavenly Message (vv. 10b-12)
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in 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.”
“in the town of David a Savior has been born to you” – 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 as the Good Shepherd shepherded souls. 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 has been born” 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 “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.” 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. “12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in 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.
A Heavenly Host (vv. 13-14)
“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors”
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.
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.
In this life we will always have to deal with an imperfect world where everything doesn’t go our way or as we had planned. But we must understand that God is sovereign and his plans are always carried out and accomplished perfectly.
If we had to tell the story of God’s birth on earth – it happened in a palace, not in a stable. He would be wrapped in the most expensive and beautiful cloth, not in mere rags. He would be surrounded by servants, not animals and shepherds. People would bow to him, and he surly would not be hunted.
Thank God our plans don’t work out, but Praise Him that his do.
This morning there is no better time for you to discover the path that He has for you and to discover the plans He has for you. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
God’s first step in you following God is to accept His Son Jesus and the gift of his death on the cross. He was born on Christmas Day to die for us. He did it as the only way for us to be forgiven of our sins. His innocent blood had to be spilt.
I want you to think back over your life. What events has God worked out to get you here this morning? What people has He brought across your path to tell you about His son?
God moved heaven and earth for you. Jesus traveled from the throne room of heaven to the trough of animals to save us from our sins. Don’t tell him this morning that there is no room for Him in your life. What are you going to do with Jesus’ gift? Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There are only two options; receive the gift or reject the gift.
If you are a believer this morning, allow God to have more of you. Allow God to use the interruptions, your time, and your home as a place to bring Him glory.