Merry & Bright
A Christmas Sermon Series
“Why Should A Weary World Rejoice?”
Have you ever planned an event, or a trip, a vacation and everything that was planned just seemed to fall apart but you look back you remember it with fond memories.
When Joshua and Caleb were only a few months old, Kimberly and I and the boys and I had to fly home for a family emergency. We went from BWI to Atlanta and then to Columbus GA. Because of a snow storm we were stuck in Atlanta, all the flights were delayed, delayed and then delayed again until we found ourselves at two in the morning trying to figure out what to do. God put a lady in our “customer service” line that looked at us with two small infants in those front packs who gave us a free hotel nights stay and a food voucher for the airport.
We were not able to get any of our luggage but by three am we were in our room rationing diapers, brushing our teeth with a hotel toothbrush and trying to sleep. We had to up at 6am to catch the first flight to Columbus.
When we were ready we made our way to the front lobby of the hotel, where all the other people whose flights had been delayed were also trying to make their flights – and there was only one airport shuttle trying to make mad dashed to the airport and back to the hotel. Well there was a young woman who worked at the hotel, who was getting off of the evening shift who came up to us (with our two infants in front carriers) and asked us to follow her out – she leaned over and said, “I’ll getting off of work, I can run you the airport.”
What a trip. These were extreme inconveniencies but there were also moments of grace where God provided and got us to where we needed to be at the time we needed to be there. As hard as that trip was for us, it is nothing in comparison to the trip that we are going to look at today.
I have found that God seems to work best when we are inconvenienced and find ourselves being “put out” and blown through a course of events that we would call miserable. In those times we must look for what God is doing. He may be putting us in a position to minister to others or to teach us an invaluable lesson – like He will take our misery and cause us to rejoice.
Prayer – Lord, we are a weary people living in a weary world. We need to experience your encouragement, your joy, and your refreshment. We pray that you turn our mourning into praise, our weariness into strength, and our sadness into rejoicing. Help us to experience the Christmas story anew this Christmas season.
Rejoice Because He is the Lord of Interruptions (vv. 1-5)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
By giving the specifics of the name of the Emperor and other names he is showing that God’s plan for mankind is not just related to the Jewish people but that all of mankind (the Roman world) plays a part in the salvation story.
God is not just the God of people of the Old Testament; He is also sovereign and works through all of history to lay out his plan. Without going into too much Roman history, God worked behind the scenes to bring to power a man who would usher a long period of peace (the Pax Romana) in the Roman world. It was during this time of peace that Jesus was born and lived his life.
(v. 1) “a decree” is an imperial edict (Acts 17:7). The decree was for tax purposes. Registration required a personal appearance at one’s principal place of residence. But for the Jews “Own town” means one’s ancestral home. Since Joseph and Mary both were of the lineage of David, they were required to go to Bethlehem.
“From …Nazareth … to Bethlehem” This would entail a trip of eighty-five to ninety miles if they went through Samaria, the trip would have included mountainous and rough terrain.
Sometimes God uses the bad things to allow some of the most wonderful events happen. God used taxes to bring about Jesus’ birth. Taxes brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
God used the interruption of an imperial decree in the lives of Mary and Joseph to bring about the fulfillment of Scripture. The Messiah or The Deliverer was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem means “house of bread” and now the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) was about to be born there.
I am sure that Mary and Joseph were bothered about Mary having to travel as she was “great with child” and then the challenge of the journey itself, and then the constant reminder that Mary could deliver at any time. Rejoice when you encounter hard times because God is the Lord of interruptions.
Rejoice Because He is the Lord of Time (v. 6)
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
When Kimberly and I took the first round of prenatal classes, I had planned to pack her bag for the hospital. But it was one of those things that you think you have 9 months to do, so you put it off. Well, she was sitting on the coach, a friend of ours, had stopped by our house to drop something off and I was watching TV. Suddenly Kim jumps up and says “my water just broke!”
It was time for the babies to be born. We ran around, I was thinking, “now what?” and our friend said “you’ve got to go to the hospital.” So off we went.
I can imagine Mary on the journey; all that bumping, walking, and riding for the whole trip. Then trying to find a place for the night. In the middle of all that, Mary turns to Joseph and says “it’s time” and Joseph thinks “now what?”
Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly hopeless and desperate situation and you ask yourself “now what?” It may be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a sudden illness, the mortgage payment is coming and there doesn’t seen to be any money left, a child who is making some bad decisions, – and you simply don’t know what to do, where to turn. The answer is to turn to God, because He is the Lord of time.
We see only the moment, only the immediate situation – As Lord of time, he sees all of eternity, all of time, and knows how it is all going to turn out – in the end He gets the glory, and we get to grow through the process.
Why would God allow the King of Kings and Lord of Lord to be born then? Why not wait until they were close to a palace or a nice home? Galatians 4:4-5 says “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
In God’s timetable, when the exact religious, cultural, and political conditions demanded by His perfect plan were in place, Jesus came into the world. There are several reason for Mary delivering when she did. I want to give you five reasons to set the stage for Jesus’ birth:
The Language: Alexander the Great conquered his known world. This military conquest led to a cultural conquest. The Greek culture and language spread through the world and in the process it was altered by contact with other cultures; this new mixture of cultures is called Hellenism.
So the people of the world were given a common tongue by which to trade and exchange. This new language is called Koine Greek. Through one language the gospel could spread rapidly.
God united a large part of the world with a common method of communication, a trade language. By the time of Jesus, the Greek language was on the lips and hearts of the “known” world, which is why the NT is written in Koine. The first missionaries evangelized in Greek because the masses knew what they were talking about.
Pax Romana: In world history up to the birth of Jesus there had been many different types of empires. The Egyptians had already had thirty different dynasties by the time of Christ although only a handful of those were actually imperial or world-ruling. The Babylonians owned a large chunk of the world at least twice.
The Assyrians had a major empire. The Persians, the Greeks, and now the Romans all had mega-kingdoms. Archaeologists continue to discover empires that have been completely wiped out and forgotten such as the Hittites.
The king of kings rules over the lesser kings and receives tribute or taxes. The Roman title for the king of kings was Caesar or Lord. The Romans had twelve Caesars. Caesar Augustus was the first and the greatest of all the Caesars.
He helped bring in the famous Pax Romana or peace over the world. His government brought law and order to a crime infested world. It was during the reign of Augustus when Jesus was born. The world was looking for a great king to come. It received a great political king, but crucified the messianic king. Jesus was born at the right time of the Pax Romana.
The Land: Among the architectural achievements of the Roman government, the building of roads and highways was a major achievement. The Romans had connected the world through roads and highways that exist to this day. At the time of Christ the world experienced the revolution of roads. The roads allowed the gospel to travel quickly to distant lands.
The Temple: The temple was crucial to the times. Solomon’s temple was built about 900 B.C., but had been plundered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Initially, the second temple was built with less money and effort. The rebuilding started in 520 B.C.E.
The old men cried when they saw it and compared it to Solomon’s temple. Later, just before Jesus was born, Herod the Great would repair and rebuild on the temple making it a breathtaking sight. Herod did a tremendous amount of building all over Israel. He made extraordinary improvements to the temple. At the time of Jesus there was a beautiful temple building. Sacrifices were being made daily.
The blood of bulls, goats, lambs, and birds were regularly flowing from the open veins and arteries of the animals and then sprinkled onto the holy altars. From the altar area the amount of blood was so great it was drained by plumbing pipes into the Kidron River valley.
The necessity for atonement by death and blood was very real to the people. Everyone knew that the shedding of blood was necessary for spiritual cleansing. The time was ripe for the messiah’s blood to be shed.
God’s Love: At the fullness of time God sent his son into the world. Under the conditions described above we can see the hand of God working in the detail of time and history. But the entire purpose of God was not to bedazzle us with his providential power and planning.
His principal purpose was to demonstrate his love for us in Christ. God sent his son into the world. John 3:16 describes the magnitude and the meaning of God’s love. He loved us so much he sent his son to die for us. He loved us so much that he did not want anyone of us to die for our own sin in hell forever.
He wanted to free us from our sin and turn us loose in heaven forever. After we experience God’s saving love through the Lord Jesus, he wants us to live our life based on love for him. We are now set free from the power and penalty of sin and are free to live for him not out of fear or condemnation but out of pure love.
We obey because of the love in our heart for God and not because of the compulsion of rule or a quest to live a perfect life. The timing of the birth and death of Jesus was perfect. Now what about your life? Isn’t it time you gave your heart to Jesus? Isn’t it time for you to fully trust the hand of God in the detail of your own life?
God sent his son into this world and worked all of these circumstances out for YOU. God sent his son into this world because he loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.