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Notes on Message preached 13 December 2009 at PCF:
“The Day God Came”
The narrative so far in Luke’s gospel has been providing us the background of the main event – the birth of Jesus. Today we look at the event itself, the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God, in Luke 2 v 1-20.
We will look at it under four headings
- 1. The Background to the Event
- 2. The Facts of the Matter
- 3. The Announcement of the News
- 4. The Response to the Event
1. The Background to the event
a)The Story So Far
So far in Luke we have witnessed the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and seen how his birth came about. We have also seen the announcement of the birth of Jesus by Gabriel to Mary, the virgin in Nazareth and we have seen how Mary immediately travelled to Judea for support from her cousin, Elizabeth. She returns to Nazareth built up, encouraged and edified, having probably witnessed the birth of John the Baptist and maybe being present at the prophetic utterance made by his father.
Matthew 1 v 18-24 picks up the story
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d]—which means, “God with us.”
24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
b) A Shocking Discovery.
We are not told by Luke, but Matthew tells us of the shocking discovery that Mary was pregnant. It is hard to imagine that there was anyone who would have sympathised with her. This was the ultimate shame on her and on her family. Strict observance of the law meant she would be stoned to death.
Did Mary protest her innocence or did she wait calmly for God to vindicate her? We can not know, but Joseph certainly had no thought of her innocence when he took his decision. What a terrible time this must have been for the couple and their families!
c) A Righteous Decision
Joseph had a decision to make and Matthew records that as a righteous man he decided to divorce her quietly. He could not overlook what he assumed to be the sin that Mary had committed. On the other hand neither did he want to see the woman he loved put into public disgrace. So he took the righteous decision.
It is interesting to note here that the decision that Joseph has taken turns out to be the wrong on – even though he makes it out of righteousness. It teaches us that God is more interested in us making righteous decisions than right ones! God is well able to help when we make wrong decisions – as he does here.
d) A Gracious intervention
The agony that separates Mary from Joseph proves to be short-lived, as God graciously intervenes to show Joseph what he must do. From that moment on Mary is no longer on her own
e) The Cost of Serving the Lord
It is worth stopping here and briefly reflecting on the cost that both Mary and Joseph had to pay for the privilege of serving the Lord. Are we willing to serve the Lord, no matter what the cost?
2. The Facts of the Matter
a) A Historical Record
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirkiness was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Note the matter of fact way in which Luke records the events of the birth of Jesus. It reads like a report in a newspaper. Why? Luke, the detailed meticulous researcher gives us facts, figures dates and names because he wants us to know that these events are rooted in history. They are not sentimental stories for children – these are historical facts. You can be sure that your faith is rooted in fact – not make-believe!
b) The Sovereignty of God
Note how God manipulates the most powerful men in the world for his own purposes. God’s Son had to be born in Bethlehem, and only a miracle could cause it to happen. This is exactly what we get! There is nothing that God will not do to bring his word into being!
c) A Lowly Birth
Jesus life started as it continued. Rejected from the very first moment (“no room at the inn”) and born into utter squalor, put in a place where animals had their meals. It is hard to imagine a more inauspicious start for the Saviour of the world. It is certainly true that Jesus shared in our humanity. And although Luke does not mention it – we also know that Jesus spent the first years of his life as a political refugee before returning to Nazareth. We have a high priest who shared in our weakness!
3. The Announcement of the News
a) Shepherds in the Fields
Never was a birth announced in this way! God decided to start the process of sharing with the world the great news that his salvation had arrived. And He did it by sending his messenger not to wise people, rulers or princes – but to the very lowest rung of society. Jesus is the saviour of all men and women!
b) Joy for All People
The news is one announced as joy for all people. At last a way had come for people to know their creator – and not just a small select band, but anyone who would respond to God’s message.
c) Glory to God
The message is one that brings honour the One who devised this amazing plan of salvation from the start.
d) Peace to Men
The message of peace to the human race is one of peace between God and Man – between whom enmity had existed since the days of Eden.
e) God’s favour
The angel brings a message of God’s favour. God has suspended his judgement against sin for a time to enable men to respond to the gospel of his mercy. Now is the day of God’s favour –we have to ensure that everyone has the chance to take hold of it!
4. The response to the News
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
a) See for Yourself
After the angels leave the shepherds respond by choosing to see for themselves. Is that our response to hearing the gospel. It is one thing to hear the news – it is quite another to decide to see for ourselves. If you are hearing about Jesus for the first time – see for yourself what he can do for you
b) Tell everyone.
After the shepherds had seen for themselves, the y became the first Christian evangelists. They could not keep it to themselves and they evidently created a real buzz amongst the townspeople. Do those around us know that something amazing has happened in our lives?
c) Treasure things in your heart.
Several times we read that Mary did this. What amazing things had happened to her as she said “yes” to God. Do we ponder and store up in our hearts what God says to us and does with us day by day? As we ponder this amazing story are we storing up the riches that God shows us in our hearts?
d) Glorify and Praise God.
We read that the shepherds returned to their ordinary lifestyle – but they were never the same again! They were now glorifying and praising God for what they had seen. Are we? If we have seen the miracle of Jesus birth for ourselves how can we not praise God for the wonders of his salvation? If we did not praise the rocks would cry out!
Suggested Questions for Discussion
- What challenges did Mary and Joseph face between the announcement of the birth of Jesus by Gabriel, and the visit of the shepherds? How did they cope with them? And how did God help them?
- What do the circumstances of Jesus birth have to say to us?
- What is the significance of the announcement of the birth of Jesus being made to shepherds?
- How did the shepherds respond to the birth of Jesus? And how should we respond?
- Mary treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart. What is about about the story of the incarnation that most speaks to you that you will be treasuring up and pondering?