Sunday, December 13, 2009

Luke 2:8-20 - What Child is this?

Opening thought
These days, it's impossible to celebrate Christmas without expressing your opinion about the holiday and the fact that it is, after all, still called Christmas.

If you're Bill O'Reilly, it's a chance to scream, “Merry Clinched-Fist Christmas! Do you hear me? That's the word Christmas, with ‘Christ’ right there in the middle of it! That's what you're supposed to say!”

If you’re Sarah Palin, it’s your chance to let everyone know that you’ve already taken care of all that liberal, secular Santa Claus business for everybody. You just got Rudolph mounted. Yep, took him down within sight of Russia.

If you’re a big box retailer this year, it’s your chance to respond to all the now worn-out Christmas hype. Have you noticed how their in-store signage and red shopping bags are printed with “Merry Christmas,” in environmentally green ink. No more of that spineless “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.” They want you to know they’re in the holiday spirit, so you’ll come across with some of your own green ink, environmental or plastic, so that they’ll have some holiday spirit themselves.

If you're a super-religious type, it's a chance to “Praise Him Who Is Born This Day! If we would just Praise Him Who Is Born This Day in Bethlehem, we wouldn't be so focused on shopping!” (Too bad he wasn’t actually born on December 25.)

If you're an atheist, it's a chance to scream, “Get your superstitious symbols out of my face! (I’ve always wondered: Do atheists exchange gifts at Christmas, or at Darwin's Birthday?)

If you're a pop-culture religion writer for the News & Observer, Christmas is when you say, “No way she was a virgin; the whole Wise Men and star business is kind of out there, if you intend the pun; those shepherds are only out in the fields between March and November; and we're not so sure about Bethlehem either.”

If you're a theologian, it's a chance to debate whether there is a historical or theological possibility that He was born at the winter solstice, whether there really was a census when Quirinius was governor of Syria, and whether the Virgin Birth is just a borrowing from pagan literature.

If you're one of those fear-stricken moralists, Christmas is a time for you to rail against Santa Claus, Demon Materialism, and the end-time danger of using those anti-Christ 666 credit cards, to say, “Christmas is just a pagan holiday. It’s your chance to quote again with moral impunity that Jeremiah 10:3-4 plainly says not to cut a tree in the forest and adorn it with silver and gold, and December 25 is the pagan festival of Saturnalia anyway.” (Never mind you just put $1000 on your VISA for Christmas gifts including that awesome new artificial from Lowe’s with the lights already blinking on it.)

And if you are politically-correct, this is the time of year when you can say, “Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.”

Can we just say, “Merry Christmas?”

Won’t someone just let us celebrate Christmas? Can we get away from the hype about the hype of Christmas and just worship the Child King? To worship the Christ Child? To enjoy family? To forget about our cares for a day and play on the floor with the grandkids? To enjoy a good meal? To enjoy giving gifts to one another and seeing our loved ones happy?

That’s what happened in the familiar passage today. It was simple. It was glorious. It was all about Jesus.

Pray and Read:  Luke 2:8-20

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 2:8-20 to demonstrate the glory of the news of Christ’s birth, the glory of the Christ Child, and the glory of the joy of Christ.

Key Application: Today I want to show you that the glory of Jesus and His birth is what is important at Christmas.

Sermon Points:
  1. The news is glorious (Luke 2:8-14).
  2. The child is glorious (Luke 2:15-16).
  3. The joy is glorious (Luke 2:17-20)

Exposition:   Jesus’ birth is important because,


a.   What a birth announcement! A multitude of angels!
b.   Notice the use of the word glory throughout this passage. It’s the word δόξα, the same word from which we get the term doxology, meaning a word of praise.
c.   “I bring you good news of great joy” is literally, “I evangelize to you with great joy.”

d.   If you're a local TV news anchor, Christmas is a chance to talk about “those less fortunate” and the Holiday Spirit. The best one recently is about drive-through Starbucks in places like Nashville, TN, Palm Desert, CA, and Fort Lauderdale where a patron arrives at the window and says, "I want to pay for my coffee and also the coffee of the person in the car behind me"–even though he didn't know the person in the next car. And then the next person did the same thing for the car behind him, and so on and so on, and the chain was unbroken for 200 cars, and all the Starbucks employees were misty-eyed about the people who ordered $34 worth of coffee and found out it was paid for, even though the person in front of them only got a tall latte with sprinkles. And this was all presented as a story about The Christmas Spirit.[1]

e.   APPLICATION: This Christmas, forget the silly Starbucks stories and pseudo-spirituality and focus on the good news of Jesus’ birth.

f.    The problem is, for many of us, it hasn’t been very easy to get into the Christmas spirit this year. You had a hard time getting all those decorations up this time for some reason. You still haven’t finished buying for all those you have to buy for, because honestly there isn’t much to buy with. It would be nice if you had enough to stop at Starbucks for yourself once, much less somebody else. You’ve cut out a lot and trimmed down your gift list. You wonder how business will go next year. You wonder if you’ll have a business or job next year. You’re worried. You’re becoming a slave to fear. You’re getting your focus off the Child who provides for it all. You trust him for your salvation. Why wouldn’t you trust him in something as relatively insignificant as to provide for your family?

g.   Worship this Child! Worship the Virgin Born Child! If he had not been born of a virgin, the sacrifice He made on the cross would be suspect, and your future would not be sure. If you are in Christ, that future is secure because of the good news of His birth. Worship His gift to you of the Christ Child. Focus on Christ. Focus on your family. Focus on your grandkids. Focus on what might be that last Christmas with your grandfather. Focus on things that matter this Christmas.

2.   THE CHILD IS GLORIOUS (2:15-16).
a.   Ben Witherington: The angel emphasizes that the savior is born “to you,” the shepherds—that is, to the least, the last and the lost. The angel tells the shepherds that they will find the baby swaddled in strips of cloth and lying in a corncrib. This he offers as a “sign” or proof that he is telling the truth about the birth of the savior. The savior language used by the angel in addressing the shepherds draws on the rhetoric of the imperial cult in Luke’s day. Throughout the empire, boastful inscriptions celebrated the birth of the emperor who had “pacified” the entire region around the Mediterranean. Caesar is described as a god walking upon the earth in the flesh. In his gospel, Luke is using this same language, portraying the Jewish infant of humble origins, Jesus, as the real savior, the real Lord whose coming will bring peace on earth—compared to the Emperor Augustus, who is just a pretender or counterfeit.[2]

b.   It is simply a child. It is simply a feed trough. It is simply a tired family. He is simply the Glorious Child. Except for the migrant shepherds who were viewed with the same suspicion we today put on migrant workers, his glorious birth was unnoticed. Unnoticed by people worried about complying with government regulations to get to their census town on time. Worried about paying their taxes. How much would they be assessed? Worried, harried, when a child was there, a glorious child who would take away the sin of the world.

c.   APPLICATION: Worried about how long it’s going to take to pay off this Christmas? Worried about tax season coming right behind it? Worried if you’ll have a business this time next year? Worried that this might be your last healthy Christmas? Worry is based in fear, and fear will cripple you. This Christmas, let me encourage you to let the simple joy of the Christ Child be your glory. Let him be your focus. Let Him be your simple strength.

3.   THE JOY IS GLORIOUS (Luke 2:17-20:11-12)

a.   Christmas–even on the wrong day, even with the wrong stories surrounding it, even with a lot of pagan ritual attached to it–celebrates the entering into the world of the person who changed the world forever. From that time forward religion transformed into a relationship with Jesus Christ that is important enough to share with the whole world. But this Child? Who is this Child? What is this Child?

What Child is this who so impacted history that the calendar of time itself is dissected by His birth?

To the atom, He is fusion, for by Him all matter is held together.

To horticulture, He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley.

To the animal kingdom, He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God.

To astronomy, He is the Star of the Morning and the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings.

What Child is this?

To politics, He is the King of Kings and Lord Sovereign.

To education, He is the beginning of wisdom and Truth Incarnate.

To health care, He is the Great Physician and Great Reformer.

To business, He is the Sole Proprietor and Chief Executive Officer.

To the courts, He is the Ancient of Days, the Judge of the Great White Throne.

To theology, He is the Perfect Substitutionary Atonement and the Great I AM,

What Child is this?

To the seeker, He's the Way;
to the philosopher, He’s the Truth;
to the penitent, He’s the Life.

He is Joshua's captain,
He is Moses' smitten rock,
He is Ruth’s Kinsman Redeemer,

What Child is this?

He is David’s Covenant King,
He is Esther’s Intercessor-Advocate,
He is Nehemiah’s Restorer,
He is Job’s Redeemer,

What Child is this?

He is Isaiah’s majestic sovereign,
He is Jeremiah’s Hope and Portion,
He is Ezekiel’s Resurrection,
He is Daniel’s Prince of Princes,

What Child is this?

He is Hosea’s Faithful Husband,
He is Obadiah’s Avenger and Deliverer,
He is Habakkuk’s Glorious Answer,
He is Zechariah’s Soon Coming King,

What Child is this?

He is Matthew’s Messiah,
He is Paul's blinding vision,
He is James’ Righteous Work,
He is John’s revelation, Consummation, and Triumphant Warrior King.

What Child is this?

He’s the poet's greatest theme,
He’s the composer’s sweetest music,
He’s the sinner's dearest friend.

What Child is this?

He’s the healer of broken hearts,
He’s the mender of broken friendships,
He’s the restorer of broken dreams.

What Child is This?

To the weary, He is wonderful;
to the confused, He is the counselor;
to the weak, He is the mighty God;
to the orphaned, He is the everlasting Father;
to the desperate, He is the Prince of Peace.

What Child is this?

In His life, He is humanity’s only perfection,
in His death, He is humanity’s only Savior,
in His resurrection, He is humanity’s only hope.

What Child is this?

He is Jesus, God's love gift to you.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

  1. Everything we could know about God was revealed entirely in Christ, not within a temple or on a mountaintop, but in a poor, cramped, corncrib in a feed trough with two exhausted young parents. And it was pure glory. Jesus turned the world upside down without a front page headline or a Facebook update or an interview with Glenn Beck.[3]

  1. He brought glorious joy – “Good tidings of great joy,” and it was for all people. Did you hear that? “All people.” This is a missionary Child. For every nation, tribe, tongue, and language. Joy to the world. The message of Christ is called Good News of Great Joy.

  1. APPLICATION: Christmas is about joy. The Joy of the World. If you can lift yourself above the self-exalting yakity yak and let the simple, glorious joy of the Christ Child fill you, you will have found the secret of Christmas, the secret of contentment in the midst of all the financial fear, of all the running around, the secret of Life to the Full.

Invitation: Today I want to give you an opportunity to respond to the joy of Christ. The next time He comes, it won’t be as a Baby in a Manger. He will be coming to take over, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. What a precious time to give your life to Christ as at Christmas. Won’t you do that?