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Christmas through the Eyes of the Willing

Christmas through the Eyes of the Willing

Dec 11, 2016

Passage:Matthew 2:1-11

Preacher: John Welborn

Series: Christmas from the Outside Looking In

Detail:

Christmas from the Outside Looking In

Christmas through the Eyes of the Willing

Matthew 2:1-11, Luke 2:8-20

 

Intro: In a church Christmas pageant, there was a boy who was devastated when he wasn’t given the leading role of Joseph. He was cast, instead, in the minor role of the innkeeper. For weeks, he plotted how he would steal the show from the bit part he currently played. On opening night, a pregnant Mary, with her husband Joseph showed up asking for a place to stay for the night. The little boy saw his chance, the little boy flung the door wide open and replied, “Come on in, you will have the best room in the hotel!” There was an awkward pause, as everybody on stage, backstage and in the audience knew this wasn’t right. The kid playing Joseph thought for a moment and said, “Hold on Mary, I’ll take a look inside first.” He peered past the innkeeper and shook his head firmly while announcing; “I’m not taking my wife into a place like that. Come on, Mary, we’ll sleep in the barn!”

 

Note: This year, we are looking at Christmas from the outside looking in. And, in this journey we will take a look at the Christmas story from four different perspectives: the ancients (last week), the willing (this week), the powerful (next week) and heaven (Christmas Weekend). Each of these perspectives is observing the Christmas story from a distance and we get to see it through their eyes.

 

But, one thing that all of these perspectives have in common is that each display wonder and amazement. Especially in the passages that we will consider today, you find these concepts clearly on display. But, we tend to lose this sense of wonder & amazement because of the familiarity of it all.

 

Consider the Christmas Story as though you have never heard it before:

  • God was born as a little baby
  • Mary stared into the manger at the baby who created her
  • God was poor & his family had to run for his life, yet had a chorus of angels welcome him to earth and a dedicated star to guide the magi.
  • He would get hungry, yet fed 5,000 people with a little boy’s lunch.
  • He would get thirsty, yet could walk on water.
  • He would get tired, but could heal the sick & raise the dead.
  • He would die a criminal’s death, but would rise again in power.
  • He was born the Son of Man, so he could enter our suffering & pain
  • He was born the Son of God because only God could save us

 

“He became what we are (sinful human flesh) that He might make us what He is (an eternal son of God).” Athanasius (4th Century African Theologian)

 

“Because He was the Son of Man, He’d have nowhere to lay His head; because He was the Son of God, He could give billions shelter beneath His wings.” Pastor Tony Evans

 

Trans: The story of Christmas is wonderful and amazing, not just because of what it means, but the story of Christmas is wonderful and amazing because of who it touches. Christmas is good news to two very different groups!

 

Text & Prop: Christmas is Good News to 2 Groups in Mt 2:1-11 & Lk 2:8-20

  1. Christmas is Good News to the Wealthy & Wise Mt 2:1-11 “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, 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.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet; 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.’ Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 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.’ 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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 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.”

 

Note: There are some commonly held assumptions about the wise men that are not accurate. First, even though they are a popular addition to many nativity sets, they actually did not see Jesus until he was roughly two years old (seminary students nativity sets have them out in the garage somewhere). Also, it is assumed that there were three of them due to the three gifts mentioned in the narrative, but traveling astrologers like this would likely have included at least a dozen or so. It would have included their wives, servants, kids, donkeys and a freeloading brother-in-law. And, think about it, how would three guys put fear into a king and his entire town (2:3)?

 

Who were the wise men? These men were part of the Persian ruling class. They were educated, they were wealthy and they were experts in astrology. Most likely, they were exposed to the Jewish scriptures by descendents of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were exiled there. These Jewish scriptures have over 350 prophecies about the Messiah, and one must have stood out to them:

 

“I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;” Num 24:17b //a king was coming, he would rule the world

 

Three things the Wise Men tell us:

  • The Gospel is for ALL races & nationalities: Each Gospel account is directed to a specific group. Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews but it’s very telling that the first people to worship Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are pagan wise men from a different country.

 

“The core of the gospel message is that Jesus has come for the nations. Jesus was not a Jewish savior or an American savior, he’s the world’s savior; there is no hope for forgiveness of sins and healing apart from him, and our task is not complete until people from every nation have come to worship him.” JD Greear

 

  • God is Sovereign over ALL Creation: He exercised his control over the stars that He created to accomplish His purpose. There is nothing God cannot do to keep his promises & fulfill his will.

 

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Psalm 115:3

  • Wisdom comes from God: These men were considered wise because they could read the stars. They would be considered foolish today. Why? Because the wisdom of the world is dated, inadequate & narrow. Nearly every intellectual of every generation mocks the previous generation’s intellectuals. We can diagnose our problems without finding a cure. And it seems that only the intellectual elite are revered for their opinions.

 

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3

 

Trans: Christmas is good news for the wealthy and wise, but they are not the only ones highlighted in the Christmas story…

 

  1. Christmas is Good News to the Poor & Simple Lk 2:8-20 “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ 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.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in hear heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

 

Note: The birth of Jesus was first announced to a group of shepherds. If we were announcing the birth of the Son of God, we would have done it quite differently. We would publicized it on the front page of every website imaginable. We would have plastered it on social media. We would have tried to get politicians, athletes and celebrities to comment on it. But, not God.

 

Shepherds: These guys were the lowest of the lower class of society. They were poor, uneducated and constantly dirty. They were so disrespected that, in Jewish law, a shepherd’s testimony would not hold up in court. They were outcasts, no hope and no future.

 

“Christmas is not supposed to be the crowning jewel on a life that is filled with happiness. Christmas is a profound message of hope for those whose lives are filled with despair.” JD Greear

 

From the Outside Looking In: If you have received a bad medical diagnosis, Christmas offers hope to you. If you have messed up big time, Christmas offers hope to you. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, Christmas offers hope to you. If your world has been rocked by a devastating divorce, Christmas offers hope and peace!

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Note: The angels praise and worship God, declaring “on earth, peace.” This is significant. Pax Romana (Roman Peace) had been in place for nearly 30 years, but this peace was defined as merely an absence of war.

 

“While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.” Epictetus (Stoic Philos)

 

Shalom: The peace the angels sang about and the peace that Jesus offers is not merely a cessation of hostilities like Pax Romana because it is deeper than any peace than any government can offer. The peace that Jesus brings can best be described as SHALOM. Shalom means wellbeing, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. This has much more to do with character than circumstances.

 

If you are on the outside looking in this Christmas, the good news is that God came out to you and is offering you a level of peace you’ve never known. Are you willing to receive it by faith?

 

Conclusion: There once was a businessman who had to travel to a small town for a meeting and invited his wife to join him. She agreed, until she found out that he would be flying in a small, single engine Cessna airplane. She said, “Honey, I’ve decided not to go.” He was disappointed, “Why not?” She replied, “I’m not going to fly in that little, itty-bitty airplane.” Her husband smiled and said, “Your faith is too small.” She snapped back, “NO, that PLANE is too small.” He really wanted her to join him, so he canceled the Cessna and booked their travel on a large commercial jet with a major airline. His wife came along because, as she put it, “her faith grew because the size of the plane grew.” The size of her faith was proportionate to the object of her faith.

 

Invitation: If you are looking at Christmas from the outside in, this picture of Jesus as the baby in the manger may tempt you to believe that he is not capable of handling your pain, your questions, your struggles or your difficulty, but that is no ordinary baby.

 

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5

 

Put your faith in Jesus and go from observing Christmas from the outside in to sharing the Christmas story from the INSIDE OUT!!!

 

Sources and Further Reading Opportunities:

  • The Wiersbe Bible Commentary – Warren Wiersbe (2007)
  • Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes – Charles R Swindoll (1998)
  • The Gospel According to the Wise Men – D. Greear (2014)
  • Christmas through the Eyes of the Shepherds & Wise Men – Rodney Buchanan
  • Son of God and Son of Man: A Christmas Meditation – D. Greear (2011)