Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14th - Christmas

Prayer Requests
People who only come to church on Christmas and Easter
Kennesaw Christmas Parade Results
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Choir Gospel Singing
Safe Travels for Everyone

Text - Luke 1:26-35

I took a class from a sort-of famous preacher named Ergun Caner. He told us that we are allowed to preach one topical sermon a year, if we apologize immediately afterward. While I’m not preaching, I’m teaching, I take his exhortation very seriously and prayed long before deciding to devote this class to Christmas instead of continuing on 1 Thessalonians.

Since I don't know how many students will be here next week, we will probably do something else on that day, maybe a relook at the previous three chapters of 1 Thessalonians.

I love Christmas music, specifically music about Christ, but a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio is terrible. I want to look at a couple of songs that are theologically great.

I was unable to find the Son of God Came Down on YouTube, GodTube, or elsewhere, it is very worthwhile to download on iTunes, or even buy the whole CD.
Sovereign Grace Music
The lyrics are:

The Son of God came down and laid aside His crown
Born without great renown, this Sovereign One
All holiness and might, all glory shining bright
Have come to earth this night in Mary’s son

O come, let us adore
O Christ the Lord, our hope and Savior
Son of God yet made like us
O Christ the Lord, our King adored
Born a child, our Lord Jesus

Messiah born so small, asleep in cattle stall
Come to redeem our fall, nailed to a tree
This tiny, helpless child
Through death would reconcile
The holy God and vile, His grace so free
O come, let us adore

Let's look at a couple of words before we start.

Christmas comes from two words, Christ - Annointed and Massae - Celebration, Christmas it celebrating the birth of the Lord's Annointed.

In a lot of languages you won't see Christmas, but something similar to Navidad, which means birth. Another word that isn't very popular, but seems to be getting used more and more often is Advent, which means coming. This can refer to the first coming of Christ and/or the second. Some churches celebrate the coming of Christmas, through various traditions starting at the beginning of December, but the original term meant the coming of the Son of God.

Galatians 4:3-5 We were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world, but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

God specifically chose the time when Christ would come, he setup the world just right for his birth, work, and the preaching of the Gospel. There are four major reasons why this is so.

Hellenistic Influence - Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world, winning Palestine from the Mede-Persian Empire. This naturalized the language of the world, and made travel easier. The dislike of petty squables kept violence down and also made travel safer.

Language - The world began to speak Greek, so much so that the Old Testament was translated into Greek by 72 Rabbis. This translation is called the Septuagint, which means 70, and it is abbreviated LXX, which are the Roman numerals for 70. Jesus and Paul frequently quoted from the Greek Old Testament, as well as from the Hebrew Old Testament. In this, we have the authority to translate the Bible into all of the languages of the world. This language congruity made preaching much easier and faster, because almost everyone spoke at least two languages. The Apostle Paul spoke at least four languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin.

Jewish Dispersion - After the exile in Babylon, many Jews didn't return to Palestine, but lived all over the Macedonian empire. Where-ever there were 10 or more Jews, they setup a synagogue, which really helped Paul to preach everywhere he went, always beginning in the synagogue and then going to the Gentiles. The Jewish Dispersion is called the diaspora. Jews were supposed to visit Jerusalem for the Passover, and living far from Jerusalem would have made this possible had the Romans not built such a good infrastructure.

Roads - Roads such as the Egnatian and Appian Ways made traveling long distances much easier, safer, and faster. They were intrumental in the spreading of the Gospel.

Look at some other verses referring to the time,

Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right [or appointed] time Christ died for the ungodly.

The when that Christ was born, ministered, and died was exactly the time that God intended it to be; it happened precisely according to his plan.

Speaking of language, I want to show you something neat. The Gospel of Luke has at least two authors, Luke admits to this in his introduction:

Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The Gospel of Luke is separated into three languages.

1:1-4 is introduced in a high Greek; Luke was showing that he was a smart guy, a learned guy, and that his history of Christ's life and ministry was authoritative.

1:5-2:52 is written in a lower Greek, in a dialect found most often in Palestine. Many of the things that it contains could have only been known by Mary, and I believe that Mary was the author of this section.

3:1-End is written in the standard biblical Koine Greek, which is the common language, written by Luke so that those that could read basic Greek were able to read and understand his Gospel.

There were a lot of passages in the Bible talking about the birth of Jesus, and they are all good, I picked one that you're probably not likely to hear a lot about since the passages of choice are Matthew 2, Luke 2, John 1, and Isaiah 9. Those are good, but so is this one.

Luke wrote to Theophilus, this word means, "Friend of God," so whether there actually was someone named Theophilus, the ultimate purpose of this Gospel is to strengthen and teach the friends of God, who were once his enemies, but now have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Luke 1:26-35 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God."

Now, first of all, Nazareth is 70 miles from Bethlehem, and the Bible is clear that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Mary knew her Bible, and I think she was especially confused that she was carrying the Messiah in Nazareth.

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.

The Old Testament has over 300 prophecies which were fulfilled explicitely in Jesus Christ. There are hundreds more prophecies that probably were about Jesus, ranging from probably him to maybe him. The 300 were impossibly specific, like Jesus being born of a virgin, called a Nazarite, born in Bethlehem, called out of Egypt...but he fulfilled them perfectly.

Micah 5:2 is the prophecy that the Wise Men were following to find the King of the Jews.

Beth in Hebrew means house. Bethany is the house of flowers, Bethel is the house of God, and Bethleham is the house of bread. Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. Similarly, the first king chosen by God for Israel was born in Bethleham, and the last King chosen by God for Israel was born in Bethleham. Bethleham is called the City of David, because it is where David was born.

The angel came to Mary in the 6th month, which in the Jewish calendar, the year starts near the end of September, I don't fully know why. That places the 6th month in March, and nine months after March is December. The earliest church celebrated Christ's birth on the 6th of January, but we moved it to December 25th to combat paganism. Really what is important is that we're celebrating the Advent of God and not the day.

Some claim that a winter birth was impossible because of the Shepherds in the fields tending their sheep. Indeed, this would be impossible most years in Israel, however, every 5-7 years, there is a warm year where it is warm year-round. Travel agents try to anticipate this year and sell trips to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during it to people in parts of Europe where it gets cold. Likely Jesus was born during one of these warm years.

The Angel Gabriel, who announced the virgin conception, is seen in Luke and in Daniel. His name means, "Man of God". When-ever angels appear to people in the Bible, the people are frightened, and the angels say something to the effect of, "Fear Not." Angels must be pretty impressive. But we don't worship them, look at what happened when John tried to worship an angel,

Revelation 22:8-9 I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed these things to me, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."

Jesus, on the other hand, accepted worship. We see clearly that Jesus was higher than angels, he is God, and he is not an angel.

Gabriel told Mary to call the baby's name, "Jesus". Jesus has theological significance, for example, other names mean important things, like:

Jehashophat means Ja or God the Judge.
Ja-Goel means God the Redeemer
Ja-Nissi means God our Banner
Ja-Shua or Yasha means God the Saviour, and this is what Jesus means, Jesus is the Hellenization of the Hebrew/Aramaic Jeshua or Joshua, which was turned into Isous, and then Jesus. There are many, many names and pronunciations for the Son of God, as long as you're referring to the God-man who died on a cross and defeated death, the name you choose, as long as used with reverance, is less important than the Person you are referring to.

Another name for Jesus is Emmanuel, which comes from two words, Immanence - Nearness, and El - God; it refers very specifically to Jesus being God with us.

Next, the Virgin Birth is impossible. It never happened before, it will never happen again, but what is impossible with men is possible with God, and we should expect the way the Saviour of the world was born would be a miraculous occurence.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The census of all Roman provinces made it necessary for Joseph to go to Bethlehem, and he took Mary with him. I think they probably knew the baby would be born there, but they probably didn't know the circumstances.

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

While this little baby was laid in a manger (a feeding though), he was holding the universe together. He didn't stop being God because he was a baby, and yet he still learned and grew in knowledge.

A manger is a strange place to find a baby, it is a very humble place to be born, to be laid in a makeshift crib, but a stable is not at all a strange place to find a lamb, and here we see the Lamb of God, come into the world in the most humble of humble ways, to take away the sins of the world.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
I chose this version not because I endorse Carrie Underwood or her music,
but because she enunciates the lyrics of this song really well:

We only celebrate Christmas because of what happened on Easter, the two can't be separated. If Jesus hadn't grown up to give his life for his friends by going willingly to the cross to take the full wrath of his Father, then Christmas would have no significance, so in the words of Go Fish,

The beginning and the middle are both wonderful and great,
but it's the ending that can save you, and that's why we celebrate.

It's About the Cross by Go Fish

Have a Merry Christmas if I don't see you before then!

Fast Facts on Christmas by Canyon Shearer