Online Worship for Christmas Day, December 25, 2020
CHRISTMAS DAY HOMILY #2
December 25, 2002
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Born in Bethlehem,
Raised in Nazareth,
Crucified on Calvary,
Who lives our glorious King,
A long sigh escaped her lips as she sat quietly, wrapped in a blanket, resting on a bed of clean, fresh straw. Finally, she had a moment of rest, a moment to relax. It had only been a few days, but in her condition it seemed an eternity. She was a very pregnant young woman, one that had traveled 75 miles with her husband to reach this little Judean town – only to find to their dismay that the town was too full to offer them a place with a bed, a place where a child might be born. As she sat thinking of these things, she could feel the baby moving inside of her. He was running out of room, her time was coming near.
It was to be her first child, but she was not afraid…at least, not as frightened as she had once been, on an evening nearly 9 months earlier. She could remember it like it was yesterday. It had been a normal evening; she had just stepped into her room for the evening, when suddenly she had a strange sense that she wasn’t alone.
She whirled, startled, and saw him standing there, bathed in a bright light. He stood tall, she recalled. He looked noble and mighty all at once, intimidating…especially to a young girl. She involuntarily took a step back in surprise, and was about to ask a volley of questions: “How…who…what…?”
When he spoke with a deep voice, unlike any earthly voice she had ever heard before. It was deep and powerful, yet comforting and reassuring:
“Greetings to you, Highly favored one. The Lord is with you.”
While his voice was comforting, his message was curious and confusing. Highly favored? This was not a common greeting. Why would anyone speak to her in this fashion? Who could say that God had favored her except….it was then that she realized that she stood in the presence of an Angel of the Lord. Then she was afraid, for when human beings are faced with the supernatural --- fear is a natural response.
The angel seemed to sense her fear, and quickly answered in that powerful, yet reassuring voice:
Do not be afraid, Mary. For you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and have a son…and you will call his name, Jesus. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
It was such a wonderful message, but so much to understand. She was to have a child, a son, named Jesus. He, her son, was to be a King – and not just any king – but the King that God promised her ancestors would come. He was to be the King that her famous relative King David was looking for. What exciting news!
She was suddenly caught up in the idea and her mind spinning when just as suddenly, her earthbound mind brought her back to reality:
How can this be…since, I have not been with a man?
It was as if the angel was waiting for the question.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
She had heard him say that He would be called the Son of the Highest, and now there was no doubt what he meant. The child she was to bear would be – the Son of God.
“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Yes, she thought with a childlike faith, with God nothing will be impossible. Then she answered the Angel respectfully, even joyfully:
“Behold the maidservant of the Lord!
Let it be to me according to your word.”
Then as suddenly as he had appeared, just so suddenly he was gone.
She was numb for a moment, and then she thought of Joseph. She wanted to go and tell him right away. Then she thought about it…Joseph. How would she tell him? Would he understand or even begin to believe such an unbelievable story? Would his heart be broken – they were not yet married and yet she was pregnant?
She was thinking about that now distant problem when the soft mooing of a nearby cow brought her back to the present. He had understood, and now they were here in Bethlehem…and the contractions were gaining strength, it would not be long….
Joseph heard and knew nothing of this, as he walked nervously, paced really, just outside on the hillside…
The stars were bright that night, he noticed vaguely. He was in his own world, deep in his own thoughts. He also was remembering all that had happened. He remembered like it was yesterday the day that Mary, his beloved Mary had come to him suddenly with the news that she was…with child. He was heartbroken.
What seemed to make it worse, was her insistence that she hadn’t been unfaithful, but that it was a miracle. She claimed to have been visited by an angel…and that her miraculous child was to be the Promised One, the Christ, the Messiah. If the elders had heard she would be considered a liar and a blasphemer…but it was true.
Joseph chuckled to himself as he remembered how he had at first, heartbroken, made plans to break it off secretly. He remembered how he had turned and just laid there for hours. When he finally fell asleep, He had a miraculous dream. An Angel of the Lord appeared to him – and he spoke in that same deep otherworldly voice that Mary had described. The Angel said to him:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
It was true and the God of all comfort had sent His angel to comfort his troubled heart. Then the Angel revealed the name chosen for this son…a fitting name, meaning Savior…
“She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS,
for He will save His people from their sins.”
So He did just as God had told Him through His messenger. They were married. People assumed that the child was his and Mary’s…but they didn’t know how wrong they were…
When Caesar Augustus demanded that He register his possessions in hometown Bethlehem, he obeyed. Now he stood guard outside the entrance to the stable. As he watched, he remembered the words of the LORD given through another messenger, the Prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years earlier:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”…“God with us.”
He noticed in the distance a group of shepherds making their way into town….but then he heard her breathing quicken, and then the sound of a child crying!
He waited a few moments and then slipped in the door, quietly closing it behind him. He walked quietly past the stalls filled with animals until he found the one in which she lay.
She looked exhausted, but there was in her eyes a gleam of joy. She pointed to a nearby feed box, in which was laid the little boy that was the only hope of a sinful world…then and now.
Fellow Redeemed in the blood of that Child, Jesus Christ –
We have yet again traveled in heart and mind the many miles to Bethlehem. We have tried to imagine in our mind’s eye what that first Christmas was like in the hopes of jolting ourselves from the fables of Christmas to the reality of Christ’s birth.
Unlike so many things associated with the Christmas Season, this is not just a story…this is real.
Christ was born and did die.
Christ rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.
He is present with us according to His Word of Promise.
This Jesus is completely reliable, because this Jesus was, and is True God. He had to be --- to redeem us. Would we even celebrate His birth had he only been one more of a trillion sinful human beings? NO.
We rejoice because he is very God incarnate. He is Immanuel: God with us. He came to fight our battles against Satan, the foe we cannot defeat, and He has won. He is even now our mighty protector, though we view him today by faith as a helpless child.
This Jesus truly knows our needs, because this Jesus was also True Man. He had to be – to live in love to God for us and to suffer and die in our place. He didn’t take on human flesh and blood for His sake, but for ours. This was not a divine science experiment so that our God who is far away in heaven could understand our poor and insignificant lives. This birth was not the result of human planning, of a wife and her husband. It was a miracle designed by God for you.
The Apostle Paul said it simply like this (Galatians 4:4-5):
“…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
This was done so that you and I might become God’s Children by faith in His living and dying and rising. This greatest of gifts was given so that all humankind should be born again into the family of God. This was done so that we should obtain peace with God.
Therefore, we join with the Angels in saying:
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”