Christmas 2005 “This Story Is To Be One Of Great Joy For All Men”
1.1. The scriptures reveal to us the fact that the Lord’s revelation of Himself to mankind occurred over time and did not happen all at once. God intended to reveal Himself fully through His Son Jesus Christ, however there first had to be a foundation laid in understanding various aspects of the character of God. Before Moses, the Lord revealed Himself to people on an individual basis. However, when Moses was called by God and given the Law, the Lord began to reveal Himself as being totally holy and just and One whom it would be wise to fear. The Law brought about condemnation because people could not keep the Lord. The result of this revelation of God was the belief that if anyone saw God that the person would die. In fact, the design of the tabernacle and temple revealed to men that you could not come to know God because the veil in the temple to the Holy of Holies was there primarily to separate God from men. Only the high priest could enter there before the Lord and then he could only come in once a year on the Day of Atonement and this day was very somber for he was there to make a blood offering for the sins of the nation. The primary apprehension of God was that of fear in the Old Testament times.
1.2. The Christmas story unleashes an entire new design however concerning God and the relationship that He planned from all eternity to have with mankind. The foundation of understanding of God’s character being totally holy and just had been laid in the Old Testament and so now in the New Testament era with the advent of the Christmas Story which involved God coming to live among mankind, the primary apprehension of God was to be great joy and blessing. There could now be joy and blessing because men and women could come to have their sins washed away and be justified before God though the death that Jesus would die upon Calvary’s cross in paying the debt of sin which all men owed to God. When Jesus came men were drawn to Him and God sought out men and women individually to bring them to relationship with Himself.
1.3. Today, as we come before the Lord on this Christmas Eve, I want for us to apprehend the great joy and blessing that those present on that first Christmas experienced when the Lord came to dwell among men. The incarnation of Jesus Christ, God coming to live among men, was the inauguration of the joy and blessing of the Savior’s coming and His kingdom which is going to last for eternity.
1.4. God has designed to bring great joy to the hearts of His people through the salvation that He has provided for us in His Son. We Christians should take full advantage of the joy God has provided for us. Warren Wiersbe has written, “Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” If Christian believers today manifested more of the joy of the Lord, perhaps those outside the faith would be attracted to the church and be willing to consider the message of the Gospel. It’s worth trying.”
1.5. As we read and study God’s word, we come to know His power and might, His infinite knowledge, His love for us, the beauty of His character, and of course the wonder of the salvation that He procured for us by sending His only begotten Son to die on Calvary’s cross for us. All of this causes us to know and experience great joy in the Lord.
1.6. As we have been studying the book of Romans and seeing how that through having Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior we can be justified before God (made just as if we had never sinned), have peace with God (the enmity caused because of our sins is removed), and access to God guaranteed to us (we can always come boldly before the throne of grace knowing that we will not be denied the grace and mercy we need), we must remember that it was that first Christmas in which the Savior came in order to draw all men to Himself. Remember, concerning His death and resurrection Jesus once told His disciples, “And if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto myself,” John 12:32.
1.7. With each character that I will introduce who participated in this first Christmas, we will see how not only did they have joy and blessing because God was coming to dwell among men, but their joy was a very personal experience for them. They were joyful and blessed because they themselves had had such a personal and moving experience with the baby who would be Messiah and Savior of the world. They had joy because of their personal experience of being called to salvation through Jesus Christ. This was their experience and it was their Christmas.
1.8. I would have you to also consider the fact as we look at this story that this day today is also your Christmas. What shall be your experience this Christmas? Will you experience the joy that these people experienced on this first Christmas day? How will you worship the Savior?
2. With the sole exception of king Herod who did not want any other king to exist, notice the expressions of joy from all who participated in that first Christmas:
2.1. There was promised great joy to Zacharias and Elizabeth at the birth of their son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah:
2.1.1. Zecharias and Elizabeth had prayed for so many years for the Lord to bless them with a child, and now because of God’s plans in revealing Himself to mankind as the Savior and Redeemer they were first miraculously given conception of a son. But their son was no ordinary son, this was John the Baptist, the one who alone was called to be the forerunner of the Messiah. The is the one about whom Jesus would later state that there had never been any one born prior who was greater than John the Baptist.
2.1.2. Luke 1:11-16, “11 And
an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of
incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and
fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to
him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your
wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at
his birth. 15 “For he will be great in the sight of the
Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy
Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16 “And he will turn many of
the sons of
2.2. The Lord brought great blessing to Mary through baby Jesus who was conceived within her:
2.2.1. Mary was just a young teenage girl, yet she had a very deep and sincere relationship to God. Born of lower class parents she thought she would be destined to live a very ordinary and uneventful life. However, the Lord chose her amongst all women on the earth to be the faithful woman who would bear and raise up His Son from all eternity. She must have been such a godly woman for her to be chosen to raise up God’s only begotten Son. This young woman was greatly blessed that the Lord would show such great favor upon her.
2.2.2. Luke 1:26-45, “26 Now in the sixth month
the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27
to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of
David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to
her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But
she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind
of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,
Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will
conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He
will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God
will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign
over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary
said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel
answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of
the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be
called the Son of God. 36 “And behold, even your relative
2.3. Mary’s song of praise:
2.3.1. After talking with the angel Gabriel who told her that she would become pregnant with a son and then going to speak with her relative Elizabeth who was now pregnant with John the Baptist, Mary sings a song of praise to the Lord because she knows how important her role will be in bringing up baby Jesus in a God fearing and serving home. Plus, she knows that all people will know of her special calling and role and for that she is struck with awe and praise to God.
2.3.2. Luke 1:46-55, “46 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. 51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.””
2.4. Zacharias when he pronounces that the name of the baby shall be Jesus:
2.4.1. Zacharias had originally doubted the Lord when he had been told that
his prayers had finally been answered and his wife Elizabeth would give birth
to a son. Because of his doubting the
Lord had caused Zacharias to be mute all during
2.4.2. Luke 1:66-79, “66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him. 67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant— 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— 71 Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; 72 To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, 73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, 74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; 77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, 78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 79 To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.””
2.5. The birth of Jesus and the announcement to the shepherds:
2.5.1. Angels cannot contain their praise to God when they announce to some
lowly shepherds in
2.5.2. Luke 2:1-12, “1 Now in those days a
decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the
inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of
2.6. With the Maji who came and brought baby Jesus gifts:
2.6.1. These men were astrologers most likely from the
2.6.2. Matthew 2:1-11, “1 Now after Jesus was
born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east
arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King
of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all
2.7. With Simeon and Anna when baby Jesus was brought into the temple for purification:
2.7.1. It had been revealed to a man and a woman who constantly served in the
Jewish temple in
2.7.2. Luke 2:22-39, “22 And when the days for
their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought
Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written
in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn
male that opens the womb shall be
called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice
according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 And
there was a man in
3. On this day, I submit to you that we Christians have a great need to embrace the joy of the Lord, for it is to be our strength.
3.1. Jesus often referred to the fact that He and His teaching would bring joy to His followers:
3.1.1. John 15:11, “11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
3.1.2. John 16:24, “24 “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
3.1.3. Referring to His coming separation from His disciples after being crucified and then being raised from the dead: John 16:22, “22 “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”
3.2. In Hebrews 12:1-3 we are told that it was for the joy set before Him (our joy being His joy) that Jesus was willing to endure the cross, “1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
3.3. Concerning the joy of the Lord being our strength, someone has said, “The power is obvious. Have you ever felt the drain of a negative pessimistic attitude on your energies? You don't feel like doing anything. When you are excited and happy about doing what needs to be done you are exhausted before you realize you are tired. It is the joy that makes the difference. There is a great strength in joy . . . especially God's joy.”
4. The books of
Nehemiah and Ezra detail for us how it came about that the Lord brought home
His people after their 70 years of captivity in Babylon and helped them to build
the wall and the city of Jerusalem which had been destroyed. There was also a great awakening and revival
that occurred with the returned captives after the Law of Moses had been found
on the temple sight and then read in its entirety to all of the people
assembled. The people were broken and in
tears because of having the Law reveal to them their sin as they heard it read
to them. However, we read that the
people were told by Ezra and Nehemiah that now that their hearts had been
broken and they had become repentant that in order to continue faithful in
God’s work and struggle that the joy of the Lord would be their strength and
that this joy would help them to continue to walk in obedience and uprightness
before the Lord. It says in Nehemiah
8:10, “10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the
sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy
to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.””
We see the joy of the Lord being experienced by the people Nehemiah
12:42-43, “42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan,
5. The scriptures teach us that mankind is a sinful and fallen race, as we
have seen from our study in the book of Romans.
Like the children of
6. The great English preacher Spurgeon once preached the following which speaks of the fact that it is as we have our hearts broken and brought to repentance that we come to have the joy of the Lord in our life, “As certain fabrics need to be damped before they will take the glowing colors with which they are to be adorned, so our spirits need the bedecking of repentance before they can receive the radiant colouring of delight. The glad news of the gospel can only be printed on wet paper. Have you ever seen clearer shining than that which follows a shower? Then the sun transforms the rain-drops into gems, the flowers look up with fresher smiles and faces glittering from their refreshing bath, and the birds from among the dripping branches sing with notes more rapturous, because they have paused awhile. So, when the soul has been saturated with the rain of penitence, the clear shining of forgiving love makes the flowers of gladness blossom all around. The steps by which we ascend to the palace of delight are usually moist with tears. Grief for sin is the porch of the House Beautiful, where the guests are full of “The joy of the Lord.” I hope, then, that the mourners, to whom this discourse shall come, will discover and enjoy the meaning of that divine benediction in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.””
7. Let us also never forget that when we as God’s people enter into eternity with the Lord that this will be a time of great joy. I once had a dream of heaven and in my dream what I remember was really only one thing, everything that I did brought me joy. Jesus said that what would be said to the good and faithful servant on the day of judgment is going to be, “Enter into my joy,” Matt. 25:21.
8. Would you like to know the joy of Christmas? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior? Have you realized that you cannot save yourself and you will never be acceptable before God based upon your own righteousness? Have you repented of all of your sins and allowed Jesus to come and to sit upon the throne of your life as your Lord? Have you trusted completely in Him and His work upon the cross to save you and give you eternal life? If you will do these things you can receive the gift of eternal life today and then you can come to know the joy of Christmas personally in your life, for this joy is the result of coming to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.