What would you have expected that first Christmas in your home town of Bethlehem? The best prices of the season at target? A Christmas bonus from your boss at the annual Christmas party? Perhaps a bigger and better than ever lights at the Bethlehem underground.... Maybe a few tears - it's your first christmas with out a friend or family member. Complications with which one of you would get the children Christmas morning. Maybe you hoped to see your parent’s back together Christmas morning just like the hallmark movie you saw recently.
Maybe you see this pint sized Joseph scurry across the church stage wearing sandals, a robe and a face that says he is anxious. He knocks on the door that his dad built for the children’s Christmas play, and then shuffles his feet some more because he is supposed to look nervous, and in reality, he really is nervous. It’s the dress rehearsal for the big event next week.
The innkeeper answers. He too is wearing a robe and a towel turned turban. His beard is hooked to his ears with an elastic band. He looks at Joseph and chokes back a giggle. Two hours earlier the boys were playing together at home, now they are all dressed up for the Christmas play.
So here they stand. The innkeeper crosses his arms; Joseph waves his. He describes the five day donkey ride from Nazareth to Bethlehem. How they are here for the census. He turns and points in the direction of a pillow-stuffed 5 year old girl who waddles onto center stage with one hand on the small of her back and the other wiping the sweat from her brow.
The crowd chuckles, Joseph looks at the inn keeper and the innkeeper looks at Mary and we all know what happens next.
How do you see it? When you think about the arrival of God in the flesh to this planet, can you see the big picture, what God is up to and what He is after?
Luke records the events this way: Luke chapter 2, verse 1:
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son, in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:1-14) (NIV)
Maybe the most difficult part for you to accept is that Jesus’ arrival was so ordinary.. Why would there not be a room reserved for him in Bethlehem? Why a teenage boy covered head to toe with dust? Why a girl with pimples and puffy ankles to serve as Jesus surrogate parents?
Why send the first and only announcement of His arrival to simple Shepherds in a field? Why Bethlehem? Why not the center of commerce, the center of the Roman Empire?
Why a baby? Why not come down from heaven as a man, a King for heaven’s sake.
The answer is in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. I like the King James Version best: “When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, they were sore afraid.” They were so afraid that it hurt. But the angel’s message “Do not be afraid” was more than a response to their immediate fear. It was a message filled with hope not only for the moment but for a lifetime of moments. “Do not be afraid, because unto you is born this day a Savior….” Jesus came to bring us hope.
Jesus came to save us from our fears. Not just the shadows that go “boo” in the night, but our every day ordinary fear of failure, our fear of that first day of school, our fear of rejection or loneliness, our fear of disease or other disruptions….the fear of death…. He came as a baby, so he could live as a child, a teenager, then an adult, just as we live. He came and experienced all that we experience so that we could then come to Him in our time of need knowing that he understands.
The birth of Jesus is the day that God came for me. (us)
Remember the blizzard a few years ago that surprised a town in the mountains of Colorado? The Red Cross sent helicopters in to bring supplies and medical aide to those who were trapped. As one helicopter flew over the snow covered mountain, the pilot saw smoke coming from the chimney of a small cabin. He landed in a clearing nearby and hiked through waist deep snow to the cabin and knocked. An elderly woman answered. The man said “Mam, I am from the Red Cross…” Before he could get another word out, she said “It really has been a tough winter, I don’t believe we can afford to give anything to charity this year” and she slammed the door.
We chuckle at the elderly ladies response… until we are standing at the bedside of someone we love who we know will soon die yet continues to reject God’s offer of salvation…. We chuckle until we are standing at the graveside of a teen that excelled in everything at school or sports, but didn’t know Jesus Christ as His personal savior.
God’s good and perfect plan from the very beginning of time was to come and save us. It was to come and restore us to relationship with Him. And it is through his arrival to this planet in Jesus Christ that all of pieces of the story of his pursuit from Genesis to Revelation come together for us. It brings meaning to what some see as a bunch of stories from thousands of years go, but to us who believe our lives are written in those pages.
There is one final important detail that's very important that you believe. Jesus Christ is the expected Son of God. He is God in the flesh.
You see, this was the hang-up for many. From the very beginning of time, God promised that he would come for His people. But the time came when the world stopped looking for his arrival and for over 400 years God seemed silent or was it that the people stopped looking? Stopped seeking?
Either way God made the first move when He broke the silence when an Angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, and then to Mary and Joseph reminding them of His promise – that he would come. In Luke chapter 2, The angel announced His arrival. It is the climax of the entire story of the Bible. God created the world and He created you and me to live forever with Him. Sin separated us. He created a nation to show himself to so that other nations would know him. That nation rejected him. He promised that through that nation would come a Savior, One who would make a way for us back to God. Jesus is that Savior. God In Jesus Christ came for us, he lived with us, he brought hope to us and he did it the most simple yet spectacular fasion, and in that he has reconciled us by Christ's on a cross that anything that would separate us from Him again would be covered by His blood. But the choice to believe and accept Him is up to us.
Remember little dust covered Joseph knocking on the inn keepers door pointing to the pillow stuffed little girl playing the part of Mary? Remember the Inn Keeper? While Mary and Joseph must have enjoyed playing their part in the Christmas play, the Inn Keeper had the part that nobody wanted. Everybody wanted to be Mary and Joseph who said “yes” to God, but the Innkeeper, the one who would turn the savior of the world away?
Well, in this particular play no one wanted the part and so it was given to a boy who was a little slower than the other kids, but he had a big heart. As the day approached for the big pageant, he couldn’t imagine telling Mary and Joseph there was no room in the inn. What was he going to do.
Finally, the day came. The auditorium was filled with parents, relatives and friends. They watched the story unfold as each role was carried out perfectly. Meanwhile the innkeeper grew more and more anxious. This time, when Mary and Joseph knocked, he threw open the door and shouted with a big smile, “Come on in. I’ve been expecting you.”
Why not let that be your response this Christmas. “God, come on into my life….. I’ve been expecting you. I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and I accept Him as my Savior and My Lord.
I would love to see you this weekend at our Saturday or Sunday Christmas services and on Christmas Eve at 6 & 8pm. God Bless you this Christmas! Dave