A Picture Perfect Christmas: The Message of the Angels

A Picture Perfect Christmas: The Message of the Angels

Sermon Podcast Audio 

The Picture

It’s Christmastime, so each Sunday we are talking about the birth of Jesus. We are currently in a series called “A Picture Perfect Christmas.” Each week we are taking a look at the scene that occurred a couple of thousand years ago and asking what the significance is of this part of the nativity.

We began by looking at the shepherds. We saw how the announcement to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth was a picture of how Jesus was coming as the Good Shepherd to lead his people, and we asked if we would be willing to trust and follow him where he leads us.

Last week, I did my best to destroy Christmas. We talked about the Magi, and even though they were not at the nativity as many have thought, we did see that they provided a proper response to the birth of Jesus. They were willing to go a great distance with joy so they could worship him. And I asked how far we are willing to go for Jesus.

Today, we continue looking at this picture perfect scene and consider the angels and more importantly, the message the angels proclaimed. The message that the angels came to proclaim was probably the most important message that could have been delivered. So today, I want us to look at that message.

Communication

It is not earth shattering to say this, but communication has changed. How we communicate has certainly shifted from letters, postcards, and telephone calls, to Facebook messages, text messages, and snap chat messages. We can try to fight it, but just this week, I heard a grandfather say that he texted so he could stay in touch with his granddaughter.

How we communicate isn’t the only thing that has changed. Our response to communication has changed. I remember writing letters back and forth to Kerri when we were separated by hundreds of miles one summer. Those were the days when it actually cost real money to make a long distance phone call. For those of you too young to know this, a long distance phone call was any phone call made to someone outside your local city. Local calls were included with your phone service. Long distance calls were not. And they would cost you anywhere from $.20 a minute to a $2 a minute. And when you are young and in love, like we were, and when listening to each other breathe is just as satisfying when you’ve run out of things to say. . .well, it can get very expensive!

Back then, though, if you were expecting a letter, you would run to the mailbox every day in hopes that your letter would be there. You would rip open the letter before you even got back into the house to begin reading the words from someone you had longed to hear from. Or, if it was a phone call you were expecting, you would rearrange your entire schedule to make sure you were home when they were supposed to call. You’d sit there by the phone, patiently waiting, and you’d pick it up before the first ring ended, filled with the anticipation of the conversation and hearing from someone you cared about.

Today, we don’t see this response too often. Email was fun when it started. In fact, you might check your email multiple times a day. Again, for you young folks, there was a time when computers weren’t always connected to the internet. You had to dial into the internet to check your messages. But today, email is constant, nagging, annoying, and full of spam or messages we don’t want.

Text messages are a thousand a minute. I remember when my daughter Hannah got her first cell phone. It was not uncommon for her to text anywhere from 3,500-5,000 messages a month. And primarily nothing was said. “Hi.” ”Hi” “Sup” “Nothing, U?” “nothing” “k” K” “BTW” “JK”  and my personal favorite, the overused “LOL”

I’m told the young ‘uns no longer use abbreviations like these, but there was a time when these were hot. We communicate constantly without saying anything. Because we are inundated with so much information and so many messages, we have lost the ability to know when an important message is sent.

We no longer sit around the TV to listen to the president when he gives an address, as I remember we did in the early 90’s when the U.S. went to war with Iraq the first time. We have become skeptical and untrusting, believing one news outlet is too conservative, so we can’t trust them, or another one is too liberal, so we can’t listen to them.  This skepticism has caused us to stop listening, even when the message can be life-changing.

How we communicate has changed, but also how we respond to communication has changed. And the reason I point this out is because there are messages that are more important than “K” and there are messages that we need to sit up and pay attention to.

The Important Message

In the story of the birth of Jesus, there was a message. In fact, there were three messages, all communicating the same thing that I want us to make sure we hear this morning.

The first message came to Mary. In Luke 1, we see that an angel appeared to Mary and told her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. And the angel said,

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” —Luke 1:21-33

The second message came to Joseph, who was engaged to Mary. In Matthew 1 we read,

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” —Matthew 1:20-21

And the third message is our primary text today. Again we see an angel that appeared to the shepherds in the field. And this time the angel announced,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” —Luke 2:10-11

Three times we see angels appear. Three times we hear a very similar message. This would seem to me to be a message that we need to listen to.

Why do I think this message is so important?

Well, first, history has revolved around the news of this message. There was no BC until there was a C if you know what I’m saying.

Second, any time God sends an angel to tell someone something, it is important. This isn’t the email telling you a Nigerian prince wants to give you some money. You know, if you send him $5,000. No. When an angel shows up, God means business. Because angels strike fear into those who see them, the first words they must say are “Don’t be afraid.”

Third, any time God repeats himself, it’s a big deal. If God says it once it is a big deal. But if God says it three times, look out; that message carries massive weight.

Lastly, we need to realize that there had been silence from God for a long time when he began to announce what was about to happen. For 400 years there was no word from God! It was 400 years since Malachi penned his final words to the people. The Jewish people had returned from captivity, the temple had been restored, and they waited. And then finally, one normal, nondescript day, God spoke.

This message is very important. So, what did God say?

The Message

This isn’t a message of dos and don’ts, the Ten Commandments 2.0, if you will. It isn’t a how-to manual. It isn’t condemnation. The entire message is about someone who will change the world forever, the one the Jewish world would have been waiting for. The angel describes to us the one who has been born and the description begins with “Savior.”

The name Jesus itself is from the Hebrew word “Yeshua” or “Joshua,” meaning “the Lord saves.” The angel announced the one born was to be a deliverer, someone who rescues people. To the original audience, this would have been a welcome name. They were currently under Roman rule.  A deliverer was someone who would come on the scene and bring about an uprising to help the Jewish people overcome the Roman authority. But the salvation to come wouldn’t be the salvation they necessarily wanted. Luke intends for us to see the rescue in a spiritual sense. The term used here is often a title applied to God. This would be a divine deliverance.

“Savior” was not the only word the angel used. The angel continued to describe the one born, not with a name, but with a title: “The Messiah” or “the Christ,” meaning “the anointed one,” “the promised one,” the one who would usher in God’s kingdom. That which they had been waiting for had finally arrived. That which was anticipated was now realized here in this moment.

And then the last term used to describe the one born would have been unexpected. The first two were exactly what they anticipated and what they wanted, but then the angel said, “He is the Messiah, the Lord.” What’s interesting about the word “Lord” here, the Greek word “kyrios,” is that here, it is left unexplained. Luke uses the remainder of his gospel to lay out for us what it really means.

There were multiple uses for this word. It was used as a polite address to a superior, maybe equal to our word “sir.” It was also used to mean master of a servant. But it was also used to translate the Hebrew word “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” “God.”

Wayne Grudem in his book Systematic Theology writes, “Any Greek-speaking reader at the time of the New Testament who had any knowledge at all of the Greek Old Testament would have recognized that…the word “Lord” was the name of the one who was the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth, the omnipotent God.”

This would have been shocking for someone to hear. Not only was he a Savior and the awaited Messiah, but he was God himself. This is Immanuel, God with us. It is an interesting note that these terms: Savior, Christ, and Lord appear nowhere else together in the Bible. This statement by the angel was truly earth shattering. It was the greatest message that the world could have ever heard.

So, what do we take away from this message? Is this just informative about who Jesus is or is there a little more? I think there is so much more to what the angel has said.

The Point of the Message

The message revealed our inadequacies. Sin had done a number on God’s creation, and that includes us. One of the scariest things sin did was to convince us that even though there was sin, and even though we were separated from God, sin said, “It’s okay. You can fix yourself. You can make it right again.” And the birth of Jesus says, “You are wrong! You cannot fix yourself. You cannot make yourself right with God. No matter how hard you try. No matter how great you may be. You can’t and won’t ever make it.”

So, in revealing our inadequacies, the birth of Jesus reveals our incredible need for a Savior. We are dead in sin. We are in the middle of a lake treading water with a shore too far to get to.  And God says, “That’s okay. I’ve got it. I will do what you can’t do. I will be your Savior.”

The problem is that we’ve bought into the lie that we don’t need saving. We are a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” kind of people. And as long as we insist on this, we will miss the true meaning of Christmas.

The next thing I think the message tells us is that the gift we want isn’t always the gift we need. The people wanted political deliverance. We want life on easy street and a guarantee to never have to deal with problems. And Jesus, the promised one, the one who saves, comes along offering us spiritual salvation, the ability to overcome sin, the opportunity to live everyday in relationship with him, and the prospect for eternal life with him, and we look at that and say, “yeah, but what I’d really like is a better job, or more money, or well-behaved kids.” And we overlook what we need for what we think we want.

Jesus may not have been the Messiah they’d hope for, but he was certainly the Messiah they needed. And the same can be said for you and me.

The last thing I think this message points out to us is that this is a message for all the world, “for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) This Savior, who is Christ the Lord will not just save the Jewish people, but all who hear the message and respond will reap the benefits of his coming.

Our Response to the Message

One final thing I want you to see are the various responses to the message. The first response is fear. When the angel arrived, people were afraid. It was startling to them. But the angel tells them there is nothing to be afraid of, that the message is actually good news.

Often, when confronted with Jesus, we can be overcome with fear, because we misunderstand what he is saying. When Jesus comes into the world, we don’t need to fear.  We feel fear when we have something to hide. Just like Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden when they had sinned, we become afraid when we realize we cannot do it on our own and we see our own inadequacy. But when we understand the message of Christmas, when we understand the grace and love that God brought into the world that first Christmas, we realize there is nothing to be afraid of.

Another response we can have to the message is obedience. Following the story in Luke, we see that the shepherds obeyed.  They went to the manger and they got to see the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. They looked at him. They could touch him. Can you imagine being in that room? How could you possibly describe it?

We can also respond to the message with a desire to go and share the news. If we really believe this is the greatest news ever, why wouldn’t we share it? The shepherds couldn’t keep it to themselves. Over and over in the New Testament, people who encounter Jesus are unable to keep it inside. It overflows out of them.

Ultimately our response to this message should be joy. Great joy. And if in our journey of following Jesus, we lack joy, we need to ask why. Is it because we are still living in fear, thinking we can hide that part we don’t want discovered from God? Are we refusing to obey thinking what we currently have or do has to be better than where or what God is calling us to? Or are we unwilling to surrender and allow God to have control?

We like what we know and we are willing to struggle to hang onto our previous life, but deep down we know that great joy, and peace come from complete surrender to Jesus, the Messiah and Lord. The angel brought forth good news. Do you find it to be good news or is something in your life crowding out and distorting the message of Christmas?

May we find the joy that the birth of Jesus brings…the gift we truly need.

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