Sunday, December 22, 2002

The Christmas Story

The Christmas Story


Now the angel Gabriel is perhaps the highest ranking messenger of God. It was he who was sent to Daniel to explain the vision Daniel had seen, (Daniel 8:16), and then again to reveal the end times prophecy of the seventy weeks. (Daniel 9:21-27) Perhaps it was Gabriel who wrestled with the prince of the power of the air over Persia, (Daniel 10:13), and called for the arch angel, Michael, who assisted in the heavenly fight. Over 400 years later, Gabriel visited a Levite Priest, Zacharias, and his wife, Elizabeth, to inform them they would have a son in their old and barren years. (Luke 1) This son would be named John and he would be the prophet sent in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Gabriel introduced himself to Zacharias as the ‘Champion of God’ who stands in the presence of God. (Luke 1:19) Six months later Gabriel is sent by God to the city of Nazareth in the Galilee region of Israel, a land filled with trees, hills, valleys and meadows, fertile soil in which crops abound. Gabriel is sent specifically to visit with a young Jewish girl named Mary. (Luke 1:26) Here Gabriel delivers his message while all of heaven and eternity await this young girl’s response.

Mary is growing up and, no doubt very pretty. She is engaged to marry a man in town who is working to become a carpenter. (Mark 6:3) His name is Joseph. Much of the town is aware of their engagement and soon coming marriage. Joseph is a proper man who cares deeply for Mary. (Matthew 1:19) He is an upstanding member of the community, a religious man and is well liked by his friends.

On this particular day Gabriel comes in unto Mary and salutes her with an uncommon greeting. “Hail, You are highly favored, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.” As she wonders what this could mean, Gabriel continues, “Do not be afraid, You have found favor with God. Listen to me. You are going to conceive a child and bring birth to a Son and you will name Him Jesus. He is going to be great and He will be called the Son of The Most High God, and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David. He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and concerning His kingdom, there shall never be an end to it.” (Luke 2:26-33)

Mary, in her honest reply, said, “How could this happen? You see, I have never been with a man.” Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit of God will anoint you and His power shall overwhelm you and through this miracle you will conceive and bring birth to The Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35)

In order to give Mary confidence and substance for faith, Gabriel told her that six months earlier her cousin, Elizabeth, had also conceived in her old age and that she was pregnant with a child at this moment. He told Mary that even though Elizabeth had been barren, With God, nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:36-37)

At this, faith must have arisen in Mary’s heart, or perhaps her gentle and trusting nature gave the answer all of heaven was waiting for. She said, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it unto me according to your word.” At this Gabriel had completed his mission and left her. (Luke 1:38)

Immediately following this encounter, Mary decided to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. She left for the hill country in a hurry to see them and went to the city of Juda. When Mary arrived and greeted Elizabeth, the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy with a loud voice. She said to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why am I so honored to have the mother of my Lord come to visit me? Blessed are you Mary for believing and now all that God has told to you shall be performed.” (Luke 1:41-45) Mary magnified the Lord and lifted her voice to proclaim God’s majesty and wisdom. (Luke 1:46ff)

After three months Mary returned to her home in Nazareth. (Luke 1:56) It soon became evident to those in her city, that Mary was pregnant and without a husband. Many were filled with hurt, disappointment and even anger. When Joseph was told he decided not to make a public example of Mary, but to end the engagement privately to save any further hurt and pain. (Matthew 1:19) On a night before he could arrange this, Joseph was visited by an angel and told not to fear, but to take Mary as his wife. The angel explained all that had happened and what was to take place. Joseph, being a just man, put away his own concerns and followed the angel’s instructions. (Matthew 1:20-24)

About the time when Mary was to bring birth to her firstborn Son, it became mandatory that all the Jews had to return to the city of their family’s heritage and there be counted in the census for tax purposes. (Luke 2) The Roman government was strictly enforcing this rule and so Mary and Joseph left Nazareth and traveled near 100 miles south to Bethlehem. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and brought forth her Son and wrapped him up in linen cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

Out in the fields surrounding Bethlehem, there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. The angel of the Lord came to the shepherds and the glory of God shined like a light all around them and they were very afraid. The angel said, “Fear not! I bring you glad tidings and great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this night in the city of David, in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior which is Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign to you, you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

All of a sudden there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men.” (Luke 2:14)

When the angels departed the shepherds hurried into the town to see what they had been told. They came and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, just as the angels had said. The shepherds left there glorifying and praising God and telling everyone all that they had been told and seen. (Luke 2:15-20) After a few days it came time to name the child, they called his name Jesus, just as Gabriel had told Mary to do nine months earlier. (Luke 2:21) This Jesus is the Son of God, Christ the Anointed Messiah, Savior, Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, God Incarnate and Soon Coming Ruler of all that is. (Isaiah 9:6; Revelation 17:14)

Now Let’s Read Beginning With Luke 2:1

Luke 2

1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 ¶ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

21 ¶ And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

As We Close This Service, There Are Three Things I Would Like For You To Do

Complete these sentences:

#1. “Christmas is a time when we should ________.

#2. If God would give me one gift this year, it would be ________.

#3. If I could give God one gift this Christmas, I would like to give Him ________.

Now I challenge you to make the most of this Christmas season:

Receive God’s best gift for you and give Him your best in return.