************ Sermon on Luke 2:1-20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 17, 2000
"A Night I'll Never Forget"
Three Witnesses Describe Christ's Birth
Church School Christmas Program 2000
Tonight I want you to imagine. I want you to imagine that you were there. In Bethlehem. That you were a personal witness to the amazing events that evening. More specifically, I want you to imagine that you were the Innkeeper's Wife, a Shepherd Boy, and an Angel who witnessed the amazing wonderful events of that first Christmas.
I The Innkeeper's Wife
First, I want you to imagine that you were the Innkeeper's Wife. From your perspective, the story of the first Christmas probably went something like this ...
We had a busy day at the inn. People arrived from all over for the census, and we were full by mid-afternoon. In fact, we had to turn away five families. But somehow I didn't have the heart to turn away the young man and pregnant young woman, so I fixed them a place to sleep in the barn. I could tell it was almost time for her baby to be born, so I stayed with her. A woman needs another woman at a time like that, you know.
The young mother told me some strange stories about her pregnancy and baby. She told me she was a virgin. She told me about an angel and being overshadowed by the Spirit. I have to confess that at first I thought she was covering up her shady past, but later I started to realize that what she said might be true. After all, we have a mighty, powerful God – a God Who can do anything He wants to do.
After the baby was born, and we had wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, there was a knock on the barn door. A bunch of shepherds came in with a story as strange as that of the mother. They said they had seen and heard angels who told them that this was a special Child – a Savior not only of our people, but of all people!
We sure can use a Savior. Times are tough. Soldiers are always roaming through our town, and our children – especially our girls – are never safe. We feel like captives most of the time. And although most of us can scratch out a living, some of the really poor may not make it through the winter.
There has also been a lot of fighting in the village lately. Our neighbor is fooling around with another man's wife. So few people seem to walk in the way of the Lord anymore. We have a desperate need today for God's mercy and kindness. These are dark and lonely times for our people.
But I do remember an old prophecy we hear at the synagogue:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Who knows? Maybe this baby really is the Savior and will chase away the darkness.
At any rate, it sure was a night I'll never forget.
II A Shepherd Boy
Second, I want you to imagine that you were a Shepherd Boy in the fields outside of Jerusalem. From your perspective, the story of the first Christmas probably went something like this ...
It was a night that began like most other nights. My older brothers and I had the sheep all bedded down for the night. We were sitting by the camp fire. As my brothers were talking I was looking dreamily into the starry sky. That's why I saw it first. Way up in the sky I saw the light coming. Before long it was so bright, we could hardly stand it, and we were scared out of our wits. Then the voice – I'll never forget that voice! "Don't be afraid," said the voice. And then it told us about a Savior born in Bethlehem. And then came those hundreds of other voices. They sang the most beautiful song I have ever heard. A song about glory and peace. It was so soothing. So comforting. I don't cry much at my age, but I sure got a lump in my throat when I heard that song.
When they were gone, it was pitch dark and so quiet we could hear the sheep breathe. After a while I said, "Let's go." Some of the others weren't quite sure. "We can't leave the sheep; they may be all gone when we get back." But I told them I wanted to see the Savior. I was so excited, I was willing to take a chance – nothing like this had ever happened to us before. My oldest brother agreed with me. When we had the others convinced, we ran all the way into town and found the barn. And it was just as the angels had said! I'll never forget that night.
On our way back to the sheep, we told everybody we met – it was early morning by now – about what we had seen and heard, and you can well imagine their reaction. Some said we were crazy because we spent too much time under the moon or in the sun. Others thought we were just making the whole story up. We told them we could never make up anything like that!
We were so happy on our way back to the field that we started singing the song that the angels sang. We sounded pretty good if I have to say so myself – but, of course, not near as good as those angels.
It sure was a night I'll never forget.
III An Angel
Third, I want you to imagine that you were one of the crowd of angels that appeared in the heavens above Bethlehem. From your perspective, the story of the first Christmas probably went something like this ...
I was one of the Angels in that choir. Of course, I'm not as important as Michael or Gabriel. Gabriel, you know, was the angel sent to Zechariah and Mary. I doubt if I will ever get to carry those kinds of messages. But I did get to sing in the angel choir over the hills of Bethlehem.
At first I nearly started to laugh when those shepherds saw us. I guess they had never seen an angel before. They were so scared they either hid under the blankets or started running for the hills. But the angel of the Lord calmed them and our song was so beautiful that they stayed and listened. We sang "Glory to God" over and over and over again. I could have sung it all night.
Our song told them only a little bit of the story. Gabriel told us the rest, but I'm not quite sure if I understand it all. Our great God – His name be praised! – saw no other way to save the world, to bring wholeness back to the people, except by becoming one of them. Somehow, in some way, that baby born in Bethlehem is also God!
I must admit, it was a shock to hear that God was going to take on human flesh and be born in a barn as a helpless baby. It was even more of a shock to hear that people would hate Him and kill Him. But we were overjoyed to learn that our God is going to come back to us as the great King.
I don't understand all of this, but when we were singing, I got the main point: God is going to straighten out the world. God is going to save His people from their crooked ways. God is going to bring shalom. And, though it is hard to believe, this baby Jesus is central to all of this.
Even though I don't understand all of it, I'm going to keep singing about glory to God and peace on earth.
It sure was a night I'll never forget.
IV A WORD TO THE CONGREGATION
For the Innkeeper's wife, the Shepherd Boy, and the Angel, it was a night they would never forget. Their lives were all affected by what they saw and heard.
Of course, we were not there in Bethlehem. We are here, Christmas-time, 2000. Yet, I hope and pray that we too can say that this was a night we will never forget. You see, our lives too should be affected by that wondrous night.
A Like the Innkeeper's Wife, we too have our moments of doubt. We wonder at times – at least I know that I do – if the whole story is real. Is there a God? Did He really send His Son to take on human flesh?
Like the Innkeeper's Wife we have to rest in the fact that our God is so almighty that there is nothing He cannot do.
The Innkeeper's Wife spoke of the need for a Savior. "Times are tough," she said. "These are dark and lonely times for our people." We also know about the dark corners of our world. There are dark corners of fear and hunger and loneliness in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But there is also the darkness of fear and loneliness and sorrow and pain in Visalia too. We have a desperate need today for God's mercy and kindness.
In all of this darkness it is important that we say to ourselves and to each other, "The Christ Child brings light into our darkness. He preaches good news to the poor. He binds up the brokenhearted. He comforts all those who mourn. He is our Savior too. We need Him and we want Him near us."
For us too it must be a night we can never forget.
B The Shepherd Boy was full of excitement after He heard the angel message and the angel song. He could hardly wait to get to the stable and He was willing to take some risks with the sheep in order to get there. After his encounter with the Child, he went back to the fields whistling and singing, telling his story to all who would hear.
We, too, must show some of that holy impatience. We, too, must look for Christ's Kingdom with great and eager anticipation. We too must be filled with excitement because something like this has never happened before. But are we? We have heard the old, old Christmas story so many times that it is exactly that – old. Because of this the real danger exists that it no longer stirs us, excites us, or fills us with impatience.
Like the Shepherd Boy, we too must be willing to take risks, to give all, for the Gospel and the Kingdom. But do we? Are we willing to give of ourselves, our time, our money?
On the way back to the fields, the shepherds said, "Guess what we heard! Guess what we saw! Would you believe ...?" After meeting Christ – as each of us have – do we tell our story of meeting Him? Do we want everyone to know what we have heard and seen? Do we want others to know the Good News, the best news in the whole wide world?
For us and for those around us, it must be a night we can never forget.
C We can also identify with the Angel. We are full of wonder, full of amazement that God became one of us, Immanuel, God with us. We are full of wonder, full of amazement that God loves us so much that He gave His only Son, that He gave Himself. We are full of wonder, full of amazement that God sent His Son to be born in a stable and to die on a cross. We are full of wonder, full of amazement, that Christ is now in heaven at the right hand of God -- the eternal King of an eternal Kingdom. I came across a poem this past week which shows me the wonder and amazement of Christmas.
Subtopic: Incarnation of
Title: The Essence of Christmas
Christmas means that:
He descended that we might ascend (John 6:38, 14:3).
He became poor that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9, James. 2:5).
He was born that we might be born again (John 1:14, 3:2,7).
He became a servant that we might become sons (Phil. 2:7; Gal. 4:6, 7).
He had no home that we might have a home in heaven (Matt. 8:20; John 14:2).
He was hungry that we might be fed (Matt. 4:2; John 6:50).
He was thirsty that we might be satisfied (John 19:26).
He was stripped that we might be clothed (Matt. 27:28; Gal. 3:27).
He was forsaken that we might not be forsaken (Matt. 27:26; 28:20).
He was sad that we might become glad (Isa. 53:3; Phil. 4:4).
He was bound that we might go free (Matt. 27:2; John 8:32-36).
He was made sin that we might be made righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).
He died that we might live (John 5:24, 25).
He came down that we might be caught up (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
As we think about the wonder and marvel of it all we should find ourselves singing the angels' song some two thousand years after it was first sung:
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Like the Angel, for us too it must be a night we can never forget.
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