************ Sermon on Luke 2:11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2006
"A Savior Has Been Born"
Christmas Day 2006
I Silent Night?
A One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Silent Night! Holy Night!" But you know, it was not a silent night. In fact, it was a noisy night. Shepherds were screaming. Sheep were bleating. Cattle were lowing. An angel was shouting. A heavenly chorus was singing. A mother cried out in the pain of child birth. A new born baby started to wail. A father yelled for water and cloths. That doesn't like a very silent night to me.
B The first Christmas was loud and noisy because exciting things were happening. Go to "Six Flags Magic Mountain." Exciting things happen there: take a ride on roller coasters with names like "Batman the Ride," "Colossus," "Deja Vu," "Flashback," and "Tatsu"; skydive without a parachute on the "Dive Devil"; take a plunge over a 50-foot waterfall on the "Tidal Wave." Can you imagine a place like Magic Mountain being quiet? Can you imagine the only noise coming from the machinery whipping you up and down at 80 MPH? Can you imagine the people on the ride sitting in complete silence? Of course not! Music is blaring. People are shouting and screaming. Machinery is clanking. Motors are running. Park employees are calling back and forth.
The first Christmas was loud and noisy because exciting things were happening. An angel appeared. And then a company of angels. And a special baby – the Messiah, the Savior – was born. That's the kind of stuff you can't keep quiet about. That's the kind of stuff that makes you want to scream and yell and be excited about.
C Not everyone wants us to be noisy about Christmas. Last year Wal-Mart, Target, and UPS did not want employees saying "Merry Christmas"; instead, they had to greet customers with "Happy Holidays," or "Seasons Greetings," or some other phrase that does not use the name of Christ.
This is not new. Did you know there was a time that Christmas was illegal. Was it because some secular judge or communist dictator issued an anti-Christmas ruling? No. Rather, the people who made Christmas illegal were some of the most zealous Christians who ever lived.
Today, as you know, some of our courts have ruled that you can't have Christmas scenes with the baby Jesus on public property. But the anti-Christmas legislation I am talking about was far stricter than this. You were not allowed to have manger scenes even in your own home or church. You were not allowed to celebrate Christmas.
These Christians banned Christmas out of obedience to Jesus and the Bible. They saw that Christmas was often a time of greed, gluttony, abuse of alcohol, and wild parties. And, they saw no command in the Bible to celebrate Christmas.
I am talking about the English Puritans. In 1644 the Puritans controlled Parliament and passed a law prohibiting the celebration of Christmas, Easter, and other holidays. They actually sent out the sheriffs on Christmas Day to arrest shopkeepers who closed their doors.
II A Savior has been Born
A Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a teacher. He came to teach us about God and godly living and to answer some of our questions and warn us of different dangers. He is a great teacher like Socrates or Plato or Ben Franklin with pithy statements and inspirational thoughts that we can contemplate all day long.
B Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be our example. If only we would imitate Him, if only we would ask "What would Jesus do?" then we would all get along with each other in peace and love and harmony. If only we would be like Him, then the world would be filled with truth and justice and righteousness. Imagine what would be the result if we, like Him, turned the other cheek and prayed for our enemies and fed the hungry.
C Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a social and political revolutionary. Look at how He went out of His way to upset the Scribes and Pharisees. Look at how He openly broke their rules and regulations. Look at how He exposed their hypocrisy. Look at how He threatened Herod and Rome with His talk about a Kingdom and a throne.
D Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a miracle worker. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, fed the hungry, walked on water, cast out evil spirits, and turned water into wine. He came to make the world a better and kinder and gentler place. He came to make a difference, to lend a hand, to be of service.
E Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came as the ultimate sales gimmick. I started to see Christmas advertisements and Christmas stuff in the stores at the end of October already. Many retail businesses depend on Christmas sales to stay in business – for a store like JC Penney these sales represent 25-30 percent of all sales in a year and 50% of all profits; electronics stores do 40% of all sales at Christmas time; jewelry stores soar up to 50%
F Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? What does the Bible say? "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you" (Lk 2:11). Jesus came, Jesus was incarnated, in order to be our Savior. This is why Christians become excited about Christmas – this is the day we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you" (Lk 2:11). This statement sums up the entire ministry and life of Jesus – "a Savior has been born to you." This statement explains the incarnation, why God became man – "a Savior has been born to you." This statement lies at the heart of what Christmas tells us – "a Savior has been born to you." This is the crowning expression of God's love for us – "a Savior has been born to you." This statement is the foundation of the Church's message – "a Savior has been born to you." On this witness the Church is built and by this teaching the people of God live – "a Savior has been born to you."
Isn't it wonderful that the heart of the Gospel, that the thrust of Christmas, can be stated in such simple terms – "a Savior has been born to you."
There is so much today that would try to take our attention away from the heart of the Gospel. I'm not just thinking about the world and its secular view of Christmas. I think also of the prevailing materialism of the age we live in – the accumulation of earthly goods and treasures; this has always diverted attention away from the heart of the Gospel. Furthermore, I think of those within and without the Church who would focus all our attention on issues. We have to beware of this, congregation, because people who are focused exclusively on issues are no longer focused on Jesus.
Whenever we find our attention wandering or our faith wavering, whenever we find ourselves becoming confused about the true meaning of Christmas, whenever we seem to have lost sight of the Gospel message, then we should spend a few moments reflecting on the teaching that is in front of us this morning, a teaching that sounds so simple and easy to understand – "a Savior has been born to you."
III A Savior from Sin
A "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you."
This is nothing to get excited about if you don't think you need saving. If you are sitting comfortably on a cruise ship or on the beach and someone throws you a life preserver, you should not be impressed. But, if you have fallen overboard or off the end of the dock and someone throws you a life preserver, that is an entirely different matter.
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." This will get you excited only if you know your need for the Savior. This will get you excited only if you know you are a sinner.
The angel of the Lord knew all about human sin. He knew that the shepherds and "all the people" (Lk 2:10) were drowning in sin. He knew that the shepherds and all the people needed saving. That's why he was announcing "good news of great joy for all the people" (Lk 2:10).
B Now, what is sin?
The Bible has many words to describe sin. Sometimes it is described as unfairness or injustice or iniquity when you don't treat others as equals. This is the sin of a rich man who kills a poor man's single lamb.
Sometimes sin is described as trespassing or transgressing. God's holiness is pictured as a piece of land. When we step across the border of it, we trespass. We tread on holy ground. We go beyond our limits. This is the sin of Adam and Eve who took the forbidden fruit and tried to be like God.
Sometimes sin is pictured as missing a target, or stumbling and falling, or getting all dirty, or wandering off the right path and getting lost. This is the sin of the lost son who left home with his share of the inheritance.
When it comes right down to it, sin is disobedience. It is disobedience against God. This is a reminder that all sin is sin against God. Yes, we may sin against our wife or husband, our children or parents, our neighbor, our church, our friends. But ultimately, all sin is sin against God. Think of Joseph when Potiphar's wife wanted to commit adultery with him. This was sin against Potiphar, and Joseph knew that. But he knew this was first sin against God. So he said to Potiphar's wife, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9). Or, think of King David after his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. He cried out to God:
(Ps 51:4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
We need to remember that sin is not just something mankind does but it is also something mankind is. You see, some say people are sinners because they sin; but the truth of the matter is that people sin because they are sinners. Sin is something we are born with. It is something all people inherit. It is something that corrupts from within so that words, thoughts, and deeds are all infected. In other words, Jesus came not only for murderers and drug dealers but He also came for me and you and everyone else in this building, for we all are sinners who need saving.
C "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." This will not get you excited unless you also know what salvation is.
What exactly is salvation? What do we mean when we say Jesus is Savior? The Bible uses as many words for salvation as it uses for sin. Sometimes salvation is described as reconciliation. Think of a lost son who returns home and is greeted with a kiss. Or, think of a husband and wife who make up after a big argument. In saving us, Jesus reconciles us to God. He removes the anger and the hatred and the enmity that exists between us and God.
Sometimes salvation is described as redemption. To redeem something is to pay a ransom. Think of a slave who is bought so the master can set him free. In saving us Christ has redeemed us from evil, sin, death, emptiness, and the powers of this world.
Sometimes salvation is described as satisfaction. To a certain extent most of feel a measure of satisfaction when we hear of the conviction of someone like Scott Peterson or Ken Lay for this means justice is going to be satisfied. In saving us Christ satisfied the demands of God's justice. In saving us Christ satisfied God's demand for obedience and holiness and punishment.
Sometimes salvation is described as forgiveness. This means the sin is gone, it is covered, it is no longer there.
Finally, sometimes salvation is also described as acceptance. All of us hunger for acceptance. And, we are willing to do all sorts of things if we think it will gain us acceptance: we wear a certain kind of clothing, talk and act in a certain kind of way, participate in certain kinds of activities. When Christ saves us He makes us acceptable to God. When Christ saves us God accepts us.
D "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." This will not get you excited unless you also realize how the Savior does His work of saving. The Savior saves us from our sin by going the way of the cross and the grave, by suffering and dying and rising and ascending, by the crucifixion and resurrection. Bethlehem needs to be seen in the light of Golgotha.
"Silent Night! Holy Night!" Absolutely not! It was an exciting night, an awesome night. Because, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you."
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