************ Sermon on Luke 2:11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2016
"A Savior, Christ the Lord has been Born"
2016 Advent # 6
Faith in Jesus was confessed this Christmas morning. Confessed by Ineke & Christian. Confessed by the entire congregation as we said the Apostles' Creed together.
Exactly Who is this Jesus we profess? To quote Jesus, "Who do people say I am?" (Mk 8:27). One way to answer this question is to look at His names: Jesus, Christ, Messiah, Lord, Son of Man, Word, Savior, Prophet, Suffering Servant, Shepherd. Another way to answer this question is to go through the lines of the Apostles' Creed. Still another way is to do what we are doing this morning: look at the words of the angel on Christmas Day.
First, what do we profess on this Christmas Day? We start with the word "Today." "Today," said the angel. When was that? In terms of a year, "Today" was probably 4 B.C. Since our calendar supposedly starts with the year of Jesus' birth we should now be in the year 2020. In terms of a month, "Today" was probably September. So our calendar is wrong.
"Today." Paul uses a wonderful phrase to describe "Today."
(Gal 4:4; NKJV) But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law ...According to Paul, "Today" is the fullness of time. In other words, when everything was ready according to the plan and providence of God.
According to the plan of God, the fullness of time included 400 years of silence since God last spoke to His people. But why 400 years? Israel was captive in Egypt for 400 years before God sent His redeemer, Moses, to deliver them from captivity into the freedom of His promises. In the same way, the coming of Jesus at the end of 400 years of silence filled up the timing of God, and signaled the resumption of His work of redemption on behalf of His people.
The fullness of time included the Roman Empire. This empire was the right political institution for God’s purposes. As the Lord used John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of Christ, so He used the Roman Empire to prepare the world for the arrival and rapid expansion of the Kingdom of our Lord.
Consider this: Roman roads were a protected transportation network from Egypt to France, allowing an ease of movement the world had never known before -- perfect for evangelists like Paul to travel quickly and safely from place to place. In addition, since the days of Alexander the Great, one could travel from Persia to Britain and, if he spoke Greek, he could be understood and his written words quickly copied and shared. Furthermore, Jewish communities were established throughout the Empire, and with them the idea of one God Who speaks through prophets. Add to all this a Roman peace, Roman law and order, and a general freedom of religion. Finally, the vast majority of the people were either poor or slaves -- thus, a people eager for some hope of a better life. Put this altogether and you have just the right conditions for the coming of Christ and His Kingdom. You have, indeed, the "fullness of time."
The exact date of Jesus’ birth may not be known, but we can rest assured about our profession that Jesus died for our sins (Gal 3:13), rose again (1 Cor 15:3-6), ascended into heaven (Acts 1), and that He will one day return (1 Thess 4:16-17).
II In the Town of David
Second, we may not profess to know the exact day and year of Christ's birth but in our profession we certainly know the place: "in the town of David." In other words, Bethlehem.
Here we continue to see the plan and providence of God. God was in control. God was in charge. Jesus was not only born in the fullness of time, but He was also born in the place picked by God. Long ago, through the prophet Micah, God had promised the birth of a ruler, a king, a shepherd in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). And so, by His providence, God put it on the heart of a Roman ruler to do a census of the entire Roman world. Because of this decree, Joseph and Mary ended up in Bethlehem.
Luke could have written "in Bethlehem." Instead, he wrote "in the town of David." Why does he do this? He wants us to remember another promise of God, a promise of God to David. A promise of a future King from the line of David. A promise of a King Who would rule forever (cf 2 Sam 7).
III A Savior
Third, the angel announces that Jesus is "Savior." This is part of our profession of Who Jesus is and why He has come. Obviously, this means Jesus saves people from something. The question we need to ask is, "From what does Jesus save people?"
The quick and easy answer is to say Jesus saves me from my sin. But we can go a little further and a little deeper: Jesus saves me from the punishment of sin. We can go even further: Jesus saves me from God's anger against my sin.
Too many people today don't think God is terribly concerned with sin. Nor do they think God is angry about sin. More people in America today think they need saving from Trump or Obama than from the anger of God. But the book of Romans makes it clear that God's wrath will be poured out upon unrepentant sinners. God is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.
Is this your confession? Do you know and admit your sin? Do you live in the awareness of God's terrible judgment upon your life? Are you aware that you deserve to spend eternity in the fires of hell?
We profess Jesus came as Savior. This means He died on the cross. This means He took my place. This means my guilt and judgment were placed on Him and His innocence and righteousness were placed on me. This means we look at His birth in light of His death. We look at Bethlehem from the viewpoint of Golgotha. The shadow of the cross stretches across the manger.
We profess Jesus came as Savior. He is the only Savior. It is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere. It is futile to think we can save ourselves. It is futile to think our works or our sighs and tears and prayers can save us.
IV Has Been Born
Fourth, we profess Jesus "has been born." His was -- and is -- a truly human nature. When we look through the Gospels, can there be any doubt as to His humanity: He was born of a mother, laid in a manger, circumcised, named, presented in the Temple. He grew and became strong. He was left behind in Jerusalem. He ate and drank. He has hands and feet. He prayed. He walked. He talked. He cried. He was tempted. He bled. He died. He was buried.
He was like us in every way -- except for sin.
We have a lot of JWs (Jehovah's Witnesses) in this area. They don't believe Jesus was and is fully human. They wrongly deny the Christian profession that the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature.
The liberals don't make this profession either. They deny that Jesus was a real historical person born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. They deny the historicity of Jesus and the entire Gospel story. Jesus, they believe, exists only in the faith of the disciples and the church.
We profess Jesus "has been born." We profess He had to be truly human in order to pay for our sin. We profess He had to bear the weight of God's anger in His humanity. We profess we need a Mediator Who is truly human.
V To You
Fifth, the angel who announced Jesus' birth appeared to lowly shepherds, not to the movers and shakers of society. From the viewpoint of these shepherds the most surprising thing said by the angel was the words "to you." A Savior has been born "to you." The angel could have said, "A Savior has been born to a girl named Mary." The angel could have said, "A Savior has been born to the nation of Israel." The angel could have said, "A Savior has been born to all people." Instead, the angel said a Savior has been born "to you."
The Savior was for them. He was their Savior. He was born to them as their Lamb of God. He was their Deliverer and Redeemer.
"To you." He is the Savior of everyone who professes His name. He is the Savior of all who lay their sin at the foot of the cross.
Is He your Savior? Have you confessed your sin and believed? Are you a sinner saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?
VI He is Christ
Sixth, we profess Jesus is "Christ." Christ is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word "Messiah." Jesus is the Messiah. In the Old Testament the Messiah is declared to be the Son of God. So, the Jesus we profess is not only fully man, He is also fully God. He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the triune Godhead.
I mentioned the JWs earlier. They deny that Jesus is fully human. They also deny Jesus is fully God. So what, then, do they say He is? They say He is a third kind of being -- not God, not man, but something in between.
Since there are also a lot of them in this area, I also need to say something about the Mormon faith. Mormons claim to believe in Jesus Christ. But their Jesus is NOT the Jesus of the Bible. Our text teaches that baby Jesus is God. He is God from eternity to eternity. But the Mormons say Jesus is Someone Who worked His way up to godhood and is NOT of the same essence as the Father.
VII The Lord
Seventh, we end with the profession that Jesus is "Lord." Lord. King. Ruler. Master.
He is "Lord." Impossible, as it may seem, that little baby in the manger is Lord. The newborn King announced by the angels had neither heavenly glory nor earthly majesty. He was a normal, wrinkled, swaddled baby. He was born in a stable, wrapped in rags, and placed in the food trough of cows and donkeys. Yet, the angel announces He is Lord. King. Ruler. Master.
Which means we are to be His servants, slaves, vassals, and subjects. He is in charge. His will is to be done. We are to reject our own wills and obey His will. We are to carry out the work He has called us to do as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
Think of the typical Gospel proclaimed on TV today. Sinners are told to accept Jesus as their personal Savior, to ask Jesus into their heart, to make a decision for Christ. Nothing else is said. This is a diluted Gospel, a partial Gospel, an incomplete Gospel. This is NOT the Gospel according to Jesus. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed was repent and believe. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to follow Him in submission and obedience. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship.
It is not enough to confess Jesus as Savior. The simple fact is, you cannot believe in Jesus as Savior without also accepting Him as Lord. By the power of the Spirit Who works faith in you, you also need to turn from sin. You also need to have a change in life. Your whole life needs to be committed to the Lord. No promise of salvation is ever extended to those who don't accept Jesus as Lord. There is no salvation except "lordship" salvation. The grace that saves us also changes us.
On the night Jesus was born, something spectacular took place. The plains of Bethlehem became the theater for one of the most spectacular sound and light shows in human history. An angel appeared surrounded by the glory of God -- what a dazzling display of light. And then a host of angels appeared, all of them praising God -- what an awesome sound.
Why? We just looked at the reason: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11).
I want to end this Christmas morning with a poem from one of my neighbors:
Now fall fades away, and winter quickly is coming,
When the rush of the holidays keeps us all running.
In the midst of the bustle, in the midst of the fray
Let the Gift of the Christ Child focus our way.
We are born into sin, can't reach to perfection.
On our own we are lost and faced with rejection.
For our God is loving, but He also is just.
To enter His heaven, zero sin is a must.
That would leave us quite hopeless, but God had a plan;
One to rescue us sinners, by sending a man.
Not just a man, but God Himself in the flesh,
Sent as a baby, like we place in each crèche.
Jesus, this baby, grew up as we do,
But sinless He stayed, God's plan to see through.
Our sin deserves death that God's justice required.
But through perfect love, OUR sin He acquired.
He took on our sin, and He died in our place,
An unfathomable, undeserved free gift of grace ...
May each of you know His peace and His love,
Your home and your hearts filled with joy from above.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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