This sermon is part of the sermon series "Miraculous Births". See series.
This sermon is part of the “Miraculous Births” sermon series. See the whole series here.
Christmas is a depressing time for most people. A 1972 article written by a director of the California Department of Mental Hygiene warns: “The Christmas season is marked by greater emotional stress and more acts of violence than any other time of the year.”
Christmas is an excuse to get drunk, have a party, get something, give a little, leave work, get out of school, spend money, overeat, and all kinds of other excesses. Are any of these excesses what Christmas has become for you? We look at the wonder on the face of a child at Christmas and it's got to make us think, what happened to us? Instead of greatly anticipating the day, we are just trying to get through it.
But it's not too late! Christmas can be saved! It’s only Christmas Eve—and I don’t mean that there is still time to get last minute shopping done. I pity the fool. I ordered my gifts on Amazon Prime days ago (Amazon is backed up and they won’t arrive until the 27th).
I don’t mean that Christmas can be saved from old fogies and scrooges like you and me by last-minute shopping, re-discovering the magic, living vicariously through children, or even by being generous. Christmas can only be saved when we appreciate that Christmas itself was a rescue mission. To save Christmas this year, we must meditate on the fact that God sent his Son so that we might be saved from our sin. It’s a message you have heard many times. But have you treasured it up in your heart?
In our miraculous births series, we have come to Jesus. You might expect that here on Christmas Eve we’d be thinking about the birth of Jesus. And indeed we are. My main point is that God sends his Son to be born of a woman so that the humble might rejoice in his eternal reign. We will consider this main idea in three points. God’s humble servant, David’s promised Christ, and God’s glorious Son.
God’s humble servant
The first woman, Eve, was not God’s humble servant. Eve had everything a woman could want. But she wanted more and she took it. She wanted to be like God. In her pride, she doubted God’s Word. And she rebelled against her maker and King. Of course, Adam and Eve’s fall led to original sin, this broken world, and to death. But in the midst of the curse, God leaves humanity with a glimmer of hope. God said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Eve had hoped that one of her sons would be this promised serpent striker. But instead her eldest son struck down his brother Abel. It wasn’t Eve’s sons, nor Sarah’s, nor Hannah’s, nor Elizabeth’s that would fulfill this destiny and save us all. So when would this offspring of the woman come? Who would bear the offspring who would put an end to the curse?
(Read Luke 1:26–56)
Mary doesn’t doubt Gabriel’s unbelievable message (like Zechariah had). But she does ask how this will happen since she is a virgin. Gabriel explains how she will conceive: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Wait, that’s it? But Mary in her humility accepts Gabriel’s explanation! Look at verse 38. “‘I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’”
Eve, in her pride, doubted God’s Word. Mary, in her humility, believed. It wasn’t because Mary had answers to her many questions like: What would it mean that the “power of the Most High will overshadow me”? What will happen when Joseph finds out I’m pregnant and he knows he’s not the father? What will my community do to me when they find out that I’m pregnant prior to Joseph taking me into his house? Mary could expect divorce at best, stoning at worst, and certainly a lot of questions and conflict. But Mary’s simple answer to Gabriel in verse 38 was “‘I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’”
Consider Mary’s humble trust in God and his purposes for her life. What would it look like for you to entrust yourself to this God like we see Mary do here? Especially as you consider your future that fills you with apprehension? Or as you consider the future of someone you love? It’s a scary thing to submit yourself to another. Even if our theology tells us that God is trustworthy and perfectly good. What in your life are you struggling to entrust to God? You’d rather call the shots in that relationship. With your career path. With your investments. With that habit. Not sure what you are struggling to entrust to God? What fears or areas of your life do you find yourself hiding or just not talking about with your friends or family? Our pride runs deep. We would rather be in control because we still think, even after all our mistakes, that we know better than God.
But God blesses those who entrust themselves to him in humility. Elizabeth says of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” God is pleased with those who humbly believe his Word and entrust themselves to him. God is looking for a people who think that he alone can do great things for us! And in Mary’s “Magnificat” in verses 46–55, she rejoices that God lifts up the humble and brings down the proud. This is why Mary was chosen to carry the Christ child. It is the opposite of the way our world works. We are enamored with the beautiful, the talented, the celebrity. But as God said to Samuel (another miraculous birth) long ago, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” And the heart he is looking for is a heart of humble trust.
This great reversal is what Christmas is all about. God doesn’t only come and bless those who humbly trust him but he comes in humility himself!
We won’t read it until tonight, but turn over to Luke 2:1–7. Mary gives birth to Jesus just as Gabriel said she would. Mary lays her firstborn son in an animal feeding trough. We don’t get many details. Was there some mean innkeeper who turned them away? How was the journey? How was the delivery? How did Mary and Joseph feel? Were they in a cave or a stable? Were there animals around? We don’t know. Luke doesn’t focus on these details because he wants us to see the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that God has become man. Consider the humility of Christ along with the apostle Paul from Philippians 2:6–11.
[Read Phil. 2:6–11]
God would come to us, his people that he had made, as a servant. As a weak dependent child. And in the fullness of time, God would highly exalt his humble Son who took on the nature of a servant. And he promises to exalt all those who humble themselves like Mary and like his Son. Can you imagine the joy to be exalted and glorified with the God of the universe himself? Only those who humbly trust God will know his favor.
The promised Savior does not merely come to us in humility as a servant. But he came according to God’s promise to David. He came as Christ the King. The Messiah. That is what we will consider second.
David’s promised Messiah
David had everything a man could ever want. But, like Eve, David wanted more and he took it. He took another man’s wife. He murdered that man so he could keep her. David would not be the promised serpent crusher. But God loved David, and he made a promise to him just as he had made a promise to Adam and Eve in the midst of the curse. This is what God said to King David: “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12–13).
Over a thousand years had passed since God’s promise to David. As we considered last week, many in Israel had moved on with their lives. There was no indication that God would keep his promise. But then Gabriel shows up to a virgin named Mary and tells her that the Lord God will give her son “the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Gabriel tells Mary that her child is the one to establish David’s throne forever. And when this child is born, the angels deliver the same message. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” Christ means Messiah—the promised Davidic King. And this is why it is significant that Joseph comes from the line of David and that the child is born in the city of David, in Bethlehem. This child is the fulfillment of the promise to David.
But other than seeing the trustworthiness of God to fulfill his ancient promises, why is this promise and fulfillment significant for us? Let’s read on.
Eight days after the birth of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph travel to the temple for the circumcision of their firstborn. And we see two individuals who encourage us to rejoice at God’s salvation come in David’s promised Messiah.
[Read Luke 2:25–38]
The Holy Spirit tells Simeon, “You won’t die before seeing the Messiah.” And when Mary and Joseph show up with their newborn child, the Holy Spirit moves Simeon to approach the family. I wonder what Mary thought when this strange man took her newborn up in his arms. But we know Mary and Joseph marvel at what Simeon says about their baby: “This child is salvation for all people—Jew and Gentile!”
And then if Simeon had not been enough to shock Mary and Joseph, Anna shows up. She spreads the news to all that this child would be the one who would redeem Israel. If I were Joseph, I don’t know what I would have done. Quit telling everyone about my kid. This is getting weird.
But it isn’t weird. The joy we see from the shepherds (which we’ll read about tonight) and from Simeon and Anna must be our joy today. God has sent his promised Davidic ruler. Salvation is here in him. What the world has been waiting for has arrived. The answer to your brokenness and the fulfillment of your greatest expectations. It's here! But what we see at the conclusion of Simeon’s prophecy is that salvation would not come how Israel had expected. Simeon takes Mary aside and says this cryptic thing to her in the midst of all the rejoicing. For this king would establish his throne in the most ironic way. A sword through his mother’s soul. And this Messiah’s death would reveal the state of all hearts.
If you’re not a Christian here today, we are really glad you are here. You are always welcome. I wonder if your heart’s motives, loves, and everything about you was exposed—would it be a pretty picture? How would you feel about that? I’m sure this idea of being exposed and judged is one reason why you find it difficult to come to church. And don’t worry, we aren’t doing a public confession or asking you to even come to “confession.” I don’t want my heart to be exposed either.
But unbelieving friend, we do want your heart to be exposed to yourself even now. You need salvation from yourself. You have not lived a life that has pleased a holy God—and you know it. Just as Simeon and Anna understood that not all was right with the state of Israel, God sent his Messiah because not all is right with the state of our hearts. Like Adam and Eve, we have not trusted God’s Word. We have rebelled against him. Like King David, we take and desire more even though God has given us so much. For our sin and rebellion, God sent the promised King to rescue us, but instead of winning the war against evil through political cunning or military strength, he laid down his life. A spear literally pierced his side as his mother watched his dead body hanging lifeless after hours of torture on a Roman cross. Was this her little child whom she had laid in the manger? This was the one whom shepherds worshiped? This is what God’s people had been waiting for since time began? Surely, not.
And this King of the Jews suffered on the cross not just the agony of torturous death. Christ endured the wrath of his Father for human sin. He brings salvation by bearing the punishment of all who would turn and humble themselves and trust that this is not just the Son of David but the Son of God who had come to make all things new.
We look for joy in many places. I hope you know by now the places you tend to look for joy. But today, I beg you look to the manager, the rugged cross, the empty tomb, the throne of heaven—and see your King. He is the only one who can save you from your sin. He is the only one who can make you whole. He is the only one who can bring you true and lasting joy. For he is the source of all joy. All the joys you know in this life come from him. He made them all. He wired your emotions, your appetites. He gave you your family and community that—in the brokenness and pain— are meant to point to the joy that can only be found in him. The happiness and pleasures are meant to point you to him again.
Charles Spurgeon wrote:
When the Eternal stooped from Heaven, and assumed the nature of His own creature who had rebelled against Him, the deed could mean no harm to man. God in our nature is not God against us, but God with us. We may take up the young Child in our arms, and feel, with old Simeon, that we have seen the Lord’s salvation.
You can take up the child in your arms even now in faith. You can hear the words of love in God’s Word and know his nearness. The question is, will you?
The fact that this child was not only a humble servant, not only the Davidic King, but the Son of the Most High God is what we will consider third and finally.
God’s glorious Son
As we considered earlier with Eve and King David, God had everything he could ever want. He had perfect joy and fellowship with himself in the Trinity. He had existed from eternity past in perfect joy. And yet he wanted more. And so he gave. He gave life to Adam and Eve. He made promises to them and to Abraham and to David. And at just the right time, when no one was expecting and when the world wasn’t taking much notice, he gave his beloved Son.
Gabriel had told Mary that her son “would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High” and that “the holy one to be born would be called the Son of God.”
The angel had declared to the shepherds that this child was the Lord! Heaven had come to meet earth in great praise and joy as the angels worshiped saying, “Glory to God in the highest.” Are you astounded at his glorious humility? Is your heart brimming with joy?
If you’re anything like me, your heart is unaffected by this all too often. We are more interested in the new, and this is an old story. The developments of politics, the dopamine hit of our social media newsfeed, the newest Hollywood blockbuster, the recent album drop, the viral YouTube clip gets us going and sharing. We’ll share that. Just as the shepherds shared their joy when the angels lit up their mobile devices ... err, night sky!
For many of us, the familiarity of this Christmas story has deadened the impact it should have on our lives. We have lost the wonder. Dorothy Sayers agrees. She writes:
The tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero. … If this is dull, what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.
If the Christmas message doesn’t strike you as sensational, I’d encourage you to observe Mary’s response to her son in our final text this morning.
[Read Luke 2:41–52]
This boy understood that the Most High God was his Father. And he longed to be in his Father’s presence where his Father’s law was discussed, examined, and interpreted. Mary and Joseph were obviously exasperated like any parents who have lost a child. But Jesus was safe. He was where he belonged. God’s glorious presence had left the temple in the time of Ezekiel. But here as an eight-day-old, as a 12-year-old little boy, God had returned to his temple. God’s presence was among his people and in the most remarkable way! The teachers of the law were amazed at this little boy’s understanding and questions of the law. But imagine their amazement if they knew that this boy was God the Son!
Jesus returns home with his parents and submits to their authority (that he, as the Son of God had given them). Mary treasured all these things in her heart.
And that is where Christmas leave us. Consider the responses to this entry of the Son of God into our world. Mary in her humble trust in God’s Word. Simeon and Anna as they rejoiced in God’s salvation. And now Mary again as she treasured in her heart that her little boy called the God of the universe his Father.
Have you taken a moment yet this Christmas season to treasure up all these things in your heart? Have you pondered it? Meditated on it? You won’t slide into meditating on it. It won’t happen on accident. There are too many distractions. The enemy is too active. How will you consider in your heart this message tonight or tomorrow? How will you even consider these things in the quietness of your own heart right now?
The incarnation is (as one author put it) “the most breathtaking demonstration in history of God’s love for his creation and his intention to make all things new.”
You and I have everything we could ever want. For if this God loves us with such a deep love that he would send his Son who would take on the nature of a servant, who would suffer for our salvation, and then would raise us up with him, making all things new, we are those who have everything. For we have God himself. And yet we want more, don’t we? More of him! We want to see as the angels see God’s glory. We want to know his favor so that we might live confident lives of praise, knowing the peace that Christ has secured for us through his life, death, and resurrection. We want to be full of joy like the shepherds and tell everyone we know of all we have seen and heard, for our God reigns! If you have never known the joy of Mary and Elizabeth, the shepherds and the angels, and Simeon and Anna at this child, pray. Pray that God would give you eyes to see “what child is this.” And ask him that he would give you unspeakable joy. The joy that only comes through knowing the source of all joy and love himself, knowing Christ, the newborn king.
We live on a visited planet. One where God himself was born. Walked among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only full of grace and truth. What God has done is astonishing. Will you marvel? Will you rejoice? Will you worship?
Daniel Schreiner serves as an associate pastor at Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, OR.