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Dec 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 24, 2017 – Luke 2:6-14

A Christmas Eve Meditation

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly 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 among men with whom He is pleased.”
 Luke 2:6-14

Intro: Something ordinary was going on in Bethlehem

A woman was giving birth to her first child – a son
– she is young, she has made a long journey, and she is far from home
• now she caresses and nurtures this new life
– I wonder if she is holding on to her awareness of the supernatural presence
• or is she preoccupied with exhaustion, busyness, and the ordinariness of it all?
• has she momentarily forgotten the angel and what he said?
◦ I wonder if she could use a reminder right about now?

Meanwhile, in the same region, something extraordinary was going on
– if you lived in that culture and at that time
• and you were responsible for making a big announcement,
◦ shepherds would be the least likely audience you would choose
◦ the are not the spokespersons in the Bible — not like priests or prophets
• but in the heart of God, they were the perfect candidates
– some biblical heroes were shepherds before becoming prophets, priests or kings
• what God loved about shepherds was their care for their flock
◦ God had little interest in leaders who used people to create armies, build empires and enrich themselves
◦ he loved the good shepherd who would willingly lay down his life for the sheep
• a poet-shepherd from Bethlehem wrote,

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul . . . 
(Psa. 23:1-3)

◦ it was an analogy that God was pleased to adopt for himself

So the shepherds outside Bethlehem were graced with a revelation
– this is fitting, because Luke takes special interest in outcasts
• he emphasizes the way Jesus associated with the non-religious, diseased and sinners
– maybe, when shepherds barged in on Mary and Joseph with their story of angels,
• Mary was reminded of the miracle she was living
◦ maybe she was reawakened to the supernatural
• we know, at least, she recorded all these things in her heart’s journal

Now I will come to the point

There are four statements In verse 7 I want to emphasize:

  1. she gave birth
  2. her firstborn son
  3. wrapped Him in cloths
  4. laid him in a manger

– simple and straightforward, right?
• but now I will jump to the end of the story
◦ Joseph of Arimathea received permission to bury Jesus’ body
• in Luke 23:53 there are four statements I want to compare and contrast with Mary

  1. Mary gave birth, this Joseph took it down–i.e., Jesus’ corpse
  2. it (not a baby, not even a person, but a body)
  3. and wrapped it in a linen cloth 
  4. and laid Him, not in a manger, but in a tomb

– Luke has taken the same actions from the birth scene and applied them to the burial scene
• in fact, he is deliberate in tying the two ends of the story together
(notice also how his story begins in the temple in Jerusalem and ends there)

There is something else I want to show you
– the shepherd’s were frightened with a great fear when the angels appeared
• they were told about Jesus and that they could find him
– there are four statements in verse 12 I want to emphasize:

  1. you will find
  2. a baby
  3. wrapped in cloths
  4. lying in a manger

◦ a manger would be a familiar landmark for the shepherds
◦ in itself, it indicated to them where they should look

Again, I am going to jump to the end of the story (Lk. 24:1-9)
– these women went to tomb, expecting to find body of Jesus
• their story is the reverse of the shepherds:

◦ the angels first appeared to shepherds, and then they went looking for Jesus
◦ the women first came looking for Jesus and then the angel appeared to them

• like the shepherds, the women were terrified
– now let’s compare and contrast the women’s experience with the shepherd’s

  1. the shepherds found their way to Jesus
    did not find . . . the Lord Jesus (24:3)
  2. what the shepherds found was in fact the baby
    what the women did not find was the body of the Lord Jesus 
  3. the baby was wrapped in cloths
    the body had been wrapped, but all that was left when the women arrived were the linen wrappings only (24:12)
  4. the shepherds found Jesus as the angel told them they would
    but to women, the angel, “You’re looking in wrong place”
    Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen (Lk. 24:5-6)

• afterward:

The shepherds made known the statement about this child and went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them (Lk. 2:20)
The women returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven [apostles] and to all the rest (24:9)

Why did Luke structure his story in this way?

Why was it so important to him that he connect Jesus’ birth with his death?
– simply put, Christmas does not explain itself
• the star, the angels, the big announcement – these were just the prelude
◦ the baby is a potential – potential hope, a potential future
◦ to know the significance of the child requires Easter
• but why? why do we jump to the end this morning?
◦ because that is the moment that was anticipated in the beginning
◦ it was on the cross that Jesus became to us a Savior
– several times in Luke’s gospel, Jesus informs disciples that this was his destiny (e.g., Lk. 9:22, 44; 18:31-33)

Jonathan Pennington observes that “the New Testament documents make it very clear that the last week of Jesus’s life and his subsequent death and resurrection are the reason for his coming and are the epicenter of history itself.” and further on, “. . . it is the passion week events that bring ultimate insight into all that Jesus said and did up to that time.”

A couple nights ago, Barb and I watched movie we had seen before
– some friends were being manipulated by one in person in their group
• because I already knew which one, I watched closely
◦ I wanted to see if in his expressions or reactions he gave himself away
• this is what knowing the crucifixion and resurrection does for rest of gospel
◦ when we read it again, everything has a new and deeper meaning
◦ we are awakened to the significance of each event along the way

This is important
– Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection are not the whole story
• it is true that the cross is ultimate salvation event
◦ but salvation is more than forgiveness of sins
◦ salvation is everything Jesus said and did – the healing, teaching, praying
• between the birth and then the death and resurrection we meet the Person!
– the whole life story of Jesus gives us:
• what we need to know about the kingdom of God and how to enter it
• a full revelation of God
• but also the revelation that God is our Father
• read as sacred scripture, the story gives us experiences of God
◦ experiences that transform, so that we become his new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

Joel Green has written, “In the world disclosed by Scripture, the impossible and unthinkable and nonsensical are made possible, become the stuff of wisdom, and flood the senses. Who can forgive seventy times seven? How can the last be first? Who can make friends with the poor? Who can overcome without taking up arms? Only those who are already in the process of reimagining the world in terms set out by Scripture. Only those for whom reality is framed by Scripture, who see things as they really are because their patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving are being sculpted through their ongoing encounter with the whole of Scripture.”

Conclusion: All I have left to say is this

The first thing you do tomorrow, Christmas morning, if you can remember,
– is get up and exchange gifts with your heavenly Father
• on Christmas day he gives you a Savior, Christ the Lord
• in turn, give him your whole self
◦ all your heart, all your mind, all your spirit, all your strength

Then, enjoy yourself with whatever else the day holds in store

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