Category Archives: Immanuel

The REAL Story of Christmas


The REAL Story of Christmas.001

We all are likely to have unique Christmas memories from our childhood. Mine include cutting down the family Christmas tree, and snow – lots of snow.  One particular Christmas as a little boy, my brother and I went with my dad into the forest to cut a pine tree.  In the forest the tree looked so small, but when we dragged it back to the house it was way too tall to fit inside.  My dad ended up cutting off just the top of the tree for our living room.

Christmas time is surrounded by Christmas myths like Santa Claus and Christmas traditions which include decorated trees, stockings and gifts.  We all sing the Christmas carols.  But what is the REAL story?

In Luke 2:1-20 we have the REAL Story of Christmas! From the fall of man in Genesis chapter three, God promised that He would send a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15). The Old Testament Prophets foretold the coming of the “Chosen One” (Is. 7:14,9:6).

Today we pause to look back at an event that changed the world!  The birth of The Christ.

The Main Character in the REAL Christmas story is God (1-7)

God is bringing to pass His sovereign plan!  There are three truths about God that cause us to marvel!

God controls rulers (1-3)

Proverbs 21:1 – The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

The Caesar spoken of in verse 1 is Caius Octavius the grand-nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar.  Octavius defeated Anthony & Cleopatra and ascended the throne after the death of Julius in 44 BC. Instituted a world-peace by brutal force that lasted for about forty years.

He was given the title Augustus by the Roman senate.  Augustus means “Exalted one” or “holy one,” a term denoting religious adoration.  Up until this time this title had been reserved for the Greco-Roman gods. Octavius was a self-serving, arrogant man who thought he was god. One incription that has been uncovered refers to him as the “savior of the whole world.”

What a contrast between this self-proclaimed “savior” and the real one who humbly entered the world on this first Christmas!

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that everyone in the Roman empire must be registered in a census and pay a tax. This census was to take place every 14 yrs.  The decree was given in approximately 8 BC but was not carried out until 2-4 years later.  Jesus was born between 6-4 BC.

God controls history (4)

Micah 5:2   But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

Messiah was to be born in the humble village of Bethlehem.

Caesar’s edict required that every person be registered in the census in the city of family birth. For both Joseph and Mary this was Bethlehem, the city of David, because they were descendants of King David.

Joseph and Mary had to travel 128 km from Nazareth through the mountains to reach Bethlehem. That would be like traveling from Lusaka to Siavonga. This journey would have taken them 4-7 days trip depending on how quickly Mary could travel.

God’s will often requires great personal cost and sacrifice, even danger.  Part of the road Joseph and Mary traveled – the Jericho road was known for highway thieves.

God controls circumstances (5-6)

Scripture had told that a virgin would became pregnant – prophesied 600 years before the events in Luke chapter 2. For the impossible to happen, God had to be in control!  The Spirit of God came upon Mary and she bore a son.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

It is at this point that two sad words insert themselves into a wonderful story; “No Room!”  What was the innkeeper thinking?  Clearly Mary was large with child!  Joseph doubtless would have explained his situation.  Was it that the innkeeper was calloused, or was he so overwhelmed by the number of people descending upon this little village that he could not do anything more than offer them the stable.

There is a sense though that these two words form a template for the response of humanity to Christ!

Herod had “no room” for this new King. He was a threat to his family’s kingdom (Mt. 2:1-8,16).  In fact when the wise men came and he learned of his birth he commanded that all children two years and under in the region around Bethlehem be executed!  No Room!

One day Jesus traveled across the Sea and healed a demon possessed man who had terrorized the community.  The people of Gadara came and begged Jesus to leave their coasts.  They had “no room” for this one who had the power to bind Satanic forces at work in their land. To these people Jesus was a threat to their pig business (Lk. 8:37).  No Room!

The Pharisees had “no room” for Jesus. He was a threat to their comfortable lifestyle and to their position as spiritual leaders among the Jews (Jn. 11:53).  No Room!

How many people today, like the innkeeper, have put a sign across their heart that reads, “No Room!” He can stay in the stable out back but not here in the house!  I have my own agenda for my life, my own business plans, my desires and plans.  There is no room for the Son of God to come in and mess things up!

Jesus was born in a messy place, a stable and he was laid in a manger. Stables were usually caves with feeding troughs carved into the walls. The surroundings were dark and dirty.

We must not limit God! He is at work wherever needed in our sin darkened and dirty world.  When we do God’s will as Mary and Joseph were doing, it doesn’t guarantee a comfortable life.

The main message of the REAL Christmas Story is good news (8-14)

A message of “good news” for all people! (8-12)

“Good tidings” comes from the Greek word from which we get the word “gospel.”  It simply means: Good News!  And this message brought by the angel was good news indeed!

It was a message that announced the end of fear! “Fear not” (10a)  Regardless of what situation you may be in today, the message of Christmas is that when Christ is your Saviour there is nothing for you to fear!

This message was also the birth of joy! “Great joy” (10b).  Joy and happiness are not the same thing.  There is a song made popular by the movie Despicable Me 2 entitled “Happy”.  The chorus goes like this:

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

This is exactly what the world offers… happiness!  But that is NOT what the angels were announcing!  Joy and happiness are not the same thing.  Happiness is based upon happenings.  If the happenings in my life are what I want them to be then I am “happy, happy, happy.” But then reality sets in and I’m no longer happy, because the happenings are not what I want them to be.

How different is joy!  Joy is not based upon happening, but upon a relationship!  Years ago I spent four week deep in the jungles of Congo DR.  I had to put up with a lot of uncomfortable things, bedbugs, sleeping in a jungle hammock, less than adequate food at times.  My “happenings” were not what I would have chosen.  Most of the time I was uncomfortable – but through it all nothing could dampen my joy!  You see just before I left for Congo, I was engaged to be married to the most beautiful and lovely lady in the entire world!  No matter what happened in Congo I had the joy of the relationship with Lori awaiting me upon my return to the USA.

Our joy is found in our relationship with God through this Son born on Christmas day!

We also find that this was the beginning of evangelism – “to all people” (10c).  This good news is for all people regardless of background, ethnicity, language or culture!  It is in Christ that we are all truly one!  In Christ!

The good news is about a person:

  • Savior – Jesus.  Jesus means Deliverer and He came to save His people from their sins (Jn. 4:42)
  • Christ – Messiah = Anointed One (Is. 9:6), “God with us.” (Is. 7:14)
  • Lord = Master.  The sovereign ruler.

A message that results in praise to God! (13-14)

“Heavenly hosts” speaks of an army in rank. These are the ranks of heavenly soldiers sent not for battle but to sing praises to God!  Peace indeed when an army is transformed into a choir!

Why this anthem of praise to God?

Because this is a message of Peace to earth! (13)

Is there peace on earth today? Caesar had given the world military peace that would last for about 40 years, but he could not give man inner peace. Peace of heart, of soul and of mind (Mt. 10:34).

Peace is not the absence of conflict! The peace celebrated by this army of angels is the peace we have because we are right with our God and content with whatever happens knowing we are safe in God’s loving care.

  • This is the peace demonstrated by Jesus sleeping in the storm (Mt. 8:24).
  • This is the peace that passes all human comprehension (Phil. 4:7).
  • This is the peace that is to rule in our hearts (Co. 3:15).

A message of God’s good intent toward man (14)

God’s kind intent toward all who make peace with Him through His Son.

Ro. 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Kindly intent of God toward man – not willing that any should perish

II Pt. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The response to the REAL Christmas story! (15-20)

Response of faith! (15-16)

The Shepherds were not content to only hear about Jesus, they wanted to know Him!  Let us go see… they were eyewitnesses!

There was an excitement that the Shepherds felt! Meeting Jesus became their priority – response of faith. – “made haste”  They searched until they found Him:

  • Promise of God (Jer. 29:13)
  • Must seek for the narrow gate/path that leads to life instead of death (Mt. 7:13-14; Jn. 14:6)
  • If we seek we will find (Mt. 7:7-8)

The response of witness (17-19)

Once the Shepherds met Jesus they had to tell everyone.  We can only tell others after we have seen Him (II Co. 4:18)!  It is the relationship with Jesus that is the fuel of our witness.

And the world marveled (18).  They heard the witness of these simple shepherds and were struck with wonder and amazement. The same word “marveled” was used of the disciples when Jesus calmed sea (Mt. 8:27); Healed the palsied (Mt. 9:8); and of Pilate when Jesus did not answer him (Mt. 27:13-14).

This was not saving faith.  These people were not interested in meeting Christ for themselves. You can marvel at this wonderful news, and yet not give place to the Savior in your own life!

This good news was for all those who heard the witness of the shepherds! Peace is offered to all.

Jn. 1:12 – But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to be called the sons of God.

Response of Praise! (19-20)

The result of the Shepherds meeting Jesus was that they gladly proclaimed His glory and praise!

They had met Christ and they were exalting him in the minds of everyone they came in contact with! They lifted him high by glorifying him!  They were celebrating the person of Jesus Christ!

They had met Christ and their lives were changed forever!  Their hearts were overflowing and their lips were filled with praises to God!

Can you see why the real story of Christmas is so life-changing?

So what does all this mean to us? Let’s answer that by asking ourselves two questions:

Have you made room for Christ in your life?

Rev. 3:20 Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and will open the door I will come into him and dine with him.

Are you joyfully telling others about heaven’s wonderful gift to us?

Here is the pdf version of The REAL Story of Christmas

The BACKSTORY of Christmas


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In 1979, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited the city of Kitwe, Zambia.  Old-timers who were present and met the queen still talk about that glorious day!  When you experience a wonderful and life-changing visit by a special or important person, everyone you meet must know the story!

That is why after 2000 years the majority of the world pauses in one way or another to acknowledge Christmas day.  For centuries the world has stopped to decorate, celebrate and help their fellow man. Christmas is a time for giving and family and good-will!   Even those who don’t believe in God often find themselves caught up in the festivities of the season.

During World War I a spontaneous event took place along the Western Front between the British and German troops.  It has been called the Christmas truce of 1914. German & British troops met in no-man’s land on the Western Front to exchange gifts and sing carols.

There is something about Christmas that is extremely powerful!

It all centers around the day that God showed up! Have you ever wondered about the back-story of that visit?  What did God do, and what does it all mean to us?  We refer to the whole event as “Christmas!”

In our text in Matthew 1:18-25 God is continuing to unfold His redemptive plan through the incarnation (God became flesh) of Jesus Christ (v23). God with us!

Down through the pages of OT Scripture God demonstrated that He wants to be with us. From walking with Adam in the garden, to being with Noah in the midst of a perverse generation, to his presence with the people in the wilderness tabernacle and later the temple at Jerusalem. God desires to be with us!

In our text we find the backstory of this great work of God as He became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1.14).

Those who will place their faith in Him will live with Him eternally in His heavenly kingdom. When God became flesh He entrusted the care for His Son to a simple young couple named Joseph & Mary.

GOD USED COMMON PEOPLE (18-20,23-25)

Mary

She was betrothed – in the culture of the day she could have well still been in her teens. In our text a young couple by the name of Joseph and Mary had committed themselves to one another. Their marriage arrangement was according to the Hebrew tradition and involved three steps:

  • Engagement – the arrangement between parents of children. This often took place when the children were still young.
  • Betrothal – at a determined time the couple agreed or disagreed with the engagement. If they agreed the betrothal was immediately binding. The betrothal lasted for one year. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant they were already betrothed.
  • Marriage – the consummation of the marriage in which the groom fetched the bride to his home which he had worked hard to prepare, and they lived as husband and wife.

She was a virgin (23) – significant that she had not “known” a man! Virgins don’t have babies! (Lk. 1:26-35)

She was a sinner (Lk. 1:47).  In her own song (Magnificat) Mary cries out in adoration to God at the news that she had been chosen as mother to the Messiah:

Lk 1:47 – And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Some believe a doctrine called the “Immaculate Conception.”  This teaching is false, completely unsupported in the Word of God. Mary was a sinner and she needed a Savior – just like you and I need a Savior. She acknowledges that need with her words “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Joseph

He was a common working man – carpenter by trade, knew how to work with his hands. (Mk. 6:3)

He was a godly man (19).

  • A just man has a commitment to doing right based on his belief in God – No one can be just without belief in God.
  • A just man has a commitment to doing right based on the standard of God’s Word – There is no ultimate “right” outside God’s Word

He was a simple man – did not have high formal education. He was a man of incredible simple faith! He heard and believed!

You might think: well if I had an angel show up and talk with me – I would believe too! Really? We have the words of God preserved for us in a book! Rich man wanted someone to go from the dead to warn his brothers, the answer: they have Moses & prophets, if they will not listen to them, they will not be convinced if someone rose from the dead.

Aren’t you glad! If we all had to wait for a message from an angel we would all likely be in trouble! But we have God’s message – his letter that tells us of his unstoppable love for us!
He was a man of simple obedience. The law was made to protect an innocent man – the guilt were to marry the pregnant fiancee. In marrying Mary, Joseph was in essence assuming responsibility for her pregnancy. He was also assuming a measure of shame. In each case the response of Joseph to each crisis – Obedience!!!

  • Obedience characterized by no questioning
  • Obedience characterized by immediate response.

Application: When God prepares to do a great work and His eyes run too and fro throughout the whole earth – are you the kind of person that God would be willing to use?

GOD USED A MIRACULOUS PROCESS (20,23)

It was a miraculous announcement – angel!

Angels are not human beings who have gone before us. Angels are not all-powerful, but they are powerful spirit beings created to serve God.

Here are 27 facts about Angels from Scripture:

1. They are mentioned 273 times in 34 biblical books.

2. They were all created by God.

Gen. 2:1; Neh. 9:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16

3. They report directly to God.

Job 1:6; 2:1

4. They were present at the Creation of the world.

Job 38:1, 4, 7

5. They announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

Luke 2:10–14

6. They do not marry.

Matt. 22:30

7. They were created to live forever.

Rev. 4:8

8. Their purpose is to glorify God.

Rev. 4:8

9. Some angels help human beings.

Heb. 1:14

10. Some angels harm human beings.

Mark 5:1–5

11. They are spirit beings.

Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7, 14

12. They are invisible beings.

Rom. 1:18–32; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9

13. They are innumerable.

Deut. 33:2; Ps 68:17; Dan. 7:9–10; Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11

14. They possess intelligence.

Dan. 9:21–22; 10:14; Rev. 19:10; 22:8–9

15. They possess will.

Isa. 14:12–15; Jude 6

16. They display joy.

Job 38:7; Luke 2:13

17. They display desire.

1 Pet. 1:12

18. They are stronger than men.

Ps. 103:20; 2 Thess. 1:7; 2 Pet. 2:11

19. They are more intelligent than men.

Dan. 9:21–22; 10:14

20. They are swifter than men.

Dan. 9:21; Rev 14:6

21. They are not omnipresent.

Dan. 10:12

22. They are not omnipotent.

Dan. 10:13; Jude 9

23. They are not omniscient.

Matt. 24:36

24. Some are cherubim.

Ezek. 1:1–28; 10:20

25. Some are seraphim.

Isa. 6:1–8

26. The majority remained true to God.

Rev. 5:11–12

27. They will join all believers in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Heb. 12:22–23

It was a miraculous pregnancy – virgin conceives (Is. 7:14)

Source of the pregnancy is the supernatural Work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

Lk. 1:34-35 – Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 – And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

The importance of the Virgin Birth!

John MacArthur writes, “The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines central to the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is.

If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus is God in human flesh. If the story of His birth is merely a fabricated or trumped-up legend, then so is the rest of what Scripture tells us about Him. The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ’s deity rejects Christ absolutely—even if he pretends otherwise (1 John 4:1-3).”’

GOD KEPT AN AMAZING PROMISE (19-23)

The Promise that Assured Joseph

An instruction not to fear the social stigma (19b).

An instruction not to fear trusting his wife. (19c)

The promise of a Savior that Assures us!

Immanuel = God with us!  God came to be with us! God came to rescue us! God came to make what is wrong, right!

No wonder Christmas is a time for joyful celebrations! God is with us! He knows us, he feels what we feel, he understands our weakness, He knows how to sustain us!

Heb. 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

His Identity – Jesus (21)

He was the prophesied One. Would be a descendent of David (20).

What are the chances of prophecies of Messiah coming to pass by chance? The odds of one man (Jesus or any man) fulfilling only “eight” Old Testament Messianic prophecies was one chance out of one with “seventeen” zeros after it (100,000,000,000,000,000)! And Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies of Scripture!

He would be a Son – Son of Mary and Son of God!

He would save his people!  We need a Savior! We need someone to rush in and deliver us… someone big enough and wise enough to rescue us!  He will save them from their sin!

Our lives have been messed up by sin! We have gotten ourselves into situations: Relationship situations, work situations, personal situations! Though it may look a hopeless tangle – He came to deliver us!

God is with us!

The birth of Jesus, the long-awaited Lamb who would save His people from their sins!  God selected a simple young couple from a little village called Bethlehem to care for the Baby Jesus. A young virgin girl and her young carpenter husband.  What grace!

Won’t you believe God’s message to you this Christmas and receive Jesus as your God? He can be YOUR Immanuel – God with you!