People of the First Christmas

13 12 2007

by Pastor Norman S. Lao

Text: Matthew 1:18-2:16; Luke 2:8-20

To enter into the stream of human history God underwent the process of becoming an infant. The motive was love, nothing less. That is one of the profoundest mysteries in the universe.

There were several personalities involved in the Christmas story. But I would like you to understand that the picture of Christmas we have is not quite accurate. My desire today is to give us a fresh new look at the Christmas story from conception to delivery to recognition.

Mary – the chosen vessel of God.

We are now all chosen vessels of God to incarnate Christ into the world. Incarnate = Late Latin incarnates which means “in” and caro which means “flesh.” Incarnate means “in the flesh.”

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1,2,14) That is why Jesus is called Immanuel (immanu means “with us” who is with us? El which means “God”)

The word that best describes Mary is the word WILLING. For she was a willing vessel.

· She was willing to be misinterpreted, misunderstood, humiliated for the sake of obeying God.

· She was willing to risk her integrity for the plans and purposes of God (a pregnant woman without a husband was a big scandal at that time although in our day and age it seems that it has lessened).

· She was willing to lose her beloved Joseph (she didn’t know how Joseph would react at that time. It took an angel to change Joseph’s mind about divorcing her.) She was willing to lose a little so that the world can gain much more. Lesson: We must be willing sometimes to lose something small or little (like comfort, image, shame or shyness, etc.) just to bring Christ to the world of the unsaved, to the world of the lost and suffering.

Lesson: we are all vessels by which Christ can be introduced to the world again and again. We must be willing vessels. Vessels carrying Christ. Vessels delivering Christ into the world!

Joseph – the submissive and supportive husband.

The faith of Joseph. He was willing that God would interrupt his life. All he had was a dream of an angel telling him that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Nothing of this sort happened before. Joseph cannot say, “Ah, just like so and so in ancient times…” NO! There was no one to compare this with. All he had was faith that what the angel said was true.

Adultery was punishable by death by stoning. In Jewish culture only the man can divorce his wife. The wife cannot divorce her husband. What could have Joseph felt about Mary? (He was contemplating of divorcing her. In other words, he knew about it. Mary could have told him. Or, he could have discovered it.)

Lesson: There are things we cannot understand fully, but in obeying God we will never go wrong. Let us permit God to interrupt our lives when He so desires.

The Magi – Wise Men

The identity and number of these individuals have been the subject of much research and debate. Some say these descendants by Abraham through Keturah (his wife after Sarah died). Others say that they were Gentiles of high position. Some say they were Kings. Some say they are worshipers of fire (magi), astrologers, magicians, etc. Our word for magic or magician comes from magi. Some say they were only three in number and some say they were more than three. There is also much discussion about the star mentioned in the Gospel. There are some who say it was the planet Venus. Others say that it was a convergence of two planets. Some say it was a comet. Others say it was a meteorite. Still there are those who say that it was a meteor shower like the Aurora Borealis.

These are not so much our concern this morning. Our concern this morning is what we can know for sure. These were not elaborated in the Gospel account because I believe these were not what mattered. What is significant is:

1. They looked for Jesus. That’s significant. For those who look for Jesus will find Him!

2. The reason for their coming: to worship (proskuneo like a dog licking his master’s feet) the king.

Sometimes called the “wise men.”

· They are wise men in that they worshiped Jesus. CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT WORSHIP. IT IS ABOUT WORSHIPING THE KING.

· They were wise to worship Jesus and NOT HIS MOTHER!

· They were wise not content themselves with seeing his star, they came to experience him!!! BE WISE! Be involved!

· They were wise not to obey Herod’s request.

3. How they understood this event. They called the child (not infant) “King of the Jews.” They could have understood prophecies. Jews were scattered everywhere because of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. With Jews came Scriptures. These may have come in contact with Jews and became interested and familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.

4. The significance of their gifts. If you notice, the Bible does not say that they gave Herod a gift.

Gold = his Kingship

Frankincense = Godhood (incense)

Myrrh = manhood, suffering and death (used for embalming)

Herod the pretender. He was disturbed at the birth of Jesus.

He pretended to be interested in Christmas and even to tell the magi to report to him the location of the child so that he too can worship him. Worship was far from the mind of Herod. Worship was not in the mind of Herod. What was in his mind was murder!

Herod wanted to eliminate/remove Christ from Christmas. All he cared about was his own position as king. Christ threatened that position. How can Christmas be a threat? There are people who think only of themselves during Christmas: WHAT WILL I RECEIVE?

WHAT WILL I BENEFIT? Rather, it should be WHAT CAN I GIVE THIS CHRISTMAS?

Many Christmas celebrations are nothing but pretensions. We pretend to love one another, we pretend to celebrate Christmas, but it is not Christmas we celebrate – it is X-mas, a Christless Christmas.

· Herod the manipulator. He tried to manipulate people for his own advantage. There are many people who manipulate Christmas for their own advantage. Businessmen (SM tells us that their income in December is greater than their income from January to November combined), etc.

· Herod the murderer. He had all the children killed just to eliminate the Christ of Christmas. X-mas.

The priests – knew about the prophecy, they knew where the Messiah was to be born (Bethlehem, house of bread) and here are people who is saying that he was already been born, but they were not so much interested in it! They had their own agenda, they were already comfortable. There are people who do not want their comfort to be disturbed, not even by God.

They knew their Bibles, but they were not touched by what they knew. Intellectual knowledge is not good enough. They knew in their minds, but they were not truly involved. There are many Christians like this today.

The shepherds – Christmas messengers. (Luke 2:8 ff)

Significance of the Shepherds.

1. Jesus was going to be the true Shepherd. Shepherd of shepherds.

2. These shepherds were the first preachers of the Gospel.

3. They represented the poor section of the world and the magi represented the rich

people of the world. Both are under the saving power of Christ!

We, like these shepherds, share the true message of Christmas.

Jesus – He is the reason for the season. Without Christ, there would be no Christmas. Christ is Christmas. Many people today do not celebrate Christmas. What they celebrate is X-mas. They do not understand what Christmas is all about.

His Name means “Savior.” It comes from Joshua, Yeshua. Saved, Delivered, Put in a State of Safety. Although His name was given before He was born it was their custom to name their male children on the eighth day – the day of circumcision. It is quite significant that He was named Jesus or Savior on the day He shed his blood (through circumcision)!

Everyone else were only supporting actors or actresses. Jesus is the main Character in the Christmas story.

Lesson: everything in our Christmas celebration serves only to support the main Character. They should not steal the scene from Christ.

Conclusion

Let us make our Christmas a true Christmas. Jesus is the Center of Attraction, the Greatest Christmas Gift of all!

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