18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
С Раждеством Христовым!
It’s that time of year again – Like it or not, here it is
Everywhere you turn, Christmas is being celebrated
The radio is playing Christmas carols, houses are covered in lights, we see Christmas trees in windows, shoppers at the malls, presents, Christmas cards etc. etc. etc.
Christmas is in full swing!
Like it or not, here it is, again!
If you ask me what I think about Christmas – I would say, I have mixed feelings about it
I say this because Christmas (to a large degree) has lost its meaning
It’s no longer about the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but something else
Jesus has been replaced by Santa Claus – The incarnation has been replaced by gifts, the nature of the Christmas story has been replaced by consumerism, by parties, and by food
So, I felt the need to talk about the real meaning of Christmas – Or more specifically, Jesus Christ Himself
The Bible says that He is our example, and that we ought to look to Him, to learn from Him, and to follow Him
So, what I want us to consider tonight is the incarnation – And if you’ve never heard this term, or perhaps heard it but never really knew what it means, let me tell you
The incarnation simply means: The divine, embodied in human form – It’s God becoming a human (a man)
We Christians believe that Jesus is God in the flesh – That He is “Immanuel” “God with us” Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23
“God with us” – When you think about it, this is a really bold statement
It’s saying that God is “with us,” not “above us,” or “around us,” or “near us,” but “with us” – God is with us – He is in our midst – He is here now
Did you know that this is unheard of in any other religion – Christianity is unique in this – It communicates to us that God is very close – He’s not “out there” somewhere, but, “with us” – He is close
And this is the Christmas story – This is the epitome of what Christmas is all about – The fact that God left heaven to come to earth – So that He could be called “Immanuel” “God with us”
I would like us to consider two questions tonight
- Why did God choose Mary?
- How did Jesus enter the world?
These two questions are crucial to the Christian life, and questions that each of us need to have answered
So, let us consider the first
Why did God choose Mary?
In Luke’s gospel we read, 26 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:26-27
So, we know from the story that Mary, a young women, a virgin, is chosen to carry the incarnate God – Out of all the young women of Israel of that day, why was Mary chosen and not someone else?
This is a good question, but before we answer it, I want us to consider the incarnation itself
Often times we don’t even consider the incarnation because the story has become so familiar to us – We just rattle it off – “The angel came and told Mary that she will bear a Son, and this Son will be conceived by the Holy Sprit and His name will be Immanuel”
And the whole time we don’t even think about the great significance of this!
Think about it – The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God, Creator of the universe is choosing to become a man
The Lord of lords and King of kings, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’… is becoming a man, and His name will be Jesus
This is the Christmas story – This is the incarnation
God is choosing to enter into the world He created, and the way He chooses to enter it, is by being born just like we are born! This is amazing!
So, back to our question
Why did God choose whom He chose? – Why did He choose Mary and not someone else?
Was it just arbitrary? Was Mary just lucky? Did it really matter who brought the Messiah into the world?
God chose Mary because Mary was a woman of humility
Luke 1:28 says, 28 And he [The angel Gabriel] came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30
What I find interesting here is Mary’s response, the text tells us that, “she was greatly troubled at the saying” Luke 1:29
In other words, she’s surprised that an angel would visit her
Mary is a humble person – If she were not humble, then she would not be surprised
What are the marks of humility? – What do you look for, if you’re looking for humility?
For example, if there was an all expense paid trip to tour the world – You get to spend one whole year traveling the world, staying in the finest hotels, eating at the nicest restaurants, seeing the most beautiful sights, all for free – A once in a lifetime trip – And it was not something you could buy, it was only given
And after much discussion you were selected – Out of a million people you were the one chosen – How would you respond?
Would you respond with, “Yeah… I mean who else is worthy of this… clearly it’s me, I mean… I work hard, I deserve it, I pay my taxes”
Or would it be,”What?… Are you saying that I was chosen?… That from a million people you chose me?”
You see, the number one mark of humility is when a person does not think about him or herself too much, it’s when someone says, “No, not me, who am I, I’m nothing!”
You see, humility is a disposition that shows itself as putting others above oneself – It’s considering others higher then yourself
Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
This is the attitude Mary had when told she was to carry the Savior of the world
Her response of surprise proves that she was a humble person – She did not count herself worthy – But it was given to her anyway
A second reason she was chosen…
God chose Mary because Mary was a woman of great faith
After being told the details of her pregnancy – The fact that the “Holy Spirit will come upon” her and the “Most High will overshadow” her, she responds with, 38 “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Mary has great faith! – So much so, that when told that she will become pregnant (even though she is a virgin), she believes it – She doesn’t argue – She doesn’t reason – She doesn’t say, ‘choose someone else’ – She simply says, “Let it be to me according to your word”
You see, faith is just that – It’s believing someone’s word – It’s trusting what the person told you – And this is what Mary does
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1
Faith means that I have an inner confidence that what I do not presently see, will come to pass – It will happen, it’s just a matter of time
The Apostle Paul, speaking about redemption says, “24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
You see, hope and faith are very similar – Faith is believing – Hope is expecting what is believed – They are intertwined and connected, and we need both
And Mary shows us that she has both, “Let it be to me according to your word” – She believes what the angel says, and she expects it to happen
So, God chooses Mary because she is a woman of humility, and a woman of great faith
What about our second question?
How did Jesus enter the world?
Here we are, it’s Christmas
This is the reason for the season – We are celebrating Christ’s birth – We are celebrating the incarnation of God – God coming to earth, becoming flesh
So, a good question to ask is, “How did this happen?” – “What was the means by which God chose to enter the world?”
Luke chapter 2 says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:1-7
I find it fascinating that this is how it happened!
Of all the places to be born, God chooses to be born in a manger!
This word “manger” literally means, “feeding trough” – Jesus is born in a stable and then placed in a feeding trough
This is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’ – And He is born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough
This is not an accident – This is not just random chance – The events of Jesus’ birth happen precisely how God intends them to happen
In other words,
“This humble birth is on purpose”
“Why?” you ask – “Why would God choose to be born in a stable?”
It’s because this is how He wants us to live – This is a part of God’s “upside-down kingdom program,” so to speak
In Jesus’s earthly ministry He kept talking about the “kingdom of God” – What heaven is like – What God is like – How God works
He said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
He said, “The last will be first, and the first last” Matthew 20:16
You see, God does not look for what the world looks for – The world looks for power, prestige, wealth, beauty – God looks for humility, character, faith, love
I am confident that God does not care about the things we care about – He doesn’t care what kind of job we have, and how much money we make, and what kind of house we live in, what kind of car we drive – What He cares about is people
While we’re preoccupied with stuff, God is working in people’s hearts
While we are striving for wealth, God is striving for humility
While we are trying to make a name for ourselves, God is looking for those that will believe in Him – Believe in Him as Mary did
God is looking for men, for women, for children of humility and faith
And He gives us a glimpse of this in the Christmas story – He shows us (in Mary) that he honors humility and that He honors faith
And He even shows us His own humility by choosing to be born in the way that He does
Paul tells us that this is how we should think, this is how we should live, this is how we should act
Philippians 2:5, says, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus, who is God, chose not to be equal with God, but “emptied himself” and took the role of a servant, and became like us – This is the Christmas story – This is what we should be remembering this Christmas!
So, how does this apply to us?
Here we are, we live in the 21st century – We have been celebrating Christmas for two thousand years
What should we consider this Christmas? – As we get together with family and friends, as we exchange gifts one to another, as we go through our family traditions and rituals – What should be the highlight, what should be the number one thing we do?
Well, let me encourage you to think about Jesus, let me encourage you to think about humility, about faith
When it comes time to eat, don’t be the first one in line
When it comes down to sitting at the table, don’t take the best seat
When it comes time to “catch-up” on things, don’t make yourself sound like someone you’re not
When it comes time to wash the dishes, be the one who does it
When it comes time to serve, be the one who volunteers
When it comes time to talk about life, be the one who encourages others
Think about Jesus, think about the incarnation
Think about the amazing truth that is the incarnation – The fact that God Himself did not count Himself equal with God, but emptied Himself and took the role of a servant and was born in a stable (of all places)
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, he says, “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
What he is saying is, “Time is short, you only have one life, make it count, don’t get stuck in worthless pursuits, but live such lives that bring maximum glory to Jesus, just like Jesus lived His life to the maximum glory of His Father – Be humble, have faith”