Classic Christianity – Christmas P5 (12-25-20)
Are you seeking meaning and purpose in life? This time of season can either be filled with excitement, as you see children open up gifts, or it can be a great time of depression for others, a time of loneliness and despair. To some extent it depends on where you are in life? Did you lose your father during this time? Does it bring back memories of the time you were unemployed and saw no hope for the future? Many may fall in that category. But just as many reflect on their childhood and think of all the fun times going down a hill on a make-shift sled. Others simply look forward to the surprise of seeing a brother or sister open a gift you spent thinking about all year to give them, and seeing a smile on their face.
To the Jews in their day, the excitement was going to the annual feast, the Passover commemorating the day God rescued them from bondage out of Egypt. That was Jewish history and culture, but it was also a God-ordained holiday. Prophesied in a dream to Abraham, that his people would be enslaved some 400 years, but afterwards God will send a deliverer. On the day of Passover, they celebrate the day a lamb was slain and whose blood was sprinkled on the doorposts so the death angel would pass over them. That is a foreshadowing of a future day when Jesus Himself will become the final sacrifice for sin, and as John the Baptist testified, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
So all the Jews would celebrate Passover, not knowing the true meaning of it, but was regularly practiced every year, that day God actually rescued His people from bondage in Egypt. You see, God was known to the Jews prior to Jesus coming to earth as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham was the man whom the apostle Paul said, as a man whose faith was credited to him as righteousness. So Mary and Joseph certainly looked forward to this event every year, but to what extent they had understanding in regard to Jesus mission on earth, that still had to be revealed to them over time, for Jesus had not yet gone to the cross.
It is interesting how we can be so familiar with our natural world that we miss out on the real meaning of who Jesus is. You would think, of all people, Mary and Joseph would understand the things Jesus would say, as He grew up in their midst. They both heard from an angel, and that He was to be born to save people from their sins. Here is Jesus, as a young child, and did they forget that He is God? They left him behind one day, by accident, in that special Passover event! Here is Jesus speaking with the rabbis, speaking about the scriptures and He is confounding them with His understanding. And then Jesus said, when His mother and earthly father, sort of like a step-father, found Him, He said, “Why are you looking for me? Do you not know I had to be about My Father’s business?” And Mary and Joseph did not understand what He was saying!
During this season, certainly you will at least hear something about a person named Jesus. But do you ponder more about who He is and what is so important that the whole world would say they celebrate His birthday? Even just the fact the calendar is designed around His birth. He must at least be an important person in history! Or do you simply get involved in the things in this life, in your life, whether full of excitement or great depression, whatever the case may be. But did you know or overlook the fact that Jesus came so you can have life abundantly? Did you even know that that is the reason He came to this earth, to give you life?
But it is not a temporary life He came to give. It is not like the thrill of Christmas, if that is what Christmas brings in your memory, that fades away as the real life struggles start up again, and the peace the world gives quickly fades away. Maybe nobody ever told you about Jesus? Maybe all you know about Him is that He was born a virgin, and not even sure what that means, or its significance, if there is anything to it. Or, somebody told you He is God, but that did not really sink in as to what that means for you personally, that He is God. You just never really thought about it. You believed He is God, but all you know is that maybe you just have to work real hard at being good, and somehow God will be proud of you. That maybe the extent of your understanding, erroneous as it is.
Jesus came to give men understanding of who He is, and of what that means for you and me, by what He came to do, and not anything with what you do. See, when He was born as a virgin, that means he was the firstborn, or the only person born with the Holy Spirit of God living in Him. If He was born in Adam, then He would be like us, born in the sin nature inherited from the fall of Adam. And without sin, and being God, He has life in Himself, spiritual life that we do not have at birth.
So He came for one reason, to fulfill the will of His Father, to lay down His life for us, so that the penalty of sin, which is death, can be fully met for us. He came so that He can identify with us in our death in order that we can identify with Him in His resurrection. It is an exchanged life. He gets all my sin, and then He gives us His very life, everything we need for true life, true living, in the way God originally designed man to live, with the Holy Spirit of God living in him. Jesus demonstrated what true living is, doing it perfectly, by operating in perfect love, where love is the fulfillment of the law and love does its neighbor no wrong. Nobody but Him could do that for God is love. As the second Adam, walking in total dependency upon His Father, as human like us in our humanity, but never ceasing to be God, and always is God, He emptied Himself of His divine attributes for our sake, so that we, who are not God, and who never will be God, will know what true living is like as human beings. God came to make us into a new creation with the Holy Spirit living in you.
The greatest gift any person can receive, that never fades away, and that keeps on giving, is the eternal life of Jesus, God Himself, an eternal being living in us. He fulfills the most pressing need of every human heart, the longing of your heart, the need of why you feel empty inside, for purpose and meaning, that just never can be found apart from Him. Apart from Christ in you, you can never be completely fulfilled. You are like a car without an engine or an oil lamp without oil. God in the man is indispensable to the proper functioning of the man. Will you receive God’s life, the gift of Jesus, today, to live in you forever, to be your best friend and comforter in all of life’s journey? He is the prince of peace, and gives lasting peace that surpasses all understanding. So whether you are excited about the holiday or are currently fighting depression, His peace does not depend on circumstances. You can experience His peace today. He is the comforter of your soul.
“If anyone thinks they are going to take their kingship from me, even God”, and that is in essence what he is saying. “If this God of these Jews, think that God is going to remove me from office, He has got another thing coming.” So he developed a plan.
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly
That is how people like that always deal, secretly.
and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
What a hypocrite. “Go find him so I to too can go worship him.” You can just hear him saying that, with such hypocrisy.
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
We can sit here all day long, and pretend that is just a normal star. And you can hear people talk about all the planets line up, and all that kind of thing, but I do not care how you line up the stars, a star does not lead you to a place. So that star was something special that God put up there. It was not something that can be explained by the study of the stars. It was a unique thing in the sky. But that star, or whatever it was, it was something up there that led them to the place of Christ Jesus, and then it stopped. Stars do not stop and start. It stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Jesus was not born in a house. He was born in a manger, wasn’t he. Then it said that Joseph and Mary returned back to Nazareth after they completed all the purification rites. Now, for some reason, and scripture does not tell, they are back in Bethlehem, we do not know why. It could be they moved back there after being in Nazareth. They moved back in order to be close to the temple, recognizing the fact their son was someone somewhat special, and recognizing Jerusalem was the holy city. It could very well be that we need to go live there close to Jerusalem, and educate this boy in Jerusalem. We do not know those things, and we do not need to know them. What we do know is they were back in Bethlehem, for some reason or another, living in a house. This is after the birth. This was within a two year period. So we do not know when within that two year period, but as we read on as to what Herod did, I would assume it was closer to the one or two year period we are going to talk about in a moment.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Maybe that is why they get the three wisemen, one of them had gold, another one had frankincense, and the other one had myrrh. That is just like us to come up with that. But at any rate, they all had those things and they laid them at the feet of Christ.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
What you assume took place there is they were in Bethlehem, and instead of going back from Bethlehem through Jerusalem they took an alternate route and escaped Jerusalem for fear of their lives.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[Hosea 11:1]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Here was Herod, and he learned the time from the Magi as to the approximate time of the birth of the Messiah, the time when they had seen this star leading them to the Messiah, and he knew that if he set a rule to kill every boy under two years of age, he would be sure to get this one. So in an attempt to kill one child, he ended up killing every boy under two years of age.
How many of you have a child under two? How would you like to take that baby and have someone rip him out of your arms and cut their heads off? Can you imagine the lament and heartache of mothers and fathers seeing their children dragged from their homes and killed, for no reason. Just killed! Why? Because of this madman that was so egocentric, that he said, “no one is going to be king with me”. So he goes out and kills everyone. Every one of us who have had children can imagine the taking of a one year and almost a two year old and having them snatched out of your home to be murdered by a maniac. That is what took place.
You ask yourself a question sometimes. Where was God in all this? Where was God when John the Baptist was beheaded. Where was Jesus? These were his relatives. The answer to that is that God was exactly where He has always been. On his throne. When God created man, He created man with a free will. Did he not? He could have created us as a robot. We would just be little robots running around down here. If you were a robot, could you love God by free will? No. If God was going to create a creation in whom He could love and interact, then He had to create a creation in such a way that He could respond to that love and interact with that love. In order to do that, in the foreknowledge of God and His creative work, He created man with a will. He also created the angelic beings with a will. Some of those, one third, chose to follow Satan to this earth, in rebellion to God, right out of heaven. Angels were not propagated. They were created individually by the hand of God, yet with a will, chose to turn their back on God.
So you and I were created with a will. I have to say “Thank God for that”. If I did not have a will, how could I be choosing to love God. How could you make choices? The answer is you could not, just like a robot, just like these things you turn a remote control on. Is there a gamble with that? Is there a gamble with giving man a free will? What is that gamble? The gamble is that even though we are created by the hand of God, we can choose to rebel against God? Is that right or wrong? We have a will today, don’t we? I can choose to live a life that is commensurate with who I am as a child of God. I can also choose, on occasion, contrary to that. That is some of the things James is talking about.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
True, that should not be. But is that possible? Yes. Why? For one day I choose to praise God and in another moment I choose to blast you? Is that true or not? So free will was given to man. God had to do that.
If free will is given to man, then can people like Herod choose, “Who needs God?” Can a man say, “I want to be God”? If Lucifer said “I want to be God”, then for sure we can too, can we not? Is not the temptation given in the garden of Eden, that you could be like God? You can choose. The temptation presented is, “You do not need God to teach you right from wrong and good from evil. Choose it yourself. You do not need God for those things. You determine right from wrong and good from evil. You control what is going on.”
I am absolutely convinced that is what indwelling sin is, nothing more or less than that propensity inside each and every one of us to control everything. We want to control, do we not? “I want to be in control. After all, if I am the center of the universe, I want the universe to flow around me. Is that not how we are? I am at the center. I want everyone to please me. I want everyone to do what I want them to do. I want everyone to treat me the way I deserve to be treated, wonderfully.” Is that not right or wrong, folks? We are self centered, egocentric and we want to control everything. That is indwelling sin. Is that not what God does? Does He not control the universe? We say, “I could do it better”. I love that song that Tony Bennet did years ago, “If I ruled the world, what a wonderful place it would be”. “If I just ruled the world.” I look at that and say, “That is a good song”. “It kind of describes me”. That is the way we are. We have to understand that. That is a desire that is in your flesh and in my flesh, that is there, and it raises it’s ugly head anytime you let it.
Any time we are not allowing Christ to control our lives that propensity for us to want to control is right there. Am I right or wrong? So what we are dealing with is, are we going to allow Christ to control our lives or are we going to allow our flesh to control our lives? He gave us a will. Now, if God gave a will, how is He going to stop a Herod from killing those babies? What is He going to have to do? Take away the will of Herod, for sure, wouldn’t He? Or just blast him. Well, if you start annihilating everyone who chooses to do something against God, what are you left with? Apes, fish, and things, but not people. Where do you stop that, you see? Where do you stop it?
Where was God when Hitler was annihilating the Jews? The same place He has always been. He gave Hitler a free will. Hitler had a choice. All of his life, he had a choice. I can walk with God or I can feed my own evil nature? Guess what he chose? Feed his own nature. What was the result of all of that? You start killing one, then two, and then killing more, and then it becomes easy. Then you kill millions. Where was God? Where He has always been. How can He stop that? Kill Hitler. “Lord, why can’t you figure that out?” If He killed Hitler, there would be another one right behind him and then you would end up killing all of us.
As long as God chose to give man a will, you are going to find evil in the world and you will also find righteousness, and all of this is a choice. We are in the driver’s seat as far as making the choice. Am I going to be controlled by God or am I going to be controlled by Satan? How are you going to stop it? “I gave you a will.” The only way you will see non-will on this earth, is if God jerked will out of everyone born on this earth, and then you would see robots, and then you would not see evil at all.
As long as we have free will, you will see good and you will see bad. Is that true in your own family? If that is true in your family, why would it not be true in the world. People will come in and say we want peace in the world. How can you have peace in the world until you have peace in the country? How can you have peace in the country until you have peace in your own state? How can you have peace in your own state until you have peace in your own county? How can you have peace in your county if you do not have peace in your city? How can you have peace in your city if you cannot have peace in your home? How can you have peace in your home if you cannot get along with each other? That is how Christ is relevant to international peace.
So then, since God gave man a free will, then we have an opportunity to choose. That answers the question like this. Where was God when those little babies were being killed? He was right where He always was, on His throne, giving man a free will to choose, crying out to them with everything He can do, “Come to me”. Man with the same tenacity says, “Uh oh, I am going to do it my way.”.
17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
I would also assume that after that had taken place, he thought he had gotten the Messiah. He thought this king was annihilated.
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
So, folks, what we have tried to do here is to see how this Lord Jesus Christ, how he was born, was led again by God in all ways. Then let us go to Luke. We lost the first years of Christ. There is no record of that. But what is interesting to me, when we were in Israel, there is a city outside of Nazareth called Sipporous. In that city, just a few miles from where Jesus was in Nazareth, there was a huge building project that took place in that city, that easily Jesus and his family could have been working there in carpentry.
But even more important than that, Jesus’ grandfather was the head of the synagogue there. And, that is where they trained rabbis, in that city. When you realize that Jesus was called a rabbi, and he could not be a rabbi if he had not been schooled in rabbinical training. Inasmuch as his grandfather, Heli, was the head of this Jewish seminary, being trained for rabbinical work, it makes sense that is where Jesus was at this period of time, being trained in rabbinical schools.
46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
His knowledge of the scripture was unbelievable, which you can attribute to him being God, but it is also true that he was being trained in rabbinical school in his grandfather’s school. Otherwise, how would you call him rabbi? There are alot of things being discovered today through archaeological findings that are shedding light on these early years of Jesus. When I go to Israel in April, our guide we had the last time will be our guide again. He is the one who showed us this information in some of the archaeological findings around it. He also showed me a book that had been written in regard to this subject. I am going to try to pick that up when I am there. It is fascinating that this is a very viable possibility that is what Jesus was doing in those years, studying in school.
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.
We know that every year they went to the feast, which could explain why they were there when the wise men were there.
42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
They would go in great caravans. You can imagine this children saying, “I want to go with my cousins”, and this and that. Everybody was safe. They are all with family. So they just assumed that is where he was.
45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?
Does that not sound just like a mother? Why are you doing this to me? I have been worried sick.
Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Do you think she might have been a little angered? That is what we talked about before. This may not be a hundred percent true but it sure is a lot true, that anger is a secondary response to fear. This is a typical example of that. The first reaction is you are fearful your child is gone, but when you find him you want to yell at him in anger. A lot of times, you will find the root of your anger is fear. You will see that anger is just a secondary response to that fear. So instead of trying to deal with anger, deal with the fear.
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[or about my Father’s business] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Isn’t that something? Here is Mary and Joseph, revealed this whole thing by an angel, a dream from God, a virgin birth. That will be enough to make you think, at least. Yet it says they did not yet understand what was going on here. That is why people go seeking signs and miracles, and more and more of that. You would think one would do. No, after one, I need another one. If your faith is built upon signs and miracles, then you will always need one. That is why Jesus said blessed are those who do not see yet believe. He also said, “You adulterous generation, always looking for a sign and a miracle. I will show you a miracle. Watch me be raised from the dead.
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
In the final analysis, Jesus was saying to us, “the final miracle that ought to be enough through all of the rest of this, if you cannot believe me when I have been raised from the dead, then it is no fault of mine. I have given you every sign you need”. You see, folks, even though we know that the virgin birth was a virgin birth, man could still say, “I am not so sure about that„, and it could be debated. But when someone is raised from the dead, that is a hard one to debate. So the final miracle of God that He said He is this. “I am to give to you My resurrection life and if you cannot believe Me in regard to who I am with that miracle, then you are not going to believe anything. I am not going to show you any other miracle.”
I see people today seeking miracles and signs and wonders and excitement. And you say, “marvelous! What did it do for you?” If it increased your faith, then something is wrong with your faith. If your faith is not big enough to believe Jesus because of His resurrection, something is wrong with your faith. If I keep needing assurance, then something is wrong. It is like people constantly saying, “I need, I need, I thirst, I thirst, when Jesus said when you drink regular water you will thirst again but when you drink of My water you will never thirst again. All of these things went in motion not so we can be sign or miracle seekers but so we can put our faith squarely and securely in revealed truth as it relates to the person of Jesus Christ.
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Order the Bible Study; “A Closer Look at Faith, Hope and Love” book today!