What Child Is This?
Topic: Christmas Passage: Luke 2:1–2:20
What Child is This?
This week I came across a blog entry by Mark Driscoll, who is the pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and it struck a chord in me. He writes:
It was a very normal day until I realized that I was actively destroying my own soul.
The day began with my alarm jolting me awake. I immediately turned on my Blackberry to hear it chime for each voicemail and email that had been left while I slept. I stepped into the shower where I listened to my waterproof radio. I then turned on the television to catch some news while I dressed. Driving to work I tuned in to some talk-radio banter.
Throughout the day the chime on my laptop kept ringing as email arrived, and my cell phone continued to vibrate and ring on my hip. Before long, I needed a break, and I put on my iPod to go for a walk.
On the drive home, I again listened to the radio in an effort to drown out the blaring horns of frustrated fellow commuters. After eating dinner and tucking my five children into bed, I turned on the television to watch shows I had recorded on my Tivo.
As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that I had not had one minute of silence during my entire day. It was possible, I realized, that I could live the rest of my life without ever again experiencing silence.
In that moment, God deeply convicted me that I was addicted to the false trinity of our day, the gods known as Noise, Hurry, and Crowds.
I don't know about you, but I can relate. Many times at the end of a day I feel I have filled it with too much noise and not enough quiet - in those moments life doesn't feel full, it feels cluttered, and I feel my soul's need for less noise and hurry and more unhurried communion with God. Maybe you relate as well...
This can be especially true of Christmas season. Noise, hurry and crowds sounds like the normal shopping experience this time of year. Although Christmastime is a time set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it can often feel like the most clutter-full time of the year. Luke records that there was no room for Jesus in the inn and ironically I think far too often there is little room for Jesus in Christmas anymore.
If you relate to that, let me encourage you (along with myself) to slow down and take some time for quiet reflection about the rich meaning of the season. And this morning, let's hit the pause button on all the other activities we have going on and come before the Lord in thoughtful reflection of God's Word considering what the birth of Jesus means for this world and our lives.
Through God's Word let's enter into that peaceful scene in a stable on that holy night. We see Joseph and Mary, surrounded by stable animals, and we see some amazed shepherds who have come to see the child the angels spoke to them about. It is an overwhelming moment in the history of man - far more than anyone can comprehend, but we see Mary pondering it all in her heart. Not just pondering - look with me at verse 19 - she treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. She's treasuring and pondering. She knows that this child represents more than she can ever understand, but she also knows it's good. Wonderful. It's a treasure beyond her estimation. May that be our attitude as well. As we draw a little closer we see the baby in the manger - and worthy of our pondering and treasuring this morning. Who is he? What did he come to do? As the song says, what child is this?
1. Jesus is God with us (Emmanuel)
When the angels announced the birth of Jesus they made it clear that he would be far more than an ordinary man. He is called the Lord, the Son of the Most High, and Immanuel which means, God with us. Jesus is God with us.
The incarnation is one of the most amazing miracles in the Bible. The infinite and all-powerful God became a man. The God who has the wisdom and the creative genius to design and build the universe and all the complexities and intricacies of it - from the largest galaxies to the smallest microbes. The God who created man, including you and me, who breathed life into us and who keeps us alive by His power, this God became a man.
And he didn't just appear as a man - kind of a God-in-man's clothing kind of a thing. God the Second Person of the Trinity fully became a man - born as a baby - without losing or diminishing His deity in any respect. Fully God and fully man. This baby, this man Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. What does that mean? Tell you what it doesn't mean
One of the worst illustrations I ever heard in a sermon was not so bad because it was boring or wasn't clear, but because it completely distorted God and turned the truth of who God is on its head.
Speaker compared God to the Wizard of Oz - and claimed that some people see God as the mighty Oz - large and distant and terrifying and frighteningly powerful. But God wants us to pull back the curtain and see Him, not as great and powerful (even frightening), but as someone we can get close to and who simply wants to give us things and be close to us in relationship.
That would be a distorted understanding God and of the incarnation. The great and powerful Oz was an illusion perpetuated to fill people with fear and manipulate them. The Bible reveals that God is indeed great and powerful, glorious and, for those who fall under His wrath, terrible and fearsome!
Jesus didn't come to pull back the curtain, so to speak, to reveal that God is just like us. Didn't come to expose God as just a regular Joe. Opposite! He came to glorify God - to reveal God's greatness and glory to us in a whole new way - up close and personal.
The word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn 1:14
Jesus said, when you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. When Jesus stilled the wind and waves with a word, the disciples were filled with fear and wondered, who is this man? When he healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons with authority, they were filled with amazement and awe. They saw God's glory in Christ and it filled their hearts with a mixture of fear and awe and wonder and praise!
Jesus didn't come to reduce God in our eyes, he came to enlarge God in our eyes, and at the same time to invite us to draw near to God. God with us - God drawing near to us. When God created man He walked with Adam in the cool of the evening and they related closely and from the heart. That is what God created us to do and to long for.
Jesus came so that we might learn what it means to be worshippers of God - not in a cold, formal way, nor in a frightened and distant place, but up close and full of gladness and amazement at how glorious - and how good! - God is!
And Jesus came to remove the one obstacle to our approaching God in worship and friendship - our sin. And that brings us to a second observation about this baby in the manger:
2. Jesus is the Savior of the world
The angel announced that he had good news of a great joy: a Savior is born. A Savior being born is only good news and bring great joy if this world needs saving.
Bob Dylan wrote a song called Everything is Broken in which he graphically describes the broken state of this world we live in:
Broken bottles, broken plates, broken switches, broken gates, broken dishes, broken parts, streets are filled with broken hearts. Broken words never meant to be spoken, everything is broken.
Is that true? Is something deeply, tragically, irreversibly broken in this world? Do we need saving? If we don't need saving then we don't need a Savior. If we do need saving, then nothing is better news or greater joy than this: A Savior is born.
The Bible also tells us that everything is broken - and tells us why. Because of sin. The
world is broken because sin breaks everything that is good and precious. Relationships,
morals, love. But most of all, sin devastates relationships.
What's on your basketball?
Alexandra Stevenson carried a secret for nearly 27 years. Her father was the basketball great Julius Erving, otherwise known as Dr. J. Conceived in an extra-marital affair, she grew up for 27 years with almost no contact from her father and she decided she didn't need him. She considered her single mom to be both her mother and her father. She didn't celebrate Father's Day she celebrated Grandfather's Day. And she hated basketball.
The one time she met Dr. J she was about 9 years old. He was at her school, not realizing she was there. As he went to hand her an autographed basketball, he recognized who she was from pictures her mother had sent him. As he handed her the basketball, he awkwardly said, Hello Alexandria. I don't need an autograph she said and walked away. But a friend gave her the auto ball and she took it to her room and examined it for hours before putting it deep in her closet, never to look at it again.
The good news in this sad story is that 27 years after she was born, her daddy came back into her life and they are rebuilding what was broken. Recently Alexandra's mother was cleaning, and she found the basketball with Julius Erving's autograph. The one that had been hidden for 15 years. It had something else written on it. In red ink Alexandria, a nine year old girl, had written her name and her father's name and drew a heart next to both their names. All those years she had had another secret - though she tried to deny it, she desperately missed her father.
In one way or another, all of us have broken relationships. Maybe not severed, but broken in some way. We may deny it, may hide it, even from ourselves, but we have basketballs hidden away with names written on it. Everything is broken.
But the most heartbreaking brokenness is between us and our Creator. The first and most devastating blow sin dealt was against our relationship with our God. Some people try to live as if God didn't matter. Some deny He even exists - but we all have basketballs hidden away with His name written on it. For we were created to know and worship Him, and nothing else in all of life can take His place.
But the worst of the news is this: as devastating as sin might be in our lives, the real horror is the day we stand before a holy God and give account. Called judgment day and all those who die in their sins will be turned away from God forever - cast into eternal darkness, their relationship with God eternally broken. It is this brokenness that drives all the other brokenness.
Jesus did not come to pull the curtain back and reveal that God's wrath is no big deal - just a lot of smoke and mirrors. As we look at this baby in the manger, it should boggle our minds to know that he came to bear the wrath of His Father for us on the cross. On the cross, the God-man Jesus hung and absorbed the furious wrath that was mine and yours.
Jesus often described himself in terms of saving. He said that he was sent into the world not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. He came to "seek and save the lost".
John Newton, a man that once shipped slaves from Africa to England, later became a Christian and wrote the classic hymn Amazing Grace, knew of his need of a Savior to the very end of his life. His last words were: I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior."
Of all the titles that Jesus has, I don't think any are more precious than this: Savior.
3. Jesus is King of all
What child is this? Third title I want to briefly bring to our attention. He is God with us. He is Savior. And he is King. Didn't become a king, he was born a king. He is the king of heaven. He is king over all those who trust in him. And the glad testimony of all who have given the rule of their life over to him is this: he is a good king.
We cannot look at Jesus and his kingship without asking: am I submitted to his rulership? Is he lord of my life? It is a sobering question for those who call themselves Christians to ask, because Jesus said there would be many who would say "Lord, Lord" but who did not do what he said, and he will say "I never knew you - depart from me." There are those who name the name Christian but do not call Jesus Christ Lord. He never gave that option. Not saved by obedience, but obedience is a necessary evidence of saving grace. We do well to rededicate our lives and bend our knees before our King.
I realize there might be some who here who are wondering, what does it mean to be a Christian? How do I know that Jesus is my Savior? Two necessary but simple steps: repent of your sin. That doesn't mean you get rid of all your sin - could never do that. That would be like trying to get all the dirt off before you take a bath. Means turning away from sin as source of joy and life and turning to Christ. Change of mind.
Ask Him in faith to be your Savior. Faith means believe his promises. Believe in Him. Trust in him.
As I pray, if this is the prayer of your heart, join with me silently.