Carol Service - Luke 2:8-20
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
I don’t know if you like Christmas but I love this time of year. There
are just so many things about Christmas that make me smile. Turkey, trimmings,
tinsel, the tree, the Christmas telly. I love them all.
I even love going round to see the Christmas lights people put on their houses. It’s the only time of the year when you can sit outside someone’s house in your car, stare into their window for half an hour and they won’t call the police!
And I do love presents. I love giving them but if I’m honest I do also like to receive them.
I don’t know what you have bought people for Christmas this year. Safe presents. Cds, DVDs, socks, scarves and gloves.
More risky presents. Jewellery. New clothes. Will the fashion police be called in.
There are even some presents which are designed to give us a hint.
Pick up gift bag. You come down on Christmas morning and you are very excited. Tear off the paper. Inside is a gift back. What’s inside? You have been given some odour eaters. Take the hint and use them!
Some presents are deigned to give us a hint.
Same was true of God’s present to humanity that first Christmas. When the God the Father sent his only Son into the world 2000 years ago he sent him to be a Saviour.
“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
We hear these words read every single Christmas. Just after the shepherds have finally recovered from the shock of meeting a heavenly messenger they are told about the greatest news in the world. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
And what is this good news? “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you.”
Do you see the implication? If God has sent a Saviour then we need to be saved. The present provides the hint.
Big question: What do we need to be saved from?
Bible says we need to be saved from all the consequences of living without God as our top priority. Many of these. Tonight I want to mention three consequences that Jesus is able to save us from.
First of all, Jesus can save us from our confusion about God.
Most of us in this room believe there is more to life than we can see or touch. We sense there must be more to life than this. We look around us, at the world we inhabit and the people who surround us, and we see again and again the hallmarks of design.
Yes we meet people who do believe the whole thing is a cosmic accident. We say to ourselves, “I just do not have the faith to believe I am here by chance.”
We think there must be a higher power. Question is, who is it? Or what is it? We look around in our spiritual search and hear a number of voices saying different things. And so we are left confused.
We sense there is something more powerful than us at work in the universe. Indeed, we hope that there is something more powerful than us at work in the universe. We want to be part of a bigger story. We want there to be a God. But we are confused about his true identity.
Well, be confused no more if that is what you are because Jesus can save us from our confusion about God.
Look at what he is called in verse 11. The angel says, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The title I want you to focus on is the Lord. This is a Bible way of talking about someone who is completely and utterly divine.
A dividing line between what makes someone a creature and someone the Creator, between what makes someone divine and what makes someone human then we are being told that this Jesus, the historical man who lived and talked and ate and drank and had fun 2000 years ago, came down from heaven. He was fully and utterly divine. Jesus was God with a human face!
Implications for this are wonderful. Guessing games are finished. How can we know what God is like? Jesus is God with a human face. How can I know what God thinks of me? Listen to Jesus. Why? Jesus is God with a human face.
I could go on and on with many other examples but do you see my point? Great news! If you are currently confused about the identity of God you don’t have to be any longer. Because Jesus can save us from our confusion about God.
Secondly, Jesus can save us from our confusion about life.
Don’t know if you are the kind of person who follows instructions or who just throws them away and had a stab at it yourself.
People are different. That’s okay because even if you make a mistake it can usually be fixed very quickly. It’s only a piece of technology, it’s not the end of the world.
But what about when it comes to life? Life is more complicated than a piece of plastic with a computer chip inside. And when we get it wrong we mess things up – and not just within ourselves but within other people.
Just suppose we follow through on our hunches that we are not here by accident by have been designed by a Creator.
Then it is not outside the bounds of probability that we were designed to behave on this planet and interact with each other in a particular way. And when we make our own ways, when we make our own rules, then is it any surprise that we end up hurting ourselves and those we love the most?
What we need is for our loving Creator to teach us how to live. Not to spoil our fun but to show us how to thrive as we were intended.
And this is what happened when Jesus walked the earth 2000 years.
He came to set up something called the Kingdom of God.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were expecting a ruler to be sent from God. When he arrived he would gather together a group of people who would submit to his loving authority, who would follow his wonderful instructions about how to interact with each other.
OT tells us lots about him. Born in Bethlehem, amaze people with his teaching, do miracles, suffer, die and he would be raised to life again. Sound familiar? Of course, it’s Jesus.
And that’s why in verse 11 he is called the Christ. Did you see that? “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.”
Not Jesus’ surname. An ancient phone book.
This was his job title and it was another way of talking about the promised King the Jewish people were waiting for.
We need to realise that authentic Christianity is not a Christmas and Easter thing. It’s not even a once a week on a Sunday thing. It is the dedication of an entire life to Jesus to serving Jesus as our loving King. This is not bad news! It is wonderful news.
Are you looking for direction? For help? Would you like to live life to the full? To live the way you were designed to live? Only way is to surrender to the loving rule of Jesus and follow the King’s good instructions.
Such a difference between merely existing and truly living. You can certainly live without Christ’ s teaching. You might even have a bit of fun. But what I’m saying is that life with Jesus as your King is so much better.
Let me try and explain what I mean.
I am tone deaf. I am musically inept, which means although I want to I cannot play any instruments at all. My fiancé is wonderfully gifted. Has this wonderful Grand Piano in her front room. Even though I am musically inept I can still plunk away and just about get a sound from it. However, when she plays on it the sound is almost divine.
In our life we can exist without Jesus. We can just about get by without him. But what I’m saying is that when you allow your Creator to play the tune, when you allow King Jesus to guide you and direct, well life is never the same again.
Jesus came to rescue us from our confusion about life.
Thirdly, Jesus came to rescue us from the judgement to come.
Not going to argue for the reality that everyone alive is destined to face the judgement of God for how they have treated God. The Bible is very clear about it and Jesus warns people frequently to get prepared for a day of reckoning, a day when we will be held accountable for how we have behaved on this planet. It is a fact.
Good news is that Jesus came to save people from the judgement to come. And he did this when he died on a cross 2000 years ago.
It is often said that the death of Jesus shows how much he loves people. That’s a true statement but we need to think about why.
Why does the death of someone show someone’s love?
Vicky and me on the Humber Bridge.
Jesus’ death rescues his followers from danger. When they decide to follow the King they receive a royal pardon. But what about the punishment they deserve? The King puts his arms around our shoulders and says, “Look back with me to my death 2000 years ago. That was for you. Indeed, that was instead of you. So now you can be freely forgiven and live in my Kingdom forever.”
Are you beginning to see why the message at the heart of the Christian faith is the greatest news in the world?
We haven’t looked at all of the reasons tonight but we have looked at three major ones.
o Jesus can save us from our confusion about God
o Jesus can save us from our confusion about life
o Jesus can save us from the judgement to come
Question we are left with: How should we respond to what we have heard?
I want to suggest that everyone in this room acts like the shepherds. Go home tonight and be a shepherd.
Look at what they did in verse 15. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing the Lord has told us about.” So hey hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager. When they had seen him, they spread the word about this child.”
Two things. Checked out the evidence and then once they had discovered it was true they told as many other people as they could about Jesus.
Maybe tonight that you need to check out the evidence for yourself. That is a good attitude. Christianity is not blind faith. It is personal commitment to Jesus based on reliable evidence. Makes sense to check out if the things I have said tonight are true.
Go home tonight. Someone knocks on your door and says, “Do you want to get married?” Yes, in the next few years. Do you want to get married now? I’ve got a girl in the car and she really wants to marry you now? What about it?
Go on a date. Get engaged. Don’t know everything but know enough.
Where are you on that scale? If you
know enough then get committed. Maybe even tonight. Come and see me.
If all this is new then be like the shepherds and check out the evidence for yourself.
How? Don’t waste your money and go to Bethlehem.
Two things you can do.
o Take a Gospel from the back and read it from cover to cover.
o Have you ever done this as an adult?
o Don’t be like the jury that makes up it’s mind before they hear the evidence.
o If you know a Christian then watch their life.
o Not simply “Is it true?” but “Does it work?”
Would Jesus celebrate Christmas?
When you are convinced then let me encourage you to keep on following the shepherd’s example. They spread the word about Jesus. This is what you do with good news. You make sure as many people hear it as possible.
And as you dare to speak do remember that this message about Jesus really is good news of great joy for all the people.
Let us pray.
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