Peninsula Community Church
The Simplicity of Christmas
December 22, 2016
Luke 2:8-20 – And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Wow! It is hard to believe that Christmas is just a couple of days away. Hopefully by now all of your gifts have been purchased, they have been wrapped, and are now under the tree. I also trust that the busyness of the season has not yet tired you out and that you still have some strength left to actually enjoy Christmas.
As we read the Christmas story we find that it is a complex story with a simple message. While the message is simple, the story does present some complex issues. The virgin birth still rocks our imagination and ability to comprehend how such an act could occur and yet the virgin birth is the lynch pen in the story of God coming to earth. Not only do we have to get are minds around the virgin birth but then we have to deal with the fact that the Son of God came to earth in the form of human flesh to save us from our sin. We have a virgin who was sexually pure and yet she was impregnated by the Spirit of God as the conduit for Him to come to earth. These are not exactly simplistic issues. Like Mary we ask “How can this be?” We are amazed at these events and the theological implications they present. These and other truths of Christmas are complex issues which theologians have spent their entire lives trying to understand and explain. They debate, discuss, and argue the nuances of the various ideas and thoughts associated with these complex theological issues.
While there are certainly things in the Christmas story that are very complex, there is so much of the Christmas story that is filled with amazing simplicity. Think about the story if you will. We have a simple girl who is Mary. She lived in a simple time. Life was not very complicated for her. She lived in the simple town of Nazareth. She made a simple pledge to marry a simple man named Joseph. They had committed to live a simple life together forever. They were not socialites. They were not wealthy. They were not people who held a high social status. They were not complicated people but they were not stupid either. While they did not have social status of any kind they were chosen by God and that is all that mattered. They understood and accepted their calling to be the mother and father of the King of the world.
When Jesus was born it was a simple birth. There was nothing unusual about the birth itself. A seemingly simple boy was born in a the simplest of places, a manger. In fact, His birth was so simple and unassuming that most people of that day never realized what happened. Jesus was not born in a hotel room surrounded by the modern comforts of His day, He was born in a manger where cattle lived. There were no media involved. The Bethlehem Gazette was no where to be found and there were no paparazzi around the stall where He was born. There were no trumpeters or pages to announce the birth of Jesus. The people of His day missed the most amazing event of their day because they were busy paying their taxes and prepping for the feasts. Most people continued to live their life as if nothing had happened and nothing had changed. And yet that is exactly what happened. His coming to earth was so complex and yet at the same time it was so simple. It was and still is the great paradox of the day. The complex met the simple.
How simple and yet how sublime is God’s means of salvation! Who would have thought that Messiah would be born as a baby, and in such humble circumstances! Many would have and still stumble over the angel’s directions (2:12): “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger” which was a feeding trough! It smelled like a barn. It is most likely that the place was filled with noise and contrary to the Christmas carol I am guessing that the baby Jesus did cry as He was just as human as any one of us. Think about what you would have done if you were God. I know if I had been in control I would have sent the Savior to the earth as a full grown man, a mighty warrior riding on a white stallion. Or, He would have been born in the finest palace and not in a barn. He would have been wrapped in the finest purple garments and would be laying in an ivory and gold cradle. He would not be in a barn surrounded by smelly sheep and the noise. He would have been attended by servants and the newspapers of the day would have heralded His birth as the greatest news of all time. But that was not the choice of God. He chose the simple so that everyone person could receive the gift of the Savior.
To understand the simplicity of His birth, we must consider who was first invited to come and celebrate the event. The first guest to see Baby Jesus symbolized the simpleness of the message. It is noteworthy that one of the first groups to be called to the scene of the manger were the shepherds, a simple people with a simple way of life. We should note that this does not mean they were dumb or stupid, it simply means they were a group of people who did not put on airs.
In terms of occupation the shepherd’s main objective in life was to guard the sheep. They were to keep the sheep safe from wild animals and from hurting themselves. They were simple people with simple goals. In many commentaries it has been suggested that it is very probable that the very sheep these men were tending in the fields were being prepared for slaughter at Passover in Jerusalem a few months later. If that is true then how symbolic is that the shepherds who were watching the Passover lambs would be invited to Bethlehem to view the Passover Lamb of God, provided for the salvation of the world.
As we look at the Christmas story, we find that the message of Christmas really is a simple message. When we remove the mystic of the virgin birth, the questions of how God could come to earth, and we simply accept the fact that He did, we find that the message is not as complicated as we make it and it is certainly more simple than we make it. The simple message is that God brought salvation to humankind by taking on human flesh Himself and He did so without sin. He bore our sin to satisfy the call of punishment for the sin we have committed. While on one hand the story is complicated and complex but the message is simple.
How simple of a message does God bring to us today? Let me share fours ideas presented by the message of the birth of Jesus. First, God loves us and has a plan for our life. God loved us enough that He sent His most valuable possession to us to redeem us and to change our lives. The problem too often is that we believe that God could not love us because of what we may have done or not done. There is no doubt that God loves us. We find this in one of the most popular scriptures in the Bible. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).
Man is sinful and is separated from God. The second part of this message is that everyone of us have sinned. No one is righteous. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one (Romans 3:10-12). For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:22-25).The one who says he does not sin is a liar according to the scripture (John 1:8). This sin has separated us from God so that our fellowship with Him has been broken.
God sent His son to die for our sins. But God had a solution. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us ( Romans 5:6-8). His solution was to send His son to earth as the great redeemer to save men from His sin and for that matter save mankind from himself. No matter who you are or what you have done He died for you and there is nothing you have done that will change that.
God wants us to receive the gift of forgiveness. The simplicity of the message of Christmas is that we can receive the gift of salvation given to us by God. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10). While our lives our so very complex the acceptance of salvation does not have to be. We confess to Him our sin, short comings and failures. We repent which means we agree to not do those things again. And we begin to live a life changed and different from what we have known before. That is why the greatest gift you can give and the greatest gift you can receive is the forgiveness of God on our behalf and then choosing to live a life that honors God and represents who He is.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom