Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy to the World –The Message of Christmas

Joy to the World –The Message of Christmas
By Rev. Greg Schermerhorn
Luke 2:8–20 (NLT)

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.  They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.  “Don’t be afraid!” he said.  “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”  Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem!  Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph.  And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.  It was just as the angel had told them.

We have a lot to celebrate this time of year.  The commemoration of the birth of our Savior Jesus is a reason for great joy. Joy is the message of the third week of Advent.

Can you imagine being a shepherd sitting in a field watching over your sheep when all of a sudden an angel appears before you and declares, "Don't be afraid!"?  Is there anyone here who wouldn’t be startled by that?  Terrified?  But this angel was on a special mission from God the Father.  This angel was sent to the shepherds to declare the birth of God's one and only Son, Jesus, the long anticipated Savior of the world.  This very special birth announcement burst the very seams of Heaven with God's joy.  God the Father had finally revealed His plan for man's salvation to the world in the form of a newborn babe.

Jesus, the very son of God, had been revealed in flesh, on Earth.  The angel declared, "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people."  Yes, there was excitement in Heaven, God the Father's joy spread to the angels, and the angels declared God's good pleasure to the shepherds.  The birth announcement of the King of kings and Lord of lords was made to the lowest class of society, lowly shepherds sitting under the stars keeping watching over their sheep.  The angel brought “Good news that will bring great joy to all people!” Indeed, Jesus not only brought salvation to the Jews but to all people.  People of every class and of every background.  God's gift, His joy was to be shared with all people everywhere and for all time!  Can I get an "AMEN?"

To further emphasize the point, the angel was joined by a great Heavenly host.  Legions of angels joined with the announcing angel and began singing praise to God for sending His son, Jesus, to earth.  It was a truly joyous occasion in Heaven and on earth.  What a startling, terrifying, overwhelming, and reassuring moment it must have been for those shepherds.  They were witnesses to something wonderful that had never happened before and it moved them to action.

After the angels departed and returned to Heaven, the shepherds talked amongst themselves and said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem!  Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph.  And there was the baby, lying in the manger.”

Everything the angel had told them was true.  This event changed their lives.  It so impacted them that they told others about their encounter with the angel and about the legions of angels that also appeared glorifying God and singing praises to Him.  They told others about God's one and only Son who'd been born in Bethlehem as their Savior.  They told all the folks they met that everything was just as the angel said it would be.

The shepherds shared in the joy of Heaven when they sought out and found the Christ child, when they glorified God, and when they told others what God had done.  We too can share the joy of Heaven.  We can and should do the same things that the shepherds did that night long ago in Bethlehem.  God has revealed His Son, Jesus, His special Christmas gift to us!  He has done this through His Word. 
John 1:1–3 (NKJV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

He has done this through nature. 
Psalm 19:1 (NASB95)
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

He has done this though the circumstances of our lives.  Jesus wants to know us in a real and personal way.
Luke 19:10 (NKJV)
for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost

The first thing we should do upon hearing the good news, just like the shepherds did, is to seek out and find Christ.  What I am really talking about here is developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Why?  Jesus loved us so much that He left the comforts of Heaven and set aside His divine prerogatives to die for our sins.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus being fully God and fully man specifically came to Earth to restore the relationship between man and God that had been broken apart by sin.  Jesus, by His sinless life, by His substitutionary death on the cross for us, by His burial, and by His resurrection from the dead; has become the final atoning sacrifice for sin, for all time, for all mankind.  The joy in Heaven at Jesus' birth was because God's plan of grace for mankind was finally revealed.

Jesus is the name that is above all names.  Jesus, as God's only Son and as the second member of the Godhead, is worthy of all honor, all glory, and all praise in His own right.  But, because of His atoning sacrifice to make our salvation from sin and eternal death possible, God the Father has elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor. 
Philippians 2:9–11 (NKJV)
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

All of creation will bow to Jesus and confess Him as the Lord of lords and King of kings, in this life or the one to come.  The difference is will you be staying in Heaven with Him afterwards, or will you be departing in shame for the eternal torment of Hell for rejecting Jesus' free gift of eternal life?

Receiving God's gift of salvation is as easy as A...B...C!
A-Admit Admit you are a sinner.  Repent and turn away from your sin.
Acts 3:19 (NKJV)
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

B-Believe Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and receive God’s gift of forgiveness from sin.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

C-Confess Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior.  This is an 18-inch decision.  You have made the mental acknowledgement, now you transfer that knowledge to your heart and confess it with your mouth.
Romans 10:9–10, 13 (NKJV)
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is not about praying a "sinners prayer."  It is about developing a real and lasting relationship with Jesus, the Creator of the universe and Savior of the world.  It is about repenting of your sins, receiving forgiveness from God, and confessing Jesus as your Savior with heartfelt knowledge and conviction.  This is about opening the gift of joy that God the Father has given to you for Christmas.  How will you respond?  Don't leave here without receiving God's Christmas gift to you, the joy of Heaven, Jesus Christ.