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Dec 18 2022 Advent 4 - The Night the World Changed Forever

Christmas Eve service at 6:30pm

In 1989 – what happened?

The Berlin Wall came down – this ended the ‘Cold War’ - and I put that in air quotes as it seems things are heating back up… but…

Do you remember where you were when this happened?

I was only 5 when President Kennedy was assassinated, so I don’t know where I was.

Moon landing – my dad took a picture of the television. 9/11 – the list goes on…

We will look at Luke 2 and the birth of Jesus – and that night turned the world upside down. But very few knew about it – just a small handful of people who are here in this passage – but that night changed the world in a way that could not be stopped. The world and the powers of darkness tried – but could not – stop what God was doing.

The Christmas story should be a huge part of our faith – it is the story of the gospel – the initial preaching of the gospel.

The story has become somewhat of a sentimental story – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. We build memories over the years – and some of it may be wishful thinking – and for some, it is a very difficult time – for some, a lot of bad memories.

PBS does their fundraisers – and often. They include Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas show – the prodigal daughter – and on Christmas Eve – her life is transformed.

There are two songs about Christmas that give us a good feeling and give us hope – in a dark world – and that is a point in the story.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire – I don’t know the name of it (the Christmas Song) – but to do that – you’d have to be a millionaire, as nuts are so expensive…

Silent night – candlelight – midnight mass – all the lights – all is calm, all is bright – yeah, that’s what we want on Christmas – Sleep in heavenly peace! That sets the stage for what we want – but I’m not sure it tells us all the story tells us.

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

Luke is doing a lot more than just setting the historical stage – he is setting up a confrontation – Luke is all about a confrontation between God and His Son vs. the world.

In context, Mary just visited Elizabeth – where she proclaims the Magnificat – “He has brought down the rulers of the world – He has sent the rich away empty-handed”

It is almost like a prize fight – (that’s probably sacrilegious) in this corner, we have Augustus! That was not really his name – it was Octavius – in 27 BC he defeated Marc Antony’s army – and Caesar adopted him – and changed his name – Augustus (majestic) – Emperor of Rome.

The proclaimers of Rome – messengers scattered throughout the world – Google ‘the gospel of Augustus’ – the message has been saved on many carvings – they are proclaiming good news (gospel – good tidings) – Augustus – the son of god (Caesar) – the savior of the world has brought peace to all the world. And the story of Jesus just cuts into that completely.

SO, in this corner, we have Augustus – and in this corner – a 13–14-year-old girl and her baby. It does not sound like a fair fight.

Round 1 begins with the greatest power in the world giving a command – an edict – that’s what people of power do – give decrees, edicts, and commands that others have to carry out – regardless of how much disruption that might cause for them. So, everyone has to go back to their home town for the purpose of consolidating resources for the empire – and the burden falls mostly on those who were poor. It created much disruption and turmoil.

Through all the disruption that is taking place at the hands of Augustus – God is moving. He is specifically moving to put Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. He basically takes what Caesar is doing and turns it on its head:

Micah 5:2 " But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."

So, in all of this, God moves them to where the Messiah is to be born.

“It is God who rules the world – not the nations” – Stanley Hierwault

It is God who rules the nation – not its leaders or institutions. The solution to the problems of the world is not found in the world and its leaders – it is found on the outside – Jesus who offers peace and good news to the world.

Luke 2:5 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Here, the King of the Universe being born in a humble state.

Luke 2: 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

These would be the lowest class – bottom 10% - a job no one wanted. It was a place – in some ways, a position of shame…

9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

Is our gospel good news of great joy for all people? It is! We need to make sure we communicate it that way.

11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."

On January 1, I will begin a series on Romans. As I was preparing – I was like – WOW! These two books are almost exactly the same! It is really cool how this gospel is Romans 1 – almost exactly. But Paul adds this thing called death and resurrection – that hadn’t happened yet here in Luke.

Descendant of David – to be on the throne forever and ever – and that plays a critical role in the gospel throughout the New Testament. It is mentioned over and over again.

Savior – has become a very religious term – but it means Rescuer! Someone who rescues you! When Peter walked on water and started sinking - Jesus, Save me! He wasn’t saying come into my heart! Emancipator – Saves us from slavery to sin, addiction, judgment, shame, and guilt.

He is a practical savior! Real stuff He saves us from

Messiah: Anointed one – King! Most of our lives, there was a Queen in England – now there is a king.

We don’t think of Jesus as being king. We read Christ – we think that is just a title – but it means Messiah – anointed king.

Presidents – we elect them – you don’t elect a king.

A king has ultimate power. I know that is not the case in England today – but in ancient times, the king had ultimate power.

Lord – all these titles! The eternal one – the eternal king. All in a little birth story. That is why our gospel is great joy! We are talking about someone who is incredibly great! No human has ever come close! No human leader has ever offered what He offers.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

Peace – not just no war – but Shalom – peace with God as well. Inner peace. Us having peace with one another – and us being at peace in our world and creation – wholeness in every way – shalom. We don’t experience that fully now as Christians. We are introduced into it when we come to Christ – starting with peace with God.

Shepherds…

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

Last week we looked at the responses of Herod, the Magi, and the religious leaders.

The shepherds’ response is similar to Mary’s response. Behold your bondservant – be it done to me according to your word.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

We have faith! According to your word, we believe what you say! We know this has happened, because your word is faithful and true – their response is one of faith, humility, and faithfulness. Mary was the first disciple – now we have the next disciples.

16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

So, they go and proclaim. They are gospel proclaimers! They went and proclaimed it. We think – because of our manger scenes – they were surrounded by fields and cows and in some cartoons, a donkey.

But it was the City of Bethlehem!

Basically, in the attached garage of the inn…

All who heard it were amazed.

19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Dick brought this up the first Sunday of advent – Mary pondering and treasuring them in her heart.

Treasure – keep hold of, hold onto, keep the memory alive.

There is this one aspect of Mary – kind of like with your kids – when you save their first haircut – and their kindergarten artwork – and you gather this large box that you eventually give to them and they throw away…

But ponder means – to consider all the possible implications. There is stuff to treasure, like Sue was sharing – and there are implications.

Jesus said this in the last supper – in me – you might have peace – peace in God – peace in Christ – something we have, as followers of Jesus, available to us – that the world cannot comprehend.

But in this world, you have tribulation.

Possible implications. In this world you have tribulation – but be of good cheer – I have overcome the world.

I think that is the Christian life – all this to treasure and ponder.


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