Special Episode: The Significance Behind Christ's Birth

Peace to Live By Special Episode: The Significance Behind Christ's Birth (2017 Remaster) - Daniel Litton
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For full sermon without edits for time, tap or right-click link: Season One Special Episode 1 Full Sermon (35:01)

[Transcript may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and contains extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       Christmas without a doubt is the most celebrated time of the year, at least here in the United States. I would venture to say that because we go through the motions so often, year after year, that a lot of us have probably lost the true meaning behind Christmas. I think it's hard to get past that surface level of appreciation for this holiday. So, why do we celebrate Christmas? Sure, it's because of the birth of Jesus Christ, but the meaning goes far deeper than that. Well, today, I want to ponder deeper into the real meaning behind Christmas.

       There are several things I want us to look at today in discussing the significance behind Christmas. Number one, I want to consider why Christ came to the earth as an infant. Number two, we will discuss the virgin birth of Jesus from his mother Mary, and why this is significant. Number three, I want to discuss the current and future purposes of Christ coming into the world for the first time. And number four, once we have gathered all of this background information, I want to take us through the series of events from Scripture surrounding the birth of Christ, so we can appreciate the famous Christmas accounts, and have a better understanding of them.

       First I want to discuss why Christ came into the world. Before I answer this question, we need to look at the setting of the time. Was Jesus' coming a random event in human history? Well, when coming to the Bible, one needs to understand that the Old Testament, that is, the times before Jesus Christ, were God's relations with the Nation of Israel, who is his chosen people. You see, not long after the beginning of time, God chose a group of people to be his beloved. We know this people today as the Jewish people. God gave Moses, the leader of the Israelites, the Law by which God's people were supposed to live by. In order for a person to be pleasing to God, the Israelite, or accepted foreigner, had to follow this Law. But when Christ died of the cross, around 30 A.D., this Law was fulfilled in the new way of the Spirit of God. That is, in order to be pleasing to God, people no longer had to follow the strict guidelines laid out in the Old Testament law and offer sacrifices for their sins. Christ became the one time payment for all sin when he died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day.

       In order to see this change in action, let us remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well in the Gospel of John. I want to consider what the Apostle John penned. Turn with me to John 4, and we're going to consider verses 19 through 26. I am picking up in the midst of the conversation between Jesus and the woman. The passage states:

“The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:19-26, ESV).”

       Now in the Old Testament. God predicted that Jesus would indeed come into the world as a human. One famous example of this is found in Isaiah chapter 9, verses 6 and 7. This text states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV). Now, only the first part of that verse has been fulfilled up into this time. It is true that Christ came into the world already as a human. But Christ will not establish his earthly kingdom, which is for the Jews, until his 1,000 year reign, which occurs after the Rapture of the Church and the Tribulation period.

       But why did Jesus, God himself, have to be born on the earth in the flesh of a human? The system of sacrifices from the Old Testament Law only 'covered' people's sins until the Messiah could come to make the 'real' payment. To use a current day analogy, think of a credit card. The sins of all the people of the Old Testament were put on credit, if you will, until the debt could be totally paid off in the future. When Christ came, he paid the debt in full on the cross for all the sins that had ever been committed at that time, and all the sins that would be committed in the future. It is written in Galatians 3:13 that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree“ (ESV).

       Think about what the Apostle Peter stated to the Israelites in Acts 5:30-32, when he said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (ESV). Also, consider Colossians 2:13-15 says that, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (ESV).

       There are also several secondary purposes for Christ being born into the world as a human infant. Jesus, as the Son of God, gives us the perfect embodiment of how we, as humans, are to live out our lives while we are here on the earth. The writer of Hebrews notes:

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:1-6, ESV)

       How was Jesus faithful in his life to God? Again, Peter notes that, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:21-24, ESV).

       For the Christian truly walking the Christian life, there are going to be trials and tribulations, just like anyone else has in the world. The difference is that we as Christians can work through them while we trust in God to get us through them. Unbelievers don't know God and therefore cannot have the benefit of trusting in him through their trails and troubles.

       Speaking of trails and tribulations, another purpose for Christ's coming into the world was to ultimately destroy the works of Satan and his demons. It was penned of God in Hebrews 2:14-15 that, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (ESV). When Jesus died on the cross, Satan and his demons (the fallen angels) ultimately lost the war. I also want to note that from this passage, we, as Christians, never have to fear death because in our eyes, for the Apostle Paul said, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10, ESV).

       Paul also notes in Colossians 2 of Jesus: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (ESV). It is true that the spiritual forces of evil will still launch attacks on Christians, as Paul just told us. But let’s consider another passage from Paul: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13, ESV). Now, it isn't until after the 1,000 year reign of Christ that Satan will ultimately be taken out of the picture (see Revelation chapter 20).

       Also, let us note that Jesus has become our defender now and will be judge of all in the future. Christ intercedes for us as Christians when we need help, as noted in Romans 8:34. The writer of Hebrews also notes that Jesus is high priest for the saints of God (see Hebrews 4:14-16). In the Old Testament, the high priest was responsible to offer sacrifices for the people's sins. Nowadays, Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sins, and we are therefore blameless before him. We have access to God with boldness and confidence (see Ephesians 3:12). Since all authority of all that exists has been given to Jesus by God the Father, he therefore will judge all people of all times (see Matthew 28:19 and John 5:22, 27).

       So, in moving on, before we get to more specific details about the virgin birth, I want to focus briefly on the genealogies surrounding Jesus Christ. These genealogies, found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, are pretty interesting to study, especially if you like researching your own genealogies and like learning about your ancestors and what not. So Matthew and Luke also give us the birth accounts, which I will touch on shortly. Luke's genealogy is complete, as it goes all the way back to the first man ever to live, which is Adam. Nevertheless, Matthew's genealogy only goes back to Abraham, and he was the one with whom God first established a covenant (see Genesis 12). So, Luke likely used Mary's family line, as Jesus was truly related to Mary by blood. But Jesus, obviously then, because he was born of Mary the virgin, from the Holy Spirit, was not actually related to Joseph, who was his earthly father. So Matthew, then, uses Joseph's line of linage.

       So now, let’s move past the genealogies and let’s focus here more on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and what some of the specific evidence is of it. The virgin birth of Christ is predicted in the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 7:14. The verse states, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV). The prophet Isaiah predicted this about 700 to 800 years before the birth of Christ, so about 700 to 800 B.C. It wasn't until the angel of the Lord physically appeared to Mary one day that this prophecy would be really fulfilled (see Luke 1). He told Mary all that God had in store for her, and she even questioned how it would be possible for her to become pregnant since she was a virgin. But that was the purpose of God, for the seed of sin comes from the man (which should be encouraging to you ladies). If Christ had been born of a human man, he would have inherited the sin nature that affects all humans. Nonetheless, God the Holy Spirit would make the birth of the child, the Christ, possible.

       Ultimately, though, not all believe Christ was born by God, obviously, and this was true even in Jesus' day. When Jesus was having a discussion with the Pharisees on one occasion, they accused him of being born of sexual immorality, and that this, somehow, made him a lesser person (see John 8). It is never true, even if a person is born of sexual immorality, that that person is somehow a lesser person. Anyway, the Pharisees in their belief ended up blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

       So let's focus in on the actual birth of Christ, and the timeline of events that took place surrounding our Lord's birth. Bear in mind that Jesus was actually born probably around 4 to 7 B.C. The birth of Jesus is recorded in two of the four Gospels, that is both Matthew and Luke record it. Mark and John did not give an account of the birth of Christ. The account of the wise men, which appears at the beginning of Matthew 2, actually did not occur at the birth of Christ, but sometime later. We can understand that from Matthew 2:16, which notes that Herod was to murder all children who were 2 years old or younger. Luke gets much more detailed about the accounts leading up to the birth of Christ, like the angel appearing to Mary, for instance.

       But now that we have a background understanding of the birth of Jesus Christ, I would like to read each account of his birth, both from Matthew's Gospel and from Luke's. Why don't you go ahead and turn to Matthew's account, which is found in Matthew chapter 1, starting in verse 18. Matthew records:

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:18-25, ESV). I will stop reading there, but you can pick up the account of the wise men in chapter 2.

       Now let's turn to Luke's account, which we see in Luke chapter 2.

Luke states: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 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” (Luke 2:1-20, ESV).

So, we can see in comparing both accounts that Luke ended up being a little more detailed, as is fitting, for Luke was a doctor.

       In closing today, perhaps you have been given a different perspective—a new look—into the birth of Jesus Christ, the meaning of Christmas. Maybe you have believed that Jesus really is real, and that he did come to the earth the first time as God in human flesh to die for the sins of its people. Well, no matter who you are, I am here to tell you today that if you will believe in this Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you can have peace with God, which includes eternal life with him after this life is over. Indeed, this life will end for all us. None of us has the ability to live forever here on the earth, at least not in our current bodies. But interestingly enough, when Jesus comes back the second time, and fully descends to the earth, he will setup his kingdom. Anyone who has believed in him will be with him in this new kingdom, and those who are his will be with him in the new heaven and new earth, when that time period begins.

       The eternal state for us as humans after this life is more of a real place than our current lives. It is more real than what you experience today. It’s not some mystical fantasy or fairy tale in the future. Hell is a real, physical place, though its elements be supernatural. Likewise, Heaven is a real place, and it’s a place of great joy and peace for those who go there—so much so that, really, we can’t even begin to describe what it will be like there.

       So it’s really important to believe that Jesus came to earth as a human child, that he grew up, and that he died on the cross for the sins of all people of all time. Because God has consigned that anyone who does not have a payment for his or her sins will be given a portion in what he calls the Lake of Fire, which was supposed to be for the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25). It is true that Hell is a real, physical place, and anyone who is not right with God upon his or her death will go to that place. It is a place of constant torment, both day and night, using earthly terms. The bottom line is that eternity is like time on pause because there really is no time. It is just a constant state of being. You don't really want to be in that constant state of torment, do you? Why not believe in God because he really is God, and believe that Jesus will really save you from your sins?

       If you have believed what I have been saying about Jesus coming into the world, then there is hope for you today. God will give you forgiveness from your sins and a new life. This new life extends into the next in eternal life. He will be with you forever, no matter what, if you will only believe in him. If you would like to make that decision today, then what you need to do is follow my lead in this prayer. If you worried God couldn't possibly forgive you or accept you, remember God accepts anyone, and is specifically calling you today. You are precious in the sight of God. He loves everyone, including you, and doesn't want anyone to face his wrath. But we as people have to make that choice.

       If you want to believe in Jesus today for the forgiveness of your sins, then just follow my lead, and pray this simple prayer.

God, I believe that you are real, that you are the true God. I would like forgiveness for my sins which I have committed against you in my life. I believe that Jesus really did come to the earth as a human infant, and that he grew up to die on the cross for my sins, to make me right with you. I believe he rose from the dead on the third day, and that he now is in Heaven with you. I surrender myself over to you. Please make me new; make me like Jesus.

[Closing prayer]

       Heavenly Father, thank you for today. I want to thank you for this time of year, this Christmas season. I pray for those who just accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, that you would build them up in their new faith. I pray for those who did not accept Jesus, that they would take seriously your warnings to them, and that they would accept your truth as you present it. I pray for those of us who are already in right relationship with you, that we would be following your will for our lives, and be keenly aware of those around us this Christmas season who do not know you, and that we would look for ways that we might share our faith, your truth, with them. Help more people to come to know you, Father. Use us, Father, and continue to make us more like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton