Christmas 2015

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Christmas 2015

Text: Luke 1:26-56 ; 2:1-20



The Old Testament closed in about 400 B.C. After Malachi, no additional Scripture was revealed until we come to the New Testament era.

When Malachi was written, Israel was ruled by the Persians. During the period between the Old and New Testaments, the Greeks conquered the Persians and brought the Greek language and culture to Palestine. During this period of time, there was constant warfare between the Syrians, also known as the Seleucids, and the Egyptians, also known as the Ptolemies. Palestine was right in the middle between them. Also, during this time between the Old and New Testaments, the Maccabbean wars took place; and the Romans conquered the Greek Empire. Although Palestine came under the political control of the Romans who brought political stability to the region, the Romans did not conquer the Greek culture.

Right on schedule as determined before the creation of the world, God sent the angel Gabriel to announce some good news.

We see that -


We will not be dealing with this Scripture today except to note that the announcement of John the Baptist's birth was made by the angel Gabriel to Zacharias while Zacharias was serving the Lord as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem.

Next, we see that


Of course, if John the Baptist is going to be the forerunner of the Messiah, it indicates that the Messiah can't be far behind.

Luke 1:13-17 - 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John [This baby is John the Baptist]. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he [i.e. John] shall be great in the sight of the Lord [By the way, no one else's sight matters - it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks - it only matters what God thinks.], and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb [i.e. from his birth]. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. [He will be used of God to bring about their repentance and their getting things right with the Lord their God. Who is the Lord their God to Whom John will turn many of the people? Let's answer this question after we look at verse 17.] 17 And he shall go before him [i.e. John the Baptist will go before the Lord, Israel's God, as the forerunner of the Lord. In this verse the Lord their God is a clear reference to Jesus Christ.] (He will go before the Lord their God) in the spirit and power of Elias [i.e. like Elijah], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just [i.e. the wisdom of the righteous]; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord [John the Baptist's ministry was to prepare Israel for the coming of their Lord, i.e. for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.].

Then, we see -


We already studied this passage two weeks ago in our Sunday morning service; so, I will keep my comments on it brief.

Luke 1:26-33 - (26) And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) To a virgin espoused [i.e. betrothed] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David [This means that Joseph was a descendant of King David.]; and the virgin's name was Mary. (28) And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail [i.e. greetings, rejoice], thou that art highly favoured [i.e. you who have been highly favored. Its tense indicates that Mary was highly favored in the past and remained highly favored on the day the angel spoke to her.], the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women [It suggests that Mary had the highest (or ultimate) blessing that all the women in the world could possibly have. She was to be the mother of the Messiah. No other woman would ever have such a privilege.]. (29) And when she saw him [i.e. when Mary saw the angel Gabriel], she was troubled [i.e. she was greatly confused or greatly perplexed] at his saying, and cast in her mind [i.e. considered, wondered] what manner of salutation [i.e. what manner of greeting] this should be. (30) And the angel said unto her, Fear not [i.e. stop fearing, stop being afraid], Mary: for thou hast found favour [or you have found grace] with God. (31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth [i.e. bear, give birth to] a son, and shalt call his name Jesus [As a Jew woman, Mary would know that Jesus is the same name as Joshua and means "Jehovah (i.e. Yahweh) saves" or "Jehovah (i.e. Yahweh) is salvation"]. (32) He [i.e. Mary's Son] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest [i.e. the Son of the most high God, which means that He will be the Messiah]: and the Lord God [i.e. God the Father] shall give unto him [i.e. unto Mary's Son] the throne of his father David [This was another promise that Mary's son Jesus is the Promised Messiah Who would become the King of the Jews]: (33) And he shall reign over the house of Jacob [i.e. He will reign as King over Israel.] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (34) Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? [i.e. since I am not having a sexual relationship with a man. Mary is not doubting what Gabriel said to her. She was simply inquiring how this would happen. She knew how babies were typically conceived, and she had to know that this was going to be different from the norm.] (35) And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (36) And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her [Elisabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy.], who was called barren [suggesting that Elizabeth was thought to be unable to have children]. (37) For with God nothing shall be impossible [Just as it was not impossible for God to make Elizabeth conceive her baby, it is not impossible for God to cause Mary conceive a baby, even though she was a virgin.]. (38) And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word [This indicates that Mary accepted the fact that, within the will of God, she, as a virgin, would eventually give birth to the promised Messiah.]. And the angel departed from her.

After this, we see -


We especially note here the reaction of Elizabeth and of John the Baptist who was still in Elizabeth's womb. Remember that Elizabeth knew that her baby would be the forerunner of the Messiah.

Luke 1:39-45 - 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country [i.e. the hill country extends from Jerusalem south to Beersheba] with haste [i.e. quickly, hurriedly], into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted [i.e. greeted] Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation [i.e. the greeting] of Mary, the babe [i.e. the baby, John the Baptist] leaped in her womb ["leaped" is the translation of a Greek word which speaks of an exuberant springing motion in the sense of "sprang about"]; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost [i.e. controlled by the Holy Spirit]: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb [Of course, the fruit of Mary's womb is the baby Jesus.]. 43 And whence [i.e. what is the reason? or why?] is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [Elizabeth recognized that Mary's baby was the Lord. Remember that she made these statements while filled with the Holy Spirit.] 44

For, lo [i.e. behold], as soon as the voice of thy salutation [i.e. as soon as the voice of your greeting] sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy [Again, "leaped" is the translation of a Greek word which speaks of an exuberant springing motion in the sense of "sprang about."]. 45 And blessed is she that believed [blessed is Mary who believed what the angel announced to her]: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord [i.e. What the angel told Mary came from the Lord Who was the source of these words.].

Then, there is -

V. MARY'S SONG OF PRAISE - Luke 1:46-56

Luke 1:46-56 - 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify [i.e. my soul exalts, my soul glorifies] the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour [By referring to God as her Savior, it is clear that Mary recognized her need for salvation, which disproves the idea that she was sinless.]. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate [i.e. the lowly state, the humble state] of his handmaiden [i.e. of his maidservant - Mary is referring to herself.]: for, behold, from henceforth [i.e. from this time on] all generations shall call me blessed [i.e. Mary recognized the privilege that was hers to be the mother of the Messiah.]. 49 For he that is mighty [i.e. the Lord] hath done to me great things [i.e. The Lord has done great things for me. As you think about it, hasn't the same Lord also done great things for you and for me? It is always good for us to stop and think about the many good things the Lord has done for us and to thank Him for them.]; and holy is his name [He is completely holy, and everything He does is right and based on His holiness.]. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him [i.e. on those who stand in awe of Him] from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm [by doing mighty deeds]; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts [i.e. in their innermost thoughts]. 52 He hath put down the mighty [i.e. the mighty rulers] from their seats [i.e. from their thrones], and exalted them of low degree [i.e. He has lifted up the lowly, lifted up the humble]. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things [He has blessed those who have little and met their needs]; and the rich he hath sent empty away [He has not blessed those with much]. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel [He has helped Israel], in remembrance of his mercy [i.e. It refers to His sending the Promised Messiah]; 55 As he [i.e. the Lord] spake [i.e. just as He said (He would)] to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever [Mary realized that her baby was a fulfillment of the promises God had made to Abraham and his people.]. 56 And Mary abode [i.e. stayed] with her about three months, and returned to her own house. [Does it suggest that Mary stayed with Elizabeth until Elizabeth had given birth to John the Baptist? Do the math. She came to visit in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy and stayed three months. It would seem reasonable, but it is not stated in the text. Does it also suggest that Joseph did not learn of her pregnancy until after she returned to her own home, three months along in her pregnancy? It appears that Mary's visit to Elizabeth took place before Joseph and Mary were living together, that Joseph had not yet taken Mary to his home to live with him which occurs in Matthew 1:18-25 .]

We see next -


In the interest of time we will skip this text on this occasion and concentrate on the birth of the Messiah.

Then, we see -


Inasmuch as we considered this passage two weeks ago, we will also skip it except to say that it details the angel's announcement to Joseph that Jesus will be born of the virgin Mary and that Joseph should call His name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. It seems that Mary must have been about three months pregnant before she returned to her home after visiting Elizabeth. It appears that it was at the time of Mary's return from visiting Elizabeth when Joseph learned of her pregnancy. It must have been an absolute shock to his entire being. It was obvious that he hadn't been with her and that he was not the father of her child. It is not surprising that Joseph had determined to divorce Mary secretly after learning of her pregnancy. Of course, this was before the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream telling him that it was the Holy Spirit who was responsible for Mary's pregnancy.

As we move into Luke 2 , we see -


Now there was a little problem that had to be resolved. Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth of Galilee. It was a long way from Bethlehem of Judea where the prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born and Mary was getting bigger and bigger by the day. The Holy Spirit had to get Mary to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

Galilee was a territory in northern Israel by the Sea of Galilee. The territory south of Galilee was Samaria, and Judea was south of Samaria. Furthermore, Jewish people so despised the Samaritans that they would not even travel through Samaria. Instead, they would travel east through Galilee, cross the Jordan River, then travel south on the east side of the Jordan River, and then, once they were south of Samaria, cross back over the Jordan River to the west side of the river into Judea, totally avoiding setting foot in Samaria. It would be like someone living in Nashville, Tennessee, who wanted to travel straight south to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, which is in the western panhandle in Florida, but so despising the people who lived in Alabama that he would travel way out of his way, going east in Tennessee until he could turn south into Georgia and avoid setting foot in Alabama, and then traveling south in Georgia until he arrived in the panhandle of Florida, where he would travel west in the Florida panhandle to Fort Walton Beach. We might call it taking the scenic route.

Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth in Galilee. How were they going to get to Bethlehem in Judea? Well, it was no problem for God. He moved the Roman emperor to require a census which would get Mary and Joseph from Galilee to Bethlehem. Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because of the census, and he took his wife with him, probably because he realized that she would give birth before he could return to Nazareth, but not necessarily realizing that he would not be returning for a long, long time.

Luke 2:1-7 - 1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed [i.e. the idea of "taxed" is "registered"]. 2 (And this taxing [i.e. this census] was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed [i.e. registered], every one into his own city [i.e. unto his ancestral town]. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David [i.e. because he was of the line of David or because he was of the family of David]:) 5 To be taxed [i.e. to be registered] with Mary his espoused [i.e. his betrothed] wife, being great with child [It suggests that she was in the last stages of her pregnancy.]. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished [i.e. the days were completed] that she should be delivered [i.e. the time had come for her to give birth]. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son ["Firstborn" suggests that she subsequently gave birth to other sons.], and wrapped him in swaddling clothes [i.e. in bands (or in strips) of cloth intended to keep Jesus' arms and legs straight and unharmed], and laid him in a manger [i.e. laid Him in a feed trough ordinarily used to feed livestock]; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Finally, we see -


Luke 2:8-20 - 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding [i.e. living, staying] in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo [i.e. behold], the angel of the Lord came upon them [i.e. stood before them], and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid [i.e. they were greatly afraid]. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not [i.e. stop being afraid]: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people [i.e. I bring you good news which will bring great joy for all people]. 11 For unto you [i.e. because unto you] is born this day in the city of David [i.e. is born this day in Bethlehem] a Saviour, which is Christ [i.e. Who is Messiah] the Lord [This Messiah is God Himself.]. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes [i.e. wrapped in strips of cloth], lying in a manger [i.e. lying in a feed trough]. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host [i.e. a great many angels] praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men [i.e. good will among human beings]. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass [i.e. which has happened], which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste [i.e. they hurried], and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger [At first reading, this sounds like it was kind of crowded in this feed trough with all three of them lying in there. Oh, No. No. No. No. No. It was only the baby Who was lying in the manger or feed trough.]. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying [i.e. they made widely known, they spread the word] which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered [i.e. were amazed, marveled] at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things [i.e. was treasuring up all these things in her heart], and pondered [i.e. while pondering] them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


Let's remember that the babe in the manger is the Christ Who will die on the cross for the sins of all humanity. If you haven't already done so, put your trust in His death on the cross and in His subsequent resurrection from the dead to save you from your sins. If you would like to trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you privately about it. Give me this opportunity, if you would.