Friday, December 24, 2010
Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Bella Vista, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Hymn 77:1-6 All My Heart This Night Rejoices 2.25
The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
#102 O Come All Ye Faithful 1:7
KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
#109 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks 1:35
KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Sermon – The Virgin Birth of Christ
The Virgin Birth of Christ is the dividing line between believers and pretenders. There are many within the visible church who do not believe in the Virgin Birth, because they were carefully trained to reject the miraculous while staying around to collect a comfortable living.
But people think too easily, “That is the problem with those liberals.” We should look at the fundamental rejection and see how that affects everything in the Christian faith.
The more significant divide is between those who believe in the divine power of God’s Word and those who do not. That involves the Virgin Birth, Creation, justification, and how we look at all of life.
Today I was editing the 2005 edition of Jesus, Lord of Creation. There is no difference between doubting the Creation, doubting the Virgin Birth, and doubting justification by faith. All aspects of God’s work involve the direct use of His Word. If God cannot accomplish a unique birth, then He cannot create by His Word, heal the sick, turn water into wine, and raise the dead.
Those who like the parts of the Bible they like and reject the rest are those who eventually reject everything in the Bible. They may go through life imagining they are believers. They may even retain that same selective spirit, without giving up everything. But they pass on a legacy of picking and choosing, and that ends up with leaving everything behind.
Thus we have a situation today where the Bible provides a base for motivational speeches designed to whip people into doing more works. I just saw a list of them, from a “conservative” Lutheran. Each one was along the lines of “God works so you can do more for Him.” At the very best, the titles suggested that God does His part so man can do his part, a divine transaction called synergism.
But God gives so that we can receive – monergism. The best comfort in this message throughout the Bible is this – we know where to receive the power and benefits of the Gospel, because God has bound Himself to the Word.
God gave us His Son in this unique way so we always think of God performing the miraculous through His Word. This birth is a miracle far beyond the promise made to Abraham.
How many impossibilities are tied up in this one event? Mary hardly knew what to think, but it was announced to her that it would happen. Joseph was tempted to divorce Mary, but he did not. They had to travel a long distance under difficult circumstances, definitely a trial by itself. They thought they might stay with relatives or at the inn, but even that was too much. So we are inspired by the fact of the Virgin Birth and also by the way God did everything His way instead of our way. Luther confessed that he would have managed things quite differently. For example, he would have had the Savior born in a palace, in the splendor He deserved.
Whatever might be a stumbling stone (literally a fatal trigger in a trap) is something to consider as part of God’s lesson in His Word. Everything has happened for a reason and for our benefit.
God shows us how He works in this Christmas story, and that is a clear reflection of “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways.” Isaiah 55.
Our interpretation should be this – that all the peculiar turns in life, the difficulties, crosses to bear, are part of God’s plan to bless us in some way and to be a blessing to others.
Mary and Joseph accepted their unique roles, but their lives were not ones of saintly bliss because of it. We can see a glimmer with Jesus in the Temple, when He let them search for Him sorrowing – for days. They took on a great burden but they also provided a great blessing for the whole, and were blessed because of it.
Faith means not seeing the outcome but trusting in God’s good and gracious will.
That trust, created by the Gospel, receives God’s complete and free forgiveness. Christ did not condemn the world but to give life, hope, and forgiveness to all those who believe in Him.
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 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:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
#646 Silent Night 4:38
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 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, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
The Prayers and Benediction
#87 Joy to the World 1:20