Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 90 Gerhardt III.83
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Isaiah 9:2-7
The Gospel Luke 2:1-14
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 94 Mendelsohn

Silent Night, Holy Night

The Hymn #102 Adeste Fidelis
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #646 Stille Nacht III.40

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. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 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.

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. 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.
Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks unto Thee, that of Thy mercy and compassion Thou didst suffer Thy dear Son to become incarnate, and didst through Him redeem us from sin and everlasting death: We beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may ever be thankful for such grace, and comfort ourselves with the same in all tribulation and temptation, and at last obtain eternal salvation through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
I. The Virgin Birth in History
A. Brought to Bethlehem by Caesar, fulfilling God’s Word.

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the birth of the Messiah. We find a number of them in Isaiah, but also in other prophetic books. One intriguing prediction stated that the Messiah would not come until the throne passed from the House of David.

Herod the Great was not in the line of David, and the religious leaders all knew this. When the star appeared, and there surely was a stunning event in the night sky, everyone knew it.

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people." Genesis 49:10 (NKJ)

The ancient world was longing for a Redeemer, and the Roman Empire was growing creaky.

The birth of Jesus threatened the established religious leaders, who worked with Rome, and the civil leaders, appointed by Rome. Both groups saw the danger of the true Messiah. After all, the name means King (the anointed, literally). Jesus was hailed 30 years later as the Son of David, so this was an important claim, one which especially threatened. Herod.

As God would have it, Caesar brought Christ to Bethlehem, to fulfill the ancient prophecies. Taxation was just as important then as it is now. The key to taxation is numbering the people. Everyone registered gets to pay the tax and support the Empire.

Joseph and Mary were required to return to Bethlehem, suburb of Jerusalem, and make a long, uphill mountainous climb when Mary was ready to give birth. No passage says she rode on a donkey. That is a popular image. When Mary tales began to multiply, the fruit trees were said to bend down to give her something to eat.

The real story of the Nativity is that Rome forced the family to return and the relatives had no room for them. Certainly they had kinfolk back in Bethlehem or the surrounding area. There is great silence about that singular lack of hospitality.

B. Denied a decent birth by His own

And the innkeeper must have known that Mary needed more than an area where the animals were kept. But that was the only place provided. The message of Christmas is that the cross began for them at the beginning – the difficult journey, the negligence of family and friends, the apathy of the innkeeper and anyone else in the teeming area. No one bothered to help, but God was there.

The great and mighty wonder of the Nativity is God in the flesh, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth, knowing our sorrows and weaknesses, teaching us and dying for our sins.

The great Lutheran hymns speak of the Creator Himself, lying in swaddling clothes. What people imagined as the Messiah would have frightened people away. But one child said this about the Infant Jesus – “No one is afraid of a baby.”

For so many centuries the great religious (pagan) teachers terrified people about God. But the One, True God came as a weak and tender baby. In adulthood, Jesus had the power to split mountains, but fed the multitudes and welcomed the children instead.

II. Angels are Messengers

Luther’s great insight about the virgin birth of Christ was that they looked for him in a palace or temple, but He was there in the manger. The Messiah was not revealed first to the great and mighty, the wise and learned, but to the ordinary working man.

The angelic visitation must have been the greatest display even seen in heaven, but it was revealed to poor shepherds. Moderns want them in the fields at night only in the spring. That is the new Fundamentalism, but where it came from, I don’t know. Someone wrote it and the idea stuck. “Shepherds were only in the fields at night in the spring.” People reject most of the Bible, but they remember that new revelation from Fred’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s next door neighbor, who heard it somewhere. There were many reasons to be with the flocks at night, but that is all we know. They were there. Was it this time of year? The early Church thought so. What would they know, so close in time to the event, so easily remembered by children, grandchildren, and others?

Some cults do not want to recognize Christmas. That is their loss.

A. "Do not be afraid."

The angels had a great message – “Do not be afraid.” The opposite of fear is faith, faith in God.

Ancient fake priests made people afraid of God. The true God said through His messengers, the angels, “, 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.”

These short phrases are very much like Hebrew poetry, easy to learn and repeat. The verses are a short catechism of the Nativity.

There are two reasons why we should not be afraid. One is:

B. "A Savior is born to you."

Jesus is the One Person who can and does forgive sins. That is why no one needs to be afraid. That is the reason for the great joy. It was far easier to visit a baby than a great and mighty ruler. People were always attracted to Jesus, because of His kindliness and gentleness. I have a professor I was loathe to send an email to. Why? He was always gruff and critical in class. I hated to ask him the slightest favor, let alone a great one. Jesus is just the opposite.

C. He is humbly born.

Lying in a manger sounds so churchy, making us forget the word manger means “feed trough.” The word in English comes from a root meaning “eat.” But we never say, “Lying in a feed trough.” That is what the shepherds heard from the angels, who did not mince their words.

The Savior of the World was humbly born. Bernie Madoff (Made-off with $50 billion) would only work with the wealthiest and most influential people. That is why some are bragging they lost money with him. That makes them important. But only a few could sit at a table with Madoff.

With Jesus, anyone could approach Him. True, the great, mighty, and wise were blinded by their rejection of the Word, but they too were allowed near Him. They asked Him question, taunted Him, and finally worked to crucify Him. The vast crowds came to Jesus because He was humbly born and worked with ordinary people.

I could describe the births of many monarchs in splendid palaces. They are mostly forgotten. One was crowned king before he was born. Gibbons tells of the counselors placing a crown about where the unborn baby’s head was thought to be. “They knelt before their invisible and insensible king.” That hilarious one-liner is the man’s claim to fame. How many hundreds were born in similar majestic circumstances?

But One alone is remembered this time of year – the Savior of the Nations.


I. The Virgin Birth in History
A. Brought to Bethlehem by Caesar
B. Denied a decent birth by His own
II. Angels are Messengers
A. "Do not be afraid."
B. "A Savior is born to you."
C. He is humbly born.

"Here are no learned, no rich, no mighty ones, for such people do not as a rule accept the Gospel. The Gospel is a heavenly treasure, which will not tolerate any other treasure, and will not agree with any earthly guest in the heart. Therefore whoever loves the one must let go the other, as Christ says, Matthew 6:24: 'You cannot serve God and mammon.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., I, p. 154. Luke 2:1?14.

"The preachers are to be angels, that is God's messengers, who are to lead a heavenly life, are to be constantly engaged with God's Word that they under no circumstances preach the doctrine of men. It is a most incongruous thing to be God's messenger and not to further God's message."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 153. Christmas Day Luke 2:1?14.

"Whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake, will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him. And he who receives it because of the preacher does not believe in the Word, neither in God through the Word, but he believes the preacher and in the preacher. Hence the faith of such persons does not last long. But whoever believes the Word, does not care who the person is that speaks the Word, and neither will he honor the Word for the sake of the person; but on the contrary, he honors the person because of the Word, and always subordinates the person to the Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 162. Luke 2:15?20.

"Therefore God must lead us to a recognition of the fact that it is He who puts faith in our heart and that we cannot produce it ourselves. Thus the fear of God and trust in Him must not be separated from one another, for we need them both, in order that we may not become presumptuous and overconfident, depending upon ourselves. This is one of the reasons why God leads His saints through such great trials."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 21. Luke 2:41?52.

The Gospel is our greatest treasure because it alone gives us forgiveness of sin based upon the merits of Christ alone. The Virgin Birth of Jesus testifies to the unique nature of His ministry and message.

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