REJOICE YE PEOPLE OF GOD
Luke 2:10-14 I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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.
INTRODUCTION: TOMORROW MUCH OF THE WORLD WILL CELEBRATE HIS BIRTH.
The old Puritans made a parade day of work on Christmas-day, just to show that they protested against the observance of it. A sign prohibiting any such observance read:
“The observation of Christmas having been deemed a Sacrilege, the exchanging of Gifts and Greetings, dressing in Fine Clothing, Feasting and similar Satanical Practices are hereby FORBIDDEN with the offender liable to a fine of five shillings.”
W While we may commend the Puritans for many things, we feel no compulsion to follow their example as it may relate to Christmas. We believe they entered into that prohibition with over weening zeal and hubris [excessive pride] but not according to knowledge. As Mr. Spurgeon said, “leave the Puritanical superstitions to the superstitious.” While endeavoring to live godly lives the Puritans hyper-radicalized things of a religious nature and went beyond the bounds of biblical parameters.
The earliest day for Christians to celebrate the 25th of December was in 336, after Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion. The fact is that for the first 300 years a day designated as the Birth of Christ was not a topic of discussion. And, December 25 was not declared a federal holiday in the United States until 1870. In makes no sense to designate or argue for any particular day of the year as the time of the birth of Christ because no one knows the exact month or day the angels announced his birth. It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the person whose birth we celebrate. The recovery of the lost meaning of Christmas is simply not going to happen in this age. It just seems to me that it is a tragic loss to substitute “Jingle Bells” for “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” and a tree for the manger of Bethlehem. The instinct is right to fade out these things in the light of the Christmas star. It is all about the Son of God’s incarnation that the angels sing–God with us–Immanuel. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surrounds Christmas to consider again the Lord’s birth and the person He is, no longer a weak baby but the King of Kings and Lord of all. We must be able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and the commercialization of His Nativity.
What better time of the year to speak about our Lord and Savior?” Christmas, by the way, means Christ-Mass and so named by the Roman Catholic church in 353. You will not find it anywhere in the Bible.
Christians should take the opportunity to proclaim His birth as the greatest gift God ever gave to mankind when God in his time and for His glory sent forth the King of kings and Lord of lords not to rule, but to save; to bring the possibility of peace between man and his Creator.
We must remember that his coming was not to revolutionize the world into a Christian-ruled world. The day of His righteous rule on earth is yet to come. His coming was not to start a military revolution designed to overthrow the Roman rule. His purpose was to bring peace and good will to men.
I recently read something Martin Luther the Reformer said concerning the birth of Jesus Christ: The mystery of the humanity of Christ, [is] that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.
In another instance Martin Luther, in responding to a well- meaning but over-zealous Phillip Melanchthon a friend and German theologian. Melanchthon suggested that the Reformation, well under way was to do away with all civil laws and press for a world governed by Christian ethics, principles, and practice. He wanted a styled Christian society ruled by according to the prophecy of Micah chapter four—swords into plowshares…spears into pruning hooks…and peace shall be the rule and not the exception.
Luther warned against such a desire saying: “If anyone attempted to rule the world by the gospel and to abolish all temporal law and sword with the demand that all peoples be baptized and at baptism become members of the Roman Catholic Church, and as a result men are to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks thereby among them would be no civil law or swords – nor see any need for either – pray tell me, friend, what would he be doing? He would be loosening the ropes and chains of wicked men allowing them to bite and mangle all others, meanwhile insisting that they were harmless, tame, and gentle creatures; but Luther added I would have the proof in my own wounds. Such an environment wicked men under the banner of the Christian flag set themselves up as rulers, abuse evangelical freedom, carry on their rascality and insist that they Christians were subject neither to law nor sword, as some are already raving and ranting. To such a one we must say: Certainly, it is true that Christians, so far as they themselves are concerned, are subject neither to Jewish law nor Roman sword, and have need of neither. But take heed and first, fill the world with real [perfect] Christians before you attempt to rule it in a Christian and evangelical manner.”
The plight of the Jews at the time of Christ and long before was the fault of the Jewish people.
The cause of all Israel problems began centuries before in the city of Ramah, just north of Jerusalem about 20 or so miles.
1 Samuel 8:4-7 all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. They did not want a judge, they wanted a king, and look at the result. The desire of the people was not righteousness but power over other nations. Samuel warned them saying if a king arises to rule over them [I Samuel 8:11-22].
The Jews at the time of the birth of Christ were not a nation. The Commonwealth of Israel was in a name only. While the Jews stood together in worship, all were governed by Rome. They were a zealously religious but an oppressed people and most were scattered far and wide but where ever they were they managed to maintain their ancient monotheistic religion and worshiped the One True God.
Jerusalem, to the Jew, was the place of their only temple in all the world. Other towns had small structures that served as a place of worship but no Temple where sacrifice was conducted by official priests including Caiaphas who was the High Priest at the time. This is why every year Jews from all over the world came to that city to celebrate the week of Passover. Jerusalem was to the Jew, the “holy city.”
In Jerusalem, the Jews were allowed to practice their worship of their God. It was however only barely tolerated by Rome in order to keep the peace. To keep this shaky peace the Temple was for the exclusive for the Jews and neither gentile or Roman was allowed inside. Still, for all intents and purposes they were under the political rule of Rome.
Jerusalem was to the Romans, especially to Pilate the Roman Governor, little more than a hot and dirty spot in the Roman world.
The Ruler of the civilized world at the time of the Birth of Christ was Caesar (Octavian) Augustus. Augustus’ rule began 27 years before the Savior’s birth he ruled until 14 A D when he died.
Caesar is a title of divinity; of dignity superior to that of a mere king. Augustus means Grand; magnificent; majestic and awe-inspiring in pomp and circumstance, demanding reverence. He was the most powerful man on earth. He and was at the time worshiped, except by the Jews, as the sovereign, supreme monarch as God of the Roman empire.
THE DECREE THAT ALL THE WORLD BE TAXED
A decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration was and was carried out by Quirinius [kwɪˈraɪnəs] was governor of Syria. The real purpose of the census was of course, to give Rome a head count of all peoples under Caesar’s rule but mainly it served as a means of establishing a taxation roll for Rome’s benefit. The decree set certain towns as locations where the people traveled to register. This required great sacrifice and expense to everyone.
Joseph a simple carpenter, his espoused wife Mary, and a child that was soon to be born whose name would be Jesus. [Note that the name Jesus came to Joseph in a dream in which the angel advised Joseph to name the yet to be born child, Jesus. This is the first mention of his given name.
While not much is heard of Joseph after Jesus’ birth, he was blessed when the angel said to call Him Jesus, the name above every name. Remember Joseph was distressed, in a quandary upon learning that Mary was with child and knowing it was not of his doing… 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.
Joseph and Mary, a virgin, lived in Nazareth about 90 miles from Bethlehem which was at that time in history when Nazareth was under the reign of Herod, son of Herod the Great. They were required to make the journey to Bethlehem, the city of David of which Joseph had descended, to be counted for taxation purposes. And since Mary Joseph’s espoused wife was pregnant with the yet unborn boy child, the journey must have been both arduous and difficult task for both. (Luke 2:1–5).
Bethlehem means the house of bread! how suited this to him, Jesus, the bread of life. Ephratah, or Ephrath, meaning fruitfulness- It was a very small town little of the thousands of Judah, of little importance to a world which even today believes that “bigger is better.”
David, the apple of God’s eye, king of Israel, ancestor of our Jesus was born there. One wonders in view of this biblical and historical fact if the Holiest city in the world should not be Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem?
Tiny Bethlehem, where the greatest event in all of history would take place, where the Eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, would be born.
The events we have learned preceding Jesus’ birth were the results of the plan and will of God who chose a census to fulfill the prophecy of the town where the Savior would be born, proves that even the hearts of kings and emperors are in the hands of God. The “due time” of Galatians 4 now was imminent, it was the time of Messiah’s appearance.
Prophecy Proclaims His Birth…
THE SIGN [a miraculous occurance]ATTENDING HIS BIRTH FORETOLD: Isaiah prophesied some 700 years earlier in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
WHAT HE SHALL BE CALLED: and shall call his name Immanuel.
THE PLACE OF HIS BIRTH FORETOLD: 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
THE NAME BY WHICH HE SHALL BE CALLED and his name shall be called Wonderful…
THE PEOPLE OF HIS KINGDOM — For unto us [the Jews] a child is born,
THE MANNER OF HIS ULTIMATE RULE and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
THE OFFICES THAT HE WOULD FILL AS KING OF KINGS– Counsellor, [notice the comma] The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
THE LENGTH OF TIME HE SHALL RULE7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,
THE LOCATION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE THRONE UPON WHICH HE WILL ONE DAY RULE 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.
THE PURPOSE OF HIS BIRTH FORETOLD AND DETAILED: Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. —
In luke, Jesus added one more comment to Isaiah’s prophecy—to preach the acceptable year of the Lord!
JOY TO THE WORLD…THE LORD HATH COME
People of God rejoice, your Savior lives –
We have reason to rejoice for many reasons, far too many to recite here, but I offer a few the most important and present reasons for rejoicing:
REJOICE: WE HOLD IN OUR HANDS ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD.
We rely on the Bible as the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
It is profitable: for doctrine or the principles and concepts of spiritual and practical application to lighten the darkness of men’s hearts to the praise and glory of the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ.
It is useful for correction, for instruction in righteousness. And, lastly, its end: that the man of God may be perfect (complete) thoroughly (completely) furnished unto all good works.
REJOICE: WE CAN SING OF THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR.
The hymns that we sing concerning his birth are in the main, theologically sound. We must remember that the people of God have sung hymns even in the ancient past.
(Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) record that at the Last Supper when Jesus abrogated [set aside] the Jewish temple sacrifice of a male lamb that was killed and his blood sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant and replaced it with himself as the Lamb of God, they sang a hymn. The Lord and His Disciples sang a hymn after the Supper as they left the place of the Supper and went out to the Mount of Olives to pray.
What did they sing? These hymns were known as the Hallel Psalms (meaning “Praise” psalms) and consisted of three specific Psalms, or songs: 113-118.
To realize the Lord of heaven and earth sang along with mortal men hymns of praise and thanksgiving is wonderful to realize…Jesus singing. Not to be overly dramatic but how sweet must have been the sound of his voice. Which Psalm did they sing?
Psalms 113 A hymn of praise: Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. 2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. 3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. 5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, 6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! 7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; 8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people. 9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.
Psalms 116:16- A song of service to the King of Kings: O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.
Psalms 118:1-6 A hymn of thanksgiving…and of love and courage – It would seem appropriate since this alludes to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and his own suffering soon to befall him. Perhaps He at least saw looming before Him, Calvary’s hill and the events that would soon take place for Him. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth forever. 3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth forever. 4 Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth forever. 5 I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
REJOICE: HIS BIRTH HAS GIVEN US HOPE.
Hope in a Scriptural sense is the Christian’s faith and confidence we hold on to dearly and is the highest degree of expectations of good; based on God’s gracious promises.
Paul writes in his second letter to the Thessalonian church, 2:16 that we (Christians) have Good hope through the Grace of God.
Jeremiah 6:16 records: Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
And, Jesus says to us in Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
REJOICE: WE HAVE THE PEACE OF GOD
Philippians 4:7 And the peace OF God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The peace of God is more than feelings or emotion. That kind of peace the world can give but only for a short time. The kind of peace we have with God is the Person of Jesus Christ…He is our peace. Resting in Him gives us peace of mind. And with our minds fixed upon Him shall keep us from anxiety, fears and debilitating concerns and unhealthy worries. We thought the Spirit of Christ make our concerns, prayers of intercession, supplication, and personal need meaning we make all our requests known to God, and He who has given all power in heaven and in the earth shall give us the peace of God that passes all understanding. He is the One who keeps our heart and minds secure.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
REJOICE WE HAVE NOT ON THE PEACE OF GOD. We also have peace WITH God. Romans 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
As Jesus Christ is the Person of our peace of God so, Justification through faith in his blood is the doctrine and basis for believer’s peace
REJOICE: BY FAITH IN HIS BLOOD WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH WITH GOD.
Justification does not mean, as many think — “just as if we have never sinned.” There is so much more! It means that though we have sinned we have been declared righteous. Webster: Justified means our sins are forgiven and total absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ. In courts of our laws, it means that the accused has been acquitted and so declared in the acquittal no longer subject to condemnation. As David pointed out in our Bible study last Wed. evening, Justification does not mean made innocent but that as Webster defines it: In theology, remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of [free] grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ.
It follows the rule that a Priest, an intercessor, and mediator represent the sinner and by sacrifice, the shedding of blood, the guilty person’s sins are Atoned for, meaning they have been covered by the blood are no longer considered guilty. In the case of Christian Justification, means that not only have our sins be paid for, resulting in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross but that something has been added in the place of our guilt since removed. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself that now stands between God and the believer.
Therefore, though we have sinned, we are no longer condemned for our sins but have received through the mediation of Jesus Christ, the total and complete forgiveness for our sins.
Though we have in times past been aliens and strangers..now…
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Ephesians 2:11-13 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 2:10 in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
O’ that time would allow us to consider more additional and wonderful reasons why, because of the sacrifice of our Lord on Calvary’s tree, He who knew no sin became the recipient for our sin, thus satisfying the demands of God for Justice and Judgment.
When thinking of some of the reasons why we may rejoice even now in such a sad world, doesn’t it make this time of Christmas so much more personal?
Let us serve our risen Savior who is in the world today. We know that He is living, whatever men may say; we see his hand of mercy, we hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him he’s always near, He lives, oh yes he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with us and talks with us along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You asked me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.
Does he live in yours? The Savior is waiting to enter your heart, Why don’t you let him come in? There’s nothing in this world to keep your apart, What Is your answer to Him?
Come every soul by sin oppressed, there’s mercy with the Lord, And he will surely give you rest By trusting in His word.
Hear his call: Come unto me , all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
REJOICE, REJOICE O’ CHRISTIANS, LIFT UP YOUR VOICE AND SING ETERNAL HALLELUJAHS TO JESUS CHRIST OUT KING! THE HOPE OF ALL WHO SEEK HIM THE HELP OF ALL WHO FIND, NO OTHER IS SO LOVING, SO GOOD AND KIND.
Folks, if you have put off coming to the cross; if you have heard the gospel and were “almost persuaded,” Lay hold on Him Now, He will lay hold of you, may you do so at this hour…come to him now and enter into His rest.
It is not possible for us to be with all or loved one’s at this season of the year, but we shall all be together again on fine morning though it be according to our faith in Christ.
There is coming a day
When no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky
No more tears to dim the eye
All is peace forevermore
On that happy golden shore
What a day, glorious day that will be!
What a day that will be
When my Jesus I shall see
And I look upon His face
The One who saved me by His grace
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the promised land,
What a day, glorious day that will be!
There’ll be no sorrow there
No more burdens to bear
No more sickness, no pain
No more parting over there
And forever I will be
With the One who died for me
What a day, glorious day that will be! AMEN