Skip to content

Tag: Angel

Mary – Eagerly Submitting to the Will of God

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at some of the key characters of the Christmas story. And I’m not talking about Rudolph or Santa Claus – that’s a different story all together! I’m talking about the original Christmas story – the historic events that actually happened some 2000 years ago and are still packed with meaning and significant for us even today.

And I expect that most of us are familiar with the events of that first Christmas – how Jesus was born and laid in a manger – how the angels appeared to the shepherds and how the wisemen brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are all the traditional Christmas scenes that we sing about in our Christmas carols or we display in our nativity arrangements. 

And of course, if you’re not familiar with those events, I’d invite you to come to our Christmas Eve service this Friday as those events will be the focus of our Christmas celebration.

But for our Sunday morning messages as Christmas approaches, we’ve been taking a deeper look not at the events of Christmas, but rather at the characters of Christmas.

We started by looking at Jesus Himself. Who is this baby who was born and was laid in a manger? And what is so significant about that child that we continue to celebrate his birth even 2000 years later!? To find those answers, we looked in the Gospel of John and saw that Jesus was not just an ordinary baby, but was in fact, the second person of the Godhead – the eternally existing Creator of the world – now born as a human being. He truly is Emmanuel – which means God is with us. And what’s all the more amazing is that He came to be with us so that we could be with Him for eternity.

Then last week we took a closer look at Joseph. We don’t read a lot about Joseph’s life in the Bible – he kinda comes across as a minor player in the pages of Scripture, but as we saw last week, Joseph really was a spiritual giant – truly a model of righteous character and faith in God. He is perhaps one of the best examples for us to follow in how to be a godly father and husband.

Now today we want to look at a third major character in the Christmas story – and that of course, is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Like Joseph, she too, is a pretty amazing example of someone who displayed an absolute trust in God. When you consider all that she went through – especially considering how young she was at the time – her faith and obedience to God are truly remarkable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I mentioned last week, when Matthew writes his Gospel and records the birth of Jesus, he focuses almost exclusively on Joseph. He begins with Joseph’s family tree, he talks about Joseph’s dilemma when he discovers that Mary was pregnant before they were married, and he records the four different visits that Joseph had from the angel. But he really doesn’t say anything about Mary. 

In contrast to that, when Luke writes his Gospel, he hardly mentions Joseph at all. He focuses his attention primarily on Mary. And that’s why it’s so great that we have four different Gospels. Each Gospel tells the true story of Jesus, but they all tell it from a slightly different perspective. That really helps us get a well-rounded understanding of really happened.

And so now, having looked at Joseph through the eyes of Matthew last week, today we’re going to look at Mary through the eyes of Luke. So if you have your Bibles with you, you can turn with me to Luke chapter 1.

However, we’re not going to start at verse 1 because Luke doesn’t begin his Gospel with Mary – he actually begins with Mary’s relatives – specifically, a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time going through their story this morning, but let me just quickly summarize it for you so you know what’s going on when we get into Mary’s story. 

Zechariah and Elizabeth have been unable to have children and the Bible describes them now as “both being very old.” Obviously too old now, to have any expectation of still being able to have children.

But one day, an angel named Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby and that their baby would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Of course, every Israelite had been waiting for the coming of the Lord for quite some time now. In fact, for the last several hundred years, God had promised through the prophets had that he would send a Messiah – a descendant of King David who would save the Israelites and would rule Israel forever! 

So this was pretty huge news for Zechariah and Elizabeth – not only where they finally going to have the baby that they had always wanted, but their baby would prepare the way for the future King of Israel!

Oh and one more thing, their baby was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth – and his name was to be John – we would eventually come to know him as John the Baptist.

So with that as the backdrop, Luke begins to tell the story of Mary in Luke chapter 1, verse 26.

Leave a Comment

The Character of Joseph

Last week we began turning our attention towards Christmas – and we started, not by looking at the events surrounding Jesus birth, but rather by looking at Jesus Himself. We wanted to answer the question: Who exactly is Jesus?

And so to find that answer, we looked at the first few verses of the Gospel of John which remind us that before Jesus was even born, He existed as “The Word” – the eternal, all-powerful, second-person of the Godhead who is directly responsible for creating everything in the universe!

That in itself is a pretty astounding thought, but then we read John 1:14 which completely blew our minds! It says…

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. John 1:14a

That is simply amazing! The infinite God of the heavens permanently fused his deity with our humanity and became human. We call Him Emmanuel because He is God-with-us. He became human like one of us. Even today in his resurrected state, Jesus is both fully God and fully human. And why did he do that? He came to be with us so that we could with Him forever.

I kinda like how the message Bible puts that verse. It says…

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14a MSG

What an incredible thought! That God would love us (his created beings) so much that He chose to move into the neighbourhood to be with us!

But yet sadly, most people, both then and now, choose to reject him… As John stated in verse 10,

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:10-12

And that’s really what Christmas is all about! Christmas is about God coming into the world so that those who believe him and accept him might become children of God. John 3:16 puts it quite simply….

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

And so to answer our original question of “Who is Jesus?”…

Jesus is the Word – the eternally existing second person of the Godhead – our Creator. He is also Emmanuel – God with us – born on earth as a human being so that we might become children of God and be with Him forever.

So that’s what we looked at last week. This week, I want to continue looking at the characters of the Christmas story and this time, I want to ask the question: who is Joseph?

For being such a central figure in the Christmas story, Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, is a little bit of an enigma. We don’t really read a lot about his life story and in fact, as the Gospels go on to record Jesus’ adult life, we actually don’t hear anything further about Joseph – even though we often hear about Jesus’ mother, Mary.

But despite having very little information about him, from the information we do have, we can see that Joseph was a pretty exemplary husband, father, and follower of God. He was a man that we would do well to model our lives after! So this morning, I want to look at the brief snapshot that the Bible gives us of Joseph and see if we can pull some things outta there that we can learn and apply from his life.

Leave a Comment

The Curious Case of Balaam – Part 2

Two weeks ago we began the story of Balaam but we didn’t get a chance to finish it because we ran out of time. Then last week I had every intention of finishing the story, but God had some other plans in mind and our Sunday service went in a good, but different direction.  So now today my plan is to finally wrap up our story of Balaam.

Now since it’s been a couple of weeks, I should probably give you a brief recap of the story so far. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers chapter 22. At this point in the over-all story of the Bible, the children of Israel are just about ready to enter the Promised Land, conquer Jericho and drive out the Canaanites. But before they do, on their way to the Jordan River, they park just outside the land of Moab for a while.

Now the King of Moab – Balak is his name –  is very concerned about this massive group of Israelites parked outside his territory. He’s afraid they might just attack him, and if they did, he’s pretty sure he would be in big trouble. After all, the Israelites did just completely annihilate King Og of Bashan and King Shihon of the Amorites. King Og and King Shihon had attacked the Israelites, but of course, God was with them, and the Israelites defeated King Og and King Shihon, took over their land, and left no survivors.

So King Balak of Moab is understandably concerned. In fact, terrified might be a better word. He’s convinced that this massive hoard of Israelites is coming to wipe him out too, so he does the only thing that he believes might just give him a fighting change. He decides to hire this fellow Balaam to curse the Israelites.

Now that might not seem like a very sound military strategy – I don’t think many generals today would put much faith in the power of a curse – but Balak certainly did. So much so that he was willing to pay a handsome sum to Balaam if he would come and curse the Israelites for him.

Now as we saw last week, this Balaam character is a peculiar fellow. One one hand, he seems to be nothing more than a professional witchdoctor – calling down curses or blessings for the highest bidder. But on the other hand, he appears to know and follow the instructions of the God of Israel! So we’re not entirely sure where he stands with God – but we do know that other parts of the Bible view him as being ‘eager to earn money by doing wrong’. In the New Testament, Peter describes some false teachers by saying….

They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. 2 Peter 2:15

So maybe Balaam started off as a true prophet of God, but then got greedy? Or maybe He never really knew the God of Israel in a personal way…Maybe it was just business to him!… We’re not sure… But either way, whether Balaam truly knew God or not, he certainly wasn’t acting in obedience to Him in this case. 

Because when we left off last week, Balak had offered to pay Balaam pretty much whatever price he named – if he would just go and curse the Israelites. So despite God’s clear command not to curse the Israelites, Balaam loaded up his donkey and headed out with the Moabite delegates. It says in Numbers 22:21….

Leave a Comment

The Unexpected Source of Joy

We’ve been preaching through the season of Advent – remembering the first (and looking forward to the second) coming of Jesus. These Advent candles remind us of the many gifts we have (and the gifts we look forward to) because of Jesus’ coming.  We started two weeks ago with God’s gift of hope – last week was a reminder of the gift of peace – and this week, of course, we want to look at God’s gift of joy.

This gift of joy is made possible only because of Jesus’ arrival into the world as a little baby. We read at our Christmas Celebration on Friday in Luke chapter 2 of how, on the night of Jesus’ birth, angels appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem and announced to them this good news that would bring great joy to all people. Let me read for you in Luke 2 – starting at verse 8.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

This little baby boy, born in the Bethlehem some 2000 years ago would be the source of joy to the world – even for us here in Penhold in 2017.

And I know this probably isn’t necessarily ‘new’ news for you this morning. Chances are, you many of you have heard this good news before. Especially if you’ve been here for the past two weeks.

One of the concerns that I had when we decided to do these Advent messages was that hope, peace, and joy are so intertwined with each other that I feared I’d be preaching the same message every week – just using a different word.

  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us hope because our sins are forgiven and he has promised to return and make all things right.
  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us peace because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.
  • And I could talk about how Jesus gives us joy because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.

And of course, that would all be very true! Christmas really is a ‘buy one, get two free’ kind of a deal. Hope, peace, and joy are all part of the same package. They are all made possible by Jesus coming to earth, being born as a baby in a manger – living and then dying on the cross and being raised back to life again.

But even though they are all so closely related, I do want to talk a little bit today specifically about joy. As I was studying up on the topic of joy this week – I found that even defining ‘joy’ could be a little tricky. There was no one clear definition of joy.

  • Some would say that joy is another word for happiness. Others would say that joy is certainly not the same thing as happiness.
  • Some would say that joy is a feeling or an emotion. Others would say, no. No it’s not.
  • Some would say we can choose to be joyful – that is it an act of our will – but others see joyfulness a natural by-product of something else.

There are lots of different ways to define joy – I think there can be good arguments made for all of those different ways.

So how do we understand joy? What exactly did the angels mean when they said that this good news would bring great joy to all people? How does this good news help you and I experience joy today?

Regardless of how we define it, joy sure sounds like a good thing – so how do we get it? I guess that’s really our bottom line – how do we experience joy in our lives today?

Leave a Comment

Go Tell It

Listen to this Sermon!

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Luke 2:1-7

Now I’m sure you know the next part of the story – the part about the “shepherds watching over their flocks by night” – But before we continue with the rest of the passage – I want you to try to put yourself in the shepherds place as we read this. Imagine that you are with them that night – out on one of the grassy hills that surround Bethlehem.  You’re just up there on that big hill with your flocks of sheep and a few other shepherds. The sheep are in their pen for the night already. You can hear their “baaas” in the background. It’s a cool, clear night so you’re probably sitting around a fire to keep warm – just relaxing and chatting with the other shepherds. Its a beautiful night. You can see a million stars and the lights of the village of Bethlehem maybe down there in the valley. It’s just beautiful. Kinda makes you wanna quit your job and go be shepherd, doesn’t it? Well, keep that picture in mind as we continue reading at verse 8.

Leave a Comment

God Is With Us (or What’s the Big Deal About Christmas?)

How many of you have heard at least 10 Christmas sermons during your lifetime?

I’m 33 years old – I grew up in the church – and I’m sure that I have averaged at least 3 Christmas related sermons every year. In fact, growing up we had the five advent Sundays so I’m sure I heard at least 5 Christmas sermons every year. But even at just three sermons per year – in my 33 years of life, I have heard just under 100 Christmas related sermons.

That seems a lot to me. Does the Christmas story really warrant that much sermon time? Do you ever get the feeling that Christmas is ‘over-celebrated’? What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway?

I’m not anti-Christmas, but why do we focus so much on Jesus birth? That’s just one aspect of his life. Why not his baptism? That was significant. Or the 40 days he spent fasting in the wilderness? There are no special days on the calendar that we celebrate that! The only thing that even comes close to Christmas is Easter – when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection – and even that is celebrated way less than his birth.

Think about it. Even outside the church culture – think of retails stores. They spend 2 months selling Christmas – as soon as halloween is over, they start selling Christmas stuff. From November 1st through the bulk of December, the focus is Christmas. That’s 1/6 of the year. That’s a lot of Christmas!

Christmas music in another example. We have a whole genre of music dedicated to Jesus birth. We don’t have passover music – we don’t have Jesus’ baptism music, we don’t have Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness music – but we have album after album after album of music celebrating Jesus birth.

I look in my Bible and there are maybe 10 pages in my Bible about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark & and the Gospel of John don’t even include Jesus’ birth in their Gospels. There are two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke – in my Bible about 10 pages of Christmas out of the 2300 pages of Scripture.

Yet at the same time, there are 65 pages of Job and his friends arguing about why God allowed all that bad stuff to happen to Job. If the Bible talks about Job about six time as much as it talks about Jesus birth, why do we take a whole month every year to preach about Jesus birth – and not job? We preach on Christmas (those ten pages) 2,3,4,5 times every December, but you’ll be lucky in five years just to get one sermon on Job.

So what makes Christmas such a big deal? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ? What, in those ten pages, has had so much impact on life as we know it?

Leave a Comment