“Jesus - The Promises Fulfilled”
Luke 1:26-33, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-38
December 24, 2012
The Christmas stories assure us of the fulfillment of God’s promises.
I. Scene 1: Mary and the Angel - Luke 1:26-38
II. Scene 2: Joseph and the Angel – Matthew 1:18-25
III. Scene 3: The Shepherds and the Angels – Luke 2:1-21
IV. Scene 4: Simeon and Anna – Luke 2:22-38
Welcome and Prayer
Opening song: O Come all Ye Faithful
Special music: I Will Find a Way
Jesus is the fulfillment of all God's promises. It all comes together on Christmas Eve, in him. In our series this year we've looked at babies God sent to punctuate his promises. He sent Isaac as the first proof that his promise 'I will be with you' would stand forever. He sent Moses to rescue the people from Egypt and illustrate how he would buy us back from the even greater slavery of sin. He sent Obed to be the grandfather of the great king, David, looking forward to the greatest king, Jesus whose birth we celebrate tonight. We're going to walk through the accounts of this birth tonight, stopping frequently to worship, and remembering the promises Jesus fulfilled.
We begin in Luke 1, and I've asked people to read these texts to us. Try to listen as if hearing them for the first time, to catch the wonder of what God is doing.
Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28He came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. 36And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
When the time had fully come, when everything was ready, God sent his Son. But God is a God of unexpected rescue; nothing could be more unexpected than the way God sends his son. There were no more true kings in Judah, so Jesus could not come to a royal family. There were no palaces or thrones for the descendants of David; the throne of Judah was a sham; Herod wasn't even fully Jewish, wasn't even fully sane - and he was a puppet of the Romans.
Yet God chose this time to send his rescue, his king, sent them to an unexpected person and place. Nazareth? Nazareth was a no-account town far from the center of Judea, in the heart of Galilee, a mostly Gentile region; a town even the Jews did not respect: 'can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'
And Mary? Mary was a peasant girl, though a descendent of David. We see no evidence of influence, power or importance in her family. We suspect she was a teenager, because that would've been the normal age for betrothal. She could not have been well educated. Yet we will later be shown that even Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has a great longing for the Messiah, and so a tremendous sense of blessing that she has been chosen for this task. She is not ignorant of Scripture, nor is she shocked that God has chosen to do something; she is merely in awe that he chose her.
This young peasant girl is betrothed to a man named Joseph, also from David's line. We saw last week that Israel's longed-for king would be a descendant of David. The promise that a virgin would conceive and bear a son was the promise of a Davidic king. Isaiah 11 the shoot that would come forth from the stump of Jesus is the promise of a Davidic King. Even the Bethlehem promise was the promise of one whose origin was of old: the Davidic king.
The Davidic promise, according to the angel, is now fulfilled in Jesus. He says 'you shall call his name Jesus.' and 'He will be called the Son of the Most High,' that is, the Son of God. And 'the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.' And this promise is of a more than a mortal king; Mary is told he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; of his kingdom there would be no end. To reign forever he himself must be eternal. This was God's plan.
We said two Sundays ago that we long for a king, someone who will have both sovereign power and complete compassion, mercy on his people; grace; one who will help the poor and the needy, to raise saw them from the dust. This is the kind of King we're looking for, and the kind of king that was promised. Mary's song shows that she expected this kind of king: he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
God is a God of unexpected rescue; when Mary questions "how can this be, for I am a virgin?" the angel responds that the Holy Spirit will do this, so the baby will be holy; conceived in holiness; the Son of God. And Mary, faced with this unexpected traumatic blessing, responds in faith. In fact she responds as one in submission to her king: "Behold I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." 'Not my will but yours;" that's our attitude toward our king; "I'm your servant; let it be to me according to your will."
Mary’s Ponderings – Worship Team
What Child Is This?
One Small Child
The promise of a king is fulfilled in Jesus. So is the promise of 'god-with-us.'
Matt 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph, we learn later in Matthew, was a carpenter. An ordinary man, unexpectedly chosen to care for God's son. When he learns of Mary's pregnancy, he seems to disbelieve her wild story of being with child through the Holy Spirit. And you can understand that. But even if what he suspects is true, he doesn't want to expose her to public shame, so he decides to divorce her quietly. It's at that point that God intervenes, through the angel, who this time appears in a dream. The angel first confirms that this child is indeed through the Holy Spirit, and second confirms that this child should be named Jesus.
Jesus was a common name with a profound meaning: 'Jehovah or Jahweh Saves.' It's a like the English name Ernest. If we think about it we know Ernest must mean serious, sincere. But we don't think about it; it's just a name.
Jesus was just a name, but it had a profound meaning: he will save his people from their sins. The second theme in our series was redemption, illustrated in the rescue of God's people from slavery in Egypt through Moses. Now, Joseph is told, God's people will be rescued from slavery to sin through Jesus.
But the main point of this angelic announcement was more about the first theme we studied. When God made his initial promises to Abraham, and then to Isaac, Jacob, and on down, the big truth was 'you will be my people and I myself will be with you and be your God.' He promised to be God-with-us. Matthew tells us that this whole angelic visit, perhaps the whole 'conceived by the Holy Spirit' event took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
God's age long promise was now coming true in the flesh. 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.' He lived among our broken dreams, walked our broken planet, experienced our temptations, shared our weaknesses, met our needs, healed our diseases, commanded the winds and the waves, raised our dead, and did what only 'God-with-us' could do; then he did even more: he died to pay the price of our sins, something only God-made-man had the infinite worth and human standing to do.
Joseph’s Song – Worship Team
Immanuel – Michael Card
Emmanuel – Michael W. Smith
And so, unto us a child is born:
Luke 2:1-20 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And 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 among those with whom he is pleased!” 15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke tells the story with deceptive simplicity - in the midst of a pregnancy already complicated by implications of illegitimacy, comes this demand that men return to the home town of their tribe and clan to register and pay a head tax. There is no way to know how long Joseph's family had been absent from Bethlehem: it could have been just his generation, it could have been several. We know from Matthew's genealogy that Joseph was a direct descendant of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David, and all the kings. For that line Bethlehem, though small among the clans of Judah, was the home town.
In the midst of this pregnancy then, they go far away from home, and Mary gives birth. That's an emotional thought for me this week after Abbie, far away from home gave birth to her first born son. Abbie and Tim, in that foreign culture, didn't get to particularly do it their way. In the same way, Mary and Joseph, didn't get the comfort and support of family, not even the comfort of a place for travelers, but rather a cold, stinky barn and a hard dirt floor, the baby laid in the straw of an animal feeding trough, a manger.
But the birth was celebrated. As Andrew Peterson says "Remember now; How creation held its breath; How it let out a sigh; and filled up the sky with the angels." God speaks to the lowliest night shift workers in Israel - shepherds. Despite the ideal of the shepherd in the Old Testament, and the promises of a shepherd, they were second class citizens - not respected, ritually unclean, probably physically unclean as well, untrustworthy. If something bad happened at night, you blamed it on the shepherds.
But God is a God of unexpected rescue, and he chooses to send Good News to the unlikeliest people. The terrifying angel appears; the shepherds are terrified; the angel is used to that; he announces Good News of great joy for all peoples. "For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord." For the shepherds, this would be news long anticipated, yet completely unexpected. City of David? That's expected: 'from you, Bethlehem Ephrathah shall come forth a ruler to shepherd my people.'
A savior? In the sense of rescuer, fully expected. The people of Israel needed rescue, they were slaves to Rome and longed for a new Moses to redeem and lead them to freedom. But in a larger sense, this Savior would be completely unexpected. He was not a conquering King, but a Suffering Servant who would himself pay the ransom by his death to free us from slavery to sin.
The Christ? Completely expected - they expected an anointed one to come and be this rescuer, a new King of David's line. The Lord? Completely unexpected. The word could be used of any earthly ruler or master, the way the British use 'Yes, my lord.' But the word was also the substitute word for the Name of God in Scripture. When they saw Yahweh written, they said 'Kurios,' or Adonai in Hebrew. The Jewish people continue to do this. To say this Savior was the Lord was to say that he was God, God-made-man; God incarnate.
This was such remarkable news that the Host of Heaven can't contain itself. The sky fills with angels singing "Glory to God in the Highest." This good news deserves praise. And Peace to those who have received His favor. This good news means the end of sin and strife. Men and women now have a recourse in this dark enslaved world, someone to turn to for redemption and rescue.
It's good news, and the shepherds are in awe of it. And one of them says "Well, let's go see if it's all true." So they enter Bethlehem, and by whatever means they find the new baby still making his bed in the manger. And they glorify and praise God, and all who hear their story rejoice, and Mary takes it as heart confirmation that this child is indeed the Christ of promise, Savior and Redeemer not just of Israel, but for all the peoples.
The Shepherd’s Call – Worship Team
Angels We Have Heard on High
But the Christmas story does not end at the stable.
Luke 2:21-38 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33His father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 3Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35and a sword will pierce your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
God's people had waited long for God's intervention. That's where we started this series, many weeks ago - with longing for 'God with us,' longing for rescue from a broken, hurting, hurtful world. Simeon and Anna are evidence that that longing has not abated, and that God's people, when Jesus comes, are desperate for his presence and rejoice to see his day. Even now, on this side of that event, we live in a hurting world, and long for Jesus to fulfill people's longings, and we long for him to come again and set right all wrongs.
When Mary and Joseph take Jesus up to Jerusalem to make the sacrifice for purification, they meet that longing in the person of Simeon, an old man who has been waiting for the Messiah. On one memorable occasion, God had told him that he would not die before he saw the Lord's Christ.
This is what he longed for, the consolation of Israel. The dictionary says that 'to console' means to alleviate or lessen the grief, sorrow, or disappointment of someone; give solace or comfort. Consolation, then, is this comfort given. Simeon was waiting for God to the alleviate the grief, disappointment and sorrow of Israel. But not just of Israel - in verse 32 we will see that this consolation also comes to the Gentiles. Simeon's longing was not just for political freedom from Rome or even freedom, to worship. Simeon's longing was for God to show up in a dark, sin filled world, a world in which a Herod could order the deaths of a whole town's innocent children. And his longing was for God to show up in dark, sin filled lives, in which anger and lust, despair and darkness seemed to rule; into which no light or glory penetrated.
Now, on the eighth day since the shepherds worshiped, Simeon, as he probably has countless times before, enters the temple and looks around. Only this time, finally, God the Holy Spirit draws his attention to a baby. Mary and Joseph must have been stunned when this old man took Jesus in his arms and started to sing; “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word." Seeing the promise gives him peace. Don't miss this: Simeon did not see the culmination; did not see the Messiah in his manhood; did not see his sovereign power or divine compassion, did not see the cross or the sacrifice or the resurrection, did not see God's plan for the sovereign reign of his King in the lives and hearts of his people. But he saw that in Jesus, this baby, all these promises were fulfilled. He says 'I've seen your salvation; the light of the world, the exact radiance of your glory given to your people.
And that brought him peace, consolation. And we, beneath life's crushing load whose forms, at times, are bending low, do well to realize that on our side of all these culminations, we too can have peace. Not all the promises are yet fulfilled: we still live in a broken world. But like Simeon, we can have peace, for our eyes have seen Jesus. We can have comfort, consolation in a world not yet whole, because we see that the God of promises is faithful.
Having spoken first to God, Simeon now prophetically speaks to Mary and Joseph: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” The proud and arrogant, those hardened in sin, unwilling to receive the forgiveness and salvation now offered will fall. But the humble and needy who recognize their need, the repentant who put their faith in this salvation will be rescued.
Luke will later recount Jesus' story of the Pharisee who said 'I'm glad I'm good and not like these sinners' and the tax collector who said 'God have mercy on me a sinner.' Simeon sees those two responses to Jesus. And he sees that Jesus will suffer. This sign he has waited for will be opposed, and Mary herself will be pierced deeply when Jesus suffers for the lost.
Simeon knows all this - and yet he is still prepared to depart in peace, having seen but not received all the fulfillment of promise. In the same way Anna, eighty four years, old, very old for that culture, had waited for the Messiah with fasting and prayer and worship. But, probably hearing Simeon, she herself began to praise and thank God and to speak of Jesus to all who shared her longing, Simeon's longing, our longing.
Simeon’s Song – Worship Team
Welcome to Our World
O Holy Night
So the longing begins to be fulfilled. Through Obed and Samuel God promised a king; Jesus came as that King, is that King reigning in our lives, and will come again to reign eternally. Through Moses God promised redemption; the sacrifice of a spotless lamb as a substitute for our lives, so that sin might be passed over and freedom from their slavery obtained. Redemption, from slavery sin, is achieved in Jesus. Through Isaac God began to promise that he would walk with us and be our God; Immanuel, God with us. In the Incarnation, which we celebrate tonight, God came among us. The baby in the manger in the stable in the little town was Immanuel, God the Son, King of kings, Lord of Lords, Lamb of God, Savior. He is your longing fulfilled. Embrace him tonight, embrace him this Christmas, and like Simeon, find peace. Like the shepherds, find a savior. Like Joseph, believe that this is 'God with us.' Like Mary, receive the blessing of your king.
How Suddenly a Baby Cries
O Little Town of Bethlehem