December 23, 2018
Christmas Chaos – Luke 2 – 12.23.18
I want to find out who still needs to decorate for Christmas-basically who hasn’t put up their Christmas tree yet-and still plans to? You have about 2 days-today and tomorrow-otherwise forget it this year. Or who hopes their tree lasts until Christmas. That’s always the trick if you get a live tree. You have to faithfully keep it watered or else by the end of December you’ll have more pine needles on the ground than on the tree. Let me ask another question-who still needs to go Christmas shopping? Who are all of our last minute people? Be honest. Why do I think this is more of the men than the women? Nothing like waiting until the 11th hour when the pressure’s on to buy a gift! Of course maybe you can catch some last minute sales and come out victorious! But decorating the tree and having beautifully wrapped presents under it are what we do. And it’s great-Christmas would feel strange if there wasn’t a tree or presents-something would clearly be missing. It’s what makes the season special. During the other 11 months of the year we don’t tend to got outside, chop down a tree and bring it into the house to hang stuff on it. People would think you’re weird if you cut down the oak tree in your backyard in the middle of summer and put it in your living room. So Christmas is that special, unique, magical time when our world is filled with dazzling trees and decorations. And yet this morning I want us to think about how different that is from the first Christmas when Jesus was born. There wasn’t any trees or decorations or shopping to be done then; no fancy meals or holiday parties. It was just a very ordinary, regular day, a mundane moment in time. Nobody would have even known that the most extraordinary thing in our planet’s history had happened. And it was highlighted by one of the most simple, practical items out there-a manger.
To us a manger conjures up warm images of nativity scenes, where all the shepherds and wise men are gathered around it, donkeys and sheep are in the background, and the star is shining overhead. But before all that ever took place-a manger just meant one thing-a feeding trough for animals. Maybe it was pieced together with some old scraps of wood, some historians think it might have been made out of stone-but either way this was an ordinary piece of farming equipment that any stable or barn would have had. And yet on this first Christmas it was the identifying marker of the Savior-and communicated to us what His mission was all about.
Open your Bibles to Luke 2. This is the main biblical account of Christmas-and it starts off with the event that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Remember that they were living in Nazareth-so Luke describes how they ended up in Bethlehem-v. 1-5. Now this journey for Mary and Joseph is important because the prophecy about Bethlehem was spoken about 700 years before -Micah 5:2. This is saying that the ruler of God’s people would come from Bethlehem-and this isn’t just any old ruler-but one who’s origin is from old, from ancient days-meaning the one who comes from eternity. This is clearly pointing to Jesus-the Second Person of the Trinity who’s come to earth to be our ruler. Of course it’s telling us that He’ll be born in Bethlehem. But what I find so fascinating is the reason that this couple from Nazareth needs to go to Bethlehem-because Caesar issued a decree for the census. The most powerful earthly ruler on the planet-Caesar-gives a command that forces Mary and Joseph to make a late pregnancy road trip, something I’m sure they wouldn’t have otherwise done. In Caesar’s mind he would think he’s the most important and powerful person in the world. However, Caesar isn’t ultimately responsible for this prophecy being fulfilled-God is. Here’s Caesar unknowingly issuing a decree that plays right into the sovereign plans of God to have His Son born in Bethlehem. That’s incredible! Not even someone like Caesar can stand in God’s way. His plans will unfold-they will happen-and in this case it was for His Son to arrive into our world at precisely this moment, in this place.
And where did He end up? It certainly wasn’t in the palace next to Caesar-far from it! Royalty and comfort and cleanliness were nowhere to be found. Look at v. 6-7. So first of all-there’s the most famous Bible character who’s not actually in the Bible-the innkeeper! In every Christmas play this guy has lines-Sorry, it’s really crowded, we’re fully booked, there’s no room in the inn. But he doesn’t say that-at least his words aren’t recorded so we’re not sure what he actually said. All we can be certain of is that someone turned this young couple away. Someone said we’re too busy, too crowded, there’s too much chaos going on around here with the census-we’re flooded with people in our little town. Sorry you’ll need to find something else-maybe the animal barn has room. We don’t know what was said-but we can understand what Luke was trying to communicate. Pt1:The World: has no room for Jesus. Do we? That’s what happened on that first Christmas. When Jesus showed up the world had no place for Him, nowhere fitting or proper for him to go. Too much chaos with everything else going on. And I don’t think that’s changed much especially at Christmas. Don’t we all basically agree that it’s the busiest, most chaotic time of the year? Who have you spoken with who’s said-Christmas? I’ve got nothing going on. I’m wide open-no plans, not much on the horizon, I’m just coasting along-kind of bored. Hardly! People are running around everywhere, getting everything ready and have been for almost a month. And what does Christmas Eve or Christmas Day bring-Food’s in the oven, people are coming over, presents need to be opened, the appetizers need to put out, the table set, don’t show up late, everybody’s arriving, put on your Christmas sweater, come gather by the tree. It’s full on hustle and bustle-so much so that we might not have room for Jesus either. Do you find that happening in your life? Do you see that happening this year? All your holiday plans are so full, so chaotic, there’s no room for Jesus. That He’s almost an afterthought to what you and your family are doing. But what would it look like if that was reversed? What would it look like if there was room for Jesus and celebrating Him was your main focus? What would happen if your eyes and your heart were turned to the manger? Because that’s where we find Him. Back to v. 7-11.
What an incredible announcement! Talk about great joy-unto you, unto me, unto the shepherds is born the Savior! And how will they know? Where will they find Him? v. 12. That’s where this baby, the Savior will be-in a manger. This is now the second time it’s been mentioned as the identifying mark. And so what do the shepherds do? First they enjoy the heavenly symphony spread across the night sky-v. 13-14. And as soon as it’s over, no doubt amazed by this extraordinary experience-they pack up what they’re doing and go see Jesus-v. 15-16a. That’s such an important detail because they didn’t linger for awhile or stand around and debate what to do; they didn’t weigh the pros and the cons or discuss whether showing up is too forward or intrusive-or if they’re getting too carried away with things and should wait until later. No-they went with haste. Let’s go and see this baby. So Pt2:The Shepherds: encountered Jesus in the midst of ordinary life. Have we? Think about these guys-they had no idea this was going to happen that night. They didn’t start working the night shift, heading out into the fields, guiding the sheep thinking-Tonight’s the night. Something’s in the air. Smells a little angelic. I can tell something’s going to happen-how about you guys? Not at all. This was a night just like every other night for the past however many years of tending sheep. It was a regular, ordinary night in the career of shepherding-some guys just doing their job-until they heard about Jesus-and then everything changed and they left their ordinary life and made haste to see Jesus! And that’s the same thing that happens today. Each one of us are living life, things are normal, all is routine-until Jesus shows up and it all changes. Think back to when you first encountered Jesus and put your faith in Him-life was ordinary and then all of a sudden in the midst of your ordinariness He showed up in all His extraordinariness and got a hold of your heart. Or maybe you’ve never put your faith in Jesus before-and so far this Christmas has felt like all the others, nothing out of the ordinary. But I challenge you this year to see Jesus. I challenge you to hear that same message the shepherds heard-v. 10-11. That message hasn’t changed-and the sign for them is still the same sign for us-v. 12. So when they made haste-what did they see-v. 16.
This is now the 3rd time Luke has mentioned the manger because he doesn’t want us to miss how important it is. This was not a common 1st century crib option with varnished wood and soft hay. People weren’t thinking mangers were the new trendy, rustic thing to put their babies in. So first of all, Luke is highlighting the uniqueness of the manger-because how many other babies are lying in a manger? Probably none! If you have kids-how concerned were you about cleanliness and germs when they were born. Probably every parent was. You wanted to make sure the hospital room was clean, anybody that came to see the baby needed to sanitize their hands before holding the baby. The blankets and onesies all had to be thoroughly washed. And who would ever use an old dirty crib to put their newborn in-especially one that could have slivers? Nobody-so take it a step further. I realize that none of us are feeding a lot of sheep-but we’re feeding our pets. So the equivalent of the manger would be your dog’s food bowl. Who would ever think of wiping that down and laying their newborn in it? Nobody-it’s unheard of. You’d quickly get reported for such a thing. Parents don’t lay their babies in animal feed troughs. So when the angel is saying to the shepherds that you’ll see the baby lying in the manger, that means they’ll know they’ve come to the right place-because He’s the only one in a manger.
But beyond just the uniqueness of the manger, Luke is highlighting the humility of the manger. Jesus didn’t show up for a grand celebration or to be pampered in a perfectly decorated nursery. He wasn’t attended to by servants and given the best care the world had to offer. Instead the first place He laid His newborn head was a feeding trough in a borrowed barn. I read this week-Tripp, 80. The manger highlights the heart of the gospel. Remember what Jesus would say as a man- Mark 10:45. And what highlights that better than a manger? If Jesus wanted to be served He would have come to the palace. He could have pushed Herod off his throne in Jerusalem and said I’m here, better yet, He could have pushed Caesar off his throne in Rome and said I’m here-the real king, the real ruler and emperor of the world. But Jesus didn’t do that. He came to serve, to serve us. It’s as though Jesus is saying-I came to the manger as a baby, because I’m going to the cross as a man. I’m going to give my life as a ransom, as a payment for your sins. So Pt3:The Manger: reveals the love and humility of Jesus. Do we see it? That’s the question to wrestle with this morning-do you see the manger? An ordinary piece of farm equipment is holding the most extraordinary truth-that the Son of God was born to suffer for us and save us. That He would be willing to descend to the depths of sleeping in a manger because He was willing to descend to the utter depths of dying on a cross. The angels didn’t disconnect the good news of the Savior from the reality of the manger-it was one piece of news-v. 11-12. Have you found the baby lying in the manger. The shepherds did and were forever changed-v. 17-18. Not wondered like confused-but wondered like wow! People marveled, they were amazed at this report of the Savior born in a manger. But that’s what the shepherds saw with their physical eyes. Have you seen it with the eyes of faith? That’s what it comes down to-seeing the manger and not just saying-that’s a quaint and lovely scene-there’s Mary, Joseph, shepherds and a bunch of animals around a manger-how rustic and lovely. But to see the manger and say-that’s exactly what I need-the Savior who was born for me, who was willing to enter this earth and humbly serve me by giving up His life for me. Put your faith in the One who was lying in the manger-because He’s the only one who can save you and bring you eternal life.
Before we know it-the winter will pass, spring will be coming and it will be Easter where we celebrate the resurrection. And one of the most famous chapters read at Easter is 1 Cor 15:50-51; 53. And that makes me think of Christmas, it makes me think of the manger. By putting my faith in Jesus, one day my perishable body will become imperishable, one day my mortal self will become immortal That’s an amazing hope of great joy-and that’s because the Imperishable came at Christmas to became perishable, the Immortal Son of God put on mortality as He lay there in the manger. But that’s what He’s come to do. Might our hearts make room for Him, might we go with haste to encounter Him, might our eyes see the manger where Jesus our Savior was born!