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Joy for Real

Published: 6 months ago- 25 December 2023
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Big Idea: An Amazing Delivery!

Today we are here to celebrate Christmas. I hope that your Christmas is JOYFUL.

And I hope that this morning your JOY will be increased. Today we celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus.

In a couple of days, I have a birthday party to attend. My brother-in-law has his birthday on Dec 27! That’s just terrible planning.

That has got to be one of the worst days to have your birthday. Big celebration Christmas Day. Leftovers and cricket on Boxing Day, maybe build a bit of Lego with the kids. But no one is in party mode on Dec 27.

Quite a few people in our church family do have birthdays close to Christmas. And having spoken to a number of them over the past month. The overwhelming consensus about birthdays close to Christmas is …

TWO separate presents, not one combined. Birthday present AND Christmas present. That’s the consensus at MPC at least.

I saw this meme the other day. Captures the conundrum. The wise men with their gifts for the newborn Christ. Just to be perfectly clear, these gifts are for your birthday and Christmas.

Well, today we are here to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. As our video hinted December 25 is probably not the actual day. This is more like the King’s Birthday long weekend; a tribute to royalty.

So each year on December 25 we celebrate Christ’s birth as An Amazing Delivery

What’s so amazing about this delivery?

There is the drama of the failure to book accommodation on a holiday weekend. There is an unusual bed for a newborn child. Granted there are angels and shepherds.

But seriously lots of people have dramatic delivery stories.

I did some Googling last year alone …

  • A teenage lifeguard helped deliver a baby on the side of the town pool. Something she’ll never forget.
  • A baby was born in a hospital elevator. From birth that baby was going up in the world.
  • Someone even gave birth mid-air on a plane.
  • A mum delivered her baby on the side of the road while her five other children were waiting in the car… just a little freaked out.
  • A set of twins were born just minutes apart but in two different years, 2022, 2023.
  • There was even a lady who gave birth within hours of finding out that she was pregnant. She was almost as surprised as her husband.

All of these are amazing delivery stories, maybe you have one of your own.

So what’s so amazing about the delivery on that first Christmas?

As I hinted at earlier, it’s the promise of JOY. Although things don’t start out looking that promising.

Read v1-7.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And 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.

On a human level Jesus is born in a shed because Octavian, in his splendid palace is trying to squeeze every last tax cent from every last village and hamlet throughout the whole Roman Empire. The census was all about the money and all about the power. Registering people for tax purposes.

Octavian was the first Caesar to be called Augustus. Augustus means god. Here is a man seeking to become a god.

The result is oppression and hardship for the common people. That is not joyful.

But that is from a human perspective. From the divine perspective, this is the first note of Christmas JOY.

And notice, the first note of joy is found in a shed.

I have a little shed at home, tucked up the back of our carport. It’s my happy place, I get joy from there. But the joy from this shed is for all the world.

We learn this as Luke pans from the manger to the meadow, from the shed to the shepherds.

Read v8-9

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

Read v13-14

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 among those with whom he is pleased!”

We have shepherds, we have angels, we have blinding light and deafening music. Certainly the makings of a Christmas Card. This is the standard Christmas VISUAL.

But more important than light and sound; and this is what Luke wants us to ponder,

we have the WORDS.

We have the WORDS bracketed by angels appearing and angels singing. Like big shining angel quotation marks, A massive, heavenly NEON SIGN, Hear these WORDS of JOY.

Read v10-12

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Look at v10

A message of good news, a message of GREAT JOY, a message of peace for all the people.

For us today shepherds are a must-have for any self-respecting Nativity Scene. It’s just a part of Christmas.

I mentioned previously that my daughter Cait an I have an ongoing game of Nativity Chess. We disagree about which figurine represents Joseph and which a shepherd. Every time one of us walks past we make our move. But we both agree, shepherds belong on the board.

But for the religious elite of the day, Shepherds were outcasts and undesirables. Their testimony was not to be considered in matters of law. They were not welcome at gatherings for worship. They should not be getting front row seats at the Nativity.

And yet they are the first to hear of this good news from God. Come and see, come and worship, go and tell.

This news of JOY is for all people regardless of what religion thinks of you.

Look at v11

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

The message for you to know and for you to believe is that the long-promised one who will save and lead and rule God’s people has been born.

Octavian a man in a splendid palace seeking to be a god. Christ the Lord, born in a shed; God who became a man. To save us from our sin.

Look at v12.

Go to Bethlehem and you will see a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Notice that the shepherds had to be told. God grabbed their attention that night – shining, singing angels. And delivered the message, an amazing delivery.

The thing is that you cannot tell this simply by looking at the Nativity Scene.

When our daughter Cait was 3 or 4 years old she used to carry a reasonably large rock around. She would wrap it in a tea towel and carry it everywhere. We asked her what’s going on with the rock? She looked at us like we were stupid and said, it’s the baby Jesus. Of course it was.

Just as we needed to be told that the rock wrapped in a tea towel was baby Jesus so the shepherds needed to be told that the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger was the long-awaited rescuer and ruler of God’s people.

And what I want you to be clear on is that Jesus, the one born in a shed is the Saviour of the world. He is not in a splendid palace like a king, he’s not in a temple like a priest, he’s in the feed trough of an animal shed. And apart from this message the shepherds would not have known about the birth or understood the significance.

But once they knew the shepherds couldn’t keep it in.

Read v15-18.

15 When 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.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

The shepherds go and check it out. And when they see they cannot help be tell (v17) and all who heard it wondered or marvelled at this news. The shepherds deliver the news of this amazing delivery.

The amazing delivery is not the birth in the shed. The amazing delivery is that God the Saviour has come to deliver us from our worst foes, sin and death and win, by his death and resurrection, eternal life for all who trust in Him.

This is our message of JOY to the World. The world cannot know by observation or reflection or through human ingenuity.

It is the revealed truth from heaven, through Jesus for the world.

Our world needs us to enjoy the JOY of Christmas to the full. And our world needs us to share the truth of that JOY, known only in Jesus.

ENJOY the JOY today. Prepare to join us to spread the JOY in 2024.