Sunday Sermon: ‘What Do You See When You See the Manger?’

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Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7  And she brought forth her firstborn son,   and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

If you had to choose one that would describe the Christmas story, what word would you choose? One word might be ‘wonderful.’ It is a story filled with awe and wonder. Another word might be ‘love.’ Christmas is the story of God sending His love to this earth. Other words might be – miracle, special, beautiful. The Christmas story is a beautiful story.

If had had to choose one word to describe the Christmas story it would be the word – ‘humility.’ Humility is written all over the Christmas story. Jesus was born in a humble place to a humble young maiden. The first ones to come and see Him were common, ordinary shepherds. One of the greatest symbols of the humility of this story is the manger. To me the manger where the baby Jesus laid is such a beautiful thing to behold and consider.

There is a verse of scripture found in the book of 2 Corinthians that I would like to read.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

I. How Rich Was the Son of God Before He Came to This Earth?

What was it like for Jesus in heaven before He came to this earth? Here’s what Jesus prayed –“Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)  Jesus said, “Father, let me return to that state of glory that I shared with You even before there was a world. Let me share with You once again what we shared in eternity past.” What did the Son of God share with His Father in eternity past? He shared God’s glory.

Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus is equal with God. How don’t know how you can be equal with God and not be God. That’s what the Jews thought. On one occasion they were ready to stone Jesus to death because He claimed to be equal with His Father. They considered it to be blasphemy because claiming to be equal with God meant that you were claiming to be God.

Paul tells us in the book of Colossians that Jesus is the Creator of all things. All things are not only ‘by’ Him, they are also ‘for’ Him. Jesus created the world. Paul also tells us that it is Jesus who holds the universe together. Scientists tell us that the universe began with a big bang. Jesus is the one who kept the bang to land in just the right spot so that this planet could sustain life.

How rich was the Son of God before He came to this earth? He was as rich as could be possible. He was glorified by angels. Heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool. Being God, Jesus was everything!

 II. How Poor Did the Son of God Become When He Came to This Earth?

While here on earth, Jesus lived below the poverty level.

 A. First there is the poverty of His birth

You can’t get much lower than being born in a stable? I’ve often wondered why God chose a stable. I can kind of understand why He didn’t choose an earthly palace, but why a stable? I think that there are a couple of reasons:

 1. Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Where else could a Lamb be born than in a stable?

2. Jesus came to die for the sins of the entire world. Jesus did not come to die just for the sins of the elite. He did not come to die just for the sins of the religious. Jesus didn’t come to die for good people. Jesus came to die for those who had no hope.

 B. Secondly, there is the poverty of His life

It’s hard to imagine a more common, ordinary life than the one Jesus lived while here on earth. He was born in a poor family and was raised as a child in a poor region named Nazareth. Nazareth was the wrong side of the tracks. He never owned a home or any great wealth. Most likely He never had two pennies to rub together in His own pocket. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 18:20) There are at least a couple of great reasons why Jesus chose this particular kind of lifestyle:

 1. Jesus chose this kind of lifestyle so that He could relate

2. Jesus chose this kind of lifestyle because His life was not about His personal comfort. His life was about ministering to others

 C. Thirdly, there is the poverty of His death

We all know that Jesus died on the cross. We also know that dying on the cross was probably the cruelest form of execution ever devised by man. It was torturous beyond imagination. But there’s also another aspect of the cross that we might not understand.

During the days of the Old Testament, whenever someone committed a crime that called for execution, the one guilty of the crime would first be stoned to death, and then their mutilated body would be taken and hung on a tree out in the public for shame and ridicule. It wasn’t enough just to execute them. The Jews wanted to shame him in front of everyone to demonstrate not only the severity of his crime, but also the severity of their judgment against that crime.

We read from the book of Galatians – “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:10) The word ‘cursed’ literally means – “Being hung on a tree for public shame is a sign that this individual is under God’s divine condemnation.” It’s capital punishment written in capital letters with several exclamation points.”

The book of Hebrews says that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. (see Hebrews 12:2) I wonder if the spiritual suffering Jesus endured while being viewed by His holy Father as bearing our sin, was not worse for Jesus than the physical suffering. Dying publicly on the cross was a very shameful thing for Jesus.

 III. How Poor Am I Willing to Become as a Follower of Jesus?

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus did something amazing that not only symbolized what He was about, but also what we’re to be about as well.

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

I have read that tying a towel around your waist was a symbol of being a slave. What Jesus did physically that night was a symbol of what He did spiritually when He left the glories of heaven and came to this earth. He laid aside His heavenly garments and clothed Himself with the attire of a slave.

But then Jesus did something else that was very important. He explained to His disciples why He was doing what He was doing.

John 13:12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

One of the things God has been saying to me this Christmas concerns my attitude about myself. Although we don’t realize it, life can sometimes be more about us or about others. Recently I read this story from Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine. (December 2015)

It seems that long ago there was a very affluent couple hosting a Christmas party. During the party a maid came and whispered something in the hostess’ ear. “Tell them to ask someone else” the hostess angrily said. “This is no time to interrupt me. They should have known that we have guests for dinner.” Later her husband asked her what the maid had said. “Oh, those Smiths down the road had a sick baby they wanted to take to the hospital. It was too far for a taxi and the buses only run every hour. They asked if someone here could drive them in one of our cars. They should have seen that we were entertaining guests.”

A few days later the couple heard a radio broadcast where the following words were read, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 ESV) As they heard these words they realized that they had been as selfish and self-centered as the people of Bethlehem many years ago. “No room for Christ! No time for Him! No concern for things of the spirit! No love and compassion for needy people right at their side!”

Jesus said, “The servant is not greater than his lord. The servant is not greater than the one who sends him.” If Jesus (the Master) was willing deny Himself and become our servant, how can we be willing to do anything less.

Christmas should do a couple of things for us as a believer:

1) It should cause us to give thanks to God for sending His Son to come and be our Savior.

2) It should slow us down and cause us to consider the kind of life we’re living as a follower of Jesus Christ. Where would I have wanted my Lord and Master to be born? In a palace? In a comfortable house? Or in a stable?  If it hits you like it’s hitting me, it’s a lot to consider.

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