We apologize, but due to a technical difficulty the audio for this week’s sermon is not available. Below are the notes:
When Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds and announced, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people.” The birth of Christ, the coming of the Messiah, the Christmas story is, in every part, “good news of great joy”. If we think about it, every prophesy of the coming of the Redeemer was “good news of great joy”. In Genesis 3:15, Adam and Eve had sinned, death had been activated, Satan had been given the authority to be the “ruler of this world” as II Corinthians 4:4 calls him, and in the middle of it all, God announced that there would be a Redeemer, that the seed of Eve would be bruised in His heel but He would crush the serpents head. That was, in the worst of moments, “good news of great joy”. Moses, before his death and Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land prophesied that God would raise up a Prophet that Israel was to listen to. At a time of uncertainty, a time in which the promise was within sight, but the reality of war was at hand, God provided “good news of great joy”. When David was nearing the end of His life and longing to build a house for God’s presence, God told him that the life he had lived, the man of war he had been, kept him from building a temple, but that God would raise up a King, an eternal king, from David’s lineage that would rule not only Israel but all of creation forever. For an old man that was not able to accomplish what he desired, this was “good news of great joy.” In the book of Isaiah, when judgement was being pronounced, when sin had led Israel to idolatry and their hearts had raised God’s anger, God promised that a virgin would give birth to a child and on this child’s shoulders the government would rest, that He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This was, again, “good news of great joy”. The birth of Christ is always good news of great joy. This Christmas we must choose to return the wonder to the incarnation and to receive the good news of great joy. No matter where you are in your life today, the fact that Jesus was born, that the Creator became a child, is the news that must change our perspective and it is the truth that must become the foundation of our joy. If your life is upside down, there is good news, if your body is failing, there is good news, if your grief is unbearable, there is good news, if your marriage is broken, there is good news, if your children are wayward, there is good news, if your finances are dwindling, there is good news, if your heart is heavy, hardened or broken, there is good news—Jesus has come, God has chosen to be with us, redemption has drawn near, hope has been born, joy has burst forth with the morning.
This morning I want to talk to you about three reasons Christ was born. He was born to move us, He was born to fill us with His Spirit and He was born to give us something to say. I pray today that we will hear the good news that Christ has come and that we will live with the great joy of knowing that He came to die for us so that He could live in us and move through us.
After Mary was told, by the angel Gabriel, that she would give birth to the Messiah, that the Spirit of God would overshadow her, and she would become pregnant with the Son of God, she went to her cousin Elizabeth’s house, “with haste”. When we think of the word “haste” we think of doing something in a hurry, doing something quickly. In fact, the word has a negative connotation for us, the saying goes “haste makes waste”, meaning doing something so quickly that you don’t do it carefully. That’s not what this word in Luke 1:39 means. The word is most often translated as “diligent”. Mary did move quickly but she also moved carefully, purposefully. After hearing from God, her next steps were directed by God, but she took the initiative to take those steps with an urgency of purpose. It is true that we must wait on the Lord, but once we have heard from the Lord there is nothing to wait for. When God called Abram, it took 25 years for Isaac to be born, but Abram had to move immediately. When God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, it took some time before Pharaoh let them go but Moses had to return to Egypt immediately. When David was anointed as the king of Israel, it took years before he actually sat on the throne, but he had to become obedient to God and make himself a servant of his country, even of the king that he would someday replace, immediately. Henry Blackaby writes, in “Experiencing God” that the time to respond to God is when God reveals Himself to us, that the invitation to join God in His work requires and immediate response. Jesus’ ministry shows this to be true as well.
When Jesus said, “Follow Me”, those who would become His apostles did so immediately. Conversely, when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Him, he went away sad, because his possessions were great. He would not make an immediate response and so he rejected Jesus’ invitation. In Luke 9 Jesus said, “Follow Me.” The man He had called responded, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” The time to respond is the moment He calls, the time to obey is the moment we hear, the time to answer is when He calls, the time to move is when He leads.
One of the common threads to the Christmas story is that everyone that heard the news of the coming King immediately moved in response. When Mary got the news from Gabriel she went to Elizabeth’s house with haste. When the shepherds heard the good news of great joy from the angel of the Lord, they immediately went to Bethlehem to find Him. When the Magi saw the star shining from the East, they left their homes so that they could go and worship the newly born King. In every instance, the incarnation of Christ created movement for those who heard about it. The birth of Christ, while long ago, still has the same purpose and we are called to have the same response. Jesus’ birth must move us, I’m not talking about in our emotions, I mean that the birth of Christ must create movement in our lives. Following Jesus requires movement. Seeking Jesus requires movement. This Christmas let’s be moved by Christ and let’s move for Christ. He came to us so that we would go for Him. The birth of Christ is meant to move us, to change our course, to send us out seeking for Him and telling of Him. Jesus came so that we would move.
When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home, she greeted her, Luke writes, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb (remember, she was carrying John the Baptist, the one promised to go before the Messiah), and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” This was the first encounter anyone other than Mary had with the Messiah. When Elizabeth and her unborn child came into the presence of Jesus, the unborn Jesus, her child leaped in the womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just come to forgive us of our sins or make a way for us to get to heaven or to heal our diseases or free us from bondage. He did all those things, but He came to fill us with the Holy Spirit, to create a relationship of intimacy and unity, to bring us into the oneness of the Godhead. Remember, Jesus prayed, in John 17:21, “that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us”. How does that happen? By the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We have said many times “if you are in Christ then the Spirit is in You”, well if the Spirit is in us then we are in the Godhead. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not optional, it’s not Pentecostal, it’s not fanatical or emotional, it’s the work of the incarnation, it’s the hope of birth of Jesus, it’s the desire of God, the gift of the Father and the outcome of salvation. Jesus was born so that we could be filled with the Holy Spirit. This Christmas, we must celebrate the infant Creator by receiving, being filled with and led by the eternal Holy Spirit. Jesus came as a man so that He could send His Spirit to fill the hearts of all men. The first thing that happened, the first act of Jesus, before He was born, before Mary even began to show, His very presence filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit. I have said it many times before but I will say it again today, if you are in Christ then the Holy Spirit is in you, but it’s also time to be refilled, to ask God to fill us again and to prepare our hearts, our lives and our Christmas for the filling of the Holy Spirit by emptying ourselves of anything and everything that has had too much of our hearts for far too long. Jesus came to fill us with His Spirit.
I’m not sure that we give this the weight it deserves. The Spirit that once hovered over the waters. The Spirit that once formed a cloud by day and a fire by night, the Spirit that resided in the tent of meeting for Moses, the tabernacle for David and the temple for Solomon, the Spirit who came like a dove and lighted upon Jesus at His baptism, lives in us. We don’t simply have gut feelings, intuition or impressions, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and He lives in me. This is why Jesus came. When we celebrate the birth of Christ, when we look at manger scenes and attend Christmas plays, remember this, it was all so that God could live in us, so that we could, as unworthy as we may be, become the temples of the Holy Ghost. Mary was impregnated with Jesus so that we could be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, she was overshadowed so that we could be in-filled.
When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, a very specific thing happened, “Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she spoke words given to her by God, she spoke about things she could not have known without God, her mouth used God’s words to be a witness and bring glory to God. It was not just Elizabeth. In the New Testament, whenever the Bible tells us that someone was filled with the Holy Spirit, they immediately began to speak, prophesy or declare. At John’s circumcision, his father, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied of how John would make the way for the Messiah. In Acts 2, the 120 believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and were heard declaring the wonders of God in many different tongues. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up and preached and thousands repented, were baptized and believed. In Acts 4, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit again and spoke with power to the rulers. Later in the chapter, the whole group of believers praying together were filled with the Holy Spirit “and spoke the Word of God with boldness.” The Holy Spirit does many things. As Jesus said, He guides us into all truth, He reminds us of the words of Jesus, He tells us of things to come, He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment; Romans 5:5 says that He pours the love of God into our hearts, but we are filled with the Holy Spirit to speak the truth of God with boldness, to be witnesses of God with power, to talk of the wonders of God in a way that stirs the hearts of men. We have not been filled for our good, we are filled for His glory and if we have been filled, not only must we no longer be quiet, we must let our tongues be controlled by the One who fills us. We must manage our words in such a way that when we speak, we know that it is God who is speaking through us and when we are heard, it becomes clear to those who are listening that they are not only hearing of God, they may be hearing from God. We are filled with the Spirit of God to speak the words of God.
There is just one more piece I want us to see today. Elizabeth continued, filled with the Holy Spirit she said, “as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.” The incarnation of Jesus, even before His birth, was already creating joy. When John the Baptist, in his mother’s womb, met Jesus for the first time, he jumped for you. Christmas is about joy! It’s the joy of the God who comes near, the joy of the God who sees us, the God who knows us, the God who wants us, the God who gave His Son to die for us and sent His Spirit to live within us. I can’t tell you what you should do, but I must tell you this, Christmas should make us leap for joy! That jumping for joy is not simply leaping up and down, it’s being moved with diligence, with urgency, with purpose, it’s being filled with the Holy Spirit and it’s speaking the words of God with a boldness that leads to the glory of God. Jesus came to do more than save us, He came to fill us so that He could use us, He came to be glorified because when Christ is glorified men are redeemed.