The Nativity 2

Merry Christmas! We’ve been in a series talking about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Today, I want us to read the Christmas Story from Luke’s Gospel and finish building our own Nativity.

Luke 2:7 says, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The word “stable” is not found in the Nativity story but the word “manger” is used repeatedly. The shelter could have been a wood enclosure but it was more than likely a cave. Jesus was born in a cave and buried in a cave but He was not planning on staying in either cave very long! God sent His son to be born in a barn in front of animals, not in a palace in front of Kings. Bethlehem was crowded! If God can create the heavens and the earth, part the Red Sea, cause the sun to stand still, and send a star to guide the Wise Men from the East, why was there not one room available? A homeless birth was part of the plan. It was no accident. It is not like God forgot to make a reservation at the inn!

Tim Keller says, “The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.” Don’t get too accustomed to the comforts of this world. This world is not our home. We are just passing through. In the Father’s house there are many mansions, more than enough room for you (Jn. 14:2). Jesus was laid in a manger on earth, so we could live in a mansion in heaven and walk on streets of gold! 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Some days we do not have room for Jesus in our schedules and on our calendars, but remember, He has made room and prepared a place for us.

Luke 2:8-14 tells of the angel’s message to the shepherds. There are so many things we can learn from this encounter. Verse 9 says when the angel appeared, “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” Jesus is the Light of the World and He will be a light when the days are dark and you don’t know what to do. In verse 10, the angel told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” Do not live in fear, live by faith! In the same verse, we read that the angel brought good news. The message was encouraging! Listen to this news, the hope that Jesus brings, and you will not be discouraged. Verse 11 says, “there is born to you….” Salvation is personal! It is not based on race or religion or your parents or anyone else; it’s based on what Jesus did for you! The angel told the shepherds, “You will find a babe….” You will find what you are looking for in life. Whether that’s bad, good, negative, positive, a party crowd, or other believers. Finally, we read that “there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God….” There is a heaven! Our worship should be like the worship of heaven. The angels remind us that worship should be with “great joy and glory to God!”

The Bible says the Egyptians and the religious rulers of Jesus’ day despised shepherds. They were considered ceremonially unclean, having a job everyone needed and no one wanted. They were the least appreciated, but God saw their work and rewarded them. If you feel unnoticed and unappreciated, Jesus sees you. God comes in unexpected times to unexpected places and He uses unexpected people. David was a shepherd. Moses was a shepherd. Jesus is the Good, Great, Chief Shepherd.

In the Nativity story, the shepherds’ search ended when they found Jesus. What you are searching for in life you will find in Jesus! Luke 2:11 says, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Is Jesus your Savior? Do you believe He is the Christ? Is Jesus Lord of your life?

The shepherds met Jesus and they left telling the message. They went back to their old occupation, but they had a new job; they were messengers on a mission. Are you living on mission, sharing the message of Jesus? How will you go back to your job this January?

The Nativity

The Nativity
The word “nativity” is defined as the process or circumstances of being born. Christmas is Sunday so I want us to look at the process and circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, and build our own nativity.

Matthew 1 highlights Joseph’s role in the birth of Jesus. While he is sometimes the forgotten man of Christmas, we know he was a carpenter betrothed to Mary. He was busy preparing for the wedding and building place for them to live, when he got the unexpected news, the heartbreak of his life. Mary was pregnant! He is in shock, hurt, disappointed, devastated, and angry! How could she do this to him? He knew it was not his baby! It would be the scandalous talk of the town. He was planning to privately call the wedding off when God spoke to Joseph in a dream (Matt. 1:20-21).

Joseph just wanted to be married, have his own wife, have children, and a son named after him, but it did not happen the way he had always planned. He married a wife already with-child. He became an adoptive father. Joseph and Mary were the ones God trusted with His only son, Jesus. Joseph was committed to God, to Mary, and to Jesus. He worked hard, provided for his family, loved his wife, was a good father to Jesus, took his family to church, and is a great model and example for all men today!

Mary is just an ordinary teenage girl, growing up in a small town, dreaming like all little girls of her wedding day. All of a sudden an angel appeared. Mary was the first to doubt the virgin birth! Luke 1:34 says, “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” She doubted and she questioned, but she believed God by faith.

When Mary found out that she would be the mother of the Messiah, her response was a song of praise. “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). When we think about Christmas, Jesus coming down from heaven to live inside of us, you can’t help but praise Him. Just like Mary had Jesus living inside of her, if you are saved, you have Jesus living inside of you! You may be filled with disappointment, hurt, bitterness, or anger, but you can have Jesus living inside of you. The doctor may have said you have cancer inside of you, you may feel lonely inside, but you can have Jesus inside of you!

Being the earthly parents of Jesus was not easy. It meant damage to their reputations and danger to their very lives. God is still looking for human vessels He can use. Will you let Him use you?

Matthew 1:23 says, “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Wherever God has placed you, Jesus is there. Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, Jesus is there. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Hebrews 13:5 says, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The Nativity is ultimately about Jesus, Immanuel, God with us! What was the purpose? Matthew 1:21 says, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the baby born to die for the sins of the world. Those tiny little hands would have nails driven through them. Those baby feet would one day walk up Mount Calvary to take our place. His sweet head would one day have a crown of thorns beaten into his brow… and He did all that for you. Take some time this Christmas to reflect on all that His birth means for you.

Change: God’s World

Change: God’s World
Our mission at Liberty is Changing Lives, Communities, and the World for Jesus Christ. In 1 Thessalonians we read about a model church that did that from ancient Macedonia. The church at Thessalonica was accused of “turning the world upside down.” How did they do it? How can we change the world? 1 Thessalonians 1:3 gives us three ways: “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father…”

Work of Faith
Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:5. We are here because the Gospel came to us in much power. We are saved by faith. Salvation is from God. You did not find God. He was not lost! He found you! You cannot walk an aisle, pray a prayer, get some “fire insurance” and continue to live the same old way. That is not salvation. You have to turn from your idols (1 Thess. 1:9). Repentance is when you are going in one direction and you turn and go in another. Some of you need to make a U-turn in your life!

An idol is what you sacrifice to or sacrifice for.

2.8 billion people in the world have little to no access to the Gospel. They are headed for wrath to come. That is why we must pray, give, and go. The reason we don’t is because we are too busy bowing to our own idols. An idol is what you sacrifice to or sacrifice for. It could be a house, car, promotion, position, relationship, food, drugs, money, success, etc. God is a Jealous God. He will not be second in your life. The only relationship God is interested in is one that is exclusive and committed. To say “Jesus is Lord,” is to say Jesus is number one. Where is God on your list of priorities in life? What do you value most?

Labor of Love
Everyone is serving something. Do you love serving Jesus? You were saved to serve. We are his workmanship in Christ Jesus to do good works. I get tired in it, but I never get tired of it! Last week, I preached on the will of God. God’s perfect will is the same: to be saved, baptized, read the Bible, win others, tithe, give, pray. God’s particular will is different for all of us: where we live, if and who we marry, where we work, etc. Why do you do what you do? It must be out of love for God. That is why we give and serve. Not out of guilt, but because of grace and out of gratitude to God.

Patience of Hope
Do you believe Jesus is coming again? He is going to come again as sure as He came the first time. There are five chapters in 1 Thessalonians, each ending with a reminder that Jesus is coming again! Waiting is not idle. It has the idea of expectation, watching and waiting with hope while we work in love.

In verses 6-8 we read that the church was an example to the surrounding area and that the Word “sounded forth” from there into all the world. God used this passage to shape my ministry. In Arkansas, I prayed, “God give me your vision for this church.” God brought this very passage to my mind and heart. Our first slogan was Sounding the Gospel to the Surrounding Area. God called us to be a regional church. We had less than 200 in attendance in a town of 1000. In the next 19 years, we would see God grow that church to over 2500 members. He answered that prayer. Then, God picked us up and dropped us in the middle of 1.7 million people. Over time, the wording changed, but the message and mission remained the same. Now, in Virginia, reaching Hampton Roads and beyond…Changing Lives, Communities, and the World for Jesus Christ.

The church at Thessalonica was one church reaching their community and beyond. How did they do it? How must we do it? Our Work of Faith (faith always produces works), our Labor of Love (love always produces labor), and our Patience of Hope (hope always produces patience). Together, they turned the world upside down. Together, we can change the world!

Commit: God’s Will

God has a will for your life, and His plan is good (Jer. 29:11)! He is not hiding it from you. God wants you to know and do, to find and enjoy His will. Here are some things Scripture clearly tells us are God’s will.

In John 4:34 Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” The Father sent Jesus to redeem you and me, to seek and save the lost. Jesus got more satisfaction and nourishment out of seeing lives changed than eating. It is God’s will for you to be saved.

God’s word is a lamp and a light to our path. He reveals His will through His word. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Man shall not live by bread alone, but by God’s word (Matt. 4:4). Jesus is the bread of Life and He alone has the words of life!

Found people find others. Reached people reach others. Jesus sowed the seed by witnessing to the woman at the well. The woman sowed the seed by saying, “Come see a man….” Now is the time for sowing and reaping locally and globally. Proverbs 11:30 says, “He who wins souls is wise.”

Doing God’s will costs you, but doing your will costs you more!

This word is found in the Old and New Testament concerning prayer. We are to pray for God’s will to be done. It is one of the hardest prayers you will ever pray and also one of the most important. Doing God’s will costs you, but doing your will costs you more! Give God a blank check for your life.

Look at Romans 12:1-2. God does not want one area of your life, He wants all of you. Jesus is God’s gift to you, and it is reasonable to give your life as a gift to God. God’s will is not bad but good, not unacceptable but acceptable, not imperfect but perfect! God wants what is best for you!

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul uses the generosity of the poor believers to inspire all. He closes verse 5 saying, “by the will of God.” It is more blessed to give than to receive. It is God’s will for you to both receive a blessing and be a blessing. The Wise Men brought Jesus three gifts. What will you give?

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….” The end result of sanctification is that we will one day be like Jesus. God is molding us and making us into the image of Christ.

In Hebrews 10:32 and 36, we read that it is also God’s will for us to suffer at times. He uses suffering in our lives. It was God’s will for His own Son to suffer for us! Don’t be afraid of God’s will. Perfect love cast out fear. God never said it would be easy but that it will be worth it!

Most people are more interested in knowing God’s will than submitting to God’s will. Surrender to God. There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about submission. 1 Peter 2:13, Ephesians 5:21, and Hebrews 13:17 are a few. Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is God’s will for you to enjoy life, not just endure it. Too many people go around grumbling, griping, complaining, and criticizing. Are you thankful, grateful, glad, content, satisfied?

The richest, most successful, prosperous, fulfilled person in life is the one who knows and does the will of God. That is why Christians gladly “give what we cannot keep in order to gain what we cannot lose.”