The Story We Thought We Knew: The Christ We Can Know
The birth of Jesus according to Luke. This is the Word of God.
“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in strips of cloth and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
Some years ago, Pope John XXIII, the most beloved pope of the modern era, paid a visit to a prison in the city of Rome on the day after Christmas. In greeting the prisoners, Pope John said a very tender thing. He said, “You could not come to me, so I have come to you.” That is precisely what God says to us at Christmas. “You could not come to Me, so I have come to you.” When God had exhausted all other means of conveying His love for His people, He chose to come as a baby, His only Son, and by so doing, God was saying to us, “You could not come to Me, so I have come to you.”
You see, God understands that we cannot think of Him in anything other than human terms. And so what did God do? He came to us as a human being in the form of a baby, His only Son. God understands that that image of His, which He has planted within each one of us, has been twisted and distorted by sin. And so He chose to come to us in the form of One in whom that image is flawless, namely, Jesus. God knows that what reflection of God may be in your life and in mine is a bent and broken thing at best. And so God chose to reveal Himself to us in crystal clarity in the form of His only Son. And the reflection of God we see in Jesus is 100% pure and perfect.
That’s why God chose to come to us as a baby. He was saying to us, “If you want to know Me, then know My Son. If you want to know what I’m like, if you want to know how I am, how I love, how I work, then look at Jesus.” I would put it simply, like Father, like Son.
Look at the personality of Jesus.
His personality was one of great contrast. He was the meekest and lowliest of persons, and yet He declared that, one day, He will appear enthroned in glory. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at His coming. And yet He was so genial and winsome that children loved to crawl up in His lap and nestle in His arms.
No one was ever half so kind and compassionate to sinners, and yet no one ever delivered such red-hot scorching words against sin. He was a dreamer of great dreams. He was a seer of magnificent visions, and yet He was starkly realistic. A bruised reed, He would not break. His whole life was love. And yet on one occasion, at least, He demanded to know how in the world the Pharisees expected to escape the fires of hell. He was the servant of all, even to the point of literally washing His own disciples’ feet. And yet, one day He strolled into the temple courts, and the traders and the hucksters there fell all over one another in their mad dash to get away from the fire they saw blazing in His eyes. Oh yes, His personality was a study in startling contrasts. Strength, weakness, love, discipline, compassion, condemnation, judgment, grace, all of it, all wrapped up in one solitary life. And God says, “If you want to know what I am like, look at Jesus.” Like Father, like Son.
Or look at the power of Jesus.
From that day when He took a ghastly cross and transformed it into a glorious throne, from that day to this, His power, like some great streak of gold, has marked the unfolding of the centuries. Empires have gone down before Him. Under His influence, great reforms have swept the earth. He is power, and His power is permanent. He is the master force behind the onward march of humanity through the passage of time. What Emerson said of Him is absolutely true. His name is not so much written as it is plowed into the history of the world.
So much is that the case that all these centuries later, now, today, we baptize our children in His name. When love and marriage come, it is His blessing we invoke. When life on this earth is over, it is beneath His cross that we lay our dead. And it is in His message of eternal life that we find our greatest strength and hope. Ten thousand times, ten thousand times, He has shattered the chains of evil habit and set the prisoners free. There are people sitting right here in this church right now who will attribute every virtue they possess, every victory they have won, every noble thought they have conceived, they will attribute that to nothing less than the power of Jesus Christ at work in their lives. And so God says, “If you wish to know what I am like, look at Jesus.” Like Father, like Son.
That is why God came to us at Christmas in the form of the babe of Bethlehem. God said, “If you wish to know Me, know My Son. And when you know My Son, then you know Me.” Like Father, like Son.
All of that, of course, is from the story of the first time that Jesus came. You do know, don’t you, that Jesus will come again? You do know, don’t you, that the next time He comes, it will be different? You know that, don’t you? I mean, the first time He came, He came as an infant, emitting a baby’s low cry, born to peasant parents, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and resting in an animal’s feed box. Ah, but the next time He comes, He will come riding on clouds of glory, His face shining like the sun, His raiment pure gold and His voice like the sound of rushing waters. The first time He came, a single star marked the occasion. The next time He comes, all the heavens will declare His glory. The first time He came, there was no room for Him in the inn. The next time He comes, the whole world will not be able to contain the power and the reach of His presence. The first time He came, wise men bowed down before Him and offered Him gifts fit for a king. The next time He comes, the King Himself will bring the greatest gift of them all, the gift of salvation and eternal life for His people. The first time He came, He came as a newborn babe, nestled in the protective arms of His mother, fleeing from a wicked king out to do him harm. The next time He comes, He will come as the risen conquering sovereign Christ, the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. The first time He came, only a handful of humble shepherds took note of his arrival. The next time He comes, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, our Heavenly Father.
Oh yes. Next time when Jesus comes, it will be different. Frankly, I’m rather like a child at Christmas. I can hardly wait.
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.