"The birth of Jesus predicted" by Rod Bayley, 19 December 2010, Luke 1:26-38

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Danny

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Mar 5, 2011, 12:41:52 AM3/5/11
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
Well, they say ‘Christmas is a time of giving and receiving’ - and
what is being referred to mainly is gifts or presents. Who here likes
receiving presents at Christmas time? Yes, some aren’t shy in saying
they do - I think most people are probably the same - giving is fun,
but we definitely enjoy receiving. I remember as a child getting up
really early on Christmas morning to open presents - who can sleep
when you are looking forward to receiving some fantastic gifts. Of
course there are some gifts that are expected - you know, great Uncle
Len who always gives you hankies, or Aunt Beatrice who specializes in
giving you socks. But then there are those gifts that are unexpected,
and perhaps even the way the present is unveiled creates
anticipation. I remember one year receiving a gift which my parents
had placed outside, but they had attached a piece of string to my bed
which led to it. This increases the excitement of receiving, because
you are following this piece of string to the present, wondering what
it is going to be, thinking it must be big if it is outside - it can’t
be a packet of socks! It sure is fun receiving.

Did you know that the bible tells us that Christmas is a time of
receiving? The reason is that at the first Christmas 2000 years ago,
God gave the world a gift, and he wants us to receive His gift. It is
a gift which is still offered and can still be received today. It was
an expected gift, a greatly anticipated gift which people had waited
for centuries to arrive. However, for the family that would introduce
this gift to the world, their role was a great surprise. We are going
to consider the final prediction or prophecy of this gift this evening
as we consider part of Luke chapter one. Notice again how the
announcement was given to Mary in verses 26 to 29:
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in
Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a
descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to
her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is
with you.’ 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what
kind of greeting this might be.
Here is ‘an unexpected interaction’ - that’s the first point on your
outline. The initial context to this startling visit is given in
verses 26 and 27, where we learn that Mary is visited by an angel
named Gabriel. She lives in northern Israel in the town of Nazareth,
and is engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. This amazing
visit happens when her relative Elizabeth is six months pregnant with
her son, John the Baptist. The angel greets Mary in verse 28, but
Mary is naturally ‘greatly disturbed’, or ‘greatly troubled.’
Although angels are messengers of God and occasionally appeared to
make important announcements in the Old Testament, such visits were
rare and she is naturally fearful. But after the angel briefly
introduces himself, he gets to his message in verses 30 to 33, which
in essence is that Mary will receive a gift or rather bear a gift.
She will have the joy of carrying and delivering a baby and this will
be no ordinary baby. Mary is taken aback in verse 34 as she knows
that she is a virgin who is only betrothed or engaged to Joseph.
There must have been lots of other concerns and fears, but the angel
reassures her in the remainder of the passage. In summary, he states
in verse 37 that “nothing is impossible with God,” and Mary responds
in trust by verse 38.

But the key section in the passage is the angel’s message from verse
30, as it is here that we learn of the significance of the birth of
this child. This is the second point on your outlines ‘the
significance of this announcement.’ Notice what is stated in verses
30 to 33:
But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found
favour with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will
be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the
throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of
Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’
Given the exalted titles used - Son of the Most High (v32) and Son of
God (v35), it is clear that this is no ordinary child. This is the
long awaited Son of David, the promised anointed ruler or Messiah.
And this is not just some great human king, as David had been in
Israel’s earlier history. No, this was God’s son - this was God
arriving in human form, taking on our flesh and blood - being born as
a baby. Although the virgin birth is rightly viewed as a miraculous
event, there is a greater miracle to grasp here. The God of all
creation, the all-powerful Sustainer of our world is to be born as a
weak helpless baby. The word for God taking on human form in the
person of his Son, is ‘incarnation.’ He takes on our carnal, fleshly,
mortal body.

There was a movie released in 1988 called ‘Gorillas in the mist’
starring Sigourney Weaver, which you might have seen. It depicted the
exploits of a woman named Dian Fossey, and her efforts were also
recorded in the National Geographic magazine. Maybe you saw her book
called ‘Gorillas in the mist.’ Dian Fossey was an unusual woman, a
Californian-born zoologist who left the comforts of home to move to
Africa. There she lived among the rare, gentle mountain gorillas of
Rwanda who were threatened with extinction due to the cruelty of
poachers who were tracking them down one-by-one and slaughtering
them. She began her mission in 1963 on the sides of a 14,000 foot
tall, rain-shrouded volcano, and after several years they came to
accept her as one of their own. Fossey named them, cradled their
babies, and cried with them when they mourned their dead. After
eighteen years with the gorillas, she became like them, and lived
among them.

In Luke chapter 1, we are told that God’s son will be born as a baby,
through the virgin Mary who was pledged to be married to Joseph.
God, in the person of his son Jesus, came to earth from heaven to live
among us, taking on our flesh and blood and facing the struggles of
life that we face. Elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel we are told that
Jesus would also be called “Immanuel - which means ‘God with us’.” In
taking on flesh and blood and living amongst us, Jesus clearly
revealed God’s character to us in human form.

Not only is this baby ‘the Son of God’ on earth, but he is a king who
will have a never-ending kingdom in verses 32 and 33. This reference
to him having the throne of his father David points to the fulfilment
of a promise God made to King David a thousand years earlier. Back in
2 Samuel 7:16 where this promise was made to David, we have the
following words recorded for us: “Your house and your kingdom will
endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
And here is this Son of David, this descendant in the line of David,
Jesus, who will have an eternal kingdom, a kingdom which is obviously
not of this world.

As I mentioned earlier, this prediction of the birth of a coming
Messiah or Christ is the last in a line of promises which gave
perfectly accurate details of his birth. In Micah 5:2 we learn that
the promised ruler would be born in Bethlehem, a prediction made 700
years before his birth. In Isaiah 7:14 we learn that a virgin will
give birth to this promised male child, and that he will be called
Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ Also in Isaiah 9:2-7 this
promised child to be born is a son who will rule an eternal kingdom
from David’s throne, and who is given the exalted titles of ‘Wonderful
Counselor,’ ‘Mighty God’, ‘Prince of Peace.’ Again these prophecies
are 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and it is the passage in
Isaiah 9 which parallels most closely the angel’s words in Luke 1.

Our third and final point is what is the application for us today?
Firstly, we need to grasp that this baby came to save us - that is why
he was to be named Jesus (v31), which means ‘the Lord saves.’ His
name tells us his purpose - he took on our flesh and lived amongst us
to save us.

Returning to the story of Dian Fossey, in the early hours of December
27, 1985, she was killed, apparently by poachers whose trade she had
sought to end by protecting the gorillas. She died for those she came
to live among and to save - the gorillas she had lived amongst for 22
years. Her identification with them was impressive, but far more
impressive is Jesus’ identification with us. Two thousand years ago,
Christ left the comforts of His home in heaven for the struggles of
life on earth. He identified with us by living among us. But more
than that, He died for us, for those He came to live among and to
save.

You see, Jesus was not only ‘The child born in a manger’, but ‘The man
born to be Saviour.’ Christ’s purpose in being born as a man, was
from the very beginning to save us from our rebellion, which has
broken our relationship with God. In God’s great love for us, He
desired to restore that broken relationship by sending Jesus to die in
our place, to take the punishment that we deserve for our rejection of
God. God’s offer to save us through faith in Jesus, was not an
afterthought after Jesus had died on the Cross. Even at Christ’s
birth, which we celebrate at Christmas each year, the cross of Easter
looms in the background. Jesus is not simply the little child in the
nativity scene at the shopping centre, who we can feel free to
ignore. He is the king who rules, who will call us to account at the
end of our lives. But he is also the one who died on the Cross for us
that we might be forgiven, that we might become friends with God.
That is why his name is Jesus, ‘the Lord saves’ - He came on a rescue
mission.

In the tsunami that rocked parts of Asia on the 26th December 2004,
there were many stories of incredible rescues in the face of likely
death. One extraordinary story was that of a teenage boy who clung to
a tree for 10 days in India’s remote Andaman Islands chain before
being rescued. The 14 year old named Murlitharan was without food or
water for that whole period. Air force rescuers said Murlitharan
finally toppled off the tree into the water after 10 days but was
saved by a local woman who looked after him till the air force
arrived. His ordeal echoed an even more amazing story - that of Rizal
Shahputra from Aceh, a 23 year old who was picked up by a container
ship after surviving for eight days in the ocean by staying on an
uprooted floating tree. You can see his photo on the screen behind
me. He drank rainwater and ate coconuts that floated by. These are
‘life snatched from the jaws of death’ stories - they were dependent
on outside intervention, a saviour who could rescue them and offer
them life. It is the same with us and Jesus.

This is why Christmas is celebrated by Christians - it marks the
coming of Jesus, the baby born to save us - our rescuer who saves us
from the consequences of rejecting God, and who offers us forgiveness
and eternal life in heaven. So this Christmas, if you see a baby in
the manger in a Nativity scene in the shopping centre, and you ponder
about the true meaning of Christmas, and the purpose of this child’s
birth who we celebrate, remember that Jesus was born to save you from
your rebellion against God - to bring you back into relationship.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday, it was noted
how last Christmas 6 million Australians received one or more presents
they never used or later gave away. The new survey conducted by the
Australia Institute also found that more than one in four respondents
expected that some presents they give will end up at the back of the
cupboard. As a result, unwanted presents represent a staggering $798
million waste of money, time and resources based on average spending
of $438 per person. The survey also found about one quarter of
Australians expect to give presents to people they would prefer not
to, and about a quarter of these reluctant givers were unable to pay
their credit card in full each month. So around 1 million
Australians are spending money they don't have, to buy presents they'd
rather not give.

Unlike this, God had planned and longed to give the gift of his Son
Jesus that first Christmas since before the creation of the universe
the bible tells us. God had wanted to offer forgiveness and a right
relationship with Him through faith in His Son’s death and
ressurection. God is not a reluctant giver. And how more valuable is
God’s gift, which rescues us from our rejection of our Maker, who
designed us to relate to Him. What an amazing gift - it doesn’t just
last for a week, or a year, but forever. God wants you to take his
gift - in this sense, Christmas is a time of taking. Don’t let this
greatest gift remain unopened - don’t’ shove in the cupboard and
ignore it. Jesus is the first Christmas gift, and the one that we
desperately need to receive.

Now have you ever seen a child leave a Christmas present under the
tree? Just decide they will never open it - it just stays there till
next year? Probably not! They want to receive their gift and the way
we take it is to pick it up and open it, and thank the giver. But how
do we receive God’s gift of Jesus and his death on our behalf? It’s
not like a normal present. Well, we need to respond and trust the
child born to save us to have peace with God. The rest of the gospel
of Luke, and the rest of the New Testament goes on to explain that the
response God requires of us is to place our trust in Jesus’ death as a
full payment for our sin, for our rejection of God, and also to trust
in his resurrection on the third day, which assures us that the
penalty has been paid, that sin and death have been dealt with. Where
do you stand today? Have you placed your trust in Jesus, who is not
only ‘the child born in a manger’, but ‘the man born to be your
Saviour.’ Have you received God’s gift? If not, let me encourage
you to read one of the biographies of Jesus - to investigate further.
Jesus is the first Christmas gift and he’s the gift we need to
receive.

If you have received God’s gift, then are you thankful - are you
continuing to thank the giver? A child often rips open their present
and starts using it immediately, but forgets to thank the one who has
given the gift. We’re usually unimpressed with the child if we see
that taking place, and the parents often step in and encourage their
child to thank Uncle Joe or Auntie Ruth. Christians should be
constantly thanking and praising God for the amazing gift of His Son,
but perhaps God’s undeserved kindness towards us should cause us to
praise Him all the more in this Christmas season. More than that, we
should share the good news at every opportunity. And we should be
praying for those on the frontline of telling others at this time,
like the many serving in Beach missions up and down our coastline from
Boxing Day. We often find it impossible to keep in our exciting news
of someone who’s just got engaged, or someone who’s expecting, or of
some great HSC mark. It just spills out of us with great enthusiasm -
we want everyone to know, anyone who will listen. How much more
should the good news of Christ’s arrival capture our minds and our
speech. Pray and look for opportunities this year - you may be
surprised and how wonderfully God answers your prayers. He’s been
getting the message of his Son’s arrival out since His angels made
their spectacular announcement to the amazed shepherds. Let’s get the
message out too.
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