Christmas sermon series: God's Missionary Heart
Christmas comes in the angelic announcement of the good news of Jesus Christ. Imagine the story of Christmas and angels appearing before Mary, Joseph, and shepherds in an open field. Angels always indicate the miraculous, mysterious, and majestic work of God in some way. This sermon announces God's good news. These Bible passages will assist you in communicating the good news of Christ: Luke 2:8-18 and Luke 2:25-32.
I sat early one Christmas morning and thought about the angels appearing at Christmas. I pondered angelic appearances at Sodom and Gomorrah, at the ford of the Jabbok River where Jacob wrestled with an angel of God, and in Psalms where it says "men ate angels' food." Angels helped Jesus after his wilderness temptation. Revelation mentions angels more than twenty times. Then, I began to think of angelic appearances to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.
What do angels look like? In our world of Charlie's Angels, Angels in the Outfield, Touched by an Angel, and It's a Wonderful Life, most of our images of angels come from Hollywood, beautiful with fluttering wings, mysterious words, or even looking like ordinary people in. The Bible tells us that when angels show up they are dazzling, bright, and shining, and arrive with a specific message. One good word they give in the Christmas story is this: Nothing is impossible with God.
What do angels announce?
I. Angels announce the miracle of Christmas.
Luke 1:26-38 tells about the appearance of the angel Gabriel (angels have names!) to Mary to announce that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she will give birth to a child to be named Jesus, meaning "Jehovah is salvation." Mary is troubled, or agitated, or stirred up within her soul. The angel entered with words of rejoicing, a message of how she had found favor or grace near God, and with the good news of Christ's birth. Mary asked questions at first, and then accepted this good news in the depths of her soul. Mary's response was one of praise, also known as Mary's Song or the Magnificat of Mary in Luke 1:46-55. "My soul glorifies the Lord!"
C.S. Lewis says of Christmas, "The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, as small as the point of a spear - a Jewish girl at her prayers." Mary and Joseph in their simple faith accepted the good news of Jesus' birth. They demonstrated faith in God's plan. They experienced God's peace. They heard the angelic word of affirmation, a word often repeated in the Christmas story, "Do not be afraid!" The miracle of Christmas, Christ, would soon come.
Think of Christmas: the decorated tree, the lights, the music, the wonderer childlike feel of the season, the angelic announcement, and the birth of Christ. The hardest part about preaching or singing at Christmas, or hearing the story as adults, is that it no longer affects our senses. It no longer moves our souls to humility. It no longer moves our lips to give praise to God for his grace, love, and good news. I fear we do not give consideration to the real miracle of Christmas. The angels announced the miracle of Christmas, of Christ and salvation to all humankind. Rejoice! Do not be afraid!
II. Angels announce the mystery of Christmas
Luke 1:31-33 describes the mystery of Christ. The drama of Christmas comes as if God has pulled back a curtain on the world's stage and placed a spotlight on Christ born in Bethlehem. What will Christ be? He will be named Jesus, a reference to salvation. He will be great, an indication of his power. He will possess a kingdom - not like Roman emperors in their grandeur, with their golden crowns, and armies with chariots and horses that will one day end - but a kingdom of faith, hope, and love that will have no end.
Mary asks another question: "How can this be?" The angelic response was one of good and glorious news: the Holy Spirit will fall on you and you shall conceive and give birth to the Son of God. John Updike is right when he says, "Our brains are no longer conditioned for reverence and awe." However, to appreciate Christmas, to humble ourselves in its glory, simplicity, and humility, we must revere Christ and stand in awe in spite of the mystery. The angelic announcement is mysterious. The virgin birth is mysterious. God sending his own Son into the world to a Jewish girl in Galilee is mysterious. However, the mystery keeps us occupied, intrigued, and drawn all the more to Christ.
Do you ever race through Christmas and lose a sense of wrapping your heart and mind around the mystery of Christ? Do you revere Christ as you should? Do you stand in awe? Our God is an awesome God in his miracle of salvation and in the mystery of his message of hope!
III. Angels state the majesty of Christmas
The not-so-obvious message of Christmas is found in Luke 1:36, a message to Elizabeth and Mary: Nothing is impossible with God! When we lose our sense of the miracle and mystery of Christmas, we're bound to lose a sense that God can do anything. If Christmas teaches us anything it is that all things are possible with God. The Christ of Christmas invites us to place our faith in Him and watch him produce within us a spirit of hope. This hope is more than positive thinking. It is more than a good attitude. It is more than a good feeling on a sunny day. It is a hope rooted in Christ's birth, death, burial, resurrection, and life that secures our present through the salvation of the cross and guarantees our future because we believe in him. When our present faith and future grace in Christ join hands, Christ carries us today and into tomorrow, and we have hope no matter what comes our way. We experience the majesty and grandeur of Christ as he carries us day by day. We can then respond to life's pain, pressure, struggle, anxiety, and fear with the spirit of the angels: Nothing is impossible with God.
Walt Whitman wrote about "America's teeming intricate whirl." That is, that we in America pride ourselves too much on being busy and cramming our time with stuff. In the whirlwind of Christmas, exhausting in its hectic pace, it would do us good to pause, to hear the rush of angel's wings, and to hear God's message as announced afresh: Christ the Savior has come! Nothing is impossible with God.
Years ago in a children's musical in our church the children were dressed as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and angels. In one hushed moment one of the characters recited a line: "Stop! Look! Listen for Christmas!" May prayer is that we can slow down this Christmas, recapture the miracle, the mystery, and the majesty of Christmas. If we do, we're bound to respond like Mary did, "My soul praises God my Savior!" Merry Christmas!