2017 Christmas Message
[Jeremiah]: Hello, Grace family, and merry Christmas. Madi and Jeremiah here from The Plug to bring you a Christmas message.
[Madi]: P.C. has put together a two-part treat for all of you to enjoy right in your own home. The first part is his biblically brilliant Christmas sermon for you adults to enjoy.
[Jeremiah]: However, the second part is for the whole family. So, grab the kiddos, gather around the screen, fast forward to part 2 and enjoy the Christmas story read for all ages by Pastor Chip.
[Madi]: From all of us at Grace Community Church, we hope you enjoy this Christmas morning message.
[Jeremiah and Madi]: And have a very merry Christmas.
[Pastor Chip]: Well, good morning and merry Christmas to those of you all who attend Grace, and also to those of you all who may watch via the internet or the mobile app. Maybe you’re watching this not at Christmas time, but merry Christmas to everybody regardless of where you get this and what format you watch it in.
I want to be upfront really quick. We’re going to do two messages. So, if you have a family with younger kids, what you can do is you can sort of fast forward. You’ll see that there’ll be a place where we start another devotional. And you can do that with your children around the house. Hopefully it will be a blessing to you. But, this first one here will be for the regular people at Grace; for the adults, so to speak.
So, I just want to start off by saying thanks for allowing me into your house, your car, your computer or wherever you may be to talk to you about the Christmas Story. And I really hope that, even though this is in video format, this will speak to you in a real and significant way.
So, before I get started, I want to say just a quick word of prayer. We’ll pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the wonderful Christmas story. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus. And I pray, Lord, that whether it’s adults or children that watch these videos, I pray that You would speak to all of us and You would minister to all of us at this Christmas time. For Your glory we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
I want to read today out of Matthew 1:18-25. I’m going to just sort of read some Scripture and make a little commentary on it. Then, at the end, I’ve got a couple of questions that I think it would be appropriate for us to answer. And I really do. I hope this speaks to you. So, whatever you’re doing, put the gifts away, put the candy away or whatever it may be, and focus in here. I think you’ll be blessed here at this story.
Matthew says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
What Matthew does here is Matthew tells us how Jesus’ birth came about, and He’s very particular here. He wants to make sure that we understand that this is the way it happened. Now, he’s got a different story than Luke. In Luke, Mary is sort of the main player, but in Matthew, Joseph is the main player. So, they’re writing for different reasons and different audiences, but for Matthew he wants to make sure that the reader — that’s you and me — understands this is the way Jesus’ birth came about.
And I suspect he wanted to make sure that we knew how it came about because it came about in a way that’s not normal. It is a miraculous birth.
He says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows [here’s the way it happened]: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph...”
Now, that word “betrothed” is sort of a little strange to you and me. When we get married here in America or in the West, we usually date for a little while, figure out we like somebody. Then what we do is we get engaged and we’ve got to tell everybody on Facebook with ring posts and all of that stuff. But, we get engaged. And then what we do is we plan a wedding, and then we have that wedding. Well, it’s similar in the 1st century, but it’s also dramatically different. The betrothal period was not like our engagement period. It was a little different.
When you were betrothed to someone, first of all your marriages had been arranged by your parents. So, where we like someone, or we like the way that they dress or like the cologne or perfume that they’re wearing or whatever it is that attracts us to someone and then we get to know them and fall in love, that was not the way the 1st century worked. Parents would put a couple together, oftentimes without them even knowing who they were going to marry. So, the betrothal period was, first of all, the parents coming together and deciding we’re going to put these two people together.
Then a contract was prepared. What happened is as that contract was prepared, there was a dowry that had to be payed, sometimes by the groom’s parents, but sometimes by the groom himself, to where the bride was purchased in this contract period. And then there would be a period of wait. Now, the marriage was binding as soon as that contract and dowry was paid, but usually there would be somewhere between a six-month to a year waiting period before the couple came together. They were considered married, but they had not consummated the marriage. The biggest reason why they usually would wait was two reasons. One was to make sure that the lady, after five, six, seven, eight or nine months, if she had been with another man and was pregnant, then you would be able to know that that had happened, and the marriage could be called off because she would’ve been unfaithful.
The other thing was that the groom would go and prepare a house for the place where they would go stay. So, there was a period here in between. So, Mary and Joseph are betrothed, but they have not consummated the marriage. And that’s why Matthew says, “Hey, follow me now. This is how it happened.”
“Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together...”
That’s really important here. Matthew’s stressing here that this is how it happened. Make sure you write this down. Understand. This is the way it happened. They were betrothed, but they had not come together. But she was found to be with child. And he’s saying all of that because he wants us to understand there was no union whatsoever between these two people, nor was there a union with anybody else. This was a child that had been born by the Holy Spirit. And that’s why he uses the phrase, “Before they came together she was found with child.”
So, he says, “Here’s the way it happened. They were betrothed. Before they’d come together, she was found to be with child.”
And then he says, “And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”
There’s a lot of things here to unpack. First of all, notice something. Notice that we’re told that Mary’s got a child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph doesn’t know that. What God’s doing, Joseph doesn’t know yet. Maybe sometimes we all are that way. We don’t know what’s going on. God knows what’s going on, but we don’t. But, what we know about Joseph was He was a righteous man. We think of righteousness and we think of somebody who’s holy or somebody who keeps all the laws and everything else. But, to be righteous before God is sort the same word as justice and holiness. All of these words sort of bleed together.
It really has to do with how we love God and love others. Joseph was a righteous man. He was going to do what God had asked him to do, which is you don’t marry someone that’s been a sinner or has committed an infidelity in the betrothal period. So, he was righteous because he was going to do what God said. But, he was also righteous because he loved people. Notice it says he was being a righteous man and he didn’t want to disgrace Mary. He had every right to bring Mary in front of the elders of the community and have her stoned for being pregnant, but he didn’t. He was a righteous man, which means he loved God and he loved others.
So, he was a righteous man and didn’t want to disgrace her. And it shows the character of who Joseph was. And he was going to put her away secretly. He was going to take care of her. He obviously cared for this lady. He was a good man. So, Matthew goes on to say:
“But when he had considered this,”
So, as Joseph is sort of thinking through, and I’m sure that was a traumatic moment for him. I mean, you can imagine if you’re going to get married and you realize that your wife’s pregnant and it’s not you that’s done this, as he’s thinking through this, behold — and, for those of you all who go to Grace, remember: When you’re reading Matthew, when you hear the word “behold,” make sure you go, “Behold!” Because it’s important.
“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”
And this is what the angel said: “‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”
So, Joseph didn’t know what was going on and Joseph acted in a righteous way. Now he knows what’s going on and the angel has specifically come to him and said, “Joseph, you don’t need to be afraid. You don’t need to worry about this. The child that is in Mary has been conceived of the Holy Spirit.”
Notice here that as Joseph is considering how he’s going to address this situation, he’s visited by an angel. And he is assured that no indecency or no infidelity has happened. The angel says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
I often think when I read this how I would’ve responded. Think about this for a minute. You’re told that the wife that you’re going to marry is pregnant and it’s okay. You can marry her. You don’t have to be afraid. This child is not out of infidelity or indecency or anything like that. This is a child that God has conceived in Mary. But, almost to add to insult to injury, and, by the way, not only is this a tough pill to probably swallow for Joseph, the angel says, “And, by the way, you’re not even going to get to name the kid. We already got the name picked out. His name is going to be Jesus.”
I often think, “How would I have responded? What would I have done? I don’t even get to name the child.”
I mean, I think this is a really powerful story.
“‘She will bear a son, and call his name Jesus, because he is going to save his people from their sins.’”
Then Matthew tells us, “All this took place to fulfill what was spoke by the Lord through the prophet.”
Now, I want to just pause here for a minute because this is important. I mean, I don’t think that any words in Scripture are just there just to be there. Notice here that Matthew is telling you and me a lot about what we talk about in terms of inspiration of Scripture. The prophet wrote, but what the prophet wrote was what God had spoken. That’s really important here when we talk about as Christians when we go to Scripture and we think, “Is God speaking to me?”
Notice here it says, “All this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.”
That tells us a lot about how Scripture works. God speaks, but yet it’s through people.
So, the prophet said, “‘Behold, the virgin will be with child and shall bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”
I want you to think about that for a minute. God with us. Not just a person. God with us.
“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”
But just to make sure — because, remember, back in Matthew 1:18 he says, “This is how it happened.”
I mean, he’s making very clear here. I want you to pay attention here. Because listen to what he says here.
“Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”
Listen: “But kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
Matthew is making very clear that Jesus is a miraculous birth and it was a virginal birth. This woman had never been with any man, never laying with any man, and this was a child that God put inside Mary. This was a miraculous child. Matthew goes out of his way to make sure that we understand that.
So, backing up here, as we’ve read the story, and thinking about Christmas, and most of you, probably, are watching this on Christmas morning, what are some thoughts or some things that we can think about today? I mean, today’s going to be a great day. There will be fun around the house, probably, and food and gifts and all of those things. But, when we step back for a minute and start talking about spiritual things, God in our lives, what that means, and what’s the deeper meaning of Christmas here.
I’ve got a couple of thoughts I think that should resonate with you today. Number one: Will you and I be righteous people even when we don’t know what God’s up to? I think that’s a real question. At least it is for me. It’s so much easier to do what God wants me to do when I know that God’s behind it. It’s so much easier. When I don’t know what God’s up to, it’s hard. It’s hard to treat people that maybe you think have done you wrong. I mean, you can imagine the situation here with Joseph. I mean, he’s having to struggle through this. I mean, here’s a wife that’s pregnant. Look at all the ramifications of what’s going to happen in this guy’s life, and he’s righteous even before God speaks to him.
He’s going to do what God has commanded him to do, which is to put her away, but he’s also righteous in the fact that he shows love to others. He’s not going to do it in a way where he stones her. He’s going to do it in a secretive way. He’s going to put her away without any harm to her. Joseph is righteous even when he doesn’t know what God’s up to. And I think that’s a really good question for all of us today, especially in the world that we live in. Are we going to be people that really follow God even when we don’t know exactly what God is up to? The ramifications of that are huge. I mean, that goes to our marriages, that goes to our family lives, that goes to the things that we say and think about other people, that goes to the way we treat our stewardship of the things that we have or our finances. I mean, there’s a lot of things that that really speaks to. Will I be righteous? Will I love God and love others even when I don’t know what God’s up to? Even when it’s something that’s really bothersome to me, or am I going to give in?
Am I going to give in and exact some pain or get something back or get a pound of flesh back for what someone’s done to me? Because I don’t know exactly what’s up. I think that’s a great question to ask and I think it’s something that’s right here in the Christmas message. Hey, are we going to be righteous like Joseph even when we don’t know what God’s up to?
The second thing — and I think this is a huge part of the Christmas Story. Imagine the questions that Mary and Joseph had to field as they followed God. I can’t even imagine all the questions. For Joseph, he has ventured his righteousness — because he’s a righteous guy — and put that on the line, and his ego to do what God has called him to do. I mean, do you think that most people in the 1st century, when they find out that Joseph has this wife, Mary, and they’ve not come together and she’s pregnant, do you not think that if Joseph goes, “Yeah, it wasn’t me,” that they’re going to think, “Oh, no, no. That was God. God did that.”
No. Nobody’s going to think that. They’re all going to think either Joseph’s lying and he did it and he’s lying because he wants to sort of save face and save his righteousness, or something’s wrong with him because he’s not following God’s law because he should’ve put her away. So, Joseph is really going to have to field a lot of questions here to follow God. Mary? Unbelievable. I mean, she has ventured her reputation for purity here to carry the Christ Child. I mean, think about that. She has to live with the stigma the rest of her life that something happened. She slept with someone or Joseph and her sort of went away for a night or something. And none of these things are true. We know what’s the truth, but both of them are going to have to live a life of questions and wonder and family members poking at stuff.
And when I think about that, I think about as we follow God and we do the things that God’s called us to do, if we really are following God and really doing what He’s asked us to do, people are going to ask questions. I mean, why would you love somebody like that? Why wouldn’t you just forgive them? Why wouldn’t you get back? Why would you forgive that? Why would you turn the other cheek?
But, it is. It’s a real question. Are we willing to lay down and to follow God? And the third thing — and I think this is the beauty of it all — is that Jesus is God with us. He is Immanuel. God come in the flesh. He came to humanity. He still comes to you and me today. He’s God in the flesh. Because He’s God in the flesh, you and I can be secure of the salvation that He secured for us, because this is God in the flesh.
Listen: The Christmas story is beautiful. It’s a story of a God who loved the world so much that He came Himself, in our world, in our midst, in our discomforts to come and to save us. I truly hope that as you listen to this and you think through the Christmas story and you see the depth of it and the profoundness of it, I pray that it speaks to you wherever you’re at right now. Whether you’re watching on Christmas morning or you’re watching this three weeks after the fact that it’s posted on a computer, I hope you know that God loves you. Wherever you’re at, I just would ask would you just take a moment with me, shut your eyes and would you pray with me just for a moment to the Lord?
Dear Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that You loved us with this everlasting love. We are so grateful that You came to us. Lord, we would’ve never thought to come to You. You came to us. And Lord, I pray that the Christmas story that we’ve heard here, these few texts that we’ve read together, I pray that they would warm our heart. Lord, I pray that they would teach us some things. I pray that they would challenge us in many ways. And Lord, I pray that if we know You as Lord and Savior, I pray we would just pause for a moment to thank You for the salvation that You’ve given to us.
But, Lord, I also pray that if there’s anyone watching at all that does not know You as Lord and Savior, I pray, Lord, that they would make that commitment, ask You to come into their heart to forgive them of the sins that they’ve had committed, and to have a new creation and a new birth created within them.
Lord, we pray for all those that are watching this. We pray, Lord, for our church family. We pray, Lord, for our internet watchers, our mobile app watchers. Lord, we just pray that this Christmas season we would realize, in the middle of all the commercialism that goes on, that You truly are the reason for the season, and You came so that we could have life and that we could have it more abundantly.
So, Lord, we thank You, we worship You and we appreciate the ability to come together here on Christmas morning, or whenever it is that we’re here, and to think about You and to be reminded of who You are and what You’ve done in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. God bless all of you all. I really, sincerely hope that you have a merry Christmas.
Well, good morning, Grace, and also to the children or the young boys and girls that will be watching this. This is Pastor Chip. This is for families. I want moms and dads and young kids to sit down and gather around, whether it’s a phone, a tablet or your computer. And what I want to do is I want to read to you some of the Christmas story so that everybody, whether you’re young or old, can enjoy this as a family.
So, sit back and just listen to this story. And let’s let it sink in.
It says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for him in the inn.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were all filled with great fear. And the angel said, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you this day is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this is going to be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying,
“‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased!’
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds came together and said, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.”
Listen. It’s Christmas morning and we’ve all sort of gathered around. There’s going to be a great day. You’re going to have things. You’re going to have presents and all of those things. But, the real meaning of Christmas is that Jesus came in a human form so that we could be okay with God. And no matter where you’re at or how young you are, what’s important to understand is that our God, the one that created the heavens and the earth, loved us so much that He sent Jesus so that you and me could be His children. Let’s make sure that we remember that this Christmas morning. As we’ve read the Christmas story, let’s celebrate Jesus and let’s truly understand that He loves us so much that He sent His Son.
If you would — and I know it’s going to be tough for some of you young ones — just shut your eyes for a moment and let’s say a little prayer. And then you can go about enjoying Christmas for the rest of the day. But, let’s all bow our heads. Okay, so, come on. With Pastor Chip, let’s shut our eyes. Okay? And let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us. Thank You for carrying for us. Thank You for sending Jesus. Jesus is really what Christmas is all about. Lord, we love You and we thank You and we praise You for how good You are to us and how great Your love is towards us. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. God bless you.
Hey, Grace. It’s Pastor Chip. We want to come into your household and wish you a merry Christmas. A couple of our kids decided they want to be on camera. So, go for it.
-Hi, Grace Community Church. We’re the Bennett Family. We hope you have a merry Christmas and happy holidays.
-Hi, Grace Community Church. Have a wonderful Christmas.
-[Garbled]. Merry Christmas.
[Chip Bennett]: There we go. So, anyway, on behalf of our family to your family, we really wish you a — ready? Come on, guys. One, two, three: Merry Christmas!