One of the great blessings we have, as Christians, is four stories about Jesus. We have been given, within the Scriptures, four accounts of the Christ. We are privileged to possess four ancient documents which tell us of the Son of God. We are blessed with… Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!
Each of the four stories has a different flavor. Each has a different feel. Each has a different purpose. But each of the four Gospels are all about the same Jesus Christ!
--Matthew tells us about a King who is bringing his upside-down kingdom to this earth.
--Luke tells us about a humble servant who changes the world.
--John tells us about a pre-existent God who becomes one of us in order to bring… eternal life.
--Mark is more subtle. Mark is mysterious. Mark presses us with the question… “Who do you say I am?” Wow… next year, as we study the Gospel of Mark, we are going to ask…”Who do you say Jesus is?” Mark wants you to answer the question… Who is Jesus? That could be the most important question you ever ask? Your life depends upon how you answer the Jesus question. I am excited about our study “Who do you say I am?” in the Gospel of Mark in 2017. Coming to a church near you.
But this morning the point of this sermon is… It is a wonderful blessing to have four Jesus stories. All the intellectuals are nodding their heads.
And since it is beginning to look a lot like… Christmas. We are going to explore Christmas in the four Gospels. It is wonderful to have four Gospels because of four different Christmas stories. Did you notice how slick I am, mixing textual criticism with the Incarnation.
When we hear the Christmas story we typically get a synthesized version. Usually, we get Matthew and Luke crunched together to form one story. We see nativities with shepherds and wise men and donkeys and camels and baby Jesus all in the same barn. That didn’t happen at the same time, the wise me were a year or so later. We usually crunch Christmas. I suppose that is okay. But I think you might lose something in the crunching.
So, this morning let’s un-crunch the stories. Let’s individually listen to the four Gospels tell us who Jesus is in his birth. “Who do you say I am… at my birth?” That sounds fun.
Let’s begin our un-crunching with the Gospel of John… Here is Jesus at Christmas in the Gospel of John…
Note: John does not talk about Bethlehem or Shepherds or Wise guys… John starts before all that…
ESV John 1:1-5,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus was before Christmas. Jesus was before creation. Jesus was before everything. Jesus existed with God, as God.
But here is the Christmas story in John… Light became flesh. Light came to this earth. That light, which is God, entered this world as human. That Light brought life to this earth.
Imagine a comet streaking across the sky. Imagine the light of that comet entering Mary. Imagine that light being born a bundle of life. That bundle of baby-Jesus-life is the glory of the Father. In the Old Testament the glory, the Shekinah of glory dwelt in the Holy of Holies. At the moment of incarnation, the glory of God’s light indwelled Mary’s womb. As that glory was born into this world He brought grace and truth and, most importantly, LIFE!
I like Christmas lights. Everyone likes Christmas lights. This year, let me suggest, you go out one night looking for Christmas lights. Every Christmas light proclaims… The Light Shines in the darkness. The Word became flesh! The light became Life.
As you see a Christmas lights, say… “The life was the light of men.”
Let’s go to Luke and un-crunch Christmas…
In Luke there is also a lot going on before Christmas…
--Zechariah is visited by an angel. A boy is promised to him.
--Mary is visited by an angel. A boy is promised to her.
--Elizabeth doesn’t get an angel she gets the boy… John the Baptist.
--Mary sings the Magnificat.
--Zechariah’s prophecies… "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”
Then we get to Christmas in Luke.
ESV Luke 2:1-7 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quir-in-i-us 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 them in the inn.
Luke’s Christmas is humble.
--Jesus is born while on a business trip.
--Jesus is born in a barn.
--Jesus is made into a swaddling burrito.
Then Luke tells us more humble stuff…
ESV Luke 2:8-18 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 filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a 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 the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and 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.
There are shepherds out in the field working on Christmas Eve. Lowly shepherds get the news. This is not the announcement you would expect for the King of Kings. But it sets the stage for his entire ministry. Jesus gives sight to the blind. Jesus steps to the lame. Jesus gives freedom to the possessed. Raises the dead. Jesus ministers to the marginalized. Jesus, Savior of the humble.
This year as you see a Nativity Scene, say, “And this will be a sign for you.”
Matthew is up next. Let’s un-crunch Matthew.
ESV Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
ESV Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
ESV Matthew 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Kings are prophesied. Kings are worshipped. Kings are given presents at their birth. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is King. But he is more than just another earthly king. Jesus is the King who is God with us; Immanuel! This king invades the earth with an upside down kingdom!
So this year, as you open your presents, I hope you get gold, frankincense or myrrh. But if get something else… I want you to say, at least once, as you open a gift… “We have come to worship him.”
Let’s now go to Mark… Mark has no preexistence of Jesus. Mark has no shepherds. Mark does not have gold, frankincense or myrrh. All Mark has for Christmas is a single word…
ESV Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The word Mark uses for Christmas is… Gospel.
The Greek word is euvagge,lion … Eu is good. angelion is angel or message… The good angel. The message is good. We have the good message!
--The good here is not good like beautiful – that is the Greek word kalos
--The good here is not good like right or truth – that is the Greek world agathos
--The good eu is like well… that which makes this better…
It is the well done
Do good to the poor
Living a pure a good life
That it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land
Good Message is a message that is going to make your life rich, better, whole, worthwhile… it is life-changing good news!
Wow… Christmas in Mark is the beginning of the life-changing, the life-giving, the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, came to this earth to be the Christ to be the good message!
Mark has a word for Christmas… euvagge,lion!
Here is where Mark shines at Christmas. The Gospel of Mark has no Christmas. People around us may not have Christmas. Not everyone has Christmas. There may be people you encounter who do not have the euvagge,lion of Christmas;
--who do not have the life of light,
--who do not have a humble Savior,
--who do not have the Immanuel King,
--who do not have the good message…
When you run across such a person I want you to say, to pray… “The beginning of the gospel.” Offer a prayer for the gospel to make a beginning in that person’s heart.
The power of Christmas in Mark is the good message of a powerful Son of God who can give them the well done life!
I have a gift… Here is a Christmas Card with the four Gospel Christmas sayings…
--When you see Christmas lights… “The life was the light of men.”
--When you see a Nativity…“And this will be a sign for you.”
--When you open a gift…“We have come to worship him.”
--When you encounter someone without Christmas you pray… “The beginning of the gospel.”
We now have all four gospels un-crunched. Let’s crunch them back together again…
The Word, who is God, came like a comet of light to impregnate a girl named Mary who gave birth to a humble Savior, born in barn, praised by shepherds and wise men which gives us a good message.
We are truly blessed with four stories of Christmas.
December 18, 2016Los Alamos Church of Christ