The Wonder of Christmas
INTRODUCTION: As hectic as it’s become, we savor the joy of the Christmas Season. Christmas is a kind of security blanket that connects us to the past. The sounds and sights and smells of the sacred time bring back old memories, and they remind us of a Savior who entered human history in a Bethlehem barn.
Many of us haven't visited a barn for a while. The aroma is anything but holy. Hay makes us sneeze, and insects abound. How strange that the Son of God came to earth in the presence of animals, not of world leaders.
He arrived, not in a palace, but in a stable.
He came in simplicity, not extravagance.
He demanded none of the world's comforts or protections. Jesus came exposed, from the first moment, to all the dangers the world could offer; and so He remained until He was led to the cross.
In Isaiah 9:6 we read, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Would you notice again these words, “…and his name shall be called Wonderful…”
Reflecting upon this verse I believe, too often, we find ourselves so caught up in the busyness of Christmas – the gifts, the buying, the wrapping, the children’s anticipation of what they will be getting, the decorations, the parties, the planning for events and participation in these events, that we don’t take time to reflect on the WONDER of it all.
The prophetic statements in the Old Testament give us some wonder of those who prophesied of Christ’s coming.
What did Moses wonder in Genesis 3:15 where God gave us the first glimpse of the virgin birth, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
What did Isaiah wonder in Isaiah 7:14 when he prophesied of the virgin birth and name of Christ, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Again what did Isaiah wonder in Isaiah 9:6-7 when he prophesied of the first and second coming of Christ, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: (that’s the first coming the next part is the second coming) and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever…”
What did the prophet Micah wonder when he wrote of the birth place of Christ in Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
The first Christmas was certainly surrounded by wonder:
Zechariah wondered in Luke 1:18 how he and his elderly wife could give birth to the fore runner of the Messiah, “And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”
Mary wondered in Luke 1:34, how it would be possible for a virgin to give birth to a baby, “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”
Joseph wondered in Matthew 1:18-25 why he and Mary had been chosen by God to be the parents of the Messiah, verse 20, “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
The shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem wondered about the angels in Luke 2:13-15 that appeared in the sky, and what their message meant, “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
Those in Bethlehem wondered about the story that the shepherds were spreading throughout the city – Luke 2:17-18, “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”
Mary wondered in Luke 2:19 about everything that was happening at the birth of her baby, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
Simeon wondered in Luke 2:25-32 at the blessing of being able, before he died, to see the child-Messiah, verses 27-30, “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, (28) Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, (29) Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: (30) For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,”
Mary and Joseph wondered (marveled) at the words prophesied by Simeon about their baby Jesus in Luke 2:33-35.
The people in the temple in Luke 2:38 that day no doubt wondered about the words of Anna, the prophetess, who spoke about the redemption to come through the baby Jesus.
The magi must have wondered in Matthew 2:1-12 about the meaning of the star they saw, and the baby to whom they brought gifts, and about the dream that warned them against Herod, verse 11 “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
Joseph wondered about his dream in Matthew 2:13-15 that warned him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt to avoid Herod.
Those are just the moments of wonder that are recorded for us in Scripture. What would you and I have thought if we had been living there when the first Christmas took place? How many nights would we have sat up late talking about these events, trying to put two and two together? I believe I can assure you we would have exhibited far more wonder than we do today.
Again as we wonder, we need to remind ourselves of what all this means. During this year’s WONDER of Christmas, let me focus your attention on two verses of scripture that contain a common element, and then a concluding story.
In Matthew 1:21 the angel said to Joseph concerning Mary, "And she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins."
In Luke 2:11 the angels said to the Shepherds, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Just think: over 350,000 babies arrive on the planet every day. That’s nearly 15,000 per hour and 245 every minute. Babies have been arriving nonstop ever since Cain, Abel, and Seth. But none like this Child! Only one baby came as the Savior of the world and that’s the difference. His name was called Jesus because He came to save His people from their sins.
A “savior” is someone who saves – and there are many of those people. But:
There's only one Savior with a capital S; only one who was sent from heaven on a divine search-and-rescue mission, and only one who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
There's only one transcendent Savior, and meeting Him must be our ultimate goal in life.
It's Jesus. His very name comes from the Greek words for Jehovah Saves; and that's why the angels hovering above sleepy little Bethlehem sang: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
In John 4:42, Jesus is called “the Savior of the world;” and the apostle Paul called Him in I Timothy 1:1, "God our Savior."
The Bible tells us He was born to die; He died to overcome death; and He rose again to save us from sin, guilt, shame, despair, and hell. He came to seek and to save those who are lost.
When the Bible uses the words salvation, Savior, and save, it's referring to the total work of God in bringing people from a state of death – hopeless separation from God – to a state of everlasting life – through the forgiveness of sin, based on the merits of Christ Jesus who died and rose again.
Saving us is the greatest and most concrete demonstration of God's love, the definitive display of His grace throughout time and eternity.
In Titus 3:4-7 we read, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Now over time I trust you will remember and marvel at what God has done in the prophetic passages and the lives of those who wondered at the coming of Christ. So let me close this service with the story of “God’s Trees.” I have either seen or read this in a number of forms over the years. I hope you will enjoy it.
Far, far away on a hillside grew a forest of trees, little and big, old and young, short and tall. The trees were very happy with life, as it was on the hillside. They loved the warm sunlight of summer, the spring's cool rains, and the gorgeous red and gold of autumn, and winter's blanket of glistening snow. Sometimes too, they spoke of the future, of the things they would like to do when they grew up, as all little trees do!
The first tree said, "You know, I would like to be a baby's cradle. I think a baby is the sweetest thing I have ever seen, and I would like to be made into a baby's bed."
The second spoke up and said, "That would not please me at all. I want to be something very important. Someday I would like to be a mighty ship. I will be able to take Kings and Queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.”
Finally the third tree spoke up and said, “I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look at my branches and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me.”
Years passed and the trees grew up. One day some woodsmen came into the forest and cut down the first little tree.
"I wonder whether I shall be made into a baby's cradle now. Oh, I hope so, for I have waited so long for my dream to come true," he whispered.
However, the little tree was not made into a cradle, instead, it was hewn down into rough pieces and carelessly put together to form a manger in Bethlehem to feed the animals.
The little tree was heart-broken, "I do not like this at all," he wailed. "This is not what I planned, to be shoved into this dark cave with no one to see me but cattle, sheep and goats."
But God who loves little trees whispered, "Wait, wait, I will show you something wonderful!" And He did for in Luke 2:10-12 the angel said unto the shepherds;
"…Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
In the stillness of the night God had laid there His own Babe; The Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
The manger quivered with delight, "Oh, this is wonderful,' he whispered, "In all my dreams I never thought I would hold a baby like this. This is better than all my planning. Why, I am part of a miracle!"
Out on the hillside, the trees of the forest clapped their hands because their brother, the little manger, had seen his wish come true. Years passed and again men came to the forest to cut down the second little tree.
"Oh, I wonder whether I shall be made into a great vessel now, the little tree thought; "I have waited so long, now perhaps I shall do great things of which I have dreamed."
However, the little tree did not do great things. He was not made into a great vessel, but instead into a tiny little fishing boat, owned by a simple Galilean fisherman named Peter.
The little boat was very unhappy and one day as he stood by the shore of the lake while Peter washed his nets he pondered, "To think that my life has come to this, just a little smelly fishing boat and Peter isn't even a good fisherman."
But God who loves little trees said, "Wait, I will show you something wonderful!" And He did…
For out of the crowd came a person called Jesus, who entered into a little boat and sat down and taught the people. He spoke words of wisdom, beauty, and light to which the multitude and even the little boat listened eagerly. When He had finished He told Peter to launch out into the deep and let down his nets again and there were so many fish that his nets broke.
The little boat trembled not so much from the weight of the fish as with the weight of the wonder in his heart. "This is wonderful," he whispered. “In all my dreams I never thought to carry a cargo like this; "Why, I am part of a miracle, this is better than all my planning."
Months passed and some woodsmen came to the forest again to cut down the third little tree, the one that just wanted to stand on the hillside and point to God.
He was very unhappy, "I don't want to go into the valley," he thought. "Why can't these men just leave me alone?"
However, the men did not leave the little tree alone. No! They tore away its branches, cut into its bark, and deeper into the very heart of the little tree. They hewed it apart and put it together again in the form of a crude, cruel, cross!
The little tree quivered through all its being. This is terrible it cried, "They are going to hang someone on me. Oh, I never wanted this to happen to me, I only wanted to stand on a hill and point to God, and this is awful!"
But God who loves little trees said, "Wait, I’ll show you something wonderful," and He did. For one day outside of Jerusalem, a great multitude had gathered and in their midst was Jesus and beside Him the cross.
"And they led Him away, and they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus…And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him…"
The cross shuddered beneath its weight of agony and shame. Then suddenly, a miracle happened! In Matthew 27:50-54
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. (51) And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent… (54) Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”
The little tree that had become a cross heard, floating down from heavenly places, the echo of a remembered promise found in John 12:31-32, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (32) And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
And the cross began to understand. "This is wonderful," he whispered. "Why, I am part of a miracle. In all my dreams, I never thought I would point to God in this way. This is far better than all my planning."
And so it was, for millions of trees have stood on the hillside through the years but not one of them has ever been able to point a man to God. Only the cross of Calvary can do that.
With Isaiah and millions of redeemed souls, I can testify that Jesus is truly WONDERFUL!
The inspiring hymn "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" was written and composed by Haldor Lillenas in 1918. The reminder of Christ's "all sufficient grace" that is truly "deeper than the mighty rolling sea" and "higher than the mountain" still moves us to stand in awe each time we sing it.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
by it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;
chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty,
for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
by its transforming power making him God's dear child,
purchasing peace and heaven for all eternity
and the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Chorus: Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
all sufficient grace for even me;
broader than the scope of my transgressions,
greater far than all my sin and shame;
and magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!
Again this Christmas season contemplate the WONDER of the "scope of your transgressions" and the forgiveness and love of Christ as He stretches out His hand to you.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “The Wonder of Christmas” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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