“THOSE DAYS & THESE DAYS” Luke 2:1-7
INTRO – What does Christmas bring to us? What are some of the emotions we feel & experiences we have?
– For some, this can be a tough time of year. Depression. Discouragement. Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” is really true for many people. Those in our church family who’ve lost loved ones this past year will have a tough time this year. Need to be mindful of them. Pray for them & reach out to them.
– For some, it’s a time of memories & traditions. My family knows how I am about Christmas traditions – Lake Tiak-O’Khata. Go to Mammaw’s on Christmas Eve. Leave there late at night to drive the 80 miles or so to Pappaw & Granny’s. Watching out the car windows to try & catch a glimpse of Rudolph’s nose.
For all of us who are Christ-followers, this time of year is a time of joy. Christmas carols remind us of this: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – “Tidings of comfort & joy.” We Christians have a whole lot more reason for joy in our lives than anyone else in the world.
– Our reasons for joy are not based on our circumstances, or our material possessions, or our status in society (although we can get distracted by any & all of these).
– Our reasons for joy are not based on things that can change, or things that we can lose, or things that can be taken away from us.
– Our reasons for joy are not based on our intellectual prowess, or our savvy ability to influence others.
Our reasons for joy are based solely upon the truth that, “in those days,” Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the world, entered our world & our lives, & EVERYTHING changed! As Faith Hill sang, “A Baby Changes Everything.” And THIS baby definitely changed everything!
Let’s think about “those days.”
They were days of upheaval. OT prophecy given by Jacob in Gen. 49:10 – “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he [the Messiah] comes to whom it belongs & the obedience of the nations is his.” When we read v. 1 that tells us that Caesar Augustus had issued this decree, it is very obvious that the scepter of rule HAD departed from Judah. Judea was under Roman rule; Caesar Augustus was reigning as emperor; & Herod was the King of Judea, meaning that a foreign power was ruling over Judea. Here are some of the ramifications of that:
– Judea no longer ruled by one of its own princes; now ruled by an alien king.
– The Promised Land was no longer in the hands of God’s chosen people, Israel; it was in the hands of heathen rulers.
– The ruler was no longer appointed by God; he was empowered by Rome.
– The temple was no longer cared for by the prince of God; it was misused under the authority of a foreigner who didn’t care about God’s commands & authority.
– The priests of God were no longer the ministers of God; they were the servants of the secular world.
Pretty obvious that these were days of upheaval.
They were days of uncertainty. When there is that much upheaval, it is accompanied by much uncertainty. Listen to what the great preacher G. Campbell Morgan said about “those days”: “ ‘In those days,’ when the Roman republic had become the Roman Empire, when the Roman people had passed under the despotism of an autocratic ruler; ‘in those days,’ when that autocratic ruler & that empire had bludgeoned the world into submission, when the whole world was crushed under the heel of a despot; ‘in those days,’ the one period in the history of humanity when power vested in one man, had gained…world mastery; ‘in those days,’ …the people were bludgeoned into submission, so that no man or woman, boy or girl dare peep, or chirp or mutter, or call his soul his own or her own, b/c of the despot on the throne; that was the darkest hour the world has ever seen.” (The God Who Cares, p. 50)
They were days of unusual circumstances. Can you think of anything much more unusual than a teenage girl conceiving a child – The Christ-child no less! – by the power of the Holy Spirit &, as a result of a decree from the pagan rulers, having to travel 70 miles right at the end of her pregnancy? Can you think of anything more unusual than this young pregnant mother & her fiancé having to take shelter in a stable? And that this mother would have to give birth in that place & place her newborn son in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals? Can you think of anything more unusual than all of this taking place under the watchful eye of our Sovereign God?
Pretty clear that those days were definitely days of upheaval, uncertainty, & unusual circumstances. A tyrannical gov’t; spiritual confusion; a massive taxation effort – crazy days into which our Lord Jesus was born!
All of this upheaval & uncertainty & unusual circumstances may seem hard & trying & confusing. But none of these things is accidental or coincidental. God’s hand was in it all.
– The rule of the Romans over God’s people & God’s land was part of His plan to draw His people’s attention back to Him, to make their hearts hungry for the coming Messiah.
– The taxation plan of the pagan ruler happened at just the right time & in the right way to move Mary & Joseph to Bethlehem to fulfill the OT prophecy that Jesus would be born there.
– The unusual & lowly circumstances of Jesus’ birth were ordained & used by God to show that Jesus had come for all people. It emphasized the humility of Jesus. He wasn’t born in a palace fit for a King. Wasn’t born in the comfort of a warm home as most children were. He was born as an outsider from the beginning, born in a place of simplicity & humility. This was a foreshadowing of His life & ministry when He would spend the vast majority of His time with those who were the outcasts of society & religion.
Jesus is the LORD of all the universe. John 1:3 – “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” But on this night in Bethlehem, He stepped into our world in the most vulnerable, helpless, humble way possible. And He did it for the glory of God, to accomplish His perfect plan, & to provide the way of salvation for you & for me. Phil. 2:6-8 MSG – “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”
What does all of this tell us? It tells us that GOD IS IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING! John Piper’s Advent devotional from this past Wed.: “…it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people—the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.” (Good News of Great Joy, p. 8)
And that same God who was in control of everything in THOSE days is still in control of everything in THESE days. Is there anything different between those days & these days? Of course, there are differences in modern conveniences, technology, & things like that. But aren’t we still living in days that are full of upheaval, uncertainty, & unusual circumstances? All around us we see people who are living without peace, without direction, without joy, without hope!
JESUS CAME IN THOSE DAYS THAT WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE IN THESE DAYS!
FoxNews.com – “Stars we lost this year” – 20 celebrities who died in 2013 – Several were elderly. Some had cancer & other diseases. But there were also these 4 on the list that stood out to me:
– Cory Monleith, “GLEE”, drug overdose on July 13, right after getting out of rehab, 31 yrs. old;
– Lisa Robin Kelly, “That ‘70’s Show”, 43 yrs old, died Aug 14 in a rehab facility;
– Lee Thompson Young, a former Disney star, committed suicide on Aug 19, 29 yrs old;
– Mindy McReady, country music star, battled drug addiction entire life, committed suicide Feb. 18, 37 yrs old.
Our world is full of people just like these 4. Our community is full of people just like these 4 – people whose lives are in a state of upheaval & uncertainty – people who have no hope & no peace b/c they have no relationship w/ Jesus – people who need help, need love, need support, need direction – people who need you & me to reach out to them.
They need to hear from us & see in us the truth that JESUS CAME IN THOSE DAYS THAT WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE IN THESE DAYS!