Main Idea: The four accounts of the life of Jesus invite us to believe the Good News of Jesus.
Do you have any memories of opening presents as a child? One year for Christmas, when I was, I think, 9 or 10 years old, I vividly recall that I received a remote control race car, a box of magic tricks, a slicky, and a package of socks.
Now, I think I asked Santa for the remote control race car and the box of magic tricks, and everyone loves a slinky, so that was okay too, but I wondered, “where did the socks come from? Why am I getting socks?” But then I remember looking down at my feet, and I saw my big toe sticking out of a hole in my sock. So apparently, Santa knew what I really needed.
Now, my life is not newsworthy, so this would never happen to me, but if four reporters were at my home that morning to report on what I received that Christmas, and one of them were to say, “He got a remote control race car,” and another were to say, “He got a box of magic tricks,” and another, “He got a slinky,” and the last, “He got a package of socks that he really really needed,” who would be right? Well, they would all be right, right? There were four accounts of the same event, and while they all reported different details, they all reported what really happened.
The Bible is the same way. In the Bible, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus: the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each one of them tells us many of the same stories, and each one emphasizes the story of Jesus in a unique way. This morning we’re going to look at how each of the four gospels helps us to worship God by telling us the story of Christmas.
So let’s pray, and then we’ll dig into how the Bible describes the birth of Jesus.
Father, as we read Your word this morning, and as we reflect on the first Christmas, help us to be in awe of Jesus. Help us to see how perfect, and powerful, and good Jesus is, so that we might all rest in Him, have faith in Him, and have perfect joy and peace in Jesus. In His name we pray, Amen.
Even though it’s the last of the gospels, and was probably written after the others, we’re going to start this morning with the book of John because it addresses events that actually took place far before Jesus’s birth on the earth. Usually when we talk about Christmas, we talk about what happened on a night 2,000 years ago. And, of course, we’re going to look at that this morning. But when the book of John addresses the idea of Jesus being born on the earth, John backed up all the way to before the beginning of the earth. Because the thing is, Jesus has no beginning, and Jesus even existed before the earth began.
John wrote about this in John 1:1-3. It says:
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. (John 1:1-3)
Now skip down to verse 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. (John 1:14)
So John is clear that this Word with a capital ‘W’ is Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, and is God in the flesh. So the thing that John tells us about Christmas is that the birth of Jesus was not the beginning of Jesus. In reality, Jesus is the beginning of everything.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes even a good story is hard to follow? I just finished reading “Les Miserables,” and it was a great story!
But it took me a really long time to finish, and that’s because sometimes it was a little hard to follow. It was full of French history, and politics, and wars, and I just didn’t see how it related all that much.
When little kids are just starting to read, and have short attention spans, the author adds a lot of pictures to help them to stay focused and also to help them to understand more of what they read. I guess what I’m saying is that I think I could have finished Les Miserables a lot faster if only it had a few pictures in it! It was a great book, but it needed some good illustrations.
That’s part of what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to illustrate what God’s Word is.
This is what we call the doctrine of the incarnation. It means that God, who has always existed and is Lord over all, at a moment in history, took on human flesh, so that we might see His glory, which is full of grace and truth. This truth alone ought to fill us with such a reverent awe of Jesus that consumes our whole lives and causes us to want to live for Him alone. I mean, God Himself, became one of us, so that we could know Him, and be saved from our sins and saved from hell, by grace through faith in Him.
It’s interesting that so many people celebrate Christmas, but so few people actually celebrate Christ. Most of you know that I teach English to children who live in China. To teach them English, we talk about various topics. Some of the lessons that I teach deal with various holidays, and one of those holidays is Christmas. And whenever I ask the children why people celebrate Christmas, so few of them know that it’s about Jesus. Most of them think it’s about Santa and presents.
And I’m sure that a lot of that has to do with China’s culture, and how atheistic they are as a country, but I wonder if we were to ask the same thing in our country, just how many children in America would know what Christmas is really all about?
Church, we have a great privilege and responsibility to celebrate Christmas not just with presents and meals and parties, but by celebrating the birth of Jesus.
So let’s look at that story. We’ll be reading it from both Matthew and Luke, reading them together to make one chronological story. Starting with Luke 1:26:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
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. (Matthew 1:18-25a)
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 them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:25b)
Now, obviously there are other parts of the story that we could also read, such as when Mary visited Elizabeth and when the wise men visited Jesus, but that’s the main story.
And I hope that no matter how many times you’ve heard that story, you still see how precious and perfect it is. Every detail of the story of Jesus’s birth was orchestrated by God so that it fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, and it all came about at just the right moment in human history.
We’ve been talking these last few weeks at church about how good the gospel is. The angel announced that the birth of Jesus was good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. So, we have a bunch of people gathered online this morning. If the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy that shall be for all the people, and we’re some of those people, then it seems reasonable to say that we should all have great joy in the good news. So, take a few seconds to rate your joy on this joy-o-meter.
How much joy do you have? Do you have no joy, or great joy, or somewhere inbetween? Maybe you have some joy when you see your family open presents, but little to no joy when you couldn’t have a big gathering this year because of Covid-19. Or maybe you have a lot of joy because this is ‘Merica and you’re having a big family get together anyway, but your joy turns to anger when you turn on the news and see the media and some of our government officials telling you that you made a bad choice. Does your joy change based on your circumstances?
The angel didn’t say that Christmas would be good news of great joy only when everything about Christmas goes the way you want. And he didn’t say that it would be good news of great joy only when you felt particularly joyful. He said that the birth of Jesus would be good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. Period.
And I think “all the people” means literally all the people from all past, present, and future. Jesus’s birth is good news of great joy for Adam and Eve, who could only be saved through the birth of the promised seed. It’s good news of great joy for all people living in the year of Jesus’s birth, in 0 AD. And it’s good news of great joy for all people living this year, in 2020. It was good news in the middle of the great depression, and it’s good news for the people in North Korea today, who so desperately need to hear it! It’s good news for everyone who’s ever been on the path to hell, and that’s all of us.
You see, we’re all sinners. And we all need the Savior. And the birth of Jesus means that the Savior has come for all the people.
That brings us to the book of Mark. Now, like John, Mark actually doesn’t include the birth of Jesus specifically, but it does say this. Mark 1:1
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
And that really is the most important part. The gospel is not merely that Jesus was born, but that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, who is the Son of God who came to bring us the Good News. That’s the emphasis throughout the book of Mark. In Mark, we see the story of the Savior who came to fulfill His purpose. So we read in Mark 10:45 a great summary of Jesus’s purpose.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
This is the point. The good news of great joy is not just that a baby was born, but that that baby would grow up and serve us and give His life for us.
So, be joyful of what God has given you. Receive His gift. And then remember: “Freely you have received, so freely give.” Because you have great joy, others will see an illustration of God’s “grace and truth” in you, and then hopefully know and receive the meaning of God’s Word, who is Jesus.
Have you received Him? Because I think it’s one thing to say that you know Jesus, but quite another to live like it. And I’m not talking today about how often you go to church or read the Bible, although those are certainly things that Christians ought to want to do. I’m talking this morning about joy. Do you have joy in Jesus, no matter what else is going on in the world?
Truly give your life to Him, not holding anything back, and Jesus will fill you with great joy, and abundant life.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)
What do we mean when we say that the gospel is good news? Do we treat like it’s good news? This series will explore how the gospel truly is good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. Sermons: November 29, 2020: Anointed to Bring Good News (Isaiah 61:1-4) December 6, 2020: Good… (read more)