Sunday Messages

Luke 2:1-38 by Pastor Dan Walker
A look at the Christmas story through fresh eyes to see God's grace at work. The birth of Jesus brought God's grace into our world. God's grace is offered freely to every person, but only those who accept it receive its benefits. Grace not only saves people from their sins, it gives them the power to live out God's plan for their lives. We see these characteristics of grace powerfully demonstrated in the Christmas story.
Duration:26 mins 22 secs

Merry Christmas! We’re here to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago. The birth of Jesus one of the two most momentous moments in the history of the world. The Messiah, who had been prophesied for thousands of years had finally come.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The birth of Jesus was a miracle as he was born of a virgin, something that had never happened before and never happened since. His name Immanuel means God with us. God Himself had broken into human history as a baby boy. A baby who was fully human and fully God at the same time. 

Why did God send His only Son to be born and ultimately die in the world He had created? Because the humanity that God had created was doomed, headed for eternal destruction for their own sin. There was no escape, no way to be forgiven. And that’s where God stepped in by sending Jesus.

My message today is entitled “Christmas Grace.” You see, even though God sent Jesus to rescue us, we didn’t deserve to be rescued. We didn’t deserve to be saved from the consequences of our sin and rebellion. Yet, God loved us so much that He sent Jesus, His beloved Son, to a world under the curse of sin. God showed us His extravagant grace. God knew went He sent Jesus as that sweet baby boy, that Jesus’ mission was not just to live among us. But to die for us the most cruel and agonizing death before being raised back to life.

Matthew 1:21 (ESV)  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The name God gave to His Son was Jesus, which means Savior, for Jesus mission was to save people from their sins.

Let’s watch a short video called “Grace in a Manger.” This Christmas, as we remember the well-known Christmas story, I pray that we would see it with new eyes. Let’s be amazed and awed by God’s extravagant grace, far beyond what we could imagine. He gave everything that we might be set free to be His children. When we begin to both comprehend and receive this amazing grace, our lives will be transformed. We will become more and more like the one who came to save us, Jesus Christ. We will be filled more and more with peace and joy as we experience His grace.

So, today, let’s explore three aspects of God’s grace that were revealed in the coming of Jesus into our world.

Unexpected grace

Luke 2:1 (ESV)  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

Almost no one in Israel was expecting the Messiah to appear. Although the Messiah had been prophesied for thousands of years, He was not expected. Yet, God in His sovereign power was moving, using a Roman emperor to set the prophetic timetable into operation. Unknown to Caesar, his census was taking place at just the right time, the time in which Mary was pregnant with baby Jesus. Conceived not by her husband, but through the Holy Spirit. So, God’s grace was unexpected (except by two people we’ll talk about in a few minutes), but it came …

In God’s time

Luke 2:4-5 (ESV)  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.

Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth. But an ancient prophesy in Micah 5:2 prophesied 700 years before that the Messiah would be the birthplace of the Messiah. Undoubtedly Joseph and Mary didn’t know all the Old Testament prophecies, but God was in the process of bringing them sovereignly to pass. The Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, the city of David, as the Messiah was to be a descendant of David. God arranged for the birth of Jesus to be in Bethlehem, fulfilling one of many Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah, through the actions of an unbelieving emperor. Not only did God’s unexpected grace come in God’s time, it also came …

In God’s way

Luke 2:6-7 (ESV)  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.

The Messiah was to be the ruler of the kings of the earth, such as the Roman emperor. You would have thought that the Messiah’s birth would have been in some elaborate palace, accompanied by people of great importance. However, although Joseph searched for an inn to provide shelter for his pregnant wife, Mary, they had to take shelter in some type of barn or cave that housed animals. So, Jesus was born in a humble stable and laid, not in a clean crib, but in a feeding trough for animals.

Jesus’ birth came in the most humble of ways. The creator of the universe, the Son of God, set us aside His heavenly glory to bring God’s unexpected grace to earth. The Jewish people expected their Messiah to come as a conquering King, but He came as a helpless baby boy.

The name Jesus means deliverer, rescuer and savior. That’s what God’s grace does for us through Jesus, grace saves us, it rescues us and delivers us. God reveals His grace to us today in unexpected ways and in His time. God reveals His grace to every lost in this world, in a multitude of ways. He shows His great power and love for us through all of creation. To those who acknowledge Him and seek after Him, He reveals the only way to be saved, through Jesus.

God’s grace is a gift that must be received through faith in order to be applied to our lives. We’ll talk more about how to experience God’s grace for the first time in a few minutes. God continues to reveal His grace to believers, each and every day. It wasn’t easy for Mary and Joseph to deal with the ridicule of being pregnant, seemingly out of wedlock. It was very difficult for the 9 month pregnant Mary and Joseph to make the 80 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but it was part of God’s plan.

Whatever, you’re going through in life today, whether things are going great or not so good, God was to reveal His unexpected grace into your life. Look for it, it’s coming. Back to our story. This unexpected grace that only Mary and Joseph knew about was now going to be …

Grace announced

Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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.  

God doesn’t hide His grace, but announces what was happened through an angel. The birth of Jesus, God’s grace breaking into our world is good news, good news that brings joy. The birth of Jesus is good news, not just for the Jews, not just for the people of Jesus’ day, but for all people of all time. This baby that was born is the Savior, He is Christ, the Anointed Messiah and the Lord, that is to say God Himself. Now who was this angelic announcement made to?

To the unlikely

Luke 2:8-9 (ESV)  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 great fear.

The angel appeared to shepherds who were out in the fields watching over their flock of sheep in the middle of the night. Shepherding was not considered a great occupation in those days. It was hard and dangerous work, protecting the sheep against wild animals and thieves. The conditions were not great either, having to work at night out in the elements. But the announcement of the birth of Jesus came first to these unlikely, lowly and despised shepherds.

Their immediate reaction was not of great joy, but of great fear, the standard reaction when seeing an angel, whose first words were “Fear not.” The angel went on to tell them that they would find the baby in a manger. So they shepherds followed the angel’s direction and travelled to Bethlehem to find this special baby. After they found baby Jesus, just as the angel had said, they spread the news …

Spread joyfully

Luke 2:17-18 (ESV)  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.  

The shepherds began to spread the news of the angelic visitation and finding this baby in the most unusual of circumstances. They told what they angel told them, that this baby was to be the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. And those who heard the shepherd’s story were filled with awe and wonder. This was good news and the shepherds couldn’t wait to share it with others.

Luke 2:20 (ESV)  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Not only did the shepherds share their story with other people, they praised God for everything that had happened to them and had been revealed to them. Of all people, God had chosen to allow them to see not just one angel, but a choir of angels, announcing the birth of the Messiah. They realized they were highly privileged and gave thanks to God.

God’s grace is not meant to be a secret. God reveals it through His Word, through His Spirit, through creation and through His people. God reveals His grace to every person in the world in one way of another. God loves to reveal His grace to the unlikely, the poor, those who are humble and admit they need it. God’s grace is good news. If you’ve really experienced God’s grace in your life, you want to share it with others. It’s brought great joy into your life and you desire to share that joy.

If you struggle to share God’s grace with others, which we all may do from time to time. Take some time to think about and thank God for His gracious gift of Jesus. As you allow God’s grace to fill you with joy, you’ll want to share it with everyone.

Grace confirmed

Luke 2:22 (ESV)  And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

The Christmas story in Luke now fast forwards to Jesus’ presentation at the temple at shortly after his circumcision on the eighth day. Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord. We’re going to see that God had already spoken to others about the coming of the Messiah. Not in some vague futuristic way, but precise prophetic terms. These prophetic voices were going to confirm what the angels had said to Joseph and Mary and to the shepherds. We’re going to see …

Faith rewarded

Luke 2:25-26 (ESV)  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.     

Simeon was a believer, advanced in age, but following the Holy Spirit. The Spirit had revealed to him the amazing truth that he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon believed what the Holy Spirit had shown him. The next verse tells us that the Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the temple the same day and time that Joseph and Mary were bringing Jesus. Simeon immediately knew that Jesus was the Messiah and took him in his arms. He prophesied over Jesus, knowing that God’s promise to him had been fulfilled, his faith over the years had been rewarded. Not only did God speak to a prophet about the coming Messiah, he also spoke to an aging prophetess named Anna who …

Thanks given

Luke 2:37-38 (ESV)  and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.   

God revealed to Anna that that Messiah had come in the form of baby Jesus. When she saw him, she immediately knew who He was and began to give thanks to God that the Messiah had come. Not only did she give thanks, but just as the shepherds, she began to talk about Jesus the Messiah to others who were believing God for His coming. Those who wait and believe for God’s grace to come are rewarded and give thanks.

If you’re a believer here this morning, you have been a recipient of God’s unexpected grace. You didn’t work hard enough to earn it, you weren’t smart enough to understand it, God just brought it into your life in His time and His way and you received it. Maybe your parents told you about Jesus, maybe a church or a friend or you were given a Bible or tract that you read. But in one way or another, God’s grace was announced to you. The baby born 2000 years ago has become your Savior and Lord. Oh, He is no longer a baby, but is the risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Now, just as the shepherds, you have been filled with joy and want to spread the good news to keep the chain of grace growing. Oh, but maybe you don’t feel so joyful this Christmas. Maybe, like all of us, your life is not perfect. Perhaps there are issues in your life with relationships, finances or health. The same grace that brought salvation into your life is there to help you face all of life’s struggles with joy. The one who died to forgive your sins lives to guide, protect and see you through every difficulty of life. He offers His grace to you this morning. Just like Simeon and Anna, choose to believe that God’s grace is bigger than any of your problems and give thanks that He will see you through.