Hope Realised – Luke 2:1-20

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Hope Realised – Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Day 2019

 

Hope

What does hope mean to you? Or perhaps a better question is what do you hope for?

I remember 21 years ago as a 28-year-old man that I had a certain hope. It was a good hope, I think a very good hope. For you see I was standing inside St Andrews Cathedral in the city. My best man and two groomsmen were next to me. And there I was waiting (quite confidently I might add) in hope that my fiancé would walk down the aisle very soon. Now my fiancé did a good job making me wait. In fact it was about 30 minutes after the scheduled time for our wedding that the music started to play and down the long aisle she walked. Probably 15 minutes later we said I do and the hope that I had was realised. This hope that Larissa would become my wife, happened. It was a realised hope. But not an ultimate hope.

 

For you see as good as my marriage has been for the last 21 years and as much as I love my wife. One day our marriage will end. One of us will die and go to be with Jesus, in fact both of us will die and go to be with Jesus.  So while getting married  was indeed a good hope it is not an everlasting hope.

 

The Christmas Story

Yet in our passage today, in the Christmas story itself, everlasting hope is what we see. It is the realisation of an everlasting hope. Jesus birth is what all of history had been pointing to. God’s plan had always been this. Not only do we see in Genesis 1 that God created all things, Heaven, Earth, Animals, land, water and humans. We see that it didn’t take long for Adam and Eve to disobey God, and sin entered the world. From that time on humankind has been sinful and there was only ever one remedy for this situation. One way for us to be reconciled with God. One hope for humankind.  It is a much greater, a much larger hope than the things in this world that we set our hearts on. Marriage, a home, university, a career, children. These are all good and noble things. Yet all of these will end. What we read in Luke 2 shows us a hope that will never end.

 

The Good News of great joy for all people…..

Our passage for today starts with Joseph and Mary making their way to Bethlehem, due to the census. For many of us a very familiar story. Mary gives birth to a son and wraps him in long cloths. All in all a pretty normal birth, well apart from the feeding trough and the stable. Though we do well to recognise these unusual parts of the story. The whole account of Jesus’s birth is important. If there was unlimited time or we were doing this talk over a few weeks we would have time to look at each verse and how it is pregnant with meaning. I do however want to make the point that everything that is recorded in the birth narrative in Luke 2 is recorded because it has purpose, and it is how God has designed it. There is nothing in this account of Jesus birth that is by chance. Our Holy and perfect God has ensured that every part of this event is as He wanted it to be. That Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem at the exact time that she is ready to give birth, this was as God had ordained it. Our first reading today was from the Prophet Micah and written some 700 years before Jesus’s birth. Micah 5 tells us that it was Bethlehem where the Messiah was to be born. Verse 2 states; “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.” That Jesus is born in a stable and not in a palace, that is was a humble birth where he was then laid in a feeding trough. These things are not coincidence. They are the perfect will of the Father. Verses 1 to 7 are important as Luke shows us that what had been foretold came to be. Still it is not really until Luke records the Angels’ words in verses 10-12 that we are able to get to the complete meaning of this birth.

 

The Explanation…..

Let’s have a look at the angels words together, because these words specifically point to why at Christmas we remember a baby born in a stable. Why at Christmas we celebrate a Jesus’s birth.

 

In verse 8 The Angels appear to the shepherds and the shepherds are petrified. Fair enough, that seems to be the usual greeting when an Angel turns up, and I dare say we would have the same reaction if an Angel appeared right now in front of us! The angel seeing this, responds with these words. Verse ten, “Do not be afraid,(for) I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (For) Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Jesus the Messiah; the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

These three verses are linked, in fact the NIV Bibles that we read from have omitted the word for. This is shame, as the word is there in the original Greek and is useful to know so that we don’t read these verses separately. They are meant to be read in light of each other.

 

So there is the birth, then there is the meaning of this birth, the explanation of this good news of great joy, which is for all people. The Angel was specifically giving this message to the shepherds, to let them know that Jesus had been born and that he had been born for them. Because these verses are joined, we know that it was indeed for them, but not for them alone, it was for all of God’s people. So the Angel says that this birth, the one who has been born to you. That’s an interesting line isn’t it. We would normally say that the baby was born to the parents, but the angel is making this about the shepherds and all of Israel, and in a real way that means it is also about us. Jesus was born for all people. This is different to every other birth. I have three beautiful children, but none of them was born for all people, none of them was even born for all people in Australia. Jesus birth however, effects everyone. It really can be said that Jesus was born all people. That is a much bigger larger hope. This wasn’t just something that the Angel said to the shepherd in a field on the night that Jesus was born. This is actually what God’s chosen prophets had been writing about for hundreds of years.

 

Luke the writer of this Gospel, this 1st century biography of Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering what this good news is. In fact we see it spelt out in the very next verse.

verse 11 “For today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” The explanation contains three reasons why Jesus birth is Good news of great Joy for all people.

 

  1. Saviour

First of all this baby named Jesus, is called Saviour. The baby that has been born is born a saviour. He will save humankind. The idea of Saviour here is intended by Luke to be seen as a rescuer. Jesus is, as Darrell Bock says, “God’s deliverer for God’s people.” We see this in our earlier Micah passage that was read for us from our booklet. The Prophet Micah prophesised this message some 700 years before Jesus birth. We saw that the shepherd of God’s people would be born in Bethlehem and his greatness will reach the ends of the earth and he will be their peace.  And that is exactly what happened. Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin of the world. So Jesus was born as Saviour. This was his role, which brings us on to the second reason.

 

  1. The Christ

Secondly, the angel says that this baby is Christ.  Now I’m sure that most people know that Christ is not the surname of Jesus, however it is good to unpack this. If it was John Smith that had been born in the stable, then we would probably assume that his dad was Mr Smith. Yet the word Christ is not a surname, it is a title. Christ is the Greek translation for the word Messiah.  Christ or Messiah means God’s anointed one. So Jesus is the anointed one of God. This means that Jesus is the one sent by, chosen by God, to be King, to be the ruler of the world.

 

  1. Jesus Christ the Lord

Thirdly, this Saviour, this anointed one is the Lord. That literally means that Jesus is God, he is as the Angel says; the Lord. God come to earth. The Chatswood Baptist Singers a few minutes ago sang the song Immanuel. Which literally means ‘God with us’. This is what happened when Jesus was born. God came to live with his people. God sent his own Son. John 3:17 says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This is the Good News. Well I think it is great news. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. Immanuel, God coming to live with his people.

 

For without this birth there is no chance for anyone. This birth isn’t just important, it is the single most important birth that there has ever or will ever be. For without this birth there is no salvation, there is no hope.

 

As gentiles (or those that aren’t Jewish) before the birth of Jesus we were excluded from being in relationship with God. That means that there was no hope. This though changed with the birth of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians makes this point well when talking to non-Jewish believers in the Church in Ephesus when he says “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Jesus birth brought hope into the world for all people. It brought a sure and certain hope. God himself came to live with us and to make a way for us to be with him. The good news of course isn’t just confined to the birth of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record for us much more than Jesus birth. In these accounts of the life of Jesus we see that he lived a perfect life, he was without sin. That he obeyed the Father in all things. He healed the lame and cured the sick. Jesus then willingly died on a cross for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. He died on a cross to take the punishment that we deserved. As we read in 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit.” And three days later God raised him from the dead and he now sits at the Father’s right-hand side interceding for us. Jesus’s birth means that we can now have a relationship with God. Where we were once alienated, we now have a realised hope. Those three reasons that the Angel spoke of for this birth being important remain throughout the Gospels. Because of Jesus’ birth we have hope. We have hope because he is saviour, because he is Christ and ultimately because he is God.  This is indeed great joy for all people.

 

 

 

The Christmas message is one of pure hope. Of perfect love. Of Joy, of peace.

This is God’s perfect plan put into action. If we really understand the Christmas message, not the worlds’ Christmas message, but God’s Christmas message, then it is one that changes our sorrow to joy, our hopelessness to hope. Our anxiousness to peace.

It’s not like a 28-year-old waiting at the front of St Andrews in hope for his future bride to arrive.  This hope is realised. Jesus’s birth heralded the greatest ever hope for humankind. In fact Jesus’s birth heralds the only lasting hope for humankind. This hope is available to everyone. It is just a matter of putting your trust in Jesus. As John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This Christmas I pray that you would know the hope that only comes from knowing Jesus.

 

There is one final verse to dwell on as we remember Jesus birth. Jesus birth caused the Angels to burst into praise and we see in verse fourteen, when together the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace in whom his favour rests.”

 

Before Jesus was born there was no hope, no future. I believe that nothing could be more significant than what happened at that very first Christmas. God himself came to be with us. The creator with the creation. What this means Is beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Jesus birth was God’s plan. It wasn’t a mistake. This was the only plan. Jesus came that we might have etrenal life.

 

 

God invites all people to have hope in his Son. The only question that remains is will you join the Angels in worshipping the true King? Let’s pray.