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Micah 5 2“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” 3Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. 4And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; 5And this One shall be peace. ...

There’s no historical or biblical evidence that supports December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth. Nevertheless, is there any significance to the story of Jesus’ birth? Matthew and Luke thought so. However, the significance is much greater than a birthday commemoration.

In the gospels, the birth of Jesus is an important event in human history. The implications of this event involve not only the entire world, but people in every age of human history.

I offer two words that may help us understand the significance and implication of our Lord’s birth as it is set out through the gospels of Luke and Matthew.

The Greek word euangelion is the word behind our English word “gospel.” Generically it means “joyful tidings,” or “good news.”

It is used in the Old Testament background in Isaiah as a verb, “to bring good news,” and it is used of the declaration of Jerusalem’s deliverance from bondage (Isaiah 4:9; 52:7). Later it is also used for a wider announcement of liberation for the oppressed (Isaiah 61:1, 2).

The birth of Jesus is an event that calls for joyful tidings and good news because something good and something new has happened. God has come near and our lives will never be the same again. The deity made flesh and born that day is news – nothing like this has ever happened before. It means that a new age has dawned that signals the end of sin and death.

It is news and it is good news. Which calls up the second word: Immanuel. This is the name that Jesus was given at his birth. It is Hebrew for “God is with us.” In this name is wrapped up the whole significance of God made flesh and born into our world and history. Think of the implications of “God is with us.” He is not far away. He is not remote. He is with us. He knows our struggles. He has cast his lot with us. His death is for us. God is not against us, God is with us.

And the name sticks; for even after his death, Jesus is with us. He is raised from the dead. And yet he is still with us. And when we gather around the Lord’s Supper we believe that we not only commune with one another, but we also commune with God. “I am with you always,” said the risen Lord, “even to the end of the age.”

It matters very little what particular day Christ was born. What matters is that he was born. What matters is that he proclaimed the good tidings of the kingdom of God. What matters is that he died for our sins, he was buried, and he rose again on the third day. What matters is that he is with us always and he is coming again to rule once and for all. This is what we proclaim and commemorate every Lord’s Day. It is the truth we live by every day of the year.

Read Luke 1:26-56.

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary she might have been thinking “why me?” Surely she was too young. She wasn’t married, so how was it possible that she should be the mother of the Messiah. She was from Nazareth in Galilee – not considered an important place and certainly not worthy of being the hometown of the savior. As Luke often notes, Mary certainly must have pondered all of this.

But then Mary makes the trip to Elizabeth’s house. They are kinfolk, but they have more than blood in common. Elizabeth is also expecting a child under unusual circumstance. Many would think Elizabeth too old. She’s barren, which many would regard as God’s judgment against her. Elizabeth bears shame since she cannot provide a child for her husband. But now the Lord has been gracious to her, even in her old age. Her shame is taken away.

The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth is a dramatic moment; perhaps Mary no longer felt alone and outcast. Here was an older woman who could understand that God is up to something special in history. But certainly when Mary sees Elizabeth and notices that Elizabeth is the recipient of God’s gracious favor all of her pondering must have given way to a flash of inspiration.

Mary must have realized that she and Elizabeth were in good company. They weren’t the first women who played an important role in God’s history.

Luke has recorded this story about Mary. He may have even interviewed Mary, who pondered these things in her heart. But Luke isn’t just interested in telling us about Mary. He let’s Mary tell us something about God.

Mary sings a song that commemorates what God has always done, what God is doing, and what God will always do:

Mary sings a song of those who are not powerful. Her song is a song from below, not from on high. Her praise is for the God who rearranges the order of things and who looks after the oppressed and the forgotten.

Mary, like Elizabeth, like Sarah, like Hannah, like Ruth, is content to be the servant of God. She humbles herself and lets God lift her up. She is faithful. In the story of Christ’s birth in both Gospels (Matt and Luke) the faithful are distinguished from the unfaithful. The faithful understand that God is working in history to exalt the humble and obedient and to bring down the arrogant and rebellious. And God is doing this by entering into our world. The unfaithful are threatened by this work of God, but the faithful have been waiting for it and welcome it.

It is the faithful who rejoice at the news of the birth of Jesus. It is the faithful who understand what the baptism of Jesus means. It is the faithful who follow the teachings of Jesus. It is the faithful, like Mary, who do not leave Jesus even when he is shamed and humiliated on the cross. When Mary sees her son crucified on the cross she remains true to her song that she sang out over 30 years before. She declared what God has done, what he is doing, and what he will always do. I imagine that she is singing to herself and thinking of Jesus knowing that what she sang about God is still true; namely that ...

Mary is right. Her song sung before Jesus’ birth is still true even at the cross. God does not abandon Jesus to the tomb, but he raises him in glory. Mary’s song is still true today.

Jesus, like Mary, humbled himself. Mary said in response to God’s work: “May it be to me as you have said.” Jesus said: “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 1:38; Luke 22:42.)

The invitation to the Lord is for all the faithful to come. Come and humble yourself in the sight of the Lord – and He will lift you up.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 December 2006

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