CHRISTMAS DAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 25 December 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-20
IT is a quiet and fresh Christmas morning, and I wonder what the morning of the first Christmas was like, on which the baby Jesus was born into this world. I wonder what those people around baby Jesus had in their minds? Were they overwhelmed with joy of heaven? Were they trying to figure out in their minds what would take place in the world with this infant baby?
Let us come to the place where the baby Jesus was laid in a manger on the first Christmas day and listen to the word of God concerning Him and His coming to us.
[Bible Reading: Lk. 2:1-20]
When you think about the Christmas story in a different point of view, it was a public relations failure! When you pause and consider what this reading of the Scripture tells us is, in modern capitalistic advertising business point of view, a nightmare! Let me explain what I mean. The ‘product’ presented in that stable in Bethlehem in the first century was excellent; but the ‘promotion,’ the communication of it, was hardly professional.
The shining star, singing angels, the visiting shepherds and the Magi (or wise men) tend to throw us off track. To maximise the public’s awareness of this event, it should have taken place like this – the imminent arrival of Jesus has been announced by global news giants like Reuters or Fox or AP; at the arrival of the Christ, CNN allocates all its resources to live broadcasting of the birth, making everyone in the world ready for fanfare and cheers; governments organise their citizens to gather together in their capitals and cities and town squares, waiting for the news, being ready for great fireworks and cheers. But, nothing like this happened on the first Christmas day!
Examining the first picture of the first Christmas based on this viewpoint, I can list this failure in details. Firstly, the audiences who heard the harmony of an angelic choir were a few shepherds in the field at night. Shepherds in the first century Middle Eastern culture were of the lowest socio-economic class. They were simply not the kind of people with whom to market a new idea!
Secondly, the Magi to whom the star appeared were foreigners, Gentiles, which means ‘not-worthy’ people to the eyes of the Jews. We don’t even know which country or countries they were from. They surely were not the kind suitable for promoting people’s awareness of the significance of the baby.
Moreover, Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, were far from being people whose lives catch the public’s attention. Instead, they were a young couple, struggling to make their lives organised. Their struggle had been intensified with an unexpected pregnancy. They were poor, unable to bribe the innkeeper to get a room for the night. Had Joseph been qualified for VISA or Master card!
Why didn’t God have a good advertising agency? The presentation of the first Christmas was all wrong by modern standards of communication. People say that communication today follows a formula of 1/5 message and 4/5s method – in other words, 1/5 product and 4/5s package.
When Jesus came to us, the formula used by God was 4/5s message and 1/5 method or worse. No wonder why people have felt that some flavours should be added to its packaging, by emphasising the angels, shepherds or the wise men. No one would buy it if we let the story stand in its original form.
So, the setting of the stage (namely, the method of communication) has become so primary that the leading character (that is, the message of the Word came in flesh) has become secondary. All secondary parts of the message have received much attention of people whereas the primary message is pushed aside.
A story describes it well. On a Christmas day, a little child saw the manger scene, and objected and said, ‘What’s that sheep doing there? Where’s reindeer!’ Perhaps, that’s what many people see Christmas and its message.
Having said, let me refresh your memory by asking this – to whom did Jesus appear first? Not to the heads of the world or celebrities or rich people, but to ordinary, even the lowest socio-economic class workers, and astrologers. And ultimately to a young couple who had almost divorced over Mary’s unexplained pregnancy did Jesus come.
The next question is this – where was Jesus the Saviour, the Son of God, born? Not in Egyptian capital (an ancient powerhouse), nor in Rome which ruled the whole world in power at the time, but in a place no one really took note, that is, Palestine – and more specifically, Bethlehem, one of the tiniest, insignificant towns of the region. God came into the world with no fanfare, no parades, not even a catchy headline of a local newspaper. God in flesh came to the world with no notice to the public. Simply put, the news of His birth was made in a ‘whisper.’ The greatest message the world has ever known was announced, surprisingly, in a whisper.
The Word of God came in flesh who is the Saviour of the world came in a hushed whisper to a group of nobodies in a world’s remote corner.
This whisper of God’s coming is explained further in John’s Gospel ch. 1. The Apostle John explains that God through whom the world had made came in flesh to the world, yet, the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, and His own people did not recognise Him, nor accept Him.
John tells us that Jews were not the only ones who missed the message, the whole world missed it. And it’s still the same – many people in the present generation miss the message of Christmas.
Why did God come to the world in a whisper? Why does He still speak to us in a whisper? Because whisper focuses on the message, rather than its package. In a world of 4/5s packaging and 1/5 message, it’s easy to be so occupied by the externals and miss the message. Funny thing is that people often enjoy seeing advertisements because they are so well packed, and miss their message or the product they supposed to sell.
A whisper cancels this error and leads the hearing ears, thus, the heart of people to the core of the message. So, not by sight but by hearing, people understand the message of Jesus’ coming to this world. And by believing, they come to Jesus and bow to Him, calling Him ‘Lord’!
A shout passes through people’s mind, but a whisper of God does stay in our heart. How many of us gathered here this morning have experienced such a whisper of God? R. C. Sproul is one of great Christians and Bible teachers of the 20th and 21st centuries, and he shared with people the whisper of God he had heard and lasted in his heart and soul for the rest of his life.
It happened on one of the early days of his college years. R.C. (that’s how people used to call R. C. Sproul) and his friend were going to explore a local bar, and two upperclassmen who were the members of the college football team saw them and motioned R. C. and his friend to join them. Interestingly, those football players were engaged in a Bible study. In that brief, casual Bible study, R. C. heard the words read from Ecclesiastes 11:3 and this is what Eccl. 11:3 says, “If a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.” These words stunned him – as R.C. expressed, ‘it cut him in two’ – because he felt that he was exactly like that tree fallen, rotting and decaying. God spoke to him in a whisper that led him to the core of the gospel message, that is, he was a sinner who desperately needed a saviour!
Similar to R.C., another great Bible teacher of the 4th and 5th centuries was Augustine of Hippo. He was indulged in sins. Then, on one day, he was passing a street, and heard a boy over the fence saying, ‘Take up and read’ (in Latin, ‘tolle, lege’). That voice prompted him to return to his home and read the Bible from Rom. 13:13-14 which reads, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” He heard God’s whisper and fell in repentance and found his Saviour, the Lord Jesus who had come in flesh and laid in a manger!
The shepherds heard the angel’s message, and went to the place where the baby Jesus was laid. They whispered the message they had heard to the ears of Mary and Joseph and anyone else who might’ve been there by the manger. And that whisper lasted in their hearts.
God speaks even today in a whisper to everyone whom He chose to save, and says, “Today, if you hear [My] voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Did God need a good advertising agency on the first Christmas? No. Does He need a good advertising agency on this Christmas day and the following? No. He does not need it as God speaks in a whisper to lead everyone who hears to the message that saves him/her. It brings pardon to all sins and faith in the Saviour Jesus. For this, the baby Jesus was born and laid in a manger on the first Christmas.
So, hear God’s whispering message that tells you a Saviour was born to save sinners from their bondage to sin and free them from the curse of death, thus, have His eternal life.
And hearing this whisper, rejoice in Jesus as His sweet message sweetens your soul! ***