“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
1. Read verses 1-3. What decree does Caesar Augustus issue? (1) Who is the governor of Syria? (2) What must everyone do? (3) How does Caesar’s decree help to fulfill one of the prophecies in scripture? (Micah 5:2)
2. Read verses 4-7. Why does Joseph go from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, Bethlehem? (4) Why does Mary accompany him? (5) What happens while they are in Bethlehem? (6) Why does she place her first born son in a manger? (7)
3. Read verses 8-12. Who are there in the field nearby and what are they doing at night? (8) Who appears to them and how do they respond? (9) What do the angel say to the shepherds? (10-11) What do you think the good news of great joy might be? (10) Who is born in the town of David?(11) What will be the sign given to the shepherds? (12)
4. Read verses 13-14. What happens after the angel speaks to the shepherds? (13) What does the heavenly host say as they praise God? (14) What do you think is meant when they say “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests?” (14)
5. Read verses 15-20. What do the shepherds say to each other when the angels leave them? (15) Who do they find? (16) What do they do after they see the baby? (17-18) What does Mary do with all these things? (19) What do the shepherds do as they return to their flocks? (20)
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Merry Christmas! How are you today? I know everyone is happy because Christmas day is coming up. Christmas day means exchanging gifts, having family time together and enjoying holidays. So we are very happy. Today we will find true source of our happiness. The title of today’s message is “This will be a sign to you.” It comes from verse 12. May we read this verse together. ““This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Let’s pray. (After prayer)
Suppose you go to an unknown place and lunch times goes and you want to find a good restaurant and enjoy your lunch. How can you find a good restaurant during lunch time? (Somebody in the audience says something) Excuse me? What can be the sign of a good restaurant? (People say this and that.) Right! The restaurant which has a lot of customers and it is a good restaurant. There are reasons why a lot of people go to a certain restaurant. So I would drive streets and see a restaurant which has a lot of customers and I will go there. And usually that is right.
For the last two Sundays we hear Christmas messages. The first message was the message of Mary. The angel came to Mary and said “You will have a child even though you are virgin.” Last Sunday we heard Zechariah’s song which describes Jesus as the horn of salvation and a rising sun. Finally the time came for Jesus to be born in today’s passage. Then he was born in Bethlehem, the town of David. Because Caesar August issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, and everyone had to go to their own town to register Mary went with Joseph to register in the town of Bethlehem. God uses even the powers of the worldly rulers like Caesar August to fulfill his promise to bring his Savior in the town of Bethlehem. When Mary gave birth to a son she wrapped in a cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them. And then God delivered the Christmas message to shepherds who were living out in the field watching over their flocks at night. And the angel’s message was, when the angel appeared to the shepherds and the glory of God shone around them they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. Today I will bring a good new that will cause ..” I forgot. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Today we want to think about ‘why a baby in a manger can be the sign of the Savior.’ This is one verse message. Question. “How can ‘a baby in a manger’ be the sign of the Savior?” Answer: ‘A baby in a manger’ can the sign of the Savior because it shows Jesus’ incarnation and his poverty. The first part is ‘baby’ and the second Part is “manger”.
Part I. ‘A baby’ can be a sign of the Savior because it shows Jesus’ incarnation.
There is a story that shows why a baby Jesus’ incarnation, God becoming human, is the sign of the Savior.
There was a man living in a farmland. He is atheist. He did not hesitate to say people that I am atheist. I am not interested in religion and I am not interested in religious holidays. But his wife was a very devote Christian and she raised up her children as believers of Jesus. Around the Christmas time she and her children would go to a evening Christmas service. And she invited her husband. And he refused to go with her. So he decided to stay at home and enjoy fire in front of him. When he looked out the windows he saw snow began to come down. Soon after wind grew rough and the snow become snowstorm blizzard. He was trying to figure out but he could not see one inch further. After a while he heard a loud ‘thumb’ sound twice. And he tried to look at it but he could not see. So he could not figure out what was going on. The snowstorm blizzard was so hard that he could not go out. So after the snowstorm became a little bit slow he went out to see what was going on. This is what he saw. In front of his yard, it is spacious because it is a farm yard, wild geese were trying to find to the South. But since they were caught by the snowstorm they did not know what to do. So they were flying in low circle but all aimlessly and blindly. And two of them hit his windows. Obviously there were on their way to the South, the warm country but they were caught by snowstorm. And they were cold out there without any shelter and food and they could not survive long time. So when he saw a flock of wild geese compassion arose in his heart. He felt sorry for them. So he wanted to help them out. And he remembered he had a large barn which is large and spacious and he can feed them too. So these wild geese caught by snowstorm would die sometime later in cold can be invited and take rest in his barn where there is warm and safety and food. So he went out and opened the door of his barn widely, thinking that they will notice. But this bunch of wild geese did not know why he opened the door of his barn widely. But none of them came into his barn. So he thought a while and he went into his house and brought a bread. He made a bread crump. He made bread crump trails leading to his barn, hoping it worked. But these geese did not pay attention to it. Finally he went out by himself and behind this bunch of wild geese he tried to shoo them. But the more he tried to lure them into is barn the more they were scared. And they began to fly to all directions except the direction of his barn. He thought, ‘why can’t these geese find out what is going on? Why can’t they understand I am trying to help? Finally it dawned on him these geese would not follow a human. The only way for him to help these bunch of geese was for him to be one of them and lead them to the barn. At that moment he realized why the almighty God lowered himself and became a human. All the years of doubts in his heart melted away in a blinking second and he knelt down on his knees and offered his first prayer, “Lord, thank you for being a human to save me from this snowstorm.”
Figuratively speaking we are all like these wild geese caught by snowstorm blizzard. We want to fly to the South, the warm county, but we are trapped by snow and we don’t know what we are doing like trying to fly blindly and aimlessly. God is like this farmer, doing his best to save but we would not notice. That is why the Savior became a human baby. And that’s why is the ‘baby’ can be the sign of the Savior.
Now Jesus the Lord becoming a human also reveals one more thing. He understands our needs and agonies. Jesus became a man, a baby and he grew up as a human. So he is familiar to our agonies.
There is one father who has a agony for his son. His son is limping very severely. What happened was when his son was born he was born prematually, several months ahead of due time. Now since his son was born so early that he came out before his lung was formed and he was able to breathe. So they put him into a incubator. Somehow during those time there was a time when he could not take a proper oxygen. So there was damage in his brain. As he grew up his father found out that the damage appeared in limping leg. When he went to a school young children do not know that they treated him harshly like an abnormal animal. So this son’s problem was the great agony of the father.
One day he reached the rock bottom of his life and he had a dream. In his dream he met Jesus Christ. The man did not say ‘I am Jesus Christ’ but he knew he was Jesus. And two Hollywood movie stars like Tom Cruse and other guy invited him to their car and invited him to their party in Hollywood. And inside of the party house he met Jesus. (Laughing) Interesting story. Anyhow inside of a house there was a small closed section and when he went over it he found bunch of people were doing drugs. So he wanted to escape the house but these two Hollywood stars did not allow him to leave. Anyhow in the middle of these things happening Jesus asked him, “Do you have a question?” Immediately without realizing the father was saying, “Lord, do you know my son?” As soon as he spoke the sentence something like TV screen appeared in front of his eyes and the screen shows his son who was sleeping on his bed, turning to the right and turning to the left.
Jesus didn’t say anything to his father, but the father was convinced that Jesus not only knew his son but also he watched over his son all throughout the night whenever he slept. Although he was the father he was not able to watch over his son, how he slept all through nights. But Jesus watches over his son all through the night even when his son was sleeping. The father was fully convinced that Jesus knew his agony and the agony of his son and he was greatly comforted. When he woke up from his dream nothing had been changed. But he knew Jesus comforted him. Jesus knew his agony. He knew his biggest trouble.
I was also greatly comforted when God sent my daughter Mary to Harvard Law School from this semester. So many people came to me and wanted to know how it happened. “Did she study well in high school? How did it happen?” I also didn’t know much about how it happened. I know it happened. But one things came to my mind though. It was the sign that Jesus knew my agony and the agony of my daughter Mary.
What happened was born I was told “Father is responsible for discipline” which is true. But I really accepted it. So I watched over her for discipline. I ended up looking for her mistakes and shortcomings. On top of them, this is worst part, my hot temper flared up all the time. And she had a strong character, stronger than that of mine. When she was born 3 days later we brought her home to help her for breast feeding. She was only three days old. But she refused. We brought specialist to help her to enjoy breast feeding, but she refused. I saw the color of her face was coming purple but she refused. Anyhow when she grew up I was only giving her hard time. I was only violent and abusive. Still after all these years her words are ringing in my ears. “Daddy what should I do? Daddy what should I do?” whenever she became from school. She kept asking me, “What should I do?” while we were living in Long Beach. I could have been kind to her, saying, “Darling, sorry, but I cannot spend time with you. Can you find to do something like homework?” But I yelled and shouted at her. “Why can’t you do…? Just do what you want to do. Get away!” I was violent and angry man. Actually I was angry at myself because of my sin problem. So since I was mad at her all the time and I only rebuked her and disciplined her and was violent at her, she asked me more than million times, “Daddy are you angry at me? Daddy are you mad at me?” so many times. When she asked me, “Are you mad at me?” I should have told her, “I am sorry but I am not mad at you.” But I became mad more saying, “Why do you keep asking me, ‘Daddy are you mad at me?’ when I am not mad at you. How can a father be mad at his daughter all the time? But that was who I am. I didn’t know what was happening to her. To her, I was her father, source of her security. And this father, the source of her security is always mad at her, always trying to correct her, always trying to beat her and abused her. It was impossible for her to bear such agony.
Later when I came back to my senses I realized, “Oh, my God! It is only by the mercy of God she did not become a mental patient or she did not leave my house.”
And God sent her to Harvard Law School and I know it is the message of comforts for her and for me. God’s message for me is this: “I know how painful it is! I know how much you are agonized over this matter. You cannot change it. But I am comforting you. Despite all of your hot temper and your sins I did not treat you as your sin deserves. I remembered your little struggle to serve me. And I am comforting you by sending your daughter to Harvard.” To Mary this is what probably God is saying to her, “Mary, you did not have your father’s love. I am compensating even a little bit for your father’s love by sending you to Harvard.”
Jesus became a baby. He became a human. So he understands our agony. Surely to be born as a baby can be very sign of the Savior because Jesus who is God became a human. To lead us into his kingdom, the warm, safe place where food is abundant under snowstorm blizzard.
Apostle Paul who met Jesus very personally practiced Jesus’ incarnation, God becoming man, in this way.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 responsively. I will go first.
“19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Jesus became a human in order to save us. And Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” So ‘a baby’ can be the sign of the Savior because it shows Jesus’ Incarnation, God becoming man, human.
Part II. “A manger” can be a sign of the Savior because it shows Jesus’ poverty.
Do you know what is manger? (Showing the picture in the power point). When the mother gave her firstborn, her son, she wrapped in cloths and placed him in the manger because there was no guest room available for them. Why weren’t guest room for them? It was busy time of census’ registration. But if they were rich they would find guest room. But they were not rich. So no guest room was available for them. So she put him in a manger. Jesus’ parents were poor. When they offered Jesus at the temple after he was born their offering was the offering of the poor people. Jesus was born as a poor son in a manger, not in a palace or hotel or luxurious hospital. Throughout his life time Jesus was not a rich man. At the age of 30 he started to serve God. But he was still poor. Even a couple of days before he was crucified he was so hungry that he was looking for figs to fill his stomach.
Why can ‘manger’, sign of Jesus’ poverty, be the sign of the Savior? Because Jesus became poor in order to make us rich. Let’s read HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians+8:9&version=NIV" 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus became poor to make us rich. All the wealth of the universe, all the wealth of the whole universe belongs to Jesus. Jesus is the richest man on earth. But he became poor in order to make us rich. On the cross when he was crucified on our own place to pay all of our sins he became so poor that he did not have even his own life. The price of our sins are so rich and heavy that he had to give up all things including his own life. He became completely poor on the cross.
Because of his poverty and through his poverty he made us rich. All of Jesus’ riches, Jesus’ love, Jesus’ patience, Jesus’ joy, Jesus’ compassion, all the wealth of Jesus became ours. We became so rich because he became so poor.
When shepherd Terry was young he was very poor. Because of his father’s abuse he was so poor that he and his sister were starving. So he went out and begged a bowl of cereal to feed his younger sister who was starving. But because of the grace of Jesus who became poor in order to make sh Terry rich he became truly rich man. How rich is he? He has 5 strong smart sons. Wife. (laughing) Did you hear that? He (Terry) said, “very beautiful”. (still people laughing). He says ‘very beautiful’. But this is what I say, “The best wife throughout human history, the best wife in the whole universe. Period. That is what I say. (People laughing). He said, “Amen”.
He became so rich that he opened dinner feast every Sunday night. Not once a month or once a year, but every Sunday night. If you don’t have anything to eat on Sunday night, go to his house. You will be surely fed. (people laughing). Look! (showing the picture of his dinner feast). It is like a manger in a way because you can see trash cans on the right side. (laughing). But this is the feast. Furthermore it is completely free. You don’t need to pay. How did he become so rich that he opened his house on every Sunday night and feeding everyone including his bible students. How could he become so rich? It is because of the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ who became so poor in order to make us rich.
We were so poor. We were so poor! But He, Jesus, became so poor to make us extremely rich. Apostle Paul who knew the grace of Jesus who became poor in order to make us rich practiced this truth in his practical life in this way.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10
“4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Let’s read verse 10 together. Let’s go. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” He sounds like Jesus. Apostle Paul was poor but he made many people rich, financially and spiritually. He had nothing but he possessed everything. He was poor like us but because of the grace of our Savior Jesus who became poor to make us rich he became rich. He made many people rich!
When Apostle Paul thought about the love of God in Jesus Christ, the grace of Jesus Christ, who became completely poor on the cross to make us unlimitedly rich he was moved. Do you realize, did you notice, did you ever think about ‘why do all of blessings of God, all the love of God, all the grace of God are pouring down upon your lives even though you and I sin many times and even in this practical lives. Why are all these blessings of God poured upon our lives despite the very fact that we are still lustful, we still lie, we still complain so much, why? Have you thought about it, Have you noticed, This out pouring love of God in your lives? Upon your lives. Have you noticed it? Have you thought about ‘why’? It does not make sense!
You are still sinful; you are still liar; you still sin, you are still lustful! Why are of God’s blessings pouring down upon your lives? Why?
It is because of the grace of our Savior Jesus who became poor in order to make us rich. So moved by the love of God and grace of God in Jesus Christ, Apostle Paul sang a special song. Let’s read Romans 8:31-39 responsively. I will go first.
“31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Can we read verse 37 one more time together? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” What about 39 together too? “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
‘Manger’, sign of poverty, can be the sign that Jesus is the Savior.
In conclusion, how can ‘a baby in a manger’ be the sign of the Savior?
Answer: ‘A baby in a manger’ can be the sign of the Savior because it shows Jesus’ incarnation and his poverty.
Because Jesus is God incarnated he knows how to save us as if the farmer knows how to save a flock of wild geese. Because Jesus is God incarnated he knows our agony. He understands our troubles and he comforts us.
Through his poverty on the cross Jesus made us rich. That is why all of God’s blessings are still pouring down upon our lives despite all of our sins and complaining and mistakes in our lives. We are treated not as our sin deserves but as our Savior deserves. Surely this is the good news of great joy.
One word: The sign of the Savior is a baby in a manger.