Matthew 1:18-25; Hebrews 10:1-18
Have you ever read the Christmas story according to Jesus? I don’t mean the Christmas story given us by Matthew; how the angel came to Joseph and convinced him to take Mary as his wife. Nor am I talking about Luke’s wondrous description of the baby born in Bethlehem accompanied by the singing of angels. I am not even referencing John’s masterful prologue: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
What I propose to speak about today is the Christmas story according to Jesus Himself.
I can hear the wheels turning. Some of you are trying to remember just where in the Bible Jesus talked about his own birth.
Well for $25.00, I’ll tell you where you can find it. Better yet I’ll read the passage to you.
His story can be found in the NT letter addressed to the Hebrews, in chapter 10. Now so we don’t mistake anything that Jesus says, we need to hear what the writer says prior to Jesus’ words and I’ll also read his commentary after Jesus speaks. The writer begins,
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good
things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,
Hear then, the Christmas story according to the Christ.
You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to
offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God, as is written about me in the Scriptures.’
And finally the writer’s commentary on what Jesus said:
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will.’ He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
There we have it; the Christmas story from the point of view of Jesus Himself. What’d you think? Surprised that He didn’t mention Mom or Dad or Bethlehem? Disappointed He didn’t talk about the shepherds, or the wise men, or the angel choir? And what about that star? Doggone it, everybody and his brother have been speculating as to that star.
But you know, Jesus never was one to beat around the bush very much. He always was a straight-to-the-point kind of guy. So what is it that Jesus would have us to know about this Christmas story?
First, Jesus wants us to understand that He came into the world to do God’s will. In verse 7, He says, “I have come to do your will, O God.”
And what was that will? Well, the passage is pretty clear about that. God willed Jesus to give Himself . . . as a sacrifice for human sinfulness. In other words, He was born to die!
But we often lose a sense of that purpose in re-telling the Christmas story. We focus so much on the birth of the baby and on the sentiment that goes with it that we tend to miss the most important thing! The Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was born into this world to die so that through our faith in that act upon the cross our sins could be forgiven.
There are those who claim that Jesus came for some other purpose. For example, some say that Jesus came as a great teacher to demonstrate for us how we should live. Sure, He was a teacher of many subjects, but the title of His main course was “I came to give My life, a ransom for many.”
Some say that Jesus came as the Prince of Peace so that His followers might bring peace on earth and good will to men. But it is more important to possess the peace that passes understanding that comes from having a relationship with Christ.
Some even suggest that Jesus came not to die on the cross for the forgiveness of sin but to simply demonstrate God’s love for humanity. But in doing so, they ignore the fact that “God so loved that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.”
This very Christmas idea that Jesus was born to die really shouldn’t come as a shock.
“I have come to do Your will O God as it is written about me in the scriptures.”
What scriptures? The scriptures of the Old Testament. First, there are the general references to the first coming of Christ such as we opened with this morning from Isaiah 9:7. But more specifically some of these scriptures reference His death. Read Psalm 22: 7-8, 14-16; Isaiah 53:5-6, 9-10a.
And in the NT, the idea that He was born with a purpose to die is expressed in all the familiar Christmas stories: Matthew 1:21, “You will name Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” Luke says the angels told the shepherds about the birth of “The Savior.” Then there’s Paul’s take on the birth of Christ found in Galatians 4:4: “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, in order to redeem those under the curse of the Law.”
The primary reason Jesus was born was to die! We dare not forget the inseparable link between the cradle and the cross!
A mother tells the story of how her daughter, Brooke, was seven when they went to Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, to visit the “world’s largest” nativity scene. The huge sculptures were illuminated to create breathtaking images. In sharp contrast to this impressive display, the humble story of Christ’s birth was retold, reminding all in attendance of the humility of our Savior, born in a lowly stable. At the end of the presentation Brooke ran over to the manger, her eyes wide, fixed on the baby. As she gazed, her little body dropped to its knees she held her hand to her heart, and in a near-whisper said, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
Yes, the birth of the Christ-child is one way we know of Jesus’ love. To have left the presence of His Heavenly Father to become human is love. To be humbly born in a barn is love. But the greatest act of love came later, when the baby Jesus became a man. This love was shown, not as he was born among barnyard animals, but as he died between two thieves. It is this scene that should drop us to our knees in awe to say, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
Sure Christmas is a time of love, peace, and joy; a time for children of all ages; but to miss the most meaningful, the most important, the most significant part of the Christmas story according to the very One whose birth we celebrate would be tragic for anyone for whom Christ was born and died. And that’s all of us.
Secondly, not only did Jesus come with a purpose, He knew that He was the only one who could fulfill that purpose.
Some have suggested if God wanted to sacrifice someone so sin could be forgiven, why not sacrifice a human being? But no, you cannot wash the stain out of something by using a cleaning agent tainted with the stain. You can’t clean a grape juice stain out of white garment by using a cleaning agent tainted with grape juice. In a similar manner, you can’t expect to wash away the stain of sin using human blood as a cleansing agent because that blood is tainted with sin. But since God’s blood is not tainted with sin, it is the perfect cleansing agent to wash away all sin for all time.
Jesus came into this world knowing that He was uniquely suited to do God’s will: As a man, He could shed His blood upon the cross. As God, His sin-free blood could pay the infinite price for sin to be washed away.
There was once a young man in the Russian Army prior to the Revolution. Because his father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, this young man was given the position of paymaster in one of the barracks. The young man meant well, but his character didn’t match the responsibility and he gambled away some of the money meant to pay his comrades. One day, he received notice that a representative of the Czar was coming to do an audit of his books. He knew there was no way he could make up what he owed so he decided that would take his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on his desk, wrote a summary of his misdeeds and at the bottom of his ledger wrote: “A great debt, who could pay.” He decided he would die at the stroke of midnight, grew drowsy and fell asleep.
Czar Nicholas as was his custom was making his rounds and happened by that barracks, found the young man asleep, read the note and was about to call for guards to arrest him when he saw the words, “A great debt, who could pay” and in a moment of compassion wrote one word under those: “Nicholas.” Only the Czar could pay; and the Czar did pay.
In the same way, only the Lord Jesus could pay our debt to God. We compare the moral requirement spelled out in His Law with our own pitiful performance and say “A great debt, who could pay?” Only Jesus could pay, and He does!
What do we say to all this . . . what can we do . . . how should we respond?
Since Christ died for our sins we no longer need to feel afraid or ashamed to draw near to God (read Hebrews 10:19-25).
I was reading about a mother who purchased two nativity sets; one a beautiful delicate porcelain set for her to care for and the other a wooden set for her seven-year-old triplets to set up the way they wanted. She arranged her precious figurines on a mat of green velvet with baby Jesus in the manger in the center, Mary and Joseph on each side, keeping a respectful distance are the shepherds and a couple of lambs with three wise men approaching from off to the side. Her kids had a different arrangement; seemingly haphazardly crowding all the pieces tightly around the baby Jesus.
The next morning after they first set up their respective nativity scenes, she noticed someone had re-arranged all of her carefully placed porcelain pieces by shoving them all as close to baby Jesus as they could. She was irritated and called her three little rascals on the carpet and reminded them they had their scene to do with as they pleased, but from now on they were to leave hers alone. And one of the triplets said, “But Mom, isn’t Christmas a time to be as close to Jesus as we can get?” Out of the mouths of babes.
So there you have it; the Christmas story according to Jesus Himself.
Once upon a time, there were two farmers who simply could not get along. They argued and fought about everything for so long that they finally reached the point where they no longer even spoke to one another. Although there was already a little ravine with a creek running through it that naturally divided their property boundaries, they each decided to build their own fence just to rub it in. Now it just so happened that one of those farmers had a son and the other had a daughter who were the same age. And wouldn’t you know that they became high school sweethearts and after graduation eloped despite their fathers’ objections. The pig-headedness of those two farmers continued until a baby was born and the parents decided enough was enough. So one weekend when the fathers were both away, that son and daughter tore down the fences and used the wood to build a bridge across the ravine and creek that separated the two men. And when the fathers came home, each child drug them by the hand until they met in the middle of the bridge with their children and that new baby where they were persuaded to shake hands and forgive one another for the sake of that precious child.
That’s what Jesus was talking about in His version of the Christmas story. On Christmas Eve, with His birth in Bethlehem, He began to tear down the fence that separated us from He and His Father. And on Good Friday in Jerusalem, He placed the last beam in place that completed the bridge that gulfs the span.
Have you walked that bridge?