GIVE: God Gave Enthusiastically
Topic: New Testament Passage: Luke 1:26–2:20
Good Morning! Merry Christmas Damascus Road! Today we are finishing our series our Advent series called GIVE. During this series we’ve looked at how God has given to us generously, intentionally, volitionally (voluntarily). We’ve seen we should respond by giving sacrificially, planning to use/give our resources wisely, and how we are to use our things to love God and love people rather than use God and people to love our things. This week we are looking at how God gave enthusiastically; so we rejoice. In weeks past we’ve had to explain terms like volitional, intentional, stewardship, but enthusiasm is a concept that is so natural to us. We GET excitement, anticipation, eager enjoyment, and intense approval particularly when we’ve been given or experience something awesome. Let me ask you, what is the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever received? What was the gift you got that you were so excited about you couldn’t wait to tell your friends or you class when school started back up? For me it was Christmas 1987. My parents were one of the first in the whole town to get me a Nintendo. The local newspaper even had a picture of me and my sister playing Super Mario Brothers in an article about this new cutting edge technology. Here’s the deal though, when I opened it I wasn’t that excited. I certainly didn’t rejoice, my parents were understandably a little disappointed with my reaction compared to their enthusiasm in giving. They just assumed I knew what it was and how amazing it is. See, I hadn’t asked for it. I honestly didn’t know what it was or that anything like it even existed, so to me it was just a grey box. However, once my parents explained to me how special it was and that I could control what was on the TV, I got a little more excited. When we finally set it up and turned it on, I began to experience its wonders the Nintendo became a transformative event in my young life. 25 years later I don’t go around telling anyone about the glory of the original Nintendo or invite people over to play it. I’ve moved on. At some point I might dust it off for my kids to try it out, but I doubt they’ll be that interested compared to Angry Birds on the iPhone.
Sadly I think this is very similar to how we interact with the historical events of Jesus birth we celebrate at Christmas. For some of us it’s so familiar, so tired, we move on to other things we think are more exciting and assume that everyone already knows the story. Maybe it’s something fun for kids, but for us as modern adults it’s outdated and useless in the midst of all the “work” we have to do around Christmas time. We need to be reminded why we should rejoice. Or, like me with the Nintendo, we really don’t know what it’s all about and what the big deal. We never really heard it explained, we didn’t know it was possible, and certainly haven’t experienced the transformative joy that comes from knowing the God who GIVES His son.
So as we talk about God as an enthusiastic giver who gives good gifts to His children because he loves them and it brings him delight to see them rejoice; we will retell the Christmas story because we can’t assume we all know it, or GET it. I saw a church with a “Christmas IS…” ad that included, indoor ice skating, giant inflatables, a room with artificial snow, and show with singers, dancers and aerial acrobats. Christmas IS Festive, Family, Fun. I don’t want to take the fun out of celebrating Christmas, but when you have no angels, no Mary/Joseph, no shepherds, no wise men, and most importantly no Jesus it is NOT Christmas. It’s the church’s responsibility to reveal, remind and revisit the key events of the Gospel to themselves and the world around them. When the churches start to assume the central events of the Gospel you end up moving on from it and preach a sermon on Easter about the Titanic. The Titanic is NOT good news, the Titanic is buried in a deep ocean tomb, Jesus is ALIVE and His tomb is EMPTY!
God Gave Enthusiastically
We start the Christmas Story where Bible starts, with God as an enthusiastic, dramatic, and creative Creator of everything! Creation is beautiful, food, and intimacy are enjoyable because God wants us to enjoy. God gives Adam a bride and Adam sings! Then sin. Where humanities response to God’s enthusiastic giving should be to rejoice, they chose to reject God’s gift of abundant life with Him. But God’s enthusiasm for His creation hasn’t changed. While God justly cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden for their rebellion, He graciously promises to save/bless the world through a family, a people, a nation. Later God delivers this family, this nation, from slavery in Egypt with 10 dramatic plagues, He parts the Red Sea and crushes the most powerful army in the world. He leads through the desert and gives the Promised Land with dramatic miraculous victories. Again and again, God’s people respond to His enthusiastic giving by rejecting His instruction and commands. Eventually all are scattered and enslaved again. Despite the people’s faithlessness and consequences for sin, God’s enthusiasm for His people has not dimmed. God reminds the world through prophets that a savior is coming. Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Jesus tells God’s people how this great gift will come and what he will accomplish.
Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (means God with us)
Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
It’s God’s zeal, His enthusiasm, to fix the broken world that He gives. God is a cheerful giver; he enjoys giving because he knows that only His giving can bring real healing. Because God gives motivated by lasting joy, rather than temporary happiness, He gives exactly what we need, abundantly more than we think we need—He gives Himself. When God is finally ready to give His greatest gift to humanity, sending His son Jesus into the world, He enthusiastically announces this Good News, this Gospel, in different ways to different people and is met with different reactions. There are lessons for us in each of these episodes.
God Announces to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
God sends a one-on-one personal messenger to a poor teenage girl named Mary to announce her part in God’s gift to His people. This isn’t just some rookie angel either, this is Gabriel (one of two angels named in all of scripture) who early in Luke 1 says he “stands in the presence of God”. What is about to happen to Mary is pretty important and God doesn’t want to risk anything getting lost in the mail. To be clear the Bible doesn’t spare any details and mentioned 3 separate times (including Mary herself) in these verses that Mary is a virgin. Gabriel tells her “A miracle, the miracle, of a virgin giving birth to a savoir king prophesized centuries earlier is going to happen to/though you Mary. His name will be Jesus, which means God Saves, so don’t be afraid. God is with you!” While God is giving a gift that will bless the entire world Mary’s life is about to become very complicated, inconvenient, at times very difficult. Her relationship with the man she’s going to marry is going to be awkward and challenged before an angel tells Joseph the same news, and that’s just during the pregnancy, let alone the implications of mothering God’s son. By God sending an individual messenger to talk with Mary God is telling her, “I'm bigger than your individual circumstances and I will be with you no matter how difficult they seem.” Sometimes God’s enthusiastic giving can lead to temporary challenges in our normal worldly lives as we struggle with reconciling who we think we are and our plans with who God wants us to be and His plans to use our lives us to bless others. Mary responds to the angel with willingness because she is “God’s servant”. More than willingness, as she processes God’s gift with her pregnant relative Elizabeth, she writes a song.
Mary Responds (Luke 1:46-55)
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
She rejoices!!! God is HER savior; she is blessed because she is saved by God. God is going to give enthusiastically to the poor; conversely He will humble the proud. It is His plan from the beginning of time. In the middle of an unexpected pregnancy and teen relationship drama with Joseph with her whole world upside down she is rejoicing specifically by singing about God. Mary doesn’t have much of anything but she can sing! That is why we sing in our services! I was personally very convicted by Mary’s cheerful attitude in the midst of inconvenience this week. Through an organizational error an Autumn Leaf House mom/daughter didn’t have gifts purchased for them. So the day of the delivery, during my sermon prep time, I am running around Kohls for 90 minutes grumbling. I was NOT a cheerful giver.
Things will get more challenging for Mary as she nears the end of her pregnancy and has to give birth.
Luke 2:1-7 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Caesar, like most politicians, was enthusiastic about what he could take from his people so he declared a Roman Empire-wide census so he could count up precisely how much money he could/would take. God used Caesars greed to ensure Jesus’ birth is in Bethlehem, fulfilling another prophecy. So Mary and Joseph take and 80 mile week long road trip on the back of a donkey from one dumpy town to another. I am sure it was a ton of fun, as anyone who’s taken a road trip with a pregnant woman can attest to. Joseph forgot to make reservations and so Jesus, the God-Man, the savior king of the world, is literally born in a barn.
God Announces to Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
While the Baby Jesus is sleeping in the manger, in some fields outside of Bethlehem an “angel of the Lord” is preaching the Gospel to poor, unclean, socially marginalized shepherds couldn’t even be counted on to give testimony in court. Seeing the angel they are rightly terrified. When God is excited we should be afraid, because our world is about to change. To drive the point home, God sends a Host, which is literally a military term to announce peace. Peace with God through His victory over satan, sin and death. By announcing His gift to the shepherds with heavenly army enthusiastically singing of God’s Glory, God is saying to them, “I'm bigger than your society and bigger than the government ruling over you.”
Shepherds Respond (Luke 2:15-20)
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The shepherd’s response to Gospel is an awesome model or for us. After seeing God as big, terrifying, and glorious, they seek to find and worship Jesus. When they do, and it is as the angel said it would be, they rejoice in Jesus by spreading the good news. After the excitement meeting the baby Jesus, they go back to work, there is still work to do, telling everyone they know the Gospel. While the shepherds’ job or immediate circumstances didn’t change at all, knowing clearly who God is and what He is doing in Jesus, I have to imagine it gave them more joy in purpose in their work knowing there was more to life than what they saw each day in the fields. Good days, bad days, good government, bad government, team winning, team losing, we can always rejoice in God who offers peace to a world and individuals in conflict.
The shepherds don’t have money or status, but they can joyfully share the Gospel with all they encounter.
God Announces to the Wise Men (Matt 2:1-8)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
God’s shares the good news of the gift of Jesus to a young couple before he’s born. He then makes a grand birth announcement to poor shepherds on his birthday, now two years after Jesus is born he’s ready to announce it to the king of Israel and the leaders of the world. If you are not impressed by an angel or a singing army you can’t fail to be impressed by God creating a new star! He’s telling the evil king Herod I’m bigger than your kingdom. To the wise man, and the rest of the doubting world, he’s telling them I'm bigger than the universe!
Wise Men Respond (Matt 2:9-12)
9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
They followed the sign God had given them and after likely years of studying, months of traveling this grand procession of wealthy, connected, foreign leaders, arrives, to the modest house of a carpenter in humble, sleepy town of Bethlehem. They had been expectedly seeking a new king and found a 2 year old being raised buy a young poor family. Honestly, you or I would likely been really disappointed and I am surprised the wise guys were not. They had to have had some expectations for what they would encounter at the end of their and this couldn’t have been it. Yet they had such great confidence in what God had revealed to them that despite all appearances to the contrary they fell down and worshipped, un-potty-trained, toddler Jesus with “great joy”. Mary sang, the shepherds spread the gospel, and the wise men rejoice in God’s enthusiastic giving by “opening their treasure”. Sam often says “sometimes the easiest thing for us to do is write a check.” honestly for most of us I think it’s the hardest. We show worship by giving/spending on things we think have value, but we rarely rejoice by giving in response to God’s giving.
The wise men’s gifts have added significance beyond their generosity. They give Jesus gold and acknowledge He is a King who tribute is owed. They give frankincense, an expensive perfume/incense that priests would use during religious services, signifying Jesus roll as our High Priest that stands the gap between God and humanity bringing us together through faith in Him. Lastly they give Jesus Myrrh, which is a burial preservative pointing to Jesus sacrifice dying on the Cross in our place for our sins. It’s no accident the wise men’s “first Christmas” gifts would point to Good Friday and Easter because that is God’s gift, Jesus gift, to the world, to us, to you us is ultimate Himself.
Jesus gives on the Cross; We Rejoice
"looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:2
Mary gave praise and worship, shepherds gave their testimony, the wise man gave of their treasures, Jesus gave his whole life.
He lives the perfect sinless life we don’t in our place, and he dies the death we deserve on the cross in our place, he gives his life enthusiastically! Our response is to rejoice!
The Christmas story is convicting to me, because each person’ obedience, their joy, their worship, and their giving, puts mine to shame. Most of us, myself included, who profess faith in God/Jesus praise him for what he’s done for us/to us. We give to him, serve him, and worship him for what we expect or hope he’ll do for us in this life and/or the next. For some of us those are material things health, wealth, protection and for the more “spiritual” of us it’s for his forgiveness of our sin, His sustenance and presence in our times of trials, or the promise of a New Heaven and Earth where there is no more tears. From the perspective of Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men, Jesus hadn’t freed him from addiction, he hadn’t helped them achieve their goals of wealth, career, self-fulfillment, he hadn’t cured them of disease, given them a spouse/kids, he hadn’t even died on the cross for their sins or promised them eternal life. Before, during, after Jesus birth all those who met Jesus were rejoicing in him even though he hadn’t “given” them anything. They were joyful, and they worshipped him, because of who he was, because he is the King, because He is God. Simply put, for them, Jesus was enough; enough for Mary to endure physical and social pain. Enough for the shepherd’s to leave their flocks. Enough for wise men to leave the comfortable courts of the Kings they served to pursue him, enough for them to fall to their knees in willing, joyfully submit to worship; enough to generously give of their personal wealth and possessions without expectations of anything in return, it was just rejoicing in God’s enthusiastic gift of Jesus.
Our rejoicing should be all the more as we also know God’s gift of forgiveness of sin though the Cross, and promise of new life though Jesus’ resurrection. God gives enthusiastically, we rejoice!
We rejoice in singing like Mary and praising like the shepherds glorifying God!
We respond in coming to the communion table to remember Jesus joyfully enduring the cross in our place.
We respond like the wise men opening “our treasures” in tribute to our king, who is our priest, because he’s our sacrifice.
Benediction (Ephesians 3:14-21)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
More in GIVE | He Gave; We Give
December 9, 2012GIVE: God Gave Intentionally