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WHO WE LEAVE OUT OF THE NATIVITY
Intro: For most people, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Christians celebrate as we think about God sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins. It is a time for family gatherings and large, delicious meals. It is a time for trees, tinsel, lights, and Christmas tunes. It is a time for giving and receiving. It is a time when we all stop and reflect on the reason why we have the season in the first place. It is a time for thanksgiving, and appreciating the people in our lives who are the most precious to us.
For others, however, Christmas is a time of loneliness and sorrow, as they deal with the heartbreak of missing those who are no longer here. For others, Christmas is painful because they lack the resources to give to the people they love the things they want them to have. For many it is a time of overindulgence in rich foods, overspending on gifts, overcoming the problems associate with the season, and attempting to overcompensate for the failures of the past year.
Christmas is a time of celebration for the church. It doesnt matter that Jesus was probably born some other time of the year. It does not matter whether it was spring, summer, fall, or winter. What matters is that God loved the world so much that He sent His precious Son into the world that sinners might be saved from their sins, from the wrath of God, and from the fires of Hell.
Around the church, we celebrate by singing Christmas hymns, preaching Christmas sermons, teaching Christmas Sunday School lessons, and having Christmas plays. I dont know about you, but I love the Christmas plays at church. They arent professional, though I have it on good authority that this years play will rival a Broadway production. What I love about Christmas plays in the church is that they preach the Gospel. The lost people who attend have an opportunity to hear about why Jesus Christ came into the world, and the saints have the opportunity to be reminded of the great love and grace of God that provided them with a Savior.
My favorite part of the Christmas play is the Nativity scene. You know the part where Mary and Joseph come out and place the baby Jesus in the manger? There is a star overhead, and we are reminded of the humble surroundings of our Saviors birth. The shepherds arrive. The angels appear. The wise men make an appearance. And, small children dressed as sheep, donkeys, and cows are there as well.
The Nativity scene, as simple as it is, reminds us of a profound truth. It reminds us that at Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation. We celebrate the moment when God became flesh and walked among men. We celebrate the love and grace of God, Who willingly laid aside His heavenly glory to be born in the humblest of circumstances, so that lost people like us could be saved. Everything we place in the Nativity, and every person represented in the Nativity glorifies the Savior.
When we see the Nativity, we often smile at the quaintness and the simplicity of it. We find humor in the costumes and in the antics of the children. They just cant avoid wiggling, and being kids, can they? Yet, when we see the Nativity, I hope it touches something deeper within our hearts. I hope it stands as a constant reminder that God loves us; that He came to this world to die for us; that He paid an unthinkable price to provide a glorious salvation for all who will receive Him.
And, that is what is wrong with the Nativity. Theres nothing wrong with how it looks, or with the costumes we wear, or with the message we proclaim by staging the Nativity. The problem with the Nativity is who is missing from it.
Think about it. Everyone we show in the Nativity is someone portrayed as a worshipper of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The angels worshipped Him - Luke 2:8-14
The shepherds worshipped Him - Luke 2:8-20
The wise men worshipped Him - Matt. 2:1-11
The animals, in their own way, worshipped Him - Rom. 1:19-20
So, we see the people involved in the Nativity scene and thats about as far as our minds go. We come away with the impression that Jesus died for people who love Him. That He came into the world to give His life for the good people among us. Thats a long way from the whole story. There were a lot of people involved in the Christmas story who do not show up in the Nativity scene. They are the forgotten pieces of the Christmas story.
What we need to remember at Christmas, and throughout the year, is that Jesus Christ did not come to this world to die for people who loved Him. Because no one loves Him naturally! He came to give His life for those hated Him and wanted Him dead. They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, Mark 2:17.
What I would like to do in this message is to look at the Nativity from a completely different angle. I want to mess it up. I want to put some people into the Nativity scene that we would never think about including in our staged reenactments.
I want to preach about Who We Leave Out Of The Nativity. Let me show you some of the groups We Leave Out Of The Nativity. While we leave these people out of our nativity scenes year after year, God did not leave them out of His love and grace!
I. WE LEAVE OUT THE IGNORANT
The first missing person we will consider is Caesar Augustus. Luke 2:1-6 tells us that Caesar Augustus ordered a taxing of his kingdom. Caesar Augustus was the nephew of Julius Caesar, and his successor. He chose the name Augustus as a tribute to his greatness. Our month August is named after him.
Augustus ordered his people to be taxed. This simply means that he was taking a census. We wanted to mow how many people were in his kingdom. He probably did this as preparation for levying a tax on the people to raise revenue.
Caesar Augustus saw himself as a god. Every Roman citizen was required to offer a pinch of incense upon a burning altar and worship him once per year. What Augustus did not know was that the One, True and Living God was using this poor, ignorant Roman to accomplish His sovereign will. What Augustus did not know was that God was using him, the ruler of the most powerful empire in the world, to accomplish Gods sovereign will and to fulfill an ancient prophecy.
We have no way of knowing the human reasons for why Augustus timed his census as he did. We do know, however, that God was behind the timing. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons, Gal. 4:4–5.
Back in the Garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior to the world, Gen. 3:15. God worked throughout the course of human history until the perfect time came for Him to send His Son, the Lord Jesus. God sent Jesus when many human conditions lined up perfectly.
When God sent His Son into the world, the ancient world benefited from several conditions that made it far easier to spread the news of the good new of salvation. Some of those conditions were:
Roman Law - This protected Paul and others as they traveled the Roman world and preached the Gospel.
Roman Peace - The lack of wars in the Roman Empire allowed the Apostles and other early believers to travel freely, without fear.
Roman Roads - The excellent Roman roads, some of which are still in use today, afforded early Christians with an easy means to travel from town to town.
The Greek Language - The language of Greece, which was the most common language in the world at that time, was the perfect language for the spread of the Gospel. Greek was an expressive language that allowed deep truth to be explained in great detail.
When Augustus issued his decree, he did not know that he was also being used by God to fulfill another ancient prophecy. In Micah 5:2, the Bible says, But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Because the families of Joseph and Mary were from Bethlehem, the command to be counted forced them to travel from Nazareth, Luke 2:4, to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, Luke 2:6.
Augustus was ignorant of his involvement with the sovereign plan of God. Yet, he is as much a part of the Christmas story as the angels and the shepherds.
Jesus came into this world to save people just like Augustus. He came to save those who are ignorant of God and living for themselves. He came to save the dead, the deceived, the depraved, and the doomed, Eph. 2:1-4. He came to save those who move through this life without a thought for God or His will. He came to save lost sinners from their sins and from themselves. The ignorant, the people like Caesar Augustus, are the whosoevers Jesus came to save, Rom. 10:13.
I. We Leave Out The Ignorant
II. WE LEAVE OUT THE INDIFFERENT
Luke 2:7 introduces us to another person who was a part of the Christmas story with the words, because there was no room for them in the inn. In larger ancient inns there was an innkeeper. The innkeeper kept watch over the inn and collected money from those who stayed in his establishment.
Inns in the ancient Middle East were nothing like our modern hotels. They were usually an open courtyard, surrounded by an enclosure, with awnings, or other shelters where people could bed down for the night. They provided travelers with a little bit of safety and rest from their travels. The innkeeper would be paid by the traveler for a place to stay, and it would be his duty to provide his lodgers with food, drink and shelter.
The inn at Bethlehem was an ancient inn. It had been in business a long time. It was known as Chimhams Inn, named that after friend of King Davids, 2 Sam. 19:38-40. Jeremiah stayed at this inn when he was kidnapped and taken to Egypt, Jer. 41:17.
When Joseph arrived at the inn in Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary, the innkeeper turned them away because the inn was already filled with travelers. His words to them as he turned them away told them there was no room. But, was that correct? What about his room? He could have given Mary and Joseph his room for the night. He could have, but he was indifferent to their need. As an after thought, he points them to the cave where the animals were tied. Perhaps they could find room for themselves there.
The truth is, this innkeeper was unmoved by Mary and by her obvious need. He was indifferent to the fact that the divine plan of God had brought him face to face with Savior of humanity, and without a thought, he turned Him away.
The innkeeper was indifferent that night, but he is as much a part of the Christmas story as anyone else that was there. We dont mention him often, but he needs to be included too.
Our world is filled with many people just like this innkeeper. It is filled with people who are so preoccupied with life, with themselves, that they have no time for anyone, or anything else. When they hear the Gospel, they are indifferent to it. They dont care about God, the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Gospel of grace. They think those things have nothing to do with them, or the lives they are living. They hear our witness and they are unmoved. They pass by our churches without a thought to what we are doing or to the God we serve.
They do not realize that Jesus Christ died for indifferent people too. He died for the very people who could care less about Him. He died for the busy person, the preoccupied person, the self-centered person. He died for the person who cannot see past the end of their own nose. He died for you!
When Jesus came, He came unto His Own, and HIs Own received Him not, John 1:11. But, He came anyway. He came and He died. He died to save the indifferent from their sins, and from themselves. They are part of the whosoever for whom Jesus died. Jesus died for the indifferent! In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink, John 7:37. If the indifferent will hear Him, and come to Him, they will be saved, John 6:37.
I. We Leave Out The Ignorant
II. We Leave Out The Indifferent
III. WE LEAVE OUT THE INCREDULOUS
Luke 2:15-18 introduces us to another group of people who are left out of the Nativity scene every year. The shepherds heard the message of the angels and they went, as fast as they could, to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. When they saw Him, they believed the message of the angel, and having worshipped the Lord, they returned to their sheep.
As these shepherds made their way back into the hill country to return to their flocks, they told everyone they met about the baby in the manger and about the message of the angels. Verse 18 says that everyone who heard the story wondered at it. This word means to be impressed, or to marvel. It carries the idea of being astonished by something. The news the shepherds told left them with their mouths hanging open in amazement!
They were amazed that a group of dirty, vile shepherds are moving through the streets of Bethlehem praising God and preaching about the coming of the Messiah. The people who heard the story were amazed! The Messiah has been born in Bethlehem? He has come as a baby, and He is just over there in a manger? Those were the kind of things they probably said to one another that night.
They heard the story and it impressed them, but they never went to see if it was true. How sad! The Savior of the world was so very close by, and they failed to go to Him to see for themselves.
Again, this describes so many people in our own world. We preach the Gospel. We tell the world that Jesus loves them. So they hear the message, and they see the changed lives of those who come to know the Lord, but they never investigate for themselves. They miss opportunity after opportunity to meet the Lord for themselves. Maybe they are too busy. Maybe they are too preoccupied with life. Maybe they are afraid of the cost. Whatever their reasons, they miss out on the best thing the Lord ever did for them. They miss out on meeting the only Person Who can save their souls.
Jesus came for people like that. He came for people who are too busy, and too caught up in their own lives to come to Him. He died to save people just like that. The story of the Rich Young Ruler proves that. Mark 10:17-21 tells the story of a young man who ran to Jesus looking for spiritual answers. Jesus very clearly described the cost of following Him and the man who ran to Jesus turned and walked away. In verse 21 of that story the Bible says that Jesus loved him. Salvation was available for that young man, but he was not willing to pay the price. The message was appealing; the cost was not.
Every time you hear a sermon, God is passing close to you. Every time a Christian invites you to be saved, God is passing by. Every time you feel Him drawing you to come to Him, He is passing by. Do not take these heavenly invitations lightly.
The news that God loves you may impress you, but it wont save you until you turn to Him in faith. The Gospel message of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ might cause you to marvel at the love of God for sinners, but it wont save you until you believe. That is why the Bible says, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near, Isa. 55:6.
So, I invite you to stop simply marveling at the message. I invite you to come to Jesus Christ for salvation today. You are why He came, why He died, and why He rose again. If you will receive Him, He will save you by His grace. The difference between Heaven and Hell can be as simple as the difference between being impressed by the Gospel and believing it. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house, Acts 16:31.
I. We Leave Out The Ignorant
II. We Leave Out The Indifferent
III. We Leave Out The Incredulous
IV. WE LEAVE OUT THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS
By using the label The Self-Righteous, I am referring to the religious leaders in that day who were blind to Who Jesus was. They were so blind to the truth that they failed to see it when they saw it with their own eyes.
Take, for instance, the rabbi in Bethlehem who circumcised the Lord Jesus when He was 8 days old, Luke 2:21. This religious man placed his hands on the Christ, the Jewish Messiah and he failed to recognize Him. Consider also the chief priests and scribes summoned by Herod in Matthew 2. When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, following a star they said was leading them to where they would find the king of the Jews, Herod called the religious leaders together and asked them to tell him where Christ should be born, Matt. 2:4-6. They quoted from Micah 5:2 and said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
These men are amazing! They have in their hands and minds the very Word of God. They have in front of them a group of men from a far away land, who have travelled hundreds of miles following a star that they say is leading them to the birthplace of the Jewish Messiah. A star, by the way, that was also a part of Jewish prophecy, Num. 24:17. Yet, these men are so preoccupied with their religion that they fail to travel the 5 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see if this is the Messiah or not. They are satisfied in their religion and in where they believe they stand with God. In their minds, they have reached the pinnacle of spiritual success and they need nothing more. It seems to me they are saying, If this is the Messiah, let Him come to us! Years later, He did. When He did, they refused to believe Him then either.
These self-righteous Jewish religious leaders are just as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds, angels and wise men. They remind us of so many in our world who have a form of godliness, but lack the power thereof , 2 Tim. 3:5. They remind us of so many who have joined our churches; quoted our prayers; walked through the baptismal waters, yet without a life-changing, sin-killing, eternity-altering relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for people like that! He died for the self-righteous religious person who thinks they are good enough on their own. He died to deliver the deceived from their deception. He died to set them free from their spiritual darkness and bondage.
Consider Saul of Tarsus. He was a very religious man, Phil. 3:4-6. He was a very zealous Jew, going so far as arresting Christians and having them put to death for their faith in Jesus, Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2. In spite of his zeal, in spite of his religious purity, in spite of his spotless Jewish heritage, and in spite of how well he kept the Law, Saul of Tarsus was a lost sinner headed to Hell. He just could not see it because his self-righteousness blinded him to his lost condition. When God opened his eyes on the road to Damascus, Acts 9:1-9, Saul of Tarsus bowed to the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved. Here is his testimony: And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief, 1 Tim. 1:12–15.
Notice how Paul does not mention his achievements. Notice how he does not mention what many would have considered a list of commendations. Paul came to see himself as a sinner. When he did, he repented and God saved his soul.
There are so many in our world who need to do that. There are so many who have convinced themselves that they are right with God when they are still lost in sin. Jesus died to save self-righteous people from their religion. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus 3:5. Salvation does not come by doing good, Eph. 2:8-9. It comes by first realizing that there is no good in us, Rom. 3:10-18. It comes then by realizing that Jesus, in His death on the cross, did what we could never do. He opened a way to God for all those who will believe on Him, Rom. 10:9, 13. When we believe, we are saved, Acts 16:31.
I invite you to lay aside your self-righteousness. You are not good enough to get to Heaven on your own. You need Jesus. Come to Him and be saved. That is the message of Christmas!
I. We Leave Out The Ignorant
II. We Leave Out The Indifferent
III. We Leave Out The Incredulous
IV. We Leave Out The Self-Righteous
V. WE LEAVE OUT THE WICKED
Another person who never see in the Nativity scene, and yet who belongs there as much as anyone else is King Herod. Alongside Herod in the Nativity should be the soldiers who marched into Bethlehem and executed those precious, innocent children.
King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was a wicked man.
He was half-Jewish and half-Edomite. As a half-Jew, half-Gentile, the Jews had little use for him.
He served as a king, but he was under the control of the Roman Emperor.
In an afford to win the favor of the Jews, and to maintain peace in his kingdom, he spend 46 years, and an enormous sum of money turning the Jewish Temple into a place of beauty and splendor.
King Herod was also a very cruel men. He had wives and sons put to death because he felt like they were after his power. When it became clear that he would die, he ordered that 70 Jewish religious leaders be executed when he died. He did this so that there would be weeping when he died.
It was this cruel, self-centered, murderer that the wise men approached to find the person they called the King of the Jews. Herod made a show of finding the answers they were after, Matt. 2:1-8. He sends the wise men to Bethlehem to find this child they claim is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. He tells them to bring him word again so that he can go and worship this king himself. Herods true intentions are revealed when the wise men fail to show up. In a murderous rage, he sends his soldiers to Bethlehem with instructions to kill every child under the age of two, Matt. 2:16-18. By the way, the Nativity scene should include the soldiers as well!
Here was a man so jealous of his position and power that he was willing to murder innocent children just to maintain his grip on it. What a tragedy!
Yet, our world is filled with self-centered, cruel people too. They need to know that Jesus died to save them.
He came to this world to live and die so that the wicked could be delivered from their evil.
Jesus died for people like King Herod and the soldiers that carried out his orders!
He died for abortionists.
He died for serial killers.
He died for murderers.
He died for drunks, drug addicts, homosexuals, lesbians, and thieves.
He died for ruthless people who do everything in their power to hold on to the things they possess.
He died for the people who will step on anyone to get what they want.
He died for those who do not care about the feelings or needs of others.
He died for the mean, hateful people we rub shoulders with every day.
He died for the wicked, sinful people who do as they please with no thought for anyone else.
Jesus died for people like Adam Lanza, who walked into that school in Connecticut this week and brutally murdered 20 first graders and 6 adults.
Jesus died for the members of Westboro Baptist Church who protest at funerals and cary signs that say, God Hates Fags, and Thank God For Dead Soldiers. They are as cruel as those who take the lives of others, but Jesus died for them to.
He died for those who can think of no one but themselves.
He died for politicians, bankers, and stock brokers.
He died for teachers, homemakers, and truck drivers.
He died for Pastors, Deacons, and Sunday School teachers.
Jesus Christ died for sinners, and that includes every person who ever, or will ever live.
Jesus died for you!
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many, Mark 10:45.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures, 1 Cor. 15:3–4.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him, Rom. 5:6–9.
Our world is filled with people, therefore it is filled with wicked people, Rom. 3:23. Jesus entered this world to die for the wicked! He came to die for us!
Conc: Our annual Christmas program is tonight. I hope you will be here. As a part of that program, I have it on good authority that there will be a Nativity scene. I am sure we know who it will include. Now, we also know who wont be there. We will include those we think deserve to be there. We will include those who worshipped our Lord at His birth. We will leave out the rest. In reality, we will leave out ourselves!
If we had been there the night He was born, the truth is, we would have ignored Him like most of the others did. We would have turned a deaf ear to the rejoicing of the shepherds. We would not have followed the wise men to worship the child. We would have listened to their story, maybe, if we had the time or interest. We would have been impressed, maybe even amazed, but we would not have gone to worship Him.
Why? Because we are sinners! Because, by nature, we are lost in the dark and love our darkness rather than the light. But, I am glad to tell you that Jesus died for people like us. He died to deliver us from our darkness. He died to save us from our sins.
If I could go back to the manger today, knowing what I know now, I would go to Him, and I would fall down before that baby and worship Him as God. But, thats only because I know who He is. Turn back the clock thirty years, and if you had met me then, you would have met a lost sinner with no interest in God. Take that young man to the manger, and he would probably have walked away without a thought of worshipping that child.
Thats why I am glad Jesus came to this world for more than a handful of shepherds and wise men. I am glad He came for people like you and me. He came for people who wanted nothing to do with Him. He came for us. He died for us. And He will save us if we will come to Him.
Do you need to be saved today? Did you see yourself in the crowd that is always left out of the Nativity scene? If so, come to Jesus today. He love you. He died to save you and He will save you, if you will come to Him.
If you know Him, why not thank Him for coming so that you could finally understand what Christmas is really all about?