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O HOLY NIGHT
Intro: This world has witnessed many nights since it was created by God. Many of those nights passed without anything remarkable taking place. Others saw profound changes in history take place.
On April 14, 1865 America went to bed thankful that the long, bloody War Between the States was finally over. America awoke the next morning to discover that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. On December 6, 1941 America went to bed watching war spread across Asia and Europe, and thankful that, for the time being, America was being left out of the conflict. They awoke the next morning to news of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and to the awareness that avoiding war was no longer a possibility. On June 5, 1944 the world went to bed wondering when Adolph Hitler and his Nazi armies would be defeated and the people of Europe delivered from his iron grip. The world awoke the next day to news of the Allied invasion at Normandy on D-Day.
The nights I just mentioned brought radical changes to the world. Other nights have brought incredible circumstances to pass, and the world failed to notice. One such night is the one portrayed in our text. The night Jesus Christ was born was an ordinary night from a human standpoint. The shepherds are watching their sheep. The people in the villages and towns of Israel sleep off the weariness of another long, hard day. In Jerusalem, the High Priest and the other men of religious power sleep as though it was any other night. King Herod has no idea that his kingdom has been invaded, and that new King is about to be revealed. The world over people drifted off to sleep not knowing that God was transacting eternal business in their very midst. They did not know that a Savior was being born in Bethlehem
The night Jesus was born had all the appearances of being just another common, ordinary night. Yet, the events that occurred that night reveal it to be unlike another night in human history. I want to spend some time considering the events of that holy night.
Many years ago, in 1847, a composer by the name of Adolphe Adam wrote the words to a powerful Christmas carol called “O Holy Night. The first verse goes like this:
Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night, Oh night divine, Oh night Divine.
I would like for us to travel back to that holy night when Christ was born. I would like for us to examine that night once again. You won’t hear anything new today; you will hear the old, old story shared one more time. Let’s consider again the events of the first Christmas.
I. v. 8-12 A NIGHT OF PROFOUND MESSAGES
(Ill. The context. The shepherds are minding their business, tending their sheep, when a mighty angel appears with a remarkable message.)
A. v. 10 The Character Of The Message The angel tells the shepherds that he has come from Heaven to deliver a message of good news that will produce great joy for them and for the entire world. This angel did not come with a message of judgment. He came with a message of peace.
He came to deliver a message the world had been waiting to hear for four thousand years. Ever since man sinned in Eden, the world has been groaning under the curse brought about by that sin. Back on that dark day God made a promise. He promised Adam and Eve that one day a woman would bear a Son and that Son would defeat the power of sin and the serpent, Gen. 3:15. This angel appeared to share the good news that God’s ancient promise had been fulfilled!
B. v. 11 The Content Of The Message As the angel continues to deliver his message, he tells the shepherds about the birth of a baby. As he does, he gives the infant three names. He tells us that the baby will be Savior, Christ and Lord. These three names are important because they reveal the identity and the ministry of the baby born in Bethlehem.
1. He is called Savior He came to save His people from their sins, Matt. 1:21. This baby came into this world to lay down His life on a Roman cross so that lost sinners might be saved from their sins. He came to this world to die, Isa. 53:4-6.
2. He is called Christ This word means anointed one. This name identifies this baby as the long awaited Messiah of the Jews. He is One Who will fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies. He is the One Who will reconcile men to God. He is the One to Whom all the sacrifices and types in the Old Testament have pointed.
3. He is called Lord The shepherds are told about a baby in a manger, but that baby is identified as Lord. This name portrays Him as the One in control. He is the Savior, but He is also the Sovereign. You see, that baby lying in that manger was no ordinary baby! That baby was actually God in human flesh, John 1:1; 14; Phil. 2:5-8. The Creator had become a man! The eternally Lord of glory stepped out of eternity into time.
(Ill. There has never been a message quite like this one! It is a message of hope, life and salvation to all who will believe it!)
C. v. 12 The Conflict Of The Message These shepherds are told that they will find the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Swaddling clothes were actually strips of rags that were wrapped around newborns to give them warmth. A manger was a feeding trough where animals were fed.
This special baby, God in human flesh, the Messiah, the Savior, the King of Kings, was not born in a palace. He was born in the smelly, noisy courtyard of an overflowing inn. He was not wrapped in velvet like a prince; He was wrapped in the rags of a common man.
He willingly laid aside the glories of Heaven and stepped into time in the form of a humble servant, Phil. 2:5-8. He made Himself poor so that we, through His poverty, might be made rich, 2 Cor. 8:9. He knew what it was to suffer; to do without the finer things of life; to live each moment in dependence upon His Father to provide His needs, Matt. 8:20. He did this so that He might identify with us when we have a need, Heb. 4:15.
There is no real conflict in the message. Everything was just as God planned it to be. Jesus came in the way that He did so that He might identify with us. He came as He did that we might identify with Him. I would have an easier time approaching a baby in a manger than I would a King on a throne!
II. v. 8-11 A NIGHT OF PERSONAL MINISTRY
(Ill The shepherds on that Judean hillside enjoyed a time of personal, divine ministry that night.)
A. v. 8 The Grace Of This Ministry There is grace here because this was a message delivered to a group of people who were outcasts in their society. By virtue of their duties, shepherds were considered ceremonially unclean by the Jews. Their work prevented them from regular attendance at the Temple where they could be cleansed. As a result, these men were considered the lowest of the low. Yet, it is these men that heard the glad tidings first. It was these men who received the message of peace from the angel of the Lord.
What a picture of grace! Regardless of a person’s past, or of how low they may have fallen in life, there is still hope for them in Jesus. The Lord turns no one away, but invites all who will come to meet Him and be saved by the grace of God! Regardless of your station in life, there is a place for you in the love of God. Don’t let some sin, or some situation stand between you and Heaven. Come to Jesus today, because He will not turn you away, John 6:37.)
B. v. 10-11 The Glory Of This Ministry The glory in this ministry is seen in its personal nature. Notice that the angel tells the shepherds that this baby Who being born in Bethlehem was not just for the whole world, but that He was being born for them as individuals! May we never forget that the message of Christmas is a personal message! You need to be sure that you are saved by Gods grace and that you are in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! He loves you! He died for you! He reaches out to you! He wants to know you! Gods plan of salvation is all about you coming to know Jesus in a personal way! Have you met the Lord Jesus Christ personally?
C. v. 10 The Goal Of This Ministry While this message may have been given to a small group of shepherds in a little out of the way village in Israel, God intended these good tidings to be heard around the world. These men heard the good news first, but they would not be the last. These shepherds met Jesus and they went right out and told others, v. 17. That message was picked up by others, who told others, who told others, until one day someone told you and me. That is how the Gospel is spread, 2 Tim. 2:2.
What started in Bethlehem was to reach far beyond the confines of that little village. The Gospel is a message designed for all people of all ages. It is a message that deserves to be shared in this day and hour. After all, “it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, Romans 1:16. Every person we meet is a candidate for the Gospel. Every home we enter is a place where the Gospel needs to be shared. We are to be in the business of sharing this message until Jesus calls us out of this world, Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15.
III. v. 13-14, 20 A NIGHT OF PROLIFIC MAGNIFICATION
(Ill. That night began a silently and as calmly as another night. Before the morning came, the still of that night was shattered by the praises of those overcome with joy over the birth of Jesus! Let’s listen in on the praises that filled the night at Bethlehem.)
A. v. 13-14 Celestial Beings Magnified Him When this angel finished his speech, the heavens were filled with a multitude of the heavenly host and they began to speak an anthem of praise exalting their Creator, Who was being born among men. We wont dissect their message, but imagine how they must have felt. Imagine their amazement as they watched their sinless, glorious Lord and Creator born as a helpless child! Imagine their wonder as God appeared before their eyes as the weakest of humans. Even though they didn’t understand all they saw, they praised Him for it and exalted Him. They wondered in rapt amazement as God entered time for the purpose of saving fallen humanity. What grace! What glory! It moved the angels to praise their Creator!
Just think, 33 years later, they would see this same person die on a cross for the very people He was born to save. Imagine their amazement as they Creator laid down His life in the place of wicked men!
B. v. 20 Converted Beings Mangified Him When the angels departed, the shepherds went into Bethlehem and found the baby Jesus. I think they accepted the message and were saved that very night. They left that manger as new creatures. They left the presence of Jesus as redeemed children of God!
As they made their way back to their flock, they went rejoicing in the new life they had found. As these men headed back to the hill country and their sheep, they went with a new joy in their souls that they had not known before. These men were filled with rejoicing because of what they had heard and had seen that night. They would never be the same because they had met Jesus!
They were still shepherds. They were still outcasts from society. Religion still had no place for them, but they had met the Master and that changed everything!
There are some saints in this world who have met Jesus in a powerful, life changing manner. These people are different. They know it and everyone who is around them knows it. Many of them are filled with the glory of God and they demonstrate it by rejoicing in their salvation. The world doesn’t understand them. Religion has no place for them. Even the church sees them as something of a novelty. But, these are people who have been with the Master! They are new born and they are going to magnify His Name! Why? They rejoice because His message is still a message that can bring a shout from those who meet Him!)
IV. v. 17-20 A NIGHT OF POWERFUL METAMORPHOSIS
(Ill Jesus may have been a baby when the events recorded in these verses occurred, but He was already in the life-changing business. Several people encountered Jesus that night and everyone who encountered Him was changed.)
A. v. 17-20 Some Worshipers Were Changed We have already talked about these shepherds and their rejoicing. These were the last people you would think about as worshipers of the Lord. But, these men met Jesus. When they did, they were no longer the same. He transformed a group of vile, rough shepherds into shouting missionaries for the glory of God.
But, that is what Jesus does! Every person who meets Him comes away changed. He takes wrecked, ruined lives and makes the new. He takes hard hearts and makes them tender again. He takes those who love nothing but sin and self and causes them to fall in love with God. He is a life changing Lord, 2 Cor. 5:17!
B. v. 19 A Woman Was Changed Young Mary had already experienced the grace of God when she was chosen to be vessel through which Jesus came into the world. Mary was already a believer. But, as she watched her newborn Son receive worship as God, she would never be the same. She would watch Him grow strong physically, mentally and spiritually. She would watch Him heal; hear Him preach and see Him suffer. Eventually, she would watch Him die on a cross for the sins of humanity. Marys life would never be the same because of her association with Jesus.
C. The World Was Changed Our text doesnt record it, but what began there at Bethlehem as never ended. It never will! Jesus grew up and died on the cross. He rose again from the dead and anyone who will place their faith in Him for salvation will be changed for all time and eternity! The baby born in Bethlehem all those years ago changed the world in profound ways. His message, His life and His death are still changing the world today.
Have you experienced His life changing power? You can, if you will come to Him. If you have, then like those shepherds all those years ago, you can rejoice in what you have in Jesus. If not, you can be changed today.
Conc: Sixteen-year-old Anissa Ayala was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. In such cases, the patient usually dies within five years unless he or she receives a bone marrow transplant.
Abe and Mary Ayala, her parents, began a nationwide search for a donor whose marrow would be a close match for Anissa's. Though they searched long and hard, no suitable donor was found. But this mother and father did not passively accept their daughter's fate. They knew from their doctors that the best hope for Anissa lay in a marrow transplant from a sibling. But the marrow of her only brother, Airon, was incompatible. She needed a sibling who at that time did not even exist.
So Abe and Mary stepped out in faith. First Abe had to have his vasectomy surgically reversed, a procedure with a success rate of just 40%. After that was done, Mary ventured to become pregnant at the age of 43, and there was only a 10% chance that this could happen. Even if she did, the odds were only one-in-four that the baby's bone marrow would match her sisters. They were now three years from the initial diagnosis.
Well, in April 1990, Mary bore a daughter by the name of Marissa. Fetal stem cells were extracted from the umbilical cord and frozen for use, along with the marrow which was determined miraculously to be totally compatible. But then they had to wait for the baby to grow old enough and strong enough to donate the marrow safely, even while her older sister's life clock was ticking.
Finally, the magic moment came. As fourteen month old girl, Marissa Ayala lay on an operating table, a surgeon inserted a one inch long needle into her hip and began to withdraw not just ordinary bone marrow, but the stuff of resurrection; the ingredients of life. Doctors rate the chance of success for this daughter at 70%.
Amazingly, miracle after miracle had to take place for that life to be born, and for that marrow to be compatible. But there are some big differences. Marissa was born to live, Jesus was born to die. Her marrow may not have been compatible. Jesus' blood was guaranteed to remove from us the cancer of our sin.
One night, long, long ago, God moved Heaven and earth to provide a Savior. Miracle after miracle took place in the birth, life, dead and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every single miracle was for you. Everything God did He did so that you might have a Savior.
Have you received Jesus as your Savior? Have you unwrapped Heaven’s greatest gift? Are you saved? Would you like to be? This altar is open if you want to be saved. If you need to make some things right with God, you can do that today. If you need to say “Thank you Lord for your great gift of salvation through Jesus. All He asks is that you obey His voice.