*****This post is the written version of my sermon at First Boynton Church on Christmas Eve. The style may be a little different since it is for a verbal presentation rather than a written one.*****
The title of this sermon may be quite strange for a sermon in South Florida. It is “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”.
Now immediately those of us beyond a certain age can hear in our heads the voice of Bing Crosby and we envision tree tops that are glistening.
Unfortunately, palm trees don’t really glisten.
And we may be left to sneaky devices intent on deceiving ourselves that the outside temperature has suddenly fallen by about 70 degrees. Are you one of those who crank the AC to the max in hopes of producing an inside chill? Or do you display a blazing fire place on your TV screen? We even have fake snow and flakes here on the platform.
We do these things in our attempt to recreate a nostalgic Christmas experience.
But the sermon is not about nostalgic Christmas of days gone by. It is about the birth of Jesus. No, it wasn’t snowing that night in Bethlehem. Reindeer weren’t scattered among the animals. Sleigh bells did not ring out in the distance.
Let’s read our text about the way the birth of Jesus took place. Then we’ll unpack it to see three truths of the Lord’s birth that should cause us, like the wise men, to “rejoice exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10).”
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
–Matthew 1:18-25 ESV
1. God Revealed and Is Revealing the Birth of Jesus
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
For Joseph it was in a dream.
Notice that Joseph did not simply have a dream and have to discern it’s meaning. An angel of the Lord used the dream as the vehicle by which he appeared to Joseph.
For us it is a more sure word.
Sometimes we think that if only an angel would appear to me, then I would believe. But that’s not the best source of revelation.
Peter heard the very voice of God from heaven concerning Jesus at the transfiguration. As amazing as that was, notice where Peter places that in the order of revelatory strength.
We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
–2 Peter 1:18-21
Old Testament Prophecy
We have not the time to detail all of the references which foretell the birth of Jesus. The very first is recorded in the opening paragraphs of the Bible as God pronounced judgment on the serpent for deceiving Eve.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he will bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
New Testamant Testimony
The gospel writers declare his life, death and resurrection. The apostles explain and apply his incarnation.
2. God Reveals Himself in the Birth of Jesus
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
Who plays the starring role in your nativity story? We err if our focus centers on the shepherds, on the Magi, on the animals, on the little drummer boy (just checking to see if you are with me), or even on Mary and Joseph. These are all bit players whose role is to direct our gaze upon Jesus.
But for us today, it is not to gaze upon a baby who has never grown up. Sometimes I hear people say things like “Help me Baby Jesus” or “Thank you Baby Jesus”. Baby Jesus no longer exists.
That kind of mindset keeps Jesus in the manger and in swaddling clothes. But as this babe grew, he continued to reveal God.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
Much of the time when names are provided that reveal a truth through us by defining the name, it is left to the reader to do so on his own. Here, however, Matthew supplies the meaning. He doesn’t want his readers to miss it. This birth of Jesus is God with us.
Jesus was revealing God in that manger. He was revealing God in his ministry of teaching and healing. He was revealing God in his passion. He was revealing God in his resurrection. He is revealing God in his glory.
When you see Jesus, you see God.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
That is the entire point of Jesus’ interaction with Philip hours before the cross,
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
If your Christmas celebration does not include a sense of profound awe that God has revealed himself as glorious, you have missed the point.
3. God Reveals Salvation from Sin in the Birth of Jesus
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Besides the name (Immanuel) which reveals to us God himself, the child is named Jesus. Here the angel fills us in on the meaning of the name as having to do with saving his people from sin.
This name provides us with the mission of the one born in Bethlehem. He was coming to a people stained red by sin. His work would be to make that red stain white – as white as snow.
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
Experiencing this cleansing of sin by the power of Jesus’ blood is the fullest demonstration of the Christmas spirit. Jesus was born to die for our sin and be raised for our justification.
A final word of application. Another designate for the baby born was that he is the Christ.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
As the Christ, or Messiah, Jesus is the anointed Prophet – revealing God to us, the anointed Priest – revealing salvation for our sins, and the anointed King – ruling over us.
That last aspect is evident by Joseph’s response to this dream.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph obeyed God’s revelation to him in his dream. He did as the angel commanded him. He took Mary as his wife. He named the child Jesus.
God has revealed himself and that there is a salvation from your sins. You are commanded to call upon the name of the Lord in repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.