Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent 4 Sermon Notes

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sermon Notes
Luke 2:1-20
Good Tidings
December 20, 2015
Lynchburg, Virginia

         We are now in the fourth Sunday of Advent and right on the edge of Christmas. Our anticipation is great, like a woman waiting in her last few days before delivery. She does some nesting, getting everything tidy and in order. As we prepare for Christmas, we get the last of our shopping done and all the hustle and bustle of the season will settle down into the realization that Christmas has finally arrived. We get to rest the whole day, bask in the gifts to one another, and eat a sumptuous meal gathered with family. This is nothing less than the peace of God that has filled the world.
         But we are not quite there yet. Like Mary, we have a few leagues to travel yet and the angels must declare that the glory of God has broken into the world.
         As we look at this passage today, we should consider what God has done. As we prepare our homes, food and gifts, we need to remember to prepare our hearts. The great need of the moment is simply to see what God has done, to ponder this great work in our hearts and to believe God in such a way that we give Him glory and praise. Essentially, this is what we are called to at Christmas, to see and believe the glory of God and then to reflect that glory back to Him. When we do this, the peace of God rests in our hearts and thus peace on Earth and good will towards men.
Luke 2:1   And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 
From Wiki- As part of his actions to strengthen his political ties to Caesar's former soldiers, in 42 BC, following the deification of Caesar, Octavian added Divi Filius (Son of the Divine) to his name, becoming Gaius Julius Caesar Divi Filius.
According to H.H. Scullard, however, Augustus's power was based on the exercise of "a predominant military power and [...] the ultimate sanction of his authority was force, however much the fact was disguised."[1
Augustus, from the Latin word Augere (meaning to increase), can be translated as "the illustrious one".[102] It was a title of religious rather than political authority.
Matthew Henry- The Roman Empire was called, Terraram orbis imperium—The empire of the whole earth.
The dogma from Caesar Augustus was that all the world had to come and answer to Augustus. He had no idea how true this was. Even God showed up. In an ironic twist, the One who showed up at the beck and call of Caesar is the One that Caesar must answer to.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 
Joseph went up to Bethlehem because it was his city of lineage, he was of the house of David.

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Matthew says that Joseph took Mary as his wife after the angel appeared to him in a dream. Here it says that as they go up to Bethlehem she is still his espoused wife. In Matthew it says that he knew her not, carnally, until after Jesus was born. So, we can take that meaning here. He travels with her as wife, everyone assuming the baby is Joseph’s, even though she has not known a man, including her husband, carnally.

Luke 2:8   And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 
That God would visit Shepherds seems shocking to some. After all, the Egyptians of old despised shepherds and in the time of Christ, Shepherds were still a despised people, even in Israel. It is not surprising that the worldlings, the Egyptians and the Romans, despised shepherds but it is surprising that Israelites thought lowly of them. After all, two of the greatest hero’s of Israel’s history were shepherds, Moses and David. And Jesus comes as the antitype of both of these men. Jesus is the one who would deliver His people from their sins and lead them as King in the land of promise.
Moses was the type of the one who deliver his people. David is the type of the one who would rule over them.
So, God appears in power and glory to announce to Shepherds that Great Shepherd who would lead the people from captivity and rule over them in power.
But to such lowly ones, an angel of the Lord God appears in power and glory.

Glory of the Lord- Shone around- perilampo- shine all around
Sore Afraid- Megas Phobeo, a mega phobia.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
Good tidings- the gospel, euagallidzo

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 
Not just an ordinary savior, but THE savior. This Savior is Christ, the Lord. He is the Messiah who is Lord of all.
The SIGN- Note the contrast. This Savior is THE Savior, the one who is God in the flesh, Emmanuel. We would expect to find such a one in a king’s palace. Instead, the angel visits lowly shepherds and announces that the Lord God in the flesh can be found in a manger.
This is not the sign we would expect. The baby is wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Rather, we would expect him to be in a palace. Matthew Henry points out that Jesus “would answer the type of Moses, the great prophet and lawgiver of the Old Testament, who was in his infancy cast out in an ark of bulrushes, as Christ 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, good will toward men. 
As soon as the declaration of the birth of Christ is made to the shepherds, the heavens break loose in praise. Perhaps this is the very moment that Mary gives birth to Jesus? All the heavenly host declare the glory of God in accomplishing His work among men. And what is the end of the great work? It is peace, not a Pax Romana, peace through force but rather Pax Evangelium, peace through proclamation of the gospel. Only the One True God can accomplish this peace. We should see that Luke is clearly declaring that God’s peace is declared over and above the peace of Augustus. God’s Son is the real Son of God. As part of the Roman Empire, these words are blasphemy to the official emperor worship of Rome.
And Jesus is said to rule with a rod of iron but it is a sword that proceeds from his mouth. It is the Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword. It is the Word of God declared that converts men of war into men of peace, so that even their swords are beat into plowshares.
The title of the sermon is Glory to God in the Highest and it comes from this verse. We should see in this passage how God works out all the details of His Providence in the most unlikely fashion.
First, the prophets had told that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. But then an angel appears to Mary in Nazareth, some 80 miles distant. The distance itself is problematic. Add in the fact that Mary is pregnant with the Lord Incarnate. In order to get Mary to Bethlehem, the Lord orchestrates a registration of the people of Israel. Even given this, it is surprising that Mary travels with Joseph, being great with child but she does. It was likely that they traveled in a caravan of people heading to Bethlehem. If so, they may have made their way through Samaria, enemy territory. If not, then they would have gone around Samaria, which would have made the trip longer, at least a week.
So, man has his plans. Caesar August was the so-called son of the divine and thought he was the ruler of the world. And while he thought he was in control, God was really doing exactly what He wanted to do. When we think about all the details that had to transpire to get Mary to Bethlehem and give birth to the Lord Jesus, it is more than remarkable, it is miraculous. But we really do not notice the miraculous in this story. Everything appears to happen in an ordinary fashion. Caesar calls for a registration. The people respond. The city is full and Mary and Joseph are on hard times. The shepherds are out in the fields. Everything is happening as if it was simply going along by the will of man, or even at the whim of chance. But God has orchestrated the entire matter.
This statement of God’s glory is so that peace could reign on the Earth. Augustus had accomplished peace on Earth. In fact, it was called the Pax Romana, the Roman peace. But as stated above, it was not peace created as a result of the reign of the Prince of Peace. It came at the hands of the man of war. The Roman peace was an enforced peace, created through the conquering of enemies with the sword.
God’s peace brings the beating of swords into plowshares. God’s peace arrives in a very different way than the Roman peace. We have a modern day parallel. The radical Muslim wants a Roman peace. He wants to institute Islamic rule through the strength of the sword. But Christianity does not rightly advance in that fashion. This is one reason why we must not despair when politics and the game of politics fought in wars, does not go our way. Our methods are not carnal but are mighty for pulling down the strongholds of the enemy.
What is that method? It is simply the foolishness of preaching. That is the message that the angels brought. Good tidings that the Messiah is here to bring peace on Earth. This peace comes through repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 
The shepherds are lowly men and they do not seem to have a hard time believing what God has said to them through the angel. They go to Bethlehem and find the baby lying in a manger. No doubt, they felt an immediate relief in God’s salvation, that He would come and appear to the lowliest of people, shepherds, and that He would deign to have His Messiah born of a lowly poor woman in a stable. Again, we see that God does things in a way that only He can get the glory. The most unlikely of events produces the most glory for the storyteller.
People wondered at the stories of the shepherds. It seems that God could have recruited better messengers than these? But He is not worried about what you think. He picks shepherds to be the first messengers of God on Earth. Later on, he picks four fisherman, a tax collector, and even a greedy thief, who would betray Him. It seems that God has a very different priority level about the ones He chooses to carry out His plans.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Our application today is simply what Mary and the shepherds did. They pondered these things and responded by glorifying and praising God. Think about what we have said this morning. We know the birth story of Jesus but as we ponder these things, we realize that it is so unlikely. If we were not reading it in the Bible, we would have a really hard time believing it. The very fact of the virgin birth has been disbelieved through all the ages, often times even by those who call themselves Christians. But God has declared these things in His Word. And He has brought together such an unlikely turn of events, and players, orchestrating them down to the fine details in such a way that the only thing that makes sense at all, is to simply give God the glory and praise Him with the angels. Glory to God in the Highest! Amen.

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