Hello and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that this message turns your full attention to the birth of Christ as we celebrate God becoming man, so He could one day save us from our sins and give us eternal life. If this message makes a difference in your life, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely calvaryabq.org/give. Now we invite you to open your Bible as Skip begins this special Christmas day message.
I just want to share with you just a few things out of the gospel of Luke this morning. If you have a Bible handy, you can get ready for that. But we are here to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, we are.
We're not here to give any homage whatsoever to a calorically challenged man in a red suit. We don't think that Christmas should be shared with anybody. It's Jesus birthday and there would be no Christmas without Jesus Christ.
I mean the very word itself-- Christmas. Christ, mass, Christ, gathering, or Christ festival is what the word really means. But it's interesting, the Barna Research Group found that 37% of Americans said that birth of Jesus Christ has little to do with the meaning of Christmas. The birth of Christ has little to do with the meaning of Christmas. There wouldn't be a Christmas without Jesus. We wouldn't be celebrating without him.
And so we have come. We've come to worship Him. We have a tradition in our home. And I got to just say that I don't really take the credit for these. These great traditions that we have are from my wife. It was her idea, but it's a really good idea. So I believe it's your idea. Right, OK? So this is what we do Christmas Eve. We take this old, brown bag and we write something on it that we want to see changed in our lives-- something that is a sin or something bad habit we want to confess, and we write on there. So I wrote, Jesus, I'm sorry that I'm grouchy sometimes. Help me to love people like you do. And then I sign it and I put it out, and we all do that.
And then when morning comes, all of those bags are gone as if miraculously transformed into a bag like this with all sorts of goodies in it. I still have a couple of like a chocolate Christmas tree, and stuff in it, but little toys, and little things in it. So the idea is transformation-- that there's real change that takes place. And I love the symbolism behind that, because Christmas itself can change you. I mean it'll change you for a few hours or for a couple of days, but the magic fades very quickly.
And if Christmas tells us anything, it's that God can change everything by the birth of His son. He split time with the coming of His son. He gave us hope and He is the only gift that can change anything. Well I'm going to read to you the familiar story, since it is Christmas, just a few verses out of the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2 where it says, it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be registered. This census first took place while Corineus was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, every one to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife who was with child. And so it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now that little word manger we're familiar with. If you have a nativity set at home, I bet you know what a manger is. You could point it out. You would say it's that little, wooden crib thing with hay on it. That's the manger. Well, I really don't want to verse your bubble, but I kind of do.
A manger was not a wooden enclosure, it was not a wooden stable, it was not a wooden box. A manger was made out of stone. How do I know this? Because if you come with us to Israel, I'll show you one. They found several in the archaeological digs of Israel. It's a stone, feeding trough where animals would come and drink water out of or eat their food from this stone, feeding trough. The word also could mean a cave, like a limestone enclosure of some kind. A stone enclosure or a feeding trough.
So you have to think in your minds, it wasn't a nice little wooden stable with a wooden crib and hay. It was a cave and it was a feeding trough of animals. Here's my question. Why a manger? Why did God-- why was his grand plan not to put Jesus in Rome with a bed made out of gold, and satin covers, and satin pillow cases? I mean the best for the best. This is God's only son. Why a manger?
Let me suggest to you a couple of reasons. Number one, humility. What is more humble than a poor couple and a frail baby in a stone cave in a feeding trough in the Middle East? That's as low as one can go, but that was God's style, that was Jesus' style. Listen in one-- or in a couple of verses, here's the theology of all of Christmas put together.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but He made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and He became obedient. So why a manger? Humility. This incredible person wrapped in the simplest of wrappings-- skin, flesh, and put in a feeding trough.
You know, I love Christmas and we love opening presents, and I bet a few of us did a little of that before we came. And sometimes you get a gift and it's like the wrapping is so beautiful. I remember my mom used to say when she'd get a really, really nice gift she goes, oh, it's so pretty. I don't want to open it. Well, the whole point is opening it, so open it, mom. But she was commenting on how elaborate it is. Now, her boys on the other hand, we didn't care about the wrapping. And just a little clue for next year, girls, don't even really waste your time on a nice wrapping for guys. Because they don't appreciate. They trip through it, and it's like, whatever, wrapping paper. What's inside?
Well, what's inside, this is the Son of God in the humblest of circumstances, the humblest of wrappings. So if the manger teaches us anything, it teaches us humility, but it teaches us something else. A second reason I believe God sent His son in a manger was to show the incompatibility of Jesus in this world. The incompatibility, what do I mean? The whole attitude of the world is summed up in a little phrase that I just read. Jesus was born and laid in the manger, because there was no room in the inn. And that little phrase, there was no room in the inn sums up the world's mentality, especially toward the Lord Jesus Christ. We just don't have room for Jesus in our inn.
The Bible says Jesus came to His own people and His own people didn't even receive Him, but as many as received Him, He gave them the power to become children of God. Now we know this to be true from reading the scripture. There was no room for Jesus in the political world or the religious world. In the political world, Herod didn't really care about Jesus. Pilot didn't care about Jesus. The Roman government didn't care about Jesus. The political world, by and large, didn't really want to have anything to do with religious stuff and especially somebody who made the kind of claims that Jesus made.
And by the way, I still feel that is true. I don't think the political world cares much about the Christian world except for one thing-- we want the Christian vote. And that's why every election cycle, candidates will do their best to court the Christian vote and say the right things just to get the vote. But in the public arena, they don't want the presence of Jesus. So things really haven't changed all that much in my opinion, but not just the political world, the religious world.
Remember when the Magi came, and they came to Jerusalem, and they said where is He who has been born King of the Jews for we have seen His star in the east, and we are come to worship Him. And Herod the Great heard about this, and it says, he and all of Jerusalem was troubled, agitated because of it. So Herod gets his chief priests and scribes, and poses the question to them. Hey, where is the Messiah, the Christ to be born? And immediately, they come up with the answer. They said in Bethlehem of Judea. I'm amazed at that.
They didn't ever go wait a minute let me get a concordance or my computer Bible program. They just had it. They knew it. It's going to be in Bethlehem of Judea and they quoted the scripture Micah chapter 5 verse 2. But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not least among the rulers of Judah for out of you shall come He who will rule out of Bethlehem. They knew that text. But get this, you know how far away Bethlehem is from Jerusalem where they were?
Less than five miles. You could walk there. You would think that if Magi came from the east following an astronomical wonder in the sky, and they say we're here to worship the King of the Jews. And Herod asked the religious dudes, so where is He going to be born? I go, Micah chapter 5 verse 2. It's going to be in Bethlehem. You would think they would go to Bethlehem a few miles away just to check it out, but they didn't. They didn't want him, they didn't care about him. And I would say things haven't changed. The religious world really has no place for Jesus.
Let me give you an example. We send missionaries around the world and you know what I hear from many missionaries who come back to visit with us, especially in countries where the religious institutions-- and I mean even Christian religious institutions, the old line churches are-- they say our biggest opponents are not atheists. They're church people. They're church leaders who don't want a dynamic move of the spirit like this happening in their culture. So things haven't changed all that much.
The manger shows us humility. It shows us incompatibility in both the political world, as well as the religious world. But let me end on this note. The manger shows us accessibility. I think what God was doing in having his son born in a manger is making the statement that anybody can come. If you're willing to humble yourself, if you're willing to lower yourself, and go to a cave, and go to a feeding trough where animals hang out, if that's not like too low for you, if can bow down a little bit, then Jesus is for you. For rich, and for poor, and everyone alike. You see, there's nothing intimidating about a baby being born in a manger.
You and I would be nervous if we were to approach the throne of a King or queen-- if you went to Buckingham Palace, well, you wouldn't look like this. You'd be wearing a suit and a tie, or a tuxedo, or something, and you'd probably be a little nervous. If you went to the White House to meet the president, you'd have to get vetted before you came, you'd have to get prescreened before you came, you'd have to show a couple of different forms of identification, but not to get to a manger. No ID necessary, no prescreening necessary-- just come as you are. And so the manger's shows us the humility of Christ, the incompatibility with the world, but the accessibility for all men, all women, boys, girls, every generation, rich, poor, any color of skin can come.
And that manger also predicted the life of Christ. Jesus was approachable his whole life. Don't you love the story how when parents brought their children to Jesus, and the disciples figured, well, we've got to organize this now. So let's get these kids away from Jesus. We don't want to get Jesus wound up here. So that they shoved the kids aside and Jesus said, let those children come to me for if such is the Kingdom of God. That's access, man. That's accessibility. Or the woman who had a disease for years and she couldn't be healed, and Jesus stopped and turned to her, and conversed with her, and held up the whole parade for one person, because anybody can come, anybody can have access.
Let me close with a letter to Santa Claus-- there's a spiritual thing. Kids do this every year, but this is my favorite one I've ever found. Dear, Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred. Well, good luck with that, Alfred, because Christmas will not change. The gift will not change you. It might change you for a moment or two, but Jesus-- God's gift to the world changes us for a lifetime. And that's why--
Amen. That's why so many of us have gathered on Christmas day to worship him. Thank you, Lord, for your love for us. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for Jesus, the light of the world, the bread of life, our Lord, our savior, our master, the maker of all things. Without Him, nothing was made that has been made. And we pray, Lord, that Jesus Christ would live in our hearts, dwell in our hearts richly by faith, as Paul wrote. We pray that we would exalt Him in all things. Thank you for this past year, good and bad, we've learned from it. Thank you for loved ones, even those that aren't with us, the memory of them is. And so we give you glory and praise on this day, and we say happy birthday, Jesus. Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this special Christmas day service from Calvary Albuquerque. How did this message impact you? We'd love to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Albuquerque.