As we begin to wind down this Year of the Gospel, and as we have lit the Candle of Proclamation, let’s think about what Christmas proclaims to the world. It was a joy to fly into the Greater Cincinnati airport a few weeks ago, and hear sacred Christmas music playing in such a high-traffic and very diverse area. No matter what your background, no matter your race, education, gender, or socio-economic status, what you were hearing was the Proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord. It almost took my breath away to hear the proclamation in that secular space.
The Christmas Carol, “Hard the Herald Angels Sing,” says “with angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!” We still have a story to tell! We still have a message to preach! We still have a Gospel to proclaim. So, “Go tell it on the mountain! Jesus Christ is born!” The baby who was born in Bethlehem has changed everything. The Christmas story is full of proclamation, full of Good News, full of messages that impact not only our eternal destiny, but our daily lives as well. Let’s examine some of these proclamations this morning!
Christ is King!–Matthew 2:1-2 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
John had a revelation of Jesus that he recorded in the book of Revelation 19:11-16. Turn there if you would. The description speaks to the reality that Jesus Christ is King!
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Isn’t that thrilling!? Get all excited, go tell everybody that Jesus Christ is King. There is no kingdom greater than His Kingdom. There is no king more powerful than He. Listen to Daniel 2:21 where we read: “God changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” God establishes and dissolves earthly kingships. We read on about Jesus in Matthew 28:18 where we are told that all authority in heaven and on earth have been given to Jesus. Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The Wisemen proclaimed Jesus’ kingship as they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They didn’t even know how purposeful, how “proclamational” their gifts were. (I think I just made up a new word this morning, “proclamational!”)
The Wisemen brought gold. Gold was the symbol for kings. If you were giving a gift to a king, you would give gold, not diamonds, not pearls or rubies, or even chocolate, but gold.
Frankincense was a symbol for High Priests. It was used in worship by the priests,
Jesus Christ is our High Priest forever. Frankincense was a symbol of holiness and righteousness. Jesus’ life was lived in purity before God, and was totally pleasing to God. You get frankincense from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the frankincense to flow out. What incredible imagery when we think of the blood of Jesus flowing from His body on the cross of Calvary.
Myrrh was a very expensive spice that was sometimes mixed with wine to form a kind of drink. Remember the drink Christ was offered on the cross in Mark 15:23? It was wine mixed with myrrh. Used in that way, myrrh symbolizes bitterness and affliction and great suffering. We know Jesus underwent intense suffering.
Myrrh also was connected to death. It would be used for embalming. It was incredibly valuable. When you read the NT and you read about the town of Smyrna, know that it was named “Smyrna” because there was a huge myrrh business going on there. Do you remember that Nicodemus used 100 pounds of myrrh when he prepared Jesus’ body for burial? That was a hefty sum of money used to prepare Jesus’ body. Why such expense? Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When the Wisemen brought myrrh to Jesus it foreshadowed the death He would die for the sins of the world. This King came not only to rule, but to die for His subjects! Glory to God!
Jesus’ kingship is a main point of Matthew’s Gospel. (1:23, 2:6, 2:15, 2:18 and 2:23) Even Herod knew a King greater than himself had been born. He called a meeting of the chief priests and scribes to discuss it. Everyone involved was quoting Micah 5:2 which says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Hello? Bethlehem? A ruler being born? His origins are from ancient times? Jesus, being God, the second Person of the Trinity, has always existed. Even Herod knew a great king had been born!
Very important people were getting together to talk about this new king that threatened their earthly power, and He was just a baby at that point! You know who was threatened by Jesus all His life? People with power. People without power and position flocked to Him, but people with power plotted to take His life every time He turned around, and it began when He was just a toddler and Herod ordered the execution of the Bethlehem baby boys two and under. Jesus’ parents successfully fled to Egypt during that time and proved once again that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords because no earthly power could stop Him. No earthly power could thwart the plan of God.
Listen to me, no matter how secular our society becomes, no matter how much evil pervades, no matter what the political climate, no matter what threat looms from any country or any organization, Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He will never be anything else. Christ is King! Proclaim it this Christmas.
Proclamations Two and Three:
God works miracles and God’s Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom.-Luke 1:70
In Luke chapter one we read of the angel’s visit to Mary during which He gives her the incredible news that she was going to have a child. The child would be the result of a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary and she would conceive the Messiah. The virgin birth. This is a foundational truth, a cornerstone to our faith that we cannot concede and must proclaim. There had to be a miracle at work in order for the plan of salvation to be successful. Jesus couldn’t have been born of a human father and a human mother. If He had been, He would have been a man. He would not have been God. If He had been just a man, He could not have been the Savior, the Perfect One, the sacrifice for sins. There is no Good News without the miracle of the Virgin Birth. God invaded time and space and the place of a woman’s womb in a miraculous way.
Of course, the Virgin birth isn’t the only miracle that can be seen in the Christmas story. Dreams, stars, angels, a cousin of John the Baptist being conceived by a couple in their old age, a priest going mute and then receiving the ability to speak again, not to mention all the prophecies that were fulfilled, reveal that God is the miracle-working business.
I have witnessed miracles this past week. Peace has come to several relationships, and those folks have reached out to me to tell me about it. That is a miracle. I know of at least five families whose homes have been dramatically impacted with healing this past week. I have heard about physical healings this week as well.
God is still at work in the homes, hearts, bodies, and minds of those who allow Him to work. He doesn’t always work in the way we want Him too. We know that. He didn’t come to earth in the way the Jewish people wanted Him to. They didn’t want a King with an eternal agenda. That isn’t the miracle they were asking for at that point.
They wanted a King to deal with their situation on earth. They wanted a military king to overthrow Rome and free them from oppression. While that would have been good, it would have only been temporary. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall and rise again. Such is the nature of human natures and selfish, greedy temperaments. They didn’t realize their greater need was for a solution to their sin problem.
The miracle of the Resurrection is the greatest miracle of all time, but it didn’t change Rome’s occupation of Israel. It did, however, change everything about how the Jews and others could live in spite of this world’s difficulties. That, my friend, is a miracle. No, miracles don’t always take place the way we want them to, but they are miracles, nonetheless, and miracles provided by the God who always knows what is best. Christmas proclaims, “God works miracles!” Proclaim the miracle of the Virgin Birth with me this Christmas!
When the angel addresses Mary, we also read in Luke 1:32-33 that God’s Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
His Kingdom will never end! Don’t you feel like singing “The Hallelujah Chorus?” I do! It says, “And He shall reign forever and ever! King of Kings and Lord of Lords forever, and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!
Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
Christ is the Lord of an UNSHAKEABLE KINGDOM! If you are a student of history and you have been wowed by the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persians, Greeks, Romans or whatever empire, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Listen, the Kingdom of God is already a reality in the hearts of God’s true church. You see, there is a called-out elect, there is a group of people who have already exchanged their earthly citizenship for a heavenly one, there is already of band of believers who are living in the Kingdom of God. Oh, we get conflicted at times. Oh, we get caught up in the stuff of life every now and then, but our hearts are fixed on Heaven, and our hope is secure in Christ. No matter what, we are following the King of Kings who is ruling and reigning in ways we can’t see or always understand, but we have confidence that we are part of the Kingdom that will last forever! Christmas proclaims that God’s rule and reign is forever!
The fact, and it is a fact, that Jesus rose from the dead, proves His “foreverness.” Even death couldn’t dominate our Lord. Let people know about the hope of Heaven. Tell people the good news about everlasting life with Jesus. It is not only part of the Christmas story, but it is also part of our story!
God is a Promise Keeper! Verse 70 of Luke one could be easy to rush past. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, a priest and man who had been made mute during his wife’s whole pregnancy due to his unbelief, suddenly was given voice to speak, and he said these words beginning with verse 68: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago).
After being silent for many months, Zechariah proclaimed that our God is a Promise Keeper. He brought salvation to all people through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ just as He said He would through the prophets of long ago. Christmas proclaims, “God keeps His promises!” He can be trusted. We can count on Him.
God is a God of Covenant. Covenant theology runs through the entire Bible. He is a promise keeper. His Words matter to Him. His follow-through is perfect. He doesn’t make idle threats. He doesn’t go soft on His promises. He doesn’t campaign to be your God and then change agendas like many who run for office. What He promises, He fulfills. What He says, He does.
I love that the Old Testament story about the Jewish people being freed from slavery and taken to a new and wonderful place . . . I love that the new place was called the Promised Land or Land of Promise. Listen, God is taking us somewhere, and it is a purposeful place and our getting there, rests on the faithful promises of God. One day, our faith shall be made sight. One day, the Eastern Sky will split wide open, and as the angels filled the skies to proclaim the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds, the trumpet of God will sound with a double forte, and the hosts of heaven will accompany the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will make good on His promise to end things here on earth as we know it and to establish God’s people in a different realm, a different existence, a place and reality far away from any sadness, pain, or drama. You can take it to the bank. You can count on it. Proclaim this truth with me to the world, but Christ is returning for His bride!
Finally, the Proclamations of Christmas tell us that God’s gift of peace is for everyone.
Luke 2:8-14 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
The angels told the shepherds not to be afraid of the Good News because of the impact it would have on their lives. We know the shepherds followed the angels’ directions to find Christ for themselves, and Luke tells us that although they went to the manger as shepherds, they left as evangelists. They were transformed. They told everyone about their encounter with Christ and with great excitement. They were convinced. They were “all-in.” Perhaps instead of the angels speaking to us today, telling us not to be afraid of the Good News, the Holy Spirit will tell us, as believers, on this side of the Resurrection to not be afraid to share the Good News.
I don’t know how 2016 and the Year of the Gospel has gone for you. I don’t know how many people you have personally witnessed to. I don’t know if you have been afraid to “Know it, Live, it, Tell it and Give it.” I don’t know if you have shared Scripture with anyone, prayed with anyone, invited anyone to church or if you have shared your personal testimony with anyone? You know. God knows. Perhaps in this moment, you are convicted by this particular proclamation of the Christmas story that hasn’t been proclaimed through your life. Don’t feel beaten up. Don’t dump yourself into a pot of guilt. Just ask yourself, “Why? What are you afraid of?” If you have personally received Christ as Savior and haven’t been sharing the difference He makes with others because of fear, get to the bottom of that and quickly because we have Good News of Great Joy for everyone.
I have never seen a time in history where people needed good news and great joy more than the times in which we live. I love what I think Pastor Jed did with our students on Wednesday. I saw evidence on Facebook that he asked them to post this statement: I will take heart because He has overcome the world. What a courageous and encouraging post. I saw several of our students make that bold declaration on social media.
What if, today on the day where we are evaluating the difference that knowing Christ makes, we would all post, “Having Jesus in my life brings me great joy.” You could hashtag it, snapchat it, Facebook it, however you could personally get the word out. You could add a picture of you smiling, or an image of joy you find on social media somewhere to make it your own. Maybe that isn’t your style. That is ok. One-size doesn’t fit all. Just find a way to get the word out that Jesus brings joy. It will start a conversation with someone, I guarantee it! Maybe you could text someone right now and say, “My preacher told me to text someone today and tell them that having Jesus in my life brings me great joy, and you are the person I decided to share it with.”
Christmas tells us Christ is King! Proclaim it.
Christmas tells us God works miracles. Proclaim it.
Christmas tells us God’s Kingdom will never end. Proclaim it.
Christmas tells us God is a Promise Keeper. Proclaim it.
Christmas tells us God’s peace is for everyone. Proclaim it.
Let’s allow God not only to have space in our hearts, but let’s allow the reality of His occupancy proclaim His love, peace, healing and forgiveness to the world.