Introduction to sermon on ‘Questions in the Christmas Story’ :
When I was much younger, there was a song that used to play on the Radio that I liked very much. It was titled ‘There are more questions than answers’ sung by Reggae singer Johnny Nash. The song asked a few questions like ‘what is life?’, ‘how do we live?’, ‘what should we take?’, and ‘how much should we give?’
Questions are very much a part of life and asking questions can help us increase our knowledge. There are many types of questions we ask. For instance, some of you may be asking some very personal questions right now, like, ‘Will I get a salary bonus this year?’, ‘How much will it be?’, ‘will my medical tests come out all right?’ (I had first-hand experience of this when I prepared this sermon as my wife and 2 sons were down with viral fever with one of my sons having to be hospitalized. There was tension with each blood report of his that came in, due to the threat of dengue fever).
Similarly, a young person may be asking ‘should I propose to her before Christmas?’, others may be asking ‘wonder what Christmas will be like this year?’ and in Sri Lanka, many parents are possibly asking right now, ‘how will my child fare at the exam?’ Some of you reading this may even be asking, ‘Is it worth my time going through this sermon?’!
Another extremely humorous song from days gone by comes to my mind right now. It was titled, ‘Foolish Questions’. Don’t we humans ask them every day! I remember a day when it was raining heavily in Colombo and drenched to the bone, I found some shelter. A guy who was already there, looking at my drenched clothes asked, ‘It’s raining isn’t it?’!!
PROPOSITION – God has an answer to the questions in your heart today.
In this sermon, I would like to dwell on the following 3 questions asked in the Christmas story by different people, and look at how God revealed the answers to them. One of these questions was asked before the birth of Jesus, one directly involved His birth and one was asked after His birth. The first question was:
1) QUESTION 1 IN THE CHRISTMAS STORY – HOW CAN I BE SURE OF THIS? (Luke 1:18)
In the 1st chapter of Luke we read about a godly couple; Elizabeth and her priestly husband Zechariah. They had no children and to make things worse, they were too old to hope for a child anymore (1:18). I have prayed for many couples with no children and one can feel some of the agony they go through as they keep trying to have a baby. I’m sure Elizabeth and Zechariah too went through much pain as they would have prayed many times over this (1:13).
It so happened however that Zechariah’s turn to burn incense in the temple had arrived (some commentators believe that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Priest – New International Bible Commentary) and Zechariah was at his ministry faithfully, when to his amazement, the angel Gabriel turned up at his ministry place with an astounding message (1:11-17). Gabriel gave him a prophecy of the miracle God was going to perform by blessing them with a baby in their old age (1:13)!! The prophecy had the following statements of hope.
“I have been sent…. To tell you this GOOD news.“ (1:19).
“He (the child) will be a joy and delight to you” (1:14).
“He will be great in the sight of the Lord…. and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit…. to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:15-17).
Sadly, in a response of unbelief (1:20), Zechariah asked this question found in the Christmas story. He asked, “How can I be sure of this?” and ended up losing his voice for a season (1:22). I won’t even try to suggest how he may have explained this entire episode to his wife!! God was however true to His Word, as always, and the miracle of the birth of John the Baptist took place. (1:57)
Let’s try to imagine the absolute joy this elderly couple went through as they became part of the Christmas story, and held the baby in their arms. What changes it brought about in their neighborhood. The very people (neighbors and relatives) who may have been mocking them ended up praising them (1:58). While they were probably looking forward to a quiet retirement and being forgotten, “Throughout the hill country… people were talking about all these things” (1:65). Elizabeth was so overcome by joy that she proclaimed, “…He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (1:25). To make their joy complete, Zechariah’s speech was restored too (1:64) and he ended up composing a prophetic song (1:67-79).
Friend, the end of the year is close by and maybe it’s not been a great year. You may think it’s too late for your dreams to be fulfilled. Like Zechariah you may be feeling that your best days are gone and the time of God’s favor is now over. You may have given up and are preparing to fade away into the sunset, a forgotten person.
Hold on, it’s never too late for God to fulfill His plan, His purpose in your life, and to reveal Himself powerfully to you. Take a hold of the promises God gives you from the Christmas story during this Season and don’t allow unbelief to say, “How can I be sure of this?’. Your situation, like Zechariah’s, can be changed by the Lord in one episode so that your life and faith can still bring great glory to God!!
ILLUSTRATION – The story is told of 2 brothers who were convicted of stealing sheep. They were each branded on the forehead with the letters ST, for ‘sheep thief’. One brother, unable to bear the stigma, lived a miserable life and eventually took his own life. The other brother, (With God’s help I believe), decided to rebuild his life and integrity once again and win back the respect of people. He built a solid reputation for integrity over the years.
Many years later, a stranger asked a person from the same town what the letters ST stood for. The other man replied, ‘It happened a long while ago. I’ve forgotten the particulars but I think it stands for Saint’! (Taken from a Men’s Devotional). The sheep thief was now considered a Saint.
Let’s now look at question number 2 in the Christmas story.
2) QUESTION 2 IN THE CHRISTMAS STORY – HOW WILL THIS BE, SINCE I AM A VIRGIN? (Luke 1:34)
This second question in the Christmas story was asked by Mary when the angel Gabriel came to her with yet another astounding message (1:26-33). She was to give birth to the Messiah, Jesus, (“The Son of the Most High”) as a virgin!! (1:32). He later said, “The holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (1:35). Obviously in shock and puzzled, Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
This was a question of wonder, not of unbelief, as she obviously was trying to grapple with how such a thing that had never happened before, could actually take place. The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing is impossible with God” (1:35-37).
After accepting the angel’s message with childlike faith, Mary said in verse 38, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said”.
ILLUSTRATION – I had the opportunity of visiting the States in May 2015 to attend The National Conference on Preaching, in Jacksonville. Before I left home, I told my 2 sons that I would get them a LEGO toy they were very keen to have but which was very expensive in Sri Lanka. To their childlike minds they couldn’t see how dad could get them what they wanted since they thought it would be very expensive.
They believed however that I would be true to my word and held on to that belief. Thankfully, I got them the toy (It wasn’t too expensive) and when I sent a picture of it to them, they were filled with a sense of wonder and went ‘wow’. That may sound very simplistic, but I trust it will communicate what I am trying to say.
Mary trusted God’s word to her and accepted it, even though she would have realized the huge challenges ahead, with a broken engagement and neighborhood gossip a very real possibility. In fact, it would take decades for people to believe her story!!
Friend, when God gives you a promise or prophecy, be confident that He will fulfill it, in His time. If you are prone to ask the question, ‘How will this be?’, may it be a question of wonder and childlike faith, and not one of unbelief. Remember the words given to Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God” (1:37).
That brings us to the third and final question today in the Christmas story:
3) QUESTION 3 IN THE CHRISTMAS STORY – WHERE IS THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN BORN KING OF THE JEWS? (Matthew 2:2)
The Magi who followed the Christmas star from the East asked this question – the third question in the Christmas story – when they came to Jerusalem. It’s amazing that they were so committed to finding and worshiping the King of the Jews (2:2). Obviously, the star had a profound effect on them as God’s creation spoke to them clearly (2:2). It showed what an awesome Creator we have and I believe the Magi understood that.
Herod, the corrupt man that he was, was disturbed (2:3), and brought them into the palace secretly to get inside information (2:7), with vicious and devious plans of his own (2:8). After they left Herod, the star led them to the exact place where they could worship the newborn King and open their treasures to present precious gifts to Him (2:9-11).
Isn’t it ironic that while these men had traveled possibly hundreds of miles to see the King of the Jews, the Jewish leaders themselves were unwilling to go a few miles to reach Bethlehem! While the star was God’s revelation to the Magi, the baby Jesus was God’s greatest revelation to the entire world. So great that He eventually split history in two!
ILLUSTRATION – Friend, maybe you are asking the same question today; “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” My journey on that search began as a young boy saddled with chronic Asthma, with much pain and suffering as a result, and the possibility of a hopeless future. The journey eventually led me to a cross, where the same King Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice, to shower God’s grace and forgiveness upon me and my sin.
The search led me thereafter to an empty tomb, where the same Lord rose from the dead. It ended with my acceptance of the amazing grace of this living Savior and the start of a new, eternal life. I was healed of my Asthma too! As Stuart Hamblen sang in the famous Gospel song, ‘It is no secret, what God can do’.
The same Jesus can live in your heart and do the same for you too, if you are willing to invite Him in. Maybe someone needs to re-invite Him in during this Christmas Season. If so, do it now. A quote I read says, ‘Christ’s birth brought God to man; His death brings man to God’.
And for everyone else, let’s renew our intimacy with the Lord during this season so that we can find the needed answers to the questions within us. Let’s learn from these three questions in the Christmas story.
God bless you and may your dreams be fulfilled during this Christmas Season.
For a sermon on ‘The Christmas Light’, click here.
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