Illustration: Have you ever been in a deep sleep or deep silence and then there is a loud noise and are a bit disorientated – “Where am I and what day of the week is it?” - but you find that you are surrounded by a large amount of activity? How do you experience and feel? It takes me a while to adjust!
Israel had experienced the silence of God for about 400 years, when there is an explosion of God’s activity and whispers! The Israelites had been captivity, occupied and possibly without hope for 400 years! Living in hope is not easy when it has been generations since a prophet stood and spoke of Gods care; even harder when you have lived as virtual slaves for all of that time. People began to dream dreams of a great king to liberate them. The messiah, sent by God, born of David’s line, who would restore the kingdom of Israel to its glory days; but God was building his Kingdom, and humanity had far more to be hopeful for and to be expectant of.
Then there comes this man, an ordinary man, called Jesus. In Luke 4:18-21 (NIV) we see a profound moment at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. He goes to his home town synagogue and is asked to read the passage for the day. He reads: ‘“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”’ Can you sense the silence? Into that silence comes an explosion of whispers as a declaration!
1. WHAT DO WE CELEBRATE AT CHRISTMAS? The Kingdom of God is the Good News!
Jesus initially was a popular Teacher, so when He went back to His hometown, it was natural for Him to teach in synagogues. It was the custom in the synagogue for a man to stand while he was reading the Scriptures but then to sit while explaining the portion he had read. The portion of Scripture Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1-2, a messianic passage. When Jesus added, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”, the implication was clear. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah who could bring the kingdom of God which had been promised for so long—but His First Advent was not His time for judgment. The crowd was fascinated at His teaching—The eyes of everyone . . . were fastened on Him (Luke 4:20). Jesus’ words plainly stated that the offer of the favourable year of the Lord (i.e., the kingdom time) was being made to them through Him (v. 21).
This good news of the Kingdom is:
- Pentecostal: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. How he was qualified for the work: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. All the gifts and graces of the Spirit were conferred upon him, not by measure, as upon other prophets, but without measure, Jn. 3:34. He now came in the power of the Spirit.
- Personal: Is upon me! Joel 2:28-29 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.’ How he was commissioned: Because he had anointed me, and sent me. His extraordinary qualification amounted to a commission; his being anointed signifies both his being fitted for the undertaking and called to it.
- Evangelical: To preach Good News. In general, Jesus must preach the gospel. He is sent, euangelizesthai, —to evangelize all the people.
- Social: To the poor. To whom he was to preach? The poor; to those that were poor in the world, whom the Jewish doctors disdained to undertake the teaching of and spoke of with contempt; to those that were poor in spirit, to the meek and humble, and to those that were truly sorrowful for sin: to them the gospel and the grace of it will be welcome, and they shall have it, Mt. 11:5.
- Psychological: Freedom for the prisoners. Jesus saw many people captive to sin, to abuse and abusive relationships and circumstances.
- Physical: Recovery of sight to the blind. There is a powerful healing ministry that flows from the Kingdom.
- Political: release the oppressed. This is power struggle between the principalities and powers of this dark world and the Kingdom of God and God wins! No political power can stand against God!
- Prophetic: To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. He was to preach and to make that preaching effectual; to bring it, not only to their ears, but to their hearts, and deliver them into the mould of it Jesus leave out God’s vengeance from the passage He quoted, Isaiah 61. His First Advent was not His time for judgment.
2. HOW DO WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? In amazement!
There are two responses:
- Some were amazed (ethaumazon) and marvelled at His gracious words (literally “his words of grace”);
- Some debated and moaned: immediately began to debate, questioning the authority with which He could say these things. How could Joseph’s Son—the Boy they saw grow up in their town—be the Messiah?
Jesus, sensing their opposition (4:23-24), noted two instances in which God’s prophets ministered miraculous acts of grace to Gentiles while Israel was in unbelief—Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (vv. 25-26; cf. 1 Kings 17:8-16), and Elisha and Naaman the Syrian leper (Luke 4:27; cf. 2 Kings 5:1-19). Jesus hits hard on this one, telling the people who should believe that they will miss out on the blessing of real belief and those others who are willing to listen will be blessed out of their socks! Jesus’ mention of Gentiles rather than Jews having God’s blessing caused the people to be furious (Luke 4:28). They attempted to kill Him, but He walked right through the crowd (Luke 4:30). This pattern is seen throughout the rest of Jesus’ ministry: Jesus went to the Jews; they rejected Him; He told of Gentile participation in the kingdom; some Jews wanted to kill Him. How do we approach the God of the Good News?
Christmas is about Jesus. Have you accepted Jesus as God, Messiah, your Friend and Leader? Do that today.
A = Accept that Jesus loves you!
B = Believe the Good News of what Jesus has done for you
C = Confess your Sin and Jesus as Lord
D = Devote your life to Him