Charles Stanley - The Significance of the Birth of Jesus
Well, the manger scene with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, with a few animals in the barn is a scene that most of us have thought about and have seen and have talked about all the, these many, many years. But today, this very sacred scene has become a target. And when I think about the manger scenes that have been placed in different places, earlier in this century, it was more often seen than today. And little by little, the manger scene has been discarded because some people objected. And they saw that as a target.
The most important event in the history of all humanity, a target of people who hate God, hate religion, who are agnostic or totally unbelievers, it's become a target. Then, it became a political issue. And so, that today, you see less and less scenes of the Mary and Joseph, Jesus, and all the rest that you and I know about. So, they go to court. They do all kind of things to remove the manger scene. But think about this, God placed the first manger scene here and no matter what somebody says or does or what kind of laws they pass, the effects of the manger scene will still be here when Jesus comes no matter what they try to do.
And, when I understand what really happened in that spot, that place, wherever it may be, and there are manger scenes all over the country today, regardless of what people try to do. So, I want us think about it in light of let's look into a little deeper look at that because there's more there than simply Mary and Joseph and the shepherds who came. And so when you look at that scene, you realize that there's more to it than meets the eye. So, I want us to look at it. It was the most significant birth in the world, the most significant thing that had happened up until that time. Because it was that moment in time when God came to earth in the form of a baby to live among men; to grow up; live in a carpenter shop; learn to be a carpenter. One day laid aside His apron maybe and His tools and walked out to change the world. That makes it a very, very significant scene.
So when you look at it, it's easy to say, "Well, we've seen this for years". But what does it represent? It's a reminder of your salvation. It's a reminder that you don't have to worry about dying. It's a reminder that your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And it's a reminder that all of your blessed assurance is not because of anything you and I have done, but simply respond to the truth of the message of the gospel which began pictorially right there in that situation.
And then, when you begin to look at what the Scripture says about Him, I want us to look at the Colossians chapter one for a moment because here is an awesome description of what this manger scene is all about in this first chapter. Speaking of Jesus, "In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins". This is what was happening. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things have been created through Him and for Him".
That is, in that scene is the baby we just described. "The image of the invisible God; the firstborn of all creation". And then the Scripture says He, "He is," not was, but "He is before all things; and in Him all things hold together". That is, in that cradle lay a baby that everything we have just read about was true of Him. People criticize that scene. That scene is a picture of the most significant thing that has ever happened until the cross, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
So the Scripture says, "He is before," listen to that, not was, "He is before all things. In Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church, He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead," that is resurrection, "so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross; through Him, I say, whether things in earth or things in heaven". That's what happened and that's what that scene represents.
Now that's an awesome description of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when somebody sort of recklessly says, "You ought to take that thing out of your yard, or that's just religious stuff". No, it's not just religious, it's reality. It's eternal reality. When you read that passage in Colossians chapter one and recognize and ponder over those words about who Jesus is and what happened that night He was born, we should all bow before that scene to say, "Thank You, thank You, dear God for giving to us the Son of God".
And so, when you think about it, was that something insignificant? The most significant thing that had ever happened since the creation of the world, the coming of God in the person of a baby, to dwell among men; and one day to die on a cross, resurrect and ascend to Heaven; and one day He's coming back. Everything about all of it is sacred to all of us whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Who all have to go back to the Scripture to say here's what happened. And the reason I'm saved and my name is in the Lamb's Book of Life because God chose to come to earth in the form of a babe, lay down His life on the cross, pay my sin-debt in full, even before I was born.
Think about this. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And think about this. Not to any of our credit. Think about it. That all of your life you will live and the blessings of God you'll receive, and the forgiveness of sin is yours. And your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Not one single one of us can take any credit for any of that. So, at Christmas, if there was more to give than ourselves, we should give it. And giving presents to other people will remind us we've already received the greatest present we'll ever be able to receive. The gift of the Son of God as our Savior, Lord, Master and the hope and the promise of Heaven forever and ever and ever. That's ours.
And think about this. You can't determine a person's value by their surroundings. And if you'll think about Jesus, wasn't born in a palace. You'd think the Son of God should be born in a palace - no. He was born in a little crib. So, you can't look at their surroundings. Bethlehem, where was that? A small town. And no one who walked into a stable like that would possibly believe that God was lying there. They couldn't possibly believe that. That Holy God chose to come to earth in the form of a babe, virgin born.
And so, the interesting thing to me is that people who want to criticize the virgin birth and sort of make fun of it and say, "Well, that's impossible". What do we say? Yes! Yes, yes, yes, it's impossible. No, that would take a miracle. Yes, it's a miracle because it's God at work on a human level that man could not understand. It was God coming to earth in the form of a babe to grow up like any other little boy except sinless, and one day lay down His life in order that you and I would have eternal life. Can they explain it? No. And I think one of the reasons they want to get rid of it is because it's so overwhelming. They can't explain it.
Watch this. It's their pride, they can't explain how a baby could give them eternal life. They don't, they can't explain how God operates. And so you and I have so much to be grateful for. And when I meet people like that it doesn't get me upset. I feel sorry for them, for the simple reason, listen, they can have this awesome mind that can explain, invent, you name it, and they can't conceive of God becoming a child, a baby. God growing up, dying on a cross, being resurrected, and returning to the Father, writing our name in the Lamb's Book of Life. They don't understand that. I do, I understand why they don't understand.
One of the reasons they don't understand is they don't want to. Naturally, if I want to live a sinful life, I don't want to believe all that stuff. So, I understand why they're foolish; why they are very foolish not to consider the fact that the birth of Jesus Christ was a reality. And the fact that He walked among men was a reality. That He died upon a cross was a reality. And that He died in order to save us from our sins was a reality. That He rose from the dead is a reality. Sits at the Father's right hand as the judge of all mankind. Listen. If I didn't want to live a godly life, I wouldn't want to believe that. But I'm sorry friend, it's the truth. And what you look with disdain, is your only hope of eternal life.
So be wise. Think about this. Just think about, just possibly if it's truth, what does it mean to you? Christmas is not about packages. It's not about eating. It's not about fun. It's about God. It's about Jesus. It's about the cross. It's about the Resurrection. It's about hope. It's about assurance. Unless this was Jesus the Son of God, unless He did die on the cross paying our sin-debt in full as an atonement, it's meaningless. But thank God it is all the truth, the eternal truth of God prepared before the foundation of the world. So, it's a significant time, far more serious than people take it. And so, when I think about that and I think about the fact that God made His greatest revelations to us in such a lowly in such a lowly fashion.
Think about this. He could have made Jesus some great emperor. He could have made Jesus some great king. There were kings; there were emperors; there were all kinds of important people. But think about what God did. Shocked the world. He rose from the grave and all of us who have accepted Him as our Savior, God changed our life. And if somebody says, "Well how, how do you know you're saved"? You can explain it. You have assurance in your heart. Why? Because it's a promise of Almighty God. We have a relationship with this Jesus. And we have a relationship with Almighty God.
Everything was changed the moment Jesus Christ was conceived in the body of the Virgin Mary. And His life from thereafter has changed everything. This was an event in time that changed everything. And to all of us who are wise enough to accept Christ as our Savior, He gave us the promise of eternal life. So, when I think about the fact that God revealed all of this to a bunch of shepherds. He also does some other things that we don't expect. Think about this. He made it possible for you to go to heaven and He called it being born again. And so, He made it simple enough that if you and I confess, repent of our sins, and place our trust in that baby born in Bethlehem and grew up to be a carpenter, the Son of God, the Messiah, who sits at the Father's right hand. He made it so simple so that you and I could understand salvation.
Think of that. Jesus did not speak in terms above people's heads. He talked about things that they understood. And He talked about sheep, and He talked about life. He talked about death and talked about relationships. He made it possible for us to understand how God thought, because He was God in the flesh. He didn't make anything difficult. You say, "Well, I don't always understand everything the Bible says". Probably all of us would have to say there are some things we don't fully understand. We don't fully understand miracles unless we're willing to give God the credit that He has the power to perform them.
So, God has made all of these things possible so that even a child. And I think about one morning Becky was five years of age and she said to me after breakfast, she says, "Dad, would you pray with me? I want to receive Jesus as my personal Savior". Five years old. My first thought was, "Now, Becky, do you understand this"? And so, I began to talk to her a little bit and she assured me that she understood that Jesus died on a cross for her sins. And think about a five-year-old girl concerning about sin. Died for her sins and that if she would confess her sins, she would be saved.
Well, I was with her this week and she said, "I remember you kneeling by my bed with me and I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. I've never doubted that". Think about the world, and all the wisdom of the world. Think about what God did. He made it possible for children as well as adults to understand enough about forgiveness; to pray and to have eternal life at a very, very young age. Think about how complicated we make things today. I think of the computer, for example. So many things about it are so difficult. God made the most important thing in all of our lives very simple.
"If you're willing to confess to Me, that is to agree with Me that you're a sinner. If you're willing to ask Me to forgive you of your sins. If you're willing to ask Me to forgive you on the basis that I died and paid your sin-debt in full, that I would save you forever". Think about how wise that was, how wise God is. He didn't intend for it to be complicated. He intended for it to be simple so that even a child could understand forgiveness; and that the cross was payment - the shed blood. And that this Jesus rose from the grave and He's seated at the Father's right hand. Then here's what He did. He sent the Holy Spirit to convict us, to help us to see what sin was in our life, to identify sin in our life, in order to be able to be saved very early in life.
I was twelve. My daughter was five. And I think Andy was about eight or something like that. Think about that. Watch it. Your eternal future; your eternal future hinged on one decision you made: trusting Jesus Christ as your Savior. You talk about an awesome God. God: born as a babe, placed in a manger, not in a palace. Growing up in a normal home whose mother was criticized because it didn't look like she was very pure. Look at all the things God did that were so unnatural when we think about holiness. Every event was holy. Every event was righteous. Because that's who God is. He doesn't operate on the basis of what we think. He operates on the basis of perfection, holiness, righteousness, purity, truth. He operates on the basis of truth.
So, when the Bible says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". That's so true. People, people can't understand this whole Christian life unless they're born again; unless there's a transformation in their life. And when they do, everything changes. Because the ways of God and the ways of man differ. And when we look at the story of Jesus and His birth, it's unlike anything that we would think of today. So, we have become mentally brainwashed. We have to have computers and all the things that go with that. And all this information, think about this, all the information you, you can touch this key or that key and anything you want to know you can find out. We think we invented all of that. God knew all about that when Mary gave birth to Jesus. He's known about it all the time.
And you know what? Think about this. As wise as we think we are we're so brilliant about so many things that the most important thing that ever happened was very simple. A woman gave birth to a child who was the Savior of the world; who died on a cross; who rose from the dead; who sits at the Father's right hand. And that's the only thing we'll ever learn that will get us to Heaven. He made it so simple. And I think about, God doesn't do His work necessarily all the time through people who are great and great minds and so forth. But whoever, who was Mary? Some little girl from Nazareth. Who was Joseph? Some fellow out there. And look what God did through them.
Watch this carefully. Don't ever underestimate what God wants to do in your life. He may want to do something in your life then you think, "Who am I"? Can you imagine how shocked Mary was when she found out that she was pregnant? And probably how scared to death she was, except that God had spoken to her. If you try to fit your life into the world's mold, you miss life at its best. When you surrender your life to Jesus and tell Him that whatever He wants to do with your life is fine with you. You surrender your life to Him. You may not ever have a big job. The world may not know about you. But when you surrender your life to Him, here's what you have. You have the best.
Now, If anybody had said to my mother, "Rebecca, you gave birth to Charles and, the Father took your husband away when he was just nine months of age, that was best". My mother nor any other woman in their might, right mind would agree with that. But God knew what He was doing. He makes no mistakes. It took me a long time to convince my mom that God didn't make a mistake. Say, "Mom, suppose I'd had a father and I'd had a lot of good things in life and things would have been easier for me. But what did He do? He just left me with you and just the two of us. You remember when we lived in one room? And it was difficult and you only made nine dollars and ten cents for forty hours of work. You remember how many hours you worked and day after day after day. And somebody had to keep me and you remember all the things you went through"...
And sometime my mom would tear up and I'd say, "You know what? All that was perfect. All that was good. Because what it did, it made you and me absolutely depend upon God for everything". So whenever that's true, that's good. God doesn't operate the way we operate. His ways are higher than our ways. And His grace and goodness and love and mercy we'll never deserve. So, it may be that today it'd be good for you to look back in your life and think about maybe the hard times you had and, or your parents had and maybe you haven't had a lot of things that your friends have had and so forth.
Remember this. God doesn't make any mistakes. No mistakes. He does what the wisdom of only God could possibly do. He doesn't make any mistakes. And you know what? God hasn't made any mistakes in your life. He hasn't. He's allowed things that you don't like. Naturally. He's allowed things that cause you hurt and pain and suffering. But the moment you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He put you on a high level. That does not mean that you won't suffer and hurt. And sometimes accuse God of mistreating you. But the truth is, He's watching over you, caring for you.
And if you look to the world to help you understand what God's doing in your life, you'll probably never understand it. He saved you. None of us can say, "Well, I understand why God saved me". No you don't. No you don't. You understand what happened maybe when He saved you. But why did God, what about your neighbor? He didn't chase, hadn't saved him. Some of your friends, people you work with, some of them are not saved. You've talked to them about Jesus, they're still not saved. We're all dependent upon this resurrected Christ. Born in a manger to His own a stranger as the song goes. They never understood.
So, Christmas is an awesome time of a mighty God of awesome love, who does things we'll never understand. And who did something we will never be able to explain fully. He took this little girl from Nazareth and this little guy Joseph. He did something miraculous in their lives, and He's been changing lives ever since. Now, if you're not a Christian, you may not have understood all this. But let me just say this to you. You'll never understand unless you're willing to understand. Unless you're willing to at least acknowledge the fact this Jesus has transformed the world. This Jesus is unlike any other person born. This Jesus is the way to God. And you can never find anything to criticize Him for legitimately, because He was perfect.
Who else would go to a cross for your sins? Only the Son of God. Who else would forgive you for all the dirty, nasty stuff you've done and thought about? Only the Son of God. You either have Jesus and His forgiveness or one day you stand before God and be judged for your unbelief and your sinfulness. If you're willing to join the ranks of God's children by confessing your sins and surrendering your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, your name will be written in the Lamb's Book of Life. No matter what happens to you from this moment on, when you die, the Bible says, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord. For those who die without Christ, absent from the body, judgment".
It's an awesome, awesome opportunity. And remember this. There is no other way to be saved, to be forgiven, no other way. Except a man be born again, unless God transforms your life, no other way. I don't know what you've heard, what you've believed. It's either Jesus or eternal separation from God. And think about how patient He's been with you so far. The wisest thing you can do, if you've never trusted Christ as your Savior, whoever you are, wherever you are is to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. Surrender your life to Him and let Him change your eternal destiny. We're saved by faith, by the grace of God, through faith. Amen?
Father, we thank You that You don't do it our way. Thank You that You did it Your way. Thank You for grace, love, mercy, kindness, all that You can just pour into our lives day after day. Thank You for the Crucifixion, the Resurrection. And thank You that You've promised to come back. Thank You that You've promised to come back one of these days and call us home to be with You. Whether it's individually or that day that the Lord Jesus Christ descends from Heaven with His holy angels to rapture His Church, the Body of Christ. We just want to say today, Lord Jesus, we love You. Don't always understand but we love You. We praise You. We adore You. And we pray that You'll so work in all of our lives that those who meet us will meet the Lord Jesus Christ. In whose name we pray, amen.