Greg Laurie — Go Tell It on the Mountain!
Greg: Where's my marshmallows?
Allie: I really want to eat my marshmallow.
Greg: Don't get them too far in the fire. I like mine just a little bit golden.
Lucy: I like mine burnt. I like mine black.
Greg: Are you kidding me? Is this fire hot? Ouch!
Lucy: Then it's all gooey.
Allie: Can I try it?
Greg: Okay. Careful. That fire is hot. Okay set your marshmallows down. Okay set them down. Who wants to hear the story of Christmas?
Greg: Okay. Once upon a time in the North Pole there was a big fat man who wore a red suit and his name is Santa Clause and Christmas is all about Santa Clause...
Greg: No? Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer...
Greg: Frosty the snow...
Allie: It's Jesus.
Greg: Wait. It's not about the Grinch that stole Christmas?
Allie: No, poppa. It's Jesus.
Greg: Oh my goodness. You're right. So meanwhile up in heaven God said "It's time to send Jesus to the earth because the people need to be saved and the devil needs to be stopped. God sent Jesus to come down to this world and he was born in a city named Riverside and there was...
Greg: Jesus wasn't born in riverside? No, you're right. No. He was born in a city called Irvine, California.
Allie: No, poppa.
Greg: Bethlehem. But guess what? Before he was born in Bethlehem there was a girl living in a city called Nazareth. It was a bad city. There was a lot of naughty people there. A lot of bad people there. But an angel appeared to this woman whose name was...
Greg: What happened? The angel came to her. What was the angel's name?
Greg: That's right. Gabriel. And what did the angel Gabriel say to Mary?
Stella: First he said, "Do not be afraid".
Greg: That's true. Do you know why angels say, "Do not be afraid"? Because they're scary. Every time an angel appears they say, "Don't be afraid". Why? Because they're scary. Then what did he say, Riley?
Riley: He said, "You're going to have a baby".
Greg: Wow. And so did Mary believe it?
Riley: Yeah, but she was very scared.
Lucy: She was like, "Oh my goodness"!
Stella: She was like, "How can I have a baby when I'm not married".
Greg: That's right. So meanwhile, Joseph found out Mary was going to have a baby. He's like "Oh, no. Well I can't marry her now". Then an angel appears to him and the angel says, "It's okay, Joseph, because that baby that's going to be born he'll be the Savior of the world and you're going to call him," what?
Greg: That's exactly right. So here's the problem. Mary was pregnant and her tummy got really big and she was ready to have the baby and she was waiting for the baby to be born. And all of a sudden a message came from Caesar. Do you know who Caesar is? He's the guy who ran Rome.
Lucy: Little Caesars?
Greg: No. Not little Caesars. Caesar. He was like the president or the king of Rome. He said, "Everybody has to be taxed". And so Mary and Joseph had to go where their family came from so they had to make a long trip, Christopher, all the way to where?
Greg: So they went to Bethlehem. Wait a second. You know, it's so much better when you're telling the Christmas story if you have music. Is there anybody that has a guitar around here that could play some music? Oh wait. Here's a guy just walking around. Listen. So they were in Bethlehem. And Mary and Joseph and all the animals were in the stable and guess what happened? The baby was born and you know what? That baby Jesus, he was God. He was God who came down from heaven and was in Mary's tummy and then he was born and so when she held that little baby in her arms that baby was God among us. That is the story of Christmas that God came to this earth as a helpless little baby. Let me ask you a question. When Jesus was a baby, did he still need his diaper changed?
Greg: Oh yeah. He was just like any other baby. When Jesus was born as a little baby did he just start talking? "Hi. I'm Jesus. I'm a little baby".
Greg: No. He was a baby like any other baby. That's what is so amazing. God who is so big and powerful became a helpless little baby laying there in a manger needing Mary and Joseph to take care of him. So meanwhile, there were shepherds watching over their flocks by night. All of a sudden, an angel appeared and a whole bunch of angels appeared and they said what? They said, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men. Behold, there is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord". Can you imagine being God and leaving the glory of heaven and coming to earth and being born in a barn with a bunch of animals? Do you think it smelled good in there?
Greg: Do you think it was warm in there?
Greg: No. It was cold. But you know what? Jesus did that. Why did he come and do that for us, Allie?
Allie: Because he loved us.
Greg: That's right. Because he loved us. So there were shepherds watching over their flock sitting around a fire like this kind of keeping warm. All of a sudden, an angel of the Lord appeared. It said, "I bring you good news. There is born unto you in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord". What did the shepherds do?
Lucy: They followed the star.
Greg: Well that's different. Those guys come later. So they went to the manger and there was Joseph and there was Mary and there was a little baby Jesus and all the animals were around and they realized that this was God who had come. That little baby, Lucy, was born to come to the world and die for the sin of the world. He had to go and die on the cross. Why did he have to do that though?
Allie: So our sins could be washed away.
Greg: That's exactly right, Allie. Very good answer. But he walked this earth and he loved little children and he grabbed them and he put them in his lap he told them stories and laughed with them and he healed people and he gave the greatest teachings the world has ever heard. But really, Jesus came to this world to die on a cross. It's too bad he just stayed there on the cross. Did anything else happen after he died on the cross?
Riley: He came back to life.
Greg: He came back to life. What was that about a week later or what?
Riley: Three days.
Greg: Three days later he rose again from the dead. And guess what? Then he flew off to heaven. We call it the ascension. He went off to heaven and you know what the Bible tells us? One day Jesus is going to come back to this earth.
Greg: One day he's going to return to this world.
Lucy: It could be tomorrow. Any day.
Greg: It could be any day.
Lucy: It could be even in three seconds.
Greg: It could be in three seconds. He could come at any time. So we need to be always ready to meet him, right?
Greg: So Jesus came to be born in this world. So now it's Christmas time and we give gifts one to another, but the greatest gift of all that was ever given was the gift that God gave to us. What do you think that gift was? Who knows? Raise their hand.
Stella: His Son.
Greg: He gave His Son.
Lucy: He gave His Son.
Greg: And if we believe in Jesus Christ, if we ask him to come into our heart he'll take away all of our sin.
Lucy: And we'll go to heaven when He comes.
Greg: That's right. Or you know what? We'll go to heaven even before he comes if we die before that. But no matter what we know we'll go to heaven because we believed in Jesus and that is the greatest gift of all. Okay, so let's all say merry Christmas on the count of three. Ready? 1, 2, 3...
All together: MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Do I have the cutest grandkids or what? Come on. I think they're adorable. I thought we would just kind of reflect a little bit on this Christmas story. I'd like to pick up where we left off by our fake campfire made out of material with a little fan blowing it and talk a little bit more about those shepherds. The title of my message is go tell it on the mountain. I'll be reading from Luke chapter 2. Really, chronologically now Christ has been born. You know the Lord directed Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem and there in the manger Jesus Christ was born. This is very exciting news so God has a big announcement to make. Who should he tell first? If I were God I would've thought about telling Caesar Augustus. Because remember we told you earlier that the name Augustus, or really title, means of the Gods.
See this crazy guy Caesar Augustus thought he was a God. Actually, Lucy was pretty accurate which she called him Little Caesar because the historians tell us he may have been around 5'7", and so this little guy who was big in his own mind thought he was a God. How awesome would it be for an angel to come into his court and say, "Hey Caesar you're not God, but God is here and he's a baby in Bethlehem". Or to appear to appear to Herod the great who called himself the king of the Jews. But Jesus was the king of the Jews and the king of kings. But no, the Lord did not go to Caesar or to Herod or maybe the religious leaders who spent their time poring over scripture but somehow were unaware of the most significant event in human history. No. Of all people, the Lord chooses shepherds.
I mean if we were doing this today we'd have a media campaign. Jesus would have his own Facebook page. There would be a hashtag. #ChristtheSaviorisborn. Right? We would be talking about it in every way we could. But God decides to go to the least influential people in the culture of that day, shepherds. Keeping watch over their flocks by night. You know like a lot of other elements of the Christmas story we have sort of glamorized the shepherds. And by that I mean we don't understand who they were and what they were in the culture of this day. We dress up as shepherds at Christmas. We have little figurines of them you know around our nativity scene. But shepherds were at the very bottom of the social ladder. In fact they were even despised by many. One of the reasons was they could not observe the ceremonial hand washings that were required to approach God in the temple. That is because these guys were, well, they were like salt of the earth people. They were blue-collar workers. They had dirt under their fingernails. They got out there and got the job done.
When they heard there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior and you'll find him in a manger or a cave they totally connected because that's how they had their babies. Out in the open air. They thought oh, wow. We get that. These are the ones that the Lord handpicked. Some would even regard them as lowlifes. Testimony of a shepherd for instance was not even allowed in a court of law because it was assumed they would not tell the truth. So God says, "I'm going to tell the lowlifes," if you will. "I'm going to tell the outcasts. I'm going to tell the people in the bottom of the social ladder that there is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord".
This is really typical of the way God often works. I mean who did he choose to be the mother of the Messiah? A peasant girl named Mary living in Nazareth. As I said earlier, Mary was a nobody living in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. But throughout his ministry Jesus always had time for the nobodies, the outcasts, the unloved, people like Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector, or the woman caught in the act of adultery, or the immoral woman at the well, and the list goes on. And Jesus also had time for hurting people. Whenever there was hurting people and Jesus was nearby, you would know it was only a matter of time until the two would connect. Yes, he always had time for the down and outers, for the outcasts, for the unloved, the unknown and that's why he came to shepherds through the angels.
Luke chapter 2:8 says, "There were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 'do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths or rags lying in a manger.'" Basically in a cave, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!' So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said one to another, 'let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'"
I mean think about this. These guys, shepherds, living outside. Really no homes to speak of. They didn't see a lot of things. They didn't get out much, and now they're watching a heavenly light show. It is like God takes the veil separating earth from heaven, pulls it back and says, "Check it out, boys". And they're watching angels of the Lord worshipping God. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace toward you". No wonder they started to freak out. I've told you before that's why angels always started with words "Don't be afraid" because people freaked out when they saw angels.
I read, I haven't gone and researched this myself, but I read that that the phrase "Fear not" appears 365 times in the Bible. It's interesting. That would mean there's one "Fear not" for every day of the year. Commentator Ray Steadman once said, and I quote. "The chief mark of the christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy". I Like that! So here's the message. Don't be afraid. Why? Because this is good news. And by the way, this phrase for good news is from a verb that we translate into the word "Evangelism". Tell the people the good news that Christ the Savior is born. It was good news in a bad world. And they were living in a bad world. And they were living with uncertainty. They wondered if Rome would ever leave and stop occupying the homeland of the Jewish people. They wondered if that wicked Herod would ever be out of power. They wondered if the Messiah would come. Well the Messiah had come.
And we too live in an uncertain world. I mean you can't even turn on the news without hearing about all these threats against our nation. Threats against our churches even. And people that wish us ill. People that want to harm us. And it's a scary world we are living in right now. But here's what the Lord says, "Don't be afraid. Instead, rejoice because there is a great event that has happened". I love this. "Good tidings of great joy". Another translation puts it this way, "A great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide". Here's three reasons that you don't have to be afraid this Christmas. Number one reason: we have a Savior. There is born unto you this day in the city of David. A Savior. Remember we talked about that last night that he saved us from our past and our present and our future. He forgives us for all the wrongs and the sins we've committed. And he helps us each and every day because, yes, we still sin. And he saves us from a future judgment as well. He's put your sins as far away as the east is from the west. So this is the great hope that we have, we have a Savior.
And then the second reason we don't have to be afraid is because we have a Christ. Now the phrase Christ means "Anointed one". Another word you could put in its place is "Messiah". Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promise to send his son as the Messiah. So we are reminded that God keeps his promises. He always keeps his promises. If God says something is going to happen, you can take it to the bank. What has he promised? Well so many things. But he has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised to work all things together for good to those that love him and are the called according to his purpose. He has promised he will come again and receive us to himself. Yes we have a Savior. Yes we have a Christ, and thirdly, we have a Lord. What does that mean? That means we have someone who will take control of our life and I like that.
Now some of us are resistant to letting Jesus be Lord. You know we are sort of the worst backseat drivers ever. We have one of those bumper stickers on our car. God is my copilot. Man I don't want God as my copilot. I want him as the pilot. I want him in control. But you know when I drive with my wife I am the worst. "Turn here. Speed up. You are going to miss the light. Go, go, go"! She says, "Do you want to drive"? Yes I do. And we may be at the market and you know it's only like four minutes to our house. Do you want to just drive? Yes. Pull over right now. I will drive. It will be much better. And then I get in her seat and it is pushed so far forward that my face is against the windshield. And I have to get back and get adjusted. But hey I like to be in control. That is pretty true of men in general. But not only men. But Jesus wants to be Lord. You have a Savior. You have a Christ. You have a Lord. But I love this because that means that he's going to protect me as I go in life. He'll welcome me into heaven one day when I finish this race on earth. He has me covered. He has me covered for the coming year.
Here's the message of the angels for the coming year. Don't panic. It's organic. No that's not the message. Really? People are saying, "Is that in the Greek"? No it isn't. I just wanted to say something really random to see if you were listening. That's how I talk to my grandchildren. I have to keep their attention. But what did the shepherds do when they heard this announcement? Go to verse 15 of Luke 2. "When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, 'let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished".
I love this. And here are our Marching orders for the coming year: Go tell everyone what was happened! See, this was their testimony. What an awesome testimony. To be one of these guys. "Yeah, I was just out there watching the old sheep one night when the angel of the Lord appeared. In fact, not just an angel, but angels, plural, lots of them. And they said this and then we went and saw God in human form lying in the manger". Wow. So they went and got the message out. That's what we are supposed to do in this coming year. Hey that's a good thing to do today. How many of you are going to family events today? Raise up your hand. You are going somewhere. Yeah. A lot of you are going to be on the road. Right. And so then you're going to get there and there's the whole family. And you'll probably have a meal together and you probably have nonbelievers in your family, right. How many of you have nonbelievers in your family? How many of you are the nonbeliever in your family? You might be here. I don't know. How many of you are maybe one of the very few Christians in your family?
Here is what is going to happen. You are going to get to the event. And the meal is going to be ready. And there's that awkward should-we-pray moment. Right? So here's what you're going to do today, okay. You are going to pray, and they will put up with it because it's Christmas. You'll say, "Let's pray for the food". They will say okay. And some will bow their heads and some will close their eyes. Some will stare at you. It doesn't matter because here's the cool thing about prayer. Not only are you talking to God, but you can also talk to people. And listen to this, when you're leading a prayer, my friend, you have the floor. It's pretty rare that someone will interrupt a prayer. So I like to take advantage of it.
So here's the kind of thing I'd pray: all right let's pray. Lord, today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We are so thankful that Jesus was born in that manger. But Lord, we're also thankful that he went to a cross and died for our sins and then he rose from the dead. Lord, we know that Jesus is with us right now standing at the door of every heart". And then say, "While our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed... Maybe one of you would like to accept Christ. Aunt Matilda, I'm talking to you". No. Don't to do that. But you get the drift. You see, you can share your faith. Talk about it. It's actually easier on a day like Christmas isn't it. And you know, be like those shepherds and go tell what the Lord has done for you. I love that Christmas song we sing go tell it on the mountain. "While the shepherds kept their watching o'er silent flocks by night. Behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born". Do that today. Do that in the coming year because he's alive. Amen.