Christmas: For All the People
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Do you still get amazed at the birth story of Jesus? Trent Griffith paints a fresh picture of this message of “good news…for all the people.
Christmas: For All the People
David: Hey, this is David Robbins, president of FamilyLife®. I just want to take a moment before we get to today’s program to invite you into an incredible opportunity we have this yearend. We have a matching-gift challenge that several partners of FamilyLife have joined together and created so that we could do more ministry to more families in the years to come. I hope you know the impact you have when you partner with FamilyLife.
Check out one listener who called in and shared her story:
Woman: I’m more in love with Jesus Christ today than I was five years ago when I started listening. If I were a billionaire, I’d give you a billion dollars. I’m a poor widow woman; I ain’t got nothing. [Laughter] So I’m giving what I’ve got. Anyway, bless, y’all, honey. Alright; bye-bye.
David: Oh man! I love that first line that—“I am more in love with Jesus”—that is what we are all about at FamilyLife. I just want you to know that, whatever you can give, really matters. It helps us reach this $2 million matching-gift challenge we have. You can give that gift at FamilyLifeToday.com. We are so grateful for the team of people that will come together and help us meet this match. We are in need of more people partnering with us; I want to ask and invite you to join us, because we want to help more homes fall more in love with Jesus.
I’m going to pass it to Dave and Ann, and I hope you enjoy growing closer to Jesus today.
Trent: If the good news hasn’t brought you great joy, you haven’t really heard it!
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Ann: Aren’t you excited?
Dave: I am excited.
Ann: Me too.
Dave: Do you know why I’m really excited?
Dave: This is the first Christmas in 30 years I haven’t had to preach a Christmas message.
Ann: Oh, is that a good thing?
Dave: Well, I mean, it was wonderful; but it feels really freeing to go into Christmas without having to do 12 Christmas services, or 15 or 18, or whatever it was.
Ann: This is the first Christmas that you’ll be at home for Christmas Eve.
Dave: Yes, because we always had the 11 pm sort of midnight Christmas service.
Here is what we’ve got going on today. We get to listen to another pastor, Trent Griffith, who gave a Christmas message at his church, Gospel City Church, in Granger, Indiana. I get to listen to another pastor preach a Christmas message.
Ann: That’s good; and I feel like, too, especially this time of year, when everything is hectic—Christmas Eve is almost upon us—we always want to get our hearts back to the meaning of Christmas; and that is, Jesus.
Dave: This message will do that.
Dave: Some of you know Trent and Andrea Griffith. They’ve been on our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway speaker team—we’ve known them for over a decade—and has been the pastor there in Granger, Indiana.
Dave: So here is a Christmas message from Trent.
Trent: Good morning! I’ve got my Bible open to Luke, Chapter 2, to the Christmas message. I want to invite you to open your Bible to that place, as well: Luke, Chapter 2.
I know that you’ve probably been singing a lot of Christmas carols. A Christmas carol that has kind of captured my attention this Christmas season is the old Christmas carol, Do You Hear What I Hear? Do you know this Christmas carol?—do you know this one? It’s not the best Christmas carol, but it does have an important message.
I am convinced that there are a lot of people who have heard the Christmas message who have never HEARD the Christmas message. I want to ask you this morning: “Do you hear what I hear?” The first verse of that song, actually, asks, “Do you see what I see?” The third verse starts with “Do you know what I know?” And the last one says, “Listen to what I say.” I think a preacher wrote that song/he had to have written that song.
Now, this morning, this is what I want to ask you to do. I want you to hear the Christmas message, whether it’s the first time or whether you’ve heard it all of your life. I want you to hear it with different ears; okay? So three things that we are going to say today: first of all, you have to listen for the right messengers if you’re going to hear the Christmas message; you have to listen for the right messengers. Secondly, you have to listen for the right message. Thirdly, you have to listen with your heart. So that’s where we are going today.
We’ll just jump right into the historical context of the story, right here in Luke, Chapter 2, picking up in verse 1. It says: “In those days…”—now, you realize there are no wasted words in the Bible; right?—notice, it doesn’t say, “Once upon a time”; because fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time.”
The human author, Luke, is trying to tell us: “This really happened.” There were particular days, where there were particular ruling parties: “In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” How do you like that for a nice Christmas messaging?—anybody memorize those verses? That would seem to be trivial, but it’s not. He’s telling us that the birth of Christ happened at a point in history; but at the time, God’s people were being oppressed and ruled by godless people.
So if you are ever in a season, where you feel like you are being ruled by godless authorities, just understand God is in complete control; and at times, He will use godless authorities to pull off wonderful events in your life. Take note; verse 3: “And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.”
Remember the story from last week? We have Mary, who got a visit from an angel; she’s betrothed to Joseph. Joseph/this couple is living in the northern area of Israel, around Galilee. All of a sudden, this godless ruler says, “Everybody has to go back home.” So Joseph says, “Okay, we’ve got to go back home.” Well, where did Joseph happen to be from?” He happened to be from this place called Bethlehem. God orchestrates the events, through godless rulers, to get Jesus to the place where He was predicted to be born, hundreds of years before all of this happened. Amazing how God works in human history.
The story continues in verse 6: “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.” A manger—we talk about the manger scene—the manger is not the whole scene. The manger is a feeding trough, so she used an animal feeding trough as a crib. Little did she know, at the time, that would be the first earthly throne of what would become the King of Israel, the King of kings.
By the way, that’s not the last throne He is going to occupy. The next time He comes, He’s not going to be laid in a manger; He’s going to come to sit on the throne of the universe.
It says He was laid in a manger, “because there was no place for Him in the inn.” Alright; so because everybody was going home, it was like a Notre Dame Football home weekend; okay? All the Airbnb’s had been filled up; there were no room in the hotels or anything like that, so there was no room.
And you know, the innkeeper gets a bad rap in this story. Everybody looks at the innkeeper: “Well, why couldn’t you find any more room for Jesus?!” I think the innkeeper would look back at you, like: “Why can’t you find any more room for Jesus? Have you looked at your schedule lately?” “Have you looked at your bank account? How much room in your budget do you have for Jesus?” “How much room in your schedule do you have for Jesus?” Before you ask: “Why couldn’t the innkeeper find more room in his inn?” you might want to ask the question: “Why can’t you find any more room in your heart for Jesus?”
If you want to hear the Christmas message, you have to listen for the right messengers. Alright; here are the messengers, beginning in verse 8: “And in the same region there were shepherds”—everybody underline the word, “shepherds”—“in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
When I went to Israel, I actually went to that field. You could see how this would be a great setting for angels to show up; and that is exactly what happened in verse 9. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,”—everybody underline the word, “angel,” in verse 9—“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news,’”—the two words, “good news,” there actually comes from one word in the Greek—it’s the word, evangelizo. That’s where we get our word, “the gospel.”
We believe the good news of the gospel. The good news brings us, notice: “…great joy that will be for all the people.” If the good news hasn’t brought you great joy, you haven’t really heard it! If you want to hear it, you’ve got to listen for the right messengers.
Verse 11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Notice the titles the angel gives to Jesus, both “Savior” and “Lord.” So it says in verse 12: “’And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the”—the one—“angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’”
We’ve got two groups of messengers here. First of all, we have the angels. How many of you wish you could be visited by an angel? How many of you wish a Christmas angel would show up, and fill in all the blanks, and solve all of the problems that the pastor can’t solve for you? The pastor wishes an angel would show up and solve those problems for me, too; but everybody wants to get a visit from an angel. But the reality is—listen, listen—there are very few people in human history who ever got visited by an angel. If you are waiting for an angel to show up to answer all of your questions, and to convince you of realities that you can’t figure out by listening to normal messages from God, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
Here is the message of Christmas, though: “We want angels; God gives us shepherds.” Think about these shepherds; the shepherds were the exact opposite of angels. Angels are majestic—and they are perfect; and they are glorious; and they smell good—[Laughter]—and shepherds smell like sheep. Have you ever smelled a sheep?—not a great smell.
So here are these shepherds. Now, all these shepherds did was hang out with sheep in a field. Do you know why?—because they had been rejected by everybody else. You know, one of the highest values in Jewish culture was cleanliness. These shepherds/they couldn’t be in the place of worship; they couldn’t go to the tabernacle, because they were considered unclean. They were the outcasts.
There was one advantage of being a shepherd; you got to spend a lot of time undistracted. They were just hanging out in a field with sheep. That means they could get really contemplative. How many of you wish you could have more time alone, just to sit and think about life, about God, about yourself, about the Scripture? Well, that was an advantage that shepherds had. See, if you were out in a field, watching over your flock by night, you only had three people you could possibly talk to: you could talk to the sheep; you could talk to yourself; or you could talk to God.
Do you know the biggest book that we have in the Old Testament is the book of Psalms? Do you know who wrote most of the Psalms?—a shepherd; his name was David. What we have is some of the most poetic, and artistic, and contemplative thoughts in our Bibles about God. When do you think he wrote those things?—probably when he was talking to his sheep or God. And in those moments, he could get really contemplative. So if you want to get a message from God, you might want to become more like a shepherd. You might even need to go sit out in a field somewhere, without your cell phone, and just sit and contemplate the deep thoughts about God.
These shepherds were perfect candidates to get a message from God: they were rejected by everybody else; they were needy; they were lonely; they knew they needed a Savior. The angels didn’t go to the most prestigious; they went to the lowest.
You know what the message is?—“The gospel is for everybody!” So no matter what your socioeconomic status, you can hear a message from God! Messages from God come to people, who think they are nobodies. It’s the nobodies who God wants to use to get the message to everybody, and that’s exactly what these shepherds did.
We all want angels, but what God gives us is shepherds. Now, if you were living back in that day, and the shepherds showed up to tell you about the message that they got from an angel, that the angel got from God, how quick would you be to dismiss the shepherds, because they didn’t smell good?—or they weren’t educated?—or they weren’t at your same socioeconomic level?—or maybe, you realize, “These guys have so many gaps and flaws in their character that, somehow, the message they are preaching can’t be true”?
Do you have any shepherds that have tried to get the message to you, and you rejected the message; because you couldn’t get passed the flaws of the messenger? That’s a mistake. God is always going to give you flawed messengers to deliver a truthful message.
Do you know that, in the New Testament, the actual word for “pastor” is the same word for shepherd?—overseers. God tells us that there are qualifications. There are standards for messengers and pastors to be shepherds over their people. As a matter of fact, we see this in 1 Peter, Chapter 5. We are told—those of us who have the responsibility of pastoring—we are told to “shepherd the flock of God that is among us, exercising oversight,”—that means we have to be watchful—we have to protect you from danger; we have to warn you from making wrong decisions that you are going to regret.
That is what a shepherd does; he goes after the sheep, “…exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly”—in other words, not because we have to; but because we want to—“as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge,”—not bopping you over the head, and dragging you back, and forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do in the first place—“but being examples to the flock.” In other words, “I’m walking this way; y’all come. I know the way; follow me.” A shepherd feeds the sheep and leads the sheep.
Now, I’ve gathered all of our staff together; and I’ve got an announcement to make for you in church this morning. I’ve examined all of the shepherds in our church: they are all flawed. They are all sinners, and they would all tell you that about me; okay? So, listen, if you are rejecting the message of Christmas, because of the flaws and the character gaps in the messenger, you are just going to reject it forever.
Now, again, there are biblical standards and qualifications for shepherds that we must all meet. So for that reason, I have gathered all the pastors and shepherds in our church; and I’m like, “Look, if we are going to obey this verse, we’re going to need to have some agreement about the way we live and the way that we do ministry.” I gave them recently these seven core values: “If you are going to serve as a pastor in our church, you’re going to have to meet these particular core values.” We all agreed.
Let me tell you the first one that we all agreed to as your shepherds—okay, here it is—“We will authenticate the message that we preach.” In other words, we are going to be authentic followers of Jesus; and if we are going to preach to you, we are going to actually try to live the message that we are preaching; so we have agreed to these things:
- We will believe and preach the gospel to ourselves first. Before we try to fill your ear with this stuff, we’re going to actually fill our ears with this. We are going to preach it to ourselves every day.
- We are going to be a model of the message with humility. Listen, shepherds are not an exalted role—it’s a servant role—so with humility, understanding the weightiness of the call of God to be a shepherd. I want to invite you—if you are a small group leader, if you shepherd anybody, if you are a father or mother/you have little sheep in your home—you have to embrace that role with humility.
- We will be maturing disciples of Jesus. We are pretty big on the idea of making disciples around here. Before we try to make one, we want to be one.
- And we will confess and repent when we blow it, and we will blow it.
That is something that shepherds need to have in their life if they are going to communicate a message that’s believable; but on the flip side of that, nobody is ever going to get that right. Don’t reject the message because of the gaps and flaws in the messenger. You have to listen for the right messengers: everybody wants angels; God is going to give you a flawed shepherd.
Ann: We’ve been listening to Trent Griffith as he’s been sharing with us the Christmas story and, really, a new perspective in that last sentence. It was good; wasn’t it?
Dave: Yes, I believe we do want spectacular angels so often. The message of Christ—one of the things that is so beautiful about it—it is so humble: you would not expect the God of all creation to enter the world as a baby; you would not expect the message of Christmas to come through shepherds, who were nobodies.
Ann: Yes, I like that, too, because we are all flawed. I think of me, as a mom; and sometimes, I can feel the most guilt at Christmastime because I haven’t been what I’ve needed to be to my kids, to my parents, to my husband. And yet, Jesus works in and through us, even in our flawed nature.
Dave: And that is a powerful and beautiful thing.
Bob: What Ann Wilson was just talking about—the pressure we can feel at Christmas to want everything to go right, everything to live up to everyone’s expectations, everything to be spectacular and glorious—that’s a pressure that is not coming to us from God. It’s coming from somewhere else. I think we need to remember that the most important thing about our celebration of Christmas is that all of us are able to focus our hearts on the great gift that was given to us when God gave His Son.
I hope that your Christmas celebration, whoever you are celebrating with—with your family, your extended family, whoever is together—you will make sure there is time to rejoice and to thank God for His indescribable gift, which is what Christmas is ultimately all about.
If you would like to hear Trent Griffith’s message in its entirety—maybe, something you can play together for the family at Christmas—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There is an MP3 of the message available for download. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, with Christmas just hours away at this point, I’m sure you have gone back over your list of people, for whom you are getting gifts. I remember the year we didn’t do that; and on Christmas morning, one of our kids did not have a gift from us. [Laughter] Talk about your heart breaking, as a parent, for a child on Christmas morning to be the only one of five to not have a gift under the tree. We had some makeup work to do for that.
I hope that, as you are thinking about gift-giving, and making sure you’ve got everybody included on the list—I hope you have considered a special yearend gift for us at FamilyLife. If God has used this ministry in your life this year, would you consider making a yearend donation so that we can begin the new year in a solid place, financially? That’s what we are asking you to help us do.
When you give today, whatever amount you give is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of, now, $2.3 million. That’s how much money is in our matching-gift fund, and we’re hoping to take full advantage of that in the days ahead. You can give, easily, online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We have a special thank-you gift we’d like to send you when you make a donation today. It’s a devotional book from the book of Psalms, 150 devotions, written by Dane Ortlund. The book is called In the Lord I Take Refuge. We’ll send it out to you as our way of saying, “Thank you for your donation,” and as a way to help build into your life and your family, spiritually, in the days ahead. Again, thanks, in advance, for whatever you are able to do in making a yearend gift to support this ministry. We appreciate you.
And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow on Christmas Eve when we will hear Part Two of Trent Griffith’s message about Christmas, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” That comes up tomorrow.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you then for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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