Over the course of one’s life he hears many announcements. Announcements that bring jubilation and announcements that bring terror and panic. There are announcements concerning the mundane and announcements about world changing events.
Our pastor asked me to bring the closing thoughts for our Christmas Sunday morning worship service in which the the children of the church led us in our worship with the theme, “We Welcome the King,” In thinking about what I might share with our congregation, four great announcements came to my mind and each moment I meditated upon them, they became more and more exciting; causing my heart to be so jubilant on this morning where we indeed celebrated the announcement of the birth of King Jesus.
We are a large family and we love Christmas. We love it when everyone gathers at one house where we eat and laugh and share gifts. This Christmas, as always, we gathered around the tree (all 22 of us) and sang Christmas Carols and I had the privilege of reading the Christmas Story from the gospel of Luke. We make every effort not to allow the lights and tinsel – and presents – to cause our children to miss the importance of the events we celebrate. I was especially blessed this year to see all of our grandchildren happily forgo the usual Christmas morning schedule in order to be in God’s House, singing and praising God in celebration of the birth of our king. The dolls and nerf guns would have to wait their proper order.
As our pagan world tries with increasingly aggressive measures to secularize Christmas by removing any and all of the important faith elements, our family is feeling the urgency of teaching our children that FIRST we celebrate the birth of Christ and SECOND to celebrate the gift of family, and finally, we enjoy the gifts we are given. The celebration of Christmas brings to mind the first of the four great announcements that came to my heart as I prepared for Sunday’s service.
HE IS BORN
Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years before, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. . . . “. God had promised Israel a Savior who would come in the form of a child born to a virgin girl. The Old Testament is resplendent with prophetic utterances describing in such great detail the coming of the Messiah; and Savior of the world. Children much like our own had been told of the deliverance from slavery, the slaughter of the paschal lamb, the coming King who would not only forgive sins, but establish a kingdom that would endure forever. Then, on a quiet night in the Judean desert outside of Bethlehem, the silence was shattered by the sudden appearance of angelic beings who filled the night sky with light and song – and an amazing announcement, “The Savior is Born!”
The incarnation is the seminal miracle of humanity. That God could; no, would become a man, a God-Man who would be the mediator between humanity and divinity. The relationship between God and Man was shattered in the Garden, creating a gulf between the two that could not be bridged by any effort of man. God took the initiative and interposed Himself into the gap and sent The Son, the Second Person of the Trinity to inhabit human flesh. To feel what we feel, to see what we see, to suffer what we suffer and then in an act of absolute selflessness become our High Priest; His humanity reaching out to God on behalf of humans and His divinity reaching out to Man on behalf of God. The Perfect Mediator. The Perfect Priesthood. The Perfect Redeemer – is born!
HE IS HERE
John 1:29 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world
The second great announcement was made by Jesus’ cousin John, the son of Zechariah the priest. At the same time that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, her cousin Elizabeth was carrying John, the forerunner; the one who would prepare the way for the Anointed One.
John was a wild man from the desert, dressed in camel hair and eating locusts – and preaching a message of repentance. The message of repentance is always the precursor to salvation. In light of a modern church that has essentially abandoned the importance of repentance from sin, we must be reminded that the proclamation of the reality of our sin is what makes the Good News so good. Judea was confronted by the brash, hard message of sin before they were shown the One who could forgive that sin.
As John was preaching and baptizing men in the Jordan River he saw Jesus coming; striding across the hills, heading straight for him. With a loud voice so that all could hear he cried, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Since the priest did not begin their priestly duties until they were in their thirties, Jesus had remained in relative anonymity until the appropriate time. The unusual quality of this priesthood is found in that Jesus didn’t OFFER sacrifices for sin, Jesus WAS THE SACRIFICE for sin!
When John first encountered Jesus, he was in his mother’s womb and yet, he still leaped when he came into contact with his Savior. Now, 30 years later, he encounters Him yet again and leaps with a new announcement – HE IS HERE!
HE IS RISEN
Matthew 28:6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
Walking on legs numb with grief, Mary and several other women made their way through the garden to anoint the body of Jesus at the tomb. Wondering how they were going to move the stone that had sealed the borrowed tomb, they pressed on through the morning fog. When they arrived they found the stone moved and an angel sitting in the place where Jesus body had been placed.
The angel spoke mind numbing news, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here – He is risen just like He promised.”
Jesus had promised them. He had told them numerous times about this day, but their minds would not accept the concept. They supposed it to be some spiritualized truth that was beyond them to grasp. But now, they were confronted with a truth that carries more promise that any announcement ever made: HE IS RISEN. He is not dead. He was dead, we saw him. We touched his lifeless body. We saw the blood and water run from the hole in his side. We heard Him cry out from the cross. There is no disputing this horrible fact – Jesus was dead.
This angelic being now makes an announcement that changes everything. If we could grasp the power of it, the promise of it, the victory of it! Jesus is not dead, He has conquered the grave, He has overcome the power of death, He has destroyed the power of sin – and because of it the fear of death can never mean what it did before. Because Jesus conquered death, we can as well be assured of the resurrection of our own bodies. Death is still an enemy, but far less fearsome than before.
HE IS COMING
Acts 1:10-11 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The disciples, still reeling from the news of the resurrection of Jesus, stood watching Him ascend from the Mount of Olives. As he disappeared into the clouds they stood “gawking” at the sky, unsure of what to do next. He was gone. He had left them. They were now alone in a hostile world hanging on to the promise of a helper and feeling the enormous burden of Jesus’ last words to them – “Go into all the world.”
Angels come now with yet a fourth announcement: He will come again. He did not leave us without a job to do. He did not leave us powerless. And, He did not leave us forever. No matter what burden presses down on my shoulders and regardless of the danger that roars and threatens. Regardless of what deep losses we have felt, relentless pressure and hostility from the world and in the face of countless numbers of our brothers and sisters who are being tortured and murdered by the enemies of the cross we are left with that most powerful of all announcements: HE IS COMING!
Too many us live as if we have been abandoned here to suffer the relentless attacks of those who hate Christ and therefore, hate us. We live as if we are on our own, forgetting that the Third Person of the Trinity has been assigned to the role of helper and the giver of power in the absence of the Second Person of the Trinity who will come again and with great joy present us to the First Person of the Trinity and call us brothers.
That’s right, Jesus is our elder brother, the firstborn from the dead and the inheritor of all things and in whom, we will share in His inheritance and rule with Him in eternity – world without end!
These are the thoughts the Holy Spirit quickened in my Spirit this Christmas and I share them now with you that you might rejoice in these great announcements knowing that we are awaiting yet a FIFTH great announcement when the sky will roll back, the Trumpet of God will sound and the voice of yet another angel shall declare: HE IS HERE!