Sermon for Sunday, December 25th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament Reading:
[Deu 18:15-22 ESV] 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen– 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
New Testament Reading:
[Act 3:17-26 ESV] 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
[Luk 2:1-20 ESV] 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 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!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The text for the sermon this morning is the 15th verse of Luke chapter 2: 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Let US go to Bethlehem and see.
I’m not suggesting we each pony-up thousands of dollars for an excursion to Israel.
What I am suggesting is that the Lord calls us all to go see what Christ is all about and to believe. Go to Bethlehem and see.
There was a star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. There was an angel who appeared to the Shepherds saying “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.”
With all this activity abounding, the Shepherds went to Bethlehem. They wanted to see what was going on.
Though the angel had told them what was going on, perhaps they still have that question on their mind which Bugs Bunny asked so well, “What’s all the hubbub, bub?”
Indeed if you do not believe in Christ, you should ask, “What’s the big deal about this boy being born in Bethlehem. And why are some people dedicating their entire lives to this Jesus? What’s all the hubbub, bub?”
Well, Christians have been to Bethlehem, and they have SEEN. Literally, they have read the word of God and come to believe its truths, particularly its truths about Jesus Christ. He who was born in Bethlehem is the Lord and God raised Him from the dead. This, the Christian has seen, and understood, and believes.
I. The Call of the Gospel
“Come to Bethlehem and see” is a great call of the Gospel. It is not a wish of the Lord, it is a command of the Lord. Do this! Look to Christ. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Seek and you will find.
Come to Bethlehem and see. And you will see not just anything, but the newborn king. And not just any newborn king. The king of kings.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of Christ saying that the “government shall be upon his shoulder.” He is the true king. And Isaiah said “his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“For to us a child is born” and He shall be called “Mighty God.” This would be blasphemy if it were not true. Calling a man God. But Christ indeed is Mighty God. He is God in the flesh, the 2nd person of the Trinity come to earth in humility, not counting equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but being born in humble circumstances lying in a manger.
This is what the shepherds found when they arrived in Bethlehem. Humble circumstances. There was no room in the inn. Jesus (and Joseph and Mary) didn’t get the best room in the hotel; they didn’t even get any room at all. The Shepherds saw a baby, a child that would throughout his life not seek wealth or power, but who would seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The Shepherds heard the call of the Gospel and went to Bethlehem.
And the hymn says they “left their flocks a feeding in tempest storm and wind (maybe. That is literally flourish) “and they went to Bethlehem straight-way the son of God to find.” That is our call as well, to come to Christ “straight-way.” They didn’t wait until He was older, but made it to the very place Christ was born while He and His family were still there.
II. Faith in Jesus Christ
But there is another step. Not only must one “Go to Bethlehem,” one must also see and believe.
While a person essentially has it in his ability to read the word of God, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings belief. Faith in Jesus Christ itself is a gift from God.
Sight is frequently used as a metaphor for knowledge. And knowledge is only through faith.
There are verses in the Old Testament like:
[Deu 29:4 ESV] 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
[Psa 119:18 ESV] 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
But in the New Testament there is a whole passage regarding the idea. It is when Christ gives sight to the blind in John chapter 9.
When the man was physical healed — his sight gained — he also came to faith in Jesus.
The Pharisees pressed him saying “How did Jesus open your eyes.” And he responded, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” So the man formerly blind was a disciple of Christ.
And Jesus found him later and asked him “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man said “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him. Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you. He said, “Lord, I believe” and he worshipped him.
This is the response of those who see the Lord. The response of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Such also was the response of the shepherds.
III. The Response of the Shepherds
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
If I were to add to the verse of the song, I might say “Come to Bethlehem and see, AND WORSHIP!”
IF “The Shepherds at those tiding REJOICED much in mind” they would rejoiced even more at actually seeing the Christ.
That is the natural response. To praise God for the good things that He has done. Great things he has taught us, great things he has done.
That is another hymn:
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done
And great is our rejoicing through Jesus the Son
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.
Jesus is seen. And the chorus is the response, praising God:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.
How did the shepherds praise God?
The text doesn’t us much. But it says “they returned.” That is, the shepherds returned to their places. Their fields and their flocks and their homes.
They brought the Good News of the messiah’s birth with them.
Presumably this news was suppressed by the authorities. Our own times are not the only times where the government suppresses speech.
In Christ’s time, Herod sought the death of this newborn king. Not only did Jesus’ family then flee to Egypt, but certainly the shepherds were pressured to keep quiet about Christ, for fear that Herod would come against them and put them to death. Tyrants, dictators, don’t like competition.
But in the advance of time, Herod died, his sons took over, and Jesus and his family returned to Israel. And when the time was right in God’s plan, Jesus was again proclaimed the messiah first by John the Baptist and then by many others. When John first saw Jesus he said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And he said “And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Like Isaiah the prophet, and like the shepherds, and like John the Baptist, so also did the disciples — when they came to faith in Jesus Christ — have that response: worshipping the Lord.
This, I pray, will be the path that you take.
1. You hear the Word of God.
2. The Holy Spirit brings you to faith.
3. You praise God for this gift and for His grace in sending Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
In short, I pray that you come to Bethlehem, and see, and worship Jesus Christ.
What WILL you see?
You’ll see the love of God.
You’ll see purpose in life – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
One day you’ll see Christ himself.
What a glorious sight to behold. And what a savior. Let us look to Him. Let us believe in his name. And let us worship Christ, the newborn king.
Amen. Let us pray.