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How to Have a Joyful Christmas | The First Christmas

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 20, 2022 3:00 am

How to Have a Joyful Christmas | The First Christmas

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 20, 2022 3:00 am

So many of us are thinking, “How am I gonna get all this stuff done?” It’s probably the holiday that requires the most planning and preparation . . . preparation that has so little to do with the reason for the season. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie contrasts this Christmas with the first Christmas, and points out the joy of this season if we can refocus . . . not on all the things not yet done, but on the finished work of Christ—born in the manger, who died on the cross.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Sign up at Fear robs us of the joy of Christmas. The angel said, Don't be afraid. I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which should be to all people. That's for us right here, right now. Don't be afraid and have joy. There are so many things to be concerned about right now.

Isn't that the truth? Today, Pastor Greg Laurie points out why we can have joy instead. You can have joy in this Christmas season because you have a Savior who is Christ the Lord. So many of us are thinking, How am I going to get all this stuff done? It's probably the holiday that requires the most planning and preparation.

Preparation that has so little to do with the reason for the season. Well, today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie contrasts this Christmas with the first Christmas and points out the joy of the season if we can refocus not on all the things not yet done, but on the finished work of Christ, born in the manger who died on the cross. Well, Christmas is here officially, obviously, and we're out shopping. How many of you have finished your Christmas shopping?

Raise your hand. How many of you have not done any Christmas shopping at all? It's always men. Why men?

Men, why? You know, so you go to the malls and parking spaces are hard to find, right? So you are driving around looking for a space and you see somebody coming out of the mall with bags in both hands. You think, I want to get their space. So you slow down.

You almost feel like you are stalking them. But you kind of go very slowly behind them. They go to their car.

They put their bags away. You are waiting one minute, two minutes. You have your turning signal on. Now people are lining up behind you.

You are waiting. Then they turn around and go back into the mall again. If you are one of these people, stop this now. And you probably drive a Prius.

No, I don't know if you would or not. But, and if you are that person, if you finish your shopping in the mall, don't sit there and check your phone. Just let me say this in a loving Christian way. Get out now.

Okay. But you know, and then the people get crazy. You know, they get upset and angry this time of the year.

The stress, the anxiety and all the rest. But here is what is ironic. The message on the first Christmas was a message of joy. I think sometimes we think when Christmas comes then I will finally be happy. When we get this all done then we will experience the joy. When I open the present I will have the joy. Or when I give the present that person will have joy and I will have joy. But you know the joy of Christmas is Christ Himself.

That is what it is. It doesn't come from what is under the tree. It comes from the one who died on the tree.

The Bible says, cursed is every man that hangs on a tree. Speaking of the cross. It is not about Christmas presents. It is about His presence in our life.

The message of this season is not shop until you drop or let it snow. But it is really what the wise men said when they said we have come to worship Him. Because the reality is commercial Christmas cannot really deliver on its promises. It can't bring the magic it offers.

It can't bring you that delight. But Christ Himself can. So let's go back to that first Christmas when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is going to be the mother of the Messiah. An angel also tells Joseph that he should stay with Mary and marry her. And this one that would come would be called Jesus.

And so now a decree goes out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. It seems like a horrible thing to have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But of course this was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy because Micah 5 says, you Bethlehem though you be little among the thousands of Judah yet out of you shall come forth one whose origins have been from everlasting. So history is His story.

God needed to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. So Caesar was in his own way fulfilling Bible prophecy. Augustus Caesar as he is called. That word Augustus means of the gods. He was the first Caesar to declare himself a deity.

But historians tell us he was very short in stature. So little Caesar gave the decree pizza, pizza. No he didn't do that. But it was similar. Go to Bethlehem. Well they went to Bethlehem because they are both connected to the family and the house of David. And that of course also was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. And there in that manger because there was no room in the inn the son of God was born.

It was the most momentous event in all of history. The eternal God literally becoming a fetus and being born of a woman. When you really get down to it the story of Jesus is not a rags to riches story.

It is a riches to rags story. He left everything. He left the glory of heaven to come to our planet. And ironically on the first Christmas most people missed it. There were no telltale signs that the son of God was going to be born. There were no colorful twinkling lights hanging off the houses. No trees decorated.

Children did not find it hard to sleep that night because it was a night like any other night. In fact the first Christmas things were very bleak because the Jewish people had not heard from God for 400 long years. Not a single angelic appearance. Not one prophet speaking in the name of the Lord.

No miracles. Just sort of an icy silence from heaven. And then all of a sudden here comes Gabriel and the whole thing begins to unfold right before their eyes. And so here now we have this great moment where the angels come and announce the news. Boy I am telling you every angel would want that assignment wouldn't they? The Lord says, Ok I need some angels. Now this isn't in the Bible.

I am just making this up. But the Lord might have said we need some angels to go announce that the Messiah has been born. Who wants to go? Every angel would have said, Me me let me go.

I am thinking of Gabriel. Oh he got to go last time. All right the Lord says you can all go. Because thousands of angels appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night with the message that the Messiah has come.

And that is what I want to look at. What happened to these shepherds in Luke chapter 2 verse 8. 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 round about them. And they were greatly afraid and the angel said, Do not be afraid. For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. This will be the sign to you.

You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying glory to God on the highest and on earth peace good will toward men. And so it was when the angels had gone away from them in the heaven the shepherd said one to another let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.

We will stop there. Here is my first point if you are taking notes. The highest message came initially to the lowest of people. The highest message came initially to the lowest of people. You know like many other things in the Christmas story we have romanticized the shepherds not understanding what role they played in culture at this particular time. Shepherds were despised. The only people lower than a shepherd at this time historically would be someone who was a leopard. It was so bad that the testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court of law. Rabbis banned pasturing sheep and goats in Israel except on desert plains.

And so the Mishnah a book of Jewish writings said if a shepherd fell into a pit you were not required to rescue them. So they were really low. So if we updated this today it would be like telemarketers were up late at night calling people. Or used car dealers were trying to close that deal.

Or if you are a telemarketer who is also a used car dealer sorry. But these were not people that were looked upon with favor. So who does God come to? He comes to the lowest of the low.

And that was intentional. He wanted to give them the news. Not to the religious leaders who really had no interest in it. In fact when Herod went to the scholars and said I have heard there is someone born called the king of the Jews. Do you know anything about this the Messiah. Oh yeah they said Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem. That is what the Bible tells us. And yet they didn't make what the six mile six mile journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see for themselves.

So they had no interest. God didn't appear to the religious snobs of the day or even to Caesar. He went to these people instead and said I have got good news.

It is a boy. And he is the Messiah. God left the self-righteous religious hypocrites off his Christmas mailing list.

Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of today's message in just a moment. You know Pastor Greg the last couple of years have been so tough on everybody. Not just here in the US but all around the world. You know with the pandemic, with the cultural decline, political chaos, economic chaos, and certainly spiritual chaos.

Many companies are scaling back and many are just trying to get through it all amidst all the uncertainty. But Harvest Ministries seems to be doubling down in its mission in 2023. Tell us about that. Yeah you know Dave the Bible says when the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him. Listen this is not the time to retreat. This is the time to advance. This is not the time to lose ground. It's time to gain ground. And by that I mean we march forward. Jesus said we are the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

What does that mean? Think of one of those old movies you've seen where they're storming the castle and there's the big gate in front. And of course they're pouring the boiling oil over the side of the wall. So what do they do? They get a battering ram. Maybe they even set the battering ram on fire and keep hitting the gate till it finally opens.

So here's the picture. We're the folks with the battering ram. The fortress is the culture controlled by the power of the devil. So Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against you. It simply means we're going to win as we storm the gates and as we move forward. I'm asking folks listening right now to join us as we storm the gates. Join us as we seek to invade instead of evade.

To permeate instead of isolate. Join us as we seek to give the gospel to as many people as we possibly can. And one way you can do that is through your financial investment in Harvest Ministries.

Here's David to tell you more. Yeah, your investment in Harvest Ministries right now is so strategic. It's the most pivotal time of the year as we're poised to enter a new year of ministry.

A year filled with plans to reach further than we ever have before. Can we count on you to be a partner with us? Get in touch today and let us know you want to become a Harvest partner. Our telephone number is 1-800-821-3300. Call anytime, night or day. And again the number 1-800-821-3300.

Or go online to Well today we're gleaning important insights from the first Christmas. Pastor Greg is pointing out how to have a joyful Christmas. So the angels come and give this announcement. Of course they start with the words don't be afraid because usually when angels appeared people were afraid. You know I read actually that the words fear not or something like that appear 350 times in the Bible. And if that's true that means that there's a fear not for every day of the year. So they appear and they give this message.

Bring me to point number two. The message of the first Christmas was a message of joy. Look at verse 10. Don't be afraid. I bring you glad tidings of great joy which would be to all people. Great joy to all people.

That's for us right here right now. Great joy to all people. So it wasn't just for them. It's for us too. God wants us to experience joy in this season.

But as I pointed out the holidays can be sad for many folks. I was interviewed recently by a newspaper and they asked me about an article that was put up by the Pew Center about how many Americans are suffering and they're wondering if there's any purpose to suffering and why bad things happen to people. And of course there's not an easy answer to that. I was being interviewed on some TV show years ago in L.A. and we had one minute left and the guy said okay just one last question pastor.

Why does God allow suffering? You have one minute. Go. One minute. I can't answer that in one minute. I don't know if I could I don't know if I could answer it in 60 minutes or a week.

It's one of those questions you can't answer easily. And so instead of trying to answer it sometimes we just need to pull the camera back and look at the bigger picture. We don't know why bad things happen to good people. God has His purposes. God has His plans.

God has His reasons. But we know that despite the hard things and the bad things that happen God can bring good. The worst thing that ever happened in human history was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Yet out of the worst thing came the greatest thing. That is the redemption of all of mankind. And so this is a time where people are hurting and people are sad but we must not lose the essential message of joy because fear robs us of the joy of Christmas.

That's my third point. Fear robs us of the joy of Christmas. The angel said don't be afraid. Fear can cancel out joy. And we certainly live in frightening times. I mean we have people just committing crimes on a level I can't remember in my lifetime. More murders. More violent crimes. More robbery.

More assaults. And it's a scary time that we're living in right now. But it was scary for them too.

Because they were living under the iron fist of Rome. And they were wondering will things ever improve? Will these Romans, this occupying force ever leave our country? Will we ever be free again? Will Messiah ever come? And one day the message is given Messiah has come.

And in the same way we look to our future we wonder is it ever going to get better? Will Christ ever come? And one day He will come and we'll be caught up to be in His presence.

So it'll happen. But so this is the message. Don't be afraid and have joy. Fear is what Christmas came to remove and now we can have joy in its place. The condition of joy is to let go of fear. The Bible says cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you. You see you choose to have joy. Don't wait for the emotion.

Oh I don't feel it. So what? The apostle Paul said rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. And when he wrote that he was in a prison. And yet he was able to say I am choosing to rejoice in the Lord regardless of my very difficult circumstances. And you can make that same choice as well to rejoice in the Lord. And why should you rejoice? That brings me to my final point.

Point number four. You can have joy in this Christmas season because you have a Savior who is Christ the Lord. That's the message of verse 11. There's born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Whatever challenges you're going through right now just remember this. You are saved by God. He has both saved you. Past tense. He is saving you. Present tense. And He will save you.

Future tense. He saved you from your past and from the penalty of your sins. He saves you every day giving you the strength to live the life He has called you to live. And one day He will save you as you enter into His presence. You know one day the disciples came to Jesus and they were all excited because they were casting demons out of people. Jesus says guys hey don't rejoice in that.

Rejoice that your names are written in the book of life. You know get perspective. So whatever you're going through and I'm not in any way marginalizing the problems you may have right now.

They may be very severe and serious. But I just want you to get perspective. Your problem may still be there but you can still rejoice in the Lord and not be crippled by your fear. Because your name is written in God's book if you put your faith in Christ and you are saved. There is born unto you in this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

So He saves us but then He is our Christ and He is our Lord. I am no longer in control of my life. Well actually I never was. I thought I was.

But I wasn't. But now I have someone who is not only leading me and guiding me but He's protecting me and He's watching out for me and He will direct me in the way I should go and He will protect me in that way and one day welcome me into His presence in heaven. So listen as we bring this message to a close if you find yourself down and depressed and hurting remember it's not about Christmas. It's about Christ.

It's Christ Himself. That's always the message. If you get a lot of presents you get a few presents you get no presents. You have a big tree. A really pathetic little Charlie Brown tree.

You have super cool lights on your house or no lights at all. None of these things really matter. But what matters is the real message of this season which is the Son of God entered our world. He walked in our shoes. He breathed our air. He lived our life and then He died our death. And it was the ultimate gift from heaven.

I love the way C.S. Lewis summed it up. The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God. And of course daughters of God as well. And as I pointed out in an earlier message He was born so we might be born again.

He died so we could live. This is what it's all about. So let me close with an invitation because I'm talking to somebody that's hurting right now. Someone that's in pain. Talking to someone who feels unloved and unwanted and uncared for. And you are loved by more people than you will ever realize. And you are needed. But most of all you are loved by God who has a plan for your life. And whatever you are going through you are going to get through it eventually.

So don't give up. But rather take hold of Him who loves you and will change you. Jesus was born in the manger to ultimately go and die on the cross for your sin and then to rise from the dead. And I wonder if you have asked Christ to come into your life yet.

Because if you haven't this will be the perfect time to do it. Jesus says, Behold I stand at the door and I knock and if you hear my voice and open the door I will come in. So I'm going to close with a prayer. And I'm going to extend an invitation for anyone here who needs to come to the Lord to do so. And I'm also going to extend an invitation to folks that maybe have fallen away from the Lord.

That walk with Him at one time but need to return to the Lord again. So if you need to do that you can do it right now as we pray. Let's pray together. Father thank you for your Word to us.

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for sending Jesus to be born in that manger and then to die on the cross and rise again from the dead. And now we ask that you will speak to every heart who does not know you wherever they are. Help them to see their need for Jesus and help them to come to you and believe. Now while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we are praying together if you want Jesus Christ to come into your life to be your Savior and your Lord and your God I want you to pray this prayer right where you are with me. Just pray this prayer. Pray Lord Jesus I know that I am a sinner but I know that you are the Savior who is born in that manger and died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Jesus come into my life.

I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing my prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus name I pray.

Amen. An important moment in today's broadcast of A New Beginning. Pastor Greg Laurie praying with those making a decision for the Lord today.

And if you would continue praying for those who have made that decision would you do that? And if you've just prayed with Pastor Greg we'd like to send you some free follow-up materials to help you get started walking with the Lord. We'd like to send you our New Believers Growth Packet. Just ask for it when you call 1-800-821-3300.

Call anytime that's 1-800-821-3300 or write A New Beginning Box 4000 Riverside, California 92514 or go online to And then it's such a pleasure to have Kathy Laurie in the studio with us today along with renowned children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones. We're making available Sally's brand new book called Known. Details in just a moment.

Kathy? Sally, I wonder if you could explain to us why the subject matter of this book that you've written based on Psalm 139 that you titled Known is more significant perhaps now than it has ever been in a time when which with all the social media everybody feels like they know everything they need to know and they can find out anything they need to find out. But yet we're in a time where loneliness is just rampant and even little children may be feeling it, you know, that their lives, they may feel their parents are too busy, no one sees them, no one knows them. And to bring them the biblical truth that God knows us completely, cares deeply about us, understands us fully, and loves us. And I think that bringing that truth to a little child is so important and significant that I think that that speaks to the need for a book like this on a subject like this at a time like this. And what better place for a parent and a child or a grown-up and a child to sit together and be reminded of that truth that we all need and especially the little ones because little ones get lost in the mix, don't they? And everyone's doing the best they can and we're all overextended and there are so many demands on our time that it's easy to put a little child in front of a screen. But here's an alternative for both of us, you know, adults need to not be in front of screens and that's the beauty of a book and the turn of a page and the voice of the grown-up. It's all doing more than what it seems to be doing and it's building a bridge between you and it's also giving you a sort of place to rest in God's presence. And it doesn't take very long to read, obviously, but even that's enough, isn't it? Just a moment to go, let's just take a breath and let's sit down and let's remind ourselves of what's really true and the reality that God is caring for us every single day and he made us and he's in charge, not the news.

Not the news and that's good for us all to know as an adult, isn't it? And that will convey itself to the child in the peace that you have together as you read. That's our special guest Sally Lloyd Jones, author of the new children's book we're making available called Known, Psalm 139. Can we send a copy your way? It's our thank you gift to those who can partner with us as we reach out with the gospel in some innovative ways right now and your partnership makes all the difference. So thanks for your investment in sharing the gospel and when you invest today, please ask for the new book called Known, Psalm 139 by Sally Lloyd Jones. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300.

We're here around the clock to take your call. That's 1-800-821-3300 or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California 92514 or go online to Well next time we'll discover the joy and reassurance that come when we grasp the significance of Jesus being our wonderful counselor. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. Thanks for listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Sign up for daily devotions and learn how to become a Harvest Partner at
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-22 11:58:26 / 2022-12-22 12:08:52 / 10

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