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December 14, 2020 1:00 am
One of the tragedies of the first Christmas is that there are so many recorded in the Scriptures who were oblivious, who missed the message the life-giving message of Christmas there were the political leaders of the time it was Caesar Augustus, and there was Carini as the governor of Syria. These men possessed everything the world had to offer.
Yet they missed God's greatest gift. Then there is the innkeeper who miss Christmas we don't know his name. We know very little about him other than the end was full, but it seems that he was preoccupied with things and the pressure business and it clouded him and Fort caused him to miss the Christ that it become the greatest gift God has ever given. And again I I don't know what that scene would look like when Mary and Joseph and Werner full-term came there before the innkeeper whether there was a counter. What there was, but in my mind's eye I see them weary from traveling the innkeeper busy and distracted and with the bad news there's night. We have no room and the insensitivity in the that the sadness this man has the mother of our of of the Christ child or him and he totally misses. In contrast, what we heard this morning about the reception that Mary received when she came in to the presence of Elizabeth John the Baptist leaped in her womb. Herod missed the meaning of the birth of Jesus and his failure I think is most blameworthy because he had been told of the birth by the wise men yet he did not receive the benefit of the message.
In fact, in murderous hatred plotted to kill the Messiah by ordering the death of every child two years and under. Then there were the religious leaders they missed the incarnation, even though they had been told in their Scriptures that a Messiah would come and where he would come in the book of Micah those who missed Christmas and missed the Christ of Christmas stand in stark contrast to those whose lives were impacted were touched.
Those who did embrace by faith God's greatest gift to mankind. So tonight I want to focus on two groups of people in the Scriptures and were going to look at shepherds and were going to look at the Magi. The wisemen came from the East, someone read those two passages. One is in Matthew, the other is in Luke going to look at and in contrast these two groups and then look at similarities I have for contrast between the shepherds in the Magi, and I for similarities in the two and then some practical application. Is it relates to our lives to listen with me as I read Matthew chapter 2 beginning at verse one down through verse 12 sow 12 verses here in Matthew now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wisemen from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, where is he who has been born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him and when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together.
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born so they said to him in Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet but you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are not the least among the rulers of Judah for out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wisemen determine from them what time the star appeared and he sent them to Bethlehem and said go and search carefully for the young child and when you have found him, bring back word to me that I may come and worship him also. When they heard the king, they departed, and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped him, and when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to him gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Thus, the account of the wisemen and then in Luke Luke chapter 213 verses here beginning in verse eight. This is the account of the angelic message to the shepherd. Verse eight. Now 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, your who is Christ the Lord. This will be the sign. Do you you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward men.
So it was when the Angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come the past which the Lord has made known to us and they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger now when they had seen him. They made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this child and all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart, then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told it's hard to imagine a greater contrast than the one that exists between these two groups of people who encountered and were blessed to have an encounter with this. These this messenger and these messages concerning the Christ to come. There are four areas of contrast that I want to draw your attention here.
We think of shepherds in the Magi there is number one social contrast. Secondly, a financial contrast third in educational contrast and then lastly a geographical contrast, think with me about these four contrasts number one, a social contrast, the shepherds were of the lowest social class.
They were looked down upon as being among the, the basest of society. They were despised they were mistrusted they were thought to be dishonest. The reputation was such that they were not even allowed to bear testimony in a court of law. It was assumed. The reason it was assumed that these people who occupy this profession were not trustworthy that they would line in most people's minds. Shepherds were there like gypsies. They they were conmen all rolled into one word about the wisemen with her. On the other side of the social spectrum they were influential.
Notice that when they came to Jerusalem looking for the one who'd been born king of the Jews. They had no trouble gaining admission into Herod's palace. In fact they had no difficulty getting an audience with hair and contrast the shepherds would not even have been allowed in the outer court of the palace. Thus the social contrast in the financial contrast again the status of the two groups of people is between the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, the shepherds had nothing when the shepherds came to Bethlehem to see what it come to pass. They quickly went commendable that they did that, but when they quickly went to spread the word concerning the child they they had no gifts they brought no gifts then nothing to offer. On the other hand, the wisemen were obviously men of substance they had financial resources in order to take this long trip. They had the luxury of taking time away from whatever they were doing and when they came they brought expensive gifts.
Thus, the contrast the financial number three think with me about the educational contrast, the shepherds, they had no formal education. The Magi and on the other hand, were were famed for their knowledge. We do not know precisely who those particular wisemen were aware they came from, except that they come from the East, but wisemen were noted for their knowledge of religious documents for astronomy for studying the stars learning the arts. They were the professors of the day when the messiahs star appeared they were the ones who saw it and discern its meaning. So were were thinking about the contrast between the shepherds and the wisemen in trusting myself not to be influenced by Christmas cards that speak of three wisemen we don't know that there were three we have a Christmas hymn that says we three Kings of we don't know that these wisemen were kings so it's interesting how these things can creep into your mind and help form form a picture mental picture that is not revealed in the Scriptures. Again we we do not know how many men came and we do not know that if and when, if indeed they were kings when I told looking at the contrast between their social standing there financial standing and their educational standing number four think with me about a geographical contrast that is between the proximity of the shepherds to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in the fact that the wisemen had come from the East afar and great distance. We do not know how far the wisemen traveled since from the east is a very general description, but think with me about this logic, since Herod required of them exactly when the star had appeared and then later ordered an edict that all the male children about plan from age.
From the age of two years down were to be killed. It's probably that the star appeared between one and two years before the time and that the wisemen had been on their journey for many many months they come from a long distance they came from the far reaches of the world, whereas the shepherds they were as close to the birth of Jesus at that as the hills around Bethlehem. Use contrast and I do not know how the story could say more clearly that Christ is for anyone who will have him and that Christ is for you, whoever you may be you may be unimportant in the eyes of most people. Or you may be very important.
You may be poor or you may be rich you may be of low educational standing or well-educated you bring may be near Christ or far from him. None of these things matter for the simple reason that Jesus did not come to be the Savior of the rich are the poor only, or to the wise or the foolish only or anything else became to be the Savior of the world. The good news is that includes you. That's the great news of Christmas. The shepherds in the wisemen were as different as I possibly could be. Yet in all the important things. Their experience was similar in that shared experience set them apart from those who miss Christmas far more than their differences set them apart from each other as we think about what they experienced in what the Scriptures record about their experience. There are four great similarities for great similarities.
Think with me about similarities first the shepherds and the wisemen each received an announcement of Christ's birth in Luke chapter 2 verses nine through 12.
We have these words and, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them.
That is, the shepherds, 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 and that this day in the city of David a Savior, your who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, a single angel brought this message to them. The announcement was then expanded by the addition of a great company of angels who praise God. Notice verse 13 and 14. So again, first the announcement was delivered by an angel, then verse 13 and 14 says, and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men love the translation that renders that announcement. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Think that nuances the message more accurately and helps us to appreciate it more notice with me that this announcement was was two things. It was first visual and it was verbal. What about the announcement to the Magi, but we do not know for certain what the star of Bethlehem was there are much as been said and written about meaning of the star Bethlehem. Some say it was a comment.
Some say it was a collection the constellation of stars, the most satisfying explanation to me is that it was a manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God because when they came to the city.
The star took them to the very place where Christ was. So again, we don't know but that's I think a pretty plausible explanation.
These two revelations one of the shepherds and the other to the wisemen. They were they were. They were magnificent. They were glorious.
They were extraordinary but again we need to. I think pause and think about the fact that these announcements had broken 400 sign the God was now speaking and he was speaking in the person of his son and the Angels were declaring this saving message. The shepherds had received a vision of the glory of God, accompanied by angels. The wisemen saw a star but think about this.
I think there many times we read of these accounts and we have a longing and if it were possible, would say you know what I would trade my experience for their experience. I would. I long. I wish I could've been there now in order for you to be there. You have to give up what you have and I want to declare to you that what we have is superior to anything that they experience they really I'm I don't buy that. I don't believe that I am having trouble here. We follow follow this reasoning. What have we received.
We haven't received any angelic message. We haven't received any star that's let us to assert place to discover Christ, we have received the word of God which Peter says is like a light shining in a dark place that second Peter chapter 1 in verse 19. Now the context there in second Peter is Peter is recounting his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Christ was transfigured before him, and he saw the heavenly glory.
He heard the voice from God saying this is my son, whom I love with him I am well pleased.
That experience of Peter I think would compare quite favorably with the experience of the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem and that of the Magi as they studied the heavens yet. What did Peter say about his experience immediately after recounting his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter speaks of the Scriptures as being even more certain and he concludes you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the dawn dawns in the MorningStar rises in your hearts.
So in spite of Peter's experience. Peter values the written word of God above everything in his new covenant believers we need to be of a similar mind. We have the final revelation from God in the person of Jesus Christ revealed in the pages of Scripture.
We were not chasing after experience in dreams and visions and voices. God has spoken and we need to value that immensely know again what were doing here is considering similarities.
We looked at the contrast between the shepherds in the wisemen right now are looking at the similarities between the two. Secondly, the shepherds and the wisemen not only received this announcement they obeyed God's summons. They obeyed God's summons and it wasn't easy for them to do that. Think of the obstacles that had to be overcome by both the shepherds and the Magi Magi. They lived a great distance from Jerusalem and they were alerted to the child's birth only by the appearance of his star.
They may have could have discounted that star they could have dismissed it, but they didn't. The way to Jerusalem was long they could of thought while others will be paying their respects. We don't need to go. It would've been very inconvenient for them to make this journey and yet those obstacles did not deteriorate. What about the shepherds well they could've reasoned what were not were not dressed for this occasion when we have nothing to bring week. We are not fit company for him. It was announced by angels who will care for our sheep who will attend to the things that we are responsible for, but neither the wisemen nor the shepherds did that instead of making excuses, the shepherds said let us go to Bethlehem.
Luke chapter 2 in verse 15, so it was when the angels had gone from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us, which the Lord is made known to us.
I wonder how obedient to God. Have you been have you been as obedient to God about the things that he's revealed to you as the shepherds were have you overcome obstacles have you been willing to follow even when it meant inconveniencing challenges to overcome. You know the Christmas story you know the gospel of Jesus Christ to came to die for sinners. You know the the summons of Jesus coming to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest in the question tonight is have you responded to that message as it captured your attention hasn't demanded you to heed this summons the say if God is speaking. If God is calling.
I have no greater business than to heed this and follow after him. That's what the shepherds did laughter that he should receive the announcement and obeyed the summons by going to Bethlehem. They were rewarded because they found the Savior. This is the third area of similarity both found that the different ways in which they were led the Magi, the wisemen star that led them to Bethlehem and the shepherds who were directed by the Angels both discovered that the message was true, that it was not a misleading message that God's son had indeed been born. The Savior had come. He was there for their discovery.
I used to think that it was some quite riveting in capturing and thought-provoking. When I would see on billboards or on the lights in the yard or in a Christmas card. The phrase wisemen still seeking. Although I think there is some truth in that it is a bit misleading because the Bible says there are none who seek after God. No, not one. Paul says that not once but twice.
Just so that we don't miss what he saying there are none who seek after God. No, not one. So, in what sense is it true that wisemen still see him. I recount the story of a man that set my office a number years ago who came inquiring about his relationship with the Lord sitting there listening to the beacon broadcast and thought he understood the gospel the way we understood it and presented it so we talked and he was a lost man confess that, so I said to him I said in light of what you say you believe how do you explain the fact that you are sitting in that chair, seeking the Lord when the Bible says there none seek after him. No, not one and I wanted to I wanted to confront him with this dilemma and I wanted to encourage them at the same time so he he said I don't really know a soul, and all I think about. I can explain it to you. That is a true statement. There are none who seek after God. No, not one in any time I see a person who make an inquiry and honestly seeking the Lord that is in response to a God who seeking after him. So I said to Imus.
It is there is there are you are you in the church anywhere. He said no set is ready reason why you can't be in this church on Sunday.
This was on a Friday afternoon. He said no. I said I'll be looking for you give a Bible story reading it. No reason why you can't find it begin to read no exit. Find your Bible begin to read in the gospel of John said it would be derelict of me and your responsible for me to tell you. Here are three things for you to agree to and then I pronounce you say I don't have that power don't have that authority.
You must be born again that is born from above. You must be regenerated by the spirit of God so we prayed and again I'd never seen this man before he called earlier in the day and asked to meet with the pastor and I arranged for him to come in that afternoon and on Sunday he was here. He came to me and he said I think God save me sitting in your office on Friday. I said well I am encouraged by the asset if if he did, we will see the evidence of that, and he continued to come in. We talked and that he would say I just I just don't know I just don't know what I'm Savior not keep reading your Bible keep coming to church and I don't know how long. Went by several months to three months went by and he sought me out on a Sunday morning out there in welcome center and he said down me tell you he said God save me this past that he said it was Friday, so tell me about. He said in John chapter 15 I was reading that morning in John 15. Always good to do with the pastor encourages you to do and admonishes you to do encounters you to do so. There he was reading in John chapter 15 he says, and I read any open his Bible and he said I read this Jesus was saying to the disciples.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.
That whatever you ask the father in my name he may give it to you.
He said that morning. Speaking of Friday morning.
He said that verse was not for those disciples. He says I've written. John 1516 in front of my Bible and I can testify that that's again I don't know how long ago that was even 15 years. I would say that that man is still showing evidence of of walking with the Lord.
So what would the point I'm trying to make to you is that these shepherds are not being rewarded simply because they were doing the seeking God sought them out. God chose to reveal himself to them. That's what they said that's what the, the shepherd said let us now go to Bethlehem and see the things that is come the past which the Lord has made known to us, not credit to them. They didn't discover this on their own. They were about their business and God came to them in kindness and in grace and reveal himself to them and their lives were changed. That's the gospel really had planned to take that rabbit trail, but it seemed well. The Lord directed and that is as I was thinking about this and again ringing the mind. Wisemen still seek him don't think we got to be given lost man that much credit.
It's God who works in the hearts of men to bring them to himself over looking at similarities were looking at similarities between the shepherds and the wise men. So far we thought that there they were similar in that both received an announcement both obeyed God summons and both found the Savior both had an encounter with the Savior in the fourth similarity is both the shepherds and the Magi. The wisemen came to worship became the worship let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that is come to pass, were 17 when they had seen him. They made widely known the saying which was told them turning the child and all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Verse 20 then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them the Magi wisemen when they came they brought their gifts they know they bowed.
They worshiped and that's what the, the incarnation is designed by God to do. It's too produce humility. It's too of provoked worship in the hearts and lives of men who encounter him similarities see our experience is very similar to theirs, that of the shepherds and of the wisemen. We have received the good news message of Christ, that is come to us. It's a reliable message. It is come to us through preaching through the revelation of God in his word and if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. You have not just received an announcement you have obeyed God, you responded to this good news you have encountered a Savior in your life has been transformed and is been changed.
God is made you into a worshiper. You delight in doing that. Listen to the words of this hymn, angels from the realms of glory Angels from the realms of glory when your flight or all the earth. Jehu sign creation story now proclaim Messiah's birth and in the refrain come and worship, and worship. Worship Christ the newborn King shepherds in the fields abiding watching or your flocks by night. God with man is now reciting yonder shines the infant light common worship common worship. Worship Christ the newborn King. Sages leave your contemplations brighter visions being the far seek the great desire of nations ye have seen his natal star sinners wrong with true repentance doomed for guilt to endless pains, justice now revokes the sentence mercy calls you break your chain Saints before the altar, bending, watching long and hope and fear. Suddenly the Lord is sending in his temple, shall appear common worship, and worship.
Worship Christ the newborn King spray. Father, we thank you for the marvel of the incarnation. We thank you for the great condescension of our Savior, leaving the glories of heaven coming in weakness, and coming in humility in yet that coming announced in wonderful awe and wonder in splendor and glory. How could he angels do anything but sing and shout and magnify you for the giving of your son.
The troubles us deeply when we read in the Scriptures that Jesus came unto his own, but his own received him not. How men could reject so great a gift so great a gift designed to bring the greatest blessing yet that's exactly what the Jewish nation did. He came unto his own, but his own received him not. But your bite. Your word tells us, but as many as received him to them. You gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on his name. Thank you for the enabling power to believe upon Jesus, thank you for coming to us in wooing us and awe in awing's and drawing us and bringing us that we might bow the knee in become worshipers of him now may the feeblest among you be like David May the God who gives encouragement and endurance give you the spirit of unity as you follow Christ, so that with one heart and one mouth we made together, glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen