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The Glory of Christmas

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 21, 2022 12:01 am

The Glory of Christmas

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 21, 2022 12:01 am

When we think of the nativity scene, we often focus on the humble circumstances of our Savior's birth. Today, R.C. Sproul reminds us that Jesus' arrival into the world was also accompanied by a display of heavenly glory.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind... .... and lit up the sky. As a culture, we set aside a day in December to celebrate that event. But unfortunately, many get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget that Christ, the God-man, came to save His people. We can learn an important lesson from the shepherds who were in Bethlehem that night.

Today R.C. Sproul looks back to those eyewitnesses who were the first to behold the glory of Christmas. I remember in the decade of the sixties, in fact it was in the late sixties, that my wife and I were living briefly in Philadelphia. And shortly after we moved to the city of brotherly love, we spent a day touring the city, seeing all the famous sights that go back to the revolutionary period. And that evening, we went to Independence Hall, and we sat in the courtyard outside of the building to witness a new kind of dramatic entertainment called a sound and light show. We had never experienced anything like this before as we sat outside and floodlights were bathed on the walls of Independence Hall, and a phonographic account of the signing of the Declaration of Independence was presented. And actors had been hired to speak the lines of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and Witherspoon and people like that. And so as we watched these lights moving, suddenly we would hear the voice presumably of Benjamin Franklin. And he would say something and then Thomas Jefferson would respond, and it was something we had never experienced before anywhere. And ever since that time, I've thought about this whole phenomenon of a dramatic presentation that involved sound and light.

But of course, that presentation at Independence Hall was not the first sound and light show, nor the greatest sound and light show. I think perhaps the greatest sound and light show that ever took place in history took place on a barren field on a plain outside the tiny town of Bethlehem. Now, when we consider the birth of Christ, it seems that every Christmas we hear at least one sermon that stresses the humiliation of Christ. That in the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity condescended.

He stooped low to enter into our humanity and to cloak His heavenly glory with His humanity, to hide it and veil it and conceal it from human eyes. And so we hear the sermons that speak of the lowly circumstances of the birth of Jesus, of the discomfort and the fears that were involved that this young girl was forced by government edict to leave her home and travel to Bethlehem in order to enroll for a census that was being administered for the sake of paying taxes. One of the side notes of that is this example of civil obedience rendered by Joseph and Mary to an oppressive action of government, one that would make them exceedingly uncomfortable. But just through what seemed to be the fortuitous circumstances of secular power, they just happened to be in the city of Bethlehem that Micah had predicted centuries before, thou Bethlehem, though thou be small among the princes of Israel. Bethlehem Ephrata, out of thee will come the Messiah.

And just through the seeming fortuitous circumstances of the willy-nilly arbitrary edict of Caesar Augustus, this couple is forced to make the arduous journey to Bethlehem. And there the child is born. And we think of that circumstance where there was no room in the inn and it became necessary for Mary to give birth, perhaps out of doors, and to lay her baby in a manger and wrap the child in swaddling clothes.

We hear that stressed again and again. Perhaps this manger was not a wooden crib, but more likely it was a niche carved out of the rock in a cave because there was no room in the city of David for the son of David. And so we're aware of this abject humiliation of Christ. I've written a book called The Glory of Christ in which I did something that I found fascinating. I acknowledged with orthodox Christology that the life of Jesus follows a general pattern from humiliation to exaltation. It goes from the humble circumstances of His birth through His earthly ministry to the ignominy of His trial, of His rejection by His people, and of course the depth of His passion that takes place on the cross. But then glory bursts through with resurrection and then ascension on the Shekinah clouds.

And it's easy for us to see that progress from humiliation to exaltation. But the point I try to make in this book is that that progress is not one that is absolutely steady where all through His earthly life Jesus is totally shrouded and concealed in this humiliation. The point of the book is this, that there are moments here and there where suddenly the glory that is hidden by the veil of incarnation breaks through, even before the resurrection, even before the ascension, most notably of course on the Mount of Transfiguration, where suddenly and without warning as the disciples were gathered around Jesus, they looked at Him and before their very eyes, the Greek word that is used here is the word from which we get the English word metamorphosis happens. A transformation, a metamorphosis takes place, and suddenly Christ's face begins to radiate and His clothes are transformed and they become translucent and they become whiter than snow. And in that moment the disciples of Jesus fall on their face in fear, and then they hear with their ears a conversation as Elijah and Moses appear on the mountain and begin to speak with Jesus.

That's a clear moment where glory breaks through. But what is often overlooked is that even though the entrance of Christ into this world comes in the circumstances of oppression, of poverty, where He is virtually incognito and sent to a cave to be born, yet a very short distance away, there is an explosion of glory, a powerful exhibit and manifestation of the glory of God that invades not the home of the tavern owner in Bethlehem, but is visited upon the lowest of the low among the people, even the shepherds in the fields outside the city. Let's look at the biblical record of this visitation. In the second chapter of Luke's gospel, we are told in verse 6 that so it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Here's the humiliation. But verse 8 gives us the other side. It says, now there were in the same country shepherds living out in their 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. I'm reading from the New King James. You know what the Old King James said, and they were sore afraid. The translator has changed that because we don't speak that way anymore. We don't say that somebody's sore afraid.

Well, I like it. I mean, it's one thing to be afraid. It's another thing to be sore afraid. My only guess here in the derivation of the words here and the development of language is what the original translators were trying to get at here was that these men were so afraid it hurt. It was a fear of pain because they were not accustomed to watching with eyes unveiled the outward, visible manifestation of the glory of God. Notice how the Scriptures so often describe the presence of God in terms of light and of fire. We're told our God is a consuming fire. He radiates with a refulgence of glory that is brighter than the noonday sun. We know how bright the sun can be whenever an eclipse is about to take place, a solar eclipse.

There are manifold warnings in the newspaper and on the radio telling children, don't, if you're interested in this eclipse, ever for a second look directly into the core of the sun because such a view can do permanent damage to your eyes. It is too bright for our eyes to behold. Yet the Scripture tells us that when the glory of God shines round about, it shines with the brightness that eclipses the sun. And if we as mortal people cannot bear to look directly into the rays of the sun, which is merely an organ of the creaturely work of God's hands, how much less are we able to look directly into the unveiled presence of His shining glory? And here are these shepherds, not engaged in a Bible study, men of such poor reputation that shepherds were not even allowed to bear witness in a courtroom in Israel.

They were so untrustworthy. But to the dregs of society, suddenly as they're caring for their sheep in the middle of the evening and in the night and the darkness of the night, instantly the lights come on. Not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, but the glory of God shone round about them, and they were dazzled. And the light show has started.

But with the light comes sound. With the manifestation of the glory of God comes the utterance of the Word of God through His messenger. They were greatly afraid, Luke tells us, and again in chapter 2, verse 10. And 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 who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Don't be afraid, the angel said. Why not? This is a time of unprecedented joy. This is the moment the world has been waiting for. And you have been selected to be spectators of it. Why have I selected you to be able to see with your eyes what has taken place? Because for unto Mary is born this day.

No, that's not what they said. Unto you is born this day a Savior. The Savior is born for you.

Now go and see it. And then suddenly we read, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host. Oh, before we hear the song of that, doesn't that bring to mind an experience that takes place in the Old Testament with Elisha? Remember the story of Elisha the prophet, who the king that was trying to defeat the king of Israel, every time he set his battle plan and would set up an ambush for the Israelites, the Israelites would avoid it.

And so the king became convinced that there was a spy in his camp, and he brought his intelligence agents in there, and they said, no, there's no spy here. The problem is Elisha the prophet. Everything that we meet in secret and decide to do, Elisha goes and tells the king. And so the king said, hey, the only way we're going to beat the Israelites is we've got to first get rid of Elisha. They said, where is this Elisha?

They said, he's in that little village of Dothan. So the king sent an army to surround the city in the middle of the night to wait for Elisha to get up in the morning so that they could come in and capture him. And so the morning dawns, and Elisha's servant gets up, opens up the windows. He's going to look and get some fresh air, prepare breakfast. He looks out the window, and he sees all these chariots of enemy soldiers in the front yard.

He goes around and looks in the back of the house, and there's more chariots there. He looks to the east. He looks to the west. He looks to the north.

He looks to the south. Everywhere he looks, there's all these chariots, and he knows what's happened, and he's terrified. And he runs up, and he says to Elisha, wake up, wake up quick.

So what's the matter? And the servant said, look, we're surrounded by enemy soldiers. And Elisha looks at his servant and says, take it easy.

Don't worry about it. Those that are with us are more than those that are against us. And Elisha's servant is ready to go nuts. He says, are you out of your mind? He looks out the window, and he starts counting the enemy chariots. He says, there's two of us. There's thousands of us.

What do you mean? And Elisha says, begins to pray. And he said, Lord, open his eyes that he might see, and behold, God opened the eyes of the servant, and low chariots of fire round about Elisha. What the servant was privileged to see was the heavenly host, an army of angels. It was the same army that came to Bethlehem. For Luke tells us that while the single angel was speaking, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, that is a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men.

What a show. First the light, then the sound, the sound of an army of angels singing an anthem of praise, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill. So Luke tells us what happens. And so it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherd said one to another, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.

I love this story. I don't know why, but one of the things that just jumps out at me from this text is the simple word, now. After the light and sound show are over and the angels have departed, one of the shepherds looks at the rest of the shepherds and said, let us now go to Bethlehem. Let's not wait until morning. Let's not wait for another ten minutes.

I want to go there right now. And so we're told in the Scriptures, they came with haste, and they found him. They saw the reason for this breakthrough of heavenly glory, for this heavenly sound and light show, they found the babe lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloth.

Let me ask a simple question. If you knew that God was present a short distance from where you were at this moment, how long would you wait before you went to see him? The shepherds said, let us now go unto Bethlehem. And they made haste to find him. Two thousand years have passed since that light show, and there are people who are still in no hurry whatsoever to find him.

And if that describes you, let me suggest to you to go now even unto Bethlehem, to go with haste and find the one who is given unto you, who is Christ the Lord. That gives us an urgency this Christmas season, doesn't it? We need to go quickly and follow the one who was born that first Christmas night.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday. I'm Lee Webb, and we are pleased to feature R.C. Sproul's series Messiah is Born.

The coming of Jesus is the most important birthday ever celebrated, and his life is the most important biography in history. We're making this entire series available to you. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will provide the digital download to you. Plus, we'll send you the DVD of Dr. Sproul's series, What Did Jesus Do? In 12 messages, R.C. explains what it means for Jesus to be the second Adam and why His perfect life is an essential part of our salvation.

Request both of these resources at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, He fulfilled the offices of prophet, priest, and king. Let's listen to a sample of Dr. Sproul's series, What Did Jesus Do? Now, as far as the prophets were concerned, in New Testament categories, the supreme prophet of all time is Jesus. Jesus doesn't just speak the Word of God. He is the Word of God.

He's the very incarnation of the Word of God, and He speaks with the full authority of the Father when He speaks. Now, He also makes prophecies about the future, and that was also the case of the Old Testament prophets. But the amazing difference between the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament prophet Jesus has to do with what I call the subject and objective elements of prophecy. The subjective elements of prophecy refer to the prophets themselves as human subjects, and they would speak their words, and they had a content of future prediction that was a description of the One who was to come. The object of their prophecy ultimately was Jesus. Now, Jesus in His subjective personality was also a prophet, but the difference between Jesus and the rest of the prophets is that Jesus was both the subject and the object of prophecy. That is, most of the prophetic statements that He made were about Himself. One of the things that's often missed in studies, for example, of the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew, when some people want to reduce Christianity to a set of moral guidelines and restrict Jesus to the role of ethical teacher or moralist, they fail to observe that so much of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Beatitudes is about Himself, where He talks about those who will receive the blessings. The blessings find their fullest expression in Him and in His kingdom. And so even there in the Beatitudes, Jesus is making statements about His own personal work in the kingdom of God. It's so important for us to understand that it isn't just Jesus' death and resurrection that saves us.

It's His perfect life as well. We refer to that as His active obedience. We will send you all 12 messages from What Did Jesus Do? on DVD, plus provide the digital download of the series that we're hearing this week, Messiah is Born. You can request both resources with your gift of any amount at, or you can call us at 800-435-4343. And as we near the end of December, please keep in mind that your year-end financial gifts make this ministry possible in 2023. We're launching new initiatives around the world, so we are grateful for your generosity. I hope you'll join us again tomorrow as Dr. Sproul continues his series, Messiah is Born, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-22 00:46:25 / 2022-12-22 00:54:28 / 8

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