God’s Reliable Plan at Christmastime

Dr. Steve Viars December 15, 2019 Luke 2:1-19
Outline

Luke 1:1-4 - Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

4 characteristics of the “exact truth” regarding Christ’s birth

I. God’s Plan is Precise

A. Regarding Jesus’ birthplace

Micah 5:2 - But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

Matthew 2:5-6 - They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

“We should perhaps reflect that it was a combination of a decree by the emperor in distant Rome and the gossiping tongues of Nazareth that brought Mary to Bethlehem at just the time to fulfill the prophecy about the birthplace of the Christ (Micah 5:2). God works through all kinds of people to effect His purposes.” Leon Morris, Commentary on Luke, 1975, p. 84

B. Regarding Jesus’ lineage

Luke 2:4 - …was of the house and family of David

2 Samuel 7:12-13 - When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

II. God’s Plan is Often Unexpected

A. Its amazing simplicity

Luke 2:7 - And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

B. It’s delightful humility

“When I am told that God became man, I can follow the idea, but I just do not understand what it means. For what man, if left to his natural promptings, if he were God, would humble himself to lie in the feedbox of a donkey or to hang upon a cross? This is that ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend and much less utter—that unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God’s love toward us…Who can sufficiently declare this exceeding great goodness of God?” cited in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, p. 223

III. God’s Plan is Inviting

A. To the least likely recipients

Luke 2:8 - In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

“Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder. They were uneducated and unskilled, increasingly viewed in the post-New Testament era as dishonest, unreliable, unsavory characters, so much so that they were not allowed to testify in court. Because sheep required care seven days a week, shepherds were unable to fully comply with the man-made Sabbath regulations developed by the Pharisees. As a result, they were viewed as being in continual violation of the religious laws, and hence, ceremonially unclean.” John Macarthur, Commentary on Luke, p. 155

B. Good and joyful news for everyone

Luke 2:10 - But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…”

Luke 2:11 - …for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

C. Offering supernatural peace

Luke 2:14 - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

Romans 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

Luke 2:17 - When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

Luke 2:20 - The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

IV. God’s Plan is Captivating

A. All who heard it wondered

Luke 2:18 - And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

B. Mary treasured and pondered the message

Luke 2:19 - But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

would you agree with me this morning that we live in a complicated day where it is hard to know who is telling the truth?

- that’s not a hard thesis to prove, is it?...

- we have to do regular training with our staff about computer scams because of the number of people trying to gain access to our network…

- and you probably have the same thing happening at your place of work…

- and the messages become more sophisticated all the time…where it really looks like it is coming from a legitimate company…and you need to re-set something, or you need to provide some kind of information…and if you don’t, bad things are going to happen…

- we also have that on the other side of the ledger…I don’t know if this is unique to churches, but usually about once a week we’re contacted by someone around the world pretending to represent some foreign dignitary who suddenly passed away leaving a fortune – and this person would like to gift it to us…as long as we’ll forward our bank account numbers…

- or you check in on the 24-hour news cycle and regardless of your political persuasion, the spin is endless…and you’re trying to decide who you can trust and what you can believe…

- and then there’s just the sheer complexity of it all…where you’d like to have just one password that gives you access to all your accounts…

- but the tech experts set their hair on fire overt that notion…so with one company you have to have at least 8 characters in your password, including one capital letter and one numeral and one symbol…but another company requires 2 factor authorization where they text you a code you have to enter into your device…

- all in the name of making your life easier…and you look at this entire list of passwords that you can never actually print off because if someone robs your home and finds it you’re doomed…and you say, how is all of this making my life easier?...

- so without a doubt, for all kinds of reasons, we live in a complicated day where it is hard to know who is telling the truth…

- against that backdrop – we have the reliable simplicity of the Christmas story…

- in the providence of God, one of the gospel writers was a physician, who opened his account with these words…

- Luke 1:1–4 - Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Luke 2:1…page ____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- let’s spend our last few minutes together this am thinking about God’s Reliable Truth at Christmastime…

- I don’t always know who’s telling the truth when I’m listening to the news…I don’t even open e-mails unless I’m absolutely certain it’s not a scam…I’m about to the place that when my own mother calls me on the phone, I respond by saying – how do I know this is really you?...I’d be delighted if I never had to craft a 14 digit password ever again…

- but thank the Lord that for the things that matter most…God has given us simple, reliable truth…

- a few moments ago we heard Luke 2:1-20 - with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 4 characteristics of the “exact truth” regarding Christ’s birth.

I. God’s Plan is Precise

- in our LN, we try to create an environment of controlled chaos in Scene 5 at Bethlehem…

- if you’ve ever served in that particular scene, you would probably agree with that description…

- but that’s the picture that Luke paints as he describes what would have happened during this census that was being taken by Caesar Augustus…

- obviously we know how busy it was because Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay…

- but there are key principles in this text that would have been obvious to students of God’s Word that demonstrated that the Lord was orchestrating all of in ways that were breathtakingly precise…for example…

A. Regarding Jesus’ birthplace.

- Mary and Joseph were not living in Bethlehem…they were living in Nazareth, 70 miles away…

- well, that’s a problem (so to speak…)

- because the OT was very clear that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem…

- we read about that in Micah 5:2 - But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

- and someone might say, but that prophecy was given in 700 BC (approximately), no one would remember it at the time of Jesus’ birth…

- actually, that’s not true – because remember that after the wise men appear several months later and ask King Herod where the one was who had been born “king of the Jews” …Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes and inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born…

- and from all we can tell in Matthew’s account…they answered without hesitation…Matthew 2:5–6 – They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come Forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

- so back to “the problem” – how is that promise going to be fulfilled if Mary and Joseph are living in Nazareth?..

- and the answer is – our precise God can work out the details of his plan…even if that means directing a pagan ruler to decide its time to have another census of “all the inhabited earth…”

- that leads to another challenge…why was Mary there?...

- there’s disagreement about whether a woman in that culture would have been required to register for this kind of census and Mary certainly had ample reason not to make the trip because she was so close to giving birth…

- but that wouldn’t have solved the problem…because the key person who needed to be in Bethlehem wasn’t Joseph, it was Mary…she was the one giving birth…

- so one Bible scholar suggested that maybe Mary wouldn’t have wanted to stay behind in Nazareth where there was so much gossip about the fact that she had conceived of a child out of wedlock…

- here’s what he said – We should perhaps reflect that it was a combination of a decree by the emperor in distant Rome and the gossiping tongues of Nazareth that brought Mary to Bethlehem at just the time to fulfill the prophecy about the birthplace of the Christ (Micah 5:2). God works through all kinds of people to effect His purposes (Leon Morris, Commentary on Luke, 1975, p. 84).

- we don’t know all of that for sure – but we do know that – God had an exact plan for where Jesus was to be born, and he accomplished that plan with amazing precision…

- the same was true…

B. Regarding Jesus’ lineage.

- Luke is very clear to point out that Joseph….

- Luke 2:4 – …was of the house and family of David

- Bible students knew why that was so important…

- because 1000 years earlier, the Lord made one of the central covenants in all the Bible to his servant David…

- 2 Samuel 7:12–13 - When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

- so all of God’s people knew that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, and had to have a father, humanly speaking, from the house and family of King David…

- friends, God’s plans and God’s promises are always reliable…

- and if you’ve been wondering whether the Lord can bring to pass the promises He’s made to you?...

- look no further than the manger in Bethlehem…

- and even if you can’t see how it would possibly work out – [they’re living in Nazareth, 70 miles away…she’s about to give birth…ahhhh!...]

- God can bring things together in ways that are absolutely astounding…

- we have a number of people form our church family who had a loved one die in the Lord this year…so there will be a loneliness…an ache…an emptiness this Christmas…

- or maybe for you that’s with a loved one who died in the Lord many years ago and this time of year still brings that same emptiness…

- and you know the Lord has made promises about that…

- and you had the funeral service…and you were there at the burial…and you’re left wondering…can I believe God’s Word?...is His plan truly reliable?...

- the message of Christmas puts that question to rest…

II. God’s Plan is Often Unexpected

- verse 7 stands out because of….

A. Its amazing simplicity

- Luke 2:7 - And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

- everything about that is the polar opposite of we would have expected…coupled with…

B. It’s delightful humility

- the great reformer Martin Luther said – When I am told that God became man, I can follow the idea, but I just do not understand what it means. For what man, if left to his natural promptings, if he were God, would humble himself to lie in the feedbox of a donkey or to hang upon a cross? This is that ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend and much less utter—that unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God’s love toward us…Who can sufficiently declare this exceeding great goodness of God? (cited in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, p. 223).

- and Dr. Luke affirms – this is the exact truth…he was writing, by the way to a man named Theophilus…who was perhaps a well-known Roman dignitary, who had either come to Christ or was in the process of doing so…

- and Luke wanted him to have an exact record of how Jesus was born…proving that often God’s plan is far different than what we would have expected…

- a couple of weeks ago we had the great oy as a church family of welcoming over 50 men and women into our church membership, many through believer’s baptism at our 3 campuses…

- and testimonies we heard were delightful…but one of the ones that stood out was the woman who explained that her grandmother always wanted her children and grandchildren to come to know Christ…

- and even when her grandmother was struggling with dementia and could not remember the names of her daughters, she still remembered the name of Jesus and spoke of him to her family…

- and this woman said that she was so impacted by her grandmother’s singular affection for Christ…that she too chose to believe on Him as Savior and Lord…

- what an incredible story of evangelism in a very unexpected phase of life…

III. God’s Plan is Inviting

- so now the Lord has to decide who the public announcement is going to be to…

- these have to be…

A. To the least likely recipients

- Luke 2:8 - In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

- one commentator explains…

- Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder. They were uneducated and unskilled, increasingly viewed in the post-New Testament era as dishonest, unreliable, unsavory characters, so much so that they were not allowed to testify in court. Because sheep required care seven days a week, shepherds were unable to fully comply with the man-made Sabbath regulations developed by the Pharisees. As a result, they were viewed as being in continual violation of the religious laws, and hence, ceremonially unclean (John Macarthur, Commentary on Luke, p. 155).

- you can close your eyes and imagine what this scene must have been like for them…an angel of the Lord stands before them, and the glory of the Lord shines all around them…and understandably they were terribly frightened…

- but then there’s the invitation…

B. Good and joyful news for everyone

- Luke 2:10 - But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

- when you think about everything that is happening around our world…and around our country…we need this reliable message now more than ever…

- Luke 2:11 - for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

- and without a doubt each of these words is precious and important…but please think about that little phrase right in the middle…

- who did the angel tell the shepherds the Savior had been born for?...for you…

- and then the angel told them exactly how they could find baby Jesus…

- no trickery, no complexity…

- no 2-factor authorization and a 14-digit password…

- no special access only for the favored ones…

- a simple reliable plan followed by a clear invitation for all…

C. Offering supernatural peace

- the angel was joined by an entire angelic host…praising God and saying…

- Luke 2:14 - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

- Isaiah said that the Messiah would be the Prince of peace…

- the apostle Paul would later affirm that Romans 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

- the shepherds responded just like the Lord would want you or I to do…

- they went straight to Bethlehem (vs. 15 reports) – and they investigated what the angel had said, and after they came and saw it was true…

- Luke 2:17 - When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

- Luke 2:20 - The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

- what God told them through his angel proved to be “the exact truth”…this Messiah was worthy of their faith…

- I want to be sure to ask every person who will hear this message – have you responded to God’s truth the way these shepherds did?...

- has there been a definite time when you have admitted your need and placed your faith and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord?...

- have you thought that perhaps the invitation wasn’t for you?...

- Christian friend – are you convinced in the reliability of the message that you can’t help but proclaim it to others in your life?...

- you know, we will have some people with us today who have been familiar with these verses for 50 years, 60 years, or more…but we would still say this…

IV. God’s Plan is Captivating

- it’s interesting to see the other two responses that are recorded here….

A. All who heard it wondered

- Luke 2:18 - And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

- that’s not a bad starting point…as long as you understand that if you don’t do something about that (if you don’t respond in a reasonable period of time), it will probably wear off…which is why Mary’s response is far more superior…

B. Mary treasured and pondered the message

- Luke 2:19 - But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

- I would encourage you to look for opportunities this Christmas season to turn off all the electronic devices…

- and be like Mary – treasure these things, and ponder them in your heart

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video