Reconciliation: The Good News of Peace from Luke
Welcome to our third week of our series, The Good News of Christmas. The past two weeks we have discovered the hope and joy that is found in the Christmas story. As we inch closer and closer to the big day, what do you think of when you read the Christmas story? What do you learn? What do you notice? What do you love the most? Most people love the Christmas season, especially as children. But all too often, we are trained to love it for all the wrong reasons. That being the case, we miss the mysterious wonder of that first night. We miss the significance for our lives that was wrapped up in the manger that night. We miss that through this tiny baby, God was moving heaven and earth to reconcile mankind to Himself. To recapture the wonder of that night, we need to look through the eyes of those who were there to see. Today we are going to focus on two stories as we look into Jesus' birth from Luke 2:1-21.
In many ways, Jesus' story is like yours and mine. Mary, his mother, endured the same discomfort and uncertainty about her unborn child that your mother did, and when he came, it was painful for him and for her. He was a helpless infant who needed to be sheltered, fed, clothed, and cleaned, just like all of us. But from the beginning, the very beginning, it was clear he was different from you and me. Jesus’ Story tells us that He is A Savior, Christ the Lord. We see that very clearly through the actions of those involved in this timeless story.
1. First, we see that Jesus’ story is one of God INTERVENING. God reached down into our humanity. This is no were better seen than in Luke 2:1-7, 1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And 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, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And 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. The birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of over 100 Old Testament prophecies. It is amazing to see how God works through human history to show clearly that this is His Son who is being born to this young virgin named Mary. Augustus Caesar called for a census to be taken which forced Mary and Joseph to travel about 100 miles to Bethlehem from Nazareth. Not a easy trip and definitely not one that they would have planned to take on their own. Yet, God in His providence and sovereignty takes what is meant to be an evil (so that more taxes could be collected) for good. By Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, they were exactly where God had promised for them to be seven hundred years earlier. Little did Caesar Augustus know that he was being moved by the Spirit of God to do exactly what he did on time, on schedule to affect exactly the result God wanted. We can have peace this Christmas knowing that God is still in control of every circumstance and situation of our lives. He intervenes for His glory and for our good.
2. Second, we see that Jesus’ story is one with The Shepherds WATCHING and WITNESSING. First we see them watching in Luke 2:8-9, 8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. Some have thought that the shepherds represented some kind of ideal existence—some kind of rustic nobility or rural charm, but in reality, shepherds were despised by the people of the first century. They were not the kind of people that you would have thought that the birth of Christ would be first proclaimed. Even the shepherds were shell-shocked that the angel was talking to them. But as they watched and listened they were changed and they became witnesses of the greatest gift that had ever been given to humankind, Jesus Christ. We see their encounter with Him in Luke 2:15-20 15When 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." 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. The shepherds demonstrated unquestioning obedience to the instructions of the angels. They went straight-away to Jesus leaving their flocks behind. When they arrived the found things as the angels had described and relayed the message that they had received from the angels. At that point the moved from spectators to participants as they entered into heartfelt praise and worship of Jesus.
3. Third, we see that Jesus’ story is one with The Angels PRAISING. The message that motivated the shepherds to leave their flocks and pasture so quily is found in Luke 2:10-14, 10And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13And 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!" The angels sing about the birth of Jesus and the story of redemption—that which God has been doing from the Garden of Eden until now. It’s all focused on God’s glory. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who brings peace—who reconciles sinners to a holy God. It’s worth noting that these angels did not bring the wonderful message of Christ’s birth to those who had influence. They did not appear to the wealthy or to political or religious leaders. Instead they came to the least significant, least respected, least likely people in the community. So when God’s messenger said he came to bring good news to all people, he demonstrated it by starting at the bottom. The reason that the shepherds worshipped when they met Jesus is because they found Him as the angels described and they joined the angels in their praising God for His glory and goodness.
4. Fourth, we see that Jesus’ story is one with Mary PONDERING. It is at this point that we see the light come on for Mary in Luke 2:19, 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Life had been a whirlwind from the moment that Mary first was given the good news by the angel that she was with child. She had been wondering about the child for a long time before the shepherds announced what the angels had declared. Can you imagine the peace that must have rushed over her as she heard this confirmation of the identity of her baby boy? She had pondered the story that God revealed in Genesis 3:15 of a deliverer from sin and death. She had pondered that God might use her—a fallen daughter of Adam—in that story of reconciliation. Now she knew that God had provided a Savior to deliver sinners from the curse of Adam and to bring us to glory through Jesus Christ. With this information, Mary and Joseph moved forward with the instructions God had given to them. Look at verse 21, 21And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. It is through this baby boy, named Jesus, that we find peace with God. He came so that we could be reconciled to God. He came to save us from our sin.
If you have come to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this Christmas your story is one of Peace through Jesus Christ. The good news of great joy is that Jesus provides us with a peace that surpasses all understanding; a peace that infiltrates our lives and transforms us from the inside out. The good news of peace is all-encompassing. Jesus gives us: Peace from our PAST. No matter where you have been, what you have done, who you’ve hung out with, what you have thought, Jesus’ has covered it and cleansed us from it. How far has He removed our past guilt and shame from us? We see in Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. When Jesus reconciled us to God He drew us near, while at the same time casting our sin aside. How did he do this? We see in Isaiah 1:18 that it was through cleansing us of our past, "Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Apart from Jesus Christ, our past hangs over us like a cloud of death, but in Christ we have been cleansed from our sin and now stand before God cleansed forever. This brings us great peace from our past, but Jesus also provides us Peace in the PRESENT. In the midst of the business of the Christmas season, we can get so wrapped up in a knot of anxiety and emotions. Even when it comes to sharing the good news of Christmas with our neighbors and friends, we might lack peace to stand firmly on the solid ground of Jesus Christ. But Jesus had promised the He will be with us in our present circumstances. Look at John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The presence of Jesus Christ in your live gives you peace in the present. Unlike the world, Jesus doesn’t rob us of our peace, but supplies us with peace that will meet each and every one of our circumstances. So, the good news of peace supplies us with the ability to not be shaken or fearful as will deal with the issues of this time of year that may normally cause us to be anxious or afraid. Finally, Jesus came to provide us Peace for the FUTURE. Anxiety about the future will always rob the peace of today, but Jesus came so that we can experience peace no matter what the future might hold. Look at the promise He gives us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Our peace for the future does not rest in the political environment, the financial arena, or the scientific community; instead it rests in the One who is able to meet us in our time of trouble and provide us with peace that will carry us through the trials and tribulations that are to come. Jesus promises us that trouble will come, but that we can have peace in the midst of the chaos if we have been reconciled to God through Him. The same faith that saves us brings us peace knowing that Jesus will ultimately win the victory.
As we approach Christmas in just a few day’s time, we need to be reminded that The Big Idea: The Good News of Peace SETS us FREE! Free to worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior, free to serve others as we have been served, free to give to others with Christlike generosity, free to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone that we see. The good news of peace can be found no matter what the circumstances. We have been set free by that peace to go witness to others about the good news of great joy that came through the birth of Jesus Christ.