Great Expectations

Advent, Christmas,

Every parent has dreams of what their children will become. Most of us have pretty modest dreams. We hope and pray that our children will be healthy, normal, god-honoring, educated, and employed adults. Some people envision their child becoming a great athlete, musician, or a scholar. Sometimes kids have big expectations to live up to. No one had bigger expectations placed upon Him than Jesus.

Last week we began looking at the Christmas story in Luke. We examined the interaction between the angel Gabriel and Mary. We saw Mary’s surprise, her assignment, and her response to that assignment. We learned of the importance to jump into God’s capable arms. Today we look at the same passage but this time we change our focus. We will look at what the angel said about the baby she would bear

You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” . . . . So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Jesus

When we name our children most people pick names for a reason. We may want to honor someone in the family; you may want to give your child a Biblical name because you like the character traits of that Biblical person; you may choose a name because of what the name means according to the baby book; or you may simply choose a name because you like the way it sounds.

Jesus was given His name for a reason. The name Jesus was the Greek form of the name Joshua. It was a fairly common name and it meant “Jehovah his help” or “the Lord saves”. In Matthew, Joseph was told, “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” In Isaiah we are told the child would be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Jesus was given his name because it denoted that this child was going to be God with us come to save us from our sin and alienation. Talk about having to live up to a name!

He Will Be Great

Next Mary was told He would be great. Unfortunately, that word is overused today. Today we may speak of a great meal, a great team, a great song, a great worship experience or even a great day. Any number of people may be called great for any number of reasons. As a result, the term has lost much of its power.

The word great in the Greek is the word megas. You may recognize the term “mega”. It is another phrase that is overused but we understand that it means “bigger than the norm”. We are being told that Jesus would be the mega-man. He would be “exceedingly great” or “the greatest”. He would be above all others.

Note that it is not simply that Jesus would be a great teacher, or a great worker of miracles, or even a great humanitarian. He was all these things but the greatness the angel pointed to referenced not what he did . . . but who He is.

Don’t miss the contrast to our own day. Today people are considered great because of the skill they possess, the fortune they amass, or the acts they have done. By these standards many in our world would not consider Jesus great. Dr. James Allen made the point well many years ago:

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born

He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
Dr James Allan © 1926.

 Son of the Most High

Third, Mary is told that Jesus would be the Son of the Most High. He would be called the Son of the infinitely exalted God of the Universe. He would be known as the son of the Creator of the World!  Jesus was not simply man at His highest form. He was not merely the best man who ever lived. The bible declares Jesus to be unique in that He alone was the son of the Most High God.

It is on this one point that false religions reveal their inadequacy. Every false religion (even if they call themselves “Christian”) minimizes the nature of Christ. They refuse to see Him as God. If a religious belief system is wrong about Jesus . . . it is wrong about everything else!

We live in a day when people are uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus was God.  It seems to me there are two primary reasons people don’t want to recognize Jesus as God. First, it is beyond what we can understand. How can someone be both fully God and also fully man? Since we can’t understand it, many people reject it. Second, people don’t like the idea of Jesus as God because they don’t want to give Him that authority. If He is God then He has the right to direct our lives. We simply don’t want to submit to anyone.

Jesus is declared to be God. Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus did things that only God could do. He spoke with the authority of God . . . and of course He came back from the dead! Jesus was not some ordinary guy. He was unique; one of a kind; God in the flesh.

The Throne of His Father David

We are also told that Jesus would occupy the throne of His father David. Throughout the Old Testament we are told the Messiah will be the Son of David. David was promised that his throne would endure forever (meaning someone from his line would always reign on the throne).

Frankly, this is a promise that seemed to have failed. It had been hundreds of years since anyone of David’s line had reigned as King. Israel had been in subjection to the Babylonians, then to the Persians, then the Greeks, and at the present time they were subject to the Romans.

The Jews did not lose hope. They believed the Messiah would come. They made sure their genealogies were kept up to date. The descendents of David were clearly identified. The Jews believed the one promised would indeed come. And, as we know, they were correct. (This has implications for us as we await Christ’s second coming.)

One of the reasons Mary and Joseph were chosen to be the guardians of Jesus was because they were both of the house and line of David. Jesus was truly of the line of David due to His birth through Mary. He was legally a descendent because of his relationship to Joseph. Why was this important? It was because it showed that God was faithful. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus continues to reign as King not only of Israel but of the world. The promise made to David foresaw Jesus.

His Kingdom will Never End

Not only is Jesus of the line of David . . . His Kingdom never ends. He may not be here on earth right now but He is still the reigning King. Albert Barnes has written,

His is the only kingdom that shall never have an end; He the only King that shall never lay aside his diadem and robes, and that shall never die. He the only King that can defend us from all our enemies, sustains us in death, and rewards us in eternity. O how important, then, to have an interest in his kingdom! And how unimportant, compared with his favor, is the favor of all earthly monarchs! [1]

Barnes is correct. Every earthly ruler faces some limit on their terms. There may not be any legal term limit but there is the term limit of one’s lifespan. Even the most powerful of men come to an end. Our time “in power” is very limited in the scope of life and even more limited when it comes to eternity.

This is not the case with Jesus. He is just as powerful today as He was in the early church. He can still do anything He did in the Gospels. His authority has not diminished at all. What’s more, if He should tarry another 100 years that power will be unchanged.

If Jesus is going to be the King forever, we would be wise to begin serving Him now. No ruler on Heaven or earth will overthrow Him. No monarch will outlast Him. No one will be His equal for He alone is the Lord God Almighty.  There need be no confusion as to who has ultimate authority in our life. . . it is the Lord Jesus who reigns forever!

Application

Let’s draw some applications. First, we are reminded to focus on the real celebration of Christmas. It is easy to focus on the gift giving and the family gatherings. These are great things but these are not the reason for our celebration. It is like a couple being so wrapped up in the joy of being parents that they forget the baby at the hospital.

I remember the story (which may very well be fictional) about the young family that had all their family over to their home after the birth of their baby. When people arrived they were told the baby was taking a nap.  The people had something to eat, compared pregnancy stories, and basically had a good time. After awhile people wanted to see the baby. The parents went to get their baby whom they left sleeping on their bed. They were horrified to discover the baby was covered by the coats of all the guests and had suffocated.

Sometimes we are so involved in the celebration that we lose sight of the guest of honor. Christmas is about the Savior. The Creator, Redeemer, King and Lord entered our world in order to build a relationship with us. Any celebration of Christmas that removes the person of Christ from the celebration is a disgrace and an offense to the Lord of life. This day is not about a jolly man in a red suit . . . it is about God lying seemingly helpless in a manger.

Second, we have incentive to share this message with other. Since Jesus is the the Lord and King of all Creation, people need to know who Jesus really is. If a celebrity of some sort came to town everyone would be spreading the word. It would be the lead topic in all conversations and probably would be on the front page of the paper. It seems to me that the good news of Jesus is far more significant than that.

I encourage you to look for opportunities to point to Jesus this Christmas. Ask people if they know the “religious roots” of Christmas. You will be surprised how many people do not know the story. Make a comment about a true Christmas song, even something as simple as: “Every time I hear that song I ask why God would do something so wonderful for me”. With some of the popular secular Christmas songs you might say to someone near you, “What does that have to do with the real meaning of Christmas?” Refuse to say, “Happy Holidays” to clerks in the stores. Look them square in the eye and wish them a “Blessed Christmas”.  The point is to look for ways to open a door to a more significant conversation about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Third, the Coming of Christ calls us to worship God.  The most appropriate activity of Christmas is to bow before this King. Many people go to church at Christmas because it is tradition. They say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas if I don’t go to church”. Part of that stems from warm memories of the past. But I think it is also because we instinctively recognize the appropriate response to the message of Christmas is worship.

I encourage you not only to worship with us in the sanctuary but to also worship the Lord every day. Every time you see a manger scene, stop and marvel at the reality that God became man to reach out to you and to me. Every time you see a gift, use that as a reminder to give thanks for the gift of Christ.

This Christmas carve out priority time for the Savior. Guard yourself from becoming consumed with the celebratory aspects of the season. Set aside time every day to disengage from the celebration of the world and focus on Christ. Look for ways to honor the Lord this Christmas.

  • Give an extra gift to support a ministry of the gospel such as the Shoebox project with Samaritan’s purse, or give money to support a child through Compassion or World Vision. Every missionary has extra needs.
  • Make it a point to invite a family member or a neighbor to worship with you who does not worship regularly.
  • Reach out to someone who is hurting this Christmas with the love of God
  • Set aside time to read through the Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke
  • Sit back and really listen to the lyrics of some of the true songs about Christmas. Let the music carry you into the Lord’s presence in worship.

Finally, we must consider our response to the Child born in Bethlehem. Over the years we have seen stories of miners who became entrapped down below the earth. In these situations people came from all over the country to help. They bring equipment. They risk their lives. They refuse to give up. When one door closes they look for another. They do whatever is necessary to get those men out of the mine. We love the happy endings. If you were one of the rescued miners wouldn’t you marvel that someone you did not know would risk their life for you? Yet this is exactly what God did for us.

We were buried in our sin. We could not save ourselves. We were helpless. Rather than abandon us to our sin, the Lord came to rescue us. He humbled Himself and became a man. He spent thirty years resisting temptation and fighting the evils of men. He gave His life on a cruel cross. He did what was necessary. But the story has a happy ending. Jesus broke through the walls of death at His resurrection and opened the way for us to escape our dark imprisonment and enjoy the light of life.

We would think it absurd if after all the work to rescue trapped miners the miners refused to exit the mine. Imagine them waving off those who sacrificed to save them saying, “Leave us alone. We don’t need your help!”  It would be ridiculous. We would assume those men were so oxygen deprived that they were out of their minds.  Yet, this is what many will do again this Christmas. God has done what was necessary, the way of escape has been provided. We no longer need to live trapped in the futility of life. We can be set free from the imprisonment of our past. Jesus has opened the door.

There were great expectations on the life of Christ. He exceeded all of those expectations. Jesus has done what was necessary to save us. The real question this Christmas is this: are you going to take His hand or push Him away? Will you celebrate what He has done or will you ignore your rescuer? Will you choose to live in the light or continue to waste away in the darkness?

God has great expectations for your life. If you have any hope of fulfilling those expectations you must start by embracing the One who traveled across eternity to rescue you.

[1]Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary (Lk 1:33). Joseph Kreifels.

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Scripture:

Luke 1:31-33