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As you look at the screen, you may be thinking that today is our Christmas service, and you may be thinking of Christmas songs and a message, hopefully short, about the Christmas story, that is, the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Now, I really don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but this isn’t a Christmas service in the traditional sense, although we’ll be looking at this wonderful and marvelous event. Rather, the message is entitled, “Christmas Service,” because it is, what I believe, to be an interesting take on the story as we look at the attitudes of those associated with Jesus’s birth.
Although we’ll be looking at those parts of the Scriptures that speak to Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, and the shepherds, there is an area within the Bible that actually speaks volumes to what I would like to speak with you about today. It is found in Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount.”
Read Matthew 6:25-34
Jesus said not to be worried about our lives, our bodies, or even what tomorrow may bring. Instead we’re to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. In other words, we need to serve God and quit worrying about what may happen as a result thereof, because God will meet those very needs, which has either stopped us from serving God, or has caused us to not even try.
So, what I believe Jesus is saying is that we need to come into our service of God with our minds already made up to put Him first and to serve Him despite the consequences and regardless of the cost.
Jesus also talks about this when He compares building a tower to discipleship.
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.” (Luke 14:27-28 NKJV)
Now, far too many Christians use this verse as an excuse to get out of serving and even giving to the Lord. They say they’ve counted the cost and it’s too much for them to handle at this time. What we fail to understand is that at this time a tower was a necessity in the life and commerce of the people. In other words, it wasn’t just another room addition to a house. So, what Jesus is saying is that we need to count the cost, and know exactly what we’ll need to be His disciples so that when the time comes, we will not come up short in our service of Him.
What we need to do is to get salvation and servant-hood settled in our minds and hearts once and for all. We need to believe in Jesus Christ and that we are on His side. Further we are to believe that He is trustworthy so we can serve Him without hesitation or fear, despite the consequences and without regard of the cost associated with such service.
If you would, consider it like a marriage proposal, especially seeing that we as the church are called the Bride of Christ. Now, she has said yes to the proposal, but afterwards we have to continue to re-convince her on a daily basis of our love, that is, we have to continue to re-propose to her.
And then after the marriage she want us to move in with her parents, which more often than not is a parent’s worst nightmare! Also consider what it would be like if other issues were not settled, like being true and faithful to us alone, or whether or not she wanted to live with us, or take on our last name.
Hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this? This is what we do in our marriage to the Lord. It’s as if we demand God to show His love for us every day, and if He doesn’t do it our way or according to our standards or specification, then He must not love us, and we continually reconsider our relationship with Him.
Or maybe we don’t like what or how He has provided for us, so we go back to our old lives and old ways to get what we want, and then invite God to come along with us. Too many of us live these lives of faith in God open-endedly, that is, we don’t live our lives for God faithfully, nor do we carry His name proudly.
Consider, just how the Lord must feel when we become engaged and married to Him, taking upon ourselves the mantle of His name, “Christian,” but then argue about everything He says to do.
We say, “Yes Lord, I’ll follow where you lead, I am Yours, but I have a problem with this whole tithing issue. Why do I have to give 10% and then upwards in my offerings? Can’t I just give a couple of bucks? Besides You’re rich, You don’t need it, and my needs are greater?”
I guess the point I’m trying to get at is that it seems like every time there is a chance to serve God we give it the once over to see whether or not it is worth our while to do so. Like when the call goes out for helpers, or to get involved in our Lighthouse groups? Instead of immediately helping, or being a part of, we weigh the pros and cons of such service.
How would you feel or respond if you were God? Here He has given us everything pertaining to both life and godliness to meet our physical and spiritual needs. Think about it, He’s given to us His Son, Jesus, who died so that we can live, and we’re going to question His motives?
And so, this Christmas we need to get the right attitude and get it settled within ourselves to serve the Lord no matter what comes up, despite the consequences, and regardless of the costs. Let’s make up our minds now. Consider Joshua’s response.
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NKJV)
We see this same sort of attitude in the more notable characters surrounding Jesus’s birth.
So, let’s begin with Mary
We see this attitude in this young Jewish girl. She has just been engaged to Joseph. She is a virgin, that is, she has never engaged in any form of sexual intimacy. Further, she would have been excited over her upcoming wedding, even being involved with its preparation.
But then in the midst of everything, an angel comes and tells her what and how the Lord desired to use her in His service. Look at the request.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:30-32 NKJV)
Mary’s response was quite natural, but very respectful as well. She said, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34b NKJV)
And the angel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NKJV)
Now, what do you imagine Mary did when she heard this?
• Did she respond in the negative saying, “Get out of here. You’re nuts. Do you have any idea of how that’s going to mess up my plans?”
• Or do you think she said, “Tell you what, you angelic looking being you, I’ll pray and think upon what you said, and then in a couple of days I’ll get back with you.”
• Or do you think she took time to ponder the consequences of serving God in such a way? She would now be an unwed mother, which in that culture it could cost her life. Did she ponder the public shame and humiliation that not only she would undergo, but also her family, friends, and future husband, that is, if he would even marry her now that she’s pregnant?
However, before look at Mary’s response, let’s look at what the angel said before anything else. He said, “Do not be afraid.” What the angel was telling Mary before he said one word about what the Lord desired was for her not to fear or afraid of the consequences surrounding this request. Yes, she would have feared the angel’s presence, but I believe this has more to do with her being afraid of what He was about to ask.
And so, Mary, with a true servant’s heart, said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:37 NKJV) To say it another way, “I’m Yours Lord, and I’ll do whatever You ask.”
She didn’t fight against God; she didn’t put Him on hold while she considered the cost. Instead she served God by bearing His Son despite the consequences, and giving no regard to the public shame, or how it may have turned out. She served God without regard to the consequences, in fact, she served God despite the consequences.
And then there was Joseph
Joseph had envisioned and dreamt about what it would be like to be married, and to have Mary as his wife. But now, what was he to do? The outward evidence was becoming undeniable. She was to become a mother, and he wasn’t the father. He loved her and didn’t want any harm to come upon her, and he probably wept over the situation feeling absolutely helpless. He probably felt like he was on a runaway train going downhill towards a canyon with a broken bridge.
But then one night an angel came to him in his dreams and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV)
When Joseph woke up, he didn’t ponder what the angel said, nor did he seek advice from the local rabbi. Instead he did just as the Lord commanded, despite the adversity he would face from marrying her. Despite the consequences, he took Mary to be his wife.
Again, he heard the words that Mary heard saying not to be afraid of serving the Lord in this way. And so, Joseph obeyed.
It’s as if he were saying, “This is God; so I’m not fear what the future may hold. I will take Mary to be my wife and care for her despite what others may think or say.”
So, Joseph served God despite the consequences. He took no thought nor did he fear the future. He did what God had asked.
And then there were the Wise Men, or Magi.
The Wise Men probably read the Scriptures concerning the coming of the Messiah, because at this time the Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into the Greek language, that which is known as the Septuagint. They probably had read the prophet Daniel and his 70-week prophecy, knowing that the word for weeks in the prophecy meant a grouping of 7 years, and they would calculated that since Artaxerxes gave the command to go and rebuild Jerusalem, that now was the time for the Messiah to be born. So, they had been watching and waiting for the sign of His coming. And when the star appeared, they followed.
“Wise men from the East … 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.” (Matthew 2:1, 11 NKJV)
Now each of these gifts have significance in the life and death of Jesus and were extremely valuable. Therefore, the cost of following was not just the time and travel, but financially as well.
But, imagine the goodbyes to family and friends. Who was going to care for their businesses and families? How long would they be gone for? Exactly where would they be going, and when they got there, how would know the child? Who’s going to cover the cost of the trip? Why such expensive gifts when something from the 99-cent store would probably do, and that’s because it’s the thought that counts. Yeah, right!
But they took no thought to any of these things. They saw the star, hopped on their camels, and off they rode. They were following hard after God despite the consequences and costs. God was to be trusted, trusted with their finances, family, and even their lives.
So, they too followed God, serving Him despite the costs that such service would bring.
And the last group was the Shepherds.
Luke records them as keeping watch over their flocks on that night, and again the angel came and said,
“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.” (Luke 2:10-12 NKJV)
These shepherds were mostly kept out of the religious loop in those days, even though these were most likely keeping and watching over the flocks for the temple service and sacrifice. But then came this call to go to a Bethlehem stable to find and watch over the Lamb of God.
And so, they too followed God’s call despite the consequences. Now you may be tempted to ask, “What consequences?” The consequences of leaving the sheep to fend for themselves, and sheep don’t do a good job of that. They tend to wander off, or predators will come and kill them.
But still, off the shepherds went, and after witnessing the Messiah they left praising God. You see, they served God without regarding the consequences. They simply believed and were blessed for following in such a way, just as Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men.
And I believe this is no different with all who serve God and who follow and obey Him.
This is the type of servant that God has called us to be, but the choice is ours. God doesn’t wait to call us until we find a better job or get ourselves into a better situation. When we come into that saving knowledge of Jesus Christ we are not only His children, and thus heirs of all eternity, but we are also His servants to proclaim His good news.
You see, some of us never get our minds and hearts enough upon the Lord to forget the world and the things thereof. We aren’t 100% sold out for God, and so when service opportunities arrive, or when the time comes for us to gather together for worship, we start to weigh the consequences rather than just going and serving God.
Do a couple hours of extra sleep or Christmas shopping sound better?
Truthfully, if we as Christians were to make up our minds, once and for all, to serve the Lord despite the consequences, without seeing exactly where the road may lead, without giving thought as to what we shall eat, drink, wear, or even what tomorrow might bring, then we’ll see and experience that revival we so long for, and pray for.
We need to get this settled in our souls and in our spirits that we have counted the cost and have found that we can truly trust God with our very lives, so that when God calls us to serve, we will not hesitate, but serve God regardless of the consequences.
John Rice, pastor, evangelist, author, and theologian, was on his way to Hico, Texas for a revival meeting. On the way he stopped to help a stranded motorist. He couldn’t fix the car but he offered to tow it to the next town. So, he hooked up the car and started down the road. Unfortunately, he couldn’t drive at a regular pace because the man he was towing kept applying his brakes, and that’s because he couldn’t see where John was going.
Eventually John stopped the car and the man asked to be unhooked and that he would continue to wait.
Please know that God doesn’t want to drag any of us into His service, especially when we continue to put on the brakes because we can’t see what lies ahead in our future. God needs us to trust Him; to trust that He knows where He is taking us; therefore, the Lord says that we should no longer lean upon our own understanding, and know and acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He’ll get us to our next stop.
Today you may be here and you haven’t made up your mind and heart to follow Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Maybe today you would like to. Well, there is no better time than right now, and I can think of no better gift that you can give God than your heart this Christmas.
And for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, let’s get this settled once and for all; that we can completely trust God with our lives. Therefore, let’s serve the Lord this Christmas and beyond, no matter what the consequences may be, because He endured the worst of all consequences for us, and that is His death upon the cross.
And so, this Christmas, let’s serve God as He deserves.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study