Monday, December 18, 2017

Kurios Christmas

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2017 Christmas Sermon
by David Edgren
(all Bible texts are from the HCSB)

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20


Have you ever had a road trip that couldn’t get any worse – and then it does? 

Mary’s last week of pregnancy was that road trip. 

“You want me to go where, Joseph? Bethlehem? I can barely walk!” 
“A donkey? Are you serious? Can’t you go alone? I’ll be fine here. Mum will help.”
“No? As your wife, I’m ‘required’ to go with you. ‘REQUIRED!?!’ You asked for it!”

You remember the stories you parents told about your childhood? There were those one or two punchlines that Dad liked to tell and so the whole story got told – over and over. Perhaps your life didn’t have the best start. Perhaps your story isn’t all roses. Jesus knows how you feel. His is one of those stories.

And so, the journey began. Then came the condescending looks from fellow travellers making their way to Bethlehem.
And the overheard comments: “You know they’ve only been married a couple of months.” 
“But, she’s ready to pop.” 

Imagine hearing THAT story repeated constantly through your childhood. “You know his Mum and Dad weren’t married…” In their day, that was a reputation killer. It still is in some places, today. Perhaps it’s a different story about your Mum or Dad that you heard over and over from people who didn’t realise – or didn’t care – how much it hurt you. Know this: you are not alone. Jesus would have seen his mother come through the door crying more times than he could count. Jesus would have heard his dad defend his mother’s honour a thousand times: “It’s not like that!” 
Jesus has one of those stories, too. 

Can you imagine, as Jesus grew up and began developing his amazing way with words. When accusers hit him with their hurtful words, he quieted them with his gentle reply: “Let me tell you about my Mum. Let me tell you why I love her, so much!”

Back on the Road to Bethlehem, Mary sits side-saddle on the donkey. “Are we there yet?”

“Yes, dear. Those are the gates of Bethlehem.”

“Joseph, I am not kidding when I tell you this child is on his way into the world! I have got to get off this donkey! Find a room! Find a midwife!”

Then the search begins. Everywhere is full. Finally, a barn is found. A bed of straw is made. A blanket is placed on the pile of straw. Joseph is shooo-ed out of the barn by an unnamed and unremembered midwife. Culturally, there had to be one. 

Joseph steps outside the barn and listens through the door. He waits. And waits. Finally, the baby’s cry comes, followed by: “It’s a boy!” 

“Of course, it’s a boy!” Joseph says as he rushes back to his wife’s side.

Tightly, Baby Jesus is wrapped in swaddling rags – a sure sign there was someone there who knew what they were doing. Following a quick bath and salt rub, Jewish babies were swaddled – using many strips of cloth newborn babies was bound snugly. 

Then, the swaddled baby Jesus was laid in a feeding trough. 

You can hear Mary, can’t you? “A feeding trough? Really? But, he’s a special child!”

“Of course, he is,” the midwife says as she lays Jesus on the hay. “Aren’t they all?” Gently she touches the sleeping Jesus’ cheek, “Aren’t they all!” She coos before leaving the tired couple. 

Mary looks at Joseph, “A feeding trough, Joseph? It’s like adding insult to injury.” 

“It’ll do, love.” Joseph says, wiping the sweat from Mary’s forehead. “Rest now.”

Bible Study

Luke 2:1-5   In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, 4 which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was •engaged to him and was pregnant. 

The fact that Mary travelled with Joseph indicates that they were now married, but the description of her as pledged to be married shows that they had not yet consummated the marriage.

Luke 2: 6-7   While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

The phrase “in a feeding trough” is repeated three times in this short story. There is no doubt Luke wants us to feel the incongruity of the Son of God laying in a manger – in a feeding trough. 
Is this the place for a “Savior”? 
Is this the place for a “Messiah”?
Is this the place for a “Lord”? 
The implied answer is ‘no’. 

And thus begins the life of Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us – born in a manger and then living a perfect life on Earth to prove the answer is, actually, yes. Yes, God always stoops when He enters. He always humbles Himself. His love compels Him to do so. And He would have it no other way. 

Luke 2:8   In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 

Shepherds. When I was in Maasai-land in Kenya last January, I noticed something about shepherds. They are not old men. They are children. Boys like David with his sling and stick scaring lions and bears. Shepherds are brave because they’re boys! Maasai boys are shepherding the livestock as soon as they can walk. So, when angels arrived and sang to Shepherds, there’s every chance the audience was filled with boys. 

It fits the character of God to tell children first. 

In the fields, as shepherds watch their sheep by night, it’s time for a bedtime story: “You know the story you’ve been told about the promised Messiah?” The Angel of the Lord says, “It’s true! He’s here! In Bethlehem. In a feeding trough!”

It fits the character of children to believe – to believe a four-thousand-year-old story has come true, tonight. 

Like the children I talk to every day at school, these shepherds were thrilled the Christmas story was true. They ran to find the present wrapped-up and laying in a manger. In a feeding trough. 

Thirty-some years later, Jesus would reflect on this moment when he said, “To enter the Kingdom of God, you must be like one of these little children.” It fits the character of children to find Jesus first. 

Luke 2:9-12   Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

LORD – in Greek, the word “Kurios” – is used in two ways. Secular masters and kings were called “Lord” and the Jews called their God “Lord” to avoid saying or writing His name. For the average listener, Luke is telling the story of a new king being born. A new ‘my Lord’ to curtsy and doff your hat toward. To the Jewish listener, this was subversive code for a God-King – a new king in the line of David. A king sent to set things right and set God’s people free from Roman oppression. Look how many times “Lord” is repeated, like a swelling theme in a musical. vs 9, vs 11, vs 15. 

In verse 11 Messiah the Lord – in Greek, “Christos Kurios” – is actually Messiah Lord. This is the only place in New Testament these two words are next to each other. Everywhere else the word “kai” (and) is between them. Messiah and Lord. But here, it’s a title. It’s the punchline for listening ears: “The Lord Messiah” is here, born – on the scene. Get ready for rescue!

Luke 2:13-14   Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
    Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favours!

Roman Peace was Ceasar Augustus’ promise to the people he ruled. “Pay your taxes, live peacefully and my soldiers will provide peace and security – Pax Romana – Peace, Roman style. The angels announced global peace – “peace on Earth.” Not Pax Romana but eternal peace for the entire Earth. God's promised Kingdom brought not Roman peace but universal peace. And this peace will pass all understanding. This peace – God’s peace from the highest heaven – will cover the Earth, blessing God’s beloved people, far and wide.

Luke 2:15-18   When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

The Shepherds. They came in faith and they left in joy. Their message was encouraging and left smiles on every face around the room. Their excitement was infectious. Everyone was amazed by their story of angels singing about this little baby boy – The Messiah Lord. Much like children today, they were passionate and unfazed by what anyone else thought. They just said it like it was. They told the truth, the whole truth and then bounced back out to the fields. I’m guessing they didn’t even ask anyone to watch the sheep while they were gone. “God told us to go find the child. He’s not going to let anything happen to our sheep while we’re gone, right?!”

Luke 2:19-20   But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.


Mary treasured these things in her heart. … What things?

All the same things that were dogging her for the past nine months and coming to a massive peak in the past week. All the things that stressed Mary that morning she was now collecting like treasures. These weren’t the wisemen's treasures – those would come later. These were shepherds’ treasures. Childlike Faith. Boldness. Excitement. A story believed. A Saviour received. A Messiah recognised. The Lord Messiah, baby Jesus.

I can hear the shepherds. If you listen, you can too.
The angels told us, “Don’t be afraid” – God has a plan.
The angels told us, “Good News” – A Saviour is born. 
The angels told us, “Great Joy” – The Lord Messiah is here!
The angels told us, “Here’s a sign: You will find the Messiah King lying in a feeding trough! And there he is!”

Mary treasured these things in her heart and meditated on them. 

The Son of God being born looked very different than any worldly King being born. A human king Lords it over his people. A God King – Jesus the Saviour Messiah – is Lord with His people. The feeding trough wasn’t unfamiliar to Him. God always humbles Himself to meet us where we are. God sent His Son not to impress us but to embrace us – to become one with us. Jesus came to show God’s love not His power. God is Love. The feeding trough that so mystified Mary reminds each of us that when God shows up in our lives it will be in common everyday ways. Jesus’ family story is like my story and your story. 

Mary treasured these things in her heart and meditated on them. 

As she reflected on her pregnancy and all it’s troubles, Mary realised that God can bring glory out of chaos. When she looked back over the past week – the donkey ride, the barn birth, the feeding trough – Mary recognised God’s fingerprints. God’s love brings His people through life’s greatest troubles. 
As you and I review our lives, we too have the opportunity to see God’s fingerprints. As we reflect on stress that seemed impossible at the time, looking back we see signs and wonders. Signs of God’s presence. Signs that suffering leads to Glory. Even in a feeding trough.

Mary treasured these things in her heart and meditated on them. 

Now it’s your turn.

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