Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solus Christus: The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent. Last Sunday we began to look directly at the Christmas story itself, and we read from Mt. 1:18-25 and Lk. 2:1-7. For today’s Advent devotion we’re going to continue to look at the Christmas story itself:
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Mt. 2:1-12)
Before we move on to the second reading for today, I’d like to talk about this one a little. R. C. Sproul once wrote:
In the tiny land of Palestine, two kings were alive at the same time and at the same place. One of the kings was about seventy years old; the other king was an infant. The big king was evil; the little king was pure. The big king was rich and powerful; the little king was stricken by poverty. The big king lived in an opulent palace; the little king lived in a stable. The little king’s mother was a peasant girl; His adopted father was a carpenter. (Christ in Christmas)
Of course, the “big king” to whom Sproul refers is Herod. He was the king of Judea at the time of Christ’s birth, yet he was only that because Rome had made him so. He didn’t deserve to sit on that throne, the “little king” did. That’s why Herod was troubled by the Magis’ revelation that the prophesied King of the Jews had been born—he knew in his heart that he did not deserve the throne. As the story above goes on to say, when the Magi never returned to Herod, he went on a rampage killing all the infant boys in Bethlehem. We know, however, that the “big king” didn’t succeed in defeating the “little king.” In fact, if it weren’t for the story of the “little king,” the “big king” would’ve disappeared from history altogether. No one except perhaps a handful of historians would have ever heard the name “Herod” if it weren’t for this story of the “little king” recorded in Scripture. This story reminds us that even the most powerful men in the world can’t stop the plan of God. Herod had the power to slaughter hundreds of children on a whim, yet he couldn’t stop the plan of God. He couldn’t stop the “little king.” Nothing can.

Our next reading for today is from Lk. 2:8-20:
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And 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!”
15 When 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.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 
How should we celebrate Advent and Christmas? Well, from the story of the shepherds we can learn a few things. First, the angels only proclaimed the good news to the shepherds. This is remarkable considering the reputation of shepherds during this time. They were a despised cast of people in society and so mistrusted that their testimony was not admissible in legal proceedings. Yet, the angels went to them to declare the birth of the Messiah. They didn’t go to the rich of Bethlehem or even King Herod. They went to the shepherds. A modern equivalent might be the angels going to the homeless of a big city and using them as witnesses to the most affluent of that city. As we saw last Sunday, God breaks the molds of this world in many ways with the advent of Jesus, and this is yet another example. Second, the shepherds became bold witnesses for Jesus. They knew their reputation in society but they didn’t care. They knew the people needed to hear the good news, and they were going to tell them, even if no one listened or believed them. I doubt you and I are as mistrusted in society as shepherds were at the time of Christ, so why aren’t we as bold in sharing the good news as they? Third and finally, the shepherds glorified and praised God for what they’d seen. They not only shared the news with others, they praised God for it. We should praise God for sending Jesus every day, but Christmas and Advent should especially remind us that He is worthy of our praise for He sent Jesus to become poor so we, by His poverty, might become rich.

Today, let Advent remind you of God’s sovereign, unstoppable plan of redemption. He’s still working that plan and no king, president, dictator, or nation can stop it. He’s also working a plan in your life and nothing, not even your gross disobedience or detrimental mistakes, can stop His sovereign work in your life. Also remember that good news which Christmas proclaims if worthy of sharing and praise. Tell your friends what Jesus has done for you and praise God for His work in you right in front of them. Let them see your worship and show them the glory of our Lord and Savior in it. 

By His Grace,

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