Well good morning and God bless you everyone! Welcome to Heavenly Hope Christian Church. I’d also like to welcome Heavenly Hope’s “Church Home Away from Home” Members at this time, as well as those listening by internet, CD, or watching by cable or DVD. Church, let’s give all of our friends a warm Heavenly Hope welcome!
Believe it or not, two Sundays from today will be Christmas Eve Day! Who’s excited? Where did this year go? I’m telling you, I just started to learn to write the New Year – 2006 – on letters and checks and other things I send, and the next thing I know, in just a few more weeks it’s almost time to begin to write 2007. Unbelievable! And it seems the kids just opened Christmas presents only yesterday, and here we are, almost time to open them again! WHat’s most exciting though, it it’s time of celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!
I’ve asked Irene and the children’ Sunday school class to stay with us in the chapel over the next three weeks, rather than go into their children’s class. As a church family, we’re going to go to the Bible, read God’s Word and understand what Christmas is really all about.
So for you adults, understand my language is going to be a bit more tailored for a child to understand, but you know what? Sometimes that’s the best way for all of us adults (who are really children in grown up people’s bodies) to understand the best!
Christmas can mean many different things for many people. It can be a time of year which is one of excitement and joy, big, bright little eyes waiting to open the gifts for them under the tree. It’s the perfect time to give – give of one’s self for another. As a church, we’re planning some special ministry opportunities during the next few weeks visiting the elderly and Christmas caroling.
Sadly for some, Christmas can be a very sad and lonely time, as I discussed several weeks ago. It can also be stressful as people rush about scurrying and worrying what gifts they need to buy, the decorations that need to get put up, presents that need to be wrapped, cards that need to be sent, Christmas parties that one’s required or expected to make an appearance at, and so much more. The true meaning of Christmas some how seems to have fallen through the cracks for so many. Yet this is the perfect time of year for us to share the real meaning of Christmas with others.
No doubt, there are so many more aspects and traditions to the Christmas holiday that many celebrate that we are obviously not going to get into, because that’s not the purpose nor focus of this message.
Today through Christmas Eve day, we are going to learn all over again, like a child — afresh — the real, biblical story and meaning of Christmas. For some, it will actually be the very first time they will hear it — what really happened on that silent, holy night in a town called Bethlehem.
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Luke, chapter one. That’s Luke, chapter one. If you need a Bible, feel free to borrow one from the Bible book rack over to my right.
I’m going to teach this series of Christmas messages mainly from the book of Luke, yet I will be referring to the other gospels as well.
Most of us know there are four gospel accounts about the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We learned that the first three gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark and Luke – are known as the synoptic gospels, because they are all very similar accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, recorded and told just from a slightly different perspective of each author. For you kids, synoptic means “kind of like the same”.
The gospel according to John though, we learned, stands out and is different from the other three gospels. The reason it is totally unique and different is because John, the disciple whom Jesus loved presents Jesus Christ as “God in the flesh”, right from verse 1:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John goes on to say in verse 14:
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The reason I chose the Gospel according to Luke to tell the Christmas story, is because it is probably the best known for the Christmas story account. And for you kids both young and old, the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2 is what Linus uses to tell the Christmas story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”! And when we get to that part either next week or on Christmas Eve day, I think I may just have Linus tell it, because no one else can tell it better than Linus! Right? OK!
Well, first of all, I’m going to give you a little background about the author or writer of this gospel account – Luke.
Luke was a doctor, known as “the beloved physician” according to Colossians 4:14.
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
He was a very close friend and companion of the Apostle Paul. He was also the only Gentile, or non-Jewish believer in Jesus Christ, who wrote any part of the New Testament in the Bible. The Bible really doesn’t tell us that much about Dr. Luke, his early life or how he actually became a Christian – but one thing we do know: Dr. Luke was NOT an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ. He tells us this himself in Luke 1:1-3:
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus
Most theologians and historians agree that Dr. Luke probably wrote his gospel account around 60 AD, about 27 years after Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead.
Though Luke was a physician (another word for doctor), he was primarily an evangelist, meaning he told people about Jesus and shared the gospel with them. Dr. Luke also wrote The Book of Acts in the New Testament.
Luke loved to travel a lot and he did so with the Apostle Paul during Paul’s missionary work. Dr. Luke was also with the Paul when he was killed because Paul believed in Jesus Christ and preached that people needed to be saved, or born again. The people at that time didn’t want the Apostle Paul to talk about Jesus, so they figured if they killed him, people would stop believing in Jesus. But when they killed Paul, do you think people stopped believing in Jesus? That’s right! Absolutely not!
For you kids, when someone is killed because they believe in Jesus or have faith in Jesus, they’re called a martyr – someone who is killed or dies for their faith. That’s how much the Apostle Paul loved Jesus – he died for his faith in Him. More importantly, that’s how much Jesus loved us, because He died on the cross to set us free from the penalty of sin and have eternal life!
But let’s get back to Dr. Luke. Remember I said Luke didn’t see Jesus’ life? So one might say, well, if Luke didn’t see Jesus Christ, how can he write about Him? Well that’s a great question.
Remember, Luke was a doctor, and we know how smart doctors are. Doctors seek after the truth so they can help people when they’re sick, right? Well, we can say Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account of the life of Jesus to help people who weren’t Christians, become Christians! Jesus said He came for those who were sick and needed a doctor, meaning, people who knew they were sinners and needed Jesus Christ to save them. Listen to what the Bible says:
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
If someone is sick and needs medicine, a doctor wouldn’t just make something up like, OK, for you to get rid of your headache or tummy ache, you need to eat two watermelons, five candy canes, ride your bicycle for a half an hour and do ten pushups. That would be crazy wouldn’t it?
When you kids are sick and your mommy or daddy takes you to the doctor, the doctor is very smart. He or she looks at you, tries to figure out what’s going on that making you sick, hurt or feel bad, and then the doctor comes to a conclusion and decides what’s wrong with you. That’s called a diagnosis. Now that the doctor has found out what’s wrong with you and made a diagnosis, the doctor now knows what medicine(s) to give you, or, what needs to be done for you to get better. Right?
It was the same with Dr. Luke writing what He did in the Bible. He was very smart man, and he wouldn’t make up a bunch of stories or lies. But the Bible tells us that Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account because first, he was inspired by the work of others – like Matthew and Mark. The Bible says:
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us
Second, that Dr. Luke talked to eyewitnesses – that’s people who actually saw Jesus and people who were there when Jesus was alive, when He performed His miracles of healing the blind, raising the little girl from the dead, feeding the thousands of people with only a few fish and loaves of bread, or told His many parables and stories, and even when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead! The Bible says in:
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Third, like a very smart doctor who needs to know the all of the facts before treating someone who is sick, Dr. Luke sorted out and went through all of the information he gathered about Jesus, and arranged in the proper order under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach a man named Theophilus – everybody say that name Theophilus! Now say Theophilus three times fast! That’s great! The Bible says:
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about who this Theophilus guy was, but this we do know:
1. The way Dr. Luke addresses him shows that Theophilus was an important person, probably of high rank; and
2. His name, Theophilus, means “dear to God” or “friend of God.”
So Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account, guided by God the Holy Spirit, to teach Theophilus, probably a high ranking person, the Truth, as well as you and me and everybody else over the last 2,000 years as well as those in the years to come, about Jesus Christ and the historical beginning of our Christian faith.
OK – so now we know all about Dr. Luke and why he wrote his gospel account, right? Are you ready to begin the real Christmas story and what Christmas is all about? OK!
Today, we’re going to learn about two women who are cousins – Elisabeth and Mary.
At Heavenly Hope, we read from the King James Bible, and sometimes, because some of the words back in the 1600’s (almost 400 years ago) are no longer used today in 2006, some people can get a bit confused – especially kids. But once you get the hang of reading it, it eventually makes sense – and the language used is absolutely beautiful. SO I’ll explain to you what I’m reading as I go along.
Mary, is the mother of Jesus, and her cousin, Elisabeth, her cousin, is the mother of John the Baptist! Who knew that Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins? Great! Now, the Christmas story begins with both of these ladies finding out that they’re going to have babies! I bet Chloe is going to love this story!
So first, we’re going to talk about Elisabeth and her husband, Zacharias.
Let’s go to Luke chapter 1, beginning in verse 5. It would be great if the parents and adults can help the kids follow along in their Bibles. Pastor Steve is going to read what the Bible says, then I’ll explain it in terms you can understand, OK? Here we go. Luke chapter one, verse five:
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, (he was a mean guy) a certain priest named Zacharias (he was Elisabeth’s husband), of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (That means they loved God and did what He told them to do with joy.)
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (In others words, they were old people, and they didn’t have any children, because Elisabeth couldn’t have a baby for some reason when she was younger. Some people aren’t able to have babies as much as they want to and it makes them very sad, so I think Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias were probably very sad that they didn’t have any children. And now that they were old, they couldn’t have any children.)
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. (Zacharias was a Jewish priest who served God in the temple and only once in a priest’s life time would he get the chance to serve God by burning incense. God commanded the priests to do that, so this time, it was Zacharias’ turn.)
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. (Everyone was praying outside when Zacharias was burning the incense before the Lord.)
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (A real angel!)
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. (Zacharias was really afraid. Would you be?)
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Can you imagine this? Zacharias, who was old, was praying to God and the Lord knew that the couple always wanted a child, but Zacharias and Elisabeth were too old to have a baby. God was going to do a miracle and He sent an angel to tell Zacharias that his wife, Elisabeth, was going to have baby! And this baby was going to be John the Baptist! The angel also said when John got older, he would be great in the sight of God and tell many people about God!
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.
So Zacharias questioned the angel and doubted him – he didn’t believe him. When we don’t believe God, that makes Him very sad. And I’m going to tell you a little more about the angel Gabriel in a few minutes. But Zacharias said, “We’re old! We’re old! My wife Elisabeth can’t have a baby!” So that made God not happy and listen to what God told Gabriel, the angel to say to Zacharias:
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. (He told Zacharias because he doubted and didn’t believe the miracle that God was going to do, God was going to close his mouth so he couldn’t talk until Elisabeth was pregnant with a baby. That’s a little scary isn’t it? God closed Zacharias’s mouth from speaking – and it takes a mommy almost nine months to have a baby! Do you think you could ever stop speaking for nine months? I couldn’t!)
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. (They couldn’t believe he was taking so long and wondered what was going on.)
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. (They knew Zacharias saw something so great, he couldn’t even speak.)
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (In other words, after all of the days Zacharias had to work, he went home to be with is wife – but he couldn’t talk!)
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Look at what happened – exactly what the angel said would happen! As soon as Zacharias came home, his old wife Elisabeth was pregnant with a baby in her tummy! And she was thankful to God that He finally answered her heart’s desire and gave her a baby. But the Bible says, she hid herself, meaning, she probably stayed at home with no visitors for five months!
Now that is the story of Elisabeth and Zacharias – and remember, Elisabeth was Mary’s cousin. Mary was going to be the mother of Jesus!
Now, we’re going to talk about Mary – the mother of Jesus. I’m just going to read verses 26-38 straight through – and listen good, and then I’m going to explain in kid’s terms what I just read. OK? Here we go.
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (In our terms, Mary wasn’t “married” to Joseph yet. The jewish people considered this engagement period just like they were married though. But a daddy and mommy have to be married first, then have a baby. That’s how God made it.)
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Now, let me explain to you in “kid terms” what Pastor just read.
The angel Gabriel is a very special angel of God. His name means “man of God” and this special angel’s ministry involves making special announcements for God concerning God’s plans. Remember Gabriel told Zacharias in the temple his wife Elisabeth was going to have a baby, even though she was old? Well, this is the same angel now who visited Mary - six months later!
The Lord sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to make an announcement to Mary, who was probably a teenager! Many people in Bible times got married a lot earlier than we do today – and today, that’s probably best. I got married to Mrs. Irene was I was 29 years old and she was 28. Mary getting married to Joseph (who we’ll meet next week) and having a baby is like Hannah Montana, or London Tipton getting married and having a baby at their age! (These are characters the kids know and can relate to.)
So, Mary, who was engaged to Joseph to be married, but not married yet, lived in Nazareth, a city of Galilee. Now, many of you know of King David, a man the Bible says was “a man after God’s own heart”? Well, God said one day, the Messiah or Savior would come and he would be related to King David — from his family!
Now Gabriel said to this young girl Mary, “God is with you Mary. You are a very special girl whom the Lord has chosen to be the mother of His Son. You are blessed among all of the women in the whole world.!”
Now, the Bible says in verse 29, Mary was troubled, meaning, she was afraid. She was probably freaked out having a real angel appear to her. But in verse 30, Gabriel said, “Don’t be afraid. You are very special in God’s eyes and He has chosen you to have a baby! And He’s going to be a baby boy and you are going to name Him Jesus! And He is going to be the greatest — God’s son! He will be King of kings and Lord of Lords and His kingdom will have no end! You are the chosen one Mary!”
Can you see Mary looking all around, behind her, on the side of her and saying to the angel, “Are you talking to me?”
Then in verse 34, Mary says something like, “Gabriel, we have one slight problem here. I’m not married yet – but I’m engaged and we’re gonna be married! Oh, you should see him, his name is Joseph and he’s such as sweet…”
“Sssshhhh! Mary, sshhh! It’s taken care of. The Holy Ghost will overshadow you and you’re going to be pregnant with God’s son.”
Then Mary’s like, “Woah! I think I need to sit down!”
Then Gabriel said, “Oh and by the way, you know your cousin Elisabeth?”
“My old, old, old cousin Elisabeth?” asked Mary.
“Yup, the old one. She’s got a baby in her tummy, too. In fact she’s had the baby inside her tummy now for six months and in three months, she’s going to have a baby also! But her baby is not God’s son, your baby is! But her baby is going to tell others about your baby and well, your baby is going to save YOU and save the world!”
Then Mary said, “But Elisabeth is so old! How could she have a baby? And besides, they said she could never have a baby!”
Then Gabriel said, “Mary, Mary quite contrary…” (remember, this is Pastor Steve’s interpretation for you kids) “Your old cousin Elisabeth is pregnant and she’s going to have a baby, too. Mary, understand, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible!’”
God can do anything! Nothing is impossible with Him, right? Right!!
Then Mary said, “OK Gabriel. You said it and because God sent you to say it, I believe it and I receive it!!”
Then Gabriel said, “Great! Gotta go now!” and poof!! He was gone.
Can you imagine, a real angel, appearing to a young girl – a teenager – saying you’re going to have a baby, you don;t have a husband and your baby is God – God the Son! Wow!! That has never happened in the history of the world before, nor will it ever happen again! The announcement was made by God’s messenger, Gabriel the angel: Jesus Christ – the Savior of humanity, the promised and prophesied Messiah was on His way!
Next week, we’re going to continue where we left off…. Mary is so excited, she runs to go see her cousin Elisabeth and wait till you see what happens! Remember, Zacharias, Elisabeth’s husband who can’t speak? Well, next week, Elisabeth is going to have her baby and wait till you see the miracle that happens with Zacharias! Next week we’ll also meet Joseph, who will turn out to be Mary’s husband, and then on Christmas Eve Day, we’re going to hear the beautiful story of the birth of the baby Jesus!
Isn’t Christmas exciting?? Isn’t the Bible exciting!!
Let’s all gather together and stand in a circle and join together in prayer…