“The Great Announcement”
From time to time, events happen that change the course of history. Things like the death of certain people, tragedies in the air or on the ground, or even news from within our own families. We hear those announcements on television, the internet, or even our cell phone. My guess is you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when those announcements were made. You remember how you responded and if you told anybody about it. Now, whether they were good or bad, those announcements will never be forgotten. Well, there was an announcement made many years ago outside of a small village called Bethlehem. It came from heaven. It changed the course of history. The change was not bad, but good. It affected the lives of all people everywhere, and for all time. Some have called it the greatest announcement ever made. And perhaps they are right. Today on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will take a close look at that announcement in its various forms, and consider what implications it has for us. As you probably know by now, I am referring to the announcement about Jesus’ arrival into this world. Indeed, that was a very important event worthy of a great announcement. In addition to hearing again about Jesus’ birth, you will also see some actual pictures of the location where some people believe the event took place. Oh, the arrival of Jesus into this world was important, yet that is not the end of the story. His life, ministry, death, and resurrection is also life-changing. As we consider the great announcement of Jesus’ arrival, let us also consider how we need to respond to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I hope you will stay tuned to this station as we open the Bible and study together.
When I attended school many years ago, announcements were made every morning on a school-wide speaker system. News was given about upcoming and special events that all of us needed to know and understand, all of the teachers, administrators and students. Yes, it was information that was important. Well, still today, receiving news and hearing announcements is important. We watch television and check the internet, we even read the newspaper. Yes, we want to stay informed about those big events that help shape our lives and determine the course of this world. News worthy announcements are important. Well, sometime between the years of 6 BC and 4 BC, the greatest announcement of all time was made. Oh, it was not broadcast on local television. You could not read it on the internet, and it certainly did not show up in the local newspaper. It came from Heaven. It was made by an angel, and it originated from the God of this universe. Well, you probably know by now I am referring to the announcement of God's Son, Jesus Christ, arriving in this world. He came in human flesh. He was born of the Virgin Mary. And every year at Christmas-time, we seem to focus on that event. We are reminded of that story as we hear it proclaimed from pulpits in the churches. We see plays and reproductions of it. We sing songs about the arrival of Jesus. And we even share that story with our friends and our loved ones as we read it from the Bible. And yet, Jesus’ birth into this world is anything but a story. It is a fact that is recorded in the Bible, and for the past 2,000 years it has been recognized by historians as an actual event. Many people all over this world celebrate and remember the birth of Christ. Now, although the exact date of Jesus’ birth into this world is not known, it is traditionally celebrated at Christmas, and yet it probably did not even occur during the winter month of December. Well, the story obviously is not just for Christmas-time, but it is for all time. And that great announcement is found in the Gospel of Luke, beginning with verse 1. We find in Luke chapter 2 that Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the Roman Empire. And he decided, one day, to count how many people belonged to him in that kingdom, or in that empire, and so he declared a census. He wanted all of the people to go back to their hometown, their home village, and to be recognized in a census, or an accounting process; and so, one of those men, named Joseph, went back to the town of Bethlehem. He took with him Mary, the one whom he would marry at a future date, and yet she was ready to give birth to a child. Well, while they were in Bethlehem and taking part in that accounting process, Mary did deliver Jesus into this world. And that was a very special occasion. She gave birth to this child and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, which were strips of linen that kept Him warm and secure. She then placed baby Jesus into a manger, which was nothing more than a feed trough used by animals. And then something very special happened, according to verse 8. We find these words: <There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night.> These shepherds were doing what they did perhaps every other night; living out there, watching over their flocks, taking care of their animals and seeing about their livelihood. But on that occasion something happened they had never experienced before. Let’s listen to the reading of the text beginning with Luke 2:19. <An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the Glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace on those on whom His favor rest."> There it is, the greatest announcement of all time, proclaimed by the angel from heaven, announcing to those shepherds in the field the arrival of the Messiah, the arrival of God's Son, the Savior of this world. Well, upon hearing that Good News, the shepherds immediately went to that village of Bethlehem to see the event with their very own eyes. And they went into the village, and sure enough they found things just as the angel had told them. There was Joseph and Mary there, in some kind of cave, perhaps. And there was baby Jesus, wrapped in those cloths and lying in a manger. We can just imagine that scene. We've read it before. We understand, perhaps, some of the things going on, and we can just envision the smiles on the faces of Joseph and Mary and these shepherds. And Mary kept all of those things in her heart. Well, on the eighth day after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary took that baby child into Jerusalem, to the Temple, to dedicate Him to the Lord; and, to offer sacrifices to God, praising and thanking Him for the arrival of this child. Now, being the poor people they were, they only had two turtledoves, or two pigeons, to offer as that sacrifice. But notice the events unfold, beginning in chapter 2, verse 25: <Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel."> God had promised His faithful servant Simeon that he would not pass away, he would not die, until he saw for himself, with his very own eyes, the Lord's Messiah. Well, this was the day. This was the time. This was the occasion. As Mary and Joseph brought in baby Jesus, Simeon was there and he took Him in his arms. Perhaps he held Him close. Perhaps he lifted Him high above his head and he thanked God and he praised God for the arrival of the Savior of this world. And then, as he gave that child back to Mary, he said, "Yes, it's over. I can now pass away in peace because I have seen with my own eyes. My life is full. I am content that, indeed, God has sent a Savior into this world." When we think about that announcement, when we think about the announcement that the angels made to the shepherds out in the field, indeed, it affected the lives of many people. It affected the lives of those shepherds. It affected the life of Simeon. It affected the lives of Joseph and Mary and hundreds of thousands of people since that time. But as we think about those announcements, I want us to ask our-self a question. What kind of impact, what kind of effect does that announcement have upon us, today? I want to go back to these announcements, primarily the one made by the angel in heaven, and I want us to pick out some key phrases and words. The first one is, "Do not be afraid." When that angel spoke from heaven, no doubt those shepherds were afraid. "They were terrified," the Scripture tells us. Perhaps they fell to the ground and covered their heads. They did not know what was going on, for it was something they had never before experienced. But the angel said, "Do not be afraid." And indeed, there was no reason to be afraid. Some 365 times in Scripture we find those words, "Do not be afraid," or something similar to them. And now there is no reason for you or for me to be afraid any longer. It is because Jesus Christ, the Savior of this world, has come, and there is no need to live in fear. There is no need to be afraid of what might happen in the world around us because Jesus has come into this world. Here is another statement. The angel proclaimed, "I bring you Good News." And the Good News that he brought was God loves you. God loves all of mankind. And isn't that the essence of John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Yes, because of God's great love, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, and indeed that is Good News still for us today. The angel then proclaimed, “This Good News will bring great joy.” At the time of Jesus' birth, the Roman Kingdom ruled the world. It was filled with power and filled with oppression, and the common people were abused and were neglected. They paid that Roman tax to build the cities in which they would never visit. That Roman tax went to build streets on which they would never walk. And these common people had nothing, really, to rejoice about; they were sad, they were upset, they were oppressed. There was no joy in their hearts. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ, all of that changed. There was now reason to have great rejoicing. Jesus came to minister to and love and serve those who were overlooked and abused and neglected. And even still today, with the arrival of Jesus Christ, we can live with great joy in our lives. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:17, "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Yes, because of the arrival of Jesus Christ, we who are a part of God's Kingdom can live with great joy. Well, here is another statement that we find. The angels proclaimed peace on earth. No doubt there was not much joy and much peace in the lives of these people. They lived with their lives turned over. They did know what to expect. There wasn't any peace. But with the arrival of Jesus, He brought that peace that settled their souls. Prior to His departure back to His Father in heaven, Jesus gathered up His disciples and He told them some very important words, in John 16:33, "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world." Now, indeed, that is Good News, isn't it? There was trouble in the world then and there is trouble in our world today. And it does not matter where we live or what country we might represent, there is trouble on every hand to some degree or another. But because of Jesus’ arrival we can be at peace. Why; because He has overcome this world. I want to go to a statement that was made by Simeon. He said, "Lord, I have seen salvation for all people." In the form of baby Jesus, I have seen the salvation that You have brought into this world. He announced that he had seen it with his very own eyes, and that same Jesus is the source of our salvation today. It is a salvation that does not come through our good deeds. It is something that we cannot earn. There is absolutely no way for us to purchase that salvation with any amount of money. But rather, it is a free gift that God has given in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter proclaimed, in Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved." The salvation Jesus brought into this world is for people everywhere, for both the Jews and the Gentiles, as Simeon recognized. Nobody is left out, but it is offered to everybody and for all time. There's one last statement I want us to notice. We go back to that heavenly host of angels. They proclaimed, "Glory to God in heaven." A huge number of angels joined the angel who made the announcement. There were more angels proclaiming praise and glory to God than we could ever imagine, far beyond what we could ever count. And they praised God. They gave Him glory for the arrival of God's Son into this world. And oh, how that must have pleased our Heavenly Father. Paul wrote, in 2nd Corinthians 4:6, <For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give off the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.> Oh, Jesus came into this world for a variety of reasons, one of which was to display God's glory. He came to represent His Father. He came to declare honor and glory to God by being obedient to Him and living out His purpose here up on this earth. Oh, I have often thought if God could demonstrate physical features, what kind of smile would be on His face as He received that glory and as His Son arrived into this world! Oh, it must have been very special. And through Jesus Christ, we continue to offer that glory and that praise and that honor to God, thanking Him for the arrival of His Son. Now, every year on December the 25th, people around the world celebrate the arrival of God's Son. Many gifts of love and appreciation are given and exchanged to one another, but it seems that the very next day, on the 26th or perhaps later, some of those unwanted gifts are taken back to the store and they are exchanged for something a little bit better, or a little bit newer, or perhaps even for money. But when I think about that, I realize, the greatest gift that was ever given can never be exchanged for anything better. It cannot be exchanged or returned for something just a little bit newer or even for money. For the gift of Jesus Christ is far greater than what we could ever realize. Upon His birth, Jesus was wrapped in cloths and put into a manger, but he did not stay in that manger very long. He grew up, he matured, and he began to serve people and to fulfill God's purpose for Him upon this earth. He came to seek and to save what was lost. He came to bring hope to you and to me, and although He was well-received by some, He was rejected by many. They rejected Jesus. They denied the fact that He had come to represent His Father. They didn't believe that, and so, they persecuted the Christ and they beat Him and abused Him. And after suffering at the hands of His enemies, he was put upon a cross where He died that cruel death. And then two of His followers came and took Him down and wrapped Him in some different clothes, this time, not new, arriving clothes, but burial clothes. And they laid Him in a tomb that had never before been used, and then they rolled a stone across the entrance to that tomb. Oh, many rejoiced when the announcement of His birth was made, but now many rejoiced when Jesus was laid to rest. They believed that He was gone, the threat was eliminated. But thanks be to God, He rolled away that stone and Jesus came forth alive and He left behind that empty tomb. In December, we reflect on baby Jesus in the manger, but what about the rest of the year? We can't leave Him in the manger, can we? We are to see Him as the one who died and who was buried and who rose again for your sake and for mine and for the salvation of this world. And today, Jesus invites us to put our faith in Him and to receive the greatest gift that has ever been given, the free gift of His salvation. It is something that we do not need to return as being unwanted. We certainly cannot exchange it for anything better. But we have the opportunity today to respond to the greatest announcement that has ever been made, that Jesus Christ has come as the Savior of this world and we have the opportunity to receive that. We come into the world in need of salvation, and we can depart having received it; because Jesus came into this world to offer us salvation and He left by giving us the opportunity to receive that free gift. My hope and my prayer for you is that you have responded to the greatest announcement that has ever been made.
The Bible tells us Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a little town about five miles south of Jerusalem. A thousand years earlier, David was also born in Bethlehem, thus the name The City of David. Here, is an old church called The Church of the Nativity, and it is almost 1500 years old. It is one of the two or three oldest churches anywhere in the Christian world. There is a large natural cave under the church, where perhaps Jesus was born. In ancient times, when an inn was built, a stable was included. People traveled on donkeys and camels and they would need a place for their animals. A large cave would make for a good, warm, and dry place for them. An inn would often be built over such a cave. As early as the second century, Justin Martyr wrote about the cave in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In the 4th century, Constantine's mother, Helena, came to Bethlehem and when she was there she asked where Jesus was born, and the local people showed her a cave. She had a church built over the site and it was dedicated in 339 AD. 200 years later, the Christian Emperor Justinian had a much larger church built over the cave, and this is the Church of the Nativity, that still stand here today. The beautiful mosaic floor of Helena's church is still in place under the floor of Justinian's church. Visiting the Church of the Nativity is equivalent to standing where Mary gave birth to Jesus. This is a special place to be as I reflect back on the great story of Jesus’ birth into this world.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. Isn't it interesting to hear some of the stories behind Jesus’ birth and to see some pictures of the city of Bethlehem? Well, hopefully this helps us understand better the message about the great announcement of Jesus’ birth. This lesson along with the pictures is available on the website, keytothekingdom.com. It is free to download, along with many other messages. There is no commitment of any kind, and I would be happy for you to access any that might be beneficial. Devotional thoughts and inspirational videos are also there and are easy to download. They're uploaded every week onto our Facebook® page, and I hope you'll find, like, and share them with others. Oh, none of these lessons, videos, and messages requires any cost or commitment. If you would like to call the number on the screen, we would love to hear from you, or if you want to send me an email through our website, I would be happy to respond. Every week, we share Biblical messages that inspire and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. My prayer is that you will accept the invitation to grow spiritually through this media ministry. Thank you for spending a few minutes with us today; and, I hope you will join us again next week, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”