Christmas Eve, 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Introduction and offering:
ILL: Is there anybody in the room who got engaged or married on Christmas Eve?
Here’s a fun story. Tyne wanted to surprise his girlfriend, Jamie, by proposing on Christmas Eve. He brought her home for all the festivities including the annual family Christmas photo. He had t-shirts made that spelled out “Merry Christmas.” (Tyne and Jamie are the couple sitting on the floor in red sweaters.) While the photographer set up the next shot, a couple people quietly exchanged places, and others discreetly covered their t-shirts and this photo was taken. The photographer then asked Jamie to come check the picture, and make sure it was ok. As she looked, the photographer asked, “What does it say?”
“Merry…marry me!” she shrieked and started crying hysterically, while Tyne got down on one knee holding out the ring.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
Jamie finally stopped crying long enough to say, “Yes! Yes! Of course!”
Jamie said “yes”! She said yes to someone who was saying yes to her. He was saying, “Yes, I want you to be my wife.” And she was saying yes to that.
The first Christmas happened because Someone said, “Yes”—that’s a Someone with a capital S: God. The coming of Jesus is God’s yes to you: will you be mine? The coming of Jesus is God’s Big Yes to all of His promises, His Yes to all our deepest hopes and longings. God said the first Yes, but not the only one. In response to God’s Yes, several people had to say “Yes” as well. And the Christmas story isn’t complete until you’ve added your “Yes” too.
The Big Idea: The first Christmas happened because Someone said, “Yes.” And the Christmas story isn’t complete until you’ve added your “Yes” too.
The Christmas story is full of yeses. We’re going to start with Mary and Joseph who both said, “Yes” to God.
- Mary said yes to God.
Mary was probably a teenager, already engaged to Joseph, and anticipating their wedding, when an angel shows up and throws a major wrench in the whole plan.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Mary is troubled or confused by the angel’s greeting, so Gabriel reassures her, “Don’t be afraid, you have found favor with God.” Then he goes on to tell her that she is going to bear a child who will be the Son of God and the promised Messiah—a descendant of King David who would rule forever.
The Hebrew word “Messiah” means, “anointed one” or “chosen one.” The Greek equivalent is the word “Christ.” The Messiah (Hebrew) or the Christ (Greek) are the same thing. The Messiah or Christ was the long-awaited Jewish deliverer. He would be a descendant of David and would rule forever; as Gabriel said to Mary, “His kingdom will never end.” The Messiah would deliver Israel from her enemies, and usher in an age of peace and prosperity. The prophet Isaiah predicted that the peace of Christ’s kingdom would be so complete that the wolf and lamb will live together, the leopard and goat will lie down together, and a little child will lead them. All of creation will be healed; everything will be put right and everyone will live peacefully and prosperously. Really, isn’t that what we all long for? All of this will be accomplished by this baby Mary will have.
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
“How will this be,” Mary asks, “since I am a virgin?” What do you think Mary expected the angel to say? I’m guessing that the answer Mary expected was, “Well, you and Joseph will get married, and then you’ll get pregnant and have the baby. Won’t that be wonderful?” Instead, the angel told her that Joseph was out of the equation. This baby would be conceived in her by God Himself.
Can you imagine the questions that are spinning in Mary’s head? What about Joseph? What will he think? He is never going to believe this story. “Yes, Joe, I’m pregnant, but it’s not what you think. I haven’t been with another man. God did this.” No way Joseph is buying the story—no one would.
This means that Mary can probably kiss her marriage goodbye. Joseph will dump her and she’ll be a single mom raising a child born out of wedlock. There will be a scandal; she will be called names; and her boy will grow up being called a mamzer, a child whose parents are not married. All languages have a word for mamzer, and all of them are ugly. All of this meant poverty, loneliness and hardship for Mary and her child. Yet, Mary said, “Yes.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary said, “Yes,” and became part of the Christmas story.
- Joseph said yes to God.
Here’s Joseph’s side of the story. One day, Mary, Joseph’s fiancé, turns up pregnant, and he knows he is not the father. What’s he to do? Here’s what happened.
Matthew 1:18–25 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Sure enough, when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant with someone else’s child, he decided to end the relationship. But because he was an honorable man, Joseph decided to do it quietly and spare Mary at least some public disgrace.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
God intervenes and speaks to Joseph in a dream, confirming Mary’s unbelievable story! The Lord tells Joseph to marry Mary, who will give birth to a son, and that he was to name the child Jesus, because “he will save his people from their sins.”
Can you imagine the questions in Joseph’s mind? If he takes Mary as his wife, people will still talk. They will assume that Mary and Joseph were intimate before they were married, that Joseph was an immoral man. Joseph’s reputation will suffer, perhaps his business too. Yet, Joseph said, “Yes.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Joseph said, “Yes” and became part of the Christmas story.
Joseph and Mary both knew it would be hard when they said “Yes” to God. They didn’t know how hard.
- They didn’t know that they would be forced by the Roman government to travel 90 miles on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the final stages of Mary’s pregnancy. Ladies, anyone want to hike 90 miles in weeks 38-39 of your pregnancy?
- They didn’t know that when they got to Bethlehem there would be no rooms available, and they would be forced to camp out in a stable, and Mary would give birth there, surrounded by sheep and goats and the stench of urine and dung.
- They didn’t know that King Herod in Jerusalem would want to murder their baby and that they would have to run for their lives in the middle of the night.
- They didn’t know that they would start their life as a family as homeless refugees in Egypt until King Herod died.
They didn’t know any of that. But I suspect that they would have said “Yes” to God anyway. Here’s why: their “yes” was a response to God’s Big Yes, to His proposal. Joseph and Mary both said “Yes” in the face of hardship because of God’s Big Yes to them and to us.
- God said yes to us.
Christmas is God’s Big Yes to the world.
At Christmas, God came to us on one knee—as a baby, tiny and vulnerable—and asked us to be His. This is a vulnerable position, isn’t it? You are defenseless—gentlemen, she can say no and break your heart. It’s a vulnerable position. That’s how God came to us. As a baby, on one knee, asking for our hearts.
At Christmas, God said yes to sending His Son into the world, yes to becoming one of us, to taking on our humanity. Jesus said Yes to suffering, Yes to dying, Yes to a Roman cross and a borrowed grave. And He said yes to saving us, yes to reconciling us to God, yes to eternal life!
You see, all the promises that God had ever made to His people through the centuries…Jesus is God’s Yes to all of the, to everything He ever promised us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
All of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ. Jesus is God’s Big Yes—His Yes to everything He has promised. And God has promised a lot. Bibleinfo.com cites someone’s count of 3573 promises from God in the Bible. Bible Gateway claims there are 5467 promises from God! And in Herbert Lockyer’s book, All the Promises in the Bible, he cites another’s count of 7487 promises from God. Obviously, people count promises differently, but no matter how you count, there are thousands of promises from God to us! Promises that Peter calls “great and precious.”
2 Peter 1:4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
The word “great” translates the Greek word mega. These are Mega-Promises! They are great! And they are precious—translating a Greek word that means, “costly, valuable, precious.” These Mega-Promises are rich and exceedingly valuable. They are what we all really want—they are the deepest longings of the human heart.
ILL: When Laina and I married, we made promises—mega-promises! I promised I would always love her, cherish her, honor her, serve her. I told her that I would die for her, and that I would never let anything separate us. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health—I will always love you. Mega-promises!
God has made mega-promises like that to you.
Romans 8:31–39 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is God’s promise: to love you forever, to be for you not against you, to give you everything you need in Jesus, to forgive you and make you right, and to let absolutely nothing ever separate you from His love. To be deeply loved, fully forgiven and completely accepted—it’s what we’ve always longed for. God promised it, and Jesus is God’s Yes to all those mega-promises!
This is why when the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field, he said:
Luke 2:10–11 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Jesus’ coming was good news of great joy for all the people. The good news is that we are more flawed than we dare to admit, and we are more loved than you we ever dared to imagine. We are flawed, and we’re loved.
ILL: Here’s one of my all time favorite letters to Santa:
“Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is 2. There is David; he is 4. And there is Norman; he is 7. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman.”
Don’t you wish you were a Norman? But we aren’t. We aren’t good all the time. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s why this is good news of great joy! God has come to us, flawed and sinful people, because He loves us more we can imagine.
The good news is that this baby, Jesus, would be our Savior, our Lord, our Messiah or Christ. As I pointed out earlier, this word “Messiah” was filled with promise. The coming Messiah would put the world right. In Him, all God’s promises would come to pass. In Him, all the deepest longings of our hearts would be fulfilled. Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s Yes to all His promises.
- Deeply loved even when I feel unlovable? Yes!
- Fully forgiven for everything? Yes!
- Completely accepted by God? Yes!
- Life to the full—the kind of life you’ve always longed for? Yes!
- Reconciled with God—we’re friends now? Yes!
- Full, free, confident access to God anytime? Yes!
- Reconciled with others—healing for my relationships? Yes!
- Mercy when I fail? Yes!
- Strength when I need it? Yes!
- Wisdom for the journey? Yes!
- Patience when I’m tried? Yes!
- Peace no matter what’s going on around me? Yes!
- Inexpressible joy? Yes!
- A life filled with meaning and purpose? Yes!
- Justice for the oppressed? Yes!
- Healing for the sick? Yes!
- Freedom for the captives? Yes!
- Everything will be put right one day? Yes!
- Hope that the best is yet to come? Yes!
- Eternal life? Yes!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand times over, Yes! Jesus is God’s Yes. That’s why the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy!” There’s that word mega again! Mega Joy! Because in sending Jesus, God said Yes to everything we really need, everything we’ve hoped for. Yes!
This is why Joseph and Mary said “Yes” to God even though it was hard. They were saying yes to God’s Bigger Yes, to God’s proposal made on one knee. Their “Yes” made them part of the Christmas story. And the Christmas story isn’t complete until you’ve added your “Yes” too.
- Will you say yes to God?
In one sense, the Christmas story is still being told. Jesus was born in Bethlehem—and that was only the start of the story. He lived a perfect life, sacrificed His life on a Roman cross to save you, and was raised from the dead to reconcile you to God, to bring you new life, to be the “Yes” to all God’s promises. He’s on one knee before you—will you say yes?
When you say “Yes” to Jesus, you become part of this ongoing story. Everything changes!
John 1:11-12 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
To all who received Him—to all who said, “Yes,”—He gave the right to become children of God. Say yes to Jesus and you become part of God’s forever family. You start eternal life—right now! And eternal life is not only a life that lasts forever, but it’s life to the full, abundant life, Life with a capital L! Jesus didn’t come to make you more religious; He came to make you more alive! Jesus said:
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Jesus is knocking on your door. If you open the door—if you say “Yes”—He will come in and live in you. You will never be the same!
I’ll finish with a wonderful Christmas story from the 1940’s.
ILL: It was Christmas time, and Nancy was still grieving the loss of her husband in the war, when she read the following appeal in her local newspaper.
“Is there any place we can borrow a little boy 3 or 4 years old for the Christmas holidays? We have a nice home and would take wonderful care of him and bring him back safe and sound. We used to have a little boy, but he couldn’t stay, and we miss him so when Christmas comes. N.M.”
The editor added a note, “If anyone wants to respond, write to this column ASAP and mark ‘Christmas’ on the outside of the envelope.”
For the first time, Nancy thought of grief as belonging to someone else. She sat there wondering if she should answer it…if she could answer it. When her husband had been killed, she’d taken her little son and moved back home. But special times—birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas—made the ache and loneliness more acute.
“We used to have a little boy, but he couldn’t stay and we miss him so at Christmas…”
She decided to take a chance, and say yes; she answered the appeal. The writer was a widower who lived with his mother; he had lost his beloved wife and little son in the same year.
That Christmas, Nancy and her son shared a joyous day with the widower and his mother. Together they found a happiness that we doubted they’d would ever be theirs again.
“But the best part,” Nancy writes, “is that this joy was mine to keep throughout the years. You see, the man who wrote the letter became my husband.”
One “Yes” changed her life. Friends, God has loaned us His Son and there’s a happy ending if you just say “yes.” Your life will change forever. I’m not saying you’ll get a spouse—although you never know—but you will get a new life that lasts forever and is better than you can imagine!
I hope you’ll say “Yes” to the God who has said “Yes” to you!