The greatest story ever told.
DECEMBER 25, 2023
The greatest story ever told, on this edition of Key Life.
Being adopted into the family of God is not about doing more or trying harder. It’s about being welcomed by God because of His radical grace, free from the penalties of sin and never alone in your suffering. That grace is what Key Life is all about.
Thank you Matthew. First, let me say Merry Christmas. And since it’s Christmas, we’re going to do something that is a little bit different. Instead of me doing a lot of talking, I’m going to let God do the talking. In fact, what we’re going to do is spend our time on this broadcast, just reading the Christmas story. We’re going to go to Matthew first, and Matthew is the shorter version of the Christmas story. And then we’re going to go to Luke, where there are a number of more wonderful details about the Christmas story. And then we’re going to go to the Gospel of John, the first chapter. And we’re going to look at the theological version of the Christmas story. Before we get to the greatest story ever told, let’s go before the throne of the only God who is great and rules the universe. Father, our questions were always there. Are you there? And if you’re there, what are you like? Do you care? Are you a monster? Do you demand the fruit of the womb for the sin of my soul? Do you love? And then very hesitantly, when we came to you. We asked, do you love me? And then the laughter of the heavens spilled over onto earth and the word became flesh. We saw, we understood, we made it a part of our lives. And so, Christmas became not just new, it became new in our hearts, when Christ came in and changed everything, and we became new creatures. And so, today, on this day, and all the days of our life, we remember that you came, that you loved, that we’re forgiven, that we’re going to live forever. As we, in this broadcast, Father, once again listen to the old, old story, take the words and put them in our mind, that we might think about these realities and these truths. And then put them in our hearts, so that we might be warm and vibrant Christians. And then put it in our vocal cords and our hands and our feet, that we might spread the good news, of the greatest story ever told. Father, we lift this time before you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Okay, first let’s read from the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, starting at the 18th verse. And this is what Matthew writes.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with the child of the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel.” (which means God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had born a son. And he called that son’s name Jesus.
And then when you turn to the Gospel of Luke, there are other details, that make up the Christmas story, the greatest story ever told. And this is starting at the second chapter of the Gospel, according to Luke.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, to the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and the lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shined around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see the thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child and all who heard it, wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart, and the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told them.
What I read to you is not a story. It is an historical account of what actually happened. And when you read something like this, and the amazing story of angels and shepherds, and the Virgin Birth, the question that ought to come to mind, and probably does, if you’re not a believer is, yeah, that’s beautiful, I like babies too and shepherds. I’d like to look at the creche too, but what in the world does all of this mean? And so, God in his wisdom and knowing that we would ask the question gave us the apostle John. And John gave us the writing in the gospel of John. In the Gospel of John, there isn’t anything about shepherds or angels, or the things you would find in a creche. There is nothing in the Gospel of John about an inn that was too full to take Mary and Joseph and the baby that was to be born because John was asking what does this mean? How does this affect the world? How does this affect me? And this is what he wrote.
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and all things were made through Him. And without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world was made through him. Yet the world knew him not. He came to his own and his own people received him not, but to all who received him, who believed in his name. He gave the power to become the children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, and we have beheld his glory. Glory as of the only Son from the Father. And from his fullness we have received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses. And grace and truth through Jesus Christ.
Oh, every time I read that story, I want to dance and sing and laugh. Because no matter how bad it is, no matter how dark it gets, no matter how lonely I feel, no matter the pain that I experience. And you too, we know that he’s come, and that it’s settled, and that we’re going to get home before the dark. Do you know what I think sometimes at Christmas? I picture a couple taking down the Christmas decorations, and she says, you know, there was something there, something warm and good, and I don’t know what it was, and then they put up their decorations for another year. If that’s you, don’t do that. This could be your year, or your new birth. Jesus born in you. Hey, from all of us at Key Life. Have a Merry Christmas.