The Infinite Infant
I thought it would be a good idea for us to take a “Christmas Quiz” this morning to see how well we know the facts about the first Christmas.
1. When Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, how did they get there?
a. They walked
b. Joseph walked; Mary rode a donkey
c. They took a chariot
d. We don’t really know
The correct answer is “D.” The Bible gives no record of their means of travel.
2. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
a. A multitude
b. Two: Gabriel and Michael
d. Not sure
The right response is “C.” Luke 2:10: “The angel said to them…”
3. What song did the angels sing?
a. “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
b. “Joy to the World”
c. “Glory to God in the Highest”
d. None of the above
This is a trick question. The correct choice is “D.” According to Luke 2:13, they were: “…praising God and saying…” There’s no mention of them singing anything.
4. What animals were present at Jesus’ birth?
a. Cows, sheep and camels
b. Horses, sheep and donkeys
c. Lions and tigers and bears
d. None of the above
There is no mention in the Bible about any animals being present. The answer is “D.”
5. In what books of the Bible can you find the Christmas story?
a. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
b. Matthew and Luke
c. Mark and Matthew
d. Matthew, Mark and Luke
The right choice is “B” -- Matthew and Luke. These two gospels give us insight into the birth of Jesus and provide much of what we know about the first Christmas. While the Gospel of Mark picks up the life of Jesus when He is a grown man, the Gospel of John actually begins much earlier than even the accounts of Matthew and Luke. John tells us what Jesus did before He ended up in the manger as He takes us back to the beginning, to show us that He had no beginning. John’s report goes behind creation to show that the baby in the feeding trough was the Creator of the world.
The Reality of Jesus
1. This Infant is Infinite.
Some think that Jesus got his start when He was born. The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ has always existed according to verses 1-2:
Jesus is before the beginning of time as He said in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is eternal, or infinite because He has always existed. This passage
immediately reminds us of the opening words of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…”
The word “word” is the Greek “logos” [logos], which refers to Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity. In Greek culture, logos was that which gave meaning to all things. The philosopher Philo saw the logos as a bridge between a transcendent God and the material universe. John is using a term that everyone would be familiar with and yet Jesus expands and transcends its meaning. Since a word is an audible or visible expression of a thought, Jesus perfectly revealed what was going on in the mind of God. He’s the bridge between God and us.
I am trying my best to convey to you today the thoughts that are on my mind, and the only medium I can use are my words. Likewise, Jesus is God’s Word to us. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus declares that He is the “Alpha and Omega,” which is like saying He is the A through the Z, the beginning and the end. He is God’s alphabet, the one who spells out deity for us. As the final Word, Jesus makes the incomprehensible God intelligible.
The “Word was with God,” indicates that Jesus Christ existed in a face-to-face relationship with the Father. Jesus was not only in the closest possible fellowship with God, the “Word was God.” We don’t have time this morning to explore the majestic intricacies of the doctrine of the Trinity, but suffice it to say that Jesus is not a creation of God, but is God Himself. Verse 2 summarizes and repeats verse 1 in order to make sure we grasp the magnitude of this truth: “He was with God in the beginning.” This Infant is Infinite.
2. Christ is the Creator.
We see in verse 3 that Christ is also the Creator:
This verse brings back the truth of
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Proverbs 8 passage on “wisdom” being there at creation.
3. The Lord is Life and Light.
Look at verses 4-5:
The story of the Bible begins with physical darkness in Genesis 1. To correct this darkness God said, “Let there be light.”
Death and darkness spilled into our world in Genesis 3 and can only be removed by the Lord who is life and light. As the light, Jesus shines into the darkness, and those who have not yet received Him are still in the dark and cannot understand Him. Many people today do not comprehend the real meaning of Christmas. It’s because the world in general has no place for Christ.
The word, “comprehend” means “to lay hold of, to seize or grasp.” Something can be seized either for hostile purposes, or in order to possess it. The darkness cannot ultimately put out the light because light is more powerful than darkness. Darkness by its very nature refuses to come into the light because darkness and light are mutually exclusive. If you have one, you do not have the other. Bring light into a dark room and you have light. But try to bring darkness into a room with a light and it can’t be done. Light can cancel darkness, but not the other way around. Those in darkness cannot readily understand the Lord who is life and light.
Unfortunately, some Christians would rather live in the dark. Jesus put it this way in
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Max Lucado tells the story about a tribe of people who lived in a dark, cold cave. The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry
against the chill. Loud and long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known joy. The
spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known life.
But one day they heard a different voice. “I have heard your cries,” it announced. “I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help you.” The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. “How can we know you have come to help?”
“Trust me,” he answered. “I have what you need.” The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something, then stooping and stacking more. “What are you doing?” one cried, nervously. The stranger didn’t answer. “What are you making?” another shouted even louder. There was still no response. “Tell us!” demanded a third.
The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices. “I have what you need.” With that he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern. The people turned away in fear. “Put it out!” they cried. “It hurts to see it.”
“Light always hurts before it helps,” he answered. “Step closer. The pain will soon pass.”
“Not I,” declared a voice. “Nor I,” agreed a second. “Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such light,” said another. The stranger stood next to the fire. “Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don’t consult your fears. Take a step of faith.” For a long time no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. “It’s warm here,” he invited.
“He’s right,” one from behind him announced. “It is warmer.” The stranger turned to see a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. “I can open my eyes now,” she proclaimed. “I can see.” “Come closer,” invited the fire builder. She did. She stepped into the ring of light. “It’s so warm!” She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass. “Come everyone! Feel the warmth,” she invited.
“Silence woman!” cried one of the cave dwellers. “Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us. Leave us and take your light with you.” She turned to the stranger. “Why won’t they come?”
“They choose the chill, for though it’s cold, it’s what they know. They’d rather be cold than to change.”
“And live in the dark?” she asked. “And live in the dark,” came the reply.
Don’t choose to live in the dark, take a step today into the light!
The reality of Jesus...
The Response to Jesus
1. Immanuel is ignored.
The infant is infinite, Christ is the creator, and the Lord is life and light. Unfortunately, verse 10 reveals that Immanuel is often ignored:
With all the tinsel of Christmas, it’s easy to blow right past the birth of Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” Everything starts with this truth: Jesus Christ
was in the world. And He was here for more than a fleeting visit, having walked on this planet for 33 years. He was one of us and lived among us. J.B. Phillips put it this way, “We must never allow
anything to blind us to the true significance of what happened at Bethlehem so long ago. Nothing can alter the fact that we live on a visited planet.”
There has always been a great divide in the human race. The majority has never recognized Jesus for who He really is. When He came the first time, Herod hated him, the scribes ignored Him, and there was no room for Him in the inn. Only the shepherds and the wise men, the poor and the foreigners, welcomed him to earth.
Not much has changed today as we see the birth of Jesus slipping from our cultural discourse. He came to the world He created, and the world receives Him not.
In 1932, Robert McGimsey attended a Christmas Eve service in New York City and then headed back to his one-room apartment. As he walked the final blocks, he passed by the open doors of private clubs where people were partying with all their might. They didn’t seem to have a clue that it was Christmas Eve, and if they did, they didn’t seem to care. As he stepped over people who had passed out on the sidewalk, he thought to himself, “What a strange way to celebrate the birth of the most perfect Person who ever lived on this earth. People are missing the whole significance of His life.”
When he finally arrived home, he scribbled some more thoughts on the back of an envelope. His words formed the basis of the popular negro spiritual:
“Sweet little Jesus Boy, they made you be born in a manger. Sweet little holy Child didn’t know who you was. Didn’t know you’d come to save us, Lord, to take our
sins away. Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see, we didn’t know who you was.”
Have you been ignoring Jesus this year? Don’t let this Christmas pass by without figuring out why Jesus came.
Immanuel is ignored...
2. The Revealer is rejected.
While some are apathetic and ignore the Christ of Christmas, others reject Him outright. Look at verse 11:
The idiom “came unto his own” means “to come home.” It’s been said, “Home is
where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” Jesus came to the people who should have known Him best, but they wanted nothing to do with Him. Jesus came “home” to his own people and they
wouldn’t take Him in.
They should have known better because they knew He was coming. Every book in the Old Testament testifies to this one great truth: He’s coming. One day God would send His Messiah to deliver His people Israel. And when Jesus finally arrived, they didn’t receive Him because they didn’t want to. To not receive means, “to reject.” Instead of welcoming Him home they drove Him away.
This is not just an historical observation; it’s a profound theological statement. Humans in general reject God. And the reason we reject Him is because we want to. While some people seem to be sincere seekers of Christ, the Bible says that many are looking to be rid of Him. People are blind because it’s their very nature to reject the light. We can’t come to Christ on our own. Jesus said it this way in
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:
3. The Redeemer must be received.
While it is true that the world ignored Him and His own people rejected Him, there have always been some who will receive Him. John 1:12 is one of the greatest verses in the entire Bible because it explains clearly how someone can become a Christian: [read]
Notice the three key words:
This is an active word with a deep meaning. It literally means, “to take, or to seize.” Those who receive Christ are those who welcome or accept Him into their lives. Jesus is God’s gift to us at Christmas. We can choose to ignore Him, or reject Him, or we can take what has been freely offered to us. Have you taken hold of Him? Have you received Him into your life?
To believe means to engage our total being so that we put our trust completely in Christ by committing our lives to Him. It involves more than just intellectual assent or an emotional response. Biblical belief always involves receiving, or responding to what God in Christ has done for us.
This word means “right”, “honor”, or “privilege.” The moment you receive Christ into your life, God gives you the honor of becoming a member of His family. We are
given permission to become a child of God when we believe and receive.
Believe, Receive, and Become. We must first believe that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God the Father. Then we must actually receive what He has done by personally appropriating the gift of salvation. Then, we become children of God.
Verse 13 makes it clear that salvation doesn’t run automatically from one generation to another. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “You will never go to heaven in a crowd.” It’s true there will be crowds in heaven, but we only go there one at a time. God saves individuals, not masses or groups.
The whole gospel is in the little phrase “become the sons of God.” Salvation is of the Lord. It’s a free gift—totally free and totally of grace. It’s not a cooperative venture where you do your part and God does his. We may ask, “Don’t I have a part to play in salvation?” We do indeed have a part. Our part is to be hopelessly lost in sin and God’s part is to save us. That way God alone gets the credit. Salvation is a work of God from first to last and is wrapped up in the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Christmas is a great reminder that we’ve not been forgotten. We live on a visited planet. In her book “The Whisper Test,” Mary Ann Bird writes:
I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.
When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.
There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored -- Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy -- a sparkling lady.
Annually we had a hearing test...Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back--things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”
Friend, do you hear the whisper of Jesus this Christmas? The infant is infinite, Christ is the creator, and the Lord is life and light. Don’t ignore or reject Him. He’s whispering in your ear right now. Do you hear Him? “I wish you were my little girl. I wish you were my little boy. I want you to be my son or daughter. I wish you were in my family.”
The good news this Christmas is that you can be…if you will receive Him into your life.
When it comes to great spiritual decisions there can be no neutrality. No one “drifts” or stumbles into Christianity by accident. At some point you must consciously believe and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. In order to fully understand the reason for Christmas, we must respond to the reality of Christ and be born again.
The real Christmas quiz is not focused on what you know, but on whom you know. The key is not information, but life transformation. Most of us have enough data; we just need to make a decision.
William Willimon, chaplain of Duke University, said: “We are better givers than getters, not because we are generous people but because we are proud…the Christmas story…is not about how blessed it is to be givers but how essential it is to see ourselves as receivers” (The Christian Century).
I want to conclude by giving you an opportunity to be a receiver by accepting the greatest Christmas gift of all time. His name is Jesus. He’s whispering your name and knocking at the door of your life. Will you let Him in? Will you receive Him? The Bible says that if you don’t receive Him, you’ve actually rejected Him.
[from excellent message by Brian Bill]
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