Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!
1. That God chooses for his instruments the humble rather than the high. Our human notions would have pointed to the most illustrious in the ]and for such a communication as this. But God chose the lowly shepherd, the man of no account in the estimate of the world. So did he act in the beginning of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). And so has he acted ever since, choosing often for the agents of his power and grace those whom man would have passed by as unworthy of his choice.
2. That God grants his Divine favor to those who are conscientiously serving him in their own proper sphere. Not to the idle dreamer, not to the man who will do nothing because he cannot do everything of which he thinks himself capable, but to him who does his best in the position in which God's providence has placed him, will God come in gracious manifestation; and it is he whom he will select to render important service in his cause. But the main thoughts of this passage are these -
I. WELCOME TIDINGS FROM THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. "They were sore afraid." "Fear not... I bring you good tidings." Why have men always been so sore afraid in the presence of the supernatural? Why have they feared to receive communications from heaven? Something much more than a popular belief (see Judges 13:22)is required to account for so universal a sentiment. It is surely that sinful men are profoundly conscious of ill desert, and fear that any message that comes from God, the Holy One, will be a message of condemnation and punishment. What would be the expectation with which a camp of rebellious subjects, who had taken up arms against their sovereign, would receive a messenger from the court of the king? Had that guilty age known that God was about to announce "a new departure" in his government of the world, what ample, what overwhelming reason would it have had to apprehend a message of Divine wrath and retribution! How welcome, then, the words, "Fear not... I bring you good tidings"! Of what depth of Divine patience, of what boundless breadths of Divine compassion, do these simple words assure us!
II. TIDINGS OF SURPASSING VALUE. Tidings "of great joy." The birth of the Babe in Bethlehem "that day" - what did it mean? It meant:
1. Deliverance from a deadly evil. To these shepherds, if they were patriotic children of Abraham, the promise of a Savior would mean deliverance from the national degradation into which Israel had sunk - a spiritual as well as a political demoralization. To them, if they were earnest religious inquirers, it meant deliverance from the bondage and penalty of sin. This is the significance which the word has to us: in that day was born into the world a Savior, a Divine Redeemer, One who should save the souls of men from that which is the one curse of our humanity - sin.
2. The fulfillment of a great hope. To those who then learnt that "the Christ" was born, it meant that the long-cherished hope of their nation was fulfilled, and that whatever the Messiah was to bring about was at length to be accomplished. A great national expectation has passed, with us, into a glorious hope for the human race - the hope that under Christ this poor sin-stricken world will rise from its ignorance, its superstition, its godlessness, its vice, and its crime, and walk in newness of life, in the love and the likeness of its heavenly Father.
3. Restoration to our true position. That Savior is "Christ the Lord." We who have sought to rule ourselves and to be the masters of our own lives, and who have suffered so much in so many ways by this guilty dethronement and usurpation, are now to find our true rest and joy by submitting ourselves to him who is "the Lord" of all hearts and lives; in his service is abiding peace and "great joy."
III. TIDINGS OF GENERAL AND OF PARTICULAR APPLICATION. These glad tidings are for "all the people," and they were for those startled and wondering shepherds. "To you is born." As we hear the angel's words, we know that they are for all the wide world, and, whoever we may be, for us. - C.
For unto you is born this day.
I. REVERENCE. In thinking of Christ's birthday, we are between two dangers. It may have become a mere name and word to us, conventionally accepted and repeated, but conveying no really living meaning; or it may have come with such fulness of meaning as to overwhelm and confound our thoughts, making us ask, "How can such things be?" Let us remember that "God is Love;" and that the mystery of the incarnation is the manifestation of that infinite Love. Let us try to take a true measure of the unspeakable majesty and living goodness with which we have to deal.
II. PURITY. The Incarnation was the mind and atmosphere of heaven, coming with all the height of their sanctities into human flesh — a spectacle to make us stop and be thoughtful, and consider our own experience of life and society. Let us pass from things which fashion and custom do not mind, but which do lower the tone and health of soul and character, which often tempt and corrupt it; let us turn away our eyes from what, however captivating and charming, is dangerous to know and look at, to the little child and His mother, and learn there the lesson of strength, of manliness — for purity means manliness — of abhorrence of evil.
III. HUMILITY. The human mind cannot conceive any surrender of place and claims, any willing lowliness and self-forgetfulness, any acceptance of the profoundest abasement, comparable to that which is before us in the birth, and the circumstances of the birth, of Jesus Christ. The measure of it is the measure of the distance between the Creator and the creature, and the creature in the most unregarded, most uncared-for condition, helpless, unknown, of no account for the moment among the millions of men whom He had made, and whose pride, and loftiness, and ambition filled His own world. There He was for the time, the youngest, weakest, poorest of them all; and He came thus, to show what God thinks of human pride, ambition, loftiness. He came thus, to show how God despises the untruth of self-esteem, the untruth of flattery, and to teach how little the outward shows of our present condition answer to that which, in reality and truth, it is worth while for a living soul, an immortal being, to be.
IV. THE LESSON OF NOT PUTTING OUR TRUST IN THE ARM OF FLESH. Contrast the birthday of Christ with the purpose of His coming — to reform, conquer, and restore the world. Of all that mighty order which was to be, of all that overwhelming task and work before Him, here were the first steps, in the lowest paths of human life! He it was to whom was committed this great work of God. Not in the way which men understood or anticipated, not by forces and measures suggested by their experience, but in the exact way of God's perfect holiness and righteousness. He began and finished the work which the Father gave Him to do. In the utter unlikelihood of His success, there is a lesson for us. In doing His work, and in doing our own work, we are often sorely tempted to depart from His footsteps. In doing His work, in maintaining His cause, in fighting for His kingdom, it has always been too common for man to think, that all the same means are available which are used in human enterprises, that success depended on the same conditions, that it was impossible without employing weapons which were not like His. They have trusted to energy, strength, sagacity; they have distrusted the power of single-hearted obedience, prayer, patience, faith, self-sacrifice, goodness; they have thought it weak to be over-scrupulous; they have forgotten how far beyond the reach and touch of human power are the fortunes of the kingdom of the Most Holy. And so in doing our own work, it is hard for us all not to do the opposite to what our Master did; hard not to trust to the arm and the ways of flesh, instead of trusting with our eyes shut the path of duty, truth, obedience. The trader has before him the way of unflinching honesty, or the way in which custom and opinion allow him to take advantage and make shorter cuts to profit and increased business; which path will he take? Will he have faith in principle, and perhaps wait, perhaps lose; or will he do as others do, and, highly respecting principle, yet forget it at the critical moment? The young man entering into life wishes to get on. Will he trust to what he is, to his determination to do right, to straightforwardness and simplicity, to God's blessing, or what God has blessed and promised to bless, or will he push his fortunes by readiness to appear what he is not, by selfishness, by man-pleasing, by crooked paths and questionable compliances? The boy has to do his lessons and satisfy his teachers. Will he be content to appear no cleverer than he is, to be conscientious, diligent, faithful, dutiful, whatever comes of it; or will he be tempted to save himself labour and trouble by shorter and easier ways which many will tell him of, and gain credit for what he has no right to? Here, to warn us, to teach us, to comfort us, in all our varied conditions and employments, we have the beginning of Christ's conquest of the world. The footsteps of His great progress begin from the cradle of the nativity.
V. GLADNESS AND JOY. Sometimes we feel hardly in tune for the rejoicing of Christmas. It contrasts sharply with the bitterness of a recent bereavement, the sorrowful watch round a hopeless sick bed. Or it may be, while we are saluting our Lord's coming with hymns and carols of childlike exultation, and repeating the angelic welcome to the Prince of Peace, that by a terrible irony, the heavens around us are black with storm and danger: that great nations are involved in the horrible death-struggle of war; that day by day men are perishing by every form of carnage, and suffering every form of pain; and that by each other's hands. We almost ask, in such a case, whether it is not mockery to think of gladness. Yet it is in place even then; and Christmas claims it from us. Those great gospel songs which heralded the Incarnation of the Son of God — the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Song of the angels — were themselves but the prelude to the life of the "Man of Sorrows." They are followed immediately by Rachel weeping for her children at Bethlehem, and the flight from the sword of Herod. But yet in those dreadful days on earth, of blood and pain and triumphant iniquity, there was peace in heaven and the joy of the angels; for amid the cloud and storm of the conflict which men could not see through, the angels knew who was conquering. He is conquering, and to conquer still. All falsehood, cruelty, selfishness, oppression, and tyranny, are to fall before Him. Amid the darkness of our life, the hope of man is still on Him, as fixed and sure as ever it was. He will not disappoint man of his hope.
(Dean Church.)I. How SURE IS GOD'S WORD!
II. How WONDERFUL ARE GOD'S WAYS!
III. How GLORIOUS IS GOD'S SALVATION!
(W. S. Bruce, M. A.)I. THE FIRST COMING WAS IN WEAKNESS, the glory hidden; the second will be in power, the glory revealed.
II. THE FIRST CONING WAS INTRODUCTIVE TO AN EXPERIENCE OF LABOUR AND SUFFERING; the second will be the inauguration of coronation and triumph.
III. IN FIRST COMING CHRIST MADE SALVATION POSSIBLE; in second He will prove how His work has sped.
IV. IN FIRST COMING HE INVITED MEN TO RECONCILIATION AND PEACE; in second He shall descend to bless the believing, but judge the impenitent. Lessons: As we are sure concerning the record of the first advent, let us also be as to the prediction of the second. Have we used the first so as to be prepared for this?
(G. McMichael, B. A.)I.
1. Consider the revelation thus delivered by the angel — "Unto you is born a Saviour." Jesus is horn a Saviour; we do not make Him a Saviour; we have to accept Him as such. Neither does salvation come from us or by us, but it is born to us.
2. Consider the outward sign by which the Saviour was to be known — "A babe lying in a manger!" Children are the saviours of society: the human race renewing itself perpetually in the freshness and innocence of childhood is prevented from becoming utterly corrupt. This is just the lesson the world needed. Philosophy, art, law, force, all had tried to raise mankind out of sin, and all had failed. In the fulness of time "unto us a Child is born," and in the weakness of that Childhood, the human race is renewed, its flesh comes again "as the flesh of a little child."
1. What a message from heaven to a world weary of life and sick with sin — "Unto you is born a Saviour!"
2. What a message to those who are trusting in the pride of intellect, or in the pride of wealth, or in the pride of earthly position, or in the pride of character — "This shall be the sign: a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!" The signs which betoken the presence of the Eternal are not always such as commend themselves to men's reasoning, for we are living among shadows which are not realities, although we mistake them for such.
(Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)
I. When we say that God is actuated by a principle of good-will to you, it sounds in your ears a very simple proposition. There is a barrier in these evil hearts of unbelief, against the admission of a filial confidence in God. We see no mildness in the aspect of the Deity. Our guilty fears suggest the apprehension of a stern and vindictive character. It is not in the power of argument to do away this impression. We know that they will not be made to see God, in that aspect of graciousness which belongs to Him, till the power of a special revelation be made to rest upon them — till God Himself, who created light out of darkness, shine in their hearts. But knowing also that He makes use of the Word as His instrument, it is our part to lay the assurances of that Word, in all their truth and in all their tenderness, before you.
II. We now proceed, in the second place, to the object of the gospel message — men — a message of good-will to men. The announcement which was heard from the canopy of heaven was not good-will to certain men to the exclusion of others. It is not an offer made to some, and kept back from the rest of the species. It is generally to man. We know well the scruples of the disconsolate; and with what success a perverse melancholy can devise and multiply its arguments for despair. But we will admit of none of them. We look at our text, and find that it recognizes no outcast. Tell us not of the malignity of your disease — it is the disease of a man. Tell us not of your being so grievous an offender that you are the very chief of them. Still you are a man. The offer of God's good-will is through Christ Jesus unto all and upon all them that believe. We want to whisper peace to your souls; but you refuse the voice of the charmer, let him charm never so wisely. And here the question occurs to us — how does the declaration of God's good-will in the text consist with the entire and everlasting destruction of so many of the species? In point of fact, all men are not saved. We hold out a gift to two people, which one of them may take and the other may refuse. The good-will in me which prompted the offer was the same in reference to both. God in this sense willeth that all men shall be saved. There is no limitation with Him; and be not you limited by your own narrow and fearful and superstitious conceptions of Him.
III. But this leads us, in the last place, to press home the lesson of the text on you who are now sitting and listening around us. God, in the act of ushering the gospel into the world, declares good-will to man. He declares it therefore to you. Now, you are liable to the same fears with these shepherds. You are guilty; and to you belong all the weakness and all the timidity of guilt.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)Saviour, every heart exults with a delight otherwise unknown. To the generous breast, no other object is so beautiful, no other sound so welcome. Never do we shed such rapturous tears, or feel so passionate a joy, as when we witness the heroism and the self-devotion of some act of magnanimous deliverance. Power softens into loveliness, when thus exerted. Danger and toil, encountered in such a cause, impart a stern, yet irresistible attraction. It is thus we think of the patriot, bleeding for the freedom of his country; of the philanthropist, regardless of his own security amidst pestilence, and darkness, and the ministers of death, that he may release the wretched captive, and break the yoke of the oppressor; of the advocate, defending the house of the widow or the heritage of the orphan, and turning into mockery the venality of accusation, and the menaces of vengeance; of the statesman, who stands forth single-handed, but with a dauntless heart, to turn back the flood of tyranny or faction, when threatening to engulf in common ruin the welfare of his people and the safety of mankind; and of the pilot, adventurously urging his way through the pitiless and maddening surge, that he may snatch some solitary victim from the horrors of shipwreck, and bear him, naked and shivering, to the shore. What, then, shall be the glory of Him who plunged, with all the consciousness of unsheltered peril, into the very depths of misery, to rescue the perishing soul! Or what shall be the measure, either of our admiration or our gratitude, when we celebrate, beholding its last triumphs, the emancipation of a world! Advocate, Friend, Brother, these are beloved names; and, like a grateful odour, they give life to the drooping spirit; but if the name of Saviour be more endearing than them all, then what is that ravishment of love with which the rescued sinner shall hail at length the blessed name of Jesus!
(Charles Stanford, D. D.)I. A Saviour is BORN.
II. A SAVIOUR is born.
III. A Saviour is born unto you.
IV. THIS DAY.
(Bp. Lancelot Andrews.)the Christos, the Anointed, one representing to him some person who had been publicly set apart to some great office among men. Anointing was that act by which, especially among the Jews, a man was set apart to some Divinely appointed office among the people; the prophet who was to speak to the people from God, the priest who was to minister to the people in holy things for God, the king who was to rule in God's glory over God's own people, were solemnly set apart by anointing to their office. What they would have called anointing we now call consecration — the publicly and divinely ordered sanctioning and setting apart of a man for an office in which he is to minister unto men and for God. This is anointing, and more than this, it implies that with the appointment and consecration came a power and a grace to fit a man for the office he received. When our Lord, then, is called the Anointed One, the Christ, it means that He is the One of all humanity, who is divinely consecrated and set apart to noble office and high service, and whose whole life and being is filled with the Divine light necessary for doing the work of that office — the Anointed, consecrated One, in whom all consecration and Divine unction centres for the performance of all offices. And every one of these offices, observe, was in the service of mankind. The prophetic office was His, and He claims it as His own when He says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He hath anointed Me" — what for? "to preach the gospel to the poor." The prophet's office was an office to serve mankind as their teacher, their guide, and their counsellor. The priestly office was His, and for what? That He might offer Himself as a Lamb without spot or blemish to God, and, having entered by a new and living way with His own blood, should live for intercession and sacrifice, coming forth with blessings for God's people. God made Him king over them, and gave Him heaven for an inheritance — for what? That He might rule them in righteousness and peace. Prophet, Priest, King: in each one of these He was the servant of mankind, and so He says of Himself, "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." King of kings and Lord of lords He is, but Servant of servants to His brethren, and the lordship and the kingdom that He won was won by faith and suffering, won by faithful service, and He served that He might reign, and through it all He was sustained by the in. dwelling power of the Spirit of God, who gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him. This is the idea of the Christ, the consecrated One. It means One whose whole life on earth, whose whole life ever since He has left this earth, was devoted, is devoted, to the service of mankind.
(Bishop W. C. Magee.)
(Bishop W. C. Magee.)
(H. C. Trumbull.)— He is the most joyful man who is the most Christly man. I wish that some Christians were more truly Christians: they are Christians and something else; it were much better if they were altogether Christians. Perhaps you know the legend, or perhaps true history of the awakening of St. . He dreamed that he died, and went to the gates of heaven, and the keeper of the gates said to him, "Who are you?" And he answered, "Christianus sum," I am a Christian. But the porter replied, "No, you are not a Christian, you are a Ciceronian, for your thoughts and studies were most of all directed to the works of Cicero and the classics, and you neglected the teaching of Jesus. We judge men here by that which most engrossed their thoughts, and you are judged not to be a Christian but a Ciceronian." When Augustine awoke, he put aside the classics which he had studied, and the eloquence at which he had aimed, and he said, "I will be a Christian and a theologian;" and from that time he devoted his thoughts to the Word of God, and his pen and his tongue to the instruction of others in the truth. Oh I would not have it said of any of you, "Well, he may be somewhat Christian, but he is far more a keen money-getting tradesman." I would not have it said, "Well, he may be a believer in Christ, but he is a good deal more a politician." Perhaps he is a Christian, but he is most at home when he is talking about science, farming, engineering, horses, mining, navigation, or pleasure-taking. No, no, you will never know the fulness of the joy which Jesus brings to the soul, unless under the power of the Holy Spirit you take the Lord your Master to be your All in all, and make Him the fountain of your intensest delight. "He is my Saviour, my Christ, my Lord," be this your loudest boast. Then will you know the joy which the angel's song predicts for men.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Bishop Hacker.)— But that the name may not be an empty sound to us as it was to them, consider these three things.
1. With what honour it was imposed.
2. What excellency it includes.
3. What reverence it deserves.
(Bishop Hacker.)His words, His actions, His miracles, His prayers, His sacraments, His sufferings, all did smell of the Saviour. Take Him from His infancy to His death, among His disciples and among the publicans, among the Jews, or among the Gentiles, He was all Saviour.
(Bishop Hacker.)The sun enlightens half the world at once, yet none discern colours by the light but they that open their eyes; and a Saviour is born unto us all, which is Christ the Lord: but enclasp Him in thine heart as old Simeon did in his arms, and then thou mayest sing his "Nune Dimittis," or Mary's "Magnificat," "My spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.
(Bishop Hacker.)— The Athenians were proud of Pompey's love, that he would write his name a citizen of their city. For a princely person to accept a freedom in a mean corporation is no little kindness; how much more doth it aggravate the love of Christ to come from heaven, and be made a citizen of this vile earth, to be born after a more vile condition than the most abject of the people.
1. Then with reverend lips and circumcised ears let us begin with the joyful tidings of a Saviour.
2. Here's our participation of Him in His nature, natus, He is born, and made like unto us.
3. It is honourable to be made like us, but it is beneficial to be made for us; "unto you is born a Saviour."
4. Is not the use of His birth superannuated, the virtue of it long since expired? No, 'tis fresh and new; as a man is most active when he begins first to run — He is born this day.
5. Is He not like the king in the Gospel who journeyed into a far country, extra orbem solisque vias, quite out of the way in another world? no — the circumstance of place points His dwelling to be near — He is "born in the city of David.
6. Perhaps to make Him man is to quite unmake Him; shall we find Him able to subdue our enemies, and save us, since He hath taken upon Him the condition of human fragility? Yes, the last words speak His excellency and power, for He is such a "Saviour as is Christ the Lord."
I. WHAT IS HE WHO IS BORN? He is "a Saviour," a Deliverer. Good indeed are the tidings of a saviour. Delightful to one languishing On a bed of pain and sickness is He that comes with power and skill to heal and to restore. Most joyful to the wretch condemned to die for his crimes, is the sound of pardon.
II. WHAT ARE THE TITLES GIVEN TO THIS SAVIOUR?
1. He is "Christ." As His name, Jesus, signifies a saviour, so Christ signifies the anointed. He is an anointed Saviour. Thus is He distinguished from all other saviours. The title "Christ" also teaches us His office.
2. He is "the Lord." High and glorious name I He is Jehovah. He is "Lord" by right of creation, in His Divine and eternal nature. He is "Lord" by right of inheritance; man, as Mediator between God and man. He is more particularly our "Lord" by redemption. These names, then, "Christ, the Lord," show Him, an all-sufficient Saviour; show Him, God and man united in one Person: as man to suffer, as God to redeem.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)
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