The Fifth Week of Advent: The Candle of Jesus
Today, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we give thanks to God for His mercy and grace for sending His Son into this world. And so, we have lit the final candle of Advent: The Candle of Jesus. On this holy day, as we recall the Nativity Story, we need to take note that the narrative provides us more that the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ birth. God brought about Jesus’ birth in such a way that each part of the story tells us something about the nature of Christ and the very special significance of His coming to this earth. So let’s explore some of ways in which the Bible describes the birth of Jesus in a manner that teaches us great biblical truths.
First, we have the angels’ visits to Mary and Joseph. Luke’s Gospel tells us that: 26 “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.” Luke 1:26-27 (NIV) Gabriel had some amazing news for Mary: She was going to have a child and His name would be Jesus. But, He wouldn’t be just any child, for the angel went on to explain: 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 the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33 (NIV) Since Mary was a virgin, this was difficult for her to understand. And when she asked how this could be, Gabriel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. . . 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary didn’t miss a beat and immediately replied: 38 “I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:37-38 (NIV)
In Matthew’s Gospel, it tells us that an angel also visited Joseph when he had become troubled over hearing that his wife-to-be was pregnant. The angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him: 20 “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.” Then the angel repeated the necessity of Jesus being born of a virgin. The angel explained: 22 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘THE VIRGIN WILL BE WITH CHILD and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, ‘GOD WITH US.’” Matthew 1:20-23 (NIV)
You see, both passages regarding the angels’ visits with Mary and with Joseph prominently mention what theologians refer to as the Virgin Birth. So, why is the Virgin Birth so important? The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth tells us that Jesus is the only One who is both 100% human and 100% divine at the same time. It is a miraculous mystery, but one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. Why is that the case?
Well, this was absolutely necessary in order for Jesus to accomplish His purpose in coming into this world. As the angel said to Joseph, Jesus came to “save His people from their sins.” How would Jesus do that? He did it by offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins when He died on the Cross. But a mere human could not have done that. A mere human could not have borne all the sins of the world from the time of Adam right on through the death of the last human being. Only God could bear such a crushing load of sin! Thus, it was crucial that Jesus was born as the divine Son of God.
Why then is it important that Jesus also be born in the normal way through the delivery of a human mother? Well, God is eternal. And being so, God is not subject to death. Only a human could die on that Cross. So you see, the Virgin Birth was a necessity. Christ had to be born of a human mother, (Mary) to in order to be susceptible to death. Otherwise, He could not have died on the Cross to pay the just price for our sins. On the other hand, it was necessary for Him to have the Holy Spirit as His true father in order to have the divine capacity to accept the punishment for our sins on the Cross. Only the Virgin Birth made all of this possible!
Let’s consider another part of the Nativity Story that teaches us a vital lesson. In this regard, what is the significance of the comment in Luke 2:4 that states: “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David?” (NIV) Well, it’s important for two reasons. First, it tells us that, even though Joseph cannot be considered the biological father of Jesus, he is to be honored and identified as His earthly stepfather. Joseph, we are told, was a good and righteous man who could trace his ancestry to the “line of David.” As it turns out, Mary could also trace her ancestry to David as well. Thus, the lineage of both Mary (the biological mother of Jesus) and Joseph (His adoptive earthly father) fulfilled the prophecies that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and of the tribe of Judah.
The other reason that this verse is important is that it tells us Jesus would be considered as coming from the Town of Nazareth—i.e., it was the place where he was raised by Mary and Joseph. You will recall that when King Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph took the child and fled to Egypt. News came to Joseph in a dream that Herod had died, but that his evil son, Archelaus, had taken his place. With this being the case, Joseph was afraid to head back to anywhere near Bethlehem. Matthew’s Gospel tells us where Joseph headed with Mary and Jesus accompanying him: 22 “He withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a Town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:22-23 (NIV) But of all places on earth, why would God so arrange things as to have Jesus being raised in Nazareth? If you came from Nazareth, you had two strikes against you. First, Nazareth was in the district of Galilee. The people in and around Jerusalem detested the Jews from Galilee. Jews from Galilee were deemed to be “unkosher” because they simply had too many contacts with Gentiles. Secondly, it was even worse if you happened to be from the Town of Nazareth. Nazareth had a terrible reputation, for as one disciple asked before coming to know Jesus: “Can anything good come from Nazareth.” So what is the significance of this? Well, God was sending a message to people everywhere. And the message was this: It doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you come from; Jesus is there for you. He can relate to you no matter who you are, where you come from, or what your personal background may be. When the writer of the Book of Hebrews stated that Jesus was made like us in every way, the fact that He hailed from Nazareth was certainly in mind. You don’t have to come from royalty. Your family pedigree doesn’t matter to Jesus. Your daddy doesn’t have to have a big bank account. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. from some major university. Whatever your background may be, you can come to Jesus. All you have to do is repent of your sins and commit yourself to following Him. You can put your past (whatever it may be) in the past, and make Jesus your future!
Along the same lines, that is why Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. You might think your background is just not up to snuff to be a follower of Christ. But that can never be the case. Why?— because Jesus’ background was as humble as it could possibly get. After all, I doubt that your background includes a world debut of being born among the animals in a barn or having a cattle trough as your cradle!
Now, let’s briefly consider why God chose not to send his angels to announce His Son’s birth to the powerful King Herod and his wealthy, highly educated court advisers. Consistent with what we just covered regarding the stable in Bethlehem and the town of Nazareth, God doesn’t show favoritism based on one’s high social, economic or political status. That’s the message of the Old Testament and the New Testament as well. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 10 proclaims: “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.” Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT2) And in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul confirms this, saying: “God does not show favoritism.” Romans 2:11 (NLT2) So what was it about those shepherds tending their flocks at night that caused God to bless them to be the first ones to hear the angels proclaim Christ’s birth? It’s all a matter of the heart. About 30 years after the shepherds visited Him in the Bethlehem stable, Jesus gave the answer as to why God the Father chose them. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NKJV) Apparently, the shepherds’ hearts were both pure and responsive. So, God sent the angels to those with open hearts—to those who were willing to respond. In all of Israel, the shepherds were the ones who ran to the Light of the stable. King Herod and the rest of Jerusalem did the exact opposite. So many of those who were supposed to be God’s people chose to remain in their darkness. Why? The Apostle John gave us the explanation. It’s the same one that bears true today. John tells us: 5 “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” John 1:5, 9-12 (NASB) John later summed up the reason those who reject Jesus as their Savior will be judged like this: 19 “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s Light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the Light, for their actions were evil.” John 3:19 (NLT2) That very same reason holds true today.
When considering God’s messages to us through the way the birth of Jesus played out, we might also consider the Magi—better known as the “Wise Men.” What did their coming to Jesus foreshadow regarding the world’s acceptance of His Word? Well, consider this: The Jews who were supposed to know and love God, ended up rejecting and killing Him. But who were these Wise Men who came and worshipped Christ? They were Gentiles—the very ones you might have expected to be the least likely to come to visit Him and pay Him homage. In American today, is this same history repeating itself? Are those who are supposed to know Christ—even in many churches—now rejecting Him and His Word? And like the Wise Men of old, are those from afar away lands now the ones who are remaining true to the faith? Those Christians in Africa, China, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia who are persecuted daily—are they now the new “Magi”? Are they the new Wise Men and Wise Women who are remaining true to the faith, while we see whole denominations in this country splitting over such issues as abortion and the LGBT agenda? Hopefully, Christians in America (and unbelievers as well) will awaken to the Light of Christ as provided in God’s Word and come out of the darkness in which so many now linger. But, they’d better do it soon!
Finally, I want you to consider a part of the Christmas Story that we rarely talk about. But, it’s a crucial portion of the Nativity narrative nonetheless. It’s the part about an old man named Simeon and an old woman named Anna. In Luke’s Gospel, we are told that Simeon was a righteous and devout man who lived in Jerusalem. All his life he longed for the Messiah to come. One day, out of the blue, the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to visit the Temple. When he arrived there, low and behold, there were Mary and Joseph presenting the Baby Jesus for the priest’s blessing. Simeon walked right up to them and, to Mary and Joseph’s surprise, this is what happened: 28 “[Simeon] took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of your people Israel!’” 33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, ‘This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.’” Luke 2:28-35 (NLT2) Mary realized what those last words of Simeon meant when, about 33 years later, she stood at the foot of the Cross and that emotional sword found its way deeply into her heart as she watched Jesus slowly die.
But Simeon wasn’t the only one who took note of Baby Jesus at the Temple that day. In Luke 2, it goes on to tell us: 36 “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only 7 years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of 84. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38 (NLT2) Yes, Anna, like Simeon, had been patiently waiting for the Messiah to come. Unlike those who expected Him to come in great majesty and perhaps be born to a politically powerful Jewish family in Jerusalem, Anna was perfectly content with what she found. She was overjoyed that the Messiah had come as the child of Mary and Joseph—the two poor and powerless peasants who stood before her. Both Anna and Simeon were searching for the Messiah and felt at peace when they accepted Him exactly as He came.
And this was precisely as it should be—for the story of Simeon and Anna teaches us valuable lessons. One lesson is found in God’s words to the Prophet Jeremiah when He said: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (NASB) Simeon did this and, at long last, he found Jesus after all those many years. So, what’s the lesson here? The lesson is this: Seeking Jesus is a lifelong process—one that’s aided by the Holy Spirit. “Seek and ye shall find.” In the life of a Christian, you must never stop seeking God from the time that you accept Christ to the point of your final breath.
And what does Anna add to this? Well, it’s something equally valuable. Anna had been married to her husband for 7 years when she lost him. And when she finally found Jesus there in the Temple that day, she was 84 years old. These numbers are symbolically important. The number “7” symbolizes completeness and perfection. God created the entire universe and rested on the 7th day. (Genesis 1:1-2:4) Important Jewish festivals, like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, lasted 7 days. Jewish wedding parties continued for 7 days. The 7 churches in the Book of Revelation would come to represent all Christian churches in general. These are only a few examples of the symbolic use of the number “7” as they appear in the Bible.
The only other number in the Bible that has symbolic meaning on a level comparable to “7” is the number “12.” There were 12 tribes of Israel; there were 12 disciples of Jesus, etc. In fact, wherever you find multiples of 12, pay special attention to what is being said in the biblical text. For examples of some of these multiples of 12, consider 1st Chronicles, chapter 24, where there were 24 divisions of priests (1st Chronicles 24:4). Or, look in the Book of Revelation, where we find 24 elders surrounding God’s throne. (Revelation 4:4) In the Book of Numbers, 72 elders were apportioned God’s spirit that had been given to Moses. (Numbers 11:24-26) Again, turning to the Book of Revelation, 144,000 servants of God will be derived from the 12 tribes of Israel with 12,000 being contributed from each tribe.
Likewise, multiples of “7” had special meaning in the Scriptures. When Peter asked Jesus if it would be sufficient to forgive someone up to 7 times and then call it quits, Jesus replied that He needed to be much more generous offering forgiveness. Jesus told Peter to forgive not only 7 times, but 7 X 70 times—suggesting to Peter that his willingness to forgive should be limitless. (Matthew 18:21-22)  Yes, wherever you come across the numbers “7”, “12” or any multiples of them in God’s Word, stop and take out a highlighter and make note of it. Do that, because in most cases you will find God is trying to draw your attention to something. And that’s certainly the case with Anna as it relates to the Nativity narrative.
The number “7” is evident in her story for she was married 7 years. But what’s the significance of the reference to 84 when giving her age? Well, take those two sacred numbers of “7” and “12” and multiply them together. What do you get? If my math is correct, it’s 84! So, something especially important is being predicted here. In Anna’s story, we can see a prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled. Anna was a bride who was made complete when she became a wife. But then she became a widow and had to spend all those years apart from her deceased husband. Her faith remained, but the joy of the marriage had departed. And so she too was searching for fulfillment. But now, looking into the newly come Messiah’s eyes, Anna’s joy was restored. There is a parallel here to the Christian Church—which Anna symbolically represents. After Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into Heaven, the Church is called to remain faithful, even though the joy of Christ’s physical present is no longer with us. But just as Anna was reunited with her joy in seeing the Christ Child, so too will we, as the Church—the Bride of Christ—be redeemed and overjoyed when we see Him coming again to take His Bride unto Himself. That is a lesson that we need to remember and a time that we always look forward to.
Today is a wonderful day! It is a time for great feasts and fellowship as you gather with friends and family. It is a time for exchanging gifts. But for every gift you receive, remember these messages and lessons embedded in the Christmas Story. And as you do, remember that the Greatest Gift of All was given to us on that Christmas Day over 2,000 years ago when God gave the world the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. When you accept His Gift of Salvation, any worldly gift can never compare! Mary and Joseph believed that. The shepherds and the Wise Men came to know that. Simeon and Anna knew it. And, on this Christmas morn, you can believe it as well!
Let us pray.
Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor
Forest Hill Baptist Church
December 25, 2022
©2022 All Rights Reserved as follows:
Anyone is at liberty to use this sermon or any portions thereof for educational or religious purposes, with or without credit. The pastor believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Forest Hill Baptist Church in Louisa, Virginia. Visit our Face Book site at https://www.facebook.com/4409sspotswoodrdgordonsvilleva.
 Matthew 1:19 “Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” (NLT2) Matthew 1:19 “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (NASB)
 Isaiah 9:7 “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, ON THE THRONE OF DAVID and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (NASB)
Isaiah 16:5 “Then one of David's descendants will be king, and he will rule the people with faithfulness and love. He will be quick to do what is right, and he will see that justice is done.” (TEV)
See also: Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1: The King and His Kingdom (Matthew 1-17). Paperback ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
 Wiersbe, Warren. Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13). Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
 John 1:46 “‘Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied.” (NLT2)
 Hebrews 2:17 “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (NIV)
 Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (KJV)
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
 Revelation 19:7-9 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to Him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and His bride has prepared Herself. 8 She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9 And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’” (NLT2)