December 24, 2017 Morning Worship Luke 1 and 2
“Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See; Hail the Incarnate Deity!”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Last summer we had an opportunity here to witness a partial solar eclipse, and for some who traveled to North Carolina or Tennessee, a total solar eclipse. But we were all warned that if we wanted to observe this phenomena, we had to wear special protective glasses… otherwise we could suffer permanent damage to our eyes. Why? Because even in an eclipse, the sun is so brilliant and powerful that even a bit of its rays can damage our eyes.
In the same way, when we come to Scriptures such as Luke chapters one and two, there is so much supernatural brilliance going on, so much powerful moving of God the Holy Spirit and the angels and heavenly hosts, that you may feel your need of shielding yourself from the overwhelming glory of God, like wearing those protective glasses during the eclipse.
Yet the amazing truth here is that even as God appears on earth – in all His glory and majesty –we can behold Him, because as the hymn writer put it so well: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity!” Let’s see what that means, as we quickly survey the appearance of God the Son’s glory in Luke 1-2, with five brief observations:
- God’s Glory is Heard in the Announcing of the Good News
First, we see the angel Gabriel – who stands in the presence of God (1:19) – appearing to Zechariah and then to Mary, announcing dramatic, life-changing and earth-moving messages of the Good News of God’s salvation! God’s Word had not been heard through any prophet for 400 years, but now God is speaking through the angel who stands in His presence. And who does Gabriel speak this Great News to? First to an elderly priest, who with his wife shares the shame of being unable to bear children, and then to a young woman who is engaged to be married, but remains a virgin… and the news is not just that the elderly wife and the virgin teen will both have babies – through God’s supernatural power, but that each son to be born will usher in God’s glorious redemption of sinners! Think of times when you could not contain yourself because you had such good news, and you just had to share it: a pregnancy, a birth, an engagement, the news that your cancer is in remission, or that a loved one has come to know Jesus. You just had to announce that good news, right? How much more with this Great News of Jesus Christ!
- God’s Glory is Realized in the Fulfilling of the Ancient Promises
Second, in the various responses given by Mary (1:46-55), by Zechariah (1:68-79), and later by Simeon (2:29-32), we realize that all the promises of God given to Abraham, Moses, David, and to God’s people are all about to be fulfilled through what God is doing right now! These long-held expectations and desires were now to be satisfied! God had promised Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the earth though His descendant – and now He was sending His Son to be a Light for revelation to the Gentiles (2:32a). God had promised David that one of His sons would sit upon God’s throne forever – and now Gabriel proclaims that Mary’s son would be given the throne of his father David, and that he would reign over the house of Jacob forever! (1:32-33)
And how is God fulfilling these ancient promises? God is bringing all this to pass by sending angels and heavenly hosts; by sovereignly using the “lot” for Zechariah to be in the temple (1:9); by using governmental decrees to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (2:1-4); and by working through Joseph and Mary’s obedience to the laws of Moses, to put them in the temple so that God’s promises to Simeon and Anna would be fulfilled (2:22-39).
And as God is sovereignly working to fulfill His ancient promises, it is like the part in that C. S. Lewis book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when the land of Narnia has been frozen in winter for a long, long time, but now the ice starts melting and signs of spring appear, which can only mean one thing: Aslan, the great lion, is on the move!
- God Glory is Experienced in the Pouring Out of the Supernatural
Third, we read here of all sorts of miracles and supernatural things occurring. The first thing we notice is that many people are being filled with the Holy Spirit of God! Now although the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, is active in the Old Testament, we don’t see Him showing up on the front stage of God’s activities very much. He’s more in the background. But here in Luke chapters 1 and 2, God the Holy Spirit is working overtime! He “fills” John (from birth! 1:15), Mary (1:35 – a Virgin birth! God overshadows her and causes her to become supernaturally pregnant), then Elizabeth (1:41), then Zechariah (1:67 – causing him who had been deaf and mute to now prophesy!); and finally the old man Simeon (2:25- causing him to prophesy about Jesus, including his sufferings.). Think about it: for four centuries, God had appeared to be silent, and inactive, No prophets. No Miracles. No action. Nothing. And now, all of a sudden, there is this explosion of Holy Spirit activity! There’s this outburst of God’s power being demonstrated! There’s a Niagara Fall outpouring of God’s amazing deeds, as He moves among all these different people…. all signifying that this is the high point of God’s redemptive actions on earth. Nothing like this would ever be seen again: not at Mohammad’s birth; not at any birth… for this was the “Big Bang” of God’s salvation! This is God’s glory breaking through to us, in human flesh!
- God’s Glory is Written Down in the Researching and Recording of this Good News
Fourth, although there is explosion of God working among the people, as you read Luke’s prologue in 1:1-4, you get the sense of a very orderly and researched approach to how this was investigated and then written down. Luke is a doctor and an historian, and he tells us that he has written for Theophilus, and for each of us, a carefully-investigated, well-researched, orderly account of the story of God’s Son becoming a man, all based on eyewitness accounts. Why did he go to all this trouble? So that you and I could know the certainty, and reliability, the trustworthiness of all he has written; so that we could put our faith and confidence in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior, of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God who came to earth to bring glory to God the Father and to free us from the guilt, shame, and penalty of our sins against Him! My friends, the story of Christmas is not a winter fairytale; it is the true story of God becoming a man so that we could become like God. If you remain skeptical, I commend to you the book and/or the movie, The Case for Christ, the story of investigative reporter Lee Strobel, and how the evidence for Christ led him to finally say, “You win, God!” How wise and wonderful of the Lord to give us this authoritative and inspired written record of His supernatural workings in the glory of Jesus His Son!
- God’s Glory is Worshiped in the Beholding and Praising of God Incarnate
The fifth, last, and greatest aspect of this Christmas story is the high praise and glory given to God the Son, Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, Son of David and King of Israel, Savior of the world, and Light to those living in darkness! This evening I want us to stand in awe of the fantastic, wonderful Great News of God’s Son becoming a person. But this morning I want us to put on our “sunglasses” and behold the brilliance, the radiance, and the magnificence of God’s Son, as He is revealed to us in His appearance on earth! For He is the Lord (1:17); He is Jesus, our Savior (1:31); He the Son of the Most High who will be given the throne of his father David, as he reigns over the house of Jacob forever (1:32-33). He is the Holy One who is the Son of God (1:35). He is our Redeemer, the horn of our salvation (1:68-69); He is the one who in God’s tender mercy will provide for the forgiveness of our sins and guide our feet into the path of peace (1:77-79); He is the One in whom can we behold God, veiled in flesh, as the incarnate deity! He is the one who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord (2:11); He is the one about whom the heavenly choir sings “Glory to God in the highest” (2:14); He is the consolation of Israel; the nation’s great light and Israel’s true glory (2:25, 32); He is the one who will be rejected by many, even though he is the Redeemer of Jerusalem (2:34-35, 38). He is the one who astonished the learned scholars in the temple as a boy, and who knew at a young age that doing His Heavenly Father’s business was His highest priority (2:47-49).
Wow! Has there ever been anyone like Jesus Christ the Lord?
But what does all of that mean? At the very least, it means that you and I should not settle for a shrimpy Christmas! It means that you and I should not settle for a celebration of Christ’s birth that focuses on “dreaming of a white Christmas” or “having yourself a merry little Christmas!” Rather, it means that you and I should be so blown away by what God did in sending His own Son to earth – as a baby no less – that worship and adoration are the joyous theme of the day and the season. It means that far above all the gift-giving, far above all the Christmas cards, family dinners, Christmas lights and trees, we need to see the glory of God’s Son, and fall down and worship Him. Amen?
When I was a young boy, whenever I went outside in the snow on a bright day, my eyes would tear up. The bright sunshine reflecting on the white snow was too much for my eyes to take in, so I would need to wear sunglasses and have some medicine put in my eyes with an eye-dropper.
Let me ask you: When was the last time your eyes teared up – in amazement and joy – as you took in the brilliance and glory of God the Son becoming a man, to be our Savior?
Take your sandals off, for this is Holy Ground! (Ex. 3:5)
Put on your “spiritual sunglasses”, for here is the light of the world; here is the true light that gives light to every person… and He has come into the world (John 1:4-9)
Now what I am about to say may seem very incongruous with a message about Christmas, but I have been reading a book about marital infidelity by Esther Perel entitled “The State of Affairs. Ms. Perel is a counselor specializing in helping those marriages who have suffered infidelities. She comments that we have high expectations for marriage today. On one hand we want out spouse to provide stability, reliability, familiarity, and to be an anchor for us. On the other hand we want out marriage to give us novelty, awe, excitement, and wonder. When I read that I though “Those desires can only be ultimately filled in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ! For He alone is the anchor of our souls, the One who is familiar as our elder Brother and sympathetic High Priest. Yet at the same time, He alone is the One who fills us with awe and amazement, even as we contemplate the mystery of the incarnation! He is the sun in the sky who brings us light and warmth, and He is the brilliant and radiant Sun whose glory we cannot look at with our sinful eyes!
So I invite you to join with Mary in proclaiming “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (1:46-47)
Join with Zechariah in declaring “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to redeem His people.” (1:68)
Join with the multitude of the heavenly host announcing “Glory to God in the highest!”
Join with the shepherds who glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen (2:20)
Join with the hymn writer in singing “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the Incarnate Deity!”
O come let us adore Him! Don’t settle for a shrimpy Christmas! This year, behold the glory of God in the person of His Son; fall down and worship Him!