A Journey to the Manger, Pt. 2

A Journey to the Manger, Pt. 2

Study Guide, December 10, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

So, what do you have yet to do to prepare for Christmas? You say, “Really? I have all kinds of things to do to prepare for Christmas. I have cards to send, gifts to get, gifts to send, presents to wrap, people to have over, people who are having us over, along with services to attend at Church and specials to attend at school and at work and in the community…and more!” Okay, right…For a lot of people there are a lot of preparations for Christmas for sure. And we are actually blessed to be able to prepare for them and to then experience them all. You just have to have a little extra coffee to perk you up for it, right? Go Java!

But just think about all the preparations it took to get ready for the first Christmas…or think about all the preparations God made in preparing for the Incarnation of the Messiah…Savior and Redeemer for all mankind! Oh yeah…nothing compares with all the preparations that were required for the coming of the prophesied Savior of the World! In fact, we could say that another title for The Books of the Old Testament could be: ‘The Books of Preparations’. The entire Old Testament consisted of preparations for this: Gal 4:4-5- “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” NASU The NLT states it this way: “But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children.”

So not only do we rejoice that Jesus purchased our redemption with His own life and has both spiritually birthed and adopted us into His own family, but we also marvel that God chose the right time, the fullness of time, the precise time for our Savior to appear and to accomplish the work of our salvation. But to get to that time, it took a long time for all the preparations to be completed. And if we were to examine all of them, we would all have to move into this church building for the next ten years. But let’s not do that…right? Instead, let’s just explore some of these amazing preparations.

By the way, one thing we are suggesting is that you add this understanding to the way that you look at the Old Testament…that what you and I are privileged to have and to hold are the revelations of God’s preparations for the coming of the Messiah as our Incarnate Lord and Savior. These 39 Books of the Old Testament are essentially one Book: The Book of Preparations. Let’s explore…

As early as Eden, at the Fall of Man, God put the world on notice to start preparing for the coming Deliverer…the Messiah for mankind. Gen 3:15- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV This verse is often referred to as ‘The Protoevangelium’…the first Gospel, because this is the first announcement of the coming Deliverer, the coming Redeemer of mankind. For all people ever after who would seek this coming Redeemer, this announcement was a beacon of hope. To Satan and to all who would follow in his rebellion against God, this announcement was God’s declaration of war! To Eve, it was a great assurance, that not only would she have a Deliverer, but one day another woman would deliver this Redeemer into the world. And although the enemy would strike His heel…a prophecy of the Cross, this Redeemer would crush the head of the enemy. The Messiah would conquer both the Devil and Death!

By way of application, we could say that Gen. 3:15 revealed to the Devil: “Yes, you led mankind into sin…but Christmas is coming…the Conqueror is coming!” And the world, too, was put on notice, that from the days of Eden all were to watch for the day when the Deliverer would come. But there was a lot to do to prepare for His coming. And it would take a long, long time before it became ‘the fullness of time’ for God to send His Son to be born of a woman in a manger near Bethlehem. Therefore, God’s people would have to be patient.

Think about it: Lamech names his son ‘Noah’ in the hope that he will bring comfort to those living under the curse on the Earth. (Gen. 5:9) He had high hopes for his son, and rightly so, but it would be 600 years before the Ark is constructed and humanity is saved from the judgment on sinful man. Then God promises Abraham that from him a great nation will come through his own son. But for the next twenty-five years he doesn’t have a son, and he’s not getting any younger! A similar thing happened to Abraham’s son Isaac. He, too, waited for twenty years before Jacob and Esau were born.

How about, remember when Naomi thought that all hope was lost for her family line? But then a kinsman, Boaz, comes along and marries her deceased son’s wife, Ruth. Amazing story, for sure. But it gets even more amazing from there because Boaz and Ruth have a son. And when you come to the end of the book of Ruth you find this: Ruth 4:21-22- “Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David.” NLT And you know who later on was often called ‘The Son of David’…Oh yeah, the seed of the woman that was prophesied about in Gen. 3:15!

One of my favorite passages is from Matt 22:41-46 where Jesus forces the Pharisees to acknowledge the Lordship of the Messiah, even though they refused. But they did acknowledge His lineage. Notice: “Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “He is the son of David.” So, for one thing, everyone who knew about the prophecies of the coming Messiah knew that he would be born of a woman, and that He would also be born through the lineage of King David. But that’s when Jesus made them face the reality of Christmas…the Incarnation wasn’t referred to as ‘Christmas’ then, but you get what we mean. For then: “Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at My right hand until I humble Your enemies beneath Your feet.’ Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” No one could answer Him. And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.” NLT

They didn’t ask Him any more questions because they didn’t like any of His answers…or they didn’t like Jesus revealing to them the truths about that fact that He was both God and Man…the Incarnate person of God Himself!

But now, back to the waiting…from the time of King David sitting on the throne in Jerusalem it would be another one thousand years before the fulfillment of Mic 5:2- “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” NASU Bethlehem…also, House of Bread…also, City of David.

Something that goes right along with all of these preparations, all of these prophecies, is ‘waiting’. From the beginning of history God calls His people to be a people waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah, God’s Son. And even when He came Luke tells us: “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2:25-27 NLT

And then there was Anna, and Luke says this about Anna: “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38 ESV

Again, God calls us to be a ‘waiting people’. Even us New Testament believers are characterized as those who are waiting…eagerly waiting for another Advent, only this time it’s the Second Advent of our Lord and Savior. Notice: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Cor 1:4-9 ESV 1

As we have pointed out before, people around us should at some point pick up on the sense that we are ‘waiting’ for something… ‘waiting’ for Someone. Like Simeon and Anna, we are to live with an expectancy about us…watching, praying…eagerly waiting for the appearance of our God and Savior. We’re to live in our world as one waits in an airport for the arrival of someone special to us…eagerly waiting, earnestly looking for their arrival. We are to be eagerly waiting…earnestly looking for the arrival of the One who is coming back at any moment, at any time now. Jesus’ first Advent assures us of His second Advent.

And yet, while we are waiting, we are also to be ‘working’…working with God while we wait for our Messiah’s return. One of the purposes of God having His people meet together in a local church is to give opportunity for and to encourage and motivate other believers unto good works of all kinds for the glory of God, the gain of others, and even rewards for their own lives. Notice: Heb 10:23-25- “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” NLT

Did you catch that? If ‘the day of Christ’s return was drawing near’ when the letter of Hebrews was written, how much more is it drawing nearer now?! Plus, we each need a little reality check here; not only about how much nearer is Jesus’s Second Advent to Earth now, but how much nearer is your advent into Heaven now?! How many believers now in Heaven have the same or similar testimony of something like: “I was just going about my life, doing what I had always been doing day after day, and the next thing I knew, here I am!!! I left Earth for Heaven when I least expected it!!!”

A question here: What are you least expecting today? The clue is in the question! To be like Simeon or like Anna, you and I need to turn what we least expect into something that we most expect, or, at least, are expecting as a genuine likelihood, because we very well may become one of those countless believers who became a resident of Heaven one day when they least expected it. Every day, we are only a breath away…a heartbeat away from Heaven.

But again, as to what we are all to be about now in our daily lives….maybe we should just put it like this: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14 ESV

There it is again…God’s people are to be ‘a waiting people’…waiting, watching, praying, working, serving, and making the most of each day as though it could be the day for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ! We are to be looking for our Lord’s return, or for our going Home to Him, all the while we work on growing in godliness and work on becoming more and more devoted to and zealous about doing good works. As in, like praying day by day, “Lord, You gave your life in doing good works, sinless works, perfect works for me, for my salvation. Therefore, what good works can I do for You today in my sanctification?”

Speaking about ‘good works’… ‘the good works of a saved child of God’s are more than just good works, they are in fact – ‘good gifts’. Remember, the best gifts in life, whether they are at Christmas or throughout the year, are the gifts of your ‘good works’, for the glory of God and the gain of others. Remember, even the Little Drummer Boy knew that, right? “I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our King, so I played my drum for Him…I played my best for Him. Then He smiled at me…me and my drum.”

Your good works for others are your good gifts to God. Like: Living each day by faith as you follow the instructions and commands of God. 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” ESV Like: Seeking to filter out and eliminate sin from your life and fill it with more and more holiness…godliness. 2 Cor 7:1- “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” NLT Like: Becoming involved in a local church family and seeking to help other Christ followers, as stated in that passage we noted earlier from Hebrews 10. Like: Seeking to better obey God’s commands of how to treat others and forgive others as Jesus did and does with us. Eph 4:31-32- “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” NLT Like: Work out from your salvation, commit to practicing a right mental attitude, which has very particular characteristics, which are: Phil 2:12-15- “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” NLT

How about that? Again, we can’t work for our salvation, but we are to work from our salvation. And God gave us a blueprint from which we are to work…working hard to show that we are who we say we are…someone saved by the grace of God and now living in service to God. We are to resist the temptation to complain to others and resist being argumentative with others. We are to seek to live godly and morally excellent lives, for then God can use us to shine like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. These are the good works that God is looking for in our lives. And as we work out these ‘good works’ they truly become ‘good gifts’, gifts to God and others!

Remember this: The brightest lights in this dark, crooked, and perverse world, are those followers of Christ who are seeking to live godly, moral, truthful, and servant-hearted lives in the midst of whatever group they are in…from their home to their church to their workplace to their school to their community. Yes, it’s great to be able to give gifts now and then, like at Christmas time…but it’s really great to be a gift yourself, year-round…a gift to God and a gift to others, by seeking to show more and more of Jesus to others in your life. For Jesus is always the best gift in every place and in every life!

We’ll look further into God’s preparations for the first Christmas next time…

  1. Jonathan Gibson, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, pp 25-29