If I was to ask you to sum up the events of the first Christmas in just one word, what would you say? Love? Joy? Peace? Wonder? Miracle? Let me give you this morning a word you may not have been expecting which brings together many elements of the Christmas story. That word is obedience. The obedience of Christmas.
The obedience of CHRIST
Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
The story of Christmas is the story of a Father sending a Son. And it is the story of the Son of God who obeyed His Heavenly Father. Christmas is the story of a son going away from home.
John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
God sent His Son – and the Son obeyed.
Jim Packer, who wrote “Knowing God”, also wrote this. “God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this; the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is the this truth of the Incarnation.”
Philippians 2:6 Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus the Son of God was obedient to His heavenly Father.
Complete the well-known phrase of saying: “The sacrifice of ….”? “The sacrifice of ….”?
Today we are thinking not about “The sacrifice of Calvary” but “the sacrifice of BETHLEHEM”
The Message translates Philippians 2 this way.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
God sent His Son – and the Son obeyed. The obedience of Christmas!
The poet John Donne wrote, “The whole life of Christ was a continual passion: others die martyrs but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha (where He was crucified) even in Bethlehem, where He was born; for to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as His cross at last. His birth and His death were but one continual act, and His Christmas Day and His Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.”
Hebrews 5:7 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Chuck Swindoll wrote, “To be like Christ. That is our goal, plain and simple. It sounds like a peaceful, relaxing, easy objective. But stop and think. He learned obedience by the things He suffered. So must we. It is neither easy nor quick nor natural. It is impossible in the flesh, slow in coming, and supernatural in scope. Only Christ can accomplish it within us.
Not only Christ’s obedience,
The obedience of MARY
Luke 1 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 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.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel 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.
Have you ever thought about this? When the angel appeared to Mary and explained God’s amazing plan of salvation, Mary could just have said NO!! NO WAY!!
But Mary trusted God. And so she chose to obey God. Spurgeon said, “Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. He that obeys God, trusts God; and he that trusts God, obeys God.
Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
The Message: And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.
And Mary’s obedience was not a grudging reluctant obedience but a joyful willing obedience.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
The obedience of Christmas. Mary was prepared to go along and play her part in God’s plan. And so should we be.
The obedience of Joseph
Matthew 1:18 18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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.”
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.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
The obedience of Christmas. Joseph stood by his fiancée. Joseph didn’t abandon Mary but he stuck with her. We need to learn the kind of obedience which Mary and Joseph demonstrated as they played their vital parts in God’s master-plan of salvation.
The truth is that we, like most Christians, are educated beyond our obedience. We know in our minds more truth than we put into action in our lives. We sometimes think we need more teaching. But in reality the greatest need in most churches is not for more teaching but for more obedience.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.”
Oswald Chambers put it this way. “We learn more by five minutes’ obedience than by ten years of study.”
So what was the secret of Christ’s obedience? And Mary’s? And Joseph’s? Their obedience came from their RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. They trusted God and so they obeyed Him.
Andrew Murray wrote, “The secret of true obedience is the clear and close relationship to God. All our attempts after full obedience will be failures until we get access to His abiding fellowship. It is God’s presence consciously abiding with us that keeps us from disobeying Him. I must consciously include the Lord in every thought, activity and conversation until the habit is established.”
The obedience of Christmas.
In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul uses an interesting phrase: For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
He uses the same phrase again in 2 Corinthians 6:1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
“God’s fellow workers”. Paul saw himself as “God’s fellow worker.” In the mystery of the Incarnation Mary and Joseph were God’s fellow workers. In the church and in the world today, every one of us are God’s fellow workers. Each one of us has our job to do and our part to play!
The obedience of Christmas. Christmas is the story of God’s saving acts in the mystery of the Incarnation. It is indeed a story of love and joy and peace and wonder and miracles. But Christmas is also the story of human obedience, by Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph her fiancé. And even the obedience of Jesus Christ the Son of God. We must follow their examples.
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.”
There is an inspiring book of meditations by the French Roman Catholic Priest Michel Quoist called “Prayers of Life.” As we reflect on the obedience of Christmas I am going to lead us in a meditation called, “Lord, help me to say ‘yes’.”
This prayer can be found online at: