This Will Be a Sign Unto You…the Ordinary Shepherds Meet the Extraordinary Angels (Luke 2:8-14)

Okay, the President of the United States is coming to visit Youngstown, who do you think will get the message first? He is not going to call me first, no way. Regardless of the importance of the factories, retail establishments and restaurants in town, I don’t think they will get the message first. I would think the message will come through the Mayor’s office down to the Police. I know this because I have been watching a very informative [Very informative, sarcasm] television show called Madam Secretary and that show has taught me all about the process to take place when a powerful person travels. Actually, I am really an expert on this because I watch Tom Selleck in the show Blue Bloods as well. Everywhere the President goes there is a secret service detail and motorcade. Everywhere the Secretary of State goes there are Secret Service and a Motorcade. I think the President of the United States, called P.O.T.U.S. in the show would need to work through the Mayor’s office for his or her visit.
I. Why Jesus came. Let’s not separate His birth in humility from why He did come. This is the extraordinary.

So, why didn’t the King of Kings enter the world that same way? I feel like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men asking that, but we want the TRUTH. And it may really be that we can’t handle the TRUTH.

But let’s take a brief look at what the Bible says: John 1:14 says that The WORD, being God, took on flesh and came into our neighborhood (The Message). Philippians 2:5-11 says, in summary, that though Jesus was equal with God He became a slave and became a Human. It is because Jesus became a human that He could be our High Priest. He sympathized with us in our weaknesses. But more than sympathize, He took our place when He grew up and went to the cross. Listen to Hebrews 10:11-14 from the Message:
Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process.
II. Now, let’s talk about how Jesus entered the world. This was ordinary.
We would expect that God would enter the world through Rome or through Jerusalem, or how about Alexandria Egypt, which was, after all, the intellectual capital of the world. No that is not how Jesus came.
In Luke 2:1-7 we see Jesus born of a virgin.

Listen to Luke 2:8-15:
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13–14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

This passage is pregnant with content, excuse the pun.
We have angels, we have shepherds, we have worship, we have ordinary and we have extraordinary.
But notice this. The King of Kings is entering the world. The Savior is coming.
Who was the first to get the message? Shepherds are the first to hear about this event. Shepherds were lower class. They were considered dirty and smelly. People did not like them because their sheep would graze on others property. Shepherds were the lowest class. Jesus entered the world like a shepherd. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and that is how the shepherds would do it. He was SHOCKINGLY laid in a feeding in trough. That is shocking, but I once heard Charles Swindoll say that is how the Shepherds did things. The King does not enter like royalty but identifying with the ordinary or even below the ordinary. Shepherds were ordinary. The local police did not get the message. Herod did not hear about it, nor did the emperor. No, the Shepherds got the message. Furthermore, the Shepherds saw the extraordinary. They say a myriad of angels worshipping, wow! I mean imagine walking your dog at night, or your cat or your squirrel, or your rabbit, anyways, you are out at night and you see an angel. An angel comes with a message and then you see the sky fill up with angels who are worshipping.
Most of the earth went on with our business, it was ordinary. But the angels, they knew what was going on. This was extraordinary.
Christmas is for you. Christmas is for everyone. Jesus came for all. He came to the ordinary. But Jesus came to do the extraordinary. He came to bring life eternal (John 1:1-14).
Walk away tonight with what John Newton wrote:
“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.


Jesus came, fully God and fully man, in order to die for our sins and give us life abundantly (John 10:10).

Jesus came, fully God and fully man, in order to die for our sins and give us life abundantly (John 10:10).

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, December 22, 2019

Every year we celebrate Christmas, but what are we really celebrating? Are we celebrating Christmas?

What is the purpose of Christmas?


Jesus came, fully God and fully man, in order to die for our sins and give us life abundantly (John 10:10).


My application is that you repent and surrender to Jesus. Keep Christ the center of Christmas.

Let’s read Luke 2:1-7:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

  1. Christmas is about God becoming a human being to save us from our sins.
    1. The passage I just read is probably familiar to most of us.
    2. It is a simple passage about Jesus’ birth.
    3. It is actually very simple. In Luke 2:1-7 we do not have any major Theological truths to explain. We do not have any issues of interpretation. Jesus is born in Bethlehem. This is not a fairy tale. Even most atheists must admit that Jesus lived.
    4. But, why was He born?
    5. To answer that question we must read to the end of the Gospel according to Luke. But we could just read Matthew 1:21-23: 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.”
    6. 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
    7. Jesus came to give God’s presence with us.
    8. Jesus was born, fully God and fully man. He lived a sinless life and then He died in our place.
    9. When Jesus went to the cross, He took the wrath of God upon Himself instead of on us.
    10. Jesus came to die in our place.
    11. 4:4 says: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…
    12. Jesus came and He lived, and He taught, and He gave us a good example, but His main purpose was to die on the cross for our sins.
    13. Some people think that you can be just a good person and go to Heaven. But realize that being good is not good enough. One sin separates you from God.
    14. The Bible teaches that God is too pure to look upon sin (Hab. 1:13).
    15. Psalm 66:18 teaches that if you hold sin in your heart the Lord would not hear your prayer.
    16. God is holy, that means set apart, perfectly pure.
    17. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
    18. Allow me to summarize what I just shared.
    19. The Bible can be summed up with the acronym that spells GOSPEL.
    20. God created us to be with him (Genesis 1-2).
    21. Our sin separated us from God (Genesis 3).
      1. But don’t think of God as this megalomaniac wanting to inflict punishment on us.
      2. Think of it this way.
  • Imagine you go to the roof of the empire state building and walk off the building, what happens?
  1. You fall and hit the ground, but why?
  2. Gravity.
  3. Gravity is part of the created order.
  • There is no reason to be angry at gravity.
  • There is no reason to cast blame. Gravity did not want to hurt you. It is part of the created order.
  1. Think of the wrath of God like gravity. God is holy and when we sin it is like violating the law of gravity. There is an automatic response. The response is separation from God. Hell is separation from God. But like gravity, God also does not want to hurt you. Back to the acronym.
  1. Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4).
  2. Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again (Matthew – Luke).
  3. Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life (John – Jude).
  4. Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever (Revelation 22:5).
    1. Do you know when you trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior you don’t only receive eternal life, but also abundant life?
    2. You are reconnected with God.
  • John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  1. So, in a nutshell Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth. God became a human being so that He could die for our sins. God brought events involving kings, common people and shepherds in order to bring His Son into the world. Jesus lived among us for 33 years and then died in our place. He died for our sins. Do you believe that? I want to ask you a personal question: have you come to a point in your life where you have accepted Jesus into your heart for forgiveness of your sins. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to live with us; He came to instruct us and to die in our place.

Whether you are part of the church or not, my question for you is: Do you Know Jesus as Lord and Savior and are you committed to him?

The Bible uses four verbs to describe the Christian life, they are: Believe, confess, commit and trust. Let me explain:

  1. The Bible teaches that we must believe in Jesus. We must believe that He is who the Bible says He is. The Bible teaches that He was born of a virgin; He lived a sinless life and died on the cross for our sins and He rose triumphantly over the grave (John 3:16; 14:6; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:17 and 21).
  2. The Bible teaches that we must confess that we are in need of forgiveness. This means that we must confess that we are a sinner in need of a Savior. In other words, we have done wrong things and we need forgiven (Romans 3:23; 6:23 10:9-10). We tell God this.
  3. The Bible teaches that we must commit to Jesus as Lord and Savior. This means we are not simply fans of Jesus, but instead we are followers of Jesus. Fans stay on the sidelines, but Jesus calls us to be on the field with Him. Jesus told them to count the cost before committing to Him (Luke 14:27-33).
  4. The Bible teaches that we must trust The belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior is not a casual belief, but a firm trust (1 Timothy 1:15; John 3:16).

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

This year, don’t miss Christmas. Make Christmas your spiritual birthday.

Pray to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord.


Cantata meditations: Peace, Love, Joy

First Meditation on Peace:

Did you notice the narration earlier?

The world waited with hope, watching expectantly for the peace promised by God in the Scriptures… Peace was brought by the Child born in Bethlehem.

 Let’s read Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

  1. This passage shows that the son to be born by the virgin cannot be a mere human son.
    1. This passage has not been fully fulfilled yet.
    2. Remember what the words of the choir anthem were saying, Born a Child to Grant Us Peace. Grant Us Peace Lord… Then Later, Peace on Earth, good will for all.
    3. Verse 6: the Government will rest on His shoulders. We get this picture in the New Testament that Jesus is reigning, but certainly not literally now, but He will be reigning over all (Rev. 21-22).
    4. Look at the names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God: this means that He will do more than any other person can do. He will be fully God.
    5. He will be Everlasting God. I like what one source wrote about this phrase: He is said to be everlasting, just as God (the Father) is called “the Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7:9). The Messiah will be a “fatherly” Ruler. Third, perhaps Isaiah had in mind the promise to David (2 Sam. 7:16) about the “foreverness” of the kingdom which God promised would come through David’s line. The Messiah, a Descendant of David, will fulfill this promise for which the nation had been waiting.[1]
    6. He will be called the Prince of Peace: the One who will bring in and maintain the time of millennial peace when the nation will be properly related to the Lord.[2] Verse 7 again emphasizes that there will be no end to His Kingdom.

Praise God! We can experience Jesus’ Kingdom now, but we will not fully experience Jesus’ Kingdom until the end when all is made right by Jesus.


So, are you surrendered to Jesus? Where are you at spiritually? Is He your Prince of Peace?

Short prayer

End of first meditation

Next meditation, Joy:


Message on Psalm 98:


In a minute we are going to talk about Psalm 98 which is a Psalm that has frequently been used at Christmas time. It is an exciting Psalm for an exciting season.

Did you hear the intro about the angels appearing to the shepherds?

Did you notice the words to the anthem?

Listen to the sound of the angels singing, hear the joyful music fill the sky? Join with the Heavenly chorus, “Glory be to God on high.” Listen to the news of the wondrous story, echo through the Heavens clear and strong. Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Listen to the sound of the angels singing a Christmas song. See the shepherds kneeling at the manger worshipping the newborn King. Hear the bells of Heaven ringing. Hark the herald angels singing. Then: Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the Newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

The anthem continued with other songs. As I read it weeks ago it made me think of the angels worshipping the Lord.

Psalm 98 goes along with Joy to the World. Actually, it seems that Joy to the World was inspired by Isaac Watts’ study of Psalm 98.

Please listen as I read Psalm 98 and as I pause to reflect on some of the words.

Psalm 98:

O sing to the Lord a new song,

  • Why? We have to keep reading…

For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

  • This is true. The Lord has made known His salvation. Are we not the ends of the earth? We certainly are not, in Israel are we? No, the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of the Lord. This is anticipating the Lord’s final salvation as well. Also, the Lord remembered Israel. You see all through the Old Testament The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, but they did not follow God, so God allowed them to be defeated by other nations. But Jesus came. He is the rightful King of Israel and also of the world. Let’s keep reading:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

  • Jesus will come again and He will judge the earth (Rev. 11:18).

Let me read more about Joy to the World

Isaac Watts, 1674–1748

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

As one of the most joyous of all Christmas hymns, this carol omits references to shepherds, angelic choruses, and wise men. It emphasizes instead the reverent but ecstatic joy that Christ’s birth brought to mankind. For centuries hearts had yearned for God to reveal Himself personally. At last it happened as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The entire Advent season should be filled with solemn rejoicing as we contemplate anew God’s great gift, providing the means whereby sinful man might live eternally.

“Joy to the World” is a paraphrase of the last part of Psalm 98:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.

Although it was originally a song of rejoicing for Jehovah’s protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when He would be the God of the whole earth, this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise. It exalts the salvation that began when God became incarnate as the Babe of Bethlehem who was destined to remove the curse of Adam’s fall. The text was originally titled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom” when it first appeared in Watts’ hymnal of 1719.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.

Express gratitude for our Savior’s birth with these words—[3]

Short prayer

End of second meditation

Third Mediation Love

 Notice the words once again, “hope came down, too, because a Savior was given. And joy came down in the celebration of God’s gift of grace.”

Think about God’s love. A group of college students were reading through John chapter 3. They then came to verse 16 and one student said, “Everyone knows John 3:16.” The pastor leading later said, “If you think that everyone knows John 3:16, you really do not know John 3:16.” John 3:16 is powerful.

Let’s read John 3:16-18:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  1. God loved and God gave.
    1. Notice that God loved.
    2. Notice further that God loved to the point where God gave.
    3. God loved and he loved everyone.
    4. No one is left out.
    5. God so loved the world, it is the Greek word: kósmos which means the inhabitants of the earth.
    6. God so loved the world that He gave. How are we with giving? Are we giving people? I like how Swindoll pointed out that we are never more like God than when we give.
    7. God gave his only “begotten” Son, or His “one and only Son” or His “unique” Son.
    8. God so loved the world that He gave His only “begotten” (sticking with the NASB) Son…The rest of the passage picks up the purpose: that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
    9. Salvation is opened to all people but only through Jesus. Look at John 3:18:
  2. Salvation is only through Jesus.
    1. John 3:18 says: He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    2. We have to believe in Jesus.
    3. Salvation is opened to anyone through Jesus.
    4. Salvation is exclusive in that it is through Jesus, BUT Christianity is inclusive. Christianity is opened to anyone.
    5. I remember the 1996 presidential debates. Senator Bob Dole was debating President Clinton. The moderator asked Bob Dole about his tax cut proposal and Senator Dole instantly replied to the moderator that “he is eligible.” This meant that the moderator is eligible for the tax cut.
    6. Everyone is eligible for the free gift of salvation in Jesus.
    7. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting God the Father.
    8. Let’s look at John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
    9. We see this idea all throughout the New Testament, actually all throughout the Bible. We need a way to take care of our sins and it is only through Jesus.
  3. Applications:
    1. Do we believe this truth?
    2. Do we care?
    3. Salvation is real and eternity is real.
    4. Do you believe in Jesus?
    5. Is Jesus your Lord?
    6. Are you trusting in Him for salvation?
    7. Do you want others to as well?

A man is rushed to the hospital where a doctor examines him and informs him that he is critically ill. The patient is told that he will die unless he gets proper treatment. The physician then prescribes medicine for the sick man and says, “If you will take this, I can assure you with absolute certainty that you will get well.” Now, what should the man do? Should he just lie there on his sickbed and believe that the doctor knows his business, that he has diagnosed his illness correctly, and that the prescription will surely make him well? No, that is not enough. If that is all he does, he will die. To live, he must take the medicine.

When a person offers you a gift that has cost him or her much, it does not become yours until you receive it from that person. The beautifully wrapped package in the outstretched hand of the giver will do the receiver no good until he or she reaches out and takes it. Likewise, reception of God’s gracious gift of eternal life is necessary before a person can benefit from it. Receiving a gift from someone else does not constitute a meritorious act or good work, and the Bible never regards it as a work. It is simply a response to the work of another.

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.



[1] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1053). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1053). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 368.

Prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; fulfilled: Matt. 2:1-6)

Prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; fulfilled: Matt. 2:1-6)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, December 8, 2019

We are getting closer to Christmas, does this excite you? Are you ready?

What do you most like and not like about Christmas? People were asked that question in 2013 and this is what they said:

Stats on What We Like/Dislike about Christmas

A 2013 Pew Research poll asked people what they like or dislike the most about the Christmas holiday season. Here’s a list of what people most look forward to at Christmas time:

  1. 68 percent said spending time with family and friends
  2. 11 percent mentioned religious services or religious reflection
  3. 11 percent look forward to the Christmas “spirit” of joy and good will
  4. 5 percent said music, decorations, and shopping
  5. 4 percent look forward to the end of the Christmas season

Here’s what the poll said we most dislike about the Christmas season:

  1. 33 percent—the commercialism and materialism
  2. 22 percent—the money and expense
  3. 10 percent—the shopping and crowds
  4. 5 percent—the hectic pace and bad moods of people
  5. 2 percent—the pressure to go to church[1]

I hope and pray that you really look forward to worshipping our Savior as we celebrate Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas carols/hymns or songs? Shout them out, anyone.

What about “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? Is that anyone’s favorite? We are going to talk about that city and its importance in our Savior’s birth.

Play video about Bethlehem

It was prophesied some 700 years before Jesus’ birth that He would be born in Bethlehem. Isn’t it amazing how the Scriptures all connect? We have been talking about prophesies of Jesus fulfilled in Him as the Messiah. Today, we talk about His birthplace.

Today, my theme is:

The place of Jesus’ human birth was prophesied some 700 years before He was born. Yet, Jesus’ existence is outside of time.

Let’s read:

Micah 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.”

  1. Jesus’ birth is clearly prophesied in this passage.
    1. Allow me to give the context of this passage.
    2. The NIV Study Bible: the author is Micah; the audience is the people of Israel and Judah, especially the oppressive landgrabbers who supported Israel’s corrupt political and religious leaders. The date is between 700 and 650 BC.
    3. There is a section from Micah 3:1-5:15 which includes judgment and then prophesy of restoration. Chapter 3:1-12 is about denouncing the present leaders. Starting in chapter 4 begins a prophesy about their restoration. Chapter 5:1-15 is about the Shepherd-King arriving.
    4. As we look at chapter 5 we see more prophesies than just this one, but we will just focus on Bethlehem.
    5. Bethlehem was a small city. Think about small towns and cities.

Google Street View, the virtual tool that allows users to view eye-level images of a location defined on Google Maps, extends to cover many parts of the world that are accessible by car. However, the Faroe Islands (an autonomous island country within the Kingdom of Denmark) noted over a year ago that their beloved island had not yet been indexed by Google’s tracking, and submitted a unique request. Led by resident Durita Dahl Andreassen, they proposed a Google “Sheep View” in which 360° cameras would be strapped to the backs of roaming sheep who would then provide the world with images spanning the remote beauty of the island nation. Upon receiving the proposal, Google reportedly responded that the idea was “shear brilliance” and supplied the island with the necessary equipment. The project was recently completed, and Google Maps Program Manager reflected on its success saying, “It’s our mission to make the farthest corners of the world accessible through Street View in the palm of your hand. But there’s a lot of world out there, so sometimes we need a little bit of help to hoof the distance. Now, thanks to Durita and her trusty sheep, you can explore the Faroe Islands in Google Maps. It goes to show—if there’s a wool, there’s a way.”[2]

  1. Bethlehem was small, but Bethlehem was also where King David was from (1 Samuel 17:12).
  2. Bethlehem was just 5 miles outside of Jerusalem.
  3. Bethlehem had a prominent history in Israel’s history, though at this point it is really just a village.
  4. Look at this passage. Micah is now prophesying about hope for Israel’s future. Look, he write, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah… You may ask where is Ephrathah? It is most likely that Ephrathah is a broader area around Bethlehem, maybe like the township or the county. Micah may have used that term to separate this Bethlehem from another town also called Bethlehem.
  5. Micah says that Bethlehem is too little to be among the clans of Judah. This simply talks of how small this village is. The ESV Study Bible shares:
  6. The unlikely choice of David as king foreshadows the unlikely choice of Bethlehem as the hometown of the greater David.
  7. Still, the passage shares that from Bethlehem One will go forth for God to be Ruler in Israel. Now, this is the Messiah. King David came from Bethlehem and now the greater David will come forth from Bethlehem.
  8. The passage says, His, now this is referring to Jesus, His going forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. This is showing that Jesus exists outside of time.
  9. At first glance that final phrase might look like it was talking about David, who came from Bethlehem and was from long ago. In fact, the NIV translates this differently. The NIV says: “Whose origins are from of old from ancient time.” Yet, the NIV has a study note that says “His origins were long before His human birth.”
  10. This is talking about Jesus. This passage is not talking about a mere human King. This is talking about God becoming a man.
  1. We see the fulfillment in Matthew 2:1-6:
    1. Let’s read those verses:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

  1. In these verses we see that the religious leaders of the first century clearly knew this verse was talking about the future Messiah.
  2. Herod asked the scribes and the chief priests where the Messiah was to be born and they said, “in Bethlehem.” They knew this was about the Messiah.
  3. Now, look at Luke 2:4-7: Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
  4. Do you see the connection?
  5. Another prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus.
  6. Jesus as a mere human could not control His birthplace. But Jesus is not a mere human. He came fully God and fully man to save us from our sins and to live within us.
  7. Jesus’ human birth was prophesied some 700 years before His birth, but Jesus exists outside of time as this passage says.
  • Apply:
    1. As I look at this my faith is strengthened knowing that God had a plan long ago.
    2. Our Ruler, the Messiah, comes out of eternity, as it says in this verse. This is an awesome encouragement as well. Jesus truly is the highest and greatest Being. In John 8:58 Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is eternally existent.
    3. This passage is about Bethlehem’s Ruler. Is Jesus your ruler? Jesus must be our King.
      1. We must surrender to Jesus for our future.
      2. We must surrender to Jesus each day.
      3. We must bow to Jesus (Phil. 2:9-11).
    4. We must submit to Jesus and His Word (Rev. 1:2, 9; 6:9).
    5. Since God can connect these prophesies with Jesus’ birth and life this is another connection to His sovereignty and another proof of the truth of the Gospel.


I referenced the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Phillips Brooks, 1835–1893

So 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. (Luke 2:4)

In the same way that God’s “wondrous gift” came to Bethlehem, silently, so Christ comes into our lives today and casts out our sins and fears if we are willing to have Him abide in our lives. Then “the dear Christ enters in.” How beautifully the glorious message of Christmas is told in this well-phrased hymn by Phillips Brooks, one of America’s most outstanding ministers of the past century.

During a trip to the Holy Land in 1865, Brooks went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and worshiped there. He was deeply moved by this experience. Three years later, while pastoring the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, Brooks desired to have a special carol for the children to sing in their Sunday school Christmas program. Recalling the peaceful scene in the little town of Bethlehem, Brooks completed the writing of the text in just one evening. He gave a copy of the words to his organist, Lewis R. Redner, and requested him to compose a melody that would be easy for the children to sing. On the evening just before the program was to be given, Redner awakened suddenly from his sleep with the present melody in his mind—and he quickly wrote it out. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has been a favorite with children and adults around the world since that time.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light—the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary—and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love. O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n. No ear may hear His coming, but, in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in—be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

In the midst of all the rush and activity of the Christmas season, take time to rejoice in the joy of Christ’s birth and ask Him to abide with you in a special way.[3]

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.



[1] Note: For the purpose of this illustration, some of the categories in the original survey have been renamed and combined into one category.

Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project, “Celebrating Christmas, Then and Now,” (12-18-13)

[2] Ethan Adams,; source: “Thanks to Sheep View, the Faroe Islands now has Google Street View” The Faroe Island Blog (11-24-17)

[3] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 370.

He will be called Immanuel (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23)

We will be turning to Isa 7:14 in just a minute.

I am in a sermon series on prophesies fulfilled in the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophesies related to the Messiah in His life, death and resurrection. This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means “waiting.” Throughout the Old Testament they were waiting on a Savior. They were waiting on Jesus.

While waiting in a Nazi prison cell in 1943 a few weeks before Advent, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a friend, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Shortly after penning those words, the Nazis executed Bonhoeffer. But he was right: the door of freedom for him and for us today is still opened from the outside by the coming and second coming of Jesus Christ.[1]

God became a human to save us.

I read of a Hindu who could not believe in Christianity because he could not contemplate a God who would be so humble himself. Then one day the Hindu came upon an anthill. He tried to get close enough to it to study it, but every time he bent low, his shadow caused all the ants to scurry away. He recognized to himself that the only way in which he could ever come to know that colony of ants would be if he could somehow become an ant himself. And that was the moment at which his conversion began.[2]

Let’s jump into the passages for today.

My theme is:

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be born some 700 years later.


Since God is with us we do not have to fear.

  1. Let us look at the prophetic passage in the Scriptures:
    1. Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
    2. I need to give you some brief context about this passage as that will help you understand it more fully.
    3. Isaiah was called a major prophet in the Old Testament not because he was greater than all the others but because he wrote more content than many others. Isaiah prophesied to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom. Many of you may know that Israel was divided.
    4. Isaiah’s ministry lasted over 60 years and he served under wicked kings as well as godly kings. Ahaz was the current king.
    5. During this time, there was another kingdom called Assyria trying to advance on the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Assyria will eventually defeat the Northern Kingdom. It was truly a sad time period.
    6. Understand that this is the backdrop by which Isaiah ministered for the Lord.
      1. In Isaiah 7:10, Isaiah asks king Ahaz to ask for a sign from the Lord.
      2. In Isaiah 7:12 Ahaz told Isaiah “no.”
  • So, in Isaiah 7:14 the Lord responds with a sign.
  1. “A virgin will be with child…” in some translations it might say, “maiden” instead of “virgin.” To put it simply the Hebrew word is translated maiden. This does mean a young woman who is not sexually active. An interesting thing is that in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same passage is translated more consistent to our word virgin and Matthew 1:23 references the Greek version of this passage.
  2. I believe there are two obvious applications to this verse:
    1. The first is the child will be Maher-shalal-hash-baz ( 8:1, 3)who is the son of Isaiah. Or, some suggest, the son of Ahaz who will be Hezekiah, or someone else during Isaiah’s day.
    2. The second is that this passage applies to Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel applies this passage to Jesus and given what Isaiah 9:6-7 is written about we know that this must apply to Jesus.
  3. Do you realize that Isaiah was writing about 700 years prior to Christ? As I have said in the past few weeks God had a plan. This is not just any old plan either.
  4. Deut 18:22: If what a prophet proclaims in the name of theLord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
  5. That is not the case here. This is being fulfilled. This is from the Lord. This is the prophesy.
  6. But now, notice that He is to be called Emmanuel and this means: God with us. Think about the awesome ramifications in this passage. God came down to be one of us.
  7. This is what sets us apart as Christ followers! What sets us apart as Christians is that God became one of us, but I would even go further than that. God didn’t only become one of us. God is still one of us and also God was not only with us for a time, God is still with us. Do we realize this? Think about it, God is with you. He lives with you. Remember the song we sing at Easter time? “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!” God lives with you.
  1. The prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus.
    1. Matthew 1:23:“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
    2. Now, let’s watch the account of this in the Movie: The Nativity Story:
    3. In this location the angel is talking with Joseph. Joseph is told that Jesus’ birth will fulfill an Old Testament prophesy, specifically that a virgin will give birth to a son. I think that most of you know the story. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is the virgin. She is pledged or engaged to be married to Joseph. Everything was going well for this couple, but now things are dramatically changing. They are changing for our good, but it will not immediately be easier for Jesus’ mother and father. I have a daughter and if 6 years from now, when she is 14 she comes home and sits her mother and I down to talk and then proceeds to tell us that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, we would be skeptical. Yet, that is what happens here. Joseph is going to break off the engagement quietly. I hope you realize that by the Jewish law she could be stoned because this appeared to be adultery. But I think you know the rest of the story. In this passage an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and the angel confirms what is happening here is of God. Joseph takes Mary as his wife and Jesus is born.
    4. The child is Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
    5. S. Lewis wrote: The Son of God became man to enable men to become the sons of God.[3]
    6. An atheist and a Christian were engaged in an intense public debate. On the blackboard behind the podium the atheist printed in large capital letters, “GOD IS NOWHERE.” When the Christian rose to offer his rebuttal, he rubbed out the W at the beginning of where and added that letter to the preceding word no. Then the statement read, “GOD IS NOW HERE.”[4]
  • Application:
    1. God does not sleep or grow weary: Psalm 121: A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

  1. At one time I heard Pastor Tony Evans share an amazing story about this idea of God with us. You see he was on a cruise ship. It was a cruise for those that listen to his radio program. The cruise was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Alaska and the cruise ship ran into some heavy seas. The seas were really rough, 35-40 foot waves. This was really bad. People were vomiting, things were moving around and so on. After so long a time of dealing with this Pastor Evans’ wife got unhappy about it and decided to call the Captain. She was unhappy as the captain knew they were heading into a storm and still decided to do so. He couldn’t stall or reroute as the captain had a schedule to meet. He had to be at a certain dock in order to pick up customers for another cruise. But Pastor Evans’ wife felt somewhat responsible as those on the cruise were there for Pastor Evans’ ministry. So, she calls the captain and the second to the captain calls her back. He says, “The captain wants you to do two things: First, the captain wants you to go to sleep. Second, you can go to sleep because I will be staying awake. I, the captain, will be staying awake to pilot the ship through the storm.”Psalm 121 says that our God never sleeps or slumbers. This passage is saying that God is with us. That is great. Like the captain, He is with us and He is awake guiding us through the storms of life.
  2. So, do you realize the very special significance of that? Nowhere in the Bible does it say that there will not be any storms in life. But you know what God is with us. God is with us in the storms.
  3. Now, I don’t want to miss the initial importance in this passage, Jesus came and lived a life as God with us. Jesus died for our sins and then rose again. So, Jesus is still alive and He sent His Holy Spirit to live with us now and that is why He is still with us today.

Matthew 3:11

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

  1. So, if the Holy Spirit is with us meaning that God is with us, we must live like He is with us: John 6:35: 35 Then Jesus declared,“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
  2. The other thing is that if we are living in sin and if we are not seeking God in spiritual disciplines then we are not welcoming God to be with us. Welcome Him in and rejoice because Christ came and He lives with us today.


Think about these applications:

  1. God with us means that He cares about us.
  2. God with us means that we are never alone.
  3. God with us means that we don’t have to worry about the future, He is with us.
  4. God with us means that the creator of all can also be with His creation.
  5. God with us means that we have the architect of creation with us.
  6. God with us means that if He is with us He can support and guide us.
  7. God with us means that He can and has communicated to us.
  8. We must live with an understanding of this awesome Truth that God is with us.
  9. We must live with an application of this awesome truth that God is with us.
  • We must live allowing God through Jesus to soothe our needs as He is with us.


So, Jesus came, God came and lived among us, He died for us, in our place, but He rose again and He is still with us. Praise God.


A woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.

Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.

As the doors closed, she blurted out, “Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!”

A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.

Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.”[5]

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, (Touchstone, 1997), page 416

[2] Bruce Thielemann, “Glory to God in the Lowest,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 75.

[3] C S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 14.

[4] Vernon Grounds, Radical Commitment. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 7.

[5] Homiletics (November/December 2006), Volume 18; submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky