Category Archives: Christmas

God’s Plan of Salvation: Mary’s Journey

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:

It is indeed God’s plan for every person to be saved. He makes the provision through Jesus Christ. Consider how Mary was taken on her own journey when she learned that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to carry Jesus within her. Note that she was obedient to The Lord and noted that this was something that she was to carry out, and she praised God for it. There was a special thing inside her that she wanted to fulfill. She was now on a journey that she didn’t completely understand, but yet she was willing to do it in obedience to God.

Luke 1: 34
Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

Mary asked the question that many of us ask…”How can this be done?” All that God calls for us to do is to be obedient to Him and walk with Him. We may not understand how things will be accomplished, but our challenge is to wait on The Lord. He is not asking us if we are able to do anything–He just wants us to be willing to do it. He is aware of our inadequacies and our deficiencies. He just asks us to be willing. Are you willing to say to God, “Lord, please let it be done according to your will?” That’s what Mary did–she was obedient to His will, and was ready to follow His direction. She could not do anything without the power of God through the Holy Spirit, and that is the same for us, as well.

Consider all of things that God did to communicate and reassure Mary through her journey.

Luke 1:34-38
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Mary, not long after this encounter, was ready to take a trip. She was directed to Elizabeth to see evidence of what she was told. In the same way that we sometimes need to see the physical evidence of what God is doing, Mary would go to see “the barren one” who was now pregnant.

Luke 1:39-45
39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:

“You are the most blessed of women,
and your child will be blessed!

43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

Note the words of encouragement from Elizabeth to Mary. She is not speaking of herself. The Spirit was speaking through Elizabeth to encourage Mary. Elizabeth had asked Mary about the blessing of her presence. When God uses you for something, do you recognize it as a blessing? When God is using you, it is a blessing indeed. It is all for His glory.

Note that God wanted Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, that God was more than able to accomplish these things according to His will. Elizabeth knows who this child is that Mary would give birth to, and it was through the Spirit.

The next person that Mary deals with is Joseph. Joseph was not aware of what was happening until the angel spoke with him in a dream:

Matthew 1:18-24
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her.

This was one of those situations where Mary could only explain so much to Joseph about her pregnancy until God had to intervene with the presence of the Spirit in all things.

God now also communicates with Joseph and Mary through Simeon:

Luke 2:22-35
22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to The Lord) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).

25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

29 Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to Your people Israel.
33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Note first that Joseph and Mary were obviously poor when they brought Jesus to be consecrated. They only could bring what they had.

Leviticus 12:6-8
6 “When her days of purification are complete, whether for a son or daughter, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. 7 He will present them before the Lord and make atonement on her behalf; she will be clean from her discharge of blood. This is the law for a woman giving birth, whether to a male or female. 8 But if she doesn’t have sufficient means for a sheep, she may take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. Then the priest will make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean.”

God was present here with the words of Simeon to communicate to Mary and Joseph through a righteous and devout man (Luke 2:25). God was working through people who were deemed righteous in their obedience to God, and Simeon provided additional words of encouragement to both Joseph and Mary, and they were both in this together.

Also note the three Gentiles–the wise men or Magi. God directed them to go to Jerusalem. They were the first Gentiles to worship Jesus. Only after their worship could gifts be presented.

Matthew 2:1-12
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, 2 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.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.”
7 Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”

9 After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.

History dictates that the Magi heard about this Jesus from where they originated in their eastern land. How far would you go to seek Jesus Christ? God even confirmed to the wise men that what they were witnessing was His work. The signs that they had seen–the star directing them to the house–led them to the Messiah that they were told about.

2 Corinthians 5:16
From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way.

Here is something very important for us to learn about these events. The wise men saw the Messiah for who He was. When we really worship God and recognize who He is, the gifts would follow suit for there is the recognition that we would not withhold anything from Him. Even more that this, but it is not what we can provide, but it is His provision that allows us to work for Him and serve Him.


God With Us

Matthew 1:18-25
The Nativity of the Messiah
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.
20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant

and give birth to a son,

and they will name Him Immanuel,

which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

When we look at the story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, we find that it is more than just a baby boy’s birth–it is, in fact, seeing God at work. It is the story of God being among His creation. God’s plan was to have Immanuel dwell with us. Even though He came to be with us, He did so as God in the flesh.

Why did God choose to be among us and leave His kingdom? The short answer is that we could not go to Him in our sin. He is a holy and righteous God that would never allow sin to enter His domain. As a result, God, who is holy, righteous and just, came to us to do the work that would make us righteous before Him. God loves us so much that He desires to be present with us. We are reminded, even in the very beginning, that God walked with Adam. This was before the fall of man. His desire was to dwell and walk with man, but He does not excuse the sin that we possess, which calls for the need for a Savior.

Why didn’t God use a great person of faith to do this work? While people like Mother Teresa and Gandhi were great people indeed, none of these great people could do the work that God was to do. God did not have a fear of man, while Abraham, a great man of God, was unable to take on such a burden where a sacrifice needed to be made.

Genesis 12:12-13
12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. 13 Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.”

Jesus was willing to come to earth to dwell among us to give His life for us on the cross. God is life in Himself. Without God, there is no life. He came into the world to save us, not Himself.

What about Moses, a great man of faith?

Numbers 11:10-12
10 Moses heard the people, family after family, crying at the entrance of their tents. The LORD was very angry; Moses was also provoked. 11 So Moses asked the LORD, “Why have You brought such trouble on Your servant? Why are You angry with me, and why do You burden me with all these people? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth so You should tell me, ‘Carry them at your breast, as a nursing woman carries a baby,’ to the land that You swore to [give] their fathers?

How would Moses bear the burden of the entire world? He couldn’t do it. Only God Himself could bear the burden of the entire world.

The name of Immanuel…God with us. The name of Jesus…because He will save everyone from their sin.

What about David? Read the account of the sin of David and misuse of his power and authority in 2 Samuel 11:14-27. More than just the adultery that David committed, he demonstrated that he could not be trusted with the power and authority. Jesus declared that He was the One who was given all power and authority, but He never abused that power.

John 8:3:11
3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” 6 They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

8 Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, ” Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”]

God made the choice to come to earth to forgive…not to condemn.

What about Isaiah? All he could do was confess his unrighteousness in the midst of a holy God:

Isaiah 6:1-5
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe [a] filled the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.
4 The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.

5 Then I said:
Woe is me, for I am ruined,
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
[and] because my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of Hosts.

What about Jeremiah?

Jeremiah 20:7-9
7 You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived.
You seized me and prevailed.
I am a laughingstock all the time;
everyone ridicules me.
8 For whenever I speak, I cry out—
I proclaim: Violence and destruction!
because the word of the LORD has become for me
constant disgrace and derision.

9 If I say: I won’t mention Him
or speak any longer in His name,
His message becomes a fire burning in my heart,
shut up in my bones.
I become tired of holding it in,
and I cannot prevail.

God loved His people so much that He readily proclaimed the truth from His father, and no one would keep Him from proclaiming the message of His Father.

John 17:4-5
4 I have glorified You on the earth

by completing the work You gave Me to do.

5 Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence

with that glory I had with You

before the world existed.

Jesus was born in order to carry out the message of truth and would not be deterred. His message was one that no one else could deliver.

John 8:26
“I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him—these things I tell the world.”

He loves us and cares for us in a very personal way. When Jesus spoke, we were able to see His heart for His people and His love for us.

Romans 8:3-4
3 What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

There is no one on earth that could carry out the message that God can. Let’s remember that the Christmas that we celebrate was indeed God Himself coming to us to do His work. He came to save His people and deliver them from their sins.


The Purpose of Jesus

Christmas in today’s world doesn’t seem like the Christmas that we once experienced or grew up with.  Perhaps it is the time and age we live in, but it seems evident that Jesus Christ is gradually being removed from His rightful association with Christmas. Is Santa Claus a more real expression of Christmas today than Jesus is? Many in our culture today frown upon nativity scenes or the mention of Jesus in prayer. Others have questioned His deity. Even some theologians in recent years have questioned whether or not Jesus even called Himself the Son of God. The secular world will continue to be to discredit the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The intent is to undermine the deity of Jesus Christ and the purpose of His mission in the world. This is why it is important, at this special time of the year where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, that we explore the true purpose of His birth and His existence here on earth.  Jesus Christ’s life was a life of purpose and meaning for all who believe in Him.

The purpose of Jesus Christ was God’s promise for a savior for all of mankind. Man did not (and could not) promise this for himself. The Bible maintains throughout its text that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Its message has never changed throughout history and it will not change in the future. If God’s Word is truth, then God does not lie; therefore, His promises will be fulfilled. God is not man, and he is not a liar (Numbers 23:19; Romans 3:4); He keeps his promises, and He promised that a savior, Jesus Christ, would be brought forth, and describes how He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). He had this plan in place even before the fall of man (Titus 1:2-3). “But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4).” God promises throughout Scripture that He would be with us, and He is with us (Immanuel, or God with us). Today’s culture wants to be free from God’s presence.

God describes Jesus before He comes at His appointed time as His Son, and, in addition, God asserts His place and His position of authority, namely His deity. “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of God and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).” He is the God who is the God Almighty (Revelation 11:15-17) who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He declares that He is the Everlasting Father who responds to anyone who is in His will (John 10:30, 14:19). Jesus presented His message of truth and His authority as He was introduced in the Old Testament. He is the Prince of Peace (John 16:27, 33; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 1:4).

God presented Jesus to be the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:36). The Old Testament sacrificial system was set up to point to Jesus. The life of Jesus Christ is significant in that His purpose would establish God’s justice when it comes to sin. The Old Testament sacrifices would cover man’s sin through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22), but the blood of animals and sacrifices could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4), and sin was left unpunished (Romans 3:23-24). God’s justice regarding sin was served in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He was our sacrifice of atonement for our sins. Only by Jesus Christ’s coming with His death on the cross, our redemption through His sacrifice had taken place for past, present, and future. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (John 19:30).” God’s justice was completed through the presence of Jesus Christ as our Lamb of God, who was foretold by God’s Word from the very beginning (John 1:35).

With this, we can better understand that God had a purpose for all of us in the presence of Jesus Christ. Christmas is a time of gift-giving, but God’s greatest gift for us is Jesus Christ. Let us remember that He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Make it a point to learn more about Christ and the eternal value in having a relationship with Him as your Lord and Savior.

On behalf of everyone at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, we wish you and yours a joyous Christmas!