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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:The angels proclaim God's victory at the birth of Christ
Text:Luke 2:14 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise

Hymn 17:1-6

Nicene Creed

Hymn 16:1,2,3,4

Psalm 85:3,4

Psalm 98:1,2,4

Hymn 62:1,3,4

Read:  Luke 2:1-20;  Revelation 12:1-12.

Text:  Luke 2:14.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since the Fall into sin, there has been a war going on, a struggle between the Devil and his helpers and the children of God.  That struggle, that enmity, can be found in one form or another in almost all the stories in the Bible.

And today we still experience it.  It hurts us, and it wears us out.  We see it in our own lives, in our families, in the church.  And at times it makes us so tired that we just want to get out of here.  And we pray to God, “Help us.  Have mercy on us.  Give us your peace!”

That has been the prayer of the saints throughout the ages, a prayer that gets stronger whenever the opposition intensifies.  But the gospel I may preach to you this Christmas morning is that you may be encouraged, for an answer has been given to that prayer.  Although the battle still rages and will continue to rage until that Great and Final Day of the Lord, we have every reason to stand firm and to carry on.  For the battle has been won; the outcome is sure.  On Christmas morning in a stable outside of Bethlehem, a little baby entered the world and gave His first cry.  That cry might have been the small cry of a new-born baby, but it was the cry of victory.

And then down they came to the fields of Ephratha, where those shepherds of Bethlehem were keeping watch over their sheep.  A multitude of heavenly hosts came down and they all proclaimed that glorious song of victory:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The angels praised God with the song of victory.  Through this little baby Jesus the battle would be won.  On Christmas day victory against Satan was assured.

This Christmas morning I wish to preach to you about that victory under the following theme:

The angels proclaim God’s victory at the birth of Christ.

1.    The glory of this victory.

2.    The prize of this victory.

1. The glory of this victory.

The night had started like many others, and one day was about to roll into the next.  Outside of the city of Bethlehem, on the fields of Ephratha, sat a group of men.  They were rough men, at least in appearance.  The wind and the harsh Mediterranean sun had weathered and toughened their faces.  Their clothes were dirty and ragged.  With precious little water even to wash with, they were not exactly clean.  They smelled like . . . like shepherds. 

These shepherds were out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  The sun had gone down, and there was little light around apart from the stars, and the fire they would have lit to stay warm and to keep the wild animals away.

Whenever these shepherds came into town, people noticed.  As they passed by, the upper classes would wrinkle up their noses and turn the other way.  I once read that in those days, shepherds were considered to be the lowest class of people in Palestine.  They did smell, and they simply could not keep all those laws of the Pharisees, of washing their hands and so forth.  And so they were judged to be unclean.  They were in many ways the “untouchables” of Jewish society.  The Jews did not trust these dirty shepherds for a moment.  And that feeling was so strong, that they were not permitted to give evidence in court.  Their word counted for nothing.

But in God’s eyes these shepherds did not count for nothing.  They too were His covenant children.  And they played an important role in the nation of Israel.  They cared for the sheep.  More specifically, they cared for the sheep that were used in the sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem.  History books tell us that these sheep especially came from the fields around Bethlehem.  Every day, sheep would leave the care of the shepherds such as these, taken to the temple and killed.  Their blood would be poured out as a constant reminder of the need for blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sins.  That blood would be shed in order that God might be able to dwell with man again.  And that blood would be shed to remember that one day God would send a Saviour to shed His own blood for sin.

But for the shepherds of Bethlehem, this night was like many others.  After yet another day of finding food and water for the sheep, they came back together to enjoy each other’s company and to share that tedious job of keeping watch over the flocks during those long, sleepless nights.  And so another day was about to roll into the next.

For the Devil too, it appeared as though this day would simply roll into the next.  There is no need for us to speculate as to how much Satan did or did not know about what was going on at this particular moment of world history.  But he had been working hard since the Fall into sin so many years ago.  Since the Fall into sin, the Devil had been trying so very hard to devour the Child that God had promised would come.  And for so long now, it had looked as though the devil would win.  He was getting close.  So very close.

We read from Revelation 12.  This chapter gives us a picture of how the Dragon, that is the devil, stands in front of the Woman, which is the church, to devour her Child, Jesus Christ.  In Revelation 12, what you have is the story of the conflict, the enmity, between the seed of the woman and the Devil, between Christ and Satan.  Throughout the Old Testament, Satan was constantly aiming at the destruction of the Christ.

You can see that in so many of the Old Testament stories.  Soon after the Fall into sin you have the story of Cain and Abel, where Satan sees that Abel was killed.  But that did not get rid of the seed of the Woman, so the Devil got the sons of God to marry the daughters of men.  He was almost successful to the point that only Noah and his family were left of the children of God.  After the Flood, the devil continued his work of destruction.  He almost succeeded again, but then God chose Abraham and Sarah, that old couple from Ur of the Chaldeans, to whom He gave a son, Isaac, and through whom the covenant nation of Israel was established.  Then Satan tried to destroy the church and any chance of all the nations being blessed through Abraham by having the nation of Israel destroyed in Egypt.  Once more, he failed.  But he kept on trying.  First the golden calf, then the gods of Canaan.  Then he did what he could to destroy the house of David.  But again and again the devil failed, but again and again he tried to destroy the Woman and the male Child she was about to deliver.  Then came the Exile, when there was the attempt to kill all the Jews in the days of Esther.  The Dragon, Satan, failed yet again, and still he stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as He was born.

The devil kept on trying, and he kept on almost winning.  Almost, but not quite.  He knew that his best chance was to strike and win before the Christ was born.  He had already been told in Genesis 3 that the Seed of the Woman would crush his head, and he was not looking forward to that!  For the devil, that would mean defeat.  But the devil was playing to win, and so he kept trying.  For one day, the devil believed, one day, he would get there.  And then the world would be his, and his alone!  It looked as though the devil was on track, sort of.  And for him, one day was about to roll into the next.  Or so it appeared.

It is good to remember the cosmic battle, the struggle between the seed of the woman and the devil, as we read about it in Revelation 12.  Since Genesis 3, God was working towards that day when the Christ was to be born, and since Genesis 3 the devil was doing all he could to stop the inevitable from happening.  Since the fall into sin in Genesis 3, the battle had raged.  And until that night when the angels came down to the shepherds of Bethlehem, neither side could claim outright victory.   Until that night, Satan had continued to accuse God’s elect.

And then came Christmas.  And then the unthinkable, the unfathomable happened.  Listen to Luke 2:6,7. 

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her first-borne Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

That’s it.  That was the climax of the struggle that had gone on thousands of years.  A baby born all alone in a dirty stable, and placed in a manger.  But it was not just any baby:  it was the Son of God who was born into this world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  And that mighty dragon, standing over the woman waiting for her to deliver this child was powerless to stop it.  The tables were turned.  God would win the battle.  The victory was assured.

And while the devil and his hosts may have been shocked by the outcome, Heaven could not contain its joy and excitement over the birth of Christ.  The angels of God, a multitude of them, came down to Bethlehem, where those shepherds were standing in very fear.  And they could not stop themselves if they tried:  they burst into song, praising God.  The song of victory was on their lips.  Glory to God in the highest!  That Serpent, the devil, had failed.  Now it was too late.  The LORD had shown again that with Him, nothing will be impossible.  The Son of God came into the world to take away the sins of man.  The devil can no longer hold claim to this world.  God alone would rule supreme.  To Him alone be the glory!

The devil could not stop it.  The Son of God, our Saviour, was born.  Immanuel, God with us!  For those shepherds, and indeed for us all, it was no longer one day simply rolling into the next.  From now on, nothing would ever be the same again!  The glory of the Lord came down and shone around, surrounding those lowly shepherds.  God’s glory shone around those despised, unclean, untouchables of Jewish society.  Those shepherds, those covenant children of God, could bask in the full glory of the Lord, and they did not have to be afraid.  For the victory was the Lords, and He had come to live with man forever.

In the Old Testament, not even Moses could behold God’s glory, but God told him to turn around, and then hid Moses in a cleft in the rock when He passed by in all His glory.  And when Isaiah saw something of the glory of God in a vision he cried out,

“Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips!”

But now, for a moment, the shepherds could enjoy the true blessing of Christmas, the ability to live in the very presence of God, to dwell in His glory.  For in Christ we have Immanuel, God with Us.  The victory belongs to the Lord!

What a shock this was for Satan and his hosts.  No day would ever be the same for them either.  Who could ever have imagined?  God Himself had come down to earth, had been born a man.  That Seed of the Woman was none other than the Son of God, and now He had come into this world.  What outrage, what panic, what blind fury must have entered the ranks of Satan.  After all those years when it seemed that he might win, God had come out on top after all. 

“Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!  For He has done marvellous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.  The LORD has made known His salvation.”  (Psalm 98:1,2)

Glory to God in the highest! 

It is true, Satan would still try to kill this child.  He would even have all the baby boys of Bethlehem killed in the process.  But it was too late:  in the birth of Jesus, the victory had been assured.

Today is Christmas.  It is a day of joy, of feasting, of gladness.  It is a day in which we may celebrate the greatest, most enthralling victory we could ever imagine.  The stakes could not have been higher, but the outcome could not have been more sure.  Satan’s fate has been sealed once and for all.  For on Christmas morning in a stable outside of Bethlehem, a little Baby entered the world and gave His first cry.  It was the cry of victory.

2. The Prize of this victory.

What the shepherds experienced on Christmas morning was something like a foretaste, an introduction to what all God’s children will experience as a result of Christ’s birth.  These shepherds could not only be enthralled by the glory of God and have God’s perfect glory go all around them, but they could also hear the gospel proclaimed to them:

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11)

And then the shepherds were privileged to enjoy the most beautiful concert ever heard on earth, when the angels came down to praise and sing glory to God.

But here is the gospel the really good news for us today.  After the angels sang their song, they returned to heaven.  But the words of glory to God and peace on earth have not gone back into heaven.  Those words have continued to echo throughout the world ever since.  That song of victory proclaims the prize that has been obtained through the birth of Jesus Christ.  For that prize is this world and the children of God.  That prize is you and me!  In the city of David a Saviour was born, who is Christ the Lord.  Those were the good tidings, the good news of great joy for all people.  That is what brings peace and good will to all God’s children.

Perhaps it did look as though one day was just rolling into the next.  Perhaps it did look as though the devil was winning, that the Dragon would devour the Child of the Woman.  But looks can be deceiving.  For God had a plan of salvation, and His plan would come to pass.

And when Jesus was finally born, the angels of God came down to the fields of Bethlehem to sing glory to God and to speak of the peace that Christ would bring.  In Christ God would once more dwell with His people.  In Jesus Christ the glory of the Lord would dwell among us.  John 1:14 –

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And even today, we may still come into the very presence, the glory of God, and we need not be afraid.  At Christmas we received our Immanuel and now God’s Holy Spirit has come to live with us forever.

But there is something else to say.  In Luke 2 we read about what happened in that stable near Bethlehem, how the Saviour was born.  This was a day like no other.  But the birth of that little Baby Jesus had enormous consequences, also in heaven.  In Revelation 12 we read of  a war breaking out in heaven between the angels of God and Satan and his angels.  The battle in heaven is something like a picture of what was happening on earth.  And the outcome was complete and final.  Satan and his hosts did not prevail nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.  The devil was cast out of heaven.  Listen to verse 10 of Revelation 12:

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”

Jesus Christ was born, and later died, to completely forgive us of all our sins.  The filth of our sins has been removed by Christ, and we have now been clothed with His righteousness.  And because of that, Satan can no longer accuse God’s elect.  Satan can not accuse us, because Christ came and accomplished the work that He had come to do.  He lived, He died and He rose again so that we might live in the presence of the glory of God forever.

And that is what has brought peace on earth.  As God’s children we have been reconciled to God.  Because of Jesus Christ, the enemy, Satan, has been defeated and now true and everlasting peace has been assured for all men of God’s good pleasure. Romans 5:1,2 says,

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of  God."

We have peace with God and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  In Jesus Christ the battle against the serpent has been won, and we can find true and everlasting peace.  That is the good news of Christmas.  Hold on to it and believe it, for it is greatest gift that you could ever dream to hope for.

There are many people today who search for peace but have not found it.  That is nothing new.  Even in the days that our Lord Jesus walked on earth, many had the wrong idea as to what peace is all about.  When Jesus made that triumphant walk into Jerusalem, when He was on the back of a donkey, there were people all around Him shouting, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  (Luke 20:38)  But Jesus wasn’t fooled.  He wept and cried,

“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:42)

The only way to peace, to real peace, is through a Savior who was born in a stable and died on a cross.  Without Jesus, there will be no peace.  Remember that well, brothers and sisters, boys and girls.  Remember that you can only enjoy real peace through Jesus Christ, the One who was born to be victorious and conquer Satan once and for all.  Live in that peace, and enjoy the freedom that it gives you.  Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.”

Stay close to Him, and that peace will be yours.

It is true that this peace announced at the birth of Christ is not yet here completely.  The battle between the Seed of the Woman and the Serpent might be won in principle, but for now it continues to rage.  And the battle is fierce, and at times we get hurt.  Sometimes we are almost ready to say that the joy of Christmas itself is lost because of the grief that we feel.  The battle is not over yet.  Remember what we read in Revelation 12:12.

“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."

It is hard, and when we look down, it can get scary.  But when the devil attacks and we feel his fierce anger raging against the church, then be encouraged for the battle has been won!  We continue the fight against sin and the devil in this life knowing that the victory has been secured.  The devil’s time is short, and when he is finally banished into darkness forever, then there will only be that glorious and everlasting peace that has been obtained for us by Christ Jesus our Lord.

In heaven they are already singing about the victory that Christ has won over the devil.  In heaven there are shouts of joy and triumph.  Satan has been thrown out of heaven; he may not return.  In heaven, God is receiving all glory and praise.  In heaven there is absolutely no question about it:  the outcome is sure.

But for the moment, for us on earth, the struggle continues.  We know it will continue to the last day, and it may even get more intense.  But on this Christmas Day we may sing the victory song, we may dance the dance of victory for the battle has been won. 

And as we get excited all over again about the glory of Christmas, then our strength will be renewed.  Then we too will burst into song and give glory to God for the gift of His one and only Son.  And in the peace and joy of Christmas, we may look forward to that Great Day when Christ returns and we will dwell on the new earth, where the glory of God will surround us and will be our light.  We look forward to that time when we will dwell with God completely, when there will be true, complete and everlasting peace.  Where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  Then there will be true, complete and everlasting peace.  And then we too will shout for joy and sing, in full union with the angels,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

When the angels sang that song on the fields of Ephratha, their song was beautiful.  When we today sing “Glory to God” because of the work Christ has completed in us, that song is even more beautiful.  But when we and all creation sing “Glory to God” with the angels on the new earth, that will be the most beautiful song of all, where God is given the full glory!  Amen.









* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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