Christmas 2014 – Songs in the Night 4. Jesus - The Revolutionary
Christmas 2014 – Songs in the Night 4. Jesus - The Revolutionary Luke 1: 48 - 55
We do live in revolutionary times. Optimism has been replaced by pessimism, confidence with fear. Young people who used to be excited about the future are now filled with uncertainty. We’ve been given box seats to watch the moral, spiritual and cultural revolution going on all around us.
It Started In A Stable
A stable - unlikely place from which to begin a world-shaking revolution. It had been a long time since anything important had happened in Bethlehem. Out behind the inn was a stable - just an enclosure, a little cave dug out of the hillside. When Jesus was born, they put him in a cattle feeding-trough. Mary had to brush away the dirt and the leftover grain before she laid Jesus there. It wasn’t a very comfortable place. Mary wrapped her young son in rough strips of cloth to keep him warm. Born in a forgotten village, to 2 teenage parents, laid in a feeding-trough, unnoticed by the sleeping world. You wouldn’t expect a revolution to start here. But that’s the way it happened. The greatest revolution in history started in a stable. Christmas is about the birth of the greatest revolutionary of all time—Jesus Christ.
Our story today ends in Bethlehem, but it starts about 9 months earlier, when Mary realizes that she is pregnant. Our focus is on Mary, when she first realizes that she has been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah. When you read the Magnificat, you are reading the words of the OT through the eyes of a young girl who has been chosen by God to bring the Messiah into the world. Stanza 1 - v. 46 - 50 - Mary is reflecting on what it means to her to be chosen to bear the Messiah. She is praising God for his great mercy to her. Her words are personal and her point of view is turned inward. Stanza 2 - v. 51 - 55 - Mary is praising God for the effects the coming of Christ will have on the world. Her point of view is outward and her words are global in their scope.
If God Had Wanted Wealth…
—If God had wanted wealth for his Son, he could have arranged it. —If God had wanted power for his Son, it would have been done. —If God had wanted Jesus to be born in the lap of luxury, he had only to say the word. —If God had wanted Jesus to be born in the upper class, he had hundreds of homes to choose from. —If God had wanted elite schooling or any of the other things men usually associate with success, it would have been done. God didn’t have to do it that way! That’s the wonder of Christmas. Mary - “Lord, there was no reason for you to choose me.” Isn’t that just like God to choose the most unlikely girl for the greatest privilege any woman would ever know? No wonder Mary says, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” After 2000 years we are still talking about Mary.
He Turned The World Upside Down
As God has done great things by choosing such an unlikely person, he will now do great things in unlikely ways. In v. 51 - 53, Mary describes 3 revolutionary changes that will happen -
1. His Birth Will Bring About a Moral Revolution. v. 51
The coming of Christ means the end of all human boasting, end of vanity and outrageous ambition, end to insatiable greed and uncontrolled lust for power. The mighty are brought down by the strong arm of the Lord. Proud and daring men lift their heads to challenge the Almighty, but he swats them down like flies. They come, they rise to power, and sooner or later, they disappear. The coming of Jesus Christ means that God has set a moral revolution at work in the world, a revolution in which the workers of iniquity are eventually brought to justice.
2. His Birth Will Bring About a Social Revolution. v. 52
The coming of Christ brings about a great reversal of fortune in society. The proud are brought low and the humble are lifted up. What men call luck, Mary calls the work of God. He lifts up, and no one can bring down. He brings down, and no one can lift up again. The princes of the world don’t understand this. They grow insolent, fat and lazy and greedy. They indulge in luxury, swell with pride and grow intoxicated with power. They soon forget that all they have comes from God. But go one step farther. No one lives forever—not the just nor the unjust. Nelson Mandela died, so will George Bush and Madonna and Billy Graham and the Pope. No king reigns forever. Just ask Elvis. If we lived forever, we would all soon forget God.
Make sure you get the lesson: The ups and downs of history are really the hand of God at work. One man rules, then another, then another replaces him. Behind the impersonal flow of history is the very personal hand of God—suddenly pulling down a proud man (or nation) and replacing him with someone else. Those movements which seem to upset society are all regulated by God with unerring justice.
3. His Birth Will Bring About an Economic Revolution v. 53
This is the most revolutionary part of Mary’s song. Not only does the coming of Christ upset the proud of this world, not only does it lift up the humble, but it actually means that the hungry are fed and the rich go away empty. It’s part of human nature to look down just a little bit at people who have less than you do. It’s a rare thing for the rich to be the first to embrace the gospel. Poor folks usually make up the first church in any culture. Why? Because the poor have nothing in which to trust, so when they hear the gospel they embrace it as truly good news. But the rich don’t see their need of Christ, so they ignore the gospel. That is the genius of the Christian faith—that it goes out first to the poor of the world. First to the hungry, the hurting, the needy, the homeless, the forgotten classes of mankind.
The Gospel Makes Better People - Better People Make A Better World
The gospel not only works an inner transformation; it also works an outward transformation that literally changes the way people think and talk and act. In the process it produces the qualities that tend toward economic progress.
There is an economic implication to the gospel. Many of us have got so much money, so much wealth and so much worldly prosperity that we’ve forgotten why Jesus came in the first place.
The gospel is the only hope for mankind—not only for his soul but also for his body, not only for the church but also for the world, not only for the individual but also for society. When the gospel makes headway in society, there you will find peace, harmony, tranquility and (ultimately) prosperity. Seen in that light, what Mary is saying is really quite revolutionary. We’ve tended to privatize the gospel so much that we don’t see this truth. We talk about “asking Jesus into your heart” but we never talk about “asking Jesus into your boardroom.” We want to have Jesus and still spend what we want, wear what we want, do what we want - we’d rather not have to worry about the poor at all. Mary’s heart is filled with praise, because she knows the world will be a different place because Christ has come. He will pull down the proud. He will lift up the humble. He will fill the hungry. The rich will be sent away empty. This is the ultimate reversal of fortune.
“He Remembered To Be Merciful”
Aren’t you glad at Christmastime that God remembered to send his Son? What would we do if God had forgotten? Where would we be if Jesus had not come? Mary’s heart is so full that she cannot contain herself: “You did it, Lord. You kept your promise. It’s been 2,000 years but you remembered mercy.”
This is a great song, isn’t it? “There is loveliness in the Magnificat, but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity brings a revolution in each man and revolution in the world.” What’s the overall message of the Magnificat? God works in the same way all the time. When Mary was praising God that he chose her in spite of her lowly status, she was showing the pattern that God always follows. He shows mercy to those who don’t deserve it, he chooses the lowly over the proud, he finds the hungry and fills them, and the rich of the world are sent away empty. He always keeps his promises even though it means reversing the false values of human society.
If we were going to plan the birth of Jesus, we wouldn’t do it that way. We’d have Jesus arriving in a chariot. That’s the least you’d expect for the Son of God. That’s how he’s supposed to come. First class. Pull out all the stops. Red carpet treatment. Spare no expense. Lots of money. Lots of show. Lots of glitter. When God wanted to send his Son into the world, he picked the most unlikely girl he could find to be the mother. He picked a forgotten province in the Roman Empire. He arranged so that his Son would become a part of the hated Jewish race. Then he found the most unlikely hometown and arranged for his Son to be born in a stable and sleep in a feeding-trough. Jesus was born that way in order to send us a message about how God does business. He doesn’t do business with the proud. He doesn’t run with the rulers of the world. He doesn’t side with the rich. God is at home with the humble, the weak, and the lowly of this world. He does business with those who fear his name. If Christmas teaches us anything, it is that God doesn’t come to the aid of the self-sufficient. He lets them flounder all by themselves. He doesn’t come to the people who think they’ve got it made. Mary is praising God that when Jesus comes he’s going to start a revolution of love and reconciliation and forgiveness that will eventually spread to the ends of the earth. The revolution he starts will be greater than anything the world has ever seen, and it started in a stable in Bethlehem—the most unlikely place of all.
“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30, and then for 3 years he was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled 250 kms from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between 2 thieves. While he was dying, his executers gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth—his robe. When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend. 20 long centuries have come and gone and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”
It is his birthday that we celebrate at Christmastime—the birth of Jesus the revolutionary. He came to change the world. Since he came, the world has never been the same. He started a revolution that continues across the centuries to this very day. His followers have continued the revolution in his name. Outside these doors at Christmastime the battle is raging. Jesus started a war against Satan and his kingdom, a war that goes on all around us day and night, a war in which men and women are the spoils of battle. This year and every year our Commander in Chief seeks volunteers who will rally to his cause, take up his banner and fight in his name. Today and every day his call is the same: “Come join the revolution and let’s change the world together.”