What is your favorite Christmas story?
This week I was curious what people thought, so I checked Google. My search was “Best Christmas Story of All Time.”
I got a lot of results and a lot of top ten lists. Stories that appeared in the top ten again and again were: Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Christmas Shoes, Gift of the Magi (which is not actually about the magi), The Little Match Girl, and Christmas Carol.
On most lists there was not one single mention of the actual Christmas story, the original, which is not just the “best Christmas story of all time,” but the best story of all time. Period.
The best stories never get old. And for this one we can enjoy it, celebrate it, and learn from it again and again.
Today we are going to look at a few different events, from Jesus’ life, starting from His birth and going all the way to the very end of His life. And all of these will remind us of the character of Christ. The character qualities we will focus on today are His kindness and approachability. And our key text will be taken from Isaiah 42:1-7 and especially verse 3.
Isaiah 42:1-7 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Jesus is Approachable (He is Kind and Gentle)
Isaiah 42:3 – He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
As we have been studying Revelation, we have seen clearly Jesus’ justice. We have seen the seal judgments that He unlocked. We have seen Him riding on a white horse of victory, dealing out justice to His enemies. Here in Isaiah 42 we see both aspects of the Messiah prophesied, His gentleness and His justice. What people didn’t know when this was written was that the Messiah would come twice, highlighting different qualities each time. At His second coming we will see His justice. But as we celebrate Christmas, I want to focus now on Jesus’ character that He displayed at His first visit.
Isaiah says that a “bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” This description shows us Jesus’ compassion and gentleness. The key quality I want to focus on today is that Jesus is approachable.
The vivid description here gives a clear mental image. Careless people trample others in their harsh attitudes. But Jesus is not like that. The image we get of Jesus is one of extreme care. Broken people can come to Him and be restored. He will gently nurture them, heal them, restore them.
And a faintly burning wick he will not quench.
This is another way of saying the same thing. Many of you probably have the experience of attempting to use a match to light something outside in the wind. You carefully shield that match, protecting it from the wind and do everything in your power to make sure that little, weak flame does not go out. That is how Jesus treated people, with tenderness, care, and protection.
Jesus is the only perfect person who ever lived. He never gave in to temptation for even a second. Though He was perfectly holy, He did not have a “holier-than-though” attitude. He was not condescending. He was not judgmental. He was not prideful. He never rejected a single person who came to Him.
We can see this quality in Jesus from His birth all the way until His death. Let’s start by looking at the shepherds.
A. Shepherds (The Poor Commoner)
Luke 2:8-12 – And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
God could have announced the birth of His Son to anyone on earth. And He chose to send the heavenly choir to a group of shepherds. Not rich. Not powerful. Commoners. Why did He do this?
I believe the message He wanted to send to us is clear. Jesus is a Savior to all. Any person can come to Him. There are no qualifications or conditions. Not only was the announcement given to them, but they were invited to go and visit Jesus. The first visitors on the scene had nothing to offer. They didn’t have any gifts. Gifts were not required. Over and over in the Word we are reminded that we are not saved by works, but saved by grace.
Jesus welcomes people as they are. The shepherds did not need to wear fancy clothes or pretend to be something that they are not. They heard He was there and they just went. God wanted them to go and see and receive the blessing from Him. It is more blessed to give than to receive, right? So God gives and we receive.
Lesson: Jesus welcomes the poor, the commoner, the ordinary. The poor can approach God through Jesus.
B. Wise Men (The Rich Foreigner)
Isaiah 42:6 – I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.
Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
10-11 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
The next visitors were very different. The shepherds were Jews. They grew up exposed to the Scriptures. The magi were Gentiles. God saves people from every tribe, nation, and and tongue. The shepherds came from nearby. They magi came from far away. The shepherds were poor. The magi were rich. The shepherds were uneducated. The magi were highly educated (in Chinese they are actually called P.H.D.s.)
The events around His birth, show us that Jesus is approachable to everyone. Riches and education sometimes make it harder to come to Christ (He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved.) But with God, this too is possible.
He welcomes the educated. You don’t need to get a degree to serve God. You don’t need to get a degree to understand and believe in Jesus. But if you have one, great, bring it along. Use your education for Him
He welcomes your gifts. Gifts are not required. But we should return the blessings He has given us to Him. If you don’t have any money to give Him, don’t feel badly. He doesn’t need it. He will welcome you. But if you have money, then bring it along. Everyone can approach Him whether they have a lot or a little.
Maybe like the shepherds you grew up exposed to Scripture. Perhaps you come from a Christian family. You still need Christ. Perhaps like the magi, you grew up far from Him with little or no exposure to His Word. He is there and He will welcome you.
Lesson: Jesus welcomes those who are far away. Rich or poor, uneducated and educated alike. Those who are far away can approach God through Christ.
So we see that at His birth anyone could come to Jesus. We see the same thing from the very beginning and throughout His earthly ministry.
C. Nicodemus (The Fearful)
John 3:1-2 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Here is a pharisee coming to Jesus by night. Pharisees were not big fans of Jesus. Most of them were prideful and obnoxious. They were a thorn in Jesus’ side opposing His ministry every step of the way.
Nicodemus was one of this group. And he comes to Jesus by night. He is somehow curious about Jesus. He wants to know something more. But Nicodemus is not brave enough to make a public stand for Jesus or identify as His follower. He comes at night, probably because he is afraid of what the other pharisees will say.
Nicodemus is the very definition of a faintly burning wick. There is a bit of a spark there. He is curious. But he is also afraid.
How would you react to an approach like this? Some of us would probably get upset and rebuke Nicodemus, “What are you, a coward? Why are you afraid of man? Should a leader like you not go skulking around in the shadows? Come back when you have a spine.”
If Jesus reacted harshly, He would have extinguished the smoldering wick. Instead He kindly received Nicodemus . He patiently answered his questions. Instead of rebuking him, he nurtured him.
Gentleness and regular encouragement proved to help her in this area more than a strong command ever could have.
And that is how Jesus reacted to Nicodemus. He was gentle and received Nicodemus, gracious answering his questions in the middle of the night.
The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, was given in a private conversation from Jesus to Nicodemus.
Later when the rest of the pharisees were condemning Jesus to death, Nicodemus bravely spoke up against it. The smoldering wick was now a fire. Nicodemus had become a real believer in Jesus and was willing to make a stand for Him. It was Jesus’ compassion and kindness that helped make this possible.
Lesson: Jesus patiently welcomes the fearful. Even when we should be mature and know better He is patient with us.
D. Samaritan Woman (The Outcast Sinner)
I asked this question a few months ago. Let’s see who can remember it. Who is the first person Jesus told He was the Messiah to?
The answer is the Samaritan woman.
John 4:7-10 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
John 4:25-26 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
This woman was not somebody you would expect Jesus to make this pronouncement to. She had three strikes against her so to speak:
- She was a woman. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day did not value women or consider that they were worth spending time on to teach. This shows us Jesus’ had a different attitude toward women (of whom He had several close followers).
- She was a Samaritan. Hated by the Jews.
- She was an adulteress. Not only did the Jews look down on her people, but her own people looked down on her. Jesus came out to the well at the 6th hour. That is noon according to their timing, which started at 6 AM. It was a hot time of day, not the time of day you would normally go out to the well. Most likely she went there then because she was unwelcome by her own people. She probably went alone because she was an outcast, with no friends, and people looked down on her.
So this was the person Jesus revealed He is the Messiah to. A Pharisee would have had a big banquet, invited all the important leaders, and made a big, public speech. Jesus goes and finds the most “undesirable” person He can and tells her that He is the Messiah.
Jesus did not come to judge the sinner or condemn. He came to offer salvation. He came to offer a way that every single person could come to God. He was approachable. He was compassionate. He was kind. He was willing to talk to and be friends with anyone.
Lesson: Jesus welcomes sinners. You are not too sinful to come to Jesus. By His grace every sinner can approach a holy God through Jesus.
E. Blind Man (The Nuisance)
Luke 18:38-42 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Here is another outcast. A man who wasn’t valued by society. People considered him to be a nuisance. When he tried to call out and meet Jesus, he was silenced. They rebuked him and told him to be quiet. After all, Jesus was an important person. He was busy. He had more important things to do and more important people to see.
But when Jesus heard him, he stopped. Those words are critical. Jesus stopped what He was doing. Jesus was the busiest person in the world. He had a critical mission to accomplish which would effect every man, woman, and child for all eternity. And yet, at this moment in time, this man was more important. He was not a nuisance. He was not a distraction from Jesus’ ministry. This blind man was Jesus’ ministry. He was distressed. He needed help. He was a bruised reed. Others had no qualms with just trampling on him and breaking him. Jesus was different. He sought to restore and heal what had been broken.
The crowd tried to block access to Jesus. But Jesus would not have any of it. He welcomed anyone and everyone. He made time. He showed love and care when no one else would.
Lesson: Jesus welcomes those others consider a nuisance. You are not a bother to Jesus. He doesn’t care if you are stylish. You can be the world’s biggest nerd. If you look up “uncool” in the dictionary and see your picture there, it matters not to Jesus. He loves and cares for you. And He is not too busy for you.
F. Little Children (The Insignificant)
Matthew 19:13-14 – Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
This time it is the disciples stopping people from coming to Jesus. Their Master was the Messiah. He had a huge mission. His mission was to the whole world! So they wanted to protect him from being bothered or distracted.
But Jesus quickly stepped in, “Let the little children come to me.” His mission was to children. They didn’t distract Him from His ministry. They were His ministry. His ministry was to people, rich, poor, sinner, outcast, unimportant, nuisance.
Often we act like children. We are immature. We ask questions we should know the answers to. We forget things that we have been reminded of over and over. We quibble over trivial things.
But Jesus doesn’t reject us for being too childish or immature. He always let us come to Him. He embraces us. He prays for us. And He opens His kingdom for us.
Lesson: Jesus welcomes the insignificant. You might be unloved or unwanted by others. The world might not consider you worthy of their time or attention. But to Jesus, you are significant. That is the reason why He came.
G. Thief at the Cross (The Latecomer)
Luke 23:42-43 – And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
We have seen that throughout Jesus’ life He was approachable. He welcomed every type of person. That did not change at His death either.
For most of us, when we are going through pain or sickness we feel that we are justified in being a little bit selfish. We think that others should care for us and we can just look out for ourselves a while and tune out everything else. If anyone ever had a reason to do this, it was Jesus.
Jesus was hanging on the cross, wrongfully being murdered. His entire life He had dedicated to helping others. And yet now these very people He served turned against and killed Him. He was in deep anguish. It wasn’t just the physical pain, but the spiritual torment of being separated from the Father.
And at this moment people all around mock Him. Even a convicted criminal next to Him joins the chorus. One person did not. The other convicted criminal defended Jesus and said that He had done nothing worth dying for. At the very end of his life, he came to Jesus.
Note Jesus’ response. Jesus does not tune him out and focus on His own problems. Neither does he say, “Too late! You had your whole life to come to me and now you want my blessing after a life of rebellion? Forget it. You had your chance.” No. Jesus welcomes him. He says, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Lesson: Jesus welcomes those who have wasted much of their lives. It is not too late for you to come to Jesus. You are not too used up for Jesus. Today you have a chance. Tomorrow there is no guarantee, but you have breath now. Today is the day of salvation.
1. Come close to Jesus because He wants to have a relationship with you.
Have you been close to Jesus this year? Is your relationship with Him better or worse than before?
If we are not close to Jesus, it is not because of His choice. He wants to have that close, personal relationship with each of us. There is no better time than now. If there is anything keeping you from Him, then pray and tell Him. He wants to heal you. Tell Him that you want to have a closer relationship.
2. Treat others with the same compassion and gentleness Jesus treats us with.
We have seen that Jesus is so tender. Instead of breaking off a brushed reed or blowing out a dim candle, He nourishes them and restores them. We are supposed to be followers of Jesus and yet so often we act so differently.
Many times we lack patience with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, with our family members. We talk badly about them because of their weaknesses. We don’t forgive because they have stepped on our toes. We harbor ill will because of a past sin against us.
Are we really approachable like Jesus? Are we friendly?
Too often we hang out with our own friends and don’t go outside of our comfort zone to meet and welcome new people.
Here are a couple of practical ways we can follow Jesus’ example.
A. Before Christmas, make up your mind to forgive someone who has hurt you in some way.
B. Be welcoming to newcomers. In church, find someone new you haven’t met and introduce yourself. You can also reach out to someone new. Invite them for lunch or invite them to your house.
If your church would be like Jesus, you would have a group of people who are all friendly, warm, compassionate. Everyone would feel loved. Everyone would feel welcome. Everyone would feel cared for.
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”
Jesus is Immanuel, which means God with us. When we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus and find the answer. In Jesus, we have seen that God wants to have a relationship with us. And that is what Christmas is about.
Jesus came to be born as a baby, to live a sinless life, and to give Himself as a sinless sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross in our place, then proving He was the Son of God through His resurrection. He did this to make peace between man and God.
Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
And that is the most amazing thing about this story. The Almighty, perfect, God of the universe looks on sinners with favor. And He desires to have peace with us. We can approach a holy God because of the sacrifice of His holy Son. He doesn’t reject us because of our sins. Instead He welcomes us and cleanses us.
If you have never experienced that peace, I would invite you to come to Him today. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what sins you have done. It doesn’t matter how far away from Him you have gone. What matters is that today you have a chance to come to Jesus. Don’t waste it.
Ask Him to forgive your sins. Ask Him to save you. Ask Him to give you that peace. And He will.
- What are some other events from Jesus’ life that demonstrate that He is approachable?
- Does approaching Jesus come with any other conditions or can you “come as you are?”
- What are some practical ways to grow in compassion and gentleness?
- What other character qualities of God are revealed to us through the Christmas story?
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