WHEN JESUS IS BORN IN OUR HEARTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 5:17
12-24-78 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled When Jesus Is Born in Our Hearts. It is a message that comes out of the historicity of our Savior; in Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”—when Jesus is born in our Bethlehem, in our hearts, a member of our families, and lives in our homes.
The story of the incarnation of God is told twice in the New Testament: first in Matthew and then in Luke. The story in Matthew is told entirely from the point of view of Joseph. The story in Luke is altogether recounted from the viewpoint of Mary. In the first chapter of the First Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is presented to us as turning over in his mind how secretly, unpublicly, he can put away his espoused wife Mary. He finds that she is to be a mother and being a good man and a just man, instead of making a public example of her, he privately plans to put her away [Matthew 1:18-19]. And while he is turning over in his mind how he will clandestinely do that, an angel appears to him and says, “This Child that is conceived in her is born of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 1:20].
What would you think if you saw a girl pregnant, and when you asked her, she said, “There is no human father; this Child is conceived of God” [Matthew 1:20]. What would you say? What would you think? What would you reply? All right, this is what I would say: if that Child were predicted from before the foundation of the world [1 Peter 1:20], and if all of the prophets pointed to the day of His borning; and if when that Child was incarnate from heaven, the whole host of angels began to praise God and to fling downward to the earth their paeans of glory [Luke 2:13-14]; and if that Child coming to manhood, crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], was raised from the dead the third day [Matthew 28:1, 5-7]; and if in His return to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], He is seated at the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3], and someday is returning to the earth to be King over all the hosts in glory and over all the kingdoms and nations of this earth [Revelation 19:11-16]; if that Child were to be born, I would say what the girl had said was true.
So the angel said, “Joseph, do not be timid or hesitant about taking to your heart Mary, your espoused, promised wife. The Child is God” [Matthew 1:23]. So, Joseph took her and lived with her after she brought forth her firstborn Son [Matthew 1:24-25]. And according to the word of the angel, he called the name of the Baby Iesous; in Greek; Joshua, Hebrew, “Jehovah is our salvation,” Jesus [Matthew 1:21]; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet when he said, “A virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Child, and you are to call Him Immanuel—God is with us” [Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14]. That is Joseph’s story.
The story in Luke is told altogether from the point of view of Mary. You see, Luke was a physician, he [Luke] was a doctor. And in the two years of Paul’s incarceration in Caesarea, he says that he visited with the witnesses, with these who were party to the story, and one of them was Mary [Luke 1:1-4]. You know that because every once in a while, the doctor will write in the story, “and Mary pondered these things in her heart” [Luke2:19]. She told the doctor these things. So you have the story from the viewpoint of the mother of the Christ Child [Luke 1:26-38]; the conception of Elizabeth in her old age, the child given to Zechariah and to Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-25], whom they were to call John [Luke 1:13], later known as the Baptist [Matthew 3:1]. Then the enunciation to the virgin in Nazareth [Luke 1:26-38], and the word that though she knew no man, the power of the Highest should overshadow her; and that Holy thing to be born of her was to be called the Son of God [Luke 1:34-35]. And when the time came and they had to make that trek to Bethlehem, because they were of the house and lineage of David, in the great world census under Augustus, the time came she was to be delivered [Luke 2:1-7]. And the angels announced His birth, and the scroll of the heaven was rolled back, and the shepherds saw the glory of God [Luke 2:8-16]. Jesus was born!
Now if that story is just history, then Jesus is no more than an historical personage. And the story is no more than a narrative of history such as the birth and life of a Caesar, or an Alexander the Great. But there’s more to it than that, it’s like the crucifixion of our Lord told by all four of the Gospels. It’s like the resurrection of our Lord, carefully delineated and narrated by all four of the evangelists. But if the story, the narrative, of the crucifixion of our Lord and of the resurrection of our Lord is nothing but history; then we have here in the Bible, in the story of Jesus, nothing but a marvelous recounting of a hero, such as you read in Greek literature. But there is more to it than just history. And there is more than just the historical Jesus.
The crucifixion of our Lord vitally affects us. This is the atonement for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50]. And the resurrection of our Lord vitally affects us. This is the resurrection, the raising for our justification [Romans 4:25]. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:10: “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” That is His life in heaven—the resurrected life of our Lord—He stands in the presence of God to plead our case, to be our representative and mediator. He is our great intercession, “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him” [Hebrews 7:25]. The crucifixion of our Lord is the forgiveness of our sins [Ephesians 1:7]; the resurrection of our Lord is our justification in heaven [Romans 4:25]. No less so does the nativity of our Lord, the birth of our Lord [Luke 2:11], have deepest and profoundest significance for us today. Jesus is born in our hearts. Jesus is come to live in our homes, to be a member of our families, to walk with us and talk to us. His tears are our tears. His sorrows are our sorrows. His life is our life. His resurrection is our resurrection. And His coming again is our inheritance in glory [John 14:2-3]; Jesus, born in our hearts [John 3:3-5; Romans 10:9-10].
There are several profound things that accompany that avowal. Number one: forever the birth of Christ sanctifies and hallows, glorifies motherhood. When I say the word, it is filled with overtones of emotion; precious memories, a sweet Christian mother. Forever the birth of our Lord magnifies and glorifies motherhood. I would say there is more art inspired by the Madonna, the virgin and that Baby, than all other subjects of art in the history of mankind; the glory and the beauty of God’s blessing in motherhood.
Number two: forever it hallowed and sanctified the child, the infant, the baby, the little boy, the little girl. Isn’t that a remarkable thing, how God incarnate fits the image of us; a baby, a child, a youth, a man, “Immanuel, God with us” [Matthew 1:23]? We are so like Him, and He is so like us that He could identify Himself. He could find Himself incarnate in a baby, in a child, in a youth, in a man, made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27].
You know, there is an exaltation, there is an “up-ness” in the story of the birth of Christ, the incarnation of our Lord, that is incomparably and heavenly precious; look at it. In the days when this was written, go back two thousand years; you would find temples all through the ancient world. Let’s visit one, let us say, in Egypt. We walk to the spacious courtyard and enter the gate. Then beyond the beautiful vicinity of the courtyard is the naos, the sanctuary itself. And we walk into the sanctuary, and there is a holy place with all of the accouterments. And then just beyond is a veil that separates the holiest of holies from the outward sanctuary. And if we pull aside that veil, in the holiest of all holy places, you will find deity.
As we walk through this temple in Egypt and enter that naos, stand before that veil and we pull it aside to look, what do we see? What you would see would have been a sacred ibis—a long-necked, long-footed, long-legged bird. Or in another temple you might find in that holy of holies, you might find a sacred crocodile; or you might even find curled up a sacred serpent; or you might find in that holy of holies a sacred cow.
Not the Christian faith, seeking God, what is He like when He revealed Himself to us? He looked like a baby, He looked like a child, He looked like a man, He looked like one of us! And His tears are the tears of God; and His gentleness is the sweet sympathy of God; and His words are the words of God. O Lord, how God has exalted humanity!
Let me take a moment to illustrate that. There was a man dying in the hospital. He was on the operating table. He was a piece of the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity. And not knowing the man could hear, one of the surgeons said to the other, “Doesn’t matter, let’s just go ahead. If he dies, let him die, it doesn’t matter. He’s a bum. He’s a drifter.” And the man spoke up and said, “Would you call one worthless for whom Christ died?” [1 Corinthians 8:11].
There is a sacredness about human life, and there is a heavenliness about humanity. And there is a worth about the human soul that is prized so; and made so, because Jesus was one of us [Philippians 2:7]. That is why to the communist, and to the Nazi, and to the totalitarian, to offer in battle a million men is nothing! But to a Christian American, if one boy were to be lost in the vast Pacific, the whole Army, and Navy, and Air Force would be out seeking him. That is the Christian faith, and it is the incarnation of Jesus that made it so.
Forever hallowed motherhood; forever sanctified childhood; forever glorified and magnified the home; the sacred trinity—father, mother, and son; father, mother, daughter; father, mother, child. In that home our Lord lived thirty of His thirty-three years, and He worked with his hands. He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3]; He did menial labor. He built things. God sanctifies and hallows in the birth of this Child that home in which He grew up as a boy, in which He labored as a man. And forever the birth of our Lord is “God with us—forever Immanuel, God is with us” [Matthew 1:23].
You know, often times, so often times that it is just kind of like a thread going through every Christmas season, often times is it repeated, “Oh, what a shame. Oh, what a tragedy, the commercialization of Christmas.” Man, that’s just the opposite of what I think, the diametrical opposite! To me, it is the most marvelous thing in the world to see these cities place on their Christmas robes. Down those streets of the city, they will have stars and snowflakes and all kinds of decorations on the telephone poles and on the light poles. And when you walk into those stores, there are all kinds of lights, and poinsettia, and color and decorations. And they advertise in the paper Christmas sales and presents and all kinds of things at Christmas time. You couldn’t disassociate Jesus from Christmas. You could not take Christ out of Christmas if you tried. Even the infidels and the atheists magnify the Lord at Christmas time. I think it is the most marvelous thing in the world, how the whole world sings about Jesus, at Christmas. That’s beautiful I think, and I rejoice in it. Every store, every sale, every present, every decoration, every poinsettia, every color, every song, the whole world is a-singing. That’s Jesus’ birthday, magnifying the Lord with merry.
But there is also for us a deep and profound meaning at this time of the year when we are singing and glorifying God for the coming of Jesus. This is our Lord coming into our hearts, into our homes, into our lives. And is there a preciousness? Is there a blessing more incomparably dear than to have Him close by? A businessman, head of a corporation, head of a bank, head of a great company, and Jesus is by his side. All of us have problems; to lay them before the blessed Jesus, tell Him all about it. Every decision you make, ask God’s wisdom; talk to Him, He is there. To invite Him into your house, to let Him be a member of your family—think of what that is; omnipotence, and love, and sympathy; “God with us!” [Matthew 1:23]. Walking by our sides in the pilgrimage of this journey, glorious! Sharing our troubles and our sorrows; standing watch in the hour when we die, and supervising the angels as they carry us up to heaven. Then, our champion and our defender at the great judgment day of Almighty God [Romans 14:10], and the One who opens for us the gates of glory [Psalm 24:3-10], as He opened for us the gates of grace [John 14:6, Hebrews 10:19-20]. Oh, how blessed and how precious. “Jesus, God with us” [Matthew 1:23], in our hearts, in our homes, walking with us in our lives, helping us, strengthening us, comforting us, sympathetic with us, knows all about us and still loves us. O blessed, blessed Jesus! [Hebrews 4:14-15].
And now in conclusion: it is possible for us to shut Him out. There was no room for Him in the inn [Luke 2:7]. It is possible for us to say no even to God. And we can keep Him on the outside of our hearts and on the outside of our homes. In Revelation 3:20 is a picture of our Lord standing on the outside of the door and knocking. “Behold,” He said, “I stand at the door, and knock: if any one hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20]. But I must open the door. And how beautiful and how precious that Jesus comes in when He is invited; when there is a place prepared.
Look, had He been born in a palace, had He been a prince in the king’s house, you know, there may have been some of us would be hesitant about entering His presence. How do you dress when you are presented to the king? And how do you curtsy, or how do you bow? And what are all the protocols of state? And what language do you use and how do you address him? And a lot of things about our hesitancy had He been in the king’s palace. No, in the goodness and grace of God, He was born in a stable [Luke 2:7], with the cows, and the sheep, and the goats, and the lambs, and the kids. He was born in a stable [Luke 2:12, 16]. And somehow anybody, anywhere could feel at home in those humble surroundings, even these shepherds [Luke 2:8-16], no hesitancy seeking that Babe in a manger.
And that is the Lord Jesus. He is at home in any heart, in any cottage, in any hovel, and in any palace and in any philosopher’s study, any poet’s corner, any great scientist’s laboratory, any scholar’s library. Humble, rich, learned, unlearned; to us all, He is the blessed Jesus. That’s just unthinkable, that God should have done it like that! You don’t need to hesitate to come into the presence of the Lord, talk to Him.
“Oh, but pastor, I don’t know the language.”
You don’t have to have certain words or certain language, just talk to Him; speak to Him. You don’t have to be dressed up in a certain way. You don’t have to be learned, or educated, or theological, or academic; just yourself, welcome. Welcome! That’s Jesus. Anybody can come, even I.
This is imagination, but I kind of think it’s true. So the holy family comes, Joseph and Mary, great with child [Luke 2:5-7]. Bethlehem is filled because of the census, the taxing [Luke 2:1-4]. The innkeeper says, “There’s no room. There’s no room.”
And Joseph says, “But my wife, look! Any moment now, any moment, please.”
“There is no room. I wish there were, but the inn is filled, and there is no opportunity for me to empty any room. There is no room.”
And as the crestfallen Joseph and his disappointed wife begin to turn away, you know what? I think his wife put her hand on his arm and said, “But dear, look, look. Isn’t there some place?”
And he says, “Dear wife, every room is filled. They paid their rent. I cannot empty the room. The guests are housed.”
But the wife says, “But look.” And maybe she made the suggestion, “Dear husband, if we went out to the stable and we gathered fresh straw, clean hay, could we not find a place and make a bed, out of the cold, and out of the dew, and out of the night’s chill some place?
He said, “Yes, sweet. Yes.”
And they go out to the stable [Luke 2:6-7]. And they bring in fresh clean mown hay. And they make a bed in a nicest place possible in the corner of the stable. And there, that night, the Lord came down from heaven and was born in our image and in our likeness. That’s all God asks of us, what we have and what we can do. If He asked that we buy our salvation, some of us are too poor. If He asked that we be worthy of it, some of us are too filled with dereliction and mistake. But all the Lord asks is, what we have. And if all we have is clean fresh mown hay, and a stable, God honors it [Luke 2:11-16]. And He comes into our hearts, and our houses, and our homes, and our lives, when we open the door to Him [Romans 10:13]. Man, how much we miss when we shut Him out! How much we are blessed when we invite Him in! “Come, blessed Holy Child of God. Welcome. Make Your home with us. Live in our hearts, walk by our sides, blessed, blessed Jesus!”
And that’s our invitation to you this sacred and holy moment; this beautiful day before Christmas, what a precious moment. What a heavenly hour, “Today I open my heart God-ward and heavenward. Lord Jesus, be born in my heart today [Ephesians 2:8]. Come into our house. Make Your home with us. Be a member of our family. Walk with us through this pilgrimage. And Lord Jesus, take us with Thee to live in heaven” [John 14:1-3]. Why not? God Himself honors the invitation [Revelation 22:17]. Come. Do it now. Make this the most beautiful Christmas Eve you’ve ever known. Somebody you give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; a family you put your life with us in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. In a moment when we stand to sing, having made that decision in your heart, down that stairway, down this aisle; it will be the greatest step you ever made in your life, that first step. And then let God open the door; see you through. “Here is my hand pastor. I’ve given my heart to God” [Romans 10:8-13]. Or, “This is my family, my wife and children; all of us are coming today.” As the Spirit presses the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.