WHEN JESUS IS BORN IN OUR HEARTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-24-78 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas the early morning service; and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is a thought taken from the Holy Scriptures, in the passage that we read, Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, in Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” And the message is a thought that comes out of the birth of our Lord in our Bethlehem, in our city, and in our hearts and our homes.
The historical record of the nativity of our Lord is told in Matthew and in Luke. In Matthew the story is told all together from the viewpoint of Joseph; and in Luke the story is told entirely from the viewpoint of Mary. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that Joseph, when he found his espoused wife, his promised wife, heavy with child, he thought privately, secretly, without publicity to put her away. Being a good man, and a just man, Matthew writes, he did not wish to make of that girl a public example [Matthew 1:18-19]. So as he thought on those things, how privately, secretly to put her away, an angel appeared to him, saying, “Joseph, do not hesitate to take to yourself your promised wife: for the Child is conceived of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 1:20]. Immediately somebody says, “If a girl came to you and said that, would you believe it?” And the answer is obvious: if the birth of the Child had been predicted by God in heaven from the beginning of the creation [Genesis 3:15], and if after the Child was born all heaven burst into glory and into singing [Luke 2:11-14], and if the life of the Child was the incomparable life we read in the four Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John], and if being crucified [Matthew 27:32-50] He was raised the third day from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], and if His session in heaven at the right hand of the Father is our life and hope and salvation [Romans 8:34], and if He is coming again to establish a universal kingdom in the earth [Matthew 25:31-34], and He is the Lord of the hosts in heaven and all God’s creation [Colossians 1:15-18], if that were that Child I would say, “Yes, I believe it.” So the angel says to Joseph, “Do not hesitate to take to yourself this girl for your wife: because she is to give birth to a Child that you are to call Savior, Joshua, Jehovah is our salvation,” through the Greek and into English comes out, “Jesus. You are to call His name lesous, Joshua, Savior, Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:20-21].
So Joseph remembering the holy prophecy which is quoted in the first chapter of Matthew,
A virgin shall conceive; a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son; and they shall call His name God is with us, Immanuel…And so Joseph took to himself his wife, and did not live with her as a husband until she had brought forth her firstborn Son; and he called His name lesous, Joshua, Jesus, Savior.
That story is written altogether from the viewpoint of Joseph.
The story in Luke is completely and fully written from the viewpoint of Mary. We know that Luke, who said he made a careful study talking to the eyewitnesses, that is, to Mary herself [Luke 1:1-4], of these things, being a physician he writes the story from the viewpoint of a doctor and of the mother. You know that because every once in a while in the narrative, Luke will say, “Mary pondered these things in her heart” [Luke 2:19]. He is telling the story from Mary’s point of view. So in writing about it, he speaks of the birth, to Elizabeth and Zechariah, of John the Baptist [Luke 1:5-25]. Then he tells of the enunciation to Mary, the virgin girl in Nazareth [Luke 1:26-38]. Then he tells the story of the journey to Bethlehem in the days of the great census under Augustus Caesar [Luke 2:1-7]. Then he describes the birth of the Child in a stable; then the singing of the angels [Luke 2:8-16]; and so all of these beautiful, marvelous things attendant to the incarnation of God. These are the historical records.
But if they are just historical records and that is all, then there is no more to it than a story of a historical Jesus. It would be the same thing as, if in the four Gospels, reading the story of the crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50; Mark 15:20-37; Luke 23:26-46; John 19:16-34], if that is all, then there was no more to the death of our Lord than that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Same like thing with His resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-7; John 20:1-14]: if, in the story of the four Gospels, the resurrection has no other meaning than that on the third day He was raised from the dead, then the historical narrative has no more pertinency to us today than the remarkable stories that we read of ancient Greek heroes in beautiful Greek literature.
But there is more to the crucifixion [Luke 23:26-46] than the historical narrative: this is God’s atonement for our sins [Romans 5:11; 1 John 2:2, 4:10]. And there is more to the story of the resurrection [Luke 24:1-7] than just the historical event described in the Gospels: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was for our justification [Romans 4:25]; that He might declare us righteous. “For if being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10]; that is, His session, His intercession in heaven [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. There is profound meaning for us today in our lives in the crucifixion [Luke 23:26-46], and the resurrection of our Lord [Luke 24:1-7]. And it is the same with regard to His incarnation, His birth [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:1-16]. It has a profound significance for us today.
And that is the message; the Lord Jesus born in our hearts, the Lord Jesus coming into our homes, the Lord Jesus a member of our families, the Lord Jesus living and walking, guiding and blessing, encouraging, helping, comforting, strengthening in life, in the hour of our death, and our friend and mediator and pleader and intercessor in the great judgment hour of Almighty God [Romans 5:9]—Jesus born in our hearts. There are some things that accompany that coming of our Lord into our homes, and into our lives, and into our hearts that are beautifully obvious. Number one: forever it sanctifies and glorifies motherhood. The very words, when I speak them, have emotional overtones. There are a thousand precious memories when I speak of mother. And God in this story forever has glorified and sanctified motherhood. I would suppose, in fact I know, there is more beautiful art inspired by the Madonna and the Child than any other subject in human life or in human story. This is God’s blessing upon the sacredness of life, born, given to the world in mother’s love. This is the creative hand of God; motherhood.
Number two: forever the story of the nativity of our Lord glorifies, sanctifies, consecrates and hallows our children. It magnifies, as only God could do, the infant, the child. How many times do we read, “The kingdom of heaven is like a little child…And except you become as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter in” [Matthew 18:3, 19:14]. It sanctifies and consecrates childhood, infancy, the baby, the little boy, the little girl.
I want to, if God will help me, I want to show you that in a way that maybe you never had thought it through. It is a profound revelation that we are so like God, we are. We are so in the image of God that when God was incarnate and came into the earth, He came in the form of one of us, like us [Philippians 2:7]. When God stepped down—as Gary Moore’s beautiful song describes it, “In Bethlehem”—He did so in our likeness, in our image, in our form, in our life; He was like us [Philippians 2:7]. That’s a wonderful comment on humanity. As the psalmist said, “made just a little lower than the angels,” and destined to be Ruler and greater than they all [Psalm 8:4-6], when God was incarnate, like us. We’re so much like Him.
Look! Had you gone with me in this day, in this day, had you gone with me to a temple in, say, Memphis in Egypt, or Thebes in Egypt, had you gone with me in this day to a magnificent temple in Egypt, this is what you would have found: we would have walked into the courtyard, always that courtyard; then in the center of the courtyard would be the naos, the sanctuary, and we would have walked into the sanctuary, into the temple itself. And there we would have seen the accouterments of worship. Then just beyond in the sanctuary we would have seen a veil, separating the holy of holies from the outward chamber. And had you and I walked into that sanctuary, and up to that veil, and pulled it aside to see the deity worshiped by those Egyptians, or those Chaldeans, or those Ninevites, or Babylonians, or any of them, in Egypt, had we pulled aside the veil to see the object of their adoration, their deity, what would you have found? You would have found a sacred ibis; a long neck, long footed, long legged heron, crane like creature that the Egyptians looked upon as god. You would have found in that holy of holies a sacred ibis. Or in some of the shrines, you might have found a sacred crocodile; or you might have found curled up there on the sacred ark you would have found a serpent; or you had have found a sacred cow.
When you read the story of the incarnation of God on these sacred pages, what do you find? The very thought of it, the very story of it magnifies and glorifies humanity. It lifts us up. It raises us to the heights. There’s an inspiration and a glory in God’s condescension of incarnation that is beautiful beyond any way to describe it.
What is God like? He is like a little child. What is God like? He is like a youth. What is God like? He is like a man. What is God like? He is like you. And we are like Him [Genesis 1:27]. The glory of that, the uplift of that, is sacred itself. That’s what God did in Bethlehem [Luke 2:15-16].
Not only did He sanctify and glorify motherhood, not only did He consecrate, dedicate, childhood: but forever He sanctified and hallowed the home. The basic of all of the institutions of the nation, of the culture, of the life, the home, and its sacred trinity: the father and the mother and the child; in that home our Savior lived thirty of the thirty-three years of His life [Luke 3:23]. You just think of the emphasis of that. Out of thirty-three years, thirty years He spent in that home. And think of the consecration of human labor. Maybe menial; He worked with His hands, He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3], He made things, He built things. That’s God.
And then of course, above all, and the most meaningful for us: Jesus born in our hearts, living our life, in our homes, this is God incarnate, God with us. “You are to call His name Immanuel, with us is God” [Matthew 1:23]. The world’s idea of Christmas is always interesting to me; it is to you, it is to the whole creation. Christmas is an unusual time of the year. Even the infidels must admit that, and the atheists must give obeisance to it. The world’s idea of Christmas is one of color. That’s why a poinsettia is so reflective of the festive season. Look at the color in it, decorations, trees, singing, songs, happiness, gladness. Walk down the streets of the city, thousands of dollars spent on all those stars, and all of those snowflakes, and all of those decorations. And go inside of the store; all kinds of merchandise, and presents to be bought, and gifts to be wrapped; all kinds of things happy, glad, going on at Christmas time. Every once in a while I hear people say, “Oh dear me, what a tragedy: the merchandising, the secularization of Christmas.” Man, you’re crazy! You don’t think it through! That’s the most marvelous thing in the world! Everybody is conscious of Christmas. You can’t hide it, and you can’t take out of it the fact that it celebrates the birthday of our Lord. You can’t disassociate Christ from Christmas no matter what you do. And when these infidels say, and when these atheists decorate their stores, and all of the things that go along with the accouterments and the addenda of the Christmas season, I say, “Amen, even the infidels can’t escape it.” The whole world is singing. That’s Christmas. That’s the world’s idea of Christmas. But to us it has such a far deeper and profounder meaning. This is “God with us” [Matthew 1:23], forever and ever and ever, born in our hearts, living in our homes, a member of our families; Jesus my Lord.
Isn’t it wonderful to have somebody like that living at your house? All the omnipotence of God in His hands, all the ableness of heaven in His voice; isn’t it wonderful to have a friend like that? My brother, sometimes we hardly realize the wonder and the glory of having Jesus with us. You have a problem? Take it to Him. Lay it before Him. Tell Him all about it. He can talk to you as clearly and plainly as I can. The difference lies in my circumscription, my finiteness, the limit of my wisdom. There’s no limit to Him. He knows all about us, and He knows all the answers. Just take it to the Lord. What a wonderful thing to have a partner like Jesus. What a glorious thing in a man’s business to have a shared portion of that corporation, or that business with Jesus, and talk to Him about it, the decisions you make. What an infinite comfort to have Him close by when we bow our heads in sorrow and in tears, and what an incomparable blessing to have the Lord Jesus there in the hour of our death. And how precious the promise that He will stand by us as lawyer and pleader and intercessor in the great judgment day of Almighty God. My brother, it’s a thought that overwhelms us. Jesus living in our house; born in our hearts, walking with us in our pilgrimage forever. My father and my mother may forsake me, but He will be with me forever. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5], He said; He promised, and He is by our sides. He lives in your house and in your heart.
Now to close: it is possible to shut the door against Him. In the paragraph here in Luke, it says they came to the inn, and there was no room for them in the inn [Luke 2:7]. And that was why He was born in a stable; laid in a manger [Luke 2:12]. Now God did that. All of that was according to the Word of the Lord. And you know why? Had He been born in the king’s palace—and that’s where the wise men sought Him [Matthew 2:1-3]—had He been born in a king’s palace, and had He lived like a prince in the earth, there are ten thousand times ten thousands of us who would have hesitated to come into His presence. Who am I to stand in the presence of such magnificence? What language do I use? Do I curtsey? How do I bow? How do I dress? How do I speak? So above us and beyond us. My brother, I don’t know of anybody, even these shepherds [Luke 2:8-16], I don’t know of anybody that would hesitate to walk into a stable and to look down in a manger, and to love the appearing of a little child. Isn’t that great? Anybody welcome. Anybody feel at home. And turned it around, and anybody feel at home with Jesus. Just the same, just equally alike.
The Lord in the home of the lowly; and the Lord in the palace of the king; the Lord at the right hand of the poet in his corner; the Lord standing by the side of that scholar in his study. The Lord seated by the side of that president or chairman of the board in the great corporation, and the Lord breaking bread with the most menial servant in the janitorial staff. That’s great. That’s great; equally at home anywhere with any one of us; the poorest of the poor; the richest of the rich. The most educated and academic in our midst; the most unlettered and untaught in our city; He is equally at home with us all. That’s Jesus, who lives as a member of our families.
It’s possible to shut Him out. There was no room for them in the inn [Luke 2:7]. We can say no to the Lord Jesus, “Behold,” He said, “I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in, sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20]. But I can close the door against Him. But how much I lose when I do. O Lord, how much I miss! I miss the glory. I miss the angels’ song. I miss the promise. I miss the prayer. I miss the fellowship. I miss the comfort and the joy. I miss the fullness and the richness. When I shut Him out, how much do I miss.
You know I’ve often wondered: when they came to the door of the inn, and the innkeeper said, “There’s no room. There’s no room. This place is crowded. There’s no room”; and Joseph and his espoused wife being great with child [Luke 2:4-7], as they register in their faces such heaviness of heart and such sorrow of spirit, no room, no room—now this is imagination—but I’ve often thought, the wife of the innkeeper comes to her husband, and she says, “But husband, look, look: the Child may be born any moment. Look. Look. Isn’t there some place? Isn’t there something we can do? Look, husband, look.” And he looks, and he says, “I can’t put out these guests in the house. Let’s go out to the stable. And there let’s make a warm place for them to spend the night out of the cold. And we’ll spread fresh hay. And there they can spend this night.” And they made room the best they could. I think the innkeeper did his best. I think he did. That’s all that he had. And that’s all that God required.
And that’s the way it is with us. There may be ten thousand things we’re not able to do, circumstance and providence shut it out and beyond us. All God would ever ask would be what we could do. And God blesses and sanctifies that effort. And that’s the way I think we’re saved: not because we’re rich to buy it, not because we’re good to deserve it, but just God honoring the little of our faith, or the opening of our hearts and lives; and He sanctifies and hallows what we offer unto Him. “Here God, such as I am, I dedicate to Thee.” It’s a beautiful and a marvelous response. And the Lord hallows and sanctifies it, and He saves us in that dedication.
And that’s our appeal to you this morning. Not walking down that aisle, “Preacher, I want you to know that I’m the most worthy man in the kingdom of God”; no. “Lord, ten thousand things shortcoming in me, but that’s why I need Thee, Lord. Just as I am, I come. And what I have I dedicate to Thee. Come into my heart and into my house, into my home, and live there, Lord, as a family member with us; and welcome.” Do it. It means light and glory and salvation, strength and comfort; it means everything good. Come. Make the choice for Jesus now. “And I’m on the way. Look, pastor, I’m coming.” To give your heart to Jesus, open your heart to Him [Romans 10:9-13]; or to put your life in our dear church, in a moment when we stand to sing the appeal, make the decision and make it now. Down that stairway, down this aisle, “Here I am, pastor, I have decided; and I’m on the way.” God bless you, angels attend you as you come; while we stand and while we sing.