Do You See What I See?
December 24th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-24-86 7:30 p.m.
And I think it is wonderful what I see here tonight. I had no idea whether anyone would be here or not, and this throng here this evening is a tribute to our glorious Lord. It is just precious and Christ-honoring to see the throng of you in the service tonight. It encourages my heart beyond compare. Next Wednesday night is New Year’s Eve. We always have a service at 11 o’clock, meeting the new year on our knees, and in that service we have the memorial of the Lord’s Supper.
The question was asked, “What about our regular prayer meeting hour, our Wednesday evening hour, at 7:15?” There is not anything that I dislike more, feel bad in my heart about, than to cancel a service at the church. I never, ever like to do it; never. It takes a whole lot of grace on my part to acquiesce in changing a stated hour of service at the church. But the announcement was made that we were going to meet at 6 o’clock for the services during December, and I thought rather than be obstreperous and incorrigible, I would go along with it and see how it came out. So we are meeting each evening in December at 6 o’clock for our services. But we do not cancel them ever. And next Wednesday night, I thought we would just go ahead and have a service at 7:15, our regular prayer meeting hour, and I would ask Brother Poole to lead it.
I am going to be in an all-night meeting with these singles, these unmarried, untaught, unexperienced young men and women who are going to gather together in some hotel somewhere and learn the facts of life. So I am going to be with them until time to come here at eleven o’clock. At 7:15 then, Brother Poole will be here Wednesday to meet with anyone who comes, and then at 11 o’clock we will have our service, greeting the new year.
This message tonight is in an area that I just look at, and it may mean nothing to you, but turning it over in my heart, it blessed me to prepare it. It has to do with two things. One: when different ones came to the stable, they saw the Babe in different ways. Different groups, different people looking at that Christ Child, they saw that Baby in altogether different contexts. And then it came to me: what do I see when I look at the Baby? So I entitled the message Do You See What I See?—which is a phrase in a very popular Christmas song.
Now the other part of it is, I began to look at the lyrics in the Christmas carols and the Christmas songs that we sing. I found that I listen to the music, I listen to the notes of the melody, many times more than I listen to the word, to the lyric. So with each one, I have chosen a poem, a carol, a song, and looking at it and reading it, it meant so very much more to me. So let’s start.
Our verse of background is Luke 2:15. After the angels announced to the shepherds of the coming of the Christ Child, and they chanted, or sang, or in chorus hurled upward to God and downward to men the glorious praise [Luke 2:8-14], why, then the verse says, Luke 2:15, “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
And I thought we would do that, looking at it through the eyes of these different ones who came to see the Christ Child born in Bethlehem. So we begin with the shepherds. What did they see? “Come,” they said, “let us go and see this marvelous, wondrous thing which has come to pass” [Luke 2:15]. What did they see? I am supposing that, being shepherds, they could not escape the remembrance that David, their great king, was a shepherd [1 Samuel 16:11]. And I am supposing that they spoke often to one another around the campfire, as they watched over their flocks by night, and speaking of David, would naturally think of the prophecy of David’s greater Son, the coming and promised Messiah [Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:41-44].
And as in every Jewish heart, the shepherds, in speaking of the coming King, would ask one another, in hope maybe, in prayer certainly, “Could it be? Could it be that He would come in our time, in our day, in our generation?” We’re like that, aren’t we, about the coming of our ultimate and final Lord God, Jesus Christ? When He comes back the second time [Hebrews 9:28], would it be possible that my eyes would see the heavens part and the angels descend and the Lord come down? [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Could it be? Could it be? I think they spoke of those things, too; the Lord, Son of David, the Messiah Christ, the anointed of God, coming in their day and in their lifetime. So the shepherds make their journey to Bethlehem to see this thing which is come to pass that the Lord has made known to us. And coming, they see a Baby [Luke 2:15-16].
If you have—and I’m sure everyone here has—if you have shared in the dedication of a child here at the altar, you know how often in the dedicatory prayer I voice my own wonder before God at the miracle of the forming and borning of a baby, the little hands and eyes and ears and heart and bodily frame, and then to breathe into the child a breath of life, and the newborn babe becomes a living soul.
Could there be in our presence, before our very eyes, a more marvelous, miraculous demonstration, exhibition, of the omnipotent power of God, than this little babe that is born to a loving father and mother? The miracle of the Babe; and how much more if the babe was the Child promised to David [2 Samuel 7:12] and to Israel [Isaiah 7:14] and now asleep in the manger in Bethlehem? [Luke 2:15-16].
Hush, hush, the Baby is sleeping,
So quietly resting His head on the hay.
See how His mother is beaming.
Her Child brings the whole world
A hopeful new day.
Angels announce His birth.
Peace to all men on earth.
Gladly your voices raise.
Let your heart sing.
Oh, hush, hush, the Baby is sleeping.
Tread softly, dear shepherds,
To welcome your King.
[from “Hush, the Baby is Sleeping,” Kurt Kaiser, 1973]
What a beautiful song! And I never had particularly looked at its words before. How precious they are! Do you see what I see? Different ones looking at the Babe.
The second: Herod, Herod was an Idumean. Idumea was the kingdom just south of Judah. It was the people of Esau. They were, through their generations, the bitter enemies of Israel. And Herod’s father, Antipater, became a Jew, and through a conniving relationship with the Roman Caesar, he became ruler of that part of the Roman Empire we call Palestine. And his son, Herod, through his conniving genius, inherited that kingdom. He was as bloodthirsty a ruler as ever lived. He killed, he slew practically all of the members of his own family, practically all of them: his wife the queen, his sons, his daughters. And when the announcement was made by the magi of this newborn King, he knew the Scriptures, being a Jew, and confirmed them by the rabbis and the scribes of Israel [Matthew 2:1-6], who courted and knew Micah:5:2: “And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little, a little town, among the cities of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come who shall rule My people Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, even from everlasting.” He did not begin His life in Bethlehem; “from everlasting,” from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8], and now a newborn Babe [Luke 2:11-16].
I cannot help but think of the glorious opportunity that Herod had of magnifying the coming of the great Lord God, King of glory. He was the king of the land. He was the ruler of the people. And when the announcement was made by the magi that the Christ had been born [Matthew 2:1-3], O King Herod, what a marvelous open door God set before you to rejoice in the coming of that prophetic day. Instead, the record of his life is one of inglorious and abject failure. He sought the life of the Lad [Matthew 2:16]. And because God rules, and ever overrules, the Child was spared [Matthew 2:13-15].
These Magi that came from afar [Matthew 2:1-2], their journey was long, over deserts and mountains. “What makes you think that, pastor?” Because when Herod gave the command to destroy the babes in Bethlehem, he set the time of two years and under [Matthew 2:16], which shows me that when the Magi answered Herod, saying what time they had seen the star appear [Matthew 2:2-3], it was months and months and months before. He set the time at two years [Matthew 2:16]. Just think of the traveling patience of those Wise Men, the Magi, Zoroastrian priests, as they journeyed day after day and month after month, coming to see this newborn King [Matthew 2:1-2]. Now, our beautiful lyric:
We three kings of the Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O, star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.
Then each one:
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.
Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice.
Earth to heaven replies.
[adapted from “We Three Kings,” by John H. Hopkins]
What a beautiful, glorious song!
Joseph and Mary, as they looked at the Child, what did they see? In one of the unusual prophecies in the second chapter of Luke, said, falling from the voice and lips of Simeon, the old man waiting for the consolation of Israel [Luke 2:25], the Scriptures say, “And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign that shall be spoken against: (Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul, also.)’” [Luke 2:34-35]. What an amazing prophecy, that in the midst of that sublime birth and gift of the love of God [John 3:16], in the heart of it should be this awesome prophecy of the suffering of the newborn King and of the sword that should pierce through her own soul! [Luke 2:34-35].
If you were at church last Sunday, Dr. Gary Hearon, who is the executive leader of our Baptist people in Dallas, he said something in his prayer that overwhelmed me! It was so beautifully couched, so marvelously true of the gospel of Christ, of this newborn Babe and this prophecy of Simeon [Luke 2:34-35]. I have it here in my message. This is what he prayed in his prayer. This is what he said:
The chubby little fingers that once clasped the ringlets of Mary’s hair became the fingers of a man’s hands and were nailed to the old rugged cross. The blessed lips that Mary taught to speak, grown older by thirty years, were made to cry, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ The precious side once wrapped in swaddling clothes was torn by a Roman spear. And the Babe of Bethlehem, born when the star shone, died when the sun refused to shine.
Oh, what a beautiful way to say it! Or as Dan Beam loves to sing it:
Sweet little Jesus Boy,
They made You be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child,
Didn’t know who You was.
Didn’t know You’d come to save us,
Lord, to take our sins away.
Our eyes were blind; we couldn’t see.
We don’t know who You is.
Long time ago, You were born.
Born in a manger low.
The world treats You mean, Lord.
Treats me mean, too.
But that’s how things are down here.
We don’t know who You is.
You done told us how;
Master, You done showed us how,
Even when You were dying.
Just seems like we can’t do right.
Look how we treated You.
Forgive us, Lord.
We didn’t know ‘twas You.
Sweet little Jesus Boy,
Born long time ago,
Sweet little Holy Child,
And we didn’t know who You were.
[adapted from “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” Robert MacGimsey]
It’s a remarkable thing, the falling and the rising, the healing and the judgment that lies in the ministry of that blessed Lord [Luke 2:34]. For us who turn and believe, He is precious, and we are saved [1 Peter 2:7]. For those who reject, He is our ultimate and final Judge [Matthew 21:44].
And that leads to the last. Coming to see Him, what do you see? These who came and looked on that Babe—how different, how different! What do you see when you come?
We pray that when we come, we shall kneel down, we shall love the God who gave His greatest love and gift to us, and that He will live in our hearts, and we with Him, forever [John 14:3].
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me,
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
No room in the inn [Luke 2:7].
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus.
There is room in my heart for Thee.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree,
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
The foxes found rest and the birds their nest
In the shade of a forest tree,
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free,
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn
They bore Thee to Calvary.
When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying, “Yet, there is room.
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.
[“Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” Emily E. Elliott]
These hymns that we sing at Christmastime, these carols, are so full of beautiful meaning. They reflect the love and the grace and the presence of God in our midst. And I pray that for us, when we come to the faith and look down in His holy face, we shall find in our hearts an abiding and abounding love that God should so remember our low estate, thus to send His only begotten Son [John 3:16], that we might be adopted into His family [Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5], and live with Him and one another forever and ever [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. Hallelujah, amen.
Now let’s sing us a song, and I’ll be standing right there. Someone here tonight to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], or a family to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, while we sing this song, if the Lord speaks to you, answer with your life. On the first note of the first stanza, come and welcome. What a beautiful day to begin a pilgrimage with the lowly Jesus, one that ends in heaven above! [Philippians 3:20]. Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.