A Simple Story
Simply Christmas

Gary Combs ·
December 19, 2021 · christmas · Luke 2:1-20 · Notes


Don’t you feel the tug towards something more simple? The Christmas season has become so chaotic and busy. Don’t you long for less chaos and more meaning? Something less fleeting and more lasting? Don’t you think Christians ought to know how to celebrate Christmas best? It seems that the world should be at our door at this season, but we’ve lost our distinctiveness. We’ve joined the world’s celebration instead of inviting them to ours.

Let’s go against the consumer Christmas culture this year by focusing less on giving presents and more on being present. Let’s get back to the simple story about Jesus.


Below is an automated transcript of this message

Good morning. Do you know what I need down front right now? I need some children to come down and keep me company. Come on, kids! I need some kids to come down and sit with me. We need to talk about some things about Jesus today. Come on. Yes, the kids are coming. Do you want to come up and sit all the way up here? Sit right next to me. Good job. Aren’t these some good looking kids? Your parents are doing a good job.

I heard that you were doing a “Prove It” verse in December. Every month, the children do a “Prove It” verse. Who knows the “Prove It” verse for December? Lift your hand if you know the verse. Your teacher here is going to help you; she’ll get you started. (Children recite verse). Awesome job! Who’s that verse talking about? It’s talking about Jesus. That’s right, Jesus. The word became flesh; In other words, He was born unto us.

I want to tell you a little story about Jesus that was inspired by a man who was a candy maker. Can you guess what kind of candy he made to remind us of Jesus? Would anybody like to guess? I have one in my pocket right now. What do you think is in my pocket? By the way, my candy cane broke while it was in my pocket from first service, so it’s a little crooked, but you get the idea, right?

I want to tell you about the candy maker who made this candy cane. He made it from hard candy because Jesus is the Rock of Ages. It looks like something that a shepherd would carry. Do you see it? What does it remind you of? Right! A shepherd’s staff, so he could hook the sheep. If you turn the candy cane this way, what does it look like? What letter does that look like? That’s right! It is a J, which stands for Jesus. The J reminds us of Jesus.

The candy maker made it with two colors. What two colors do you see? White and red. You are good at your colors. White reminds us of the purity of Jesus; He is sinless. The red reminds us of the blood of Jesus. Very good. It reminds us that He bled and died for our sins. Do you see that there’s one bold red stripe and then there’s a triple red stripe? You’ll see that on almost all traditional canes; that triple stripe. Can you guess what that triple stripe reminds us of? At first service, we had a theologian sitting here; they said the Trinity. I was pretty impressed. Actually, it reminds us of the three spikes, the three nails that Jesus was crucified, one in each hand and one through the foot. And so it reminds us of all these things. Can you remember that now, when you look at a candy cane in the future? Can you remember the legend of the candy cane? That’s a beautiful story, isn’t it?

Now to help you remember, as you’re going back to your seats and because you’ve been like the best kids I’ve ever seen and you’ve been so well behaved, I have little candy canes for you. Why don’t you all take at least one and then take a couple more to give in case you have a brother, a sister, a mommy or a daddy back at your seat. This is just in case you didn’t drive yourselves here. Stand up and get some candy canes. You’re doing great. Take one or two or three if you need it. Give the kids a hand.

We’re continuing our series entitled, “Simply Christmas.” We all long for a more simple experience at Christmas. Today, we’re going to be talking about a simple story. Don’t you feel the tug towards something a little more simple with all the chaos and all the clutter that we have encountered during this Christmas season? Wouldn’t it be great to find some margin in your life, to have some room to really meditate and think about what Christ has done for us? After all, as Christians, shouldn’t we know how to celebrate Christmas best? When all of the world is celebrating Christmas, we’re the ones with the story. We’re the ones who know the simple story about Jesus.

In the gospel of Luke, we see the story. I would encourage you, parents and grandparents, if you haven’t started the tradition of reading Luke 2: 1- 20 to your children and grandchildren at Christmas, you should really start so that they are able to know this story. If you do it the way we do, we always pick the one who learned how to read that year. year. It’s a little chaotic; the kids don’t all sit so still. We have nine grandchildren; we have a baby all the way up to twelve years old. So, we’ve got every kind of activity happening during the Christmas story. It doesn’t look perfect. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you tell the story.

We’re going to tell the story right now. In the gospel of Luke, he recorded how the shepherds heard the angelic announcement that a Child was born and that He was the Savior, Christ the Lord. We can faithfully respond, as the shepherds did. As we look at the text, I think we’ll see three ways that we can respond faithfully to this simple story. Let’s hear the story, and then we’ll talk about how to respond.

Luke 2:1-20 (ESV) 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, whichis called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. This is God’s word.

We are looking for three ways to respond faithfully to the story of Christ’s birth. Here’s the first way:

1. Hear it.

Hear the story; really hear it. If you look at verse 20, you’ll see the three ways that the shepherds responded. Looking at verse 20, it’s a summary of the story right here for the shepherds. Three ways the shepherds responded: “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Circle the word “heard.” They heard the story! “… they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” They heard, seen and told. The first one is to hear.

How do you respond faithfully, as the shepherds did, to truly hear it? You can see that in verse 20. You can see if you look up at verse 11 what they heard. What was the message they heard? The message they heard was from the angel and from the angelic host, and they really heard it.

If you think about the word, “heard,” does this mean you have the ability to hear physically? Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s the ability to hear with spiritual ears. This is probably why Jesus began most of His sayings by saying, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear .” I don’t think there were people going around with a lot of missing ears in those days, necessarily. I don’t think that’s what it was. I think what He was saying is to those that have spiritual ears to hear. Let’s just face it. It’s a loud world. It’s a world full of noise and sometimes you have to dial down the noise and make room for the story. To really make room for the story and hear, really hear the good news because that’s what the shepherds heard. Just imagine this: These are the shepherds that got the announcement. The announcement from Heaven was not sent to kings. It was sent to shepherds; blue collar workers working night shift. They were on third shift, watching over their flocks at night and they got the heavenly announcement. This says something about who God is; who He gets to listen. He’s looking for simple people. People that are willing to listen. He’s not looking for those that are distracted by the world, but those that will just open their ears and be quiet. He’s looking for those who will really hear; simple people. People that are like these shepherds who would actually be most qualified to recognize the lamb of God lying in a manger.

The angel says to them, “Behold.” By the way, that’s the word I’m trying to get back in the English language. Behold, I’m up here preaching right now. Behold, you’re listening. We’re trying to get that word back in the language. I like that word. It means to check it out; look at what I’m talking about. It is a “may I get your attention?” word. 10 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.” He could have said, I bring you the gospel. It’s the same Greek word underneath. “…good news of great joy for all the people.” “For all the people” surely includes you! “For unto you is born.” Just think about that. Jesus is the gift of God unto you. Unto who? You. He was born unto you. He’s the gift of God born unto you.

“… is born this day in the city of David.” Where is that? Well, that is Bethlehem. Why is it called the city of David? It’s because that was where David was born. It’s also because the angel is making it known that this is the Messiah. This is the Long Awaited One that was promised, that He would be born to the line of David. It’s very important that Luke notes this. Not only that, this prophet named Micah in Micah 52 tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was 700 years before He was born. Micah told us the city He would be born in, so Luke is making note of this.

Luke is one of the greatest historians of the first century. Notice how he gives us a way of knowing the time period, he says. “In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus,” so he takes note of the fact that they were under the Roman rule of the Roman Empire and Augustus was Caesar. Luke even notes the governor of Syria was Quirinius. He’s very careful to let us know the political history that was going on that caused Joseph to take his betrothed, Mary from Nazareth, where they lived to Bethlehem. They had to go to the place where the city of David was, because Joseph was from the house and line of David. That’s where they had to go to take the census.

Now, I want you to think about that for a second. Is Luke telling us this just for historical relevance? Well, partly, but I think it’s also to let you know that all those Caesar commanded, God commanded Caesar . That’s why it’s there. The Lord of the universe had already decided where His boy was going to be born. He tapped Old Caesar on the shoulder and said, By the way, I need you to do a census. Caesar woke up and said, Okay. He put out the word; he didn’t know who told him. That’s what the point is here. I think that the political explanation is there, but the heavenly explanation speaks louder to me. Here Jesus is, born in the city of David, and three titles are given. I could have preached this sermon. I’ve done it before. There’s three points right there for you. (1) He’s a savior. This baby was born to die. The shadow of the cross overshadows the cradle. He came as the lamb of God. He’s the savior to save us from our sins. (2) He’s the Christ. That’s the word in the Greek, “Christos;” it means The Anointed One .” That’s the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, “Messiah,” which also means anointed one. He’s the long promised, expected one. (3) He is the Lord. In other words, He’s the son of God. Do you see the three titles? This is the good news that God Emmanuel has been born and given to us. What will you do with Him? He’s been given unto you.

John 10:27 (ESV) “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This is Jesus speaking. Do you know this Jesus who speaks today? Can you hear Him speaking even now?

Have you ever noticed a mother’s ability to hear her crying baby, no matter the hour of the day or night? Have you ever noticed this? Moms, you’ve got some kind of “special superpower” the minute a baby is born to you ; suddenly, this power comes to you. I have to say that, as a dad, I didn’t get that power. I don’t know if any other dads got this power. I didn’t get it. My wife, when our first born Stephen was down the hall from us, she was on “red alert” all of the time. Now, he’s down the hall after being in our bedroom for a few months. In the middle of night, she would raise up and say, “I hear him. I would say, “What do you hear?” I used to keep a red bat under the bed and was ready to use it. I must protect my family now. No, she heard Stephen crying. I didn’t hear him. She could hear his voice; her ears were tuned in such a way that was really hard as a dad to grasp.

Are your ears tuned to the story that Jesus has come and He’s coming again? Have you really heard? Do you have ears to hear? Have you heard the good news that Jesus was born unto you?

Here’s the second way you can respond faithfully: 2. See it.

In verse 20, the shepherds heard and saw. They have seen it. If you look at verses 15 and 16, they heard those angels, they talked among themselves. The angels had sung and praised the Lord. The veil had been pulled back and they had seen the angelic host.

And then, verse 15 says, When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” I like that; it’s really practical. These “blue collar” guys are not going to mess around. They heard it and then went to check it out. “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” Let’s go see it. We see the word, “see;” we see the word. That’s pretty good.

We see in verse 15 and then we see it again, in summary, in past tense in verse 20. It’s two Greek words. You might think, Well, why does that matter ?

The first word in verse 20 has to do with seeing it with your physical eyes; the physicality of it. Let’s go and see it. So they saw it. Then, let’s go see; this is a different Greek word, which literally means “to stare at.” To really look at it. It’s one way to see a thing, but it’s a whole other thing to really gaze upon it. To really spend some time looking at it.

That’s the way Luke writes this. He uses both words because I think what he’s saying is you’re invited into this story. This is not just a story that’s over here somewhere that happened 2000 years ago. This is the gospel story and you’re invited to enter the story, to experience it for yourself .

It’s not just enough to hear it. You must see it, really gaze upon it and experience it. This requires making room in your life; to turn down the volume so you can hear. To turn down the distractions of life so you can really see what God has done for you. The shepherds said, “Let’s go see, ” and so they do. They go and see it.

The psalmist writes this, Psalm 34:8 (ESV) “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” “Taste and see;” that goes together because we’re talking about experience here, to really be in relationship with God, to really enter the story, not just to hear the story from a distance, but to really hear it. To enter the story like the shepherds did. They became part of the story. By the way, for every one of us who believes in Jesus, we become part of the story. It’s not just a story over here . It’s not just good news over there. We become part of the story because we enter into it believing, seeing and tasting to see that it’s good.

Speaking of tasting and speaking of children, because I always think of children when I think of Christmas, have you ever seen a baby respond to a new flavor, especially when they’re still little in that high chair and and you’re doing the “zoom zoom zoom,” trying to get them to open their mouth when they’re first eating baby food after they’ve gotten off of mother’s milk? They’ll open their mouth right away when you bring the food towards them. But then, you gave them something that offended them. You gave them something that was a little too tart or you gave them something a little too green; their taste buds didn’t like it. From then on, you have to “zoom, zoom, zoom” to get them to open their mouth.

The Bible invites us, the word of God invites us to taste and see. Open your mouth and your eyes wide and taste and see. You must experience this. It’s not just the intellect. It’s not just the hearing, but it’s the being part to enter into this story.

Have you ever made this story your story? That’s really what Christianity is. It’s the story of how Christ died for our sins is intersected by our story. That’s the place where He changes our life.

Here’s the third way you can respond faithfully:

(3) Tell it.

We tell how God’s story has intersected our story. To make it more simple, telling others what Jesus has done for you. You’re the worldwide expert on you. You can tell others what Christ has done for you. Here’s the third way that the shepherds responded . You can do it too. You can tell it.

Look at verse 20 again, 20 “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Then, look up in verse 17, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” They made known; in other words, they began to tell others. They made it known. They made it known everywhere they went; they couldn’t stop talking about it. They made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. They made Him famous. They told everyone about it. Guess what? Angels appeared to us and we went and saw Him for ourselves. Sure enough, He was lying in a manger. Have you ever seen a baby lying in a manger? We’ve put lambs in the manger. We’ve never seen anyone put a baby in a manger, but there He was, just like the angels said. They made Him known .

Are you making Him famous in your life? Are you making Jesus known in your life? That’s what the shepherds did; they made Him known.

How did people respond? Verse 18 says, “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Have you lost the wonder of Christmas? They wondered; they marveled at the story. Angels came to them and He was in the manger. They went around telling people this story, it caused people to wonder. It caused them to think about it.

How did Luke hear about this so that he could write about it? We know that the Holy Spirit inspired him, but we also know, from the first chapter, that he went around interviewing people and gathering these stories together in an orderly way. He tells us that Maybe he interviewed the shepherds, but I think it’s more likely that he interviewed Mary. Here’s why:

Look at Verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The shepherds, also, told Mary what happened to them out there in the field with the angels. Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart; that’s how Mary responded. The people wondered at it; Mary treasured it. She stored it up and thought about it. Maybe she thought, You know, when I was a little girl growing up, I would always hear about the Messiah. I would hear how He would be born in Bethlehem and how this angel Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel and how He would be the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days. That same angel appears to me. Gabriel appears to me and says that I’m blessed among women. Then my betrothed, Joseph, tells me the same angel came and talked to him and told him. Now, we have the shepherds who saw the angels. Mary is up to four angel visitations at this point and she’s pondering this.

Maybe sometime later, when Luke was doing his interviews, she told him this story. Now, Luke tells us; now, it’s up to us to respond. Will we tell others? That’s how the story goes forth.

In the book of Mark, Jesus said, Mark 16:15 (NLT) And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Tell everyone. How do you respond to such a story? Such a beautiful, wonderful story? Really hear it, see it and then, tell it. Tell it to others. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.” Have you heard this good news? Have you seen it? Will you tell it?

Let’s pray. Lord, we thank You for Your word . We thank You for Jesus. We thank You for this simple story. Lord, I pray right now, whether the people that are listening are five years old or fifty years old. It doesn’t matter. If you’re ready and you believe in Jesus, you can talk to Him right now. You can experience His salvation in your life. You can pray like this, right where you are: Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. And I believe You died on the cross for my sins, that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. I believe that. Now, as an act of the will, I ask you to be my Lord and Savior. I surrender my life to you. I want to be a child of God. Make me a child of God. Forgive me of my sins and make me the person you want me to be. If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, it doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty. He will save you. Others are here and you know Him as Lord and Savior, but your life is filled with so much anxiety, so much trouble, so many distractions, chaos and clutter. Would you right now say, Lord, forgive me for what I’ve made of this season and of this time. Help me to turn all of my worries into prayers. Right now, Lord, I want You to be the center of my life again. I’ll make room for You right now, so I can really hear, see and tell others. I pray all this now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God. In the beginning, all things were made by Him. Without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life and that life was the light of all men. And the light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten son. On this Christmas, we remember that He became one of us so that we could know the Lord and be made right with Him. He’s the light. And as we light this candle, it represents our witness. It represents that someone told us so that we could hear it, see it and tell others. (Song, “Silent Night.) Jesus says that now you are the light of the world. As you go from this place, remember you’ve heard it and you’ve seen it. Now, go tell others. May it be so in Jesus’ name. Merry Christmas.