No Ordinary Child
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No Ordinary Child

Luke 2:25–35  (ID: 2777)

Ultimately, Jesus explains the story of our lives, just as He did for Simeon. Alistair Begg explains that this just and devout man of Jerusalem had a story that made sense of his life: he was waiting on the Messiah. When he met Jesus in the temple, he recognized that He was the one for whom he was waiting—the Light of World. Yet he also warned that the boy would be an obstacle for many, which would bring them grief. We likewise cannot be neutral about Jesus.

Sermon Transcript: Print

Luke chapter 2. It’s page 725 in the church Bibles. Page 725, Luke chapter 2, beginning at verse 25 and reading to verse 35:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’

“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’”


And now, gracious God, as we turn to the Bible, we humbly pray for your help so that that divine dialogue that we cannot fully articulate but truly understand when it happens might take place; that you, the Spirit of God, take the written Word of God and bring it home to our hearts and minds in a way that is unmistakable. We are powerless to effect this. We look alone to you together to accomplish this for your glory and for our good. And we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, I decided that this morning we would look together, before we go back to the Gospel of Mark, at what is a dramatic encounter that takes place in the everyday events of life. The narrative that we have just read is in the context of Mary and Joseph doing for Jesus, as a Jewish male, what the regulations of Judaism demanded. And as they went about the business of fulfilling God’s purposes for them as a young family, so in the temple of Jerusalem they ran into this particular individual.

I find myself, when I read Luke’s Gospel, turning back again and again to his opening statement. And you may like to turn a page back just to remind yourself of Luke’s stated purpose in writing this Gospel—not only his purpose but also his methodology. And he says in verse 1 that he has “undertaken,” as others have done, “to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled”—that word is very important, “fulfilled among us”; we’ll come back to it—“just as they were handed down to us by those who were from the first eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”[1] In other words, he says, “We haven’t cobbled this material together. We haven’t sat down and let our imaginations run wild. But we have been carefully investigating that which has been given to us by the eyewitnesses.” And verse 3: “Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write”—notice—“an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” And then he tells us why he’s doing so—verse 4: “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

And then he goes on throughout all of the Gospel to give to us these accounts of the birth and the life and the teaching and the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And all these stories, if you like, concerning Jesus make up the great overarching story, which, along with all that has preceded in what we refer to as the Old Testament, gives to us the intervention of God in time.

We have, over these last couple of Sundays, been thinking very much about the incarnation. And some of us have stumbled as children have asked us to try and do a better job than hitherto in just giving some kind of explanation. And we’ve stumbled around in our attempts to do so. One of the ways in which we might think of things is to imagine just for a moment that we had lived our entire lives in this room—that this assembled group had been born in this room, and we had never left the room—and furthermore that all the doors were closed and that there was absolutely no access to the outside. There was nothing that came to us from the outside in. We were entirely in an enclosed space, without an opportunity to know what was beyond. How would we then know what was beyond?

Answer: we couldn’t. We could only guess. We could only surmise. People could put up their hands and say, “I think when you get outside of here, there’s just a large and roaring furnace.” Someone said, “I think if you get out of here, you’ll find a beautiful place,” and so on. But in actual fact, if we had lived our entire lives in this enclosed space, the only way that we could know what is on the outside is if someone came from the outside inside and told us what was going on in that place that we had never yet encountered.

Now, as marvelous as it sounds and as spectacular as it sounds, Jesus is actually the man from outside. Jesus is the one who comes from beyond into time. And he is the one who ultimately, finally explains to us the narrative, the story, of our lives. In the eternal Word—the Word that “was made flesh, and dwelt among us,”[2] as John puts it—in that Word, God has disclosed himself, has made himself known finally and savingly.

Now, when we read the Gospel narratives concerning the Christmas story, much of it may just seem to us out of the blue—I mean, the angelic visitation, the personal visitation of the angel, and so on—especially if we’re skeptical at all. We say to ourselves, “Well, this just seems to be so far-fetched.” And I understand. It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to come to chapter 2 this morning and to a more mature individual—somebody who had lived a long time—and to this individual, Simeon. Because there’s a sense in which chapter 2 seems, if you like, a little more down-to-earth. Oh, admittedly, the only way to understand it is in terms of the dimensions from beyond. This man had been advised, he had been indwelt by the Spirit of God sufficient to know that “he would not die” until “he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And his life-changing—if you would like, his life-ending—experience is set within the context of a promised deliverance. If you like, the moment that is described for us here in all of its wonderful dimensions has to be understood, is understood by Simeon, not as a sort of existential experience in a moment in time but one that has been predicted, one that for him has been anticipated, and now, in this encounter with Mary and Joseph and the Christ child, he finally says, “Aha! This is it. My eyes have seen your salvation.”

You see, for Simeon, he had a narrative that made sense of his existence. He was aware of history. He was aware of the history of God’s dealings with his people. He would have been quite happy with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof when he sings that song, “Tradition! Tradition!” and he stops every so often, and he editorializes. And at one point he says, “Tradition teaches us who we are and what God expects of us.”[3] And Simeon was exactly there. He knew who he was, and he knew exactly what God expected and what God was doing.

You say, “Well, that’s very interesting. But it was a long time ago. Does it really have any impact on us today?” Well, I think it does. I think all you need to do is keep reading your newspaper and keep reading your Bible, and you will see that the way in which the story of the Bible intersects with your everyday events of life is unmistakable—if you have eyes to see.

I’m not going to embarrass anyone by asking you to put up your hand if you’re going to turn sixty-five in 2011. But if you are going to turn sixty-five in 2011, then you know that you are at the forefront of the baby boomer generation. You who were born in, what, 1948, would that be? Or probably. I can’t remember, can’t do the math. Forty-eight; that would be eleven; that’d be sixty-three. Forty-six? Forty-six. Then… That doesn’t make sense either. But anyway, I’ll leave the math alone.

Anyway, if you’re going to turn sixty-five, then you’re a part of the baby boomer generation. And if you were reading the New York Times yesterday, you would have read the article with the headline, “Boomers Hit Another Milestone of Self-Absorption.” The “Boomers Hit Another Milestone of Self-Absorption.” So here we are. I’m part of this group. I bring up somewhere towards the back end, like I always was in cross-country running. But I’m in the group, and I understand it. This is the comment that was made by the journalist Dan Barry of these individuals, some of whom—a significant number of whom—are present this morning: “They are living longer, working longer and, researchers say, nursing some disappointment at how their lives have turned out. The self-aware, or self-absorbed, feel less self-fulfilled, and thus are wracked with self-pity.”[4] “Self-aware,” “self-absorbed,” “less self-fulfilled,” “wracked with self-pity.” Now, even when we allow for all of the poetic license that is wrapped up in Barry’s journalism there, still he puts his finger on something of the pulse.

Here, then, is Simeon—a man who has reached this very significant point in his life. He is clearly not self-absorbed. He is not wracked with self-pity. He actually is able to say, “My life makes perfect sense, and I am now ready to die.” How unlike contemporary men and women! And he, in taking this child in his arms and making the statements he makes, presents us with a Jesus vastly different—vastly different—from the one who is easily accommodated or cursorily dismissed by a polite or an impolite Western culture. This Jesus is unavoidable. And I want to show you why in four words.

The Light

The first word is the word light. Light. You will notice that it is there. He takes the child in his arms, and he says of him that he is—verse 32—“a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

It’s interesting that the gentiles come before the Jews in this statement. It’s one of God’s reversals of things. What he’s saying is simply this: that this child brings salvation for the whole world. For the whole world. There’s nothing exclusive about this. This is not a salvation for a certain group. This is salvation for the entire world—for gentile people, for Jewish people. His light shines out across the world.

Jesus, in his words, and in his miracles, and in his character, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection, is the great sign, is a conspicuous sign.

Now, remember, keep in mind, that Luke is writing here not a biography. He’s not writing a history. He’s writing a Gospel. And what he’s doing is he’s writing in such a way as to awaken our interest, to answer our questions, and to lead us to faith—awaken our interest, answer our questions, and to lead us to faith—so that when we bump up against this word “light,” “a light for the Gentiles,” we then say to ourselves, “Well, didn’t I hear something about that in the last few weeks? Wasn’t there something read in one of those readings on Christmas Eve about how ‘the people’ who were ‘walking in darkness have seen a great light’?[5] Didn’t I get that somewhere, from The Messiah or somewhere else?”

That’s exactly right. That’s from the prophecy of Isaiah, in chapter 9. Who are the people walking in darkness? Who were they? Who are they? We are the people. We live our lives in darkness. That’s why when John writes and begins his prologue, he says of John that John wasn’t the Light; he was merely the one pointing to the Light, preceding the Light.[6] “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”[7] So Jesus stands up, and he says, “I am the light of the world,” and “he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”[8] That’s why the Christian is described as someone who has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light[9]—into the kingdom of the Son, who is himself the Light.

Now, this is not too difficult to understand, is it? We understand this picture. We have walked around in the darkness and said to somebody. “Could you turn a light on in here?” It makes all the difference to the environment. Countless thousands of people in the last two weeks, in various parts of the country and in Western Europe, have been powerless. Powerless. And being without power, they have been without light. Unless the power is restored, the source of light is removed; they continue to live in darkness. The metaphor is straightforward; a child can understand it. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. We, who by nature live in darkness and embrace darkness, remain in darkness until, if you like, we are plugged into the source of power and the source of light. And then we in turn bring light to the world—not in ourselves but a reflected light for he who is a Light to lighten the gentiles and the Glory of the people Israel.

The Stone

The second word is stone. Stone. Now, you’ll look in vain for it, because the word stone is not there, but the reference to a stone is there. You’ll have to trust me on this and then look it up later. “This child”—verse 34—he said to Mary, “is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against.”

Now, once again, this is a quote from the Old Testament, from Isaiah 8:14, speaking of the one who is to come:

He will be a sanctuary;
 but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
 and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
 a trap and a snare.
Many of them will stumble;
 they will fall and be broken,
 they will be snared and captured.

That’s Isaiah 8:14.

Now, remember what Luke is doing. Luke is not hanging out somewhere at the beginning of everything, in the beginning of this story, hauling off from nowhere all kinds of bright ideas. No. He is searching diligently. He is putting the pieces together. And he is now making it clear as he brings the story of the Old Testament prophets into line with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Aha! That is now beginning to make sense of the reference in Isaiah 8 concerning this stone that causes people to stumble.”

There is nowhere, actually, in the New Testament where this is picked up and used to greater effect than, actually, in 1 Peter, when Peter, writing to the scattered believers of his day, refers to them in these “building” terms. And in 1 Peter 2:4 he writes as follows: “As you come to him, the living Stone…” Okay? Who is this “living Stone”? This is Jesus. What does he tell us about him? He’s “rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.” Okay? He says, “Here you are, the scattered believers facing the persecution of Nero. But don’t forget that you have been fitted into Christ, who is the living Stone.” “[You’re] being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”[10] In other words, “Here’s your identity,” he says, “and here is your significance.”

Here is the distinguishing feature of a baby boomer who’s turning sixty-five this year. If you are a sixty-five-year-old baby boomer, you now have a wonderful opportunity to go out and shine as a light in the darkness. Take the article from the front page of the New York Times, take it to your favorite coffee shop or wherever it is you sit around and forget where you left your car keys, and sit in there, and wait for the opportunity to say, “Did you see that thing about the baby boomers? Do you think we’re self-fulfilled? Do you think we’re self-absorbed? Do you think we’re full of self-pity? Do you?” Then someone will say, “Well, I don’t know. Perhaps to some degree.” And then they’ll ask you. And they’ll say to you, “And so what is it that allows you, at the age of sixty-five—facing your own demise, confronted by your own mortality, realizing you’ve got less in front of you than you have behind you—what is it that makes sense for you?” And you can tell them: “I am being built into a spiritual house.” Now, they’ll think you’re slightly crazy when you say that, but you can go on and explain to them, “My significance is found in what God has given in Jesus, who is this cornerstone, this special stone, which is the occasion for a rock and a refuge”—about which we sang in Newton’s hymn[11]—“and it is simultaneously the occasion of a stumbling and a falling for those who reject Jesus.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Men and women, I don’t find, are particularly stumbling over issues of spirituality. I was just listening to a song the other day that had been written by George Harrison. And George Harrison has obviously been watching the television and not enjoying the TV preachers that he has been hearing. And that’s something that he and I have, actually, in common. And as he listens to this, he shouts out, as it were, to the TV, and he says, “Can we have a little less of that stuff and a little more of ‘God consciousness’?” And you understand that his background was essentially now in Hinduism, and all he wanted to do was have some kind of “consciousness” of God.

People are perfectly happy with that! They’re not concerned about you having a God consciousness. They’re not going to stumble over questions of spirituality. They won’t care if you take a little Buddha and put it up on your desk in the Cleveland Clinic. None of that will be a problem to them at all. I’ll tell you where they’ll stumble: over Jesus. Over Jesus. They’ll trip over Christ. Because he is like a rock on the Pacific Coast Highway when it has fallen in as a result of a mudslide, and the road is no longer navigable. And someone has taken and put in its place just gigantic boulders. And those boulders actually exist to warn and to create a walkway over the chasm. Those who are careless or scornful reject the warning, refuse the way, and stumble to their own destruction.

In that same section that we’re reading from 1 Peter 2, in verse 8, he says of individuals, “They stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it—which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion.”[12] “They stumble at the [Bible because] in their hearts they’re unwilling to obey it—which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion.” But he says to the Christians, “To you who believe, [he’s] precious.”[13] He’s “precious.” “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.”[14] The secularist has no interest in the name of Jesus. The profane use it as a curse. The believer says, “This is precious to me, my ‘rock … my shield, my hiding place.’”[15] Do you stumble at Christ and trip to your own destruction? Or have you found in him the salvation about which Simeon is singing?

The Sign

Third word is the word sign. Sign. We’ll deal with it just briefly. It’s a “sign” that is “spoken against.”

God has used various signs throughout the Bible. We could ask our children, and they could tell us some of them. I saw one the other day: a rainbow. God sent the rainbow, a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, a serpent, a lamb, and so on. And so Jesus, in his words, and in his miracles, and in his character, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection, is the great sign, is a conspicuous sign. Christ is a conspicuous sign.

That’s why the people were asking when Jesus performed these miracles—you remember, John says, when he records for us the turning of water into wine, “And this was the first miraculous sign that Jesus performed.”[16] He wasn’t a wonder worker. He was pointing to something. It was a sign. And ultimately the signs pointed to himself, he who is the great sign. That’s why they said of Jesus when he calmed the sea, “What manner of man is this!”[17] That’s why when the wise men looked in on the crib scene, looking on the manger, they’re really asking, “What child is this?”[18] That’s why any thoughtful person has to be honest enough to say, “When I consider these things, this is no ordinary child.”

Mary Macdonald, in her wonderful Christmas carol, puts it as follows:

Child in [a] manger, infant of Mary,
Outcast and stranger, Lord of all,
Child who inherits all our transgressions,
All our demerits on him fall.[19]

You can say this of no other child born in the entire history of humanity. No other religion makes such a claim; only here—that in this child taken into the arms of Simeon we have this glorious light, we have the reality of this stone that causes some to stumble and others to trust, and we have this immaculate and wonderful, wonderful evidence of God’s love for us.

You can trace this out yourselves. You can read on. You find that Jesus, picking up on the story of the serpent in the wilderness, says that when the Son of Man is lifted up, then he will draw men and women to him.[20] Well, when the Son of Man is lifted up, it is a sign to which some come in trust and which others speak against. It’s impossible to speak of these things without being spoken against. When Jesus did what he did, the people said, “This man welcomes sinners and [he] eats with them.”[21] They weren’t saying, “And that’s very good.” They were saying, “That’s very bad.” That was the response of religion. The response of religion was to say, “Ah, we know he’s doing dramatic things, but he’s demonic. He casts out devils by the power of the devil.”[22] In his trial he was taunted; he was abused; he was mocked. It was like no trial you could ever imagine. It was much worse than the rigged trials in Russia at the moment, it would seem—much worse than that. It was preceded and followed by all kinds of abuse. He was scorned by the multitude. And in it and through it all, what the Bible says is that this is God’s sign. This is the sign by which God is making known to us our need of a Savior and making known to us the Savior that we need—that here is the sign which gives to us the salvation which is enjoyed by those who are penitent. Do you hear what I’m saying?

It’s no surprise, then, that when Paul writes of these things to the Corinthians, what does he say? “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to [those] who are being saved it is the power of God.”[23] In other words, this Christ taken into the arms of Simeon is unavoidable. He confronts us inevitably with a crossroads. He is either our refuge, or we stumble and fall to our own destruction. He either is precious to us or irrelevant to us. He is a sign that is spoken against.

The thoughts of many hearts are revealed by our attitude and response to Jesus. Neutrality is not an option.

Why is it that on the back bumper of a car, people have gone to such endeavors to take the Christian symbol of the fish from the catacombs and reversed it? Why do you go to such endeavors to take a little fish like that, turn it upside down, and put Darwin’s name underneath it? Why do you feel you have to do that? Why do you have to speak against this sign? I thought you said that every sign is equally valid. I thought you said that every notion is equally true. Why do you have to take the cross of Jesus Christ and turn it upside down on the front of your rock albums? Why do you have to do that? Because the Christ is spoken against. He is not simply marginalized. He is not sequestered. Two thousand years on, the world either worships him or essentially despises him. You’re sensible people. Figure it out.

The Sword

And finally, a sword. A sword. A personal word from Mary: “A sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon is driving home the awful extent of the resistance and rejection of her son. No mother wants to hear her children demeaned or maligned. For Mary, things were difficult from the very beginning. Twelve years of age, they find him after he has gone missing, from their perspective, in the temple courts. He says to them, “Hey, didn’t you realize I had to be about my Father’s business?”[24] And they wondered at that.[25] Can you imagine how Mary and the rest of the family felt when they showed up at one of Jesus’ preaching events? He’d gone into the house by this time, and someone had come to Jesus and said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside at the portico.” And he sent word back out: “My mother and my brothers are those who do the will of my Father.”[26] No, you see, the thoughts of many hearts are revealed by our attitude and response to Jesus. Neutrality is not an option.

But once again, if you’re looking for an out from what we’re considering in the Bible, there are plenty of slip roads off the freeway that lead to Christ. For those of you who, again, enjoying the luxury of time, perused the newspapers of yesterday, you will, along with me, have discovered and benefited, I think, from the two articles that relate to a new book on philosophy which I have not had time to read—you may have read it; it’s always dangerous to comment without reading the entire text—but a new book on philosophy entitled All Things Shining, by Kelly, I think, from Harvard, by Dreyfus from Berkley. It’s a review of philosophy, an explanation of how we got to where we are. And they make all kinds of generalizations, it seems, saying that two hundred years ago, everybody lived with an inevitable sense of God, of his divinity, of his providence, and so on, but in the last hundred years, we’ve lived without that, without any sense of shared values. And in the course of the book, they say that since men and women in the last hundred years have been living without any sense of shared value, then they “have to find or create their own meaning.” This, they then go on to say, “has led to a pervasive sadness.”[27] “A pervasive sadness.”

Now, let’s tie these two things together. We’ve got the baby boomers, sixty-five, leading the charge, self-absorbed and full of self-pity. Well, they’re part of the generation that has lived without any sense of shared values. They are the generation, we are the generation, that has been told, “You better go and try and find sense and significance and meaning somewhere else.” Consequently, say the authors, “modern life is marked by … indecision and [by] anxiety.”[28] “Indecision and anxiety.” But, they say, no reason for alarm, because you can just whoosh it up. And the phrase that they use is “whooshing up.”[29] I was immediately intrigued by it. I thought I would like to be whooshed up anytime soon. I had to read on to discover what they’re on about.

Now, here’s where you get whooshed up. You get whooshed up, for example, if you happened to be present or saw the movie or read the book of Lou Gehrig when he made his final statement at Yankee Stadium, and he referred to himself, despite facing the end of his life with ALS, as “the luckiest man alive.” Say Dreyfus and Kelly, in that moment, those who heard that were whooshed—the same kind of whoosh that you got when you saw Federer win and take it to a new level at Wimbledon; the same kind of whoosh that you get when you are woodworking, and you manage to plane the thing to a smoothness that is well-nigh perfection, and it is a whoosh! experience. Or when you are in mountain climbing. All right?

Now, this is good. I like this. This is another point of departure. I am going to be using this for quite a while now. I’m going to talk to people, and I’m going to say to them, “Have you been whooshed up lately? Are you whooshing it up? How was your Christmas? How was your New Year? Any whooshing going on?” They’ll say, “Well, what is that?” I’ll tell them: “It’s this.” But this is what they say: “Since there is no overarching story, since there is no big picture, since there is no significance at the beginning and no meaning at the end…” (Right? This is their philosophical underpinnings.) “… don’t go and look for one. It will only upset you. It will only tax you. Instead, live life on the surface. Live life seeking out these transcendent whooshes. You can find them in sports stadiums, concert halls, political rallies, theaters, museums, and restaurants.”[30]

And David Brooks says, commenting in the New York Times, says masterfully, writing ahead of me—I’d already thought it, I have to tell you. If that sounds like self-absorption, please forgive me, but it’s part of my generation. But I already had thought it, and then he wrote it, and I said, “Thank you, Brooks. You’re right!” He said you can find the whooshness in the sports, the concert, the political rally, the theater, the museum, the restaurant. “Even church is often more about the ecstatic whoosh than theology.” So those of you have come here for an ecstatic whoosh to get your new year started, I hope it’s been something of a whoosh.

But, if I can speak to these guys—Dreyfus and his friend Kelly, whose intellectual shoes I am not worthy to tie—I would want to say to them, “It doesn’t have to be either-or. According to your narrative here, this Simeon did whoosh it up. He whooshed it up big-time!” I mean, if you took this as a definition—he said, “What happened?” He said to his wife, “Man, I was whooshed up! You can’t believe it, what happened to me.” She said, “Well, is that not just a moment in time?” “No,” he says, “it’s not a moment in time. I was waiting for the consolation of Israel. I was waiting for the Messiah. I met him!”

You see, where their theory falls down is that there is actually no big picture. There’s a reason for people wanting to have no big picture. Because if we can dispense with the beginning, we can dispense with the end. Therefore, we dispense with any notion of accountability, any notion of judgment, any notion of a stone that causes us to stumble to our own destruction. If we can get rid of that, then just have a whoosh! But we can’t get rid of that. And we know we can’t get rid of that. Therefore, we must prepare for that.

How do we prepare for that? By accepting the only solution provided in the person and work of the child held in the arms of Simeon—that the metanarrative, that the story of all of God’s purposes, is in this: “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world [to] himself.”[31] And the message of the gospel is “Receive your reconciliation.” Of course, reject it, and go out and try and make your own meaning in a culture that is marked, according to the journalist, by “pervasive sadness.”

We have a little booklet. It’s called The Story. It’s all around the building. You could take one with you. I think you may find it helpful.

Let us pray:

God our Father, we thank you that on this first Sunday of the new year, we have a Bible to which we can turn, and we have time throughout the day that we can go back and examine the Bible and see if what’s being said is actually there. I pray this morning that you would help us—since the thoughts of our hearts are revealed by a consideration of Christ—that you will help us to trust in him alone, to thank you for the way that you have ordered our steps, and to live out this wonderful truth in the place of your appointing. Help us to this end, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[1] Luke 1:1–2 (NIV 1984).

[2] John 1:14 (KJV).

[3] Sheldon Harnick, “Tradition” (1964). Paraphrased.

[4] Dan Barry, “Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65,” New York Times, December 31, 2010,

[5] Isaiah 9:2 (NIV 1984).

[6] See John 1:8.

[7] John 1:9 (NIV 1984).

[8] John 8:12 (RSV).

[9] See Colossians 1:13.

[10] 1 Peter 2:5 (NIV 1984).

[11] John Newton, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (1779).

[12] 1 Peter 2:8 (Phillips).

[13] 1 Peter 2:7 (NIV 1984).

[14] Newton, “How Sweet.” Emphasis added.

[15] Newton, “How Sweet.”

[16] John 2:11 (paraphrased).

[17] Luke 8:25 (KJV). See also Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41.

[18] William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865).

[19] Mary Macdougal Macdonald, trans. Lachlan Macbean, “Child in the Manger” (1888).

[20] See John 3:14; 12:32.

[21] Luke 15:2 (NIV 1984).

[22] Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15 (paraphrased).

[23] 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV 1984).

[24] Luke 2:49 (paraphrased).

[25] See Luke 2:50–51.

[26] Matthew 12:47, 50; Mark 3:32, 35; Luke 8:20–21 (paraphrased).

[27] David Brooks, “The Arena Culture,” New York Times, December 30, 2010,

[28] Brooks.

[29] Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (New York: Free Press, 2011), 200–205, quoted in Brooks.

[30] Brooks. Paraphrased.

[31] 2 Corinthians 5:19 (KJV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.