Can there be joy without a cause? Can there be a celebration without a reason? On the night that Jesus was born, just after his birth, Luke 2:8-13 tells us that some shepherds who were close to Bethlehem had a visit from an angel. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the angel was standing in front of them, and the Lord's glory was shining all around them. And they were terrified.

The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy, a joy that is for everyone." The angel then told them of Jesus' birth and told them where to find him.

Just as suddenly as the angel appeared, then there appeared a multitude of heavenly beings with the angel. These heavenly beings were praising God, declaring, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased."

Question: why was heaven celebrating? What was heaven so thrilled about? Why did the fact of Jesus' birth fill them with such ecstasy?

  1. Didn't they know? Didn't they understand?
    1. Did they not realize what Jesus' birth set in motion for Jesus?
      1. Did they not know that he was born in poverty, would be raised in poverty, and would live his entire life in poverty?
        1. Once a scribe came to Jesus and said, "I will follow you wherever you go" (Matthew 8:19,20).
        2. Jesus replied, "The foxes have dens and the birds have nests, but I don't even have a place to sleep."
      2. Did heaven not know that his own brothers would refuse to believe in him?
        1. Once his brothers asked him why he was not going to Jerusalem to the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-4).
        2. Jesus was such a controversial figure in Jerusalem that there was a serious desire by some to kill him.
        3. It was not yet time for him to die, and for that reason he was in Galilee.
        4. His brothers said:
          1. "Why don't you go down to Judea so your disciples can see the things that you are doing?"
          2. "You should not be doing these things secretly--you need to show yourself to the world."
        5. They were urging Jesus to place his life in danger because they "were not believing in him."
      3. Did heaven not know that even his own family would think that he was crazy?
        1. Early in his ministry Jesus was attracting such huge crowds that he could not even eat a meal.
        2. Mark 3:20,21 states that when his own people heard this, that they went to take custody of him saying, "He has lost his senses."
      4. Did heaven not know that Jesus would have powerful enemies in high places who would complicate his ministry and make his life as miserable as they could?
      5. Did heaven not know that he would be betrayed by one of the twelve men who lived and worked with him? Did heaven not know the agony Jesus would endure when one of his best friends denied that he ever knew him?
      6. Did heaven not know the humiliation and abuse Jesus would confront in his trials--the being slapped, the being mocked, the being spat upon?
      7. Did heaven not know the pain he would endure in his scourging when he was stripped of his clothes, tied to a post, and beaten with a leather whip?
      8. Did heaven not know the emotional and physical agony he would endure for hours as he was crucified?
    2. Didn't heaven know all this? Yes, heaven knew this.
      1. Well, if heaven knew, what were they celebrating? What is the joy about?
      2. How could they be so excited, so happy, so filled with praise if they knew that this baby just born would be successful only if he confronted and endured all this?
      3. This is hard for us to understand, isn't it?
      4. What if you knew immediately after your child's birth every bad experience, every trauma, every serious sorrow, and every pain that your newborn would face--including the fact that he or she would die a tragic, painful death? If you knew all of that, would it affect the your joy on the day of birth?
        1. The birth of a child that we love and want is such a euphoric, joyous event in our prosperous, free society because of our ignorance.
        2. We look into the face of that tiny infant and see nothing but hope, and dreams, and good things to come.
        3. At that moment it is as though trouble could never touch that new life sleeping in his or her innocence.
        4. Yet, the truth is, trouble touches and afflicts every life.
      5. After a birth, we can rejoice and celebrate because of our ignorance; after Jesus' birth, heaven rejoiced and celebrated in full knowledge of what was to happen.
        1. Heaven knew everything that awaited this infant in his human experience.
        2. And with that knowledge, heaven rejoiced.

  2. Do you understand that? We need to. We need to in order to properly, fully appreciate all that God has done and is doing in Jesus the Christ.
    1. They were not rejoicing at the prospect of Jesus' ordeals and pain; they were rejoicing because of what God and Jesus would accomplish through his ordeals and pain.
      1. Heaven rejoiced because God was very near complete success.
        1. The plan that God set in motion the day that Adam and Eve rebelled had begun its final phase.
        2. They rejoiced because God's objective was at hand--perfect redemption from evil, total forgiveness of sins, complete salvation would soon be a reality.
      2. Heaven rejoiced because God's complete victory over Satan was within God's grasp.
        1. Satan had been thrown out of heaven.
        2. Soon the power of death, which was Satan's power and control over a human's life, could be destroyed.
      3. Heaven rejoiced because after the cross would come the resurrection when Jesus would be Lord and Christ, and Satan would be in defeat.
        1. Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus endured the cross and looked with contempt upon shame because of the joy that lay beyond the cross.
        2. It was the joy beyond the cross that caused heaven to rejoice.
      4. Heaven rejoiced because the birth of this child meant that at last there could be peace among people with whom God was pleased.
        1. Jesus was born to create the opportunity for us at last to be at peace with God, and also to be at peace with each other because we are at peace with God.
        2. The natural product of being at peace with God through Jesus is being at peace with everyone who has made peace with God through Jesus.
        3. Being at peace with God teaches us and shows us how to be at peace every one else who is in Jesus Christ.

An angel told Mary that she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38), and an angel told Joseph not to be afraid to marry her (Matthew 1:18-25). Angels rejoiced and praised God when Jesus was born. Angels came and ministered to Jesus when his temptations in the wilderness concluded (Matthew 4:11). When Jesus prayed with such intensity in the Garden of Gethsemane that he sweated as though he were bleeding, an angel came and strengthened him (Luke 22:43). An angel rolled the stone away from Jesus' tomb when he was resurrected, and told the women who made their early morning visit to the tomb, that Jesus was not there, that he had arisen (Matthew 28:1-7). Immediately after Jesus ascended back into heaven, heavenly messengers promised Jesus' disciples that Jesus would return in the same manner that he left (Acts 1:10, 11).

From the moment Jesus entered this world to the moment Jesus left this world, heaven took great interest in all that occurred in Jesus' life. Heaven rejoiced when he was born, and rejoiced again when he returned. Revelation 5:9, 10 states that all the creatures of heaven bowed before the resurrected Jesus and sang this song:

You are worthy to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.

Just as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-11, I thank Jesus for not clinging to his equality with God, for emptying his divine self into the form of a human slave taking upon himself our humanity. I thank Jesus for humbling himself as a human in total obedience to God, obedience that even accepted death on a cross.

I thank God for exalting him, for giving him a name, a title, the Christ, which is the most powerful and significant name ever given anyone. I thank God that the day will come when every being in heaven and every person who has ever lived on earth will bow before Jesus. And that everyone, voluntarily, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And in that moment, God will be appropriately glorified for all that He has done in making our salvation a reality.

Just as heaven was personally and directly involved in Jesus' life from the moment he was born through the time of his resurrection, if you choose to place your life in the resurrected Jesus, heaven will be personally and directly involved in your life--from the moment you are born into God's family through the time of your resurrection. Jesus was born to create your opportunity to choose. Jesus was raised from the dead to give you that choice. It is your choice. If you choose life in Christ, heaven will rejoice again.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 December 1996
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