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THEY CAME WITH HASTE – A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day, 12:30 PM, December 25, 2011

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 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 they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-16).


No one ever spoke more earnestly and sweetly about Christmas than Dr. John R. Rice. In his little book, I Love Christmas, Dr. Rice said,

      Things went their humdrum round at Rome, the center of the world. In Caesar’s palace the entertainment, the feasting, the politics continued; no one knew that God had a Son born, and man a Saviour! That night the head of Caesar rested… uneasily…The Roman Senate never saw an angel come, never heard a whisper of the “Glory to God in the highest” chorus. They never dreamed in Rome that the King of the Jews was born who will one day rule the world.
      In the king’s palace at Jerusalem, murderous [King] Herod had no thought that only six miles away one was born who will one day make Jerusalem “the joy of the whole earth” and there will establish His reign forever on David’s throne! The Sanhedrin met as usual; the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees quarreled about the details of the ceremonial law. None of them had [any idea] that the Christ, the Messiah so long promised, had been born. God did not think it worthwhile to tell the story of the Saviour’s birth in the palaces, or universities, or among the rich and mighty of the world. When Jesus was born the angel of the Lord left Heaven [and] sought out a group of humble shepherds, and told them the story that should have electrified the world!
      Not until the wise men from the East came seeking “the King of the Jews” and inquired of Herod…did the “powers that be,” in Jerusalem, hear that [the Saviour] had been born!
      A Saviour for the lowly, the ignorant, and the poor! This, surely, is the meaning of this Scripture (John R. Rice, D.D., I Love Christmas, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1955, pp. 18-19).

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).

I will not keep you long this afternoon. But I want you to think about two things concerning those shepherds.

I. First, they were poor.

Isn’t that the most striking thing? With all those rich and important people in the world, God chose to send His angel to call these poor shepherds to Christ. But if you know the Bible it shouldn’t be a great surprise. The Apostle Paul said,

“Not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen…”
       (I Corinthians 1:26-28).

So, we should not be surprised that God by-passed Caesar Augustus, King Herod, and the scribes and Pharisees, and chose to send the announcement of Christ’s birth to poor “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).

The theme of the humble shepherd who knows God runs through the Bible. Abel was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2). Joseph was a shepherd (Genesis 37:2). Moses fled from Egypt and became a shepherd (Exodus 3:1). David was a shepherd (I Samuel 16:11).

God showed Himself to Abel, the shepherd, not to his brother Cain. God showed Himself to Joseph, the shepherd, not to his brothers. God showed Himself to Moses the shepherd, not to the Pharaoh of Egypt. God showed Himself to David the shepherd, not to King Saul. Surely there is a lesson here. God sent His angel to announce the birth of Christ to “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock” (Luke 2:8) – not to Caesar Augustus or King Herod. Surely this major Bible theme illustrates the Apostle Paul’s declaration,

“Not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen”
       (I Corinthians 1:26-28).

I say, this is a major theme in the Bible. Later, in this same chapter in Luke, Mary, the mother of Jesus, said,

“[God] hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).

And Jesus Himself said,

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25).

Why is it so hard as to be virtually impossible? Because they “trust in riches,” they trust in money, rather than God.

Look down through history and see how often God speaks to plain people, like these shepherds, not to the high and mighty. The historian Roland Bainton said that Luther’s father was “not unduly affluent, and his wife had still to go to the forest and drag home the wood. The atmosphere of the family was that of the peasantry: rugged, rough, at times coarse” (Roland H. Bainton, Ph.D., Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New American Library, 1950, p. 19). Luther himself gave up studying to be a lawyer, and became a poor Augustinian monk, much to his father’s dismay. But it was this poor monk to whom God spoke and showed the great truth of Justification by Faith alone. It was this poor monk that God raised up to shatter the manacles and break the chains of Catholicism, breathing the life of the Reformation into the church of the Dark Ages! And it was George Whitefield, the poor and fatherless son, whose mother kept a tavern, that God raised up to proclaim the new birth throughout England and America. It was poor John Bunyan, a lowly tinker, put in prison for preaching the gospel “without a license” from the state, whom God raised up in prison to write books that have been used by God to evangelize millions for three hundred years. It was poor David Livingstone, who had to slave his way through medical school at night, working all day at a mill, that God used to penetrate the sin-darkened continent of Africa, whose writings and lectures were used to turn the British Empire against slavery. And never forget that Spurgeon was the poor son of a clergyman who never went to a Bible school, seminary, or a university, that God raised up to be the “Prince of Preachers,” the greatest Gospel preacher, aside from Whitefield, since the Apostle Paul. And Paul himself, who “counted all things but dung” to win Christ, and went through almost unbelievable hardship to do so, became the greatest Gospel preacher of all time.

Then, look at the world today. Where do we see revival in our time? Not in wealthy Europe. Not in wealthy America. We see the hand of God moving in great might and power in China, Southeast Asia, and Africa and India – among the poor, among “the weak things of the world,” God has confounded “the things that are mighty.”

And that takes us back to those shepherds on the first Christmas,

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them…And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11).

It was these poor shepherds who were the first God called to see the newborn Christ “lying in a manger” in Bethlehem.

Is there a lesson here for you? Indeed there is! If you are not converted now, you must seek Christ while you are young and fairly poor. The Book of Ecclesiastes says,

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth”
       (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Now, in the time of your youth and poverty, seek for Christ until you find Him. You must do that now, or it may be everlastingly too late.

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

When once you are shackled in a job and a profession, the “evil days” will begin. Your heart will no longer be tender toward God. Your mind will be so fixed on your job and career that it may be too late for you to be saved. You may become so entangled with the desire for advancement, that your heart will have no time for contemplation, quietness, and communion with God. The time for conversion is now. That’s why the Bible says,

“To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts”
       (Hebrews 3:15).

See how quickly time slips through your fingers. See how soon the means of grace will slip away, as the days of youth close their doors behind you, and you ever so quickly become a slave of your work, your advancement, and your “career.” Halt! Stop now, while there is still time!

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:9-10).

Humble yourselves before God now, while you are still young. The prophet said,

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).

Soon the harvest will be over for you. And you are not saved! Soon the fresh days of youth will pass, nay, are already passing. And you “are not saved.”

Oh, I plead with you, come with those poor shepherds. Seek God in Christ until you find Him. Give Jesus the first place in your heart and life. Trust Jesus. He will never lead you wrong. He will give you what is best for you. Trust Him! Put your trust in Him! Trust not your own mind. Trust not your own plans and reasonings. Come with the shepherds that Christmas night – and let Caesar Augustus and King Herod go their way – to Hell! Let them go to that place of torment because they “trust in riches” (Mark 10:24). Come with the shepherds, and let the scribes and Pharisees go their way – to Hell! Let them go to that place of torment because they trusted the “safe” way of life. Risk it all for Jesus! That is what it means to trust Him! Trust Him with your mind, trust Him in your heart. Trust Him with your life. He will never fail you. Trust Him! That is my plea to you. And when you trust Jesus, you will come out of the world of Caesar and King Herod, into the world of the shepherds, men who were forever blessed because they found the Son of God. It is better to remain poor and know Jesus than to have all the riches of the world without Him. That’s why I love George Beverly Shea’s old song,

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
   I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
   This world affords today.
(“I’d Rather Have Jesus,” words by Rhea F. Miller, 1922;
     music composed by George Beverly Shea, 1909 - ).

II. Second, they came with haste to Jesus.

Look again at our text in Luke 2:16. Please stand and read it aloud.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).

You may be seated. “They came with haste.” They didn’t wait. They hurried to Jesus. They knew it was too important to wait, and fiddle, and put it off. It was too important to put off any longer. So, they heard the sermon from the angel and hurried,

“And they came with haste” (Luke 2:16).

And, or course, they found Jesus, just as the angel said they would. “They came with haste.” They came quickly. They found Jesus.

I said earlier that King Herod was only six miles away when Jesus was born. Herod knew where Christ was. The wise men came seeking Him. The scribes read the prophecy to Herod from Micah 5:2, which said that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. But Herod did not go there to Bethlehem. Instead,

“He sent them [the wise men] to Bethlehem” (Matthew 2:8).

You know what happened. Like the shepherds, the wise men went and found Jesus. But Herod did not go. Thus, he never found Christ. Soon he died. He went out into eternity without Christ.

I warn you this morning, you cannot always come to Christ. The Bible says,

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

But King Herod did not want Christ. He wanted to kill Him. He didn’t want someone else to be his king. When he finally sought for Christ, He was gone – down into the land of Egypt. It was too late for Herod to find Christ. He died a horrible, Christless death.

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

There is a line, by us unseen,
   That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
   God’s patience and His wrath.

[The sinner] feels that all is well,
   And every fear is calmed.
He lives, he dies, he wakes in Hell,
   Not only doomed but damned.
(Author unknown, from C. H. Spurgeon, “The Soul’s Crisis,”
   The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications,
     1976 reprint, volume 15, pp. 707-708).

This is the time. This is the day to seek Christ. Come to Him with haste, as did those shepherds long ago.

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I’d Rather Have Jesus” (words by Rhea F. Miller, 1922;
music composed by George Beverly Shea, 1909 - ).


THE OUTLINE OF

THEY CAME WITH HASTE – A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 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 they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-16).

I.   First, they were poor, I Corinthians 1:26-28, Luke 2:8; Genesis 4:2;
Genesis 37:2; Exodus 3:1; I Samuel 16:11; Luke 1:53;
Mark 10:24-25; Luke 2:8-11; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Hebrews 3:15;
James 4:9-10; Jeremiah 8:20.

II.  Second, they came with haste to Jesus, Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:8;
Isaiah 55:6.