A Christmas Sermon
by Dr. W. A. Criswell
Text: Luke 2.6-14
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled, The Little Lamb of God. In the second chapter of Luke, verses 6 and 7:
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in rags— she was so poor she didn’t have a little dress or a little gown for the little Baby—so she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a She didn’t have a crib. She laid Him where the straw was that the ox and the donkeys and the cows ate; laid Him in a manger.
What an unusual story; and more amazing than we realize, as I pray God will help us in this sermon this morning to see. There are apparently insuperable and insoluble problems that face our world today. For the first time in the history of civilization, nations are openly and avowedly and statedly atheistic.
The ancient Greek would never make a decision without consulting the Oracle at Delphi. No ancient Roman general would ever go to war without first propitiating the gods. But these today bow at no altar; they call upon the name of no deity; they are avowedly and statedly atheist. This is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind, and we’ve seen it developed in our generation.
The secularization of all of the values of human life is almost universal. And every school system and every university and college, whether it is here in America or across the sea, it’s just the same. There is no difference between secular values in Russia and secular values in the United States.
Humanism, materialism, secularism degrades the human soul wherever in the world it appears; and it is almost universal. We live in a day of increasing ebbing and lack in converting to the Christian faith. By the year 2000 there will be less than two percent, barely above one percent, of the population of the world that is Christian. And that carries a concomitant, and corollary, and an addendum: terrorism and violence are increasingly a characterization of modern history. And above all, we face the very annihilation of the human family in atomic We can understand why the Swedish people were so upset with the Red submarine in their very naval yards. We can understand why the Danes and why the Norwegians are fraught with constant fear, with those atomic submarines playing games off of their coast.
But it is not just them alone, they are in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re up and down the border of the Atlantic of the United States of America. You read just last week that in the city of Dallas, there is a United States government federal office charged with the evacuation of the population of the city of Dallas yet, lest we be annihilated by an atomic missile from a submarine—the warheads, multiple of which can destroy Houston, and Austin, and San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth in a twinkling of an eye. We face apparent, insoluble problems in our modern world. But they faced those insoluble problems two thousand years ago.
At that time, Caesarism was triumphant. It was as though Hitler had won the war. The whole civilized world was in the mailed fist of a Roman Caesar, and over Judah and over the chosen people of God Herod reigned, bloody Herod. He was sustained and kept in power by the power of the Roman legions. He was the king of Israel. And the soldier was everywhere seen.
There was a seething ferment in the land of Israel, erupted finally into the war in 66 AD, that destroyed that nation in 70. And wherever you went, from one side of that empire to the other, there you would see the Roman soldier. He was everywhere. And as though that were not problem insoluble enough, the earth, the entire civilized world at that time was mostly slaves. Three men out of five that you met in any city, on any street in the Greco-Roman world was chattel property. He was a slave. Out of a population of a hundred million people, sixty million of them were slaves.
In that day, a woman was no higher than a beast. She was a chattel property. In fact, if a man might chose between his cow and his wife, he would have chosen his cow. That is the Roman Empire. And as though that were not inhuman enough, it was a universal law in the Greco-Roman Empire that if a man didn’t want his child, he could expose the baby. By exposing, the law said that he could take the child and put it on the hillside or the mountainside for a wild beast to devour it, or put it on a roadside; and worse still, let a family without heart take the little thing and break all of its bones and raise it as a pitiful object, a blob, and set it on a street corner to beg for alms. That was universal.
And as though that were not insoluble enough, the chosen people of God had descended and had sunk into a spiritless, dead form of worship of Jehovah God that was characterized by the hypocrisy of Phariseeism and the greed And God’s answer to the problem of human need, then and now, is a little Baby, a little Lamb, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. How unthinkable are the ways of God Almighty.
I would have thought, for the answer to the problems of the world, the very hosts of heaven would have been marshaled and the phalanxes of the angels in glory would have marched in power up and down the streets of the capitals and the empires of the world. But instead, God’s answer to human problems is a helpless, innocent little Baby, God’s little Lamb. Even the people didn’t realize that. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the fifteenth verse, it says that the people sought to take Jesus by force and to make Him a king.
Here is a man who can feed an army with the lunch of a child. Here is a man that, if a soldier is killed, can raise him from the dead. The head of a marching army, He would be invincible and invulnerable. They sought by force to make Him a The disciples themselves had the same persuasion of the solution to the problems of the world. Don’t you know what it means when it says they argued with one another and were jealous with one another of who would be first in the kingdom [Luke 9:46; Matthew 18:1]? Let me just change one word there; “first in the empire.” They were looking for King Jesus to rule over a mighty Roman Empire, set up by force, and they were going to be first or second in the power of a kingdom founded upon armies and upon conquest. That was their idea.
You know, when I began thinking about it, God has always been just like this. He’s never changed. God’s answer to the curse of the world was a little lamb, offered by Abel. God’s answer to the bondage in Egypt was a little lamb offered at the feast of Passover. God’s answer to the national sin was a morning and an evening sacrifice of a little helpless lamb. And when John the Baptist was presented to the people of Israel, with his great messianic announcement, this is what he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And the reason I had you read the passage in Revelation 5:1-10: “And they searched heaven,” it says, “and earth,” it says, “and beneath the earth,” it says, for a man worthy to open the book and to break the seals and to look there on God’s book of redemption. And there was no one in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth that was able or worthy to break the seals, and open that book of redemption. And John said, “I wept sore in my helplessness and hopelessness”; the insoluble human problem. And while John was weeping an elder touched him and said: “Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has prevailed to break the seals,” and to look on the And John says, “I turned…” And when he turned he expected to see a roaring carnivorous lion; and instead he saw a Lamb as if it had been slain. And they all bowed down and sang that hymn I love so well, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain”; God’s answer, the little Lamb; or as Isaiah says in his brilliant Messianic prophecy in the eleventh chapter, “And the little Child shall lead them” [Isaiah 11:6].
We shall look for a moment: the gospel of the Lamb. It is one of non-resistance and non-retaliation and You heard that is has been said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a I say unto you resist not evil but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
That is the hardest thing in the world for me. It is so natural to fight back, to hate those that hate you; the gospel of the Lamb.
Back there in the day when Armour and Company was the biggest packing house in the world, I went through it in Chicago. In this section of that tremendous plant, they slaughtered cattle. It was a din, the lowing of those cows. A great heavy strong man with a hammer, with a sledge hammer cracking their skulls one by one; then from there I went to the section of Armour and Company where they were slaughtering pigs. And a man there with a long razor-sharp knife as those hogs were brought to him; took that knife and slit-cut their throats in the jugular vein and the blood poured out and they were thrown into those cauldrons of boiling water with the most awful din of noise.
And then I went to section in that great plant where the sheep and the lambs were slain. It was as quiet and as silent as this sanctuary right now. “He opened not His mouth” And I presume it was the background of that that made the word of this preacher stay in my heart so poignantly. He was talking about his father. He said, “My father was in one of those packing plants with that long razor-sharp knife. And he said as those hogs were delivered to him one by one, he cut the throat and the jugular vein; the blood flowed out.” But he said, “They forgot to make my father aware that for the first time on that line there was coming little lambs.” And he said, “My father was there with that long sharp knife with those pigs squealing, cutting their throats, severing that jugular vein, the blood pouring out. And then unaware, came a little lamb. He took the knife and he plunged it into the throat of the little thing and cut the jugular vein and the blood poured out.” And the preacher said, “The little thing licked his own blood from the hand of his father.” He said, “My father then walked into the office of the company and laid down the knife, ‘I quit.’ And he never went back.”
Imagine that; licking the hand that had severed the life-stream of blood; the And to apply it universally: in 1922 was convened the worldwide Conference of Disarmament in Washington D.C. It was opened by a minister in prayer. It was presided over by a Baptist, Warren G. Harding. And the day was given over to an address by another Baptist leader, Charles Evans Hughes. I heard him at a Southern Baptist Convention meeting in our national capitol. Later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, he delivered a message on the Prince of Peace. That night in the hotel room the ambassador plenipotentiary representing Japan sat in his chair in deepest study. The secretary came in late at night and said, “Sir, you must retire. There’s a great heavy day tomorrow.” “No!” answered the ambassador of Japan, “I must think.” The hours passed and the secretary came in again, with the same “No, no.” In the wee hours of the morning the secretary came yet once again, and the ambassador said to him, “Sit down.” He said, “I have thought it through, and the American ambassador is right. There is no other hope than in the God of all of the peoples, the Prince of Peace.”
God’s little Lamb. As long as there is the spirit upon the nations and the peoples of the world, “You hit me and I’ll hit you,” and we confront one another with violence and terror and death, it will continue only more bitter and more We need the gospel of Him who said, “Pray for those who hate you. And do good to those that despitefully use you, that you may be the children of My Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44].
The gospel of the little Lamb; God’s solution to the insoluble I have a moment left. The gospel of the little Lamb: quiet, sweet, humble, precious; dependence, trust, faith in God. “I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you shall put on…” Don’t think, saying,” What shall we eat?” and “What shall we drink?” or “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” “Your heavenly Father knoweth you have need of all of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God … and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Lord, Lord, I can’t do that either. There’s something on the inside of me that drives. I want to solve it myself; I want to do it myself. All the while He stands there, the Almighty, saying, “I’ll do it for you. I’ll answer every question. I’ll open every door. I’ll make every provision, if you’ll just trust Me—like a little child, a little lamb.”
Just trusting: innocent, humble, sweet, precious, believing God can do it! Now may we stand together? Our Lord, we have so much to learn, and seemingly it is so hard to learn it. How infinitely better to trust in God and to rest in You; to let the Almighty plead our cause; to guide us in the way, rather than to lean on our own understanding and to follow our own affinities. O God, that we might be more like Jesus and more unlike ourselves.
Help us, Lord, in that quiet confidence to make Thee king of our hearts. May God reign supreme in our souls and may the sweet virtues that so richly crowned our precious Savior be our daily emulation. And, our Lord, may the appeal of the Spirit of God that brings us to the Savior touch our hearts in this invitation and give us a beautiful harvest In a moment we are going to sing our song of invitation and appeal, and while we sing this sing don’t anyone leave. Stay, pray, and I will give you opportunity to go in just a moment.
But right now, ask God to touch the hearts of these that this moment, this precious moment, ought to give heart and life and home to the blessed Savior, the little Lamb of God. A family you, a couple you or just one somebody you: “Pastor, we have decided for God today and we are coming.” Down that stairway, down one of these aisles, “Here I am pastor. I am on the way.” The angels attend you as you come, welcome. And dear Jesus, thank Thee for the sweet response, the precious harvest. In Thy beautiful and wonderful and saving name, amen. While we sing, come.
Copyright © 2013 The W. A. Criswell Foundation.
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Posted with permission.
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