The Fearlessness of Christmas Joy

Six Wonders of Christ’s Lordship

Bethlehem Baptist Church | Minneapolis

We focus our attention this Advent on Luke 2:10–11: “The angel said to [the shepherds], ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:10–11). And the question for us is this: how does the Lordship of this newborn baby boy make possible the fearlessness and greatness of your joy this Christmas and as 2022 begins?

And I do mean you — not just the shepherds — because it is clear from this context and this gospel, as we will see, that the fearlessness and the greatness of the joy is not just for the shepherds. It is for everyone who says, “Jesus is Lord!” and is glad to have it so. We know this because of the word for at the beginning of Luke 2:11. This word signals that calling Jesus “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28) is the foundation of Christian fearlessness and great joy.

Luke 2:10 tells us that fearless, great joy is coming into this world, and Luke 2:11 answers the questions, How can it come? How can it be sustained in such a world? Because this baby boy is not only a Savior — not only the Christ, the Messiah — but is the Lord.

What makes the fearlessness and the greatness of your joy possible in 2022 and beyond is not just that this baby boy will be a Savior, and not just that he will be the long-awaited Messiah, but that he is the Lord. This is the foundation of your fearlessness and the greatness of your joy this Christmas and in the coming year.

Imagine someone says to you, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! It’s falling on your family. It’s falling on your church. It’s falling on your city. It’s falling on your nation. It’s falling on the world. Don’t you realize the sky is falling?” What will be the foundation of the fearlessness and the greatness of your joy as you go merrily on your way to do more good until Jesus comes?

So that’s our question: How does the Lordship of this newborn baby boy make possible the fearlessness and greatness of your joy this Christmas and in the coming year? Here are six wonders of Jesus’s Lordship that answer this question.

1. Jesus the Divine Lord

The fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is a divine Lord. When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we mean no less than “Jesus is God.” Luke says this in many ways in his gospel. I’ll mention only four.

God from God

First, Luke uses the word Lord interchangeably with God in reference to Jesus. Take just the first two chapters for example. The word Lord occurs twenty-seven times, with twenty-five of them referring to God.

Look right here in our text: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). Two verses later he says, “Unto you is born Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). No hesitation. No qualification. The Lord (God) sent his angel, and the glory of the Lord (God) shone — and the child born is the Lord.

In Luke 2:26, Jesus is called “the Lord’s Christ,” and here in Luke 2:11 he is called “Christ the Lord.” That’s virtually the same as the apostle John saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus is “the Lord’s Christ,” and Jesus is “Christ the Lord.”

Born of a Virgin

Second, the divine lordship of Jesus is the point of the virgin birth. Look at Luke 1:31. Gabriel tells Mary she will have a child. Mary asks how that can be (Luke 1:34). Here’s how the angel answers in Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God.”

This is not the crass slander of Christianity that claims God the Father had sex with Mary, and that’s why Christians call Jesus the Son of God. This is the Holy Spirit making clear that no human father will be needed because he is going to work an unfathomable miracle in Mary’s womb so that there will be a child with two natures, divine and human: Jesus the God-man, Jesus the Lord.

Greater than David’s Son

Third, in Luke 20:41–44, Jesus will go on the offensive to challenge the Jewish leaders with his identity. He says, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

No answer. Because the point was that already, in the Psalms, the Holy Spirit was pointing to the fact that the Messiah, the Christ, would be vastly more than a human son of David.

Worthy of Worship

Fourth, where does the Gospel of Luke leave us at the end? What are we doing as we walk away from this inspired display of the Lord Jesus? Luke 24:51–52: “While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” They worshiped him! That’s the point of Luke’s Gospel: Worship him with great joy! Cherish him as your greatest treasure!

So, the fearlessness and greatness of your joy this Christmas is possible because Jesus is a divine Lord. “Jesus is Lord” means “Jesus is God.”

2. Jesus the Historical Lord

The fearlessness and greatness of your joy is also possible because Jesus is a historical Lord. What I mean by this is that the accounts of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are not mythical. They are not like Greek mythology. They are rooted in world history — the kind of history you can read and know about whether you are Christian or not.

The life of Jesus does not take place in Middle-earth or in a galaxy far, far away. It takes place “in the days of Herod, king of Judea” (Luke 1:5). Mary was from “a city of Galilee named Nazareth” (Luke 1:26). She came with Joseph to Bethlehem, a town about five miles outside Jerusalem, because “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1–2).

And John the Baptist began his ministry “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene” (Luke 3:1–2).

What’s the point of all these secular, historical references? The point is that Jesus was just as real as if he had been born when Joe Biden was president of the United States, when Tim Walz was governor of Minnesota, and when Jacob Frey was the mayor of Minneapolis. He was not, and is not, mythical.

So, the fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is a historical Lord.

3. Jesus the All-Governing Lord

The fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is an all-governing Lord. From a boat during the storm, his disciples cry out, “‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased . . . and [his disciples] marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’” (Luke 8:24–25). The answer is obvious: the one who made them.

Then there were the demons: “Demons also came out crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak” (Luke 4:41). And then there were the diseases of every kind: “All those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40). No failures.

What about our great enemy, death? “[Jesus] came up and touched the [casket] . . . And he said [to the dead man], ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:14–15). What about the so-called “self-determination of the human will” in coming to know Christ? “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22).

Jesus the Lord governs all natural events. No demons can do anything but by his permission. He can heal any disease. He can and will raise the dead. And it is he who opens the blind eyes of the human heart to know God.

Luke loves the all-governing Lordship of God, which is shared by the God-man Jesus Christ. Why else would Luke begin his gospel with God’s amazing reversal of the butterfly effect? The butterfly effect is the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil may cause a tornado in Oklahoma because of a thousand unknown links working in a causal chain. But God reverses the butterfly effect, using something as massive as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico to cause a single Chinese university student in Beijing to stumble into Christian fellowship and be saved.

So, don’t you think Luke was smiling as he began his Gospel with this story? God chose a virgin, and her betrothed, who were living in Nazareth. Their family line was from Bethlehem, where the Messiah must be born. To get this virgin to the proper birthplace, he puts it in the mind of Caesar Augustus — the most powerful person in the world, living over a thousand miles away — to call for empire-wide registration, involving millions of people, at exactly the moment when it would get this one obscure, pregnant Jewish girl from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

“The events of history are not about nations and industries. God governs the world for the sake of his children.”

God did all this to fulfill his prophecy. That’s amazing. That’s our all-governing God, and that’s the Lord Jesus. And he is doing that today. Do you think the great events on the stage of world history are about nations and industries? They’re not. They are about you. God governs the world for the sake of his children. Jesus governs the world for the sake of those who say, “Jesus is Lord!” and mean it.

4. Jesus the Everlasting Lord

The fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is an everlasting Lord. As the angel Gabriel said to Mary in Luke 1:31–33,

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

He will reign forever. His kingdom will have no end. If you are the subject of his Lordship, you will live forever. He will raise you from the dead. He will bring you with him into everlasting life. His power to govern all things for your good will never end. Never. You can never be lost if you are his.

5. Jesus the God-Glorifying Lord

The fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is a God-glorifying Lord. Look at these five verses in Luke:

  • The lame man who Jesus healed, after the man was lowered through the roof, “went home, glorifying God” (Luke 5:25).
  • The crowd who saw Jesus heal him “glorified God and were filled with awe” (Luke 5:26).
  • When he raised the widow’s son from the dead, “fear seized them all, and they glorified God” (Luke 7:16).
  • The woman whose back had been bent over for eighteen years was straightened, “and she glorified God” (Luke 13:13).
  • When the blind beggar received his sight, he “followed [Jesus], glorifying God” (Luke 18:43).

We don’t need to make our way through the rest of Luke’s Gospel to see the God-glorifying purpose of the birth of this Lord.

In Luke 2:12, the angel gives the shepherds a sign. The angel says, “This Savior, this Christ, this Lord — you will find him ‘lying in a feeding trough.’” I cannot help but think that the shepherds, at that point, would have been totally confused: Savior, Christ, Lord — plus dirty, smelly feeding trough. But before they can venture to ask this angel for clarification, the sky fills with armies of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

“The mission of the Savior is to show the world that God is infinitely great, beautiful, and valuable.”

The Savior is born. The Messiah is born. The Lord of the universe is born. And before you can layer your perplexed interpretation on top of it, Mr. Shepherd, here’s the point: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). The point of this birth is that God is glorious. The mission of this Savior and this Messiah and this Lord is to show the world, and the powers of darkness, that God is infinitely great and beautiful and valuable. Glorious.

But we should ask a question. Since God has sent a Savior to save man, and a Messiah to fulfill all the promises made to man, and a Lord to rule all things for the good of man — why don’t the heavenly armies say, “Glory to man in the highest”?

Why not? Because the universe was created to display and uphold and communicate the glory of God. If we displace God as the ultimate end and goal of creation, history, and redemption, we don’t gain status. We lose God. And then, losing God, we lose joy. Great joy. This brings us now to the sixth wonder of the Lordship of Jesus.

6. Jesus the Happy Lord

Finally, the fearlessness and greatness of your joy is possible because Jesus is a happy Lord. Not only this, but he is the perfect embodiment of his Father’s happiness. When the angels say, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14), they are obeying God — that’s what he wants said! — and it is a happy shout. This is a glad night. And the gladness started in heaven.

Luke completes the picture of God’s gladness later in his Gospel. Only Luke records the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15), and Jesus tells all three parables to explain why he eats with tax collectors and sinners. He does it because he embodies his Father’s happiness in saving sinners.

Here’s Luke 15:9–10: “When she has found [her lost coin, representing Jesus finding a lost sinner], she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” And Jesus adds, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Look carefully to the wording. It doesn’t say, “There is joy among the angels.” It says, “There is joy before the angels,” joy in their presence. This is God’s joy. That’s God’s happiness.

Then comes the parable of the lost or prodigal son. He has squandered all the father’s inheritance. He heads home, hoping to be a taken-care-of slave. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). And then the Father says, “‘Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

And, as if to make it crystal clear, the father says to the grumbling older brother: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).

In Luke’s inspired view of the all-glorious, God-glorifying God, what makes God happy? What makes the Lord Jesus happy? The joy of his people as they rediscover the happy goodness of their Father. This is a parable about the glory of the Father and the awakening of a blind son to that glory — namely, the beauty of his Father’s happy goodness.

Fearless (and Happy) Under Fallen Skies

When the angels say, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), this is not at the expense of God’s people. This story is the joy of God’s people. Seeing and savoring and being caught up into this glory is the salvation of God’s people. This glory is the fulfillment of all the messianic promises. This glory is the overflow of the happy Lordship of Jesus.

Bethlehem’s mission statement didn’t come out of nowhere: “We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” We got it, in part, from Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). God gets the glory. We get the peace. We get the fearlessness of great joy within his glory.

“The Holy Spirit frees us from the deceit that self-lordship is the path of joy.”

As the angel says, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Will the fearlessness and the greatness of this joy be yours this Christmas? You can’t take away your own fear, and you can’t create your own joy. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” It is a divine miracle when a sinful, self-exalting human being says, “Jesus is Lord!” and means it.

The Holy Spirit works this miracle by the word of God. This is why our submission to the Lordship of Christ is a free act. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts and frees us from the slavery, from the deceit, that self-lordship is the path of joy. He fixes our gaze on Christ and causes us to leave our fears and leap for joy. Great joy.

So, if someone says to you, “Don’t you know the sky is falling?” you will say, “Perhaps, and if it is, my divine, historical, all-governing, everlasting, God-glorifying, happy Lord Jesus — he is in charge of the sky falling. And he will make it serve the great and fearless joy of his church. So why don’t you come on in? Everyone is invited: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).