Merry Christmas! It is my prayer that as we celebrate today, God would shower His blessings on us in such measure that we will flood our world with His love and peace as we anticipate the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ!
I’ve heard quite a bit lately the sentiment to “get back” to a more real Christmas. By “real” I think many people are thinking “simple” and “less commercial.”
This is a noble pursuit, but I wonder if we really understand just what that might entail. I suspect that it will also lead us to focus on the wrong things about Christmas and its season.
Today, we have gathered together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! We have gathered together in Jesus’ name to worship our God who loves us! That’s about a “real” as Christmas could ever get!
Speaking of getting back” let’s look at the first verse of the Christmas Day Gospel – John 1:1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. – John 1:1
With John’s Gospel we get all the way back to the Creation! John’s Gospel begins with the same words as the Book of Genesis, “in the beginning.”
And look what is there! The first thing God says, according to Genesis 1, is “Let there be light!” There was darkness, and then there was light! Then there was darkness again – the darkness of sin.
But the creative light of God is not so easily dimmed!
On a dark night, over the fields of the little town of Bethlehem many thousands of years after creative light was spoken into existence, the skies exploded again with light!
A joyous light, and a message of song from the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
We sing the same song – as the Gloria in Excelsis – in many of our worship services to remind us that Jesus – the Light of the World – was born to be our substitute. In that sense, every Sunday is a little celebration of Christmas!
A lot of momentous things happen in the dark where, when light shines, it shines very bright.
In the Old Testament:
· The Creation of the World
· The First Passover
· The Victory of Gideon over the Midianites & Amelekites
But even more momentous, in the New Testament:
· The Birth of Jesus Christ
· The Death of Jesus Christ
· The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The reason, I think, that all these momentous things happened “in the dark” – especially the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus – is because darkness is sometimes defined as the absence of light. For a Christian, then, there is no darkness because Christ forever shines in our hearts; we are reminded of this at every baptism and the giving of a candle.
And in the dark, light shines the brightest! This is especially so with the Light of the Word – Jesus Christ!
I’ve got even better news than the light shines on this Christmas morning! The Light comes to each one of you!
Now, you have two choices when it comes to what do to with the Light you receive. 1) Accept Jesus as He comes to you; or 2) reject Him because he doesn’t fit your idea of what the Messiah should be.
There is only one Jesus. And He’s not some good person. He’s not some moral teacher. He’s not some figment of a church’s imagination. He is – and always has been and always will be – the True Son of God! He was before the foundation of the world – which is exactly what John’s Gospel tells us in verse one. He was born of a Virgin Mary, in the family tree of King David and a descendent of Abraham. He lived a perfect life. Yes, tempted to sin as we are, but was, in fact, without sin. Still, He died a sinners death on the cross – also bearing the punishment of God for sin – for us! Three days after His death Jesus rose from the dead. Again, this took place before dawn on the first day of the week (therefore, in the dark!). And He ascended into Heaven with the promise that He would be with us always and would return to take us and all believers to heaven.
That’s who Jesus is. We either accept Him as He is or we reject Him as He is.
We can reject Him by trying to make Jesus into something He isn’t. Just some moral teacher or good person who had the unfortunate luck to get Himself killed. This shouldn’t surprise us, that people reject Jesus because He doesn’t fit their idea of a savior or messiah.
9The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:9-11
It is being done today, isn’t it? It is being done by removing prayer and Bibles from schools. It is being done by making pronouncements that terror happens because God is angry with us. It is done today by dismissing the importance of worship and the fellowship of Bible study.
We have these two choices: accept Jesus as He comes to us (and, in so doing, do what He tells us to do as His followers) or reject Him because He doesn’t fit our idea of a savior or doesn’t fit into our lifestyle.
I give thanks to God that He is forgiving and merciful, and gives us these times of celebration to remember the glory of His Light.
The glory of Jesus as the Light of the Word born on Christmas is that He is full of grace. He was born, lived, died, rose and ascended to give us full, abundant and everlasting life!
And the truth is that He continues to be with us as the Son of God, as our savior from sin, and as our true and dearest friend.
No matter what we do, that grace and that truth remains – because He didn’t come because of anything we did and He doesn’t stay because of anything we do!
I know, we still try to convince ourselves that God loves us because of something we do – whether it is a certain style of worship, or whether is it based on what we give in the offering, or it is because of where we go to church or are a member.
But the truth is that God’s loves you and me in spite of us!
This is the Truth of Christmas. It is, I think, what people mean when they wish we could “get back” to the real meaning of Christmas. For many, the true Light of Christmas is dimmed by all the commercialism we see nowadays.
But this is nothing new.
Centuries ago the Puritans we hear so much about at Thanksgiving thought that they were ruining Christmas with all their pagan rituals. They especially objected to the fact that the holiday usually came on a week day, therefore distracting people, they thought, from the Lord's Day of Sunday. But they did more than annually complain about it as we do. They took action and got rid of Christmas altogether! In Puritan settlements across 17th century America a law was passed outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The market place was ordered to stay open for business as though it was no special occasion and all violators were prosecuted. It was against the law to even make plum pudding on December 25th. The celebration was not referred to as Yuletide but as fooltide.
So we want to reform Christmas and clean it up, do we? Well, is this how far we want to go? Do we really want to be rid of it altogether? Then will Christmas, as the Puritans thought, be saved from us and our sinful ways. So what if we spend $40 billion annually on presents. Can you think of a better way of spending all that money than on gifts of love? And most of them are just that. And so what if all the lights and tinsel do is create a fairy tale setting that soon disappears as does the so-called Christmas spirit. At least it lets us know, if only for a brief time, what life can be like if we only try.
So let the message ring out this day, not that we are destroying this holy day, but rather, that we can never destroy this day – and instead will receive the Person Who’s birth we celebrate as He comes to us!. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. Amen.