Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why There Must Be Christmas

Below is one of the best Christmas sermons you may ever hear. As delivered by David Jeremiah - I highly recommend this sermon: 

Along with every other aspect of Christmas, we have romanticized the story of Christ’s birth. We envision a scene in which he is draped in fine satin while a smiling Joseph and Mary look on. Everyone has a halo, including the animals.

The fact of the matter is the birth of Christ took place in a cold, damp and dark environment. It was an undesirable place to sleep, much less to have a baby.

If you’re a parent, think about when you had your own children. You wanted them to be born in the most secure and sanitary environment possible. Can you think of a place that would be worse than where animals are kept? It was about the least desirable place to have a child.
Yet this setting symbolizes the entire ministry of Jesus and his life on earth, from the cradle to the cross. The Bible sums it up for us this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV).
Jesus went from a heavenly throne to an earthly feeding trough, presumably the very area where he was born. He went from the presence of angels to a cave filled with animals. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He who sustains the world with a word was dependent on the nourishment of a young girl.
It is an amazing thought to consider that God Almighty became a helpless little baby, unable to do anything more than lie there, wiggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed like any other child.
Because Jesus was God, we might imagine him being born with all of his faculties intact: Hello, Mary and Joseph. I am Jesus, the creator of the universe. I have work to do. … But that isn’t how it was. He still was a baby, like any other baby.
He grew up, in many ways, like any other child but without a sin nature. He grew in physical strength, and he grew in wisdom. We are told in Luke 2, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him” (verse 40 NIV).
Then we read that Mary and Joseph found him, at the age of 12, sitting in the Temple. He was speaking to the scribes, both listening to them and asking them questions.
Later in Luke 2 it says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (verse 52 NIV).
These verses would appear to be saying that Jesus went through a learning process like anyone else. But at the same time, he didn’t have the limitations of sin in his life.
Being God, Jesus may have known a lot more than we may realize. We won’t know for certain until we get to heaven. It is an interesting thing to consider, however, that he left the glory of heaven, and as he took his first breath on earth, he awoke to the smell of a cave on a cold night. Against his skin was the pricking of the straw and the coarseness of the rags he was wrapped in. What a rude awakening that must have been. And as sad as it is to think about all this, it is the reality of how Jesus came to this world.

And for the most part, the world he came to save rejected him. Sure, he had Mary and Joseph and his family. They loved him. But the Bible says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11 NIV).
Jesus even was hated in his hometown. In Nazareth, when it happened to be his turn to read from the Scriptures on the Sabbath, he read from Isaiah 61 with an authority like the people had never seen before. Then he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 NIV).
They fully understood what he was implying. He was saying, “I am the fulfillment of this Scripture. I am the very Messiah of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
What did they do? Did they give him a round of applause? Did they treat him as a hometown hero? No, they turned against him. In fact, they hated him and even wanted to kill him.
We might say that at least he had a home with Mary and Joseph, and later on, his half brothers and half sisters. But the fact is that at least on one occasion, his siblings came to take him away from where he was because they thought he’d taken leave of his senses. In fact, the Bible tells us that his brothers didn’t believe in him. It wasn’t until his death and resurrection from the dead that his own family fully understood who he really was.

When Jesus arrived at a place known as the Gadarenes, he cast demons out of two men. How did the people treat him? They drove him out of town.
On another occasion when he drove demons out of someone else, the Pharisees had the audacity to suggest that it was by the power of Satan.
Then we remember at least one joyful day in Jesus’ life when he made the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The crowd laid palm branches at his feet and shouted, “Hosanna!” The religious rulers wanted it stopped. They couldn’t stand the idea that people were saying that about him.
As he got closer to the day of his crucifixion, even his moments of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane were interrupted as soldiers came to arrest him, hauling him away on trumped-up charges to their kangaroo court.
Then they took him to the cross and pounded nails through his hands and feet. There he was, in unimaginable pain, and all he asked for personally was a sip of water to cool his raging thirst. Even then, they gave him vinegar and gall instead of water.
It never stopped. There never was any room for Jesus. And as sad as that was, it is a statement that still could be made today.
Is there room in your life for him?

Whew, what a year! We couldn’t wait to get past the election and all of its stress and strife. Maybe the holidays will be better, we thought. Maybe people will be nicer, we hoped. Then came Thanksgiving with the in-laws. Surely another helping of pumpkin pie will cure all that ails us.
Now as Black Friday turns into another Monday and the calendar and the world turn the page to December complete with headlines blaring about school violence, election recounts, and dictator passings, one has to wonder, should we bother to pull out the tinsel and garland or just fast-forward to the New Year?
Do we really need another Christmas? We sing the same songs, put up the same tree, and shop for the same socks and sweaters every year. Is the message of peace on earth, good will toward men still relevant? Still possible?
Consider the story behind Christmas. Hollywood would recast Christmas. Joseph’s collar is way too blue. Mary is green from inexperience. The couple’s star power doesn’t match the bill. Too obscure. Too simple. The story warrants some headliners. A square-jawed Joseph. Someone of the Clooney vintage. And Mary needs a beauty mark and glistening teeth. Angelina Jolie-ish. And what about the shepherds? Do they sing? If so, perhaps Bono and U2?
Do we really need another Christmas? We sing the same songs, put up the same tree, and shop for the same socks and sweaters every year. Is the message of peace on earth, good will toward men still relevant? Still possible?
Hollywood would recast the story.
A civilized person would sanitize it. No person, however poor, should be born in a cow stall. Hay on the floor. Animals on the hay. Don’t place the baby in a feed trough; the donkey’s nose has been there. Don’t wrap the newborn in rags. They smell like sheep. Speaking of smells, watch where you step.
A good public relations firm would move the birth to a big city. See what Roman palaces they might rent, what Greek villas they could lease. The Son of God deserves a royal entry. Less peasant, more pizzazz. Out with the heads of sheep, in with the heads of state. Shouldn’t we ticker tape this event? Maybe throw in a little Trump Tower escalator entrance.
But we didn’t design the hour. God did. And God was content to enter the world in the presence of sleepy sheep and a wide-eyed carpenter. No spotlights, just candlelight. No crowns, just cows chewing cud.
God made so little of his Son’s coming. No hoopla at his birth. Is this a mistake?
Or is this the message?
Perhaps our world, and your life, resembles a Bethlehem stable. Crude in some spots, smelly in others. Not much glamour. Not always neat. People in your circle remind you of stable animals: grazing like sheep, stubborn like donkeys, and that cow in the corner looks a lot like the fellow next door.
The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made his case: there is no place he will not go. If he is willing to be born in a barnyard, then expect him to be at work anywhere— bars, bedrooms, boardrooms, and brothels. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love. When Christ was born, so was our hope.
Actually, I think we need Christmas more than ever this year.
We could use a season that is dedicated to giving, not receiving; to caring, not critiquing. Put away our differences. Put up the Christmas tree. Take comfort in the familiar story and the ancient carols. Our world, like that of Bethlehem, is difficult and crowded. Our days can feel as cold and uncertain as that midnight manger. Yet, in the midst of it all, let’s do what Mary did. Let’s invite the source of peace to enter our world. Let’s find hope, once more, in the infant King.
God became one of us so we could become one with him. That is the promise of Bethlehem.


ChristineInCleveland said...

Amen! Scott, may God bless you this Christmas, & all that come here for fellowship & news updates! 🕇

Dutch Treat said...

Merry Christmas everyone. With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, it was nice to spend the day in worship with other believers. The segment: Still no room for Jesus remind me of a poem I wrote about 25 years ago. I'll put it on the next post.

Dutch Treat said...

SORRY! NO ROOM: In a little town long ago and far away, a young couple asked the innkeeper for a place to stay. Surely he must have noticed the child in the mother's womb. Yet he simply looked the other way and said: SORRY, NO ROOM! Well that little child grew up preaching hope and good news. Yet many people found His teachings easy to refuse. For they hung Him on a cross and laid Him in a tomb; and as for Him and His teachings they said: SORRY, NO ROOM! Well He rose from the dead so we could have eternal life. Yet rejection and indifference to Him certainly is rife. For human thoughts are filled with earthly treasures and selfish greed, while never really thinking of its spiritual need. The people of this world live for its riches to consume; and as for receiving Him calloused hearts say: SORRY, NO ROOM! Today even the sabbath has started to decay. With all the stores open it's become just another day. People are seen flocking to the lake, ski slopes and golf course, while often skipping worship for wich there is little remorse. The day is spent working or life's pleasures to resume; and as for worshipping Him, busy schedules say: SORRY, NO ROOM! Someday life as we know it here will conclude; and some are in for an awakening that will be rather rude. For it is the wrath and judgement that they'll have to face, to be sent to dwell forever in an awful and dreadful place, where they will spend eternity in torment and in gloom. For then it will finally be HIS turn to say: SORRY, NO ROOM! With love, Dutch!