Today’s message is one that I realize is being posted during the Christmas Season. I am also aware that people read these posts all year through. To that I say, if reading in July for example, what a fun thing to listen to some “Christmas” music at some other time than Christmas. Of course, if you are reading this during the Holiday Season, then you will be right up for the songs. With that said, let us enjoy some worship time together.
There are a lot of songs that describe the night that Jesus was born. I can personally think of few that I enjoy as much as the following:
O’ Holy Night:
We have this nice word for the place they lay Jesus after he was born, we say manger. The reality of it is that a manger is a feeding troth. It was a place where they lay the food for the sheep, cattle and other animals. It wasn’t this nice comfortable place we sometimes think of. Yet, the King of Kings, the one who had just left Heaven, came to earth as a baby, to be put in the lowest of the low places. With a feeding troth for a bed, the King that would change the world would be lay.
Away in a Manger:
Can you imagine being out in the dark, taking care of some business, maybe working on a third shift when suddenly some angels appear to tell you about some good news. I think I would have been like the shepherds, a little scared, heck, forget that, I would have been really scared.
Angels We Have Heard On High:
It would later on become clear, the birth of Jesus was to be a joyous celebration. It would mean joy to the world.
Joy To The World:
The following song is a song that is played throughout the year in many churches. That is okay, it is still in many ways a Christmas song. It recognizes the Son of God for what he is, Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy:
Let’s take part in one more song this morning for worship. It is an old tune with a new style. Some may say it is the most popular Christmas Carol of all time.
This morning prior to taking a break, I want you to reflect on Christmas in the past. I can think of a variety of Christmas seasons as I was older that were special. A few years ago after leaving employment at Crossroads Clubhouse in Tulsa Oklahoma I was volunteering at my church as a pastor of Evangelism and Outreach. I had put money back to live on for about a year and a half, knowing it would take some time to find a paying job in the ministry. After a few months we had the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001. It was during this time that I lost about two thirds of my investments.
As a young child I don’t really recall Christmas, there was just a lot of heartbreak and there were never many gifts. As a result I had decided that if I ever had children they would experience good Christmas times.
During the time at Westport Church as a volunteer it was during the Christmas season that I didn’t have anything to provide for my children. It hurt; it reminded me of my times as a youth. A few weeks prior to Christmas there was a service one Sunday morning where the pastors were presented with various gifts and Christmas bonuses. I have to admit, I was a little hurt when I was looked over. I saw pastors with good salaries getting gifts and bonuses to provide more for their families. This particular Christmas I had nothing. I wasn’t mad at anyone; I was just hurting for my family.
The next week was one of the best blessings of my life. I was at church again, and prior to the start of the sermon the pastor made mention that the church had made a terrible mistake. They had recognized all of their pastors but had failed to recognize another, me. It had taken several members of the congregation to remind the church of this. As a result of this they would take up an offering at the end of the service to give to me for my contributions to the church. There was also another dear lady of the church who is now deceased that came up to me and told me. “Mike we really appreciate all you have done for our church. I normally give my tithe to the church, but our church has more money than we know what to do with and we want to give you our tithe this month so that you can go out and buy your kids Christmas.” This dear lady who was on a social security income blessed me and helped me realize how God can provide, and how he can use people to accomplish his will. It was a Christmas that I thought my family would have nothing, and in reality, I learned a lot more about Christmas than I thought possible.
This morning, during our break, share some stories with each other. If you are at home reading this, call a family member, call a loved one and share some old Christmas stories with each other. After you are done sharing those memories, come back, sit down, read, think about, and enjoy the rest of today’s message.
This morning prior to the start of the service, I want you to watch a video, listen to the words, look at the images.
Mary Did You Know:
When we think of Christmas, Do you ever think of what it cost? I’m not speaking about what it costs regarding the purchase of presents, I am speaking about what it costs in regards to the birth of the Christ child?
Many may not realize but today we are concluding a series that has taken us over 25 weeks, almost half a year. In the Back to the Basics Series we must remember that when looking at the basics of our faith, it starts and finishes with Jesus. Everything else regarding our faith is between the bookends of Jesus. There is a great deal of important things to be aware of, from prayer to sharing our faith, and from giving and tithing to reading our Bible, but it is all about Jesus and the dedication of our lives to him.
There is a particular passage I would like to look at today. While many will look at the text for today’s message and think of condemnation, I want to remind everyone that during this Christmas Season, the gift of God’s son was a gift out of love, a gift that sought relationship.
The text that many unfortunately use for condemnation messages is John 3:16. It is unfortunate because this text is in reality a text of love for the very creation God loves and seeks relationship with, humanity. Let’s look at that passage:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)
When looking at this passage, we must realize that the message of Christmas starts before even the manger. We can see this from looking at another passage from the Bible.
In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God.
We have to realize, Jesus was from the beginning of time, with God, he started his journey in Heaven. While we think that the journey may have started as a little babe born in a manger it isn’t so, he was in the beginning of time, with God.
When thinking of Jesus from the beginning, we should realize, there are angels who do nothing but worship him. In Heaven we read there are streets of gold. Imagine that in the current economy with Gold at around $1,000 an ounce, gold is used for asphalt in Heaven. Heaven is a place where there is everlasting Joy. We see other passages that refer to Jesus as he really is, the King of Kings. Despite the fact that Jesus was with God from the start, we have to also understand God loved his creation.
He loved despite the failures of his creation after sin entered the equation. In thinking about the creation we should remember God and able to create with a single word, possibly even with a single whisper. God saw all of his creation as good but He created us in his image and saw us as very good.
We tend to blame Adam and Eve for the messed up world we live in. Some may even blame them for the fact that Jesus had to come to earth but the reality is we still sin and rebel against God. We are just as guilty of rebellion against God as they. We need to realize, any and all sin condemns us to the need of salvation. All of us have sinned, we are all like Adam, and none are perfect.
God loves the world, His creation, but especially the people in the creation. So many churches get it wrong in the aspect of judgment. While there is judgment we must remember, the jest of Jesus birth, God’s gift was out of love. How so many who call themselves Christians can be so critical of the concept of love from God is astounding to me.
John 3:16 in part, in a agreement with the context of the entire Bible shows that Jesus birth, him leaving heaven to be born in a feeding troth among the poorest of the poor was a sacrifice of love for the people of the world. That’s right a feeding troth. We have put this nice word, manger on the title of the place Mary and Joseph lay Jesus, but in reality, it was a feeding troth in a place where animals eat, drank, and did every other thing you can imagine.
This does not change the fact that Jesus chose to identify, even from the point of birth with the poor, outcast, downtrodden, hurting, drug effected, abused, and this association showed how important they were. Christ being born in a condition they could relate to.
There are many passages in the Old Testament that talked about Jesus upcoming birth, as well as many passages in the New Testament such as Mary’s Magnificat, that illustrates how Jesus came especially for the poor, the needy, hurting, down and out. If Jesus would identify with, show love and opportunity for the lowest of what was considered to be the low, it was indication that his love was for the all of humanity. It was out of Love that Christ came to that manger.
At Christmas time we tend to think of the Christ child and the manger scenes, but I want to assure you, God knew when he gave his son what awaited his son. Jesus also knew when he was in the manger, what awaited him later on in life.
There was a reason God offered his Son Jesus up for a sacrifice and a reason Jesus accepted and stepped up to the challenge. It was in part because God has more for us. There is his love, a better life, hope and eternity, if we just believe.
On this concept of belief, please understand, belief is more than just belief. The Bible makes it clear even the devil believes, but he has no hope, won’t experience joy, and will certainly not be allowed into Heaven. We have to believe in such a way that we recognize and accept who Jesus is, recognizing who Jesus is, is in part, recognizing what he did.
We must recognize, Jesus lived a life without sin. He gave himself up to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus in essence became a substitute for us and accepted what we really deserved. He faced, challenged and conquered the cross when he resurrected from the dead which is what we celebrate at Easter.
We must realize that belief means asking Jesus to be our leader our forgiver, or as some state, our Lord and Savior. We have to be willing to publicly confess Jesus as the one and only son of God. We must recognize that we have sinned, done wrong. Now on this point, we need to understand, the 10 Commandments are still the 10 Commandments, not suggestions, not ideas, not concepts, but commandments. If we want to get detailed here we will also realize that Jesus actually complicated things.
Jesus in essence gave an extra 2 commandments; to love our Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But beyond these two additional commandments, Jesus even complicated the 10; we are told here, that if we look at someone and desire sex with them then we have committed adultery. If we become angry at someone, then it is the same as committing adultery. Then if we think we have it made here, we read in the book of Romans, we must obey the laws of man, and government, if they don’t have us go against God’s law. At that point, we are in trouble, because if we violate something as simple as speeding, then we are guilty of sin, or wrong doing before God.
There is a concept here that we have to understand, and that is God’s Holiness. So many ask the question, why would God send us to hell? Or they may ask, Why would God create us in such a way that we don’t have a chance. The answer to me is actually quite simple. God is so good, so full of love, so perfect so holy that by the very nature of his being, he can’t stand to be in the presence of sin. Imagine if you will a perfect glass of pure clean water. How much sewage or human excrement would you have to put in that water before you wouldn’t drink it, especially if another pure glass of water was next to you? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t drink the contaminated water. Our sin, in the presence of God, contaminates the holiness and perfection of God. At this point, it would appear as if there is no hope.
There is no hiding from the fact that we need forgiveness for our sins. We can’t be good enough; there is nothing we can do on our own to make us deserving of being in the presence of God. It is at this point we need to realize that Jesus is the only way God can forgive us our sins. When we stand before God, when we have a relationship with God, he won’t see us, he will see his son and the relationship we have with his son. It will be Jesus who will advocate for us, who will ask God to forgive us our sins. Of course this comes at a cost to us, a minimal cost when all things are considered but our first step is in recognizing that we need forgiveness of sin. We ask God to forgive us, and then we ask Christ to come into our life. At this point, the Holy Spirit of God comes into our life. We then have the obligation to allow the Spirit to lead us and guide us. Once we receive Christ into our life, we are given a new life, one that provides the hope of eternity of being in Heaven plus so much more.
Now at this point, I could and some have rightly focused on the judgment and consequences of sin. Those things are all true, and not worth taking a chance on. Don’t get me wrong, there is a real hell, a real tormenting condition for all of eternity. While those things are real: we need to remember, that turning from our past, starting life over, serving and seeking leadership from Jesus is a love thing, not a hate thing.
Today, prior to the start of Christmas I want to provide opportunity for each of you to live in the fullness, not partiality, not in neglect, not less than, but in the fullness of what God has for you. Of all of those things, most importantly, is a relationship with Jesus, Do you know him? Are you confident in your relationship with him? Are you certain of Heaven and the hope provided through the forgiveness of sin offered by Christ?
If you want to experience this, you simply offer a prayer, and then state you are sorry, some call this repentance which is a 180 degree turn from sin and past bad behaviors and practices that go against Gods desire for you. Realize that while mistakes may be made, effort and a sincere heart to change have to be present.
Some of you reading this may already have experienced this at one point in your life. You may know Jesus, but somehow along the way forgotten or put on the backburner your relationship with Jesus? Are you willing to tell him you’re sorry, that you are willing to start over?
For some it may be your need to show others of your seriousness to the body of Christ, often called the church. Maybe you are willing to out of obedience make the commitment to do so by being baptized.
Baptism is a lot of things, one is an obvious outward showing to the world around you that you are now following Jesus and are taking your commitment to ministry seriously. You are willing to show of your willingness to commit your life, whether as a plumber, teacher, factory worker, or student, whatever to being as much like Jesus as possible to the world around you.
There is likely some this Christmas season that need to release the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God that is available to us to help us trying to be like Jesus to the world around us as much as possible. We all receive the Holy Spirit in our lives at the point where we ask Christ into our life or as some call the point of salvation, but there is a time some call the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit, where we release the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. Realize here, we receive God’s Spirit in our life once we ask Jesus to come in and forgive us, but there is a time where we realize the Holy Spirit is there and a time for us to release that power. Here, we simply seek to do as the Holy Spirit guides. There is many views of the Holy Spirit, a lot of theology, for some there may be an indication of speaking in tongues or an unknown language, for others it may be something else, for all it will involve an effort and commitment to do as the Holy Spirit leads, understanding that it never contradicts the word of God, the Bible.
There may be others during this Christmas season that needs prayer; you may need someone to pray for illness, family difficulty, finances, or any other specific. For those the gift of Christ is also available for you.
For any of the needs above, you can always contact me either through the source of this article, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone call to 316-258-3952. As a ministry, we really want to help and be there for you. For those in the Wichita Kansas area, there is Mosaic Church. If in another location around the United States or even around the world, there is The Virtual Pew at www.thevirtualpew.com which will help, but we want to when possible and if possible, plug you into a good church in your community. We will investigate those churches, do follow up with them to make sure they are doing there job and much more. The truth is, one of the things that distinguish this ministry from many others, is that we actually follow up with people where we can; we realize the value of each person to the Kingdom of God. It is a part of the commitment to ministry that we are involved in.
For each of us, no matter where we are at, whether in some need, or in good relationship with God, we should never forget, from the manger to the cross, The Blood and love of God for us, as shown through his son Jesus, is enough. The question is, if it is enough, do we avail ourselves to the thing in life we need the most, a relationship with the savior who was born in a manger, grew up without sin, died on a cross for our sins, and three days later rose from the dead and now sits with God in Heaven.
This year, may we all realize the ultimate gift, the gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
Father, help me, help us, keep our focus on your son, Jesus. Father, I ask that I can be more and more like Jesus each day. I pray that your Holy Spirit will use this message to speak to others about their life, and their relationship with you. I ask that each person will do as they need, whether continuing in their walk with you, or in their need to make a decision for you. I thank you and praise you for being the ultimate giver. In the name of Jesus I pray, and ask these things, Amen!
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