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 A Purposeful Christmas

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(12/6) Christmas is Holiday like no other. It is not just a day; it is a month. Easter may be a week, and Thanksgiving may take a few days to prepare for, and every other Holiday is about a day. Christmas is a month or maybe more. Thanksgiving day has been the kick-off for Christmas for a long time. Macyís Thanksgiving Day parade became the opening for the 1947 movie, Miracle on 34th Street. We spend a month re-arranging our homes so we can put up Christmas decorations of lights, trees, poinsettias, manger scenes, wreaths and bows and more. We start shopping, baking, sending greeting cards, and wrapping gifts. We attend parties, church pageants, and visit with family and friends.

Christmas is special. Children canít wait as Clement Mooreís poem, A Visit from Saint Nicolas reminds us. And many of us probably remember the excitement of being a child.

Radio stations play Christmas music for a month, and the TV is full of Christmas specials and the re-running of Christmas movies, like A Christmas Carol, and a Christmas Story, and Itís a Wonderful Life as well as various music specials.

Do you know that whether people are religious or not, everyoneís life is marked by Christmas? Your birthday is measured by Christmas. Time is divided and measured by Christmas. Everything is either B.C. (Before Christ), or A.D. (Anno Domini Ė In the Year of our Lord). Even our Jewish friends, try to replace those with B.C.E (Before the Common Era) or C.E (the Common Era), but it still is referenced by Jesusí birth. Many retail businesses depend on Christmas to survive. Black Friday gets its name from the time when businesses hope to move into the black and make a profit for the year.

Yet, for some people, Christmas is a stressful time. There may be strained relationships in families or with friends. For others there is a tremendous financial strain and the guilt that is felt from not being able to give as you wish you could. And many will be lonely this Christmas because of a loss, a divorce, or a broken relationship.

Many will feel the strain of Christmas because the real worship and celebration of Christmas has been lost. The wonder of the birth of The Lord Jesus Christ has been replaced with Grinchís, Snowmen, elves, and Santa Claus. Carols have been replaced with Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Let it snow, and others.

Illustration. Yesterday, I wanted one more string of lights so I went to the Ace hardware store and when I walked in, it hit me that there were Santaís, and snowmen, but no nativity, nothing that said Jesus on it. Isnít that the point?

I feel like a fanatic when I say that I believe that Satan is deliberately at work to remove the Holy from all our Holidays. All of our holidays are supposed to be about remembering. Like:

ē Memorial Day is to remember and pay honor to those who died to secure our freedom and way of life.

ē Independence Day is to remember that our fore-fathers, declared our right to be free and pursue happiness and were willing to rebel and fight so we could do that very thing.

ē Labor day is to rest and honor those whose labor keeps our nation strong

ē Veteransí day is remembering that our freedom is kept secure by our Veterans who wear the uniform and are willing to risk all to protect our nation

ē Thanksgiving is to pause and praise our God for His grace and provision.

ē Easter is to remember that Jesus died for our sins and rose victorious over death to secure our salvation and prove He is God the Son.

ē And Christmas is to remember that God kept His promise and sent His Son to be our Savior.

But all of these have been replaced from a time to remember to a time to self-indulge. And the Holy has been replaced with bunnies and chocolate, and elves, Grinchís and snowmen, picnicís, cook-outs, and time at the beach. Thanksgiving is now, hurry up and eat so we can watch football and get ready for shopping.

ILLUSTRATION, Years ago I read of a lady and her 5-year-old son who were walking through a mall when the boy saw a large manger scene in a store window and stopped to look at it. The mom who had walked past came back and took her sons hand as he said, "Look mommy, itís the baby Jesus." And the mom said, "Come on, Billy we donít have time for that, we have to get ready for Christmas." Ever feel that way?

Still, others want to replace Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays and be politically correct and non-offensive. Listen to this email conversation between myself and Michael Hillman, the editor of the Emmitsburg News Journal. I have only met him one time, but I applaud him for this.

Gary:

I was planning on running a biblical text on the front of the paper - as they would have done 100 years ago in any (newspaper?) - announcing Christ's birth - can you suggest something appropriate?

The upper half of the paper will be dedicated to this text ... but I want the text to be large in size so it stands out ...

This is my very public answer to the request to keep Christ in Christmas.

Thanks

Mike

Michael,

Probably the best Biblical text is the one Linus read on a Charlie Brown Christmas, Luke 2:10-11, "Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Gary

I'm using that one!

With all the political correctness to take Christ out if Christmas I'm going to make a clear statement that I will not bow to this nonsense.

Thanks

Michael,

May the Lord Bless you for your stand.

Pastor Gary

I want to suggest to you this morning and the next few weeks to make an attempt to deliberately remember Christmas. Make Christmas a celebration of Jesus and not, "Come on we donít have time for that we have to get ready for Christmas."

Our Lord Jesus said, in Mark 12:30, that the Greatest Commandment is, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." I believe that if will make Christmas a celebration of God, you will feel less stressed, more at peace, and with a sense of awe of what God has done for you and what you can do for His glory.

So, two things. What we celebrate and then How we can celebrate this Christmas. While this is a no brainer, sometimes we need to stop and remember.

I. What or Why We Should Celebrate (Read Luke 2:8-14)

A. Because God Didnít Lie to Us, He kept His promise to Us. Itís true that Jesus was probably born in the spring when lambs are mostly born and not Dec. 25th, but any day we choose to celebrate His birth should be a day we remember that God is faithful, He cannot lie and He will always keep His promises. The hope of the entire Old Testament is that a Messiah, an Anointed Prince of God, A Savior from the house of David was coming to rescue people from the curse of sin. This is what the angels were announcing. It is Good News that should result in Great Joy. It should be celebrated. Listen, every time you say, "Merry Christmas," what you are literally saying is, "I hope you have a joyful celebration of Jesus." Because God kept this promise, we know that every other promise, every other warning, every other truth this book proclaims is true and will happen. Christmas is a reminder of our hope and should encourage us regardless of our circumstances

B. Because God demonstrated His Love for You (John 3:16). Nothing is clearer in the Bible than this. God is Love. It is His nature to seek the very best for you. He didnít just say, "I love you." He proved His love for you in Jesus. Listen to 1 John 4:7-10, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Read verse 9 again. God came as one of us, to give His life for us so he could give His love and life to us. This is Godís gift to you. It is a reminder that He loved you long before you were born. Parents who adopt love the child long before they hold it. Parents who want children love the child months before they are born. God loved you and began making plans for your future long before you born. Have you ever seen the sign that says, "I asked God how much He loved me?" And then there is a picture of Jesus on the cross, and the caption said, "He stretched out His arms and said, ĎThis much.í" Paul reminds us in Romans 8:35-39, that nothing that can happen to you, nothing that you can ever do, nothing that Satan or anyone else might do, can ever make God stop loving you. He is committed to you for life. Isnít that awesome? Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3 that Godís live is beyond comprehension, but not beyond experience. You canít explain it but you can know it. Itís the greatest love ever.

C. Because God gave Light to Us. (Isaiah 9:1-7 and 60:1-3; cp. Matt. 4:14-16, and others). The Glory of the Lord shone round about them and a star led the wise men. Light, in scripture, is often a picture of revelation and illumination. Light enables us to see. I remember when we went to Luray Caverns and went down deep and the guide turned the lights off. You literally could not see your hand in front of your face. We need light to see. Darkness is a picture of the absence of truth. Satan is the prince of darkness. He blinds peopleís minds and hearts to the truth. They canít see the reality and of the nature and consequences of sin and a life apart from God. Look back at Luke 1:76-79 as Zachariah was praying over His son John. Jesus has come to enable us to see truth and the reality of sin and its consequences and how to have eternal life. He came to be the light of the world.

Illustration, I have told the story before about a man who would not go to church with his wife. He didnít share her faith. One Christmas Eve, she went to church and he stayed home. It began to snow. Soon he heard pecking on his window and looked to see a bunch of sparrows on his porch. It was cold and they were cold and hungry. The barn was just a little way from the house, so he went out and opened the door and put bread crumbs on the floor of the barn, but the birds wouldnít go in. He tried to shoo them away but they kept flying into his window and stayed on his porch. The man thought, I wish I were a bird, then I could show them the way to safety. And then the light came on in his head. That is exactly what Jesus had done.

D. Because Jesus Came to Lift the Fear of Death from Us (Hebrews 2:14-15). The Shepherds were afraid and rightfully so. Have you ever been in an, "Oh no, this could be the end, situation?" We were last week in the fog on a mountain when we took Amanda back. Most people are afraid of death because they are afraid of either what they donít know or they are afraid of what they expect to be true. Jesus came to relieve us from that fear and, in fact, all fear. WE may fear the pain of how we may die, but death itself has lost its sting because of Jesus. He took the stinger out of death for us. Now we can face death with the confident expectation that we looked at last week.

E. Because the God who came to Live with us now Lives in Us. (14:16-17). The great promise to Christ-followers is that He will always be with us. God came to be with us from the womb of a young virgin named Mary, so He could be the God that would live in us by His Holy Spirit. One of His characteristic names is Immanuel Ė God is with us. He is the incarnation of God in the Flesh. But His Comforter, His Holy Spirit, came to be God in us, the incarnation of God. While Wayne dealt with these truths a few weeks ago, two truths are evident. One is, I will always be able to do beyond what is imaginable because I have God in me to enable me, and two I have nothing to fear because I am never alone even when I feel alone (Psalm 23:3-4 cp. Isa 43:1-6). Why was David not afraid? I know He is with me. I know He will never under any circumstances leave me.

F. Because God is For Us. Look at Romans 8:31-34. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who diedómore than that, who was raisedówho is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Does it break His heart when we donít trust Him or when we stray from His instructions? Does he grieve when we disobey Him? Yes, it does. But He is our Father and He wants to bless us and not bust us. The very definition of love is to seek the highest good for the one you love. He wants the best for us. He sent Jesus because He is for us. Rick warren said, "God is not mad at you, He is mad about you."

G. Because God Left Us a Promise for Time and for Eternity. I am forgiven. Released from my debt, and I am now in a family that will last forever. I have a home in the Fatherís House where I will live forever. God sent Jesus to be my Savior and to secure these for me. What did He come to save us from? He came to save us from the consequences of our sins which is hell.

H. Because these things are not exclusive. Luke 2:10 says, 10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. These are not just Jewish promises, or Gentile promises, they are for the all people promises; Humanly good people, and humanly evil people; Insiders and outsiders; In-laws and Out-laws. Michael Card wrote and sang a two album set about Jesus our Lord called, The Life, about 25 years ago. Here are the lyrics from one of the songs,

Celebrate the Child who is the Light

Now the darkness is over

No more wandering in the night

Celebrate the Child who is the Light

You know this is no fable

Godhead and manhood became one

We see He's more than able

And so we live to God the Son

Celebrate the Child who is the Light

Now the darkness is over

No more wandering in the night

Celebrate the Child who is the Light

First born of creation

Lamb and Lion, God and Man

The Author of Salvation

Almighty rapped in swaddling bands

Now, none of this is new to you. But holidays are not to hear something new but to take the time to remember and to worship or give honor to the one who has blessed us with Christmas and Easter. So, how can we focus more on celebration and less on the stress of Christmas.

II. How to Celebrate God This Christmas.

A. (Obvious) Gather with your Church and Worship from Your Heart. Jesus said that the Father is earnestly seeking for people to worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4). Matthew West sang a few years ago, "I donít want to go through the motions. I donít want to go one more day without your all consuming passion inside of me." I know that the Ravens are going to be in town for a few weeks, but you will not worship God at M&T Stadium. The Shepherds and the Wise men worshiped. They sang the songs and they voiced their praise to the Father. Share in your life group how Jesus has changed your life or has been working in your life.

B. Set aside deliberate time with your family maybe a week before the gifts are opened, just to pray and celebrate Jesusí birth. Have a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. Sing some carols together, read the various Christmas stories from the Gospels. Get a copy of The Nativity Story and watch it with Family and Friends. Perhaps talk about the real Nicolas and how his life is a model for charity. Tell how Jesus has changed your life. What if it was your birthday, and everyone came but no one spoke of you, everyone was too busy eating, or giving gifts to each other and no one gave a gift to you.

C. Pray over every Christmas card you sign. Ask God to bless the one who will receive it. Write a note of encouragement or share in a sentence or two, what Jesus means to you.

D. Likewise, pray over every gift you give and ask the Father to help you choose wisely and be able to bless the person you are giving to.

E. Though these will be our messages of the next few weeks, God sent His son to bless you, be deliberate in helping others, pray and ask the Father whose life you can touch this Christmas and be an encouragement to or minister hope to.

F. Pray about giving God a Gift. Do you know what God would like to have from you for Christmas? Rom. 12:1 is just one thought. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." Re-dedicate yourself to God and dedicate this Christmas to Him. I will use my hands to help someone for you. I will use my money to bless someone for you. I will use my mouth to praise and worship you. I will use my ears to listen to the stories of others. I will use my feet to take hope and peace to those who need a friend.

Letís pray and remember as we partake of Communion.

Need plates, knife, and plastic wrap

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman