saltshaker

Why does Christmas matter?

The short answer is: Because Christ matters.

You could actually stand to ignore every other person who’s ever lived.

Wouldn’t be nice, might get you isolated, but you could do that, without any impact on your future in eternity.

You could ignore everyone on earth and go to your grave, but then you’d find out you could no longer ignore Jesus, because He would still be there. You would no longer have a choice – you would have to face Him.

Unfortunately, by that time, it would be too late to get to know Him. It would be too late to call His name.

The Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die, and then judgment. The question is, “judgment by whom?” The answer is – Jesus. The Bible says we will all come before His judgment seat and be judged for our actions, whether they were good or evil, in our days on the earth.

Sadly, many people take their chances this judgment, hoping He’ll agree that they really are good people, after all, and let them into heaven.

They hope the good will outweigh the bad, that their standards are somehow His standards (even though most people believe everyone should be allowed to have their own standards), and that they could even convince Jesus to let them in if they had to.

But the Bible says our ways are not His ways. The Bible says His thoughts are not our thoughts.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, the Bible says.

So we are taking the ultimate risk when we assume that God will understand and overlook our sins.

As we saw last week, God has said that our thoughts are evil from our youth. God has said there is none who does good, no not one. Like sheep, we have all gone astray and seek after our own way. God has told us that the wages of sin is death … but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

That’s the gift that was embodied in the Christ-child, Jesus, the only baby that has ever been born to die for us. That’s the real reason we exchange gifts on Christmas – to commemorate God’s gift to us, His Son, Jesus. We’ve lost sight of that source and tell our kids it’s about an immortal senior citizen in a red suit who can magically tell who’s been naughty or nice, but we forget that the original St. Nick gave gifts (anonymously, I might add) in honor of Jesus, who gave Himself for us.

We’re actually slapping Jesus in the face when we reject this gift. We’re saying, “No, thanks. I appreciate you dying on the cross and all, but I don’t need that. I’ll prove myself worthy and be just fine, thank you.”

What’s the old saying, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”? I guess we could also say, “the road to Hell is packed with good people (who don’t need Jesus).”

I know this kind of talk inflames most people. It offends their sensibilities, their self-esteem, their secular humanism that makes them want to cry, “I’m OK, You’re OK.”

I used to think that way. I used to fall back on my own righteousness (which the Bible says is as filthy rags before God). I used to think I knew how to love, how to give. And I did know, at least somewhat. But eventually, it was all emptiness. It was like pennies cast into a bottomless wishing well. It never added up to anything and eventually it was worthless … until one day, I recognized my need for Him, and suddenly, my world had meaning. Suddenly, love had meaning. That meaning was Jesus.

Paul writes that we can sacrifice everything, our possessions and our very bodies, and still amount to nothing, if we don’t have love. He writes this in the famous chapter that defines what love is, in I Corinthians 13. This is love as defined by God:

·         Patient, kind

·         Not jealous, boastful or arrogant

·         Not acting unbecomingly

·         Not seeking after its own

·         Not provoked

·         Not taking account of wrongs

·         Not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but in the truth

·         Bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things

·         Never failing

Is this how love is portrayed in the movies? What idea of love do we have in America nowadays? Our popular culture has boiled love down to steamy sex scenes. So much for not acting unbecomingly or not rejoicing in unrighteousness.

You know what’s amazing? Jesus is all these things. He is the perfect embodiment of the love described by Paul – perfect, Godly love. No wonder John 3:16 reads, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Elsewhere, Romans 5:8 says, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Moreover, the next verse reads, “much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him,” and then, “for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

And that’s the point. If we reject Jesus, we are God’s enemy. But if we accept Him, we shall be saved from the wrath of God – the judgment we all think we will escape somehow.

Now you know why Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace.” He made it possible for us to have peace with God, and no longer live as His enemy. Do you think He will allow His enemy into His heavenly kingdom? Of course not. First, we will have to be reconciled with Him through His Son, Jesus. As the gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 11-13, reads: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Therefore, we must be born again – of God – to become the children of God. This is nothing we can earn, buy our way into, talk our way into, or inherit any other way. That is why John says it is “not of blood (birthright), nor of the will of the flesh (trying harder), nor of the will of man (deserving it or earning it).” It is only by His gift, His Son, Jesus.

In the next verse, John writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Word that John spoke of was “Love.” That Word was named “Jesus.” Twice in his first letter, chapter 3, John writes that “God is love.” In verse 16, he says, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Jesus was the love of God, manifested to men, that they might be saved from their sins, that they might know God’s love toward them, that they might be reconciled to a holy God and saved from the wrath to come. That wrath is holy judgment, the final banishment of all that is unholy, profane and impure from God’s presence, once-and-for-all, for all eternity.

But Jesus was born to declare the good news of our salvation and reconciliation with the Father – through Him. As he said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me.”

That is the good news – that there actually is a way to find God and to be at peace with Him. That is why the angel of the Lord declared to the shepherds, in Luke chapter 2, verses 10-14:

“’Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.

“’For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“’This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

That baby was Jesus.

Today, he still beckons us to come to the Father. That is why Christmas matters – because Jesus still matters. He still calls to us. He still saves us. He still changes lives. Despite what the cynics have said, God is not dead and He will never be irrelevant. Even after 2000 years, He still loves us – just as Paul wrote, He is patient, He endures all things, He bears all things, He never fails. As he wrote in Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 8: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.”

It’s not too late. You’ve accepted everyone else’s gift this year – won’t you accept His?

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