Benediction May the God of light, love, and mercy be in your hearts and spirits this day. Go in peace and God’s peace will go with you. AMEN.
Christmas has always been most kids favorite time of the year. With some of the things that have happened in 2022, some people might have a hard time celebrating Christmas this year. But I want to tell you something; I still have a reason to praise God this holiday season. As you consider everything that has happened in your life in 2022 and what you are expecting God to do for you in 2023, I hope you are rejoicing with me today. You see, it is not about the presents, the food and all of the decorations; it is about the one eternal gift that God gave us when He sent Jesus to this earth. We’ve all heard the stories and we have seen the movies relating to the real meaning of Christmas, but I tell you this morning, unless you understand the truth with your heart, you will never fully grasp the significance and the fullness of the gift that God has given us.
I often think about all of the Christmases I’ve had as a child and the great memories attached to them. I realize that back then, even though I knew the real meaning of Christmas, it still came down to the presents, the decorations and the food. I never thought about or considered the level of stress and anxiety that my parents must have felt as they tried to ensure that we had presents on Christmas morning. There are many people who spend most of the next year paying for Christmas presents that they could not afford the year before. This is done out of the desire to make their kids Christmas the best.
But as I said, as with most kids, my thoughts during those times were primarily focused on what I was receiving, not the reason for the season or what my presents were costing my parents. As I got older, my thoughts remained the same, but I also began to consider what I could give others, especially those who I knew were getting me something. Imagine my anxiety when Christmas Eve came, and someone gave me a present that I was not expecting, and they had this expectant look on their face for the present they thought I had gotten them. Ever been there? Today my focus is not at all centered on presents that I may or may not receive. I now understand and appreciate the sacrifices my parents made for us each Christmas. I also understand and greatly appreciate what they knew way back that it was not about the presents.
Luke 2:7-12 records the following: “(7) And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (8) In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. (9) And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. (10) But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; (11) for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (12) This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
We think of Christmas as the time of year for giving because God gave to us a very special gift – His Son Jesus Christ. Although we celebrate Christmas in December, Jesus was not born in the winter; He was born in the spring (based on the fact that shepherds would not have been out in the fields at night with their flocks during the winter.) The celebration of His birth today is nothing like what it was on the night He was born. No one brought presents on that night; the only gift that was given was the gift God gave to mankind. Despite what we may have seen on TV or in the movies, the shepherds did not bring presents to Christ. Once they received the information from the angel, they immediately left to go and find Jesus. They did not take time to go shopping for the perfect gift. They did not roam from store to store looking for the best sales price. They were not worrying about if their presents would be acceptable. They did not worry about none of this because it was not important. They went to witness the gift God gave to the world. They went to receive, not to give. They dropped what they were doing and went looking for Christ. Now I know for a fact that some of you might be thinking about the three wise men. On most nativity scenes you find them standing and looking at the baby Jesus as they hold their gifts in their hands. However, when you study the Scriptures closely, you find that the three wise men were not at the manager when Christ was born and actually did not find Christ until He was almost two years old. Turn to Matthew the second chapter.
“(1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, (2) ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’…..(11) After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh…...(16) Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” (Matthew 2:1-2, 11, 16)
Jesus was almost two years old when the wise men finally found Him and delivered the gifts. Notice that He was not in a manger; He was in a house. So the gift that was given that very special night was from God to mankind. It was an everlasting gift that once given, would continue to last throughout all eternity. The shepherds went to receive that gift, the gift of Christ. Remember the angel said to them, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) The angel told them that Christ had been born for them; He was their gift and ours. This is what Christmas is about even though we sometimes lose sight of this with all of the presents being brought and delivered to one another. Christmas is about a gift that God gave us – an everlasting gift. Don’t lose sight of this miracle because it was this miracle that opened the door to everything that we receive from God.
It would have been logical to expect God to tear open the heavens and descend to earth in majesty and power on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem—but he didn’t.
Instead, on that quiet night, a virgin mother laid her newborn into a manger designed to feed cattle. The lowing cows, the sweet-smelling hay, and the dark sky illumined by a magnificent star provided the setting. Humble shepherds joined the carpenter-husband to witness the miracle and praise God for what He was doing. The most significant drama of the centuries was unfolding—the drama of salvation that would ultimately take this Child to the Cross.
Truly God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. The wheels of His mercy and justice move quietly and silently, but they do move. The birth of Jesus Christ—the Son of God, our Savior—went unnoticed by the vast majority of the world that first Christmas night, but no event in human history was more significant. May His birth and all it means not go unnoticed in our lives.
If you are sick today, go to the gift. If you are hungry, go to the gift. If your finances are not right and you need help, go to the gift. If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired: Go To The Gift!!! That gift is Jesus Christ. He was given to us on that day some 2000 years ago, that day we celebrate as Christmas. So this year – remember what Christmas is really about. You will not find the meaning in a store, in a present or in a movie. However, you will find it in God’s Word and in the hearts of those who serve Him. If you have ever doubted that a gift was given to you, doubt no more. It is yours, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.