The Best Response to Christmas
Advent, Receiving Christ
During the Christmas Season we have looked at the various responses to Christmas
- Anger of Herod
- Worship of the Shepherds and Magi
- Giving of Gifts of the Wise Men
- The Music of Mary, Zechariah and the Angels
This evening I want to focus on the most appropriate response of all . . . .Faith.
In our text we see that there are two contrasting responses listed . . . those that received Him and those that received Him not. These two possibilities raise two questions:
Why Would Some Not Receive Him?
Why is it that some do not respond to Christ? Why would anyone not receive the one who came to deliver them from sin? I suggest three reasons:
REASON #1-Indifference . . . .preoccupation
There are some people who don’t receive Christ simply because they don’t notice Him. Even at this time of Christmas it is possible to be so preoccupied that you miss the one who is supposed to be the focus of the celebration. Listen as I read this letter from an unknown author suggesting what Jesus might write to the Father,
As you know, I am celebrating my Birthday with the host who invited me this year. I rejoiced at the opportunity and looked forward to spending the Holidays with them. However, these people are really quite strange.
They really have not paid much attention to me at all since my arrival. There is much talk about “Chris”, a fellow they call Santa Claus. Interestingly enough, at their parade and party in honor of me, guess who they featured as the Guest of Honor? This “Chris” fellow! Can you believe it? And for most of the past few weeks all I have heard is “Have you seen Chris yet?” and “What is Chris bringing you for Christmas?” Besides, I’ve seen so many pictures and figures of Chris on housetops, doors, lawns, sweatshirts, cards and etc. It makes me wonder who they really love. All things considered, it seems more of a party about Chris that about Christ. And there is the big emphasis on presents! Not my “presence” mind you, but presents for their family and friends. Considering how much some of them are spending , it looks like we don’t rank very high in comparison. Some of them will spend more just for Christmas than they give to us all year. What really saddens me is that so many will “celebrate” Christmas and never even know I’m here – they might mention me, but not know me- Bow their heads, but not worship, give but not love; pray but not believe; relax in their homes, but not rest in your hands; gather around their live trees, but never gather around the tree of life. IN fact, this supposed party for me reminds me of some of their Christmas trees, bright, fancy and artificial.
Thankfully, there are some who truly celebrate. It seems oddly refreshing when someone at my party gets more excited about me than the games, gifts and guests. I can’t wait to get back home and bring these folks home with me. We’ll have a real Christmas party then!
Much love, Jesus (Author Unknown)
Have you found yourself distracted by the hoopla of the season? It is a good sign that you are here in worship tonight but even your attendance here may be more from tradition than out of a desire for worship. This candlelight service may just “be a part of your celebration”. Look beyond the tradition and see Jesus.
Mary is said to have pondered the events of the season and treasured these things in her heart. That would be a good practice for us.
I remember a time when I was a youth minister in a small church in a Chicago suburb. There were only six children in Sunday School and I decided I would simply tell them the story of Jesus. I told about how he was born and all the wonder of that night. One little boy had obviously never heard this story because he sat with the widest eyes you’ve ever seen.
I went on to tell of all the great things Jesus did. Jimmy was fascinated. Then I told of the cross. When I told about the death of Jesus, Jimmy began to cry. I was moved by this simple reaction to an account that had perhaps become too familiar to me.
When we moved on to the resurrection Jimmy raised his hand in triumph. The smile returned. I don’t know whether Jimmy remembers that day . . .but I’ll never forget it.
Maybe we need to sit back and hear the Christmas story with fresh ears . . . like Jimmy.
REASON #2- Cynicism . . . . no one would love like that without a catch
Many are too skeptical to receive Christ. They figure anything that sounds this good can’t be true.
Have you ever had one of those calls telling you that you have just won something free….like a trip to the Bahamas? As you move along in the conversation you find out that this free trip is going to result in a hefty charge on your Visa card. The trip is free only if you purchase their over-priced merchandise. A few calls like that and we all become a little cynical and suspicious.
It is hard to believe that God would care that much. We know if we were God we wouldn’t go to such extremes to save us. So, we look for the hidden charge. The offer of God’s grace must have a catch, we think.
Max Lucado captures it perfectly,
We Want to Know How Long God’s Love Will Endure. …Does God Really Love Us Forever? Not Just on Easter Sunday When Our Shoes Are Shined And Our Hair Is Fixed. We Want to Know…How Does God Feel About Me When I’m a Jerk? Not When I’m Peppy And Positive And Ready to Tackle World Hunger. Not Then. I Know How He Feels About Me Then. Even I Like Me Then.
I Want to Know How He Feels About Me When I Snap at Anything That Moves, When My Thoughts Are Gutter-level, When My Tongue Is Sharp Enough to Slice a Rock. How Does He Feel About Me Then?
Can Anything Separate Us From The Love Christ Has For Us?
God Answered Our Question Before We Asked It. So We’d See His Answer, He Lit The Sky With a Star. So We’d Hear It, He Filled The Night With a Choir; And So We’d Believe It, He Did What No Man Had Ever Dreamed. He Became Flesh And Dwelt Among Us.
He Placed His Hand on The Shoulder
Of Humanity And Said,
“You’re Something Special.
Reason # 3- Outright Rejection . . . . I don’t want to depend on anyone but me
These people understand the message perfectly . . . .and that is why they reject it. The idea of a judge who would dare label some behavior “sin” is unacceptable to them. How dare God presume to make such rules. They will not admit they are sinful. They like the idea of a God who “loves everyone”.
The idea of needing a Savior they find repulsive. These people are self-reliant, not dependent. They don’t need a Savior . . .they don’t need anyone.
The desire for freedom is so great that we end up rejecting the only one who can make us truly free.
The Sad Truth about all three of these pictures, however is this: Each of these scenarios . . . .if continued throughout life leads to eternal separation from God. (John 3:18)
What Does it Mean to Receive Him?
First, it means to acknowledge personal sin. Some “receive” Jesus because they think He is cool. Some “receive Him” because they want to be on a winning team. People “receive” Christ so they can belong to the church. But any reason for “receiving” Christ apart from a desire to be cleansed from sin is to not receive Him at all. True faith starts with a realization of personal need
Second, it means to believe who He is. He is the one from God. He is not a good man with a good idea . . . He is God in human form seeking to communicate with His creation. It means believing that He is the only Savior from Sin. It means acknowledging that we cannot do anything to save ourselves.
In the wonderful book and television adaptation THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGENT EVER the Herdmann children (the rugged, undisciplined, rabble-rousing children from the neighborhood) volunteer to play the key roles in the Christmas pageant. It makes for some pretty funny moments. But at the end of the book something happens to the Herdmans, they begin to understand what the Christmas story is all about.
The Herdman boys who played the three wise men arrive without the gifts they were supposed to bring. So one of the boys runs out and comes back carrying the ham that was given to the family by the firemen. It was the most valuable thing they owned. They gave the gift to Jesus and would not even think of taking it back. Imogene (the cigar smoking young girl who plays Mary) is seen crying as she rocks baby Jesus.
In this story these children came to believe that Jesus was someone unique, sent from God. So must we.
Third, it means to entrust oneself to Him. I like to say, receiving Christ means being willing to bet your life on Christ. It means to put all your hope and confidence in Him.
My favorite Christmas story of all was the story of Wallace Perling.
Wallace Perling was a young man who had been given a big promotion in the Christmas program. This year he had a speaking part. He only had one line but he was thrilled. Wallace was given the part of the Innkeeper who would turn Mary and Joseph away. His job was to answer the knock at his door, listen to the plea of Joseph and say, “No! Begone!”
Well, the time of the pageant came. Wallace had practiced hard and was ready. As the production began Wallace listened with great intensity to the Christmas story. Finally, Mary and Joseph worked their way to his door. His heart was pounding. When Wallace opened the door there stood Mary and Joseph. They looked so tired. Joseph told how Mary was expecting a child and they were so weary. But Wallace looked straight ahead and said, “No! Begone!”
This is where the story gets interesting. You see, Wallace didn’t shut the door. Instead he watched the couple walk dejectedly away. Finally, Wallace said, “Wait, You can have my room!”
Some thought the Christmas pageant had been ruined. But others, many others, thought it had been the best Christmas Program ever.
This is what it means to receive Christ. It means to invite Jesus to live in your life. It means opening the door and inviting Him in.
For Those Who respond
- They will be called Sons of God
- Theyare made a part of God’s family
- They are forgiven
- They are given eternal life
- They are given the promise that He will never leave or forsake
- They are promised that everything that happens is part of His plan for us
How will you respond this Christmas to the Christ child?
Are you just going through the motions? Are you giving more attention to the gifts under the tree than to the greatest gift? Will you resist God’s invitation forever? Would you be willing to make that commitment today . . . right now? Would you be willing to truly celebrate Christ-mas for the first time in your life?
Will you make that decision today? Will you invite Jesus to take “your room”? Will you give Him what you have in exchange for what He will make of you? Will you give Him the filthy rags of your past in exchange for membership in His eternal family? Will you do it now?
If you would like to receive Christ right now, I suggest you sincerely pray something like this:
Lord Jesus, tonight I come to you with my sin. I gratefully receive your gift of salvation. Thank you Lord for coming to earth, for dying in my place, and for making eternal life possible for me. Tonight I give you my heart. No longer will I refuse you with a “No, Begone!” Tonight I invite you to live in my life. Thank you for the salvation that is now mine because of your love. Amen.