For close to the last two months we have been preparing for Christmas. It was around the time of Halloween that Christmas decorations began to fill the stores. Many of you had lots of your shopping done before Thanksgiving! Credit card bills began to explode.
Our calendars also told us that Christmas was near. Special programs, concerts, and Christmas parties started to fill in what used to be empty dates. We began singing Christmas Carols the week after Thanksgiving. You would think with all this preparation we would be ready for Christmas.
However, Christmas often gets buried under the activity of the season. We spend so much time thinking about gifts and holiday plans, we don’t take much time to think about what Christmas is really all about.
This evening I am going to focus on three truths that convey the message of Christmas.
God Sees You
The first truth of Christmas is that God sees us. In other words, God knows we are here. He understands our situation. He recognizes just how lost we really are.
In the book of Genesis there is a story of Hagar who was the servant of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. When Sarah could not bear children she told Abraham to father a child by her servant. Abraham did so. However, as soon as the child was born Sarah hated both Hagar and the child. She made life so miserable that Hagar ran away.
She was out on her own when and angel appeared to her. The angel told her to go back to Abraham. Because the Lord came to Hagar in her time of need we read this:
13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (El-roi) (Genesis 16:13)
If we are honest I think most of us often feel invisible to God. It feels like he is aloof and doesn’t understand what a mess we are in. It feels like God is up in Heaven and we are laboring away here on earth. We have problems and God seems distant
- There are devastating illnesses
- Financial struggles that make us toss and turn in our sleep
- Healthcare costs that have a stranglehold on our lives.
- Job pressures that never seem to let up.
- Family issues that seem to stomp on our heart over and over again
It is hard for us to believe that God is truly El-roi, the God who sees. However, the Christmas story, when rightly understood changes all that.
Max Lucado wrote a book titled, BECAUSE OF BETHLEHEM and in it he tells a true story that I am going to share with you in the hope that it has the same effect on you that it did me.
In 1926 George Harly founded a medical mission among the Mano tribe of Liberia. The locals were receptive to the doctor and helped him construct a clinic and a chapel. Eventually, Harley treated more than ten thousand patients a year. During the first five years, however, not one person from the tribe visited his chapel.
Shortly after the doctor and his wife arrived, she gave birth to Robert, their first child. The boy grew up on the edge of the forest. “He was the apple of our eye,” Harley later said. “How we loved our little boy! But one day when he was almost five years old, I looked out the window of the medical dispensary and saw Bobby. He was running across the field but he fell down. Then he got up and ran some more and fell again. But this time he didn’t get up. So I ran out and picked up the feverish body of my own little boy. I held him in my arms and said, ‘Bobby, don’t worry. Your daddy knows how to treat that tropical fever. He’s going to help you get better.’”
Dr. Harley tried every treatment he knew. But nothing helped. The fever raged, and in short order the disease took the boy’s life. The parents were distraught with grief. The missionary went into his workshop and built a coffin. Harley placed Robert inside and nailed the lid. He lifted the coffin on his shoulder and walked toward the clearing to find a place to dig a grave. One of the old men in the village saw him and asked about the box. When Harley explained that his son had died, the old man offered to help him carry the coffin. Dr. Harley told a friend what happened next:
So the old man took one end of the coffin and I took the other. Eventually we came to the clearing in the forest. We dug a grave there and laid Bobby in it. But when we had covered up the grave, I just couldn’t stand it any longer . . . I fell down on my knees in the dirt and began to sob uncontrollably. My beloved son was dead, and there I was in the middle of an African jungle 8,000 miles from home and relatives. I felt so all alone.
But when I started crying, the old man cocked his head in stunned amazement. He squatted down beside me and looked at me so intently. For a long time, he sat there listening to me cry. Then suddenly, he leaped to his feet and went running back up the trail through the jungle, screaming, again and again, at the top of his voice, “White man, white man— he cries like one of us.”
That evening as Harley and his wife grieved in their cottage, there was a knock at the door. Harley opened it. There stood the chief and almost every man, woman, and child in the village. They were back again the next Sunday and filled the chapel to overflowing. They wanted to hear about Jesus. Everything changed when the villagers saw the tears of the missionary. Everything changes when we see the face of God.
This is what Christmas does. We see that God is real. We witness the Savior learning to walk, think, and live. We watch as God in human form is misunderstood, arrested, beaten and crucified. And we cry, “He understands, He understands.”
He knows what it is like to be misunderstood, and discarded. He understands pressure and the various frustrations of life. He gets it! He is not some distant and detached God as so many people seem to think He is. He has donned flesh. He has shed tears. He has suffered. He understands. He understands!
God Loves You
It is one thing for God to see us, it is another to believe that He loves us. When God sees us He certainly also sees our sin and our failures. Yet, one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us that God sent His son into the world because He loves us.
Every one of us yearns to be truly seen and still loved. We spend our lives trying to be the kind of person that others will love. We struggle to hide our scars and failures because we are afraid that if others saw us the way we truly are, they would turn away. We believe they would be repelled by the blemishes, the failures, and the struggles.
The message of Christmas is staggering. We don’t have to try to be someone who God can love . . . God already loves us! He has loved you from the moment you were conceived. You may feel unloved and unlovable, but God loves you anyway. You may feel you have royally messed up your life (haven’t we all?) and therefore are beyond the love of God. But the message of Christmas is this: despite how undeserving we are, God loves us, He loves us so much that He came to earth as a baby to rescue us. He does not focus on the scars; He focuses on what he created you to be. He believes in you, even though you may no longer believe in yourself. He sees you as a person of infinite value, uniquely made to reflect his image.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
I don’t know why it is so hard to believe God loves us. Is it because we can’t love ourselves? Is it because we have focused so much on our failures and weakness that we no longer see our potential as one created in the image of God? The message of Christmas is this: Jesus came to earth for you and for me. He came to declare His love in a way we would hopefully understand.
God has come to make you part of His family
That leads me to the third message of Christmas: God has come to rescue you so you and I could be a part of His family. God loves us not simply with a warm heart . . . He loves us enough to take action to rescue us.
God donned human flesh in all its humiliation. He subjected Himself to resistance and hatred of men. He submitted to death on a cross . . . all to rescue us!
The Bible tells us sin is a capital offense. For God to merely “shrug it off” would be to diminish what is holy, just, and pure. You can’t ignore the consequences of violating a law without weakening that law. For example, everyone knows that you can usually drive 5 miles over the speed limit without getting a ticket. As a result, the speed limit laws have lost some of their power. Because you can “get away” with 5 miles over the limit there are many who push that limit even further.
If God were to simply shrug at sin, He would no longer be holy; the law would no longer serve as much of a deterrent to sin. It is human nature to think that if a little transgression of the law is acceptable, why not a little more? God had to judge and punish sin or He would not be holy. He had to deal with sin or we could not be in His presence. . . ever!
The problem, however was how to punish sin, and the one who commits that sin, without either diminishing God’s standards or destroying the sinner. How do you deal with sin while at the same time inviting the person to be a part of the family of God? Paul tells us God’s solution:
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The solution was for God to take the punishment Himself. He could become a man, fulfill the law (which we do not do), and then He could voluntarily take our penalty upon Himself. Since He is God in human flesh His sacrifice would have sufficient value that it could cover the sin of anyone who would receive His sacrifice.
Imagine a young child who steals from the family. He has violated the trust of the family and must be punished. Dad takes him upstairs and tells him that his punishment is a few wallops with dad’s belt. Before anything happens however, dad takes off his shirt. He hands the belt to his young son and says, “I will take your penalty. Punish me instead.” The son does not want to do this. But dad leans over the bed and insists that his son strike him several times with his belt because it was the only way to make things right between them. Do you think that child will understand that his father loves him?
God did all this for you! The whole purpose of Christmas was for God to enter the world to rescue you. You can’t understand the cradle without the cross! You have not understood the birth of Christ if you do not link it to the death of Christ. Jesus did not come into the world to be popular. He didn’t come to inspire us with His motivational speeches . . . He came to save us by dying as payment for our sin. This payment makes it possible for us to know new life as part of God’s family. This new life is eternal and guarantees we will be with Him in Heaven when we die.
God does not force us to become a part of His family. He allows us to choose. He invites us to trust Him and be made new or we can continue the way we always have and be religious when it is convenient. We can continue to hope we are “good enough” even though the Bible says there is NO ONE righteous (or right with God) apart from Christ.
Someone has suggested it might help to think of our lives as a house. Jesus comes to the front door of the house and asks to come in. Most of us keep the chain on the front door and open it only a crack to ask the Lord to do certain things for us. He continues to knock and ask for entrance.
Why don’t we open the door? It is because our house is mess! We don’t want Him to see the chaos and junk in our lives. Some clean one area of their house and confine Jesus to that area. It is their “religious” room. It is often the room nearest to the front window so it looks good to everyone on the outside. But the result is similar either way: Jesus is denied complete access to our lives.
What we don’t realize is He is standing at the door with a mop and a bucket. He knows about the mess, and has come to begin the clean-up process. He sees and knows us and yet He loves us and wants to help us to live as a member of God’s family. All He asks is that we let Him in.
We do this by asking Him. You don’t need special words. You don’t need someone else to pray for you. Just come to Him with your hands and your heart open. Tell Him that you understand that He came so that we could know forgiveness and new life. Confess that your life is a mess and ask Him to come into your life and begin the process of making things clean and new. I can’t think of a better time to do this than at Christmas.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family and the love of those closest to you. I also pray you will understand that Christmas is about far more than the love of family and friends. It is more than gift-giving. It is about God entering the world because He loves you and me. It is about God demonstrating His love in the most powerful way possible.
Max Lucado once again writes,
God is always near us. Always for us. Always in us. We may forget him, but God will never forget us. We are forever on his mind and in his plans. He called himself “‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matt. 1:23). Not just “God made us.” Not just “God thinks of us.” Not just “God above us.” But God with us. God where we are: at the office, in the kitchen, on the plane. He breathed our air and walked this earth. God . . . with . . . us!
He sees us. He loves us. And He has come in the hope of making us a part of his family forever. Now it is up to you. You can receive the gift God offers you or you can turn away. You can embrace the real message and meaning of Christmas, or you can ignore it. God has done His part and waits for your decision.
May you experience the love, the acceptance and the new life that Christmas was meant to extend.
 Lucado, Max (2016-09-13). Because of Bethlehem (with Bonus Content): Love Is Born, Hope Is Here (pp. 19-20). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 ibid p. 6