We welcome everyone today to our celebration of Christmas. Today the choir will sing beautiful hymns that celebrate the birth of Christ. I will preach a sermon that goes back to the beginning of creation and tells the story of original sin and how Christ came into the world to restore man to the paradise that was lost in his fall. On Christmas Eve, there will be a special candlelight service in which I will speak on the great announcement of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace good will toward men.” And then finally on Sunday night, December 26th, the message will be “The Miracle of the Virgin Birth.”
The songs, the sermons, and the celebrations are done each year because of the exceedingly great love of God for man. None of us will live long enough, we will never go through enough Christmases, we will never sing enough songs, and we will never preach enough sermons to adequately praise God for such love! To think that Jesus Christ, God Almighty, would step down from His exalted throne in heaven to become a baby, to live in this sin cursed world, and then to die an agonizing death for us is too far beyond our comprehension. If we were good people that always honored God and loved Him as we should, perhaps we could make a somewhat reasonable argument why He should do this. But we did not love Him and we did not honor Him. We rebelled against Him just as our father Adam did. The scripture says that we are enemies of God; and yet while we were in this condition estranged from Him, Christ came to die for us.
I really don’t believe there are many people that think of this at Christmas. We concentrate on the goodness of man. We supplement the Christmas story with tales of man’s triumph over his selfishness, pettiness, and greed. Charles Dickens did this with his famous story, “A Christmas Carol.” While the story is a classic piece of literature, the transformation that took place in the main character’s life, Ebenezer Scrooge, was not because of the miracle of the New Birth in Jesus Christ, but because of dreams and ghosts that tormented him into a change of heart. Dickens’ carol is really the alternative gospel of self reformation. Christ is not needed in such a scheme. Rather than restoring the true spirit of Christmas that was lost, Dickens perhaps unintentionally for modern generations replaced the nativity with a secular naivety that helped push Christ farther out.
We must return to the truth of the real gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to do what man cannot do for himself. He came to restore us to the righteousness of God. He came to change us from enmity towards God to peace with God. This is only accomplished by faith in the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. Jesus gave His life’s blood that we might be restored. This is the Christmas that must be recovered. We do not need to recover man’s innate goodness. There is no such thing. Rather than being reminded of how “good” man is, we must be taught how gracious and loving God is! Ghosts and bad dreams cannot change us. God must do it through the cross.
This season when you hear “Happy Holidays,” please remember that a holiday is not good enough. Our happiness is because of Christ and His redemption. “Merry Christmas” is much better as long as we recall what happened to the Saviour instead of what happened to Scrooge.
Pastor V. Mark Smith