The Heart of Christmas | 2 Corinthians 4:5
The feeling of Christmas is in the air: The tinsel and the Christmas Lights; the decorations and the overstocked stores; the gifts under the tree and the remnants of wrapping paper on the floor; the ring of the cash registers and the muffled sound of the charge-card device; the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh; and the nativity scenes; all of these things remind us that Christmas time is here again. It is the season of cranky clerks and jangled nerves, the season of quick trips to the mall, a season in which we spend more than we have, buy more than we can afford, and eat more than we can hold. But what is the heart of Christmas?
To the merchant, the heart of Christmas is increased sales. To children, it is the anticipation of toys and other gifts. The heart of Christmas to others is just time away from their jobs. To still others, the heart of Christmas is more hurry, hassle, noise and crowds. For Christians, the heart of Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus.
When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in AD 353, who would have thought that it would become what it is today?
When Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who could have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today?
It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the King was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us another opportunity to pause, and, in the midst of all of the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surrounds Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the Birth of the person we celebrate.
We must remember that Jesus is the heart of Christmas. It is His birthday we celebrate. It is in His name we gather. As our text states, it is Jesus about whom we sing and preach.
The question that comes to our mind as we focus on the heart of Christmas is this: What kind of man was this whose birth is so significant that it splits history into BC and AD? Who is this one who is the heart of Christmas? Let's ask the question in different ways.
What does the Bible say about him? The Bible provides for us our basic information about Jesus Christ. What does the Bible say about Jesus?
The biblical writers, first, proclaim that Jesus was a man. We believe in the virgin birth of Christ, but it was not his birth that was supernatural, it was his conception which was supernatural. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God. After the supernatural conception, Jesus was born just like any other baby would be born. Mary had birth pains, just like any other mother. Jesus cried at his birth like any child would cry. He was human.
He also grew like any other person. While working as a carpenter, like Joseph, in the city of Nazareth, Jesus experienced the same things any other carpenter would experience. His hands were roughened by the tools of the trade. At evening, after a heavy day, he was tired just as other carpenters are.
Jesus experienced what other people experience, He had to walk the long roads of Palestine like others had to do. When he did, his feet got tired and dirty, his mouth became dry, his feet blistered, and his legs chapped just like others.
Physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, Jesus lived the same life we all live. He worked. He played. He laughed. He cried. He felt lonely. He became tired. He hurt. He was human just like you and me.
But there is more in the Bible's discussion of Jesus. Jesus was also God. Jesus was God in such a way that the biblical writers referred to him as Immanuel - "God with us."
In Jesus, we can feel God's presence as we have never felt before. In Jesus, we can clearly see what God is like. In Jesus, we can see the unique presence of God in the world.
Jesus was a man, but he was different from any other man who ever lived. There had never been another man like him, nor would there ever be. The disciples, the ones who knew him best, were certain of that fact. But it strained the limits of their day to try to express this fact. He was the best that life had to offer. How could they express it?
They went to the realm of Jewish religion and took the term "messiah," the greatest title they knew to use in reference to a man, and looking at Jesus, they said, "He is the "Messiah."
The went to the realm of Greek thought and found this term Logos, meaning word, which was the greatest title they knew, and looking at Jesus, they said, "He is the 'Logos,' the word.
What does the Bible say about Jesus? It says that Jesus was a man who was God in human flesh.
What did Jesus say about himself? When we consider what Jesus said in the New Testament, we see that he matched the claims the biblical writers made about him by the claims he made about himself.
He said that he was the way to God, that no one can come to the Father but by him.
He said that He had been with God since the beginning and that he brought a special message from God.
He said that to believe in him meant to have life but to refuse to believe in him meant to miss what life was all about.
He focused our attention beyond the shadow of the grave and said that if we wanted to make heaven and miss hell there was only one way, and that was to make him the king of our lives.
He said that his connection with God was so close that to know him was to know the God, to see him was to see God, to believe in him was to believe in God.
Those are fantastic claims Jesus made about himself. The most incredible thing is that he backed these claims with his life he lived.
Jesus lived such a life of purity that those closest to Him gave this testimony of his life: "He committed no sin. No guilt was found on his lips."
He exhibited such power over the lives of men that many were healed merely at the touch of his hand.
He showed such a depth of compassion that no one was outside the limits of his love.
He lived a life like no man has ever lived. When he died, he died with such power that the man on the cross next to him said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And a bystanding centurion muttered, "Surely, this man was the Son of God."
Jesus claimed that he was not only the Son of God, but God himself.
What does history say about him? Jesus has the unique ability to come across the centuries as a living Lord and to challenge men and women of all generations to follow him. Listen to some of these testimonies.
David Livingstone, adventurous pioneer who labored long years in Africa, said, "All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ."
Alfred Edersheim, Jewish historian and author of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, said, "If Jesus Christ did not live, and he was not the Son of God and he is not the Messiah, then there never has been and never will be a Messiah."
Dale Evans, movie star, said, "All my life I looked for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and I found it at the foot of the cross."
Multiplied thousands of such testimonies can be given. These testimonies from history confirm the testimonies from the Bible about Jesus and the declarations of Jesus about Himself. He was the most unique man who has ever lived. a man whose uniqueness can only be explained by the presence and power of God in his life.
What do you say about him? This is the most significant of the questions because it will determine your eternal destiny and your peace in this life. What do you say about Jesus? You have two options.
You can accept Him as being who he says he is. You can say: "I believe Jesus was God in the flesh who lived and is living among us."
Or, you can say, "Jesus is liar, he had laid the foundation for the biggest farce in history."
Which is it for you? Well....