This message was shared at our ‘Lessons and Carols’ Christmas Celebration on December 20, 2016. The program featured 9 short Bible readings interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music.
What a blessing it is to be here tonight. Having this opportunity to share some time with each of you is a gift. We could hear the message of the gospel, tonight couldn’t we? The Gospel means ‘Good News’ and through song and through reading we have heard tonight that the Bible brings us the ‘good news’ about a very special baby on a very special day.
I think almost everyone likes to hear a good story, don’t they? The story of Christmas is an example of a good story. Through the well-developed themes, engaging plots, memorable characters, well-chosen settings, and attractive style our attention is captured and we can picture in our minds eye the events of that day. It is a story that we love to hear again and again. The story’s messages of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love resonates with us and the world around us. But I would like to give you an encouragement tonight. An encouragement to understand the Christmas story as more than just a good story that captures our attention and stimulates our imagination. No, the Christmas story is more than just a story, it is an account of what really happened some 2000 years ago. It is an account of incredible significance. It is the account of one called ‘Immanuel’; God with us.
The Christmas story’s importance is hard to understand without understanding the events of history prior to this event. The Bible’s account of the history of the world begins in Genesis; the ‘origins’ book of the Bible. We read of God’s creative works including how he created man. Man, was given life from God and was created in his image. We read how even though man was created in the image of God, in true righteousness and holiness, he also was given the ability to choose right or wrong, to choose obedience or disobedience. With this ability, God also made clear what the consequences of each would be; life and fellowship for obedience, death and separation for disobedience. We read tonight how Adam and Eve when tempted by the devil and their own sinful desires, chose to disobey the good commands of God. Their loyalties were no longer directed towards God. Their bodies were corrupted, their spirits were depraved and their wills were no longer free. Because they listened to the devil, he was now their master or so it would seem.
God’s response to this event shows us a lot about who God is. God is a God of justice. His justice demanded that Adam and Eve’s sin be punished. They had fellowship and community with God prior to sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, they would soon be banished from God’s presence and worse yet, the sin of Adam and Eve would be found in every child born to them and to every generation thereafter. The sin of Adam and Eve would result in disunity and hostility toward God and their fellow man. Death was the sentence for all. Without a payment for sin, man would die not once, but twice. The first a death of the body. The second an eternal death of body and soul.
Thankfully God is not only a God of justice but he is also a God of mercy. He is both at the same time. God promised Adam and Eve that their sin would be punished, yes, but that he would punish the devil too. While there was hardship and strife in their future, there was also the blessing of hope. God promised that there was someone in the generations to follow who would restore their full fellowship by crushing the devil.
Where there was now conflict with God, there was the promise of peace and reconciliation. Where there was hatred; the promise of love, where there was great sadness; the promise of joy, where there was despair; the promise of hope. Through the forgiveness of sin, the Devil would no longer be their master. Through faith in God’s promised saviour, man could be right with God again. What a blessing. What a promise.
The generations that followed Adam & Eve would again and again sin against God and walk on a path that led away from God. Many would die in unbelief. Many would remain as enemies of God. But in his grace and mercy, God kept a people for himself, a people from whom the Saviour would come. He made himself known in a special way to the great patriarchs of the faith, like Abraham. God established a covenant with Him and the generations after him whereby God promised to be there God and He promised that they would be his people. A people who were granted faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness; a people who worshipped and adored their God.
But God’s people were not always faithful, they were often disobedient. When they in their sinfulness would again wander from God, God would for a time let them reap the consequences of their unfaithfulness. But again in his mercy, God would bring them back. He did so through faithful prophets. He did so through his word and his laws. His people needed to be reminded to live holy lives and that sin needed to be paid for. The fact is that they were never able to obey God perfectly. They were in continual need for forgiveness. They needed a saviour and their faith in the promise of one is the only thing that would keep them right with God. The message of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love came from God through the prophets as we read tonight. God’s people longed for the day when their Saviour would lead them from oppression, would deliver them from their enemies and would give them peace; peace on earth and peace with God.
God in his wisdom, waited some 4000 years from the time when Adam and Eve were given the promise of a Saviour to the time when the saviour was born. But God fulfilled his promise. He always does. God’s words are trustworthy and sure. He will deliver on whatever he says because he is God. This we can count on.
So, that brings us to Christmas. Christmas is a celebration of not just a birth, it’s a celebration marking the coming of the Messiah, the long awaited Saviour. It is a celebration of a promise fulfilled. God fulfilled a promise that first Christmas day. God’s one and only begotten Son was sent to save his people. Jesus’ long awaited coming was miraculous and amazing, for God became man. But it was not His birth that would save His people. His birth was the beginning of his earthly journey. It was His calling on this earth to proclaim judgment for the wicked and salvation for those who repented and believed. For those who believed, He gave them the right to become children of God. Jesus said “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 10-11).
It was Jesus’ death that would pay for man’s sin. It was his resurrection that would show his power over death. It was his ascension into heaven that would allow him to take up his rightful position; seated at the right hand of God wearing the crown of Glory. He is there as head of the church, and he governs over all the universe to this day. It is from that throne, which he will one day return again, to judge the living and the dead. This is his promise and he will fulfill it. For the child of God, this is not a day to be feared. It is a day to be longed for because the bible says “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Roman 5:1). It will be a day when God’s children will be freed from the consequences of sin and free to live in blessed fellowship with their Saviour, Creator and Friend for all eternity.
The difference between a good story and a great story is that a great story goes beyond capturing our attention and stimulating our imagination. A great story evokes a response within us. The Christmas story is a great story. The Christmas story is not only great, it is unique. It is unique because you and I are part of it. You and I are the reason why the event of Christmas was necessary and the message is still proclaimed. The good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is as relevant for us today as it was for Adam and Eve in the beginning. When we understand the Christmas story in light of God’s plan of salvation for his people throughout the ages, it demands a response from us. This is a story that has historical significance, yes, but the Bible is more than just history. The Bible is a faithful account of His-Story throughout history. This has eternal significance for you and for me. To echo the words of the Apostle Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” My prayer for you, especially in this season, is that you would know the Peace, Joy, Hope & Love that only God can provide and that you would seek your salvation in Christ Alone.