Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three in one.
In this season of Advent it is only natural in our progression of the story to come to the topic of faith, because it is faith that makes the season meaningful. Without it we’d have nothing to look forward to because we would have nothing to place our hope in.
But we do have reason to celebrate and even anticipate. By faith we have come to know the importance of the Advent season. Even as much of the world becomes more secular, we stand for what is true and we look forward for even better things to come. Change is on the way.
To make ourselves ready, God has conditioned us for change and, as the world changes, so do we. Christmas is no different. Did you know that Santa now has an e-mail? And a Facebook page? He even tweets now and then to his faithful followers. So, instead of sending your letter to the North Pole, you can e-mail him or catch him on Facebook. Millions of children have done it this way. Here’s a few of their requests:
A boy named Jon writes, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have a chimney…I’ll leave the cat flap unlocked for you, please watch out for the litter box!”
Alex, age 8 writes, “Thank you for the remote control car last year, even though it broke the day after. I know you tried your best, and that’s what counts.”
A young boy names Art wrote, “I’m sorry for putting all that ex-lax in your milk last year, but I wasn’t sure if you were real. My dad was really mad.”
Christian e-mailed Santa saying, “Mommy and daddy say I have not been very good these past few days. How bad can I be before I lose my presents?
Kayla, age 9. “Please don’t bring me any new clothes.”
Finally, one of them gets it. Rosanne, 11, “Do you know that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas? Not to be mean, but He is.”
As Christians, we know that not all change is good. We see this at Christmas as year turns into year causing Angels to slowly turn into reindeer. Some things need to be consistent and, praise God, the true reason for Christmas and the one we adore, have been just that.
We experience the change little by little as the world slowly tries to make this Christian celebration their own, devoid of any Christian influence. So many ignore or have forgotten that Christmas is a time of rejoicing in the promised Christ child. They discount the fact that Christmas is a time to celebrate promises kept and salvation given.
We need not get caught up in all of that because we know by faith that Christmas is still and will always be about Christ our Savior. In the angel’s description we still see promises fulfilled and salvation given. By faith we know that the promised Messiah has come for all people.
The good news of great joy that God’s people had waited to hear for so long, was born that first Christmas day. The one born to be our Savior and Redeemer had come.
One Christmas card said it this way:
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been through science, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us a financial planner.
But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.
And that’s what makes the Christian season so special. It’s not the tree or the lights or the cookies. Christmas isn’t really about gifts or reindeer or even Santa. The Christ Mass is celebrated for Christ. The Holy days are observed because of what God has given us in His Son. By faith, We celebrate Him because He loved us enough to save us from ourselves. God the Father gave us the greatest gift we could have ever received and He has become our deliverance from sin, death and the false promises of the world.
This tiny babe has been given to save us from ourselves. He had come to redeem us by being the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. This is so much better than reindeer and ribbon.
The baby Jesus gives so much more than anything else you will receive as a gift this Christmas. The Christ child had come into the world as a gift that keeps on giving every moment of every day with the very best of things, everlasting things, things beyond human understanding, and it’s all received by faith.
It’s amazing isn’t it. All of God’s grace wrapped up in the form of a tiny baby. All of God’s mercy seen in an infant. Even though His people did nothing to deserve such a gift, God gave us His Only Son, knowing full well what had to be accomplished for us to be free from sin and death. Even knowing the pain and suffering that were due this child simply because we failed to live up to our part of the agreement.
By faith we have hope because of this promise that was kept. By faith we rejoice in the story of His life, death and resurrection. By faith we anticipate Him coming again to bring us back to Himself.
What do most Christians say when you ask them if they’re going to heaven when they die? “I hope so.” Why do they say that? It’s because they know they don’t deserve it. They know that, in their life, they have failed to live up to God’s expectations in their lives. They are indirectly acknowledging that what they deserve, might be what they get.
But what people with this kind of attitude fail to put their faith in is the fullness of the gift they received that first Christmas morning. They are forgetting the reason that the Christ child was born.
They have not fully grasped the depth of the promise that all who believe will be saved. Ours is not to wonder if. The gift of eternal life arrived when the Christ child arrived. True salvation was born on the night of His birth.
Even though we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Even though “None are righteous, no, not one.” Even though no one truly understands why, we have faith to know that Christ came in the flesh in the form of a humble baby with the express purpose to save those who place their faith in Him.
In Jeremiah 31:34, God promised that when He would create a new covenant, the one established in His Only Son, that He would, “Forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
It’s another one of those things at Christmas that is hard to grasp. It’s hard because the world doesn’t work this way. Life is cruel and unforgiving most of the time. It sets you up to fail. It takes faith to believe in anything different.
The Good News is that Jesus was born to overcome all of that. He came to save us from the shameful lives we live. He came to remove the guilt that glows like a scarlet letter upon us. He came to pay the price for your sins so much so that God no longer sees them. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)
1 John 1:6-7 tells us what faith in this promise means to us. It says, “If we say we have fellowship with (God the Father) while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I don’t think even Mary could have imagined what she had been so blessed to be such a big part of. It is appropriate that the wise men were drawn to the source of a bright light, because, from that first morning, Christ has been our light in a dark and dreary world.
Not even Mary could have imagined what her beautiful baby boy would grow to become. Not even she could have imagined what He would be asked to do to save the world from their sins. She could never have envisioned the price He would pay so that we may be redeemed.
Romans 6:23 says it this way, “…the wages of sin is death.” That is what we all deserve. That is why people say “I hope so” when asked if they’ll make it to heaven one day. But God’s law allowed that those sins could be forgiven if something else…or someone else…died in that person’s place.
Hebrews 9 tells us that, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Something or someone had to pay the price. It is the only just thing to do and our God is a just God.
Someone had to pay for our mistakes. It should have been us, but Christ was born to be our substitute. The perfect sacrifice for our sins.
That’s why John 3:16 is one of our favorite verses. Because it reminds us of the sacrifice taken on our behalf saying that, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That’s the simple message of Christmas. That’s the message wrapped up in the form of a little child.” That’s the message we accept by faith.
“But, wait a minute,” you say, “How can that be the message of Christmas?” Where are the wise men and the angels?” “What do Shepherds and mangers have to do with it?” “Why even share the story of His birth if the real message is in His death?”
God gave us this message of Christ’s birth because it’s as much a part of the story as His death is. First, His birth had to be special so that all mankind would know that salvation comes only from God.Philippians 2 reminds us: “though he was in the form of God, Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Before Jesus was born He was already God, yet He humbled Himself, even as a humble and dependent baby, stripping Himself of His Godhood and allowing Himself to become mortal.
And in order to be mortal, He had to be born of a mortal woman. Her being a virgin did not take away his mortality but it certainly spoke to His divinity. In this way He was both 100% man and 100% God. It seems odd that God would go to such lengths for us. But He did and Jesus Christ is the proof. We accept all of this by faith.
God went to such lengths because He wanted us to know that Christ was qualified to pay the price that needed to be paid in blood. So Jesus had to be born to prove He was both God and man.
So, do you have faith in the real reason for this season or will you be content to get lost in Christmas trees and hanging lights. Do you believe with every fiber of your being in the gift given to you in a lowly stable that first Christmas night, or will you let yourself become distracted by the tinsel and gifts.
Advent is a season of faith, both in what the birth of the Christ Child meant for all of mankind and in what the promise of His coming again holds for us. Christmas might have changed in the view of many, but, as people of faith, we know that even greater changes are to come. Are you ready? Amen.