What Christmas Is Really About
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 22, 2013
*I have some fond memories of Christmas as a kid: Like getting the Sears Toy Catalog every fall. By Thanksgiving we had that thing in tatters, completely falling apart. Then there was that sawed-off toy rifle I got in 3rd grade. It was just like the one Steve McQueen had on the "Wanted: Dead or Alive" TV show. Then there was that new bike in the 5th grade, and the chemistry set we used to launch a few rockets. We also use it to start a couple of fires -- (small fires).
*I have quite a few fond memories of Christmas as a kid. But the thing that bothers me is that none of them are connected to the real meaning of Christmas. That's why it's so important for us to have special services like we've had for the last two Sundays, and like we will have tonight.
*People need to know what Christmas is really about. A Pew Survey two weeks ago says only 51% of Americans now see Christmas as a religious holiday. (1)
*People need to know the real meaning of Christmas, and they will find it right here in the Word of God. The shepherds and the angels help us see what Christmas is really about.
1. First: Christmas is about God's availability to us.
*The God of the whole universe is available to us, because He loves ordinary people like me and you. The shepherds in vs. 8-10 remind us that God cares for everyday people like us.
*There they were in verse 8. . . living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people."
*The Good News is for ALL people, even people like these lowly shepherds, even people like us.
*Most of us feel a little close to these shepherds. Brian Bill told about another survey that asked people to choose someone in the Christmas story they identified with the most. It wasn't Mary or Joseph or the wise men. The shepherds came out on top by far.
*We relate to the shepherds, because they were ordinary working men. There was nothing special about them. They were even considered to be outcasts in their day. Because of the nature of their work they were unable to attend religious services. Shepherds were isolated and forgotten. Because their flocks needed to move around to find new grass and fresh water, they never stayed in one place for long.
*Shepherds were treated with contempt and mistrust. They were often suspected of stealing from others. And their testimony was never allowed in court because they were so unreliable. (2)
*But when God first sent the greatest message ever sent from heaven, He sent it to a bunch of smelly shepherds. And they remind us that God is available to everyday people like us.
 The God of the whole universe is available to us! -- And He is available to give us His encouragement.
*Listen to how God's angel encouraged the shepherds in vs. 9&10:
9. Behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
*I don't know what you might be frightened or fretful about today. But God knows. And I know that God wants to calm your fears. He wants to encourage you today: "Do not be afraid."
 The God of the whole universe is available to give us His encouragement. And best of all, He is available to give us everlasting life.
*God has good news for us! As the angel said in vs. 10, "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." Then in vs. 11, it's God's good news of salvation, "For there is born TO YOU a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
*Good news! God loves us in spite of our sins, and came to earth to die on the cross for our sins. Good news! Jesus Christ rose again from the dead!
*But notice that the shepherds had to find Jesus. In vs. 12 the angel said, "This will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Then in vs. 15&16:
15. So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.''
16. And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
*They found Jesus and so can you! We have a findable Savior! We have a findable God! In fact, the Bible tells us that by His Holy Spirit, Jesus is here today, knocking on the door of your heart. And Jesus will come in, if you will open your heart to trust in Him. Good news! Jesus will save everyone who opens their heart to Him, and trusts Him as Savior and Lord.
*God is available to us! Craig Loscalzo summed up this great truth by saying: "The angels came to shepherds: People who were doing what they did every day and every night, people going through the routines of life, people living their ordinary lives. The angels came to them."
*And "isn't that what the birth of Jesus is all about? It's about God meeting us, not on high holy days, but on ordinary days, in ordinary places, in an extraordinary way. The birth of this Child is about God coming to us in our everyday lives and saying to us, 'Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news.'
*The birth of Jesus Christ is about God meeting us in our pain and loneliness.
-It's about God meeting us in our frustration and anger.
-It's about God meeting us Monday, Tuesday, and every other day.
-It's about God wanting to be a part of our lives every day." (3)
*Christmas is about God's availability to us.
2. It's also about our adoration for God.
*We should worship and adore the Lord the way we see the angels worship in vs. 13-14:
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!''
*Think about the glory of God. God reveals His glory through the star-lit vastness of the universe. As Psalm 19:1 says: "The heavens declare the glory of God."
*In the Old Testament, God revealed His glory through consuming fire and blinding light. In Exodus 24, Moses went up on Mount Sinai to meet with God for 40 days and 40 nights. And there God's Word says:
16. The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
17. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a raging, consuming, devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.
*In 2 Chronicles 7, when Solomon was dedicating the Temple, the Bible says:
1. Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
2. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house.
3. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: "For He is good, for His mercy endures forever.''
*God has revealed His glory through the star-lit vastness of the universe. And God has revealed His glory through consuming fire and blinding light. But the best way God ever revealed His glory is through His Son Jesus Christ! Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person."
*The best place to see the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ! No wonder that multitude of the heavenly host praised God and said: "Glory to God in the highest!
*The great preacher Charles Spurgeon proclaimed: "Sing, sing, oh universe, till you have exhausted yourself. You cannot sing a song so sweet as the birth of Christ! Lo! -- What wisdom is here! God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Behold, what love is revealed to us when Jesus (humbled himself to become) a man.
*Behold, -- what faithfulness! How many promises are this day kept? How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged? The whole of God is glorified in Christ . . ." (4)
*"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!'' It was peace on earth, because Ephesians 2:14 tells us that Jesus "is our peace."
*Spurgeon reminds us, "There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell. But, now, when the newborn King made his appearance, the swaddling cloth that wrapped Him up was the white flag of peace. . . Where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus Christ? And what a peace it is! It is peace like a river. It is the peace of God that passes all understanding, which keeps our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord." (4)
*What a peace it is! For all who trust in the Lord, it's the peace of Romans 5:1, where Paul said: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
*"Peace on earth, good will toward men!" This is the peace that Brooks Webber found during the Battle of the Bulge. It was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, and it started on Dec. 16, 1944. Hitler sent a quarter million troops across an 85-mile stretch of the Allied front, from southern Belgium into Luxembourg. In deadly cold winter weather, German troops advanced 50 miles into the Allied lines, creating the deadly "bulge." The battle lasted through January of 1945. Over 19,000 Americans were killed, with 41,000 wounded and 23,000 captured or missing.
*Here's a small part of Brooks' testimony: "I was in Luxembourg at Christmas, '44. I was an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler threw his last flurry of evil against us.
*On Christmas Eve the fighting was still murderous. At dusk I dashed through a jumble of briars and tumbled into a shell hole with two other fellows. None of us were from the same outfit. We were freezing and scared and tired. We'd been running or fighting for a week. We were at the edge of a field, maybe 25 acres, not quite flat. Out front was the debris of war: a dead horse, a blown-up German halftrack, and an American Jeep on its side. Smoke still curled from inside the halftrack, muddying the air. Shaking with cold and fear, we introduced ourselves. It was Me, Stan and Virg."
*They calmed their fears by talking about Christmas memories. Then Brooks took the lookout alone while the other two slept. And Brooks said: "I was between two unconscious men I'd just met. My elbows propped on frozen briars as I gazed across the field, then right and left, and turned around and peered behind us also.
*The place smelled of burning rubber, decaying flesh, vomit in the hole, and probably blood. But it was in that frozen, stinky hole that I looked out and saw the sky clear, ever so briefly. Across the field a small piece of sky opened for about half a minute and I could see a tiny patch of stars. As I looked toward the stars and sighted over the German half track, I could barely see a cross on the side of it.
*Never thought about the fact that German armor had crosses. That's what overwhelmed me. I noticed the stars in line with that dirty cross. There I was on Christmas Eve, with a cross in line with a star, and I was overcome with God's presence, as though all around me the air was warm and pushing in upon my body. . . I was seeing the star of Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary at the same time. I felt all the pieces of life and existence unite in that frozen field in front of me. And I felt as though God was glowing all around me.
*I could not budge. If half the German army had attacked, I know I could not have moved or spoken. I was rigid, for probably ten minutes, then kind of like waves, the experience would come back over me and I'd go through it again." (5)
*In the frozen agony of the world's worst war, Brooks Webber found the glory and peace of Christmas. And you can find them too! So give glory to God on high! "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!''
*Christmas is about our adoration for God.
3. And it's about God's assignment for us.
*We see the shepherds' assignment in vs. 17&18:
17. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
18. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
*God had a mission for the shepherds and He surely has a mission for us today. Christians: Tell people about how you found the Savior. Tell people what God is doing in your life. Spread the Good News about Jesus every way you can. That's our assignment from God.
*One of the most important things we can do right now is give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions. But we must also witness right here where we live. At home, school, work and play, let people know that you have found the Savior.
*Brooks Webber was 24 when he told his story to some high school students. They were at a church Christmas party in 1948, four years after the Battle of the Bulge. It was the first time Brooks ever told the story, and this is how he finished:
*"I prayed as never before. I confessed my sins. And I promised God I'd tell Stan and Virg about it first thing in the morning. I promised I'd tell everyone I met. But the morning came and though I had the words at the back of my throat fifteen times, I just could not start talking about what happened. I suppose they thought I was cracking up too, because I could not string together a half dozen comprehensible words.
*By noon Christmas day we were relieved, and a lieutenant directed us to the central staging area. The three of us left immediately. By that night we were going our own ways, and within 24 hours I was back with my outfit and eating hot chow.
*All Christmas day I thought about what God had done for me the night before. For days and weeks, even until the end of the war in Europe, I was trying to find a way and a time to tell someone, but I could never force out that first word."
*Brooks paused for a long while, and then said: "If I had managed to talk to anyone 4 years ago, I would have concluded that Christmas, and what God did for me at Christmas, is the way that God loves us right here in the real world. And that is true.
*But I did not get around to telling anyone. And so I have come to believe that Christmas means more than that. Christmas means that when we do not keep our promises very well, or when we do not keep them at all, God still does. . . At Christmas God kept His greatest promise. Thank you for listening, and Merry Christmas." (5)
*Brooks waited four years to tell his story. Let's not wait any longer!
*People need to know that Christmas about God's availability to us. The Holy Spirit of the living Lord is here right now. If you trust in Jesus Christ, He will surely save you!
*People need to know that Christmas is about our adoration for God. He is worthy of our worship!
*And people need to know that Christmas is about God's assignment for us. We have a story to tell! Ask God to help you tell it.
*You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer.
(1) www.pewforum.org/2013/12/18/celebrating-christmas-and-the-holidays-then-and-now/ - Source: Breitbart.com "Only 51% of Americans View Christmas as Religious Holiday" - by Robert Wilde 19 Dec 2013
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "The Shepherds' Joy about Jesus" by Brian Bill - Luke 2:8-20
(3) Lifeway.com sermon "And They Were Amazed" by Craig Loscalzo - Luke 2:8-18
(4) Adapted from "The First Christmas Carol" - A Sermon - (No. 168) - Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 20, 1857, by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON - at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens. - "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14
(5) Adapted from Sermons.com sermon "Four Years Not Quite Too Late" by David O. Bales - Matthew 2:1-12