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The Meaning of Christmas

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The Meaning of Christmas

Hebrews 2:11-18

In a moment I will ask you what Christmas means to you.

Perhaps there is some Christmas memory – an experience of Christmas that has become part of your annual Christmas story.

During the 4 Sundays of this Advent season, I have chosen to look at:

·       4 strands of the Christmas story: so interwoven that they cannot be seen clearly apart from each other

·       4 facets of ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’

1.  Last week:  When Jesus came to earth as a little baby

                             What did He leave behind?

              When Jesus clothed Himself with human flesh

                             What limitations did He accept?

              Who was Jesus, before His birth in Bethlehem?

              Who is this Jesus, born in a lowly stable?

       This, - this is God Himself

·       From everlasting to everlasting

·       All powerful, creator God

·       ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’.

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see -- Hail the incarnate deity”

3.  Next Sunday – the mystery:

·       God/man – fully God and fully man! > Jesus!

I’ve been teaching genetics in our Parenting class:

o   1 set of genes from Dad > Holy Spirit

o   1 set from mom > Mary

“Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,

In perfect harmony, the One who is God…

O what a mystery, meekness and majesty:

Bow down and worship, for this is your God.”

4.  The Sunday of Christmas week:  He shall be called Immanuel – ‘God with us!’

2.  This morning:

·       What?

·       What motivated God to leave His heavenly home?

·       To take human flesh and its limitations

·       To become a servant

·       To submit to death – the cursed death on a cross?

·       What is the meaning – the purpose of Christmas.

First:  The Question:  What does Christmas mean to you?

The focus of the Christian confession is the Christmas event:

The transcendent God

       has visited

       and redeemed

       His people

              in Jesus of Nazareth.

Meaning of Christmas?

People running from store to store trying to find the gifts on their lists…

Focused on making sure that everyone is bought for,

                                           everyone is going to be satisfied,

and everyone is going to enjoy their Christmas

You basically see either one of two “reasons” in people’s hearts:

1. Greed for what they desire

2. Stress over what they want to get for others

ILLUSTRATION: “Who’s Birth?” Bart Simpson once stated, “Let’s not forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Santa”

ILLUSTRATION: “Dragging Jesus into Christmas” A woman walked up to church Nativity scene and was overheard saying, “Just look at that, the church tries to drag Jesus into every holiday!”

Second:  ‘What is the Meaning of Christmas (not for many today) but for God?’

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Joh 3:16 AV)

Name – meaning of names

“Jesus”

Jacob (brother of Esau; son of Isaac and Rebekkah)  - during a wrestling match with God – his name was changed from Jacob to Israel.

Changed from deceiver to prince.

-        know yourself – what is your name?  Who are you?

Joseph > name him ‘Jesus’  “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."” (Mt 1:21 NIV)

In Hebrews 2, the author tells us that Jesus became one of us:

– joined our earthly family

– calling us brothers,

in order to be our Saviour!

Family:

Family Reunions:

-        this is the hardest place to show the Christian characteristics of: love, forgiveness, longsuffering, ….

-        They know us too well!

In the intimacy of family our true character shows.

Within the family circle, the closest of relationship are forged.

And often the greatest of animosities/hostility is born.

This is where we cut our eye teeth on how to relate in the world. 

Where we practice being us:

·       How will I be accepted

·       What is acceptable behavior in society?

If I were in need, I could turn to any of my siblings – especially to my twin sister.

I know they would help me.

They would comfort me if I needed comfort

and they would give me a scolding, if that was what I needed.

And they would know me well enough to know which I needed and when.

Bible stories of family relationships:

Siblings:

·       Can & Abel

·       Jacob and Esau

·       Mary, Martha, Lazarus > Jesus

Parent Child:

·       David and Absalom

·       Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac

JESUS became family > a brother.

Our creator took a piece of clay and formed it for a house to dwell in Himself!

Eternity stepped into the limits of time/mortality.

Why?

Question:  “What can our divine, immortal, all powerful, omniscient, immutable God NOT do?”

What could God only do if He took up our human frailty and become family as a brother to the created human race?

1.  Perhaps the first answer is not something God could not do as much as we could not understand:

-        To share/understand/help us

o   As only a brother can.

My big brother:  I didn’t have to be afraid when he was around – and on my side!

A USA Today reporter, Jack Kelley, records a story from the message called: "The Stories Behind the Headlines," that was given at the Evangelical Press Association convention in May 2000.

He records:

"We were in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in East Africa, during a famine.

It was so bad we walked into one village and everybody was dead.

There is a stench of death that gets into your hair, gets onto your skin, gets onto your clothes, and you can’t wash it off.

"We saw this little boy.

You could tell he had worms and was malnourished; his stomach was protruding.

When a child is extremely malnourished, the hair turns a reddish color, and the skin becomes crinkled as though he’s 100 years old.

"Our photographer had a grapefruit, which he gave to the boy.

The boy was so weak he didn’t have the strength to hold the grapefruit, so we cut it in half and gave it to him.

He picked it up, looked at us as if to say thanks, and began to walk back towards his village.

"We walked behind him in a way that he couldn’t see us.

When he entered the village, there on the ground was a little boy who I thought was dead.

His eyes were completely glazed over.

It turned out that this was his younger brother.

The older brother kneeled down next to his younger brother, bit off a piece of the grapefruit, and chewed it.

Then he opened up his younger brother’s mouth, put the grapefruit in, and worked his brother’s jaw up and down.

We learned that the older brother had been doing that for the younger brother for two weeks.

"A couple days later the older brother died of malnutrition, and the younger brother lived.

I remember driving home that night thinking, I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he said,

"There is no greater love than to lay down our life for somebody else."

When Jesus comes to us as a brother clothed in human flesh we see God – and LIVE!

We are sinful > He is holy and makes us holy.  ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God’.

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Heb 2:11 NIVUS)

Why did Jesus become our brother?

       You shall call Him ‘Jesus’. > name? Saviour.

Names of my brothers and sisters Doug, Lois,…. + ‘Saviour’

(I have 9 siblings + one elder brother by His blood!)

His name goes at the top of the list!

Purpose of Christmas?  To bring us with Him to glory!

“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Heb 2:10 NIVUS)

Actor Kevin Bacon recounted when his 6-year-old son saw Footloose for the first time:

He said, "Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you swing from the rafters of that building? That's really cool, how did you do that?"

I said, "Well, I didn't do that part--it was a stunt man."

"What's a stunt man?" he asked.

"That's someone who dresses like me and does things I can't do."

"Oh," he replied and walked out of the room looking a little confused.

A little later he said, "Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you spin around on that gym bar and land on your feet? How did you do that?"

I said, "Well, I didn't do that. It was a gymnastics double."

"What's a gymnastics double?" he asked.

"That's a guy who dresses in my clothes and does things I can't do."

There was silence from my son, then he asked in a concerned voice, "Dad, what did you do?"

"I got all the glory," I sheepishly replied.

That's the grace of God in our lives. Jesus took our sin upon himself and did what we couldn't do.

We stand forgiven and bask sheepishly triumphant in Jesus' glory.

Joel Sarrault in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

Why did Jesus take our flesh and become our brother?

What can God not do? 

The immortal God cannot die!

The wages of sin is death.

For Jesus to bring us to God, the curse of sin must be satisfied. 

Jesus, our merciful and faithful high priest not only brings the sacrifice to God, He himself is the sacrifice. 

He died on the cursed cross so that we might live.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Heb 2:9 NIVUS)

Jesus’ death not only brings us to God, it also removes from us the fear of death > His death defeated Satan and removes for us the sting of death. 

“14 ¶ Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil—

15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:14-15 NIVUS)

My friends, you are no match for Satan, and when he wants to fight you just run to your elder Brother, who is more than a match for all the devils in hell.

1.     D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25.

One more – the purpose of God restricting His divinity with human flesh:

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIVUS)

Temptation > He too was tempted > can help anyone who suffers under temptation.

Today, Jesus leads us in worship:

a.      Stands up in front of His brothers and declares God’s name to them (2:12a)

b.     In front of everyone He sings a solo about the praises of God – and probably invites everyone to join in. (2:12b)

c.      He then tells the congregation of His trust in God and by His example encourages others to trust God. (2:13a)

d.     He then leads in prayer . he prays for them.  Turning to God and committing Himself and His congregation of brothers to God. (2:13b)

That’s the work of a worship leader.

This story was on the radio.

It is about a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children;

after many hours of looking at row after row of toys

and everything else imaginable,

and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves,

she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year---

overwhelming pressure:

-        to go to every party,

-        every housewarming,

-        taste all the holiday food and treats,

-        get that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list,

-        make sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list,

-        and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car.

She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff.

When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, "Don’t worry. We already crucified Him."

For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5 NIVUS)

The meaning of Christmas?

God wants to give my life – your life  meaning.

May the Christ of Christmas bring you:

-        hope

-        joy,

-        peace,

-        love

-        LIFE

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