I sat in the congregation listening to the Christmas sermon. Something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
The minister selected one aspect of the Christmas story and read the text, then brought his sermon from it. His points were properly related to the text and no doubt most people in the worship center felt satisfied that they had been spiritually fed. It was only later that something occurred to me, what was the missing ingredient in that morning’s service.
The worship leader and musicians and the pastor all drew our attention back to that night in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and they did a fair job of opening the text, explaining its message, and praising the Lord. But they omitted one major element as far as I could tell.
They forgot to give us the “so what” of the Christmas message.
They failed to drive home the continuing aspect of this most wonderful of all events in the history of our world.
They told us He was God and the Son of God. They reminded us of the prophecies and told how they were fulfilled. They gloried in the appearance of the angels and we sang the same song they did, although presumably not as well or as big. We praised and loved and enjoyed and worshiped. But then…
We left with the understanding that that’s all there is, that it was a history event and “wasn’t that wonderful!”.
They failed to tell us the “So What” of Christmas. That is to say, the lasting and eternal difference that this earth and its inhabitants have lived under ever since.
1) Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but He is still alive and among us.
Even though this is historical and fixed to a date and time and place, it’s far more than that. The church is not a Jesus Memorial Society. Jesus Christ is alive and He is in this place and we are His children forever.
2) There was great joy to all people that night, and that joy is still widespread, soul-deep, and available to all.
The joy continues. The angel called it “great joy to all the people” and that it is!
3) There was a Savior born that night, and because of His death/burial/resurrection, He is still saving people today.
“Unto you is born…a Savior.” Jesus Saves. Write it down in big letters, plaster it on billboards, and form it in neon and hang it from your church’s front steps, if you like. That is the heart of the Christmas message and it still rings true today.
He came not simply as a role model, although He is that. He came, not just to teach us and inspire us and affirm us, although He does these things and a thousand more. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.”
4) People worshiped Jesus that night; He is still worthy of all worship and still being adored across this earth.
As we returned from our one and only Holy Land trip, the memories and feelings still fresh, I was struck by a billboard in our town: “Jesus Christ is Lord over Columbus, Mississippi.” The irony of His being born some 2,000 years earlier on the other side of the globe and us honoring Him and exalting Him as though He hailed from our hometown is wonderful. He is Lord of all.
5) The angels stood near that night to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus and they still celebrate everytime He comes into one more life.
The Lord said they throw a party everytime a sinner comes to the Father (Luke 15:7,10).
6) Outsiders found their way to Jesus at that time, completely surprising everyone present, and to this day, they still look to us for information on this One born King of the Jews.
We must not be as Herod’s chief priests and scribes who knew the prophecies of the Christ’s coming, but without the desire to see Him and worship Him (Matthew 2:4-6).
7) Some were threatened by the arrival of the Christ and sought to shut Him down forever, and they are still at work.
Herod went into action that night (Matthew 2:16) and later the same religious leaders (or their successors) organized their own lynch mobs (see Mark 3:6). Their descendants are still at work, opposing with all the resources at their command the work of Jesus’ people out of a diabolical hatred of this Prince of Peace.
It’s not just history, although it is historical.
It’s not simply that Jesus was born and lived and died and resurrected and then returned to Heaven. It’s all that, but more: He is alive and here and at work.
The story of Jesus Christ is ongoing.
Let us speak of Him in the present tense.