Summary: This is the third sermon in a series that examines some of the overlooked gifts that God gave us that first Christmas. This looks at how Christmas gives a gift that helps relieve the burden of guilt.
How many of you have ever felt guilty? Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” is an intense tale of passion, love, guilt, and revenge. It involves the struggle between two men and their love for one woman. In this novel, Hawthorne exemplifies the effects of guilt in not only Hester Prynne, but also in Arthur Dimmesdale through the development of their characters. Hester Prynne reveals the many effects of guilt caused by her passionate sin throughout the novel. After having been publicly humiliated for her sin, Hester withdraws to a small cottage on the outskirts of town where she and Pearl decide to stay. By choosing to live in this small cottage, Hester shows that she feels the guilt from her sin and knows her place in society. She feels that even though she has paid the price of her sin, she can never escape its habitual torture. Studies of consistently revealed that guilt is one of man’s most powerful emotions. The Dictionary of Psychology defines guilt this way. "An emotional state produced by the knowledge that one has violated moral standards. Most authorities recognized an emotional state as guilt only when the individual has internalized the moral standards of the society; thus it is distinguished from simple fear of punishment from external source—guilt is in a sense a self-administered punishment." Guilt can rob us of our peace, it can cause us to live in a constant state of fear and ultimately destroy our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Today we want to look how Christmas made it possible to be set free from our guilt.
I. Understanding that the feeling of guilt is universal.
A. Guilt comes from the knowledge that we have violated a moral standard.
1. Regardless of if we believe in God or not everyone has some perceived standard of morality.
2. As Christians we believe that God has clearly outlined His moral standard in the Ten Commandments.
3. Non-Christians also have a set of moral standards that they live by.
4. Guilt comes from the knowledge that we have violated the perceived moral standards that we live by.
a. We realize that we have disappointed God.
b. We realize that we have disappointed others.
c. We realize that we have disappointed ourselves.
5. We immediately condemn ourselves because of the disappointment that our failures have caused.
B. Regardless of how hard we try we cannot shed the burden of guilt that we carry.
1. We know that failure to live up to these moral standards cause destruction.
2. The violation of these moral standards is what God considers to be sin.
3. Paul made it clear that we all fail to meet the standard, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23—NIV 2011)
4. Our failures have the ability to destroy relationships.
a. Sin can destroy our relationships with others.
b. Sin can destroy our relationship with God.
c. Sin can destroy our relationship with self.
5. When we sin the Holy Spirit uses that immediate feeling of guilt to cause us to seek forgiveness from God.
6. Guilt becomes a problem when it continues to overwhelm us after we have sought forgiveness from God.
II. Understanding how God made the removal of guilt possible.
A. Christmas showed that God was aware of our inability to shed the burden of guilt.
1. The angel said that the child was to be named Jesus which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (Yeshua) which means “Jehovah is salvation.”
2. The significance of the name was because this child would ultimately save His people from their sins.
3. The central part of the Christmas story is not the virgin birth but God becoming man so that He could undo the mess that we had made.
4. The angel with these words announced that the Messiah would not restore Israel physically by overthrowing Rome but He would restore His people spiritually by undoing man’s alienation from God because of sin.
B. Christmas was the announcement that God was going to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
1. Regardless of what we try there is nothing that we can do to remove our guilt and restore our relationship with God.
2. No amount of apologies or good works can restore a broken relationship. The one that has been wronged must decide to allow the relationship to be restored.
3. Our failure to measure up to God’s standard caused us to be unrighteous. Unrighteous people cannot have a relationship with a holy and righteous God.
5. Since we could not save ourselves God unfolded a plan that would send us a Savior.