Sermons

Summary: CHRISTMAS has been hijacked in America. And unlike the latest Tim Allen movie, it’s not Santa who needs to be rescued. It’s the very meaning of Christmas itself.

This week, we begin a new series titled, "Christmas Through the Ages." Beginning with the current celebration of Christmas, we will travel back in time, looking at Christmas celebrations, until we arrive at the very first Christmas. Today we begin with Christmas 2013 - A Hijacked Holiday."

What is the international symbol of Christmas? It is NOT a baby in a manger, or Wise men presenting gifts. It is a CHRISTMAS TREE. In 2010 I visited one of our missionary families in Tokyo. We went to a popular shopping area in Yokohama. There were Christmas trees EVERYWHERE, including a 60 foot tall tree in the center of a courtyard, much like the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Remember that there are very few Christians in Japan - fewer than 2% according to Operation World (http://www.operationworld.org/japa) They have Christmas trees but know almost nothing about Christ.

Christmas has been hijacked! In America a larger percentage of people know at least something about the birth of Christ, but many are almost totally ignorant of spiritual things, and a small but vocal group of religion haters work very hard at eliminating every reference to Christ in our society.

One such effort was recently promoted by a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In Sacramento, CA, and other cities they sponsor billboard advertising the slogan, “Believe in humanity, not in god.” (Billboard slogan in Sacramento, CA, 2013)

This same organization just won a court case from a Federal Court judge in Wisconsin claiming that the parsonage allowance is unconstitutional.

“Freedom From Religion Foundation co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker praised Crabb’s ruling in a statement Friday. “May we say hallelujah!” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/25/atheist-activists-big-legal-win-against-the-irs-could-spell-major-trouble-for-clergy-salaries/

It’s hard to miss the irony. A group wanting freedom from religion expresses “hallelujah” when they are happy.

Or, this cartoon of a child in trouble in school for saying the “C” Word - CHRISTMAS.

Here in New Jersay, South Jersey assemblyman Ron Dancer has introduced legislation to settle the issue of Christmas songs and content being used in schools at Christmas. The new legislation sponsored by Assemblyman, R-Burlington, would allow New Jersey school districts to:

• Display holiday scenes or symbols on school property, although they must include scenes or symbols of more than one religion.

• Include musical selections with religious themes at holiday concerts, if the concerts also include secular music or music from at least two religions.

• Teach students about traditional winter celebrations.

• Allow students and faculty to offer traditional Christmas greeting

CHRISTMAS has been hijacked in America.

And unlike the latest Tim Allen movie, “The Christmas Clause 9,” It’s not Santa who needs to be rescued. It’s the very meaning of Christmas itself.

I. How Something Holy Can Become an Idol.

An idol is something you worship. It can be a thing, a person, or even an idea - like a holiday.

Idols often begin with something good. That’s just what happened to Israel during the time of the Divided Kingdom, around 700 BC.

A Biblical Example - The Bronze Serpent. 2 Kings 18

“In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).” (2 Kings 18:1–4, ESV)

Hezekiah’s reign began in 715 BC. During this time the people were Worshiping the Bronze Serpent. The origins of this go back 700 years earlier to the Wilderness generation in Numbers 21

“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Numbers 21:5–9, ESV)

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