Summary: 1. Christmas informs the culture. 2. Christmas transforms the culture. 3. Christmas forms a new culture.
Christmas is about God breaking through at surprising times, and showing up in unusual places in the world. You never know when, where, or how God is going to show up. The Bible is full of stories of how God broke into the world at the very time that people thought he was nowhere to be found. We think of God’s meeting with Abraham, promising to make him the father of many nations. We think of the Red Sea and God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery. God shows up on Mount Carmel as Elijah offers his sacrifice. He appears with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He shows up with Daniel in the Lion’s den. And, foremost, he shows up in Bethlehem as the angels announce the arrival of God on earth: Emmanuel.
God continues to show up in our day, though largely unnoticed by an unbelieving world. When he comes again it will be impossible to ignore him, for “every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7). But until then, we need to have eyes that see and ears that hear. There are many examples that I could use, but take this one for a start. Akiane Kramarik is only 12-years-old, but she has abilities far beyond her years. Her mother chose to give birth to her underwater at the family home on July 9, 1994 in Mount Morris, Illinois. The family now lives in Idaho. Akiane speaks four languages, writes poetry, plays piano and composes her own music, and most of all she paints. Her paintings have deep expression and magnificent, living colors. She explains that she had a spiritual encounter with God at the ripe old age of four, and that now her paintings are attempts to help people experience God through her eyes. She claims to have actually visited heaven and gives vivid expression to what she saw there. She wants to put on canvas what she has seen in her visions and dreams. She says, “I want my art to draw people’s attention to God. I want my poetry to keep people’s attention to God.” Her desire is that people find hope in her paintings. The picture of Jesus here is entitled, “Father forgiven them,” and was painted when she was 9. The next one is called “The Journey” — also painted when she was 9. This painting is called “Planted Eyes,” and the one next to it is called “Prince of Peace.” Both were painted when she was only 8. Her web site defines her goal as: “To be an inspiration for others and to be the gift to God.” That’s very profound for a 12-year-old — “to be the gift of God.”
But the interesting part of the story is that Akiane did not come from a Christian home. Her American father is a culinary art instructor and chef, and her stay-at-home, Lithuanian mother was an atheist. There was no teaching in the home about the Christian faith, they never went to church and there was no talk of God. The entire family has now converted to Christianity, but home was not the place where she received any spiritual training. She has appeared on many TV shows, and been featured in several magazines. How did God break through to a 4-year-old girl in an atheistic home? I have absolutely no idea. Why did he do it? Well, he gave this girl a vision and a mission. But beyond that, this is just what God does. He chooses unusual people in unexpected places. Jesus was not born in the Temple, he was born in a stable. His father was not a priest, he was a peasant. His mother was not wealthy, they lived in poverty. They did not live in Jerusalem, they lived in Nazareth. No one really knew about Jesus’ birth and very few cared anything about it. But God was changing the world, and only a handful of people were in on the secret, and even they did not understand the full impact of what was happening.
There are just three brief things I would like to say this morning. The first is this: Christmas informs the culture. Whatever the culture in which we find ourselves, the message of Christmas informs us. The message is that God loves the world and he cares about us. Now we are looking into God’s face. The angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people, and then exploded with praise as they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:10 & 14).
Whether the world wants to hear it or not, the message of Christmas is one of good news of great joy. Christmas announces that there is reason to hope. The number of people whose lives have been changed since the birth of Christ is incalculable. But not only have individuals been changed, whole cultures and entire nations have been changed.