Summary: Christmas really isn’t a "biblical holiday" but why pass up the chance to tell our friends and relatives about the ultimate gift/sacrifice God has wrapped for us?
OPEN: Preparing for large Christmas Eve family gathering, a mother had been giving out orders like a drill sergeant: "Pick up your things! Don’t get your clothes dirty! Put away those toys."
Well, her 4-year-old daughter had been underfoot all day, so she sent her to the next room to play with their wooden Nativity set.
As the mother scurried around setting the table she overheard her daughter talking to her toys in the same tone of voice the mother had used: "I don’t care who you are, get those camels out of my living room!"
APPLY: For years, many have attempted to get more than camels out of the living room. Over the years, there has been repeated and concerted efforts to get Christ out of Christmas.
Everything from removing Christmas carols from the public schools, to banning nativity scenes on the public property, to taking the name of Jesus out of any connection with Christmas in public life. It has been a persistent and unrelenting push to remove any influence God may have on this holiday.
ILLUS: Back in 1991, Dave Barry commented on the effect this phenomena has had in Florida:
“To avoid offending anybody, my son’s school has dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. They now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non memorable songs such as ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and--this is a real song – ‘Suzy Snowflake.’ All of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.”
The effort to remove Christ from Christmas has been so successful that, according to a survey conducted a few years ago by the Barna Research Group (of a sampling that had 88% identifying themselves as “Christians) they found that:
· 37% of adults in the national survey said the birth of Jesus is the most important aspect of Christmas.
· More than 75% of evangelical Christians placed Jesus’ birth as of first importance on Christmas.
· Only 32% of those who identified themselves as fundamentalists gave that answer.
· Only 29% of Catholics placed Jesus’ birth first.
· Only 24% of theological liberals said the birth of Christ made Christmas important for them.
I. Now, I’m not really sure that should concern us that much – after all Christmas really isn’t a Bible based holiday.
There’s no place in Scripture that tells us that the early church even celebrated the birth of Christ
They celebrated His death on the cross (communion) and His resurrection from the dead (worshipping on the 1st day of week). They did that every Sunday.
BUT, for over a 1000 yrs the church has celebrated the BIRTH of Christ in December. I see no reason to give up on using such a powerful tool to teach people about Christ. After all, it is in the story of the baby in the manger we hear about the greatest gift man has ever received, presented in the humble wrappings of “swaddling clothes”
Given that God has given us such a wonderful and loving gift - how can we make other people know more about this gift that Christmas represents for us?
II. The first thing we need to realize is that people have trouble understanding what God has given them.
REREAD John 3:3-12
You can almost sense Jesus’ frustration with Nicodemus: “you’re a teacher and you can’t understand this?” Nicodemus was one of the most educated men in his society and yet he had trouble understanding what Jesus was trying to teach him.
But it’s hard to blame him… even Christians have trouble understanding all this
ILLUS: A preacher had once to illustrate the free nature of God’s gift of salvation. They stood in the pulpit one morning held up a poinsettia plant and said: “Whoever wants this beautiful Christmas poinsettia may have it. All you have to do is take it.”
They stared at me. I waited. And waited.
Finally a mother timidly raised her hand and said, “I’ll take it.”
“Great!” said the preacher, “It’s yours.”
But to my astonishment, she nudged her son, “Go get it for me.”
“No,” I said. “Whoever wants this gift must come and get it personally. You can’t send a substitute.”
She shook her head, not willing to risk embarrassment. I waited again. It was a gorgeous flower, unusually large, wrapped in red cellophane with a gold satin ribbon. It was set in front of the pulpit to brighten our small sanctuary during the holiday season. Several people had commented on how beautiful the plant was. Now it was free for the taking.
Someone snickered, “What’s the catch?”
“No catch,” I replied. “It’s free.” No one moved.
A college student asked, “Is it glued to the altar?” Everyone laughed.