Summary: This sermon demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit to liberate Christians from Satan’s lie that Christmas is merely a commercial holiday.
Decorations For My Heart
Rev. Jennifer Mathews
This holy season has been one of great joy for me, because this year I got Christmas for Christmas! Perhaps you are wondering, "What does she mean, Christmas for Christmas?" You see, I have not truly celebrated Christian holidays since I was a teenager. No, I wasn’t from a denomination that renounced Christmas, nor was I an atheist. Rather, a legalistic spirit had entrapped me through “knowledge that puffed up" (1 Cor. 8:1). But, because I saw my Christian brothers and sisters celebrating what I believed to be pagan lies, I asked Father, "What does all this mean?" Instead of reinforcing my false beliefs, Father decorated my heart with Christmas. When I came to God in humility, wanting His revelation more than wanting to be "right," He answered me. This is my Christmas story.
When I was seventeen years old, a sincere Christian friend "educated" me on all the pagan origins of the traditions that surround Christmas. This well-meaning friend gave me all the background on how the greenery was used in pagan rites as they made their appeals to their false gods. My friend quoted Jeremiah 10:3-5 to "prove" to me that Christmas trees were idolatry. That did it! I was a "word" girl, and I was finished with Christmas trees and everything to do with Christmas! However, not wanting to appear "unwise" in the eyes of men, I set out to research everything my friend had told me about the pagan rites. I found all the information he had given me was in encyclopedias. Yes, I had been enlightened. I would never celebrate pagan holidays again--no matter how Satan tried to dress them up to "catch" me. After all, don’t my people die from a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)? And, let’s not forget, what relationship hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?
Since being at Gracewood UMC, every year I have been confronted with Christmas! Having been delivered from a judgmental spirit, I decided to attend services just to be with my church family. However, I would not partake in my heart. No, I had determined in my heart that I would pray for their eyes to be opened. I just knew the day would come when there would be no more "hanging of the greens!" But, this year Jesus hung His greenery in my heart.
Another aspect of Christmas that bothered me was the fixation on the baby in the manger. Because, you see, My God is an awesome God, Mighty Warrior, He is the Lion of Judah! Of course I understood that Jesus came via Virgin birth. But my attitude was more like this, "Come on people, let’s let Him grow up!" This year Father told me, "Pick the baby Jesus up from the manger, put Him in to YOUR heart, and this year I want YOU to grow into His spiritual wisdom and stature." A new peace I had never known about the baby in the manger flooded my heart and mind.
A couple of days after Christmas I asked Father, "But what about next year, they’ll still have the baby in the manger...will Jesus still be a baby next year?" I sensed I heard God say to my heart "Next year there will be others who need to pick up my gift. But, as for your heart, it should be a season of evaluation--a season to measure your growth. And even if He’s still a baby in your heart next year, I still want you to carry Him!" This year God decorated my heart with the season of hope. He gave me the hope that I can grow to be more like Jesus, and the assurance of His unconditional love when I miss the mark.
The real hurdle for me to cross was Santa Claus. This fictional character to which the world credits with all the "omni" attributes that belong to God alone, to me was the epitome of idolatry and abomination. Imagine my surprise when just a few days before Christmas God have me a vision of a laughing, happy, guess who...you got it, none other than good ol’ St. Nick! I was a little bewildered, but I knew from learning the way God speaks to me, that He was about to redeem Santa Claus! During the following week I had several encounters with Santa Claus. I even "prayerfully" bought a train with a Santa engineer to place under our Christmas tree! Then the answer came in a Christmas card from Jack Hayford Ministries. It listed several traditions along with their meanings. I would like to share the three traditions that God used to give me revelation as I opened my mind and heart to His Holy Spirit:
The Christmas tree:
It was on a Tree that God hung His greatest gift to humankind. The Christmas tree is symbolic of a broken curse, its evergreen branches representing everlasting life. Our exchange of gifts isn’t a surrender to commercialism, but testifies of how the love He’s given to us overflows our hearts to give one another.