Summary: I believe it's no accident that the final word in the Old Testament sums up the entire message of the Old Testament: Curse.
Twelve years ago, as we moved into the year 2000, I shared a message series called “Y2K: Say Yes to the King.” One of the things I talked about was my belief that as we moved into the 21st Century we were going to find our faith come under increasing attacks in America.
We’re seeing growing evidence of that as anti-Christian groups are aggressively attempting to remove any mention of Christ from Christmas. Twenty years ago you never heard of a Holiday Tree or a Winter Solstice Festival. Over the past few seasons the American Atheists Association has ramped up their efforts to secularize Christmas. Last Christmas, they put up a huge billboard near the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City that pictured the three wise men approaching the stable. The caption read: “You KNOW it’s a myth—this season, celebrate REASON!” And they even brag that their atheist association has been around since 1963 (It was founded in Austin, Texas by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.)
This year, they have placed another billboard in the same location. There are pictures of a statue of Neptune, Jesus, Santa, and a mean looking devil. The caption says: “37 million Americans know MYTHS when they see them. What myths do you see?”
Actually, it’s not very reasonable to try to attack Jesus using guilt by association. That logic makes as little sense as if they put George Washington’s picture up there with Neptune. If they did, would that make you believe George Washington was a myth?
The American Atheists are guilty of an academic cop-out. IF they consulted the historical records outside the Bible they would see the existence of Jesus is an established fact of history—not a myth. There are several reliable historical writers who state the fact of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified by Pontius Pilate.
But lest you think this attack on Christmas is confined just to those heathen, northern states, think again. An organization in Wisconsin has objected to the Nativity display in Athens. The huge rally yesterday sent a strong message to those Christmas grinches: “Don’t Mess with East Texas—or our Christmas beliefs!”
I like the message I saw on Southern Oak’s church sign this week. It said, “Merry mas – it’s not the same without Christ.” Amen. I like the message on the shirt I saw on a lady at Lifeway last week. It said, “I will NOT be silent about the silent night event.” I agree. Let’s lovingly remind people by saying, “Merry Christmas.” But don’t say it harshly; say it sweetly.
One of our most cherished Christmas carols is “Joy to the World,” composed by Isaac Watts. When Isaac Watts started writing hymns he was considered a radical, and his music was banned from many churches. Before him, all the music sung in churches came straight from the Psalms. All generations of Christians have had trouble accepting the music of the younger generation. I’m glad we have accepted “Joy to the World,” because it contains some powerful theological lessons about the MEANING of Christmas. I’ve based the title of today’s message on a phrase in the third stanza. (And if you grew up in a Baptist church where they only sang the first, second, and last verse, you might have missed it).
The song says: “No more let sins and sorrows grow; Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow; Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.”
What curse is he talking about? And how far is this curse really found? Our scripture from Galatians answers those questions. As we read Galatians 3:6-14, notice the recurrence of the word “curse.”
“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”