Summary: The difference Jesus Christ makes at Christmas and in your life.
I heard repeatedly on the radio this week that depression is very common during the Christmas holiday. I’m usually not an armchair researcher, but I believe much of the holiday depression comes largely from a wrong focus. For many, the focus is placed on an overweight-white-beard, old man, who sits in the mall making promises to little children but never delivers on the promises. Instead, the parents of those kids are forced to cover for him and to perpetuate such a fantasy until the hope of Christmas turns into materialism.
The focus is further blurred by those who wish to be politically correct. Instead of Christmas vacation, many students are now enjoying their Winter Break. So folks are celebrating at best, a time off with family or snow activities, and at worse, colds and flu. "Merry Christmas" is turning into "happy holiday." Unfortunately, the phrase "happy holiday" has no more meaning than "How are you doing?" from the cashier at the department store. There is no expectation attached to such a phrase. The biggest emotion most people feel during this "happy holiday" is not happiness but resentment, exhaustion or depression.
This morning, I like to help us refocus on the true hope of Christmas. My prayer is that you come away from this morning with a joyful heart, whether you receive five silk ties, four wool sweaters, three photo frames, two purple gloves or a ornament for your Christmas tree. Whether your parents, family members or friends give you the gift you’ve hoped for or not, I want to give you a Gift that will satisfy a hunger and hope in every human heart.
This Gift is from God, and I’m going to let God’s own Word, the Bible, tell you about this Gift. Most of you know and have this Gift, but all of us need to be reminded to enjoy this Gift more often.
The Bible tells us in John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
God’s Gift was His own Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible records this event of how God’s Son was given to us. We read this in Matthew 1:18-23:
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."
Religion is man’s attempt to be with God or to become like God, Christmas is God’s solution to religion. Because of sin, we can’t measure up, so God sent His only Son to measure up on our behalf. Because of Christmas, the hunger and hope of being with God can now be satisfied, and we can choose the joy of knowing and being at peace with our Maker.
I hear and read about those, who were adopted and who never knew their parents, as grown-ups now search for their biological parents. There is something inside each one of us that desires to know from whom we have come and for what reason we were separated. Christmas is a time when we can know from Whom we have come, for what reason were we separated and how we could be restored.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
From Whom have we come? From a holy and loving God.
For what reason were we separated? For the sin in us and the sins we commit against a Holy God.
How can we be restored? Trust in the loving Gift of God’s own Son, who died on the cross on our behalf, to be sufficient payment for our sins.
Here is the hope of Christmas in short, a paraphrase of John 3:16-18, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever trusts in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever trust in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not trust stands condemned already because He has not trusted in the sufficiency of God’s one and only Son."