Summary: Final Sermon in the series that weaves carols and customs of Christmas traditions around the world throughout the message.
Christmas Around The World—Part 4
Today we’re taking the last leg of our Christmas journey around the world. And our last stop is Germany.
The Christmas tree is an integral part of German Christmas celebrations. The Christmas tree actually originated in Germany. Cutting and displaying an evergreen tree is a custom that goes back many centuries. A green tree that never loses its leaves or needles was considered to be symbol of eternal life. Because Jesus came into our world to secure our eternal salvation and gift us with life everlasting, such a symbol seemed appropriate for Christians to embrace at Christmastime.
Long ago, Germans decorated the Christmas tree with white candles (obviously before the days of fire marshals and fire codes). The lit candles were an obvious reference to Jesus being the Light of the world.
A unique aspect of more modern German Christmas decorations is that, kids can not take part in the beautification of the Christmas tree. Hence, the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, prior to the evening feast. The father usually keeps the children in a separate room while the mother brings out the Christmas tree from a hidden place and decorates it with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angels, tinsel, family treasures and candles or lights. The gifts are kept under the tree. Nearby, beautiful plates are laid for each family member and filled with fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and cookies. The decorations finished, a bell is rung as a signal for the children to enter the room. The Christmas story is usually read during this time and carols are sung. Often, sparklers are lit and gifts opened too.
Song: O Christmas Tree
Martin Luther was a German monk who spent his life seeking the portal to heaven. He had been taught that God’s grace could be earned or even purchased with money through what became known as selling indulgences.
He was told of Jacob’s dream and imagined an arduous climb filled with struggle and effort in order to gain God’s acceptance. Then after a lifetime of self-punishment, works and sacrifices hopefully he would accumulate enough good works to earn admission to heaven—climbing Jacob’s ladder.
Genesis 28:12 (NIV)
He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
By far and away the best contribution to Christmas by Germans was the recovery of a sacred idea. An idea that originated in the heart of God, was passed on to his people, and ultimately materialized in the Gospel of Jesus. But over fifteen centuries of church history the sacred idea had faded and had become all but lost to the Christian church. The idea was—justification by faith.
Martin Luther read the bible for himself and discovered that the sacred idea was all over its pages. That faith in Jesus justified man—not religious works and rituals. He returned the sacred idea to the church and many reforms followed.
JESUS—THE PORTAL TO HEAVEN
John 1:51 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
This is a direct reference to Jacob’s dream. As the unique God-man, Jesus would be the ladder between heaven and earth. Jesus is indicating that this is precisely who he is. He is the portal. He is the entrance. He is the point of connection between heaven and earth. Jesus is Jacob’s dream in the flesh. Martin Luther embraced that idea. He was delighted to discover that the ladder that he had been struggling to climb all his life was really an escalator that would carry him to heaven.
When the newborn Jesus lay in the manger God was opening the portal to heaven. Are you going to open the portal?
In the Movie Narnia little Lucy stumbles upon a massive wardrobe while exploring her temporary home.
Roll Narnia Video Here (Lucy Opening the Door to the Wardrobe)
The story begins with one little girl opening a door and beginning a journey that lasts a lifetime in another world. If you’re going to begin the journey you have to open the door.
Do you long to go beyond this ordinary life, to find adventure in magical lands like Narnia? The quest is not to be taken lightly. You just may discover there is another Kingdom out there—closer than you realize, as near as your heartbeat, just through that door. Are you ready?
Perhaps you should ask yourself some questions as you approach the portal.
• Am I Searching? That’s a perfect place to begin. Some of you are here this morning because you are seeking, searching. You were drawn to Horizons because there’s something you’re looking for. Seekers are to be commended. The principle is this: God reveals Himself to those who are looking for Him.