Well. It’s Christmas season again. Wal-Mart is filled with Christmas decorations. Christmas events are happening all over. Christmas specials fill up the TV schedule. I checked my DVR and there are at least 5 or 6 Christmas shows recorded. Of course, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” is the best.
“Charlie Brown’s Christmas” is 50 years old this year. Crazy to think I was 15 when it first aired. And what is really cool and best remembered is the interaction between Charlie Brown and Linus. In fact, Linus shares the gospel with Charlie Brown and in this politically correct society we live in, Linus can still share the gospel.
It happens when Charlie Brown, in frustration, screams “Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas?” And Linus quotes Luke 2:8-14. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. The birth of Jesus, God in flesh. And the reason we celebrate is because Jesus came to take away our sins. But He did not accomplish that at his birth. He accomplished that with his death. Christmas was simply his entrance into the world. All be it necessary, it was not his primary mission.
The shepherds went to see him, worshipped him, left, and probably never saw him again.
Then we have the wise men coming to worship him.
Matthew 2:9-11 “After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
These magi had come in response to an oracle that had proclaimed a newborn king of the Jews had been born. They came to offer him a peace offering. There is no indication that they recognized him as God or the Son of God. The bowing down and worshipping was a sign of surrender. And when the magi left, they probably never saw him again.
The next time we encounter Jesus is at the Passover festival in Jerusalem.
Luke 2:41-47 “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
There were amazed at the curiosity of a 12 year old. They were amazed at his understanding of scripture. They were amazed at the answers He gave during discussions. But He was just an amazing 12 year old kid and nothing more. Some of them may have Jesus again. Most of them would not recognize him as that twelve year old with amazing knowledge. And Jesus would not reappear in scripture for another 18 years. The shepherds had proclaimed his birth, the wise men had proclaimed his future kingdom, and the religious teachers would proclaim his wisdom. But it would be John the Baptist that would proclaim the purpose for his birth.
Matthew 3:11-12 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
John makes it very clear why Jesus was born. He came so we could receive the Holy Spirit. He came to light a fire inside of us to be obedient to God and to be messengers of the Gospel. He came to separate the husks from the wheat, gathering the wheat into heaven and casting the husks into an eternal fire. He came to clean up this mess that we live in.
How’s this for a Christmas card this year. On the front a beautiful winter scene. On the inside a nice thought.
“The fire of the Holy Spirit,
That should be your desire.
To follow and obey him,
For the Gospel, be a crier.
So if Jesus comes back this year,
May you not be found a viper.
May you be gathered into the barn
And not tossed into the lake of fire.”
I doubt Hallmark would market this card. But the true meaning of Christmas, the reason for the season is repentance.
Matthew 3:2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Everything that Jesus has to offer begins with repentance. In order to receive all that is ours we must first repent.
So what is repentance? It’s a change of mind. It’s changing the elements around you. It’s changing your attitude, thoughts, and behaviors concerning the demands of God for right living. It is the foundational salvation event found in Christ. It is an on-going experience in the life of a follower.
Repentance begins in your thoughts. It’s when you come to grips with events in your life that you know are displeasing to God. It’s when you begin to make changes in the physical realm, removing all obstacles that interfere with your ability to please God. Without repentance, there is no salvation. Repentance is a daily activity due to our fallen state.
Repentance is more than remorse or “being sorry” for your actions. While you may experience remorse, there must be a redirection of your will. You must make a purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness for the pursuit of righteousness.
Repentance is a privilege given to us by God.
Acts 11:18 “When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.’”
We must never approach repentance as doing God a favor. God owes us nothing. He willingly sacrificed his Son for our benefit because of his love for us. Without God’s willingness to allow us to repent, we could not do so. Too often we take his love for granted, forgetting that his love is a privilege and not an obligation.
Repentance involves a change of mind. It begins with recognition of sin. It is recognition that our sin is an offense to a Holy God. It is a recognition of who Jesus is and his right to govern our lives.
Repentance is more than being sorry or feeling remorse. Judas felt remorse for betraying Jesus but he did not repent. The rich young ruler went away rich but filled with sorrow. He didn’t repent. True repentance does not come from being caught but rather from a sense of anguish for offending God.
Repentance leads to a life style change. We put Jesus first. Jesus said in Mark 8:34-37 “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?’”
Jesus must come before our own will. Jesus must come before our own ambitions. There must be evidence of repentance in our lives.
Matthew 3: 7-8 “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. ‘You brood of snakes!’ he exclaimed. ‘Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.’”
John the Baptist is calling out the religious people of his day. When John the Baptist was asked by the crowds “What should we do?” he replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
When corrupt tax collectors asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” he replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
When some Roman soldiers asked “What should we do?” he replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
In other words repent and let people see changes in your life.
Let’ read Isaiah 11: 6“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.”
What a perfect world, right, when Jesus returns. The only problem is this is a prophecy about the birth and ministry of Jesus. It was not a prophecy about his return.
May I suggest that this is the picture of repentance that Jesus brought? God is making a promise that if we repent of our sins the angry, monstrous wolf-like emotions that exist in us will find peace with the more gentle side that we each have. That the inner turmoil will become a more peaceful existence. And your inner child will lead you. In psychology, the inner child is our childlike aspect. It is what fuels our wonderment over things that are often simple. It fuels our imagination. It makes us eternal Peter Pans, refusing to grow up.
Matthew 18:2-4 “Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
There is a Christmas song about Santa Clause. It says you better behave because Santa Clause is coming to town. It says he has a list that he checks to see who’s naughty and nice. It says he knows if you are asleep or awake. It says he knows if you’ve been bad or good. As an adult this song is frightening. But for a child it’s exciting because all they know and care about is the fact that Santa Clause is coming to town.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back. He has a list of our deeds both good and bad. He sees our actions. He sees our obedience. And He is coming back.
If you have that peace from turmoil inside of you due to true repentance, this news is exciting to you. Jesus is coming to town.
But if this news fills you with fear and dread, perhaps you have not repented. It’s Christmas time. I can’t think of a better time to become child-like before God. This season of the year is a good time to repent.