Title: Holding On To Christmas
Text: 1 Peter 3.15
CT: Christmas is about revealing His way not ours.
FAS: I imagine that almost everyone here this morning is familiar with Charlie Brown in the comic strips. Christmas for me as a child was filled with Charlie Brown. Well, a few years ago the comic strip had Lucy walking up to Charlie Brown just before Christmas & saying to him, "Charlie Brown, since it is Christmas, I suggest that we lay aside all our differences & be friends for this season of the year."
Charlie Brown says, "That's a great idea, Lucy, but why does it have to be just at this time of the year? Why can't we be friends all year long?"
Lucy looks at him with that look that only Lucy can get & says, "What are you, a fanatic or something?" (1)
1 (Newland, Melvin; Sermon Holding On To Christmas, opening illus. Sermon Central)
LS: As followers of Jesus are we to be a bit fanatical about Christmas?
Good question I thought. What is the answer? [Screen 2]
But what are we fanatical about? Are we fanatical about the tree and the decorations? Is Christmas all about the gifts we receive? Is it about getting our way and indulging in things we love to do?
We hear about the "War on Christmas". Maybe you are bothered by the fact that some places don’t allow their employees to say Merry Christmas? Maybe you are bothered by the fact a Nativity Scene can’t be displayed in a publicly owned setting? How do we as followers of Jesus react to this?
I pondered on this a lot. Are we to become defiant and fight back with megaphone yells of Merry Christmas to those who don’t want to hear it? Would that help?
Should we have sit ins with nativity scene characters on government property so people will be forced to look at it? Wouldn’t Jesus command us to do such things? Is that what he did? [screen 3]
Hardly. In no way was the first Christmas forced on anyone. Jesus entered our world in the most humble way possible. He came as a baby who would save us not by force or defiance, but by sharing his love for us to the point of dying for us to defeat death and darkness. We have a God who is alive and in control of all things. We made that clear last week. Jesus fills every hole in our life, we said, when we make Him king of our heart.
I purposely had us sing I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day today. It says:
I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play,
And wild & sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, & mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Yet pealed the bells more loud & deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”
- by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I love these words. God is not dead!!! Can you say that with me? God’s not dead.
So how do we answer the "War on Christmas"? How do we answer those who would want to do away with Christmas? How do we react to the hate that is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth at Christmas?
What do we, as followers of Jesus need to do to Hold On To Christmas?
I look to the Apostle Peter this season to find the answer for us. Please get out your Bible and follow along as I read his words, breathed from God, from in 1 Peter 3.8-16. [Screen 7]
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
As followers of Jesus we are to love one another. We must look past our differences and dwell on our common ground, which is found in Jesus Christ. Be tender in action to one another. [Screen 8]
9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Peter is writing this letter to people who were being persecuted for doing the will of God. We can react in three different ways.
i) Evil for good. That is how the Devil would do it.
ii) Evil for evil, which is what our human tendency is. Get revenge. Get back at somebody for disagreeing or mocking us.
iii) or we can return good for evil which is what Jesus did and I would be convinced that is what we as followers of Jesus must do. (2)
2 (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Commentary NT, page 911)
Peter understood well. He had once tried to fight Jesus’ enemies with the sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, but Jesus Said, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22.51
Should we lash out at those who mock and criticize us?
10 For,“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
We are to be peacemakers when at all possible. Romans 12.18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Christmas should be about peace not turmoil and fighting. [Screen 10]
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” [Screen 11]
As we taught our kids in Bible School and my grandson still knows the song, “God is with us where ever we go”. God sees and hears our prayers. Proved it to me this week with the prayers He answered for my friend Will. [Screen 12]
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
We are not fear man.
Jesus says in [screen 13] Matthew 10.28, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [Screen 14]
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
This is what I am talking about today. Here is the answer to how we as followers of Jesus are to react to this “War On Christmas” we seem to be facing. [Screen 15]
1. Put Jesus first. We are to revere Jesus first. We are to regard Jesus with respect to the point of awe. Our whole life should be a reflection of Jesus Christ. When people see us at Christmas they should see the love of the One who came to save us at Christmas. Not someone just trying to force their way of doing things on them.
2. Be Ready. Do more than just defend your way of doing things. In our cantata here at church this morning, Holding on to Christmas, the characters of the Realty Company get mad when they are told they have to take down their Christmas decorations for fear they would offend someone. They fume and fuss and get all stressed out and pretty much throw a fit to get their way.
But they never once share with those trying to take away the decorations why the decorations are so important. They seem more concerned about getting their way and keeping traditions rather than sharing the love of Jesus Christ with these folks. They were, I fear, more concerned about getting their way than showing the way of the Father. Only by giving people the true hope we have at Christmas can we reveal the reason for our joy and the true reason for the worship and celebration it requires from us to glorify our Savior. [screen 17]
3. Be gentle and respectful. Clothe yourself with gentleness and respect for the one who may not yet understand the importance you place on Christmas. Being rude and combative will only drive these souls away.
Remember God sees all people as souls he seeks to reconcile with Him. We are to see even the ones who declare war on Christmas as people still needing the savior’s light to fill the darkness they may be dealing with.
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
To truly reflect our Lord and Savior at Christmas we must strive to demonstrate God’s ideal to all we see this season. [Screen 19]
They must see how we love and treat one another.
They must see wives and husbands, sons and daughters who love each other in marriages and families that demonstrate the ideal God would want for his people. Not always easy.
They must see people who are willing to serve even when it might be inconvenient or difficult.
They must see people who are not perfect, that’s not hard, but are willing to give themselves, blemishes and all to a Lord who loves and forgives them no matter what.
They must see people compelled by the love of Jesus to live for Him. To follow in His path that leads to love for God and for all people. People like my friend Garnetta Letcher who said, “I just love everybody. That’s the way it’s supposed to be”.
They must see people at peace with God. Striving for His ideal that is so much better than our own ideal we may have for ourselves.
They must see people who are at peace with others. People whom even when others mock or criticize their beliefs and values do not retaliate with hate and retaliation, but with love and compassion and gentleness and respect.
They must see people who are at peace with themselves. People full of Christ in their hearts because of the promise God has made to us all.
They must see people who always revere Christ as Lord.
They must see people, who are always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have.
But they must see people who always do this with gentleness and respect.
I found an article about Christmas this week.
Ah, Christmas cheer is in the air. That old Holiday Spirit is back. Well, we hope so anyway. Unfortunately, so far there's been plenty of Christmas outrage, too. A recent article in The New York Times , appropriately titled "Everyone Is Upset, or not Upset, About Christmas Ads Already," had this to say about our holiday rage: "Christmas controversies are off to an early start this year. The plain red cup from Starbucks. The not-plain cup from Dunkin' Donuts. A sweater at Target that reads 'OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder.' And then there's the Bloomingdale's ad that suggests spiking your friend's eggnog." The article went on to note that the "War on Christmas—which seems to mean, generally, any action that strips religious context from anything related to the holiday—has been raging for years beyond that." [Screen 20] Didn't Jesus, who is the whole point of Christmas, say something about being "The Prince of Peace"? (3)
3 (Matt Woodley, Andrew Finch, Ethan Adams at PreachingToday.com)
So are we going to be fanatics about Christmas this year? Are we going to fuss and complain about things people say and do about Christmas or are we going to be fanatical about a baby child who came to earth to save us all?
A child who grew to be our Prince of peace.
Let us as followers of Jesus, revere this child.
Let us give everyone the reason we have hope, because of this child.
And let us do it with gentleness and respect the way this baby child has taught us to do.
CT: Christmas is about revealing His way not ours.
Share the true reality of Christmas this year. Reflect the love of our Lord and Savior. Truly hold onto Christmas this year as you hold onto the promise of God. Hold on to the truth that this child born at Christmas would one day choose a cross to remove our sins.
Won’t you come and accept His gift of love and revere this Jesus as your Lord and King.
I say very humbly and gently Merry Christmas to all and may God’s favor and love rest upon you and yours.