Summary: We spend so much time, energy, and money getting ready for Christmas, some will understandably ask, "What difference does Christmas really make? What's in it for me?" Paul provides an answer.
“The Difference Christmas Makes: The Benefits of Christmas”
1 Cor. 1:1-9
In 25 days it will be Christmas. Looking at everything that still needs to be done, checking out the calendar of all that will happen between now and then, fighting the commercialism that bombards us, and knowing the fatigue that sets in soon after Christmas, I wonder if we are really all that excited. We will spend so much time, energy, and money between now and then, some will understandably ask, “What difference does Christmas really make? How does it benefit me?” Paul, in writing a distressed young church in Corinth offers an answer (1:9): THROUGH CHRISTMAS GOD HAS CALLED US INTO FELLOWSHIP WITH HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. And make no mistake about it – fellowship with Jesus Christ has outstanding, life-changing benefits.
We start at verse 2: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus…” Because of Christmas WE HAVE A DIVINE POSITION. Paul says we are sanctified. We’re dealing with the theological term, SANCTIFICATION, which means GOD HAS SET US APART IN JESUS CHRIST. In many of his letters, Paul says the same thing when he refers to Christians as ‘saints.’ We are saints. Too often we think of sainthood as an honor or title for some ‘super Christian’ who has died and is posthumously honored. But the Good News is all who have been set apart in Jesus by God are saints. That means you and me! It refers to OWNERSHIP, NOT TO AN EARNED RIGHT.
God has brought us into fellowship with Jesus and in doing so has brought us into His family. What’s amazing here is that Paul is referring to the Corinthian church. If ever a church was far short of what it ought to be, this was it. Immorality was rampant, a code of ethics was all but non-existent, and her theology had become badly tainted. Yet, says Paul, here members are sanctified – they are saints; and so are we! Because of Christmas we have been given the position of being CHILDREN OF GOD – BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JESUS CHRIST! At our baptisms, God put his mark, his seal, his brand upon us. He gave us the same royal status as that of His Son!
Did you ever slice an onion? What does the core of an onion look like? What’s the substance of an onion? There is no core or substance. An apple has a core. Plums and peaches have pits. But an onion is merely the sum total of its layers. It is so easy for us to simply become the sum total of what others expect or want us to be. There’s a layer for the boss, one for the spouse, one for the children, one for the coach, one for the church. Soon we lose track of our identity. Never forget who you are! You are a brother, a sister, of Jesus Christ. You are a saint!
N. T. Wright points out that Paul’s “central concern, here and throughout his life and work, was quite simply Jesus. The name occurs eight times in these nine verses. Paul couldn’t stop talking about Jesus, because without Jesus nothing else he said or did made any sense. And what he wants the Corinthians to get hold of most of all is what it means to have Jesus at the middle of your story, your life, your thoughts, your imagination. If they can do that, all the other issues that rush to and fro through the letter will sort themselves out”. (i)
In the town of Stepanavan, Armenia, there was a woman whom everyone called ‘Palasan’s wife.’ She had her own name but townspeople called her by her husband’s name to who her great honor. Whe the devastating earthquake struck Armenia in 1988, Palasan was at work. He rushed to his son’s elementary school. The façade was already crumbling, but he entered the building and began pushing children outside to safety. After Palasan had managed to help 28 children out, an aftershock hit that completely collapsed the building and killed him. So the people of Stepanavan honor his memory and his young widow by calling her Palasan’s wife. Sometimes a person’s greatest honor is not who they are but to whom they are related.” 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” .We are related to the one who died for us, Jesus Christ. We are saints! We are brothers and sisters of Jesus!
Because of Christmas we have a divine position – and also A DIVINE PURPOSE. “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people…” We are to live for Jesus, TO BE HOLY. In the Old Testament inanimate ‘things’ were holy. The Temple, the altar, the instruments, the vessels, the cups were all holy because ordered them to be set apart for sacred use. Once they were set apart they could never again be used for a common purpose. Only the priest could lift the cup or go to the altar; the snuffers could only be used to extinguish the sacred lamps.