Summary: A sermon about the blessing of Christ - to go along with our Bethlehem Candle Service- 2nd week of Advent.
Every year in Mesa, Arizona, the Mormon Temple puts on their Christmas display. It is a fantastic sight to see! There must be millions of lights, and the sight of those displays is truly awesome. If you want to go see them, you will spend at least a half hour looking for a place to park, and another hour just walking around the large grounds looking at the many beautiful ways they have arraigned the lights. One Mormon bishop friend of mine told me that they spend tens of thousands of dollars annually on these displays.
Whether it is in the enormity of what we do, or in the things we do for others, I think Christmas has gotten very much out of control. Many homes around each town are decorated to the hilt. Whereas people once decorated to show the Spirit of the Lord at Christmas, now we decorate to outdo one another or to make headlines with who has the most beautiful displays.
We once gave gifts at Christmas out of love, we now seem to give them out of necessity. See, we don’t want anyone to have the wrong impression of us, so we not only give gifts, but we make sure they are more expensive and bigger than the ones we gave them last year.
What would we consider the best gifts we could give to another at Christmas? Let me give you a few hints. The best gift would have nothing to do with money, and it would not have anything to do with the gift we gave last year.
Some great gifts you can give this Christmas are to put your pride aside and mend a quarrel, all because you really do care about that person. Or better yet, give something to somebody – anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Visit someone in a nursing home. Give as God gave to you, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation.
As Christians, we are supposed to be Christ-like. How better to be Christ-like than to do as Christ did? He came to serve, not to be served, and we should also develop that same attitude in our lives, but not just at Christmas.
Speaking of Christmas, how would you like to spend this Christmas in Jerusalem? What would we see? I think we would probably see very little, because we would stay indoors to avoid the sporadic gunfire, hatred, and other acts of violence that have been heaped upon the Jews.
The name ‘Jerusalem’ means ‘peace’, but that is the most fought in and fought for city on the face of the earth. It has no major tourist attractions, industrial claims, or seaports that would make it so sought after. I think it is obvious that the only reason for all the violence down through the centuries is because Jerusalem is a city caught in the middle of the spiritual warfare between God and Satan.
Christmas to us has always meant a time to celebrate our religious belief in Christ, but to others around the world, any mention of the Lord turns people towards violence and hatred. But, we can thank our Lord that we live in America.
And as Christians, living in America, we have been blessed with much, haven’t we? Our cup overflows from the goodness of God. It is hard to determine just which blessing is the best.
In the springtime, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. But at this time of year, we celebrate His glorious birth. And we are reminded that He came as an offering of hope and forgiveness through grace. There is something else that He offers; and I think that is the biggest blessing of all.
He came to give us the miracle of transformation. When we talk about Jesus changing our hearts, we aren’t talking about His changing our physical hearts (although He can certainly do that, too), but we are talking about His changing our spiritual hearts. I guess you can say that Jesus gives us a heart transplant.
I can remember when Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first human heart transplant. He performed it on another doctor; one Dr. Philip Blaiberg. After the surgery, he put the old heart in a plastic container and took it in to see the patient. They both sat there examining the scars and problems with it. Then, Dr. Barnard told the patient that he was the first man in history to actually see his old diseased dead heart. Dr. Blaiberg had received a new heart and that heart saved his life.
Through Jesus Christ, we also receive a new heart, and that new heart saves our lives, too. But again, we are not talking about our physical hearts and our physical lives. We are talking about our spiritual heart and our spiritual lives. When we start understanding just what Christmas means, we start to see Jesus in a clear light. And when we do that, it begins a change in our hearts and in the way we see everyone else.