Summary: The angel said that Jesus had come to forgive us of our sins... but why would the story of a baby be important to the Gospel message. What is there about a baby that would figure into God offering us forgiveness?
OPEN: Here it is the first week of December and people are already getting into the Christmas spirit. They’re decorating their homes, putting up Christmas trees and mistletoe and holly… and Christmas lights all over the place.
We Americans are so used to our traditions of the season that we sometimes don’t realize that other nations don’t always do things the way we do.
For example, in Italy they don’t have Christmas trees; instead they decorate small wooden pyramids with fruit.
In Caracas (the capital city of Venezuela) it is customary for the streets to be blocked off on Christmas Eve so that the people can roller-skate to church.
In Yugoslavia, on the 2nd Sunday before Christmas, children creep in and tie their mother’s feet to a chair, shouting ’Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, what will you pay to get away?’ She then gives them presents. Children play the same trick on their father the following week and get more presents.
And in Britain it is a Christmas tradition to make a wish while mixing the Christmas pudding, but the wish will only come true if the ingredients are stirred in a clockwise fashion.
(From a sermon by Bruce Rzengota, on sermoncentral.com)
But Japan has perhaps the most American style of Christmas… because they borrowed it from us. They put up decorations, exchange presents, send cards, sing yuletide songs, decorate trees, serve special seasonal treats and make a big fuss over St Nick, Rudolph and Frosty.
But there is one distinct difference from our American Christmas… they don’t honor Jesus.
Why not? Because Japan is 99% Shinto and Buddhist in their religion. Only ½ of 1 % of their people claim to be Christians.
The Japanese are attracted to the glitter and romance of the American version of Christmas, and have adopted nearly everything except the real reason for the season.
(from an illustration by Robert Leroe)
“…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
God waited patiently until the time was right… and then He sent His Son.
Why? Because something wasn’t quite right until Jesus came.
BUT what was it that wasn’t right?
Six hundred years before Jesus was born in the manger God made this declaration:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will FORGIVE their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (quickview)