Summary: A sermon for Christmas Eve.
“The Real Meaning of Christmas is Found on Easter Day”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
I did a funeral a couple days ago for a man I never met, and a family I will probably never meet again.
That happens sometimes.
A funeral home calls on behalf of a family that does not have a church home.
In preparing for this funeral, I couldn’t help thinking about the mixed feelings God must have had at that very first Christmas.
The Gospel of John tells us that in the beginning, Jesus was with God and the whole world was created through Christ.
But because we had fallen into sin, and thus our relationship with God became blurred and separated…
…God Who loves us more than we can imagine sent Jesus to us…
…to a world of pain, sin and death.
Christmas is really about birth in the midst of death!
Think about that for a moment.
Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth and coming into the world, was for God the Father and for Jesus, a separation of the intimate fellowship that they have shared, Father and Son, from before the beginning of time.
And it was through Jesus’ death and Resurrection that God and Christ restored their full fellowship again.
It’s also through Jesus’ death and Resurrection that it becomes possible for us to restore our full fellowship with God.
It’s Christmas that makes Easter possible; it’s Christmas that makes Easter inevitable.
And it’s all for us!!!
All in the name of Love!!!
Christmas is an invitation from God to see beyond the festivities and celebrations which can so easily lose their true meaning, and to see the real meaning of Christmas which is found in Easter Day; Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.
So, in this season of birth, we might want to ask ourselves, “are we prepared for our own deaths and new birth into the Kingdom of God?”
“Have we repented of our sins and turned to Jesus for salvation?”
“Are we living as those who are prepared to die and live eternally with Christ?”
The Bible teaches us in John that Jesus, through His death and Resurrection, has gone ahead of us, to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house…
…so that we can and will be where He is.
And because God is Love, who would want to be any place else?
That being said, the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of Love comes into our hearts as soon as we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.
In our Gospel Lesson for this evening, after Mary gave birth to Jesus, we are told that “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger…”
A manger is, of course, a feeding trough for animals.
What’s your favorite animal?
I’m sure there are many answers to that question in this room tonight, but I bet one which is on many a person’s mind is a dog.
I love dogs too.
But one of the many funny things about dogs is, if you try and point out something to a dog, the dog will often look at your finger instead of whatever you are pointing to.
And this is frustrating!!!
But it illustrates a natural mistake that some of us might make from time to time.
It’s a mistake some us make when we read the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel.
What do people know about Jesus’ birth?
The manger—the most famous feeding-trough in all of history.
We see it on Christmas cards.
We know about the animals too, not that Luke actually mentions any; the ox and the donkey are prominent on Cards and in Carols though we don’t have any indication that the shepherds brought their own animals with them, or that there were any in the place where Mary and Joseph were staying…
…although it is possible and perhaps very probable.
Anyhow, the point I’m trying to get at is that to concentrate on the manger and to forget why it was mentioned in the first place is like a dog looking at the finger of its owner rather than the chew-toy under the couch.
So why has Luke mentioned the manger three times here?
Could it be because it was the feeding-trough, which was the sign to the shepherds.
It told them which baby they were looking for.
And it showed them that the angel knew what the angel was talking about.
And what the angel was talking about was the greatest news ever!!!
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savoir has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”