Summary: What is the significance of Christmas?
Good morning and Merry Christmas! Welcome to WestShore Community Church.
Now, when you hear "happy holidays", what does that refer to? [Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Ramadan, Hindus - Pancha Ganapati, Buddhists - Bodhi Day (Dec. 8), Seinfeld - "Festivus", Christmas].
But this year, all of those holidays have been eclipsed by a new holiday that towers over them all - Pokemon Day. Santa has been usurped by Pikachu. The elves have been replaced by Ash, Misty, and Brock. And instead of reindeers named Donner and Blitzen, we have strange little creatures with names like Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle.
Do your children spend hours memorizing the names and characteristics of Pokemon characters, trading Pokemon cards, playing the Pokemon board game and computer game, watching the Pokemon TV show? Do you wish they would spend just a fraction of that energy on their homework? Do you wish you could find the person who invented Pokemon and give them a "Pokemon" in the eye?
If your child is between the ages of 4 and 12, chances are that their Christmas wish list includes something having to do with Pokemon. Resistance is futile. Which brings us back to the topic of Christmas. What difference does Christmas make anyway? Is it just a time to enlarge our children’s cache of Pokemon cards and paraphernalia? Is it . . .
- A time to give joy to children? Yes [examples]. But it’s also an opportunity to spend money we don’t have to buy toys we can’t afford.
- A time to celebrate family? Yes [examples]. But for many, it’s a depressing time of the year. It’s an especially hard time for those who are widowed or divorced.
- A time to honor the values of selflessness, compassion and service, to reach out to those less fortunate? Yes [examples]. But if you’ve been to Great Northern Mall during one of their Christmas sales, you can see that those values are sometimes disregarded.
This is why, on the day after Christmas, we wake up with a "Holiday hangover" and we say to ourselves, "Is that all there is to Christmas?" The good news is that the answer to that question is "no". As much as we enjoy and appreciate all of those things - the celebration of family and community, the sense of wonder and joy in the faces of children, the good cheer, the Christmas spirit - they aren’t all there is to Christmas.
There’s something more to Christmas, something that lasts after the presents are all opened and the lights are taken down: a miracle. A miracle that gives hope and meaning to life 365 days a year, a miracle which has been changing lives for two thousand years. It’s the of the birth of Jesus Christ, when God became a man, a human being, one of us. We call that miracle the incarnation.
This morning, I’d like for us to look at what this miracle means to us and can mean to us this Christmas season and every day of our lives.
First, it means that God understands us/me, from the inside out.
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." -- Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
Our ability to understand someone else depends on how much we share in common.
· We instinctively feel a kinship with those who have experienced what we are experiencing. That’s why support groups are so popular [divorce recovery, AA, eating disorders, elder care]
How many of you have teenagers? How many of you are convinced that you understand them? That they understand you?
· You understand your teenagers better than they understand you. They have never been adults, but you have been a teenager.
· Your understanding is not a theoretical one. Although the world they are growing up in is very different, you have actually experienced many of the things they are going through. Your knowledge comes from personal experience.
· Our ability to empathize with our teenagers is limited by the fact that we are no longer one of them. But Jesus continues to be both fully man and fully God.
Jesus understands. Whatever you are going through, He understands, because He’s been there. He shared our weaknesses in every way (v. 15). He understands what it’s like:
- To be tired and weary, overwhelmed