Summary: Christmas reminds us that Jesus is to be sought and truly worshipped by all the nations on the earth.
Introduction: Play DVD Video Clip Why do you celebrate Christmas? from “Essentials” Vol. 3 No. 6.
Here we are—11 days away from Christmas. Can you believe it? Seems as though it has snuck up on us. Can you guess what people are thinking about getting you for Christmas? They want to get you a gift card. This is the most popular gift purchase in America (which is not really a gift). Do you know the most all time requested gift since the 1900’s? It is the teddy bear!
Did you know the average person spent 15 hours looking for Christmas gifts last year, in 5 trips covering over 20 miles? Did you know the National Retail Foundation expect each consumer to spend an average of $849 on 24 presents this year? That’s about 6% increase from last year and could total as much as $185 billion. No wonder there is a lot of stress during the holidays. There is all this pressure to spend, to make people happy, to please everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays but I think we’ve turned it in to something it was never intended to be. Take for example Santa Claus. “The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals -- murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. He died December 6, 343 AD in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church.” (http://www.christmas.com/pe/1978)
For many, it is assumed that you have to go more and more in debt to make it a good Christmas. I know growing up my friends and I would return from Christmas vacation. The first question we asked one another is—“How was your Christmas?” A “good” holiday meant you got the presents you wanted. A “bad” holiday meant you did not get enough.
So what is the real meaning of Christmas? Why should we celebrate Christmas? What does it remind us of? I want to give you the reason why we should celebrate Christmas and then show you why based on a familiar Christmas text. Christmas is a reminder that the Christ is to be sought and truly worshipped by all the nations on the earth.
Let’s read Matthew 2:1-12.
Matthew is the only gospel that refers to the Magi. What were magi? They were not kings as we have pictured in our heads. They were Eastern wise men. They were astrologers who were experts on interpreting dreams and other magic arts. What was their significance? To understand their significance you have to understand one of the reasons the Gospel of Matthew was written. The gospels (Matthew-John) are accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Each Gospel emphasizes certain themes and perspectives. One of the themes in Matthew is that God’s message of Salvation through Jesus is for all people. It is not just for Jews—but for Gentiles as well. The whole world! And so here we have the Magi. They weren’t Jews…they were pagans. But they were seeking after Christ.
Several obvious questions are raised about this story. How did they hear or know about this being the Christ if they were pagan? What about the star they had first seen in the East? Did it actually move ahead of them? Did anyone else notice it? Like many stories in the Bible (Jonah and the fish, parting of the Red Sea) people like to focus on trying to explain how it could logically have happened. The honest answer is—we can’t. We just don’t know how it happened. It is easy to get distracted by trying to figure all of it out. We have to simply accept the fact by faith that God influenced the stars in the sky to get foreign Magi to Bethlehem so that they could worship Jesus.
In the gospel of Luke, Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy. God went to a great extent to show his love and kindness to all peoples of the earth. This is a picture of God’s activity in the world to bring the nations to himself in worship. Some of us think (because we have such a small world view) that God just loves and blesses Americans and heaven is full of white people. Let me tell you something about heaven—if you don’t like people that are of a different culture or color than yours, you’re not going to like heaven. God is very interested in the entire world.