The 3 Realities of Christmas

Mike reviews the two versions of Christmas that people celebrate along with three important realities brought to light by one of these.
Sermon by:
40 of 40

One of the staples of television programs at this time of year, aside from the Christmas musical specials and the winter holidays and all that kind of stuff are programs that show the various ways that different cultural groups celebrate Christmas. The point being made that there are many Christmas traditions that are being pursued that include people who don't even believe in Christmas, but they celebrate it anyways.

The truth, however, is that in our own modern society, we have a two types Christmas.

Santa Claus Christmas

This is the Christmas of colored lights, Christmas trees, family dinners, the exchange of gifts. There's nothing wrong with this Christmas, as many cultures have adopted it and celebrate it just as we do here in America.

Santa's Christmas, however, has become less and less about Jesus as the years go by and more about a public holiday that everyone can share, regardless of their religion or religious background. A sign of this secularization of Christmas has been the push to replace the "Merry Christmas" greeting with the more secular "Happy Holidays" greeting because it has no religious connotation and thus doesn't risk offending anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus or in any other God for that matter.

And so the Santa Claus Christmas is slowly moving towards maintaining the tradition because it is an incredibly profitable one for most retailers but stripping away its religious elements little by little each year because in many ways they conflict with the excess and the commercialization of Santa's Christmas.

I mean, we spend a lot of money on Santa's Christmas. We eat a lot on Santa's Christmas. And more and more this holiday, is slowly drifting away from what it was meant to be long ago.

Believer's Christmas

Then we have this other Christmas and that's signifying the birth of Jesus, I call it Believer's Christmas. This is the idea and in whose spirit we as Christians mark this time of year, or remember at least at this time of the year. Even if we know from history and from the Bible that the birth of Jesus probably took place in the springtime, and that unlike baptism or church attendance or communion, there is no command or example or instruction in the Bible given to us by God to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Nor in the Bible does that say we have to have a special holiday for Jesus' birth. We have a special time to commemorate his death, but there's nothing that tells us we have to commemorate his his birth, not in the Bible anyways. However, most Christians are happy with the idea that at least once per year it seems that the entire world is focused on the birth of Jesus Christ. Most Christians join in the honor and recognition of our Lord and Savior.

The Three Realities of Christmas

However, for the believer, for the disciple, or for those who consider Jesus as Lord, the birth of Jesus Christ signifies three important realities that are not part of Santa's Christmas and rarely spoken of during the Christmas rush. For this reason, I'd like to share these with you before the season comes to a close, and thoughts of Jesus are unfortunately packed away, along with the Christmas lights. It is a proper, I guess that it this lesson be the last one of the year to close out the year to close out the Christmas season, so to speak.

1. God becomes man

This is not news to Christians. Everyone seems to be familiar with this idea that God took on a human flesh and lived on Earth as a man, a Jewish man called Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth. And we'll talk about some of the amazing things he did in a moment. But here is the point that I want to make first. Did you know that Christianity is the only religion in history and in the world where God becomes a man, only religion. In other words, God, the Supreme being, the creator of the universe and mankind becomes fully human and interacts with people at their level, even experiences human emotions like joy and sadness and anger, love, hunger, pain, and even physical death.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- John 1:1
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- John 1:14

We need to realize that no other religion teaches this and no other religion teaches this idea, this truth, this fact, this history. No other religion teaches that humans become godlike or that humans are reincarnated.

A lot of religions teach a lot of things about God and man like that humans are reincarnated, or humans are eventually absorbed by a force that is like God, or that humans are recycled back into the earth, or that there are two gods or many gods, or that if you are good enough, God will take you into heaven, or that God or the gods have human appetites like food and sex, or that is there is no God.

There is all kinds of beliefs about God, but that God intentionally becomes a man. This is the greatest single gift of enlightenment ever given to mankind, bar none. In every other form of religion that has or exists now, man or mankind works his way up to divinity in one way or another. Only in Christianity does God reach down and bring mankind up to himself by becoming a human savior. It is only in Christianity that God becomes man. This makes Christianity theologically unique and superior to all other religions. No human being could have invented such a concept. When humans invent religions, you get all kinds of things but you never get, God becoming a man.

2. It is the true turning point or dividing line in history.

In other words, the birth of Jesus is the hinge of history. The obvious sign of this in a secular way is that the standard of measured time held by the majority of the world, even in countries that don't believe in God, is still B.C, Before Christ and A.D. in Latin, which means Anno Domini or in the Year of the Lord.

These terms are used to measure years in the Julian and the Gregorian calendars. There has been an effort in the past to change these terms to BCE meaning Before Common Era and CE, Common Era. This change has been motivated by atheists and secularists, but before Christ, B.C and A.D. in the year of our Lord continues to be used to divide history, since these calendars were created more than 1500 years ago.

The use of B.C and A.D. doesn't prove anything, however, it does demonstrate the incredible and lasting impact that the birth of Jesus has had on the world. There have been great important wars, great kings, spectacular inventions, religious leaders with millions of followers. But there is only the time before Christ's birth and the time after Christ's birth.

As far as human history is concerned, another historical marker defined by Jesus is that the actual changes that have occurred as a direct result of his life and his teachings, we see these as we examine the effects of Christianity, the faith that Jesus established during his short life here on here on Earth, for example:

A. Loving your enemies

43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
- Matthew 5:43-44

Watching the death spiral that is taking place now in the Middle East as two cultures who believe and practice an eye for an eye, that kind of justice should be enough to show us the superiority of Jesus's teaching on the human interaction and the possibility of human healing that comes from forgiving your enemies. If both of the nations that are at war in the Middle East at the moment practice loving your enemy and forgiving your enemy, this war would be over. But there is no end to it.

Whether it be between two people or two nations, no one has come up with a better solution because it requires one of the parties to rely more perfectly on God. And so that's one of the changes that is taking place because of Jesus's teaching.

B. Marriage / Women / Life

A second change because of Jesus is the sanctity of marriage and the equality of women and the sacredness of life itself. These were not concepts introduced by Jesus, but they were affirmed and promoted in his teachings, as well as the teachings of the Apostles in the early church and, of course, the church throughout history, up until this day, at the time when Jesus was on Earth, women had no rights, never mind equal rights.

They had no rights whatsoever within marriage. And slavery was a common element in every culture. And unwanted babies, mostly girls, were left in open fields to die of exposure or the attack of wild animals.

It was Christ's teaching and the early Christian churches influence in society that elevated marriage back to the biblical ideal of one man and one woman united together in marriage for life with God's blessing. This made marriage the highest expression of love and commitment that two people could offer to one another and to God.

Christianity's teachings, not Islam or other Eastern religions, on the value of each life made in God's image this is what led to the abolishment of slavery and infanticide in the countries that became Christianized in that early and middle age period.

Christianity didn't abolish slavery by marching in the street or setting fires to buildings. No, it was. It was the salt and the light method, the salt of Christian teaching and Christian love and the light of the better ideas and ideals of Christianity. This is what eclipsed these social ills a year at a time and a decade at a time until they were no longer acceptable in popular culture.

Whenever these social evils returned, slavery and abortion, for example, know that it was and still is, the community of believers in Christ who opposed these things most who promote traditional marriage and who are pro-life, as well as pro-freedom for every individual, regardless of culture. Usually these same people are pro-Christ. No other religious or philosophical or political or military leader has had as good and lasting an impact on the world for good as Jesus Christ.

The third reality of Christ's birth:

3. It was the end of Satan's domination.

It marked the beginning of the end of Satan's domination over mankind before Christ. The spiritual tools to defend against Satan were not widely or fully available. The Jews were unique because they had some basic resources, like proof that God existed through the miracles that they had seen, and they had information on what God wanted. They had the law and the ordinances. They also had promises of better things to come. The promise of the Messiah, for example, who would forgive them for their sins and who would elevate them in their spiritual lives?

Outside of Judaism, however, there was total darkness. There was no defense against Satan's power. Think about that. No defense against Satan's power, because these cultures were in complete darkness. That's why in the little bit we read in the Bible about other cultures, especially in the Old Testament, we read about sexual perversions and cruelty, constant war, idolatry, people cutting themselves or burning their babies as sacrifices to pagan idols. We read about slavery and cheating and corruption, possession and torture by evil spirits, the magic and the occult, religious prostitution.

Satan had great power over the people who were in the darkness. However, with the birth and the subsequent Ministry of Christ, along with his death on the cross to pay the moral debt that every person had had because of their sins. Disobedience of God's will and His commands because of these things, Satan's ability to lure human beings into sin was greatly diminished.

For example, Satan's power is to be able to pronounce lies.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- John 8:44

And so Jesus taught the truth about normal life and about spiritual life, so that Satan's lies were neutralized. Satan's power also was in his ability to lure people into disobeying God's laws and thus sinning and thus subjecting them to the punishment for sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 6:23

This is what Satan was able to do, lure people into sin. Jesus made restitution to God for all of our sins.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
- Isaiah 53:5

Yes, we still sin because Satan is still at work, right?

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- Romans 3:23

And so we still sin because Satan is still at work. But now there is forgiveness for all past sins.

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
- Acts 2:38a

All the past sins He talks about there, as well as forgiveness for the sins that we still fall into as Christians today.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- I John 1:9

We confess to God our sins that He forgives us. We don't confess to another person. So the point here, lots of scriptures. But what's the point? The point is Satan still has the power to tempt us and to lure us. But the cross of Jesus neutralizes him by providing everyone forgiveness for the sins that we fall into.

Imagine a world where you were aware of the fact that you had done something wrong and your conscience was weighing on you, but there was no way to get away from that. There was no there was no method to to unburden yourself from the sins. And it was like that for your for your whole life.

Another thing, Satan's spiritual power was broken. Angels, even fallen angels are more powerful than people. However, God enables us to stand firm and overcome the evil one by giving us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us at a baptism. Amazing how this passage here teaches us so much when Peter says;

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38

And so God guarantees us that the Holy Spirit within us is greater than any power in the world, including Satan's power once again.

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- I John 4:4

So What?

Let me finish the lessons with the all important. So what? Sure, these may be interesting ideas, but what do they have to do with me? In other words, thanks for the sermon, but so what? Well, if the things that I've taught and demonstrated to you tonight from God's Word are accurate, from the Scriptures and the Scriptures are true and from God, then here's what these things, what they mean for all of us.

1. Jesus is God.

It was this realization that began my search. It was the thought one moment, this flash of insight where I said to myself, wait a minute, wait a minute. Jesus is God, wait a minute, wait, Jesus is God, Oh that's what that means. Imagine all that Catholic education for almost 30 years got me to the point. Oh, that's what they mean. He is God. Who is God? Well, it's him. Who is the him? It's Jesus. I mean, actually, that was actually, you know, the genius thinking the thing through here for a moment.

But what I'm saying is that the understanding that Jesus is God, this is the thing that set you about on the right path, searching for the right thing, looking for the right, the right answers.

Jesus is God, not Allah, not Buddha, not Krishna, not any other so-called deity or power or force. Only Jesus is God.

The rest are a waste of time and effort. I know that's a harsh things to say. We have friends who may be sympathetic to these other ancient religions followed by millions of people with many wise people among them, who follow these things. Sure. But Jesus is God. And if Jesus is God, all these others are not. It simplifies things. It clarifies things. It gives us a way to walk.

Jesus, therefore, is your best faith option. If you're turning to God, then turn to Jesus, because the Bible says that's who He is. That's why it's important that He was born. God, in the form of man, came among us.

Here is another "so what" idea.

2. The One who created the greatest change in the world can also create a great change in you.

He can take you from lost to save and from being temporal to being eternal. No other God promises this. No other religion articulates this idea and articulates it clearly. No other thinking or philosophy even dares to suggest that it has the power to transform you from being something temporal to being something eternal and consciously. So only he can take you from one state status to the other. I mean, the whole point of his resurrection was to prove that such a thing was possible. If the Spirit did it for him, he can and he will do it for us.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- Romans 8:11

I mean, you can take that to the bank. Why do you know that you will live forever and that you will consciously live forever? Well, Romans 8:11. How is he going to do that? Well, the same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead. And we have historical proof that that happened. That same spirit given to us at baptism will eventually raise us from the dead. That's how it happens.

Now, I can't explain to you, metaphysically how exactly a spirit dwells inside of a human physical body. I don't know. He doesn't give us that information. He doesn't tell us the dynamics of it, the biology of it. I don't know. He just tells us this is how He is going to do it. The spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, that same spirit that you receive when you confess his name and go into the waters of baptism, that same spirit is going to raise you from the dead. That's how it's going to happen, no further explanations given nor needed.

And then finally, so what?

3. Jesus breaks Satan's power over you.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 8:1

When I get into my pity party or when I get into a "I'm not good enough" party, or if I go to hootenanny where the subject of the hootenanny is going to be, "Mike's not good enough to get to where he wants to go." I remember Romans 8:1.

God himself is telling me who is going to condemn you if I don't condemn you, who cares? Why should you care if you condemn yourself or your brother-in-law condemns you or your dad condemns you if I don't condemn you. That neutralizes everybody else, even yourself.

The spiritual reality that few people recognize is that if you're not consciously free and serving Jesus, you are therefore unconsciously bound by your unforgiven sins and serving Satan without realizing it. These are the only options. Nobody is on the fence.

Just remember one thing when it comes to God, you're all in or you're all out. There are no fence sitters. If you're thinking, "Well, I'm just waiting to see if I hear a good enough argument" you're not actually sitting in the fence. You're on your way to condemnation because you're all in or you're all out there. No, there's no in-between spot. God hasn't given us an in-between spot.

So I hope that everyone had a happy Santa holiday filled with good times with family, good food, the exchange of gifts to show our love and appreciation for one another. Our family enjoyed it. I hope your family did, too. This is the best of Christmas, and I pray that you are blessed with the merriest of times because this holiday only comes around once a year.

However, for those who believe in the birth of Jesus, the Son of the living God, I encourage you to be thankful for the gifts that He has brought to all who believe in him and have become his disciples. Gifts that we experience not just at Christmas, but at every day of the year, of course, the birth of Jesus and all that it gives us. That's a gift. Forgiveness for all of our sins. That's a gift. Peace of mind, because there's no longer any condemnation for me, that's a gift. Power over Satan, because the one who is in me is stronger than the one who is in the world. That's a gift. And eternal life. That's a gift just to name a few.

So if you have not yet consciously decided to become his disciple by repenting of your sins and being immersed or baptized as an expression of your faith in him, I encourage you to do that without delay, since no one knows when the judgment will come and when it does come, it'll be too late to confess the Lord. Then decide right now if you're all in or all out.

40 of 40