I’m 33 years old – I grew up in the church – and I’m sure that I have averaged at least 3 Christmas related sermons every year. In fact, growing up we had the five advent Sundays so I’m sure I heard at least 5 Christmas sermons every year. But even at just three sermons per year – in my 33 years of life, I have heard just under 100 Christmas related sermons.
That seems a lot to me. Does the Christmas story really warrant that much sermon time? Do you ever get the feeling that Christmas is ‘over-celebrated’? What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway?
I’m not anti-Christmas, but why do we focus so much on Jesus birth? That’s just one aspect of his life. Why not his baptism? That was significant. Or the 40 days he spent fasting in the wilderness? There are no special days on the calendar that we celebrate that! The only thing that even comes close to Christmas is Easter – when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection – and even that is celebrated way less than his birth.
Think about it. Even outside the church culture – think of retails stores. They spend 2 months selling Christmas – as soon as halloween is over, they start selling Christmas stuff. From November 1st through the bulk of December, the focus is Christmas. That’s 1/6 of the year. That’s a lot of Christmas!
Christmas music in another example. We have a whole genre of music dedicated to Jesus birth. We don’t have passover music – we don’t have Jesus’ baptism music, we don’t have Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness music – but we have album after album after album of music celebrating Jesus birth.
I look in my Bible and there are maybe 10 pages in my Bible about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark & and the Gospel of John don’t even include Jesus’ birth in their Gospels. There are two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke – in my Bible about 10 pages of Christmas out of the 2300 pages of Scripture.
Yet at the same time, there are 65 pages of Job and his friends arguing about why God allowed all that bad stuff to happen to Job. If the Bible talks about Job about six time as much as it talks about Jesus birth, why do we take a whole month every year to preach about Jesus birth – and not job? We preach on Christmas (those ten pages) 2,3,4,5 times every December, but you’ll be lucky in five years just to get one sermon on Job.
So what makes Christmas such a big deal? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ? What, in those ten pages, has had so much impact on life as we know it?
Well, I propose we find out. If you have your Bibles with you this morning, feel free to turn with me to Matthew chapter 1, starting at verse 18.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
I want to draw your attention to those last four words: “God is with us.” I would like to suggest to you today that it’s these four words that make Christmas so significant. Let me show you what I mean.
Throughout the Old Testament, God has said many times to many people that He would be with them. For example:
The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. Genesis 26:2-3
Another example from the life of Gideon:
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:12
Or another one – this is Samuel talking to King Saul.
Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 1 Samuel 10:7
So it’s not completely unusual for God “to be with people.” But in all those instances – God was with them in spirit. For example, in the Old Testament sometimes, when God wanted someone to accomplish some task, God would be with them by having His Spirit come upon them for a short time.
One example of this was when they were constructing the tabernacle. The Bible tells us that Bazalel was filled with the Spirit of God so that he could expertly craft all the elements of the tabernacle – all the gold and silver and bronze items, etc… God’s spirit was with Him – enabling Him to expertly craft those items.
We also see this in many of the judges like Gideon and Samson – where the Spirit of God would come upon them for a short time as they did some mighty exploit! Like when Samson killed 1,000 men with that jawbone of a donkey. The Bible says that “The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him” and he was able to do mighty things. God’s spirit was with them.
At other times, when God promised to be with someone – it was more of a promise of divine protection. How many times in the Old Testament does God say “Don’t be afraid – I will be with you”? You see that phrase many times. Its the assurance that the Almighty God of the heavens will watch over you and guide you and protect you. God promises to be with many people in this way – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Joshua, – and many, many others – all had this promise that God would be with them.
But now, when the angel announces to Joseph that his fiancé is carrying a child, conceived by the Holy Spirit of God, and that this baby was the long awaited Messiah, its clear that God is getting ready “to be with us” in a brand new way.
It was not just God’s Spirit that would come upon a select few for a short time. It was not just God’s divine watchful care that was coming.
God Himself would take human form and would live on the earth with us. He would become like one of us. The Almighty, Everlasting, Infinite God would confine Himself to the tiny helpless body of a fragile, human baby.
That’s how God was going to be with us.
So why is that significant? What’s the difference between God being with us in Spirit like he was in the Old Testament – and Him being with us “physically in human form”?
In a lot of ways, it almost seems like a step backwards. Before this, God was with us in Spirit as in infinite, all-powerful God of the Heavens who can do anything He wants – Now He would be physically here with us, but as a tiny, helpless baby who can’t do anything!
Now why would He do that? What could He accomplish as a tiny, helpless baby – that He couldn’t accomplish as an infinite, all-powerful God in the heavens?!
Maybe it was a mistake? After all, he only stayed with us in physical form for about 30 some years – after that he went back to heaven! Was it an error in judgement?
No, of course not. God knew exactly what He was doing.
If you were here last week, you’ll remember that we talked a little bit about what it means to love one another. We talked about how loving someone means serving them.
We talked about loving our kids as an example and the many sacrifices we make because we love them.
For one example, loving our kids costs us money – we have to pay for diapers, pay for food (and lots of it). We pay higher car insurance when they get their license, sometimes we pay to replace the car. Eventually we pay for their wedding so we don’t have to pay anything else anymore. Our kids cost us a lot of money.
They also cost us time. Our schedule is no longer our own. Our sleep get interrupted. We spend a lot of time doing things we don’t really enjoying doing. Most of us don’t enjoy changing diapers, or cleaning up vomit, or doing laundry, or all those other things that come with having kids. So why do we do all that? Why do we make all those sacrifices? Because we love our kids. And loving someone requires sacrifice.
Let me ask you this: What did God sacrifice when he was “with Samson” for example? How difficult was it for the all-powerful God of the universe who created everything out nothing – how difficult was it for Him to help Samson kill a thousand men with the jawbone of donkey? It wasn’t difficult at all. I can’t think of anything that it cost God to do that.
Our how about when God was with Jacob? Was there any sacrifice there? Did it cost God anything to keep Jacob safe and bless his life? For an all-powerful God, that’s pretty easy stuff.
But what did it cost God to be with us as a human baby? What kind of sacrifice did Jesus make to be with us? Philippians 2 verse 6 gives us the answer to that.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus sacrificed everything. His divine privileges – his position – even his very life. For God to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ was the great expression of love anyone could ever imagine.
Why else would an infinite God confine himself to the body of little human baby? Why else would the Creator of the universe put his very life into the hands of His own creation? The only reason is love. An incredible, self-sacrificing love.
That’s what makes Christmas such a big deal. That is what is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ.
God was setting in motion the greatest sacrifice, the greatest expression of love the world has ever seen.
God gave up everything to be with us – so that we could be with Him.
If Jesus hadn’t come to earth as that little baby, not one of us would have any hope at all of ever being with God. Our sin would keep us well separated from him – both in this life and throughout eternity.
But because of Christmas – because God was with us some 2000 years ago, today we have the hope of being with God forever.
So what does that mean for you and I today? How are we to respond to this yearly reminder that God gave up everything to be with us – so that we could be with Him?
First of all, I’d encourage you to accept His love. For some of us, that’s a hard thing to do. It’s difficult to imagine that there is a God who created you, who knows everything about you (the good and the bad), and who still loves you like crazy.
Maybe you’ve gotten some bad information about who God is and what He’s like. That He just wants to control your life and tell you what to do. Maybe you’ve got this idea that Christianity is just some big power trip for God – to see how many people he can get to follow Him.
But I assure you, that’s not the God of my Bible. The God of my Bible cared so much about you that He gave His one and only Son to be born as a little baby some 2000 years ago so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God doesn’t want to control your life – He wants to give you real life. Will you accept his gift? Will you accept His love?
In this life we strive so hard to be loved, don’t we? We want so badly for people to like us. To have that one special person to love us. Yet ironically, most of us ignore the One who loves us most – our Heavenly Father.
I invite you today to accept God’s love. To live in it! To bask in it! To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with you. He’s not against you – He’s with you! The Bible tells us that while Satan is our accuser – Jesus is our advocate! He’s on our side.
He came to earth so that you could have freedom, joy, so that you could live an abundant life – starting today and lasting forever!
Will you accept His love today?