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The Real Message of Christmas

Can you believe that there is less than a week until Christmas, and I just began Christmas shopping yesterday.  It seem that each year Christmas comes faster and faster.  Of course we have our tree up, we have been to see two different light shows and our youngest has had her Sunday School Christmas program, but am I really ready for Christmas.

It is so easy this time of year to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle.  In the midst of all this business we need to take time to focus on God.  We need to remember the words of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In light of this, I decided to read through an advent devotional this year to help me remember the true message of Christmas.

As I consider the real message of Christmas, I am reminded of A Charlie Brown Christmas when Charlie ask, “Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?”  Linus then proceeds to quote Luke 2:8 – 14;

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Linus is, of course correct, this is what Christmas is all about.  But the more I have thought about it, I have realized that if we leave the message of Christmas at this, we may feel good, but the real message is lost.  “CHRIST IS BORN!”, the end.  If this is the end, then it is us Paul is speaking about in 1 Corinthians 15:19 when He says, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”  You see, as miraculous as it is, that God Himself was born a baby that day, if that is all there is, then the message has no point.  There must be, and there is, more to the message of Christmas.  But what is this message.

When people meet me and I am wearing my normal jacket, one of the first things that people notice is that my left lapel is full of different pins.  These include boy scout pins, railroad pins and even my FFA Chapter Farmer pin.  But the next thing they notice is that there are only two pins on my right lapel.  Here you will find one pin that is golden star with a nativity scene placed in front of it.  I wear this year around to remind me and those I meet, that God became a man and was born .  The second pin is a small hilltop with three crosses.  A reminder to me and those I meet that Christ gave up his life on the Cross for each of us.

Jesus was born, flesh and blood like us, and He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  This is the full message of Christmas.  Not simply that Christ was born, but that He was born to die on the Cross.  That He came into this world to take on the sins of the world.  That He dwelt among people to lead them to God.

The message is not simply that a baby was born, but that God provided a way for man to come before Him.  This true message of Christmas can be found in Philippians 2:6 – 11

“6 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.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

Without the cross, the birth has no point, but at the same time, without the birth, the cross has no meaning.  Christ birth does not provide salvation, and were He not born a human being, then his death would not have been a sufficient sacrifice.

So as we celebrate this Christmas with family and friends, as we enjoy the gifts and the Christmas dinner, letter us take time to remember the real message of Christmas, that he was born to pay the price for our sins.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted.”  John 3:16 – 17 (The Message)

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A Divided Heart

It is easy for us to see a blatant opposition to God and to call it what it is. It is not, however,  so easy to see a divided heart. A heart that seeks God, but also seeks other desires.  A heart that, in reality, places God as simply one of many things being pursued.  In I Kings 11 verses 4 and 6 we see that this was Solomon’s issues.  It says “his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD” and “he did not follow the LORD completely.”  So we must ask ourselves, “Do we seek after God while pursuing our other desires?”  “Do we find that we are following God, but not ‘fully?'”

A divided heart occurs when we let other things crowd in, keeping us from focusing on God alone.  In the full passage we see that Solomon allowed his desire for women, for political alliances and other things to enter in and that these led to his divided heart.  But how do we avoid this?  Ironically, Solomon himself warns of this in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” Our heart is the source of all that we do.  As the heart goes, so goes the person.  So we must ask ourselves, “What do we let into our hearts?”

Take time to examine your heart.  What things are cluttering it up?  (popular culture, music, fashion, television, friends, etc.)  Are these things drawing our attention away from God and dividing our hearts.  Solomon’s life shows us that such divisions lead to disaster.  Ask God to help you clear the clutter from your heart and to keep him first and foremost.  When you do this, you will be reminded of the words of the old hymn.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

Let me acknowledge that much of my source for this article can be attributed to a sermon given by Dr. Steve Mathewson of the Evangelical free Church of Libertyville.

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

I can not count the number of times that I have heard sermons and lessons on Christ being tempted in the wilderness. We learn how Christ was tempted in every way that we are, so He understands. (Lust of the flesh – bread from stones, Lust of the eyes – Satan would give him the wealth of the world and the pride of life – if he was the Son of God he deserved to be treated as such) We hear about how Christ used scripture to resist the devil and how this shows us how important it is to memorize scripture. (Which of course it is, but I digress.) But as I was reading through the passage in Luke this week, my mind began to ponder the final sentence of this passage. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13

I realize that all to often we, . . . I, fail to see that Christ temptation was not a one time thing. Too often this passage is breezed through and the cliche answers are given. And while these answers may be valid and helpful in our lives, temptation does not end that simply for us, and it did not end that simply for Christ. While scripture does not specifically tell us of these other temptation, we can see them between the lines. When he became angry with the money changers, I am sure the temptation was there to do more than simply overturn their tables. When in the garden, the temptation to run away could not be more clear. While hanging on the cross, can any of us doubt that the devil whispered in His ear, “Are they really worth it?” No the temptation surely did not end with the three described in Luke 4.

I know that we give people comfort as we teach that Jesus has been tempted in every way that we have. We give people strength when we teach them that God has given us the scriptures that we can call upon to resist the devil. But we do a grave injustice if we fail to remind people that the devil is not so easily discouraged. I Peter 5:8 tells us that “the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking those that he might devour.” He may leave, but he waits “until an opportune time” to return. While these opportune times may come at any moment, sometimes out of the blue and often when we least expect them, we must always be on guard. (“Self controlled and alert” 1 Peter 5:8) We can not think that once we have resisted the devil and he has fled (James 4:7) that it is over. This is the very opportune time that the devil is looking for, when we let our guard down, when we say to ourselves, “I have stood up to that temptation and it is behind me. I do not need to worry about it anymore.”

Only when we stand in glory, before our Lord and Savior will all temptations finally be set behind us once and for all. Until then, we must always stand on guard because temptation is not a one time thing. But we need not fear these temptations for we have our victory in Christ. He has given word to keep in our hearts so we do not sin against him. He has faced every temptation faced by man, and emerged victorious. Most importantly, he has not left us alone. He has granted to those who believe in Him, the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. So while we may continue to face temptations in this life, we know that we already have victory in Christ Jesus.