For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Centrepiece of Christmas

Christmas can be a very peaceful time of year. Christmas gatherings bring friends family and coworkers together and for a moment people express gratitude for one another by exchanging gifts, cards, or a simple greeting. Decorated trees and the smell of Christmas cookies baking fill our homes with the warmth that does not exist other times of the year. Many people have a small nativity set that includes Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and angels gathered around a sweetly smiling baby Jesus. It helps us focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas: It is a time remembering the birth of the Messiah.

The story of his birth is well known and will be repeated in churches across the world. Pastors will struggle to find a way to make an old story seems fresh and new. Children will wiggle in church pews in anticipation of going home and opening the presents under the tree. After the singing of Silent Night there will be a mad rush for the door as people head home for dinner and gifts. It is a heartwarming tradition that is familiar to many people.

We need to remember that the baby lying in the manger was not what he appeared to be. Yes, he was a baby fully human in every way. But he was more than that, he was God himself come to earth. Early Chirstian artists tried to remind people of this by painting a halo around his head. Paul writes, "in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col 1:19). The amazing mystery of Christmas is that God himself became a man. Mary and Joseph held their Creator in their arms! Jesus was the one who created all things and even as he lay in the manger he was holding the universe together.

That Jesus would humble himself to the extent of becoming a baby is amazing. He did this for an even more astonishing purpose: to die for the sins of the world! In order to do this he needed to be like us and be tempted in every way. Jesus knows what it is to be hungry, Tired, and abused. Through all of the experiences as a man he learned obedience His obedience was perfect. He never sinned. As a result his life could be offered as a sacrifice for those who had sinned. (Hebrews 2:10-18). His birth was an important step in bringing salvation to the nations. It is good that we celebrate it.

There are many dangers in our celebration of Christmas. Perhaps the most common problem is that people focus on the giving of gifts and the decorating of their homes rather than its religious significance. Commercialism runs rampant in many places around the world. Merchants realize that the tradition of giving gifts is an opportunity to sell their wares. They cannot be faulted for this. They make a living providing things for people to buy. In the midst of holiday shopping it is easy for all of us to forget why we are giving gifts.

There is a danger even for those that do remember that Christmas is a religious holiday. The problem is caused by the fact that the birth of Jesus is in the past. It is a tender story that we enjoy hearing. Jesus in the manger is good and safe. We forget that Jesus is no longer a baby in the manger. We forget that the prophets who told his first coming as a Savior also foretold that he would come as a Judge. Jesus himself told us that he is returning as Judge (Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-46).

When he comes again, and he will, he will come as the judge of all the earth. He will come with great glory and myriads of angels. On that day it will be obvious that everyone has fallen short of the glory of God and is guilty before him (Romans 3:23). The great question on that day will be whether we have accepted his offer of salvation. For those who have repented and believed the good news that day will be a day a celebration of the grace and mercy of God. For those who have not accepted the offer of his salvation, their rebellious hearts will be exposed for what they truly are. Their condemnation will be doubly deserved.

The centerpiece of our Christmas should not simply be the baby in a manger but the entirety of the salvation message. It is not wrong to talk about the birth of Jesus. The Incarnation is an amazing event that should be celebrated. But we must also speak about its implications because on the day of judgment the question will not be whether or not we celebrate Christmas but whether we responded to the gift Jesus came to offer us.

In these days people are stressed with the preparations for the celebrations of his first coming. Time is running out. Christmas is coming. The most important question it's not whether we are ready for the Christmas celebration of his first coming, but whether we are ready for his second coming. Jesus told us that we must be ready.

Are you?

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