Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Christmas Still Amazes Me

This is a text version of the mini-sermon I delivered yesterday at the Pekin Bible Church service.  It's a little bit longer of a blog post, but I'd love to hear what you think of it.

I don’t know about you, but I just love Christmas.  I really like the whole holiday season in general.  Some of my favorites are: making hot chocolate, coming inside to a nice warm house or building, the little dustings of snow that make everything pretty, It’s a Wonderful Life, eggnog, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I could go on and on...

By far though, one of the best parts of this time of year is that my kids get to wear zip up, full body footy pajamas.  Can you picture what I’m talking about?   If you haven’t had kids for a while, the closest thing in the adult world is a Snuggie, those blankets with the arms, but even they pale in comparison.  In these footy pajamas the only things not wrapped in cuddly warmth are their heads and their hands.  It is just adorable.  Kids don’t get much cuter than when they’re in footy pajamas. 

Adrian, my middle son, about to turn 3, has been fun to watch this year because even though he was old enough to do all of the winter and Christmas traditions last year, he was young enough to not remember it.  So this year, everything is brand new to him.  The Christmas lights, the trees, the first snowfall (you know, where you want to go sledding with 1/16th of an inch of snow on the ground).  I just love the wonder in his eyes.  And the best example of this is the first time this winter when he got to put on footy pajamas.  You could just see in his face this wonder and amazement.  As if he was saying: “What are these amazing pajamas?  Wait, my feet go in them?  And they zip all the way up to my neck?”  He watched awe-struck as I zipped them up, paused for a moment in sheer delight, and then trotted off his usual happy-go-lucky self.

He was amazed by something as simple as Pajamas.  How quickly that gets lost on us adults.  And I’m not taking about any of us fitting into zip up footy pajamas.  The older I get the more I tend to brush to the side things which use to amaze me.  What about you?  What about Christmas?  Do remember the Christmas story?  It’s absolutely amazing!  Do we even listen to it anymore?  Or is it just “Jesus is born, shepherds, angels, wisemen... can we speed this up? I have decorations shopping, football and a million other things to get to.”

The basics of the Christmas story are ridiculous and awesome all at the same time.  Jesus Christ was born.  You will not find one serious historian who will challenge the fact that Jesus lived on this earth 2000 years ago.  None.  That’s awesome. Jesus was born to a virgin.  That’s amazing.  Jesus was born where animals were staying.  That’s borderline ridiculous, yet really cool at the same time.  Jesus was...  

Well, I don’t want to spoil the whole thing just yet.  First I wanted to share with you what I find to be the most amazing thing about the Christmas story.  It can be found in Philippians 2:5-11.

Verse 5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  Paul is basically saying ‘Be like Christ’
Verse 6: Who, though he was in the form of God,  To quote from an online study Bible: “The Greek term translated form indicates a correspondence with reality. Thus the meaning of this phrase is that Christ was truly God.”  Still with me?
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  So here we just jumped into the deep end of the theological swimming pool... God is one, yet exists eternally in 3 persons.  We call them The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  In that unexplainable union, those three persons have a perfect relationship.  One aspect of this relationship is that the Son submits to the Father, he “does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Verse 7: But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. That’s it.  There’s the Christmas story in one verse.  And the most amazing part of it too!  God submitted himself, humbled himself and became a man.  The scholars call this amazing phenomenon the Hypostatic Union.  I only throw that term out in case you need to make dinner conversation at a Christmas party this month: “So, how do you feel about the Hypostatic union?”  That might not go very far as a conversation starter, but personally I think the concept is awesome.  Here it is: God the Son (100% completely God) humbled himself and became a man (100% humanity just like you and I).   And was born as a baby!  That’s it.  The wonder of it.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, and to tell the truth, neither does the Christmas story.  
Verse 8: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  The reason Jesus came to earth wasn't so we could have Christmas, he came to die.  And that death (of the perfect God/man) paid the penalty that I owe to God for my sin (and you for yours).

Verse 9-11: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father.
We’re all going to bow to Jesus, we just have to choose when and where.  You can choose today (on earth) to humble yourself and follow him (if you do so, you’ll have that blessing of continuing to follow him in heaven after you die).  If you don’t choose on earth, then you’ll be one of those under the earth, but it won’t be as fun.  The Bible teaches clearly that those who refuse Jesus go to hell, completely separate from God and others forever.  But even people in hell will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.

I could say, which will you choose?  But I’m going to say: Which are you choosING?  Today, are you choosing to humble yourself and follow Christ as your Lord, or are you choosing to follow something or someone else?  If you've never chosen to bow your knee to Christ before and follow him... what better day than today?  Ask me about it.

Lastly, I want to ask you to reclaim the wonder in the Christmas story.  Don’t be amazed by the concept of Christmas, because it carries a lot of baggage here in America. But specifically be in wonder at the Biblical Christmas story.  

And you know the best way to do that?  Read it!  (I'll get you a Bible if you want one!)  Listed below are 10 readings, so with only 13 days till Christmas, you can even take a day or two off.

If you’ve lost the wonder in Christmas... isn't it time to get it back?

Christmas Reading:
1. Luke 1:26-38
2. Luke 1:39-56
3. Matthew 1:18-25
4. Philippians 2:5-11
5. Galatians 4:3-7
6. Luke 2:1-21
7. Luke 2:22-40
8. Matthew 2:1-12
9. Matthew 2:13-23
10. John 1:1-18

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