The Grace That Saves Christmas

Bible Book: John  1 : 14-17
Subject: Christmas; Birth of Christ; Jesus, Birth of; Grace
Introduction

John 1:14-17 reads, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

I suppose one of the most well known Christmas stories among children and families is Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch That Stole Christmas”. But, today, I am going to share with you the grace that saves Christmas. Neither the Grinch or Scrooge can actually steal or ruin Christmas, for Christmas is secured for us through the grace that God revealed when He sent His Son in the world.

Grace is the greatest need of mankind. Just think about it, if only good children got gifts at Christmas, all the toy stores in America would go out of business. The songwriter penned, "So be good for goodness sake!" The point of the song is that children will not receive anything from Santa if they are bad. I found out very early in life that the song was wrong. Even when I was not good as a child, I still got some great toys at Christmas. Why? Because my parents loved me with an unconditional love. I was really glad to find that out.

If children got coal instead of toys when they were bad, I could have operated a coal-burning power station! My parents loved me when I was unlovely. They were simply doing in a small way what Jesus did in a grand way. He came down to Bethlehem's manger to be our Savior and Lord. He did not come because we deserved it - He came because, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

That is what I want to speak to you about today. We are a few days from Christmas. Let’s think about grace – let’s think about the grace of God – let’s think about the undeserved love that has been given to us. After all, Christmas would be empty without that grace! At Christmas time we eat too much, go to fast and spend way too much money. We end up tired and weary. Many people come to Christmas day exhausted, over weight and financially tested. Some people find Christmas very emotionally difficult. They miss loved ones with whom they shared many Christmases gone by. Some people think about broken relationships. Still others feel lonely because of a relationship that never developed as they had planned and dreamed. Christmas can be a lonely time of year. Such feelings and experiences can steal Christmas from us - I mean, these things can keep us from knowing the joy of Christmas.

There are some people who get caught up in the secular view of Christmas. They go to drinking parties, spend way too much money and end up in trouble. When the Christmas season is over, they are broken in body, broken in spirit and broken in finances. Leaving Jesus out of Christmas is dangerous. Christmas is now so commercialized and secularized that it can be difficult to get the good news Christmas straight. Christ was crowded out of the inn 2,000 years ago and He is often crowded out of our modern Christmas activities as well.

A young married couple decided to hold a christening party on the night before their baby's baptism at church. When the guests arrived, the infant was laid on the guestroom bed so the host could greet everyone. A few guests came into the room, and not noticing the baby, flung their coats upon the bed. Soon the infant had been completely covered by heavy coats. By the time the mother went into the bedroom to bring the baby for everyone to see, the little infant was dead. The next morning, the newspaper told the tragic account of the baby that had been smothered to death at his own christening party. We must not be guilty of covering up Jesus in the midst of our parties and gatherings at Christ-time. We can actually smother Jesus, but the world will do all it can to smother His message of grace and salvation.

If we concentrate on the unmerited love of God for us, we can experience the grace that saves Christmas and we can return to the true meaning of this season. In order to focus on the grace of God which is evident in the Christmas story, I want us to look together at John 1:14-17. Here we discover three important facts about Christmas and the grace of God.

I. Christmas Began Because Of Grace

The baby in the manger was not the result of man's goodness. That baby did not come because of someone's prayers. That baby came because of grace - the unmerited love of God. It was in the fullness of time that Jesus came forth to be born of the Virgin Mary. What an amazing grace existed in the heart of God to send His Son to the sin-cursed world for our redemption. It all began because of grace!

A. We Didn't Invent Christmas

Christmas did not begin in the mind or heart of man, it was initiated in the mind and heart of Almighty God! We read in Isaiah 9:6-7, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."

We must note that the zeal of the Lord performed this great miracle. God’s burning love broke forth in demonstrated grace on the night Jesus was born and laid in that manger. This may have been a silent night in the minds of some, but it was anything but that in heaven. No wonder God sent angels to sing the announcement of His birth. God’s zeal was aflame and His will was being accomplished. Glory erupted on the night Jesus was wrapped in saddling clothes and laid in a manger.

Some people want to call the December school break a Winter Holiday. From the beginning of this great nation, December 25 was recognized as a Holy Day not just a holiday. Try as they might to change this, they will never be able to remove the reality that this is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus - heaven's gift of love to mankind! We didn't invent it and we can't destroy it. Almost everywhere I have been since Thanksgiving people in shops and stores have wished me a Happy Holiday, but when I say, "Merry Christmas to you," they usually respond in like manner. How sad that people are made to fear speaking the word Christmas in this generation. Whether December 25 is the actual day of His birth, it is the time set aside to honor His arrival. Let us never fear to speak of Him, for we are the recipients of His amazing grace!

B. We Don't Merit Christmas

We do not deserve the Christmas gift that was laid in that manger - we don't deserve Christmas - but we have it anyway. It is a gift of grace. The truth is, I never deserved the gifts my parents gave me each Christmas. After all, I had done things they told me not to do and I had failed to do things they told me to do. I was a sneaky little rascal! Come now, don’t look at me like that, you were sneaky little rascals, too!

In one church that I pastored years ago, I made the mistake in one of my early sermons of expressing my love for banana pudding. In fact, I told the members in a sermon that I believed in heaven banana pudding would be made in a marvelous way. The bananas would be as big as telephone poles and the vanilla wafers would be as big as semi-truck tires. The next week one of the members came to my house with a Tupperware dish – a very large one – filled with banana pudding. It was outstanding! However, the next week she sent another one. This went on week after week. I told her husband to let his wife know that she had to quit sending us banana pudding. I was gaining weight like a Sumo wrestler and our children were beginning to resemble balloons. He said, “Preacher, you can’t tell her that. She loves making this for you. If you can’t eat it, just share it with neighbors.” So, the banana pudding just kept coming, week after week. Finally, we simply had to throw it away. We took it out behind our house where there were some large trees and dumped out what we could not eat. Then we ended up with the fattest dog in town!

Well, our son loved the banana pudding and he would get into the refrigerator to eat it when we were not watching him close enough. We warned him in no uncertain terms that he was not to eat the banana pudding unless we served it to him. One day my wife and I walked into the kitchen, and there stood Christopher with the refrigerator door standing wide open. “Chris,” I yelled, “are you eating that banana pudding?” He looked out from behind the door and wagged his head to say that he was not eating it. But, there was a problem! He had a vanilla wafer stuck to the side of his face and his hands were covered with pudding. We couldn’t be angry, so we just burst out in laughter.

Let me tell you something, when it comes to sin you have it hanging on your face and clinging to your hands. You can wag your head to say it isn’t so, but we all know I am right. We don’t deserve Christmas. We don’t merit Christmas. My dear people, we only have Christmas because of God’s amazing grace!

What is "grace?"

G     God's
R     Redemption
A    At
C    Christ's
E     Expense

The Wise Men brought Him gold, but it was nothing compared to the riches given to those of us who have come to believe upon Him. He became poor that we might become rich. He left streets of gold for the path to a cattle stall. He left the company of the Heavenly Father and sparkling angels for the company of sinful man. He left the banquet table of glory for a feeding trough. He left the robes of deity for swaddling clothes. Yet, He gives those who believe in Him a promised home just off the avenue by the streets of gold. He takes our rags of sin and gives us a robe or righteousness - His righteousness. He takes us from the company of dying companions and places us in the realm of eternal saints. No wonder the song writer penned, "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

We didn't invent Christmas, but we have it! It is the awesome gift of an awesome God. He knew what we needed. Only those who love us know what we want most and need most. God knew that what we needed most was a Savior. He knew that because He loved us - and someone who really loves you knows what you need and is willing to provide it!

Somewhere I read a statement, the exact nature of it I can’t recall, but it goes something like this:

"If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;

If our greatest need was inventions, God would have sent us a scientist;

If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an banker;

If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;

He knew we needed forgiveness of sin, so He sent His only Son to be our Savior!"

So, first we need to know that Grace began Christmas. Without the grace of Christ, Christmas never would have happened.

II. Christmas Is Bright Because Of Grace

"We have seen His glory..."

Christmas is a time of bright, effervescent glows. From brightly wrapped packages, to sequin glistening sweaters and dresses, to twinkling lights on Christmas trees, Christmas is a time of beauty and brightness. And, so it should be. For that first Christmas set the stage for the beauty of every Christmas that follows.

The night when Christ was born, a star glistened in the sky over Bethlehem. When gifts were brought to Jesus, they included the sparkling glitter of gold and the sweet smell of frankincense. The grace of God presented a dazzling night of beauty and light. In fact, when I think about the lights on a Christmas tree, I cannot help but think of Jesus - and, of the grace of God! Think with me about some of the lights people place on their Christmas trees, and let each one speak to you this year and every year about the wonder of God’s gift – Jesus!

A. The Blue Lights Of Christmas.

The blue lights speak of the sadness and sorrow of sin. The world lay in sin the night Jesus was born. Men and women lived in the blue haze of iniquity and hope was far from them - for there was none righteous, no not one! Elvis used to sing, "I'll have a blue Christmas without you." If you apply that to Jesus, you can be sure that it will be a blue Christmas if you spend it without the Savior!

B. The Red Lights Of Christmas.

The red lights on the tree speak of the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. He came into the world to save sinners. He came to face a cross at Golgotha. He came to shed His blood - perfect blood for sinners like us. How can we see a red decoration on Christmas trees without thinking of the blood shed for our sins.

C. The White Lights Of Christmas.

The white lights speak of His purity and the purity of all those who come to Him. When the deep blues representing our sin are touched by the brilliant red symbolizing His blood, the result is a purity so white that it makes Christmas dazzle.

D. The Green Lights Of Christmas.

The green lights speak of life - eternal life. The evergreen does not turn brown in the winter. Let the other trees lose their color, but the evergreen remains green. It is a symbol of life in the midst of death. The green lights symbolize the life we have once we are in Christ. The green lights symbolize our service. Green is the color of "GO”. Those who know Him also GO for Him!

E. The Yellow Lights Of Christmas.

The yellow lights speak of warning. The offer of grace is limited in time. One must come to Him before it is too late. The shepherds did not waste time but hurried to see what had come to pass. Yellow lights should remind us of our temporal abode on this earth and the limited time we have to receive Christ and serve Christ.

III. Christmas Blesses Us Because Of Grace

"One blessing after another!"

Christmas is about being blessed. We are blessed by good friends, good food, good cheer and good gifts. These are but symbols of what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about being blessed with one blessing after another because of the grace of God. The unmerited love of God holds out blessings to us. After all, having given us His Son is there any good gift that He would withhold from us?

But one thing is important to remember, we have to receive that which He offers. We actually have a choice. Listen to what the two choices are.

A. We Can Choose The Law.

The Law came through Moses. The Law never saved anyone. The Law is not bad, but the Law cannot bless you with life and grace. Only a living Savior can offer you the twin gifts of life and grace. The Law tells us what we are to do and what we are not to do. Everyone one of us has failed to keep the Law, in what awaits those who break God’s Law is God’s judgment. If all you have is your attempt to justify yourself before God by your good works, you are doomed.

Imagine a river that is fifty feet across and filled with water that is swirling and rushing toward a Niagara type waterfall just a few yards downstream. We are all standing on one side of this great river. The side on which we are standing on is called death, and soon we are told that the waters will rise up on our side and kill everyone of us. We can see the other side and a large sign reads, “Life.” All who arrive there will live! We simply must get to the other side. One man steps back and says I think I can make it over. He runs as fast as he can, leaps into the air and, of course, he falls into the water and is washed away toward the giant waterfall. He sought to get across the river through his own effort but failed. Another person comes along and says, “I can do better than that.” This one runs quickly, leaps into the air makes it much further than the first man, but he too falls into the swirling water and is carried away. Sure, one man may do better than another, but no one can make it to the other side. But, then, someone comes along and tells the large crowd waiting on river bank of death that there is a bridge just up the way. This bridge was provided but the one who owns all the land and the river. He built it out of love and kindness. It costs nothing to cross it. You simply have to believe that the bridge will hold you till you cross over.

That illustration is a poor, but I hope useful, attempt to describe the grace of God. All mankind is on the river bank of death. We can’t get to the other side – the life side – on our own. Some of us may be able to jump further and swim better that others, but no one can make it to the other side alone. God has provided a bridge. That bridge is Christ. He came to provide us a way to life everlasting. Don’t stay on the riverbank of death – the riverbank of the Law! Come to Jesus, who is the bridge to life and grace.

B. We Can Choose Grace.

God offers us grace, but you have to choose it. Jesus came into this world to redeem sinners like us. Yes, sneaky sinners like us. He came redeem us even though we have the vanilla wafers of sin stuck to our faces and our hands covered with iniquity. He lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, and rose bodily from the grave to make this grace and forgiveness available. You can choose grace!

When we receive the grace of God, the love of God, the Son of God, we also receive ... what?

C. We Can Have Life

Yes, life is available when we accept the grace of God. Christmas cannot be stolen from us if we keep our attention on the purpose of Christmas - the purpose was the display of love for sinners like us - the display of "Amazing Grace."

Listen to the a poem entitled, “That Night,” whose author is unknown:

“That night when in the Judean skies,

The mystic star dispensed it's light,

A blind man moved in his sleep

And dreamed that he had sight.

That night when shepherds heard

The song of hosts angelic choiring near,

A deaf man stirred in slumber's spell

And dreamed that he could hear.

That night when o'er the new-born babe

The tender Mary rose to lean,

A loathsome leper smiled in sleep,

And dreamed that he was clean.

That night when in the manger lay

The Sanctified who came to save,

A man moved in the sleep of death,

And dreamed there was no grave.”

But it is not a dream! It is reality. It is not some pipe dream, some figment of man's imagination - rather, God's grace saves Christmas and returns it to what it was meant to be. That is what He came to do. He came to die that we might live.

Conclusion

It was the week before Christmas and parking spaces were hard to come by. There were long lines, crowded stores, rude people, and grossly inflated prices. In one long checkout line, one man was heard to say, "They should kill the guy who started Christmas." One wise and godly woman in the line said, "They did - they hung Him on a cross." Therein lies the REAL Christmas story. We did kill Him. He came to die. He rose and He makes Christmas make sense when we simply come in child-like faith to trust Him.

Dr. J. A. McDougall tells about a young woman who was dying from tuberculosis: "Every day her condition grew worse, yet she clung to life. Toward the end of February, she became nauseous. I was stumped. A senior medical consultant asked me if she could be pregnant. To my astonishment it was true. A chest x-ray showed the growth of the TB cavity had stopped. The reason? Her diaphragm was pushing up against her diseased lung to make room for the child she bore. The child saved her." [Christian Reader, Sep/Oct 1993. Page 43.]

That is what Jesus came to do. He can remove the disease of sin. Will you come to Him today? He provides that grace that saves Christmas, and the grace that can save you!