A Merry Little Christmas

Bible Book: 1 John  5 : 18-21
Subject: Birth of Jesus; Christmas; Faith; Joy at Christmas; Family
Introduction

1 John 5:18-21 reads, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

John closes out his first epistle reminding us that those were are born of God are cleansed of sin and reminds us that Satan cannot touch them. He points out that the Son of God is come – that is, Jesus was born into this world and it is He who has given the believer the ability to believe upon Him and the strength to remain in Him.

Christmas is the time when we celebrate His birth and it is a good time for us to remember our own birth into God’s family - the new birth that occured when we turned to Him as Lord and Savior. A great price was paid for our salvation, and through the new birth we have been brought into the family of God. All who are saved can experience a merry little Christmas!

I read once about a little child saying his prayers one Christmas eve when he suddenly looked up, and with a gurgle of laughter exclaimed, “I almost wished God a Merry Christmas!” His mother said, “I'm sure He would have smiled.”

Indeed, God meant for the arrival of His Son to bring joy to the world. After all, that is what the angels sang. For Christmas to bring the joy and merriment God intended, we need to know what Christmas is all about. Let's consider four elements of Christmas that are important to God and are to be considered important to us.

I. Christmas is about Family

In is interesting that the first Christmas centered around a family. There was Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. The Savior came into this world much the same way you and I came into it. O, I know there were plenty of differences. Mary was a virgin when Christ was born and there were no angels singing when you and I came upon the earthly scene, at least none that anyone could hear. And Jesus was a unique, one-of-a-kind child. Yet, He was conceived by the Father, carried in His mother's womb for nine months, and delivered the old-fashioned way.

Have you ever considered that God could have sent His Son into the world as a three year old child, as a teenager or even as an adult? Jesus could have just shown up one day on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to be baptized of John at age thirty. But God chose a plan that brought His Son into the world as a baby and one that placed him in a loving family.

A. The Worth of the Unborn Child

I know Christmas is not a time for centering out thoughts on the social and moral aspects of life in America, but it is worth nothing that God considered conception, gestation and natural birth as significant. There are great lessons here for us. Here we see the worth of an unborn child. Here we see the importance God places on moms, dads and children.

In this story we see the value that God placed on parents nurturing, loving and guiding little ones. With attacks on the unborn and marriage, we need to stop this Christmas and remember that Jesus came into this world in a family. This reminds us that God planned the life of humans to be about family life, and this is something critically important to the well being of everyone, especially children.

B. The World God Entered

Jesus entered a world full of sin. John reminds us in our passage today of the evil that is in the world, and the fact that those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior escape their sinful past, present and future.

Mostly we see in the birth of Jesus that our Lord experienced all the phases of life, just as each of us must. We cannot say that Christ doesn't understand us. Indeed, He was an infant, a child, a teenager, a young man and an adult. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Christmas speaks to us of God's desire to identify with us in every aspect of life. Jesus came into the real world and promised to abide with us in the real world where we are each day. Christmas reminds us that we are not alone.

My wife and I buried both of our mothers this year. I was picking up some Christmas cards the other day and I remarked to my wife, “I don’t like to look at the section that reads, ‘Christmas Cards For Mother.’” She almost teared up when I spoke those words. But even a motherless child is not alone in this world, not if he or she has Jesus – the one who is closer than a brother.

C. The Wonder of Family

It is so fitting that Christmas is viewed as a time for family, for that is how the first Christmas started on that starry night long ago. No wonder the songwriter penned the words, "I'll be home for Christmas." Another wrote, "There's no place like home for the holidays." Yes, Christmas is a time for family.

In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground. They were so thrilled that they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." He totally missed the big news - man had flown! Or did he actually miss the big news? What he noticed was that the boys would be home with the family for Christmas.

Some things are more important than our work, achievements and success in life, and family is certainly one of those more important things. In fact, because of the Wright Brothers, thousands of people will be able to fly home to see their family members during the holidays. One of the most important uses for planes is that of getting home for Christmas!

The birth of Christ involves many great lessons, but one of them is that God puts a priority on families. He is concerned for and cares about families. He wants every unborn child to have the opportunity at life! We should not be surprised that after all these centuries, family is still a central focus at the time when we are celebrating the birth of the Son of God.

II. Christmas is about Friends

Mary and Joseph had their new baby, and they had the promise of God in their hearts, but it still must have been a lonely night long ago when they laid that Baby in the manger far from their home in Nazareth. Surely they must have wanted their nearest friends to share the event with them. Since so many people were travelling to Bethlehem to register for taxation, it is likely that some friends may have actually been there. The Bible simply does not tell us. But God made sure they had some friends.

A. The Shepherd Friends

Angels appeared in the heavens overlooking the Bethlehem fields and began to share the message of the wonderful birth of the Savior with humble shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. When they heard the news, they rushed to see this thinking of that which had come to pass. Suddenly, Mary and Joseph had a host of new friends with whom to share the first Christmas.

It is fitting isn't it, that Christmas is a time to express our kindness to old friends we have known for years, and new friends we have recently made? In fact, Christmas is often the time when we are friendlier to strangers than ever before. Mary and Joseph did not personally know the shepherds who came that night, but I would suggest that they were thrilled to have some company on that lonely, cold night long ago.

B. The Savior Friend

Though the full theological thought of this tiny Baby was not formed in them that night, Mary and Joseph had the Savior in their presence. Christmas is about “God with us.” The presence of Christ seems even more real to Christians on Christmas Day. Somehow the very thought that God loved us enough that He gave His only Son become even more experiential around Christmas time. He was called, “The friend of sinners,” and certainly that is why He came. He came for people like us – people who needed a Savior!

Christmas is a time for friends. One of the evidences of this is the abundance of Christmas cards that are mailed from one friend to another. "The original Christmas card is thought to have been sent by a British army officer named Dobson in 1844. The first commercially produced Christmas cards were sold in England by Sir Henry Cole and J.C. Horsley in 1846. Those first cards outraged Christians because they portrayed a group of people drinking. It was at least 25 years before Christmas cards were widely used. Since then, cards have become a major industry. Each year Americans alone spend nearly one billion dollars on Christmas cards, not counting postage." [The Miracle of Christmas by John MacArthur. Zondervan, 1989, 1993.]

God sent more than a Christmas card, He sent His only Son! He sent more than a greeting, He sent God in the flesh. The songwriter penned:

"There’s not a Friend like the lowly Jesus:

No, not one! No, not one!

None else could heal all our souls’ diseases:

No, not one! No, not one!

Jesus knows all about our struggles;

He will guide ‘til the day is done.

There’s not a Friend like the lowly Jesus:

No, not one! No, not one!

Was e’er a gift like the Savior given?

No, not one! no, not one!

Will He refuse us the bliss of heaven?
No, not one! no, not one!

Jesus knows all about our struggles;

He will guide ’til the day is done:

There’s not a Friend like the lowly Jesus:

No, not one! no, not one!" (Johnson Oatman Jr.)

III. Christmas is about Finances

That first Christmas involved an order for everyone to be registered so they could pay a proper tax to the Roman government. How would you like to have all the money paid in sales taxes in our county collected during the month of December alone? That would be a tidy sum. It would not be easy, since Christmas is a time of great financial cost for most families.

A. The Magi Gifts

It was like that around the first Christmas as well. The Wise Men came bearing gifts. They brought a couple items which were simple and one which was precious. Their gifts spoke of who Jesus really is.

Gold - Gold is the gift for a King.

Frankincense - Frankincense is the gift for a Priest.

Myrrh - Myrrh is the gift for a Sufferer.

B. The Master’s Gift

Jesus is the King of Glory, who came to be our High Priest, and He came to suffer in our place. In fact, the greatest gift that first Christmas was not what people brought to Jesus, but what Jesus brought to us. He was in fact the gift wrapped in strips of cloth. He was God's unspeakable gift.

Many gifts will be shared this Christmas. Some of them costing thousands of dollars, others mere pennies, almost all of them from the heart. But all of them combined the world over cannot compare to the most costly gift of all - the gift which God gave to us - His one and only Son!

It is important for us to remember the costliness of the gift God gave when He gave His only Son for our salvation. We should remember this by recommitting our lives to Him and His cause. This would certainly involve our finances. Each of us should look at our finances and be sure that God is first in the use of our money. His tithe and our offerings ought to reveal our total commitment to Him who gave Himself for us! Our gifts to missions and missionaries who that spread the message of God's dear Son should be a priority in our lives!

IV. Christmas is about Faith

A. The Delight in Believing

Mostly, Christmas is a time of Faith. It is a time of believing. Mary heard the angel tell her that she would have a child by the Holy Spirit and she had faith - she believed. Joseph was told by an angel that he should not fear to take Mary as his wife, because the child she carried was from the Lord. Joseph had faith - he believed. The Shepherds heard the angels and believed. The Wise Men saw the star and believed. Think of all the joy that was produced by faith. They believed, they saw, they experienced.

B. The Depresesion in not Believing

Christmas joy is the result of faith in what God has said and done. Without true faith the result is depression.

Herod did not believe, and what sadness he experienced. He was frightened by the news of a King being born in Bethlehem. He missed the joy of that moment.

The Pharisees, teachers of the Law and Sadducees did not believe. When we read the stories about them in the New Testament we note that they are filled with anger, hatred and judgment. They missed all the joy that Jesus came to bring to their hearts.

For many people Christmas means a time to create a false joy. Some party hard in an attempt to discover the joy of Christmas. Drugs and alcohol are used freely, but they bring no lasting joy. Christmas bring them no joy because they miss the purpose of the season. They miss the joy because they do not believe!

Conclusion

Do you believe? Christmas joy comes from faith in what God has said and done! Joy and peace are yours in direct proportion to your faith - to your depth of faith in God’s love shown in the person of Jesus!

Interesting, isn't it? Christmas is about family, friends, finances and faith. But on that first Christmas long ago, there was one person in the story who was far from home. It was the baby in the manger. You see, when a baby is born into this world, we think of him as being at home. This is the world. This is the place for a little baby. Baby Jesus was not of this world. In fact, He left home to come here. He became one of us so we could become one with Him. The Son of God became a Son of Man that the sons of men might become the Sons of God. He entered our world on earth so that we might have a chance to enter His world in heaven. No wonder the songwriter wrote, "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

John Duckworth remembers one snowy night when he was a boy growing up in rural Washington state. A handful of church folks had gathered to go Christmas caroling. Instead of walking around the neighborhood, they all climbed onto a flatbed trailer, and a tractor pulled them from farmhouse to farmhouse.

Everything was fine until after singing at one place, they circled around the house to leave. At the back of the house, lying across the moonlit snow was a downed power line. John was old enough to know that it could be deadly. The men talked about it and decided that the insulation of the trailer tires would keep anyone from being shocked. So they proceeded to drive across the power line.

John, however, thought they would all be killed if they did that. Just then the group started to sing "Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave..." But John was too scared to even listen to the words, much less sing them. He pulled on his mother's coat and cried, "We've got to get out of here." His mother explained to him why it was all right, but as he stared down at that power line, he just knew they were all going to die.

No one was electrocuted that night. The men were right, and so was the carol: "God rest ye merry, gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay, Remember Christ our Savior Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray;

O tidings of comfort and joy." [Duckworth story from "Power for Living," Dec 10, 1995. Page 8.]

Maybe entering the Christmas season has you a little sad this year. Perhaps a loved one is not here to celebrate it with you. Look, my brother and sister, the arrival of Jesus proves that you are not alone.

Maybe you have never trusted Christ to be your PERSONAL Lord and Savior. Join the shepherds and come bow at His feet. He came for people like you and me. He will forgive your sins and give you joy unspeakable and full of glory!