Advent 2019: Rediscovering Christmas: Second Sunday: The spirit of Christmas-12/8/19

The SPIRIT of Christmas

Matthew 1:18-23

 Introduction: PP: Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?

  • Have you ever heard that from your parents, relatives or friends?
  • Have you ever asked someone that?

It’s a natural question at Christmas because we’ve been indoctrinated, I believe by generally well-meaning people, to think that Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts.

But listen… do you know anyone who answered that question honestly? If they did they would say:

  • Are you kidding? Everything I wanted? No, absolutely not.

And listen, somewhere deep down inside we’re hurt, there’s a resentment, an unsettledness because we didn’t get everything we wanted…

  • There’s always something missing.

And as fun and exciting as Christmas can be, when Christmas is over, and all the gifts have been unwrapped and played with…

  • we’re left with an unsatisfied desire for something else.

That’s the downside when the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is giving and receiving of gifts.

From a spiritual perspective, it’s a feeling that’s been around for centuries.

  • an unsatisfied desire for something else.

Augustine, a 4th century theologian called it

  • Humanity’s innate desire for the infinite…

 

In the 1600’s another theologian, Blaise Pascal described it this way: We try in vain to fill the void with everything around us, seeking in things that are not there the help we cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God Himself. (WordPress)

It’s from these two theologians that we get the phrase PP: There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every person, that can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.

If that’s true, and I believe it is, then why do we still try to fill our heart with things? And that’s particularly true at Christmas.

At least the Hallmark Channel gets a bit closer to the true Spirit of Christmas.

  • PP: The Hallmark channel is in full Christmas mode. And if you watch often as we have been doing… (shake head)
  • then you’ll find that in those movies they’re showing us that the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is not presents/gifts, but relationship.

So, if you want to find the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ look on the Hallmark channel, right? Well, perhaps not.

  • While I do believe that the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is relationship, it’s not the relationship Hallmark promotes.
  • It’s the one Augustine and Pascal talked about… A relationship with Jesus!

Sadly, most of the world around us don’t have a relationship with Jesus, and it greatly affects how they see Christmas.

  1. When the Spirit of Christmas is not Jesus

PP: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God…”(Psalm 14:1a)

King Herod was such a fool. You remember the story in Matthew 2.

  • Herod is King and 2 yrs after Jesus’ birth, Wise Men came to Jerusalem asking where was He who was born the King of the Jews.
  • Herod did not have a relationship with God and when he heard this he became anxious that he might lose his throne and in his anxious state he made a very bad decision.

When it comes to Jesus, Herod is no different than us. When God is not our focus, when God is not the One for whom we live, when God is not the One in whom we depend,

  • We lose hope and faith. We enter into a self sufficient state of living where anxiety rules.

And we see it during the Christmas season, don’t we? When the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is not Jesus:

  • We become anxious: PP: Shopping becomes almost a fight to the death.
  • We start worrying whether we got the right gifts for people or if we forgot someone.
  • We have way too much to do and far to little time to do it.

Anxiety rules the Christmas season when the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is not Jesus. And listen, if we hold that the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is giving and receiving gifts, hope, joy, peace and love… but w/o Jesus, then Christmas is just not worth it.

  • Because when the Christmas season is over, so is the ‘Spirit of Christmas.’

Let me give you a real example:

ILL: PP: Pastor Stuart Briscoe retold a story told to him by an old German man who fought with the German forces in World War I.

  • In those days, battles were not high tech but hand-to-hand trench warfare. Soldiers lived, fought, and died in trenches full of mud and blood and pests.
  • In the trenches dug in the fields of France, enemies could actually hear each other talking. The enemy was just a few yards away.

The old soldier told about how on one cold, moonlit Christmas Eve, he huddled in the bottom of the trench.

  • Because of the annual Christmas truce, the fighting had stopped. Suddenly, from the British trenches, a loud, sweet tenor voice began to sing “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” and the sound floated up into the clear, moonlit air.

Then he said something surprising from the German trenches, a rich baritone voice tuned in, singing the same song in his native language.

For a few moments, everybody in both trenches concentrated on the sound of these two invisible singers and the beautiful music and the harmony.

The British soldier and the German soldier sang praise to the Lord who was their shepherd. The singing stopped, and the sound slowly died away.

  • We huddled in the bottom of our trenches and tried to keep warm until Christmas Day dawned,” he said.
  • “Early on Christmas morning, some of the British soldiers climbed out of their trenches into the no man’s land, carrying a soccer ball.” Then the old man said, “Some of the German soldiers climbed out, and England played Germany at soccer in no man’s land on Christmas Day in the middle of the battlefield in France in the First World War.”
  • Then he said, “The next morning, the carnage began again, with machine guns and bayonet fighting. Everything was back to normal.” Citation: Briscoe, “Christmas 365 Days a Year,” Preaching Today

PP: There is even a statue commemorating the event.

But.. the truce didn’t last.

Why did the hope, joy, peace and love end when Christmas Day ended? Why didn’t the ‘warm fuzzies’ both sides were feeling last?

  • Because them them, Jesus wasn’t the ‘Spirit of Christmas.’

PP: And folks, that’s why the Psalmist says

  • when you don’t believe in God, in Jesus,
  • when He’s not your reason for living and the ‘Spirit of Christmas’…
  • you’re a fool and will do foolish things.

BTW, what was the truly foolish thing King Herod did 2 years after Jesus was born? Do you remember?

  • He had all the male children 2ys old and younger who lived in the Bethlehem area… killed.

PP: Next Slide

Perhaps we’ve never done anything like that, but, we’ve all done foolish things, because we failed to recognize that the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is Jesus.

 

  1. When the Spirit of Christmas is Jesus

PP: (2 slides) Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:18–23)

ILL: Pastor Jeff Strite tells the following story: PP: A Sunday School put on an impromptu Christmas pageant.

  • The teachers read the story and provided some props; then they stood back and let the kids act it out on their own.
  • One girl grabbed the doll and said, “I’ll be Mary.” A boy shouted, “I’ll be Joseph,” Some of them put on bathrobes and said, “We’ll be the shepherds” Everyone was either a lamb, or an angel… or something.
  • But one little girl had no part, so she said, “I’ll be the doctor who delivers the baby Jesus.” So they all took their places.
  • Mary had a pillow under her shirt as Joseph led her before the mean innkeeper who sent them away. And when the time came the “doctor” took the doll from Mary’s pillow and held it up. Joseph, wanting to act like a new papa said, “What is it, doc?”
  • The little doctor smiled and said “Why it’s …God.”

That little girl understood that the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is God with us… it’s Jesus!

You see, the whole of the Christmas story comes down to a prophesy from Isaiah:

PP: Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

In the Gospels we learn that Immanuel means God with us.

Now I could talk about all of Matthew 1:18-23, but I want to zoom in on verse 23 and Isaiah’s prophesy.

The essence, the foundation of the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is this wonderful, miraculous and gracious truth: God with us!

  • Jesus came from heaven. He lived and died for us on the cross. Then the Father raised Him from the dead.
  • So that in the person of the Holy Spirit, Jesus might dwell, take up residence, in our lives.

That’s Immanuel: God with us.  And that’s the ‘Spirit of Christmas.’

And listen if Immanuel: God with us, isn’t great enough, the Apostle Paul tells us a bit more information about what it means:

 PP: To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

  • Not only is Immanuel: God with us,
  • He is Jesus, God in us!

Christian, Immanuel: God with us is not Jesus coming to just pat us on the back and saying have a good life…

The ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is that God, through Jesus, has come to stay, He’s come to dwell with us and to take up permanent residence in our lives.

PP: Next Slide

 ILL: The Methodist pastor and theologian John Wesley on his death bed understood the ‘Spirit of Christmas’.  His last words were:

  • The best of all is this: God is with us!

Mary, after the angel told her all that was going to happen, that God Himself would dwell in her womb, even though she didn’t understand how it was going to happen she responded with

  • Behold, the handmaiden (or servant) of the Lord.

Her response got me thinking… Perhaps we can start each day by saying:

  • Behold, the servant of the Lord. Your will be done in my life today according to your word.
  • Fill me with your Holy Spirit.
  • More than anything else, I want Jesus to show up in my life.
  • I want to be available to you… all day, everyday! (adapted from Mark Hines)

Do you know what will start to happen? You’ll  begin to rediscover the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ as you invite Jesus, who is the ‘Spirit of Christmas’, to live in and work through… you.

Conclusion: Folks, our culture has lost the ‘Spirit of Christmas.’

  • It’s instead created an ‘empty’ Christmas when it removed Jesus from Christmas.
  • And with that, they’ve removed the hope, joy, peace and love that lasts beyond the Christmas season.
  • And in its place has give us increased anxiety during the Christmas season.

Rediscovering that Jesus is the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ will change all of that. When you see that Jesus, Immanuel: God with us means:

  • God cares for you.
  • God understands you.
  • God loves you.
  • God is with you.
  • God forgives you.
  • God accepts you.
  • God adopts you into His forever family.
  • God dwells, lives in you.

AND.. and this is a HUGE AND,

  • God stays with you. Always and forever!