So the Brother Don preached a message on Christmas earlier today (Sunday 19th December 2021). Below are the sermon notes along with a couple of videos. The audio can be played and is at the end of this post:
So this morning I am tasked with sharing a message on ‘not missing Jesus this Christmas’ and our key scripture is Luke 19:41-44.
Well for us here I suspect that Christmas is instantly seen as being in partnership with the birth of Jesus. To the Christian Christ-mass should be as closely associated as:
- Night following day;
- Salt and Pepper;
- Bacon and eggs;
- Laurel & Hardy;
- Torville and Dean???
- Liverpool FC and success
You get the picture…
Well our key scripture tells of a time when what should have been an obvious partnership/event, due to the foretelling of such a time, was completely missed; as much as the Christmas of this day and age, almost completely misses the whole reason for the season.
So the context to the scripture is this, Jesus was making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds were expectant, many believing that Jesus was coming to install His new kingdom here on earth in Jerusalem and would overthrow the Roman occupiers.
We are told that as Jesus rode along, people were spreading their coats on the road [as an act of homage before a king] and that as soon as He was approaching [Jerusalem], near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the entire multitude of the disciples [all those who were or claimed to be His followers] began praising God [adoring Him enthusiastically and] joyfully with loud voices for all the miracles and works of power that they had seen, shouting “Blessed (celebrated, praised) is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory (majesty, splendor) in the highest [heaven]!” (Luke 19:36-38). In fact, in verse 39 to 40, we see the Pharisees from the crowd saying to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples [for shouting these Messianic praises].” And Jesus’ famously stating that if the people kept silent, the stones would cry out in praise!
And it is against this backdrop that we now get to our main scriptural reference in Luke 19:41 to 44:
41 But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”Luke 19:41 to 44
“because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
Jesus was referring to His whole ministry, not just His entry here into Jerusalem. Now the disaster that Jesus was referring to was the fall and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the Roman onslaught of the people in AD70.
“because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
There is an ominous/worrying warning in that statement, as it shows that it is totally possible, even with Jesus in the midst (He had a three year ministry healing, teaching and fulfilling biblical prophecies) to not recognize or miss the timing of His visitation.
In this scenario, had they truly followed the scriptures, then they would have known that Jesus was to have come as the suffering servant, the sacrificial Lamb of God. It is because they did not recognise the true path that the Messiah was to take – and their hearts wanted a powerful overthrow of the Roman occupiers – that they quickly went from the jubilant welcome to shouting out “Crucify Him” to Pontius Pilate. How could they have missed the picture so badly? Had they not read the Prophet Isaiah (53), did they not know that He would be despised, rejected and acquainted with grief? More of this later…
1. What does Christmas looks like in our society today?
From what I have seen from the TV and advertisements, there seems to be a lot of:
- Artificial Intelligence;
- Food (lots of it!);
- Presents (perfume & cologne, diamond bracelets, latest gadgets etc.…)
One website described it like this: “Halloween’s over, Bonfire Night is done and December is here, so it’s now officially time to think about Christmas.”
Lumping Christmas together as just another occasion, just another event that we do.
But the one thing I have not seen, is any Jesus…
Let’s have a quick look at this video.
Unfortunately this looks quite close to what Christmas has become for a lot of society.
2. So where do some from the Christmas traditions come from?
Let’s have a look at some of the things that we associate with Christmas and where they come from.Santa Claus aka Father Christmas
Well, the picture shows the typical representation of Santa Claus. Old man, white whiskers dressed in fur trimmed coat and hood, driving his team of reindeer through the skies.
The original Santa Claus was St. Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas of Myra (traditionally 15 March 270AD – 6 December 343AD [73yrs old]), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent, from the maritime city of Myra in Asia Minor (Greek: Μύρα; modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire.
Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.
His reputation evolved among the pious (religious), as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus (“Saint Nick”) through Sinterklaas.
Apparently, he was one of the most overworked saints ever.
One story about him is that because he was a shy man, he liked to give money anonymously to the poor and needy. So one day, he climbed the roof of a house and dropped a purse of money down the chimney of a family of needy girls. The purse landed in the stockings which the girls had hung up by the fire to dry.
In memory of him it became customary to give gifts on the eve of St. Nicholas day, 6th December. Apparently in some countries this tradition continued. In others it was transferred to 25th December.
Well there is only one Father of Christmas and He is our Lord God almighty, but St. Nicholas sure showed the heart and call of the work of Jesus
The Christmas Tree
What is it for???
Who started this practice?
The Christmas tree is reported as going back to the eighth century, to a missionary from England called St Boniface
St Boniface went to Germany with an aim of converting the pagans to Christianity. There, one December, he encountered a group of people standing beneath an oak tree ready to sacrifice a child to please god (the small ‘g’). St Boniface immediately rescued the child and chopped the oak tree down. At its foot was a small fir tree. He cut down the small fir tree and gave it to the people as a symbol of life. He called it the tree of the ‘Christ-child’.
The tree story continues when it is claimed that Martin Luther the Protestant reformer, cut a fir tree and took it home in the December of 1540. The evergreen fir tree reportedly reminded him, that life continued through the winter, when most of nature appeared to have died.
It is told that he attached a number of small candles to illuminate the tree to express that Christ was welcome in his home.
It was in the middle of the nineteenth century that the Christmas tree was introduced into England by Queen Victoria’s husband, the German born Prince Albert. Its popularity increased from then on as part of the celebration of Christmas.
We are still looking here at Christmas traditions.
The date of Christ’s birth – Putting the record straight
The bible tells us that while shepherds were watching their flocks by night, Jesus was born (Luke 2:8).
The reason for these shepherds to be out in the field with their flock by night: Lambing season. Lambs are usually born in spring, traditionally (mid-March – April), and during that season, the sheep cannot be kept in a pen at night because it would be too crowded for birth.
So this puts Jesus’ birth around spring and not December. The shepherds and the sheep would have frozen in the Palestinian winter!
The first evidence for the celebration of Jesus Christs’ birth on the 25th December is found in a Roman document dated AD336. The date was chosen as a Christian alternative to a Roman festival celebrating the ‘unconquerable Sun’, which began to increase its sunlight on 25 December.
When an early Pope sent Saint Augustine to convert the barbaric Anglo-Saxon tribes in Northern Europe, he urged his missionary to fit Christian celebrations around local traditions. Here too, Augustine found midwinter festivities lasting twelve days. The word Yuletide is derived from the name of an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ god, and again the celebrations concerned the rebirth of the sun (sun worship). But Augustine told them of the true God who became man. So as in Rome, instead of worshipping the ‘sun’, Christians began to use the festival to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ and to worship the unconquerable son of God – Jesus.
I personally think that the fact that we have a day and season to celebrate the birth of our saviour, the Christ (Messiah), Immanuel – God with us, is such a joy for us all to behold and one we ought to take hold of wholeheartedly; even if it’s not on the exact date of His birth. So we have covered some of where the traditions have come from, now let’s go back to our main scriptural reference…
3. What should the people of Jerusalem have expected?
Dr Pam spoke very well last week about the three strands of hope that the Jewish people had within scriptural prophecy:
- Prophecies that God would return and restore his people;
- There would be the arrival of a king, the Messiah, from the bloodline of King David, he would be known as ‘God’s arm’.
- It was assumed by the Jews that He would be a warrior king, raising up an army and defeating Israel’s enemies.
- The Messiah would suffer on behalf of His people and enable the nations’ sins to be forgiven.
Now I’m not going to go over what Dr Pam said as you can listen to that and should listen to it on our YouTube channel, but we needed to be reminded of some points.
Unfortunately for the Jews, they missed the coming of the Messiah. They missed Jesus’ fulfilment of all the prophecies told of Him. They missed Jesus, because of their wrong expectations of what the Messiah would be like. He was of love and concerned about them/us having an internal renewal, not an external one. He was not interested in overthrowing an external human enemy, but our real adversary who resides within the spirit realm, Satan. Internal transformation was the call of Jesus, which leads onto Eternal life. Remember what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:1-21; verse 3 says:
3Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.John 3:3
Internal transformation… from the inside out… the transition which comes from the Holy Spirit coming and living within us and helping to transform our old nature to newness in Him. Seeing the Fruit of the Spirit being developed within us: love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-26). The is the kingdom of God.
The Jewish leaders were more concerned with dogmatic observance to the law, of which much was based upon the ordinances, orders, rules of men that they had added. They completely missed the messiah. Let us do all that we can to ensure that those around do not do the same this Christmas. Let’s pray for opportunities to tell of the reason for this season. Which leads to my final point
4. Jesus the centre of Christ-Mass
The Messiah was expressly described by the prophet Isaiah in Psalm 53:
1Who has believed our message?Isaiah 53
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.[b]
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.[c]
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
This is who we are remembering at Christmas, this is our God!!!
Immanuel – God with us! (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23)
There is a song that catches it for me…
“You came from Heaven to Earth to Show the way,
From the earth to the Cross our death to pay,
From the cross to the the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord we lift your name on high”
Hallelujah! This is what we are celebrating.
5. In summary
Today’s message is entitled ‘Don’t miss Jesus this Christmas’… As we know, there are billions of people on this planet earth who do so, not just at Christmas, but everyday.
My brothers and sisters, we need to get on our knees and be praying for those who we love that don’t know the Lord, our streets where we live, our town, our region, our nation, the nations.
Let it not be said of them “You did not recognize the time of your visitation”
So when you see that adverts, when you hear all about the plans that people have made to have a big food feast, when you hear everything, but Jesus… Ask the Holy Spirit to give you an opportunity to speak of why we have this season called Christ-Mass
So finally, this Christmas ‘Lets make Jesus too big to ignore’.
Merry Christ-Mass and a God blessed 2022.
God bless you,