If you have been attending the Rock for a while, you know that Pastor Miles’ mother, Margaret McPherson, has been battling cancer for quite a while, but now she has gone to be with the Lord on December 19. For this reason, Pastor Miles was not with us for our services this weekend as he spends time grieving with his family. Please join with us in praying for their comfort and peace.
A Confusing Christmas Endures
If you think about it, the Christmas holiday is a little odd, a lot of myth and truth wrapped up together. Confusion can easily reign in this historically pagan celebration of the winter solstice, mixed over time with tradition, legend, biblical truth, elves, flying reindeer, lights, wreaths, and presents. Even the date of December 25th is arbitrary because we don’t actually know what day Jesus was born!
In the midst of all the confusion, we must recognize the distractions of the enemy. He’s willing to give us a little celebration to acknowledge the baby Jesus. After all, the baby Jesus isn’t doing much - He’s just a baby. But just in case we might focus too much on the coming of the Son of God, the enemy also wants to distract us as much as possible. How much shopping do you have left to do? What are you making for Christmas dinner? Line up for Black Friday! What family drama will you cause or endure over the holiday? What kind of cookies should you bake? How will you afford Christmas this year? Look at the twinkling lights!
He came to live a sinless life, suffer, and die to pay the price for our sin - and that is what we should be celebrating.
We make a big deal about Christmas - it’s a “season” all its own. But if you read through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, the birth story only appears in two of the four gospel accounts, and even then, it is only a small excerpt. The Bible doesn’t make a big deal about Jesus’ birth because Jesus didn’t come to be recognized as a baby. He came to live a sinless life, suffer, and die to pay the price for our sin - and that is what we should be celebrating.
Pastor Marcus shared a little research he had done about Christmas celebrations around the world. There are 195 countries in the world and Christmas is celebrated in an overwhelming majority (160) of them. How can Christmas be such a global celebration that stands the test of time? It is because the Son of God is real! Just as there is historical evidence that George Washington existed, there is historical documentation that proves Jesus lived. You may disagree with his words, just as you may disagree with the politics of Washington, but to deny Jesus’ existence is foolishness.
The Old Testament contains about 300 references to 60 prophecies. The prophecies emerged over hundreds of years, from many different authors of many different ages, eras, and places of the world. It would have been impossible for collusion because they didn’t know each other and had no way to communicate to one another. Yet all of these prophecies Jesus fulfilled.
The global tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ endures because of His impact on humanity. What happened to the mighty Roman Empire, the powerful kingdoms of Egypt and Babylon, or the great ancient dynasties? Where are they now? And yet, two thousand years later in countries all over the globe, in different styles and traditions, we still celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus...because he wasn’t just a little baby that came. He was the Son of God who changed the world!
Hate and Love
For some people, this time of year is the pinnacle of joy and anticipation. But for others, it holds painful memories, financial strain, or loneliness. Christmas is like an amplifier; if things are good in your life, Christmas makes life seem especially good, but if you are struggling, Christmas can make life feel even more lonely and difficult. Life is full of these contrasts that ebb and flow.
Just like the other great contrasts we experience in life, there is a real life struggle between how much you are hated by the devil and how much you are loved by God. This is evident even within the Christmas story, as Herod the king attempts to destroy Jesus immediately after His birth:
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.” Matthew 2:13-18
Just look at what the enemy was willing to do to prevent Jesus from bringing salvation to us: in an attempt to destroy Jesus, every male child under the age of two within a 17-mile radius was massacred. This is a clear picture of the enemy’s hatred. Just think of what he’s willing to do in your life with distractions and lies to keep you from fully embracing the truth and power of Jesus’ sacrifice.
In John 10:10, Jesus contrasts the enemy’s hatred with the love of God:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your circumstance, God loves you and wants you to have abundant life. Our Christmas celebrations may be complicated and confusing today, but for what other purpose would you be in church other than to hear this simple message of hope?
God loves you so much that He wants to give you the greatest gift ever given -- a free gift that never fades, never breaks, never gets boring or lost, and never gets old -- eternal and abundant LIFE. If you are barely making it or just getting by, know that God desires you to have life abundantly, incredibly, and amazingly!
Though the devil desires to distract you, in the end, life is not about achievements, career, making money, or checking boxes. All of that will fade away as you stand before the Lord and He simply asks, “Do you love me?” and “Did you use the gifts I gave you?”
Let this Christmas be a chance to thank God for the gift of His Son - not just the baby, but the radical, world-changing Jesus Christ who died and rose that you could have life, abundant and eternal!