If you are here, you probably saw my signs outside of Christmas in the Park. You may also have seen me at CITP in previous years (I’ve been out there regularly for about a decade). Or this may be the first time. Whatever is the case, I’m glad you came to visit, and hope you will be encouraged and challenged. Your comments, questions or disagreements are welcome. If you want to chat, just drop me a note in the comment section below. You can also check out my What Abouts page, which has lots of answers to commonly asked questions about the Christian faith. I look forward to hearing from you.
YOLO. That’s a phrase that has become part of our culture, words that have found their way onto hats, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. You Only Live Once. But I haven’t heard that much this year, probably because living in 2020 has been pretty miserable for a lot of people. If you only live once, if this really is all there is, a lot of people are going to be pretty disappointed.
But is it true? Do we only live once? I would encourage you to reconsider that as we approach the Christmas season. Why? Because the Christmas story reminds us that we don’t only live once, that there is something more. There is something that comes after we walk out of this world and into the next one. It reminds us there are two somewheres we may end up in after we die, a place of eternal joy and a place of eternal suffering. And there is SOMEONE who made all things, controls all things, who will judge all things, and who’s word and character tell us which somewhere we are headed toward. That’s what the Christmas story is really about.
Let’s set the stage, not with the story of the baby in the manger, but of who that baby was. The Gospel of John starts by telling us:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So the Word (Jesus, that baby in the manger) was God, and He became flesh (took on a human body) and lived among us.
Why would God do that? Why would our creator come and live a difficult, dirty, sometimes painful existence? Because of the cause of that pain and difficulty. Because of sin.
You see, God created us with a purpose. We are not here by accident. He made us to give Him glory and worship, and to live in relationship with Him. After He created mankind, He put the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in a beautiful garden. In that Garden they saw Him and the power and beauty of His creativity. They had everything they needed there. They had food, they had protection, they had each other, and they had a close loving relationship with God. The only rule He gave them was not to eat from a particular tree, which would give them knowledge of good and evil. But after being tempted by the fallen angel we call Satan (which means adversary), they defied God, ate the fruit, and fell into sin. They rebelled against their purpose for being. Because of that rebellion the world was cursed, resulting in the broken version we see now, where life is fraught with pain and suffering, and in which we have a natural inclination toward sin.
Sin, which technically means missing the mark (it’s an old archery term), is a reality for all of us. A quick look at even a small portion of God’s law shows that. We are told in the 10 Commandments (from Exodus chapter 20) that we should not lie, or steal, or kill, or have anything in our lives more important than God. But we all have lied. Even small lies and half truths count. We’ve all stolen things too, even if those things were small. A pen or paperclip, an answer on a test, a file from the internet that we didn’t pay for, or 15 minutes on a time card at work still count. You don’t have to rob a bank to be a thief. And we are all murderers. Sure, you may not have physically killed someone, but if you’ve had hate and murder in your heart you are sill a murderer in God’s eyes. And finally, who doesn’t doesn’t have things they treat as more important than God? Maybe it’s money you crave, or power, or influence. Maybe it’s pleasure, or a person, or sex. We all have our pet sins. But they all start from pride, when we put our own needs and desires above God’s commands. That’s what Adam and Eve did when they ate the fruit in the garden. And that’s what we do, to some extent or other, every day.
So here’s the dilemma. God is a good father who loves His children, and calls them to return to Him, but He is also a perfect judge who must punish every sin (moral crime) perfectly. How can both of those truths be perfectly satisfied? On the cross.
Here we return to that baby named Jesus, who was born and laid in a manger 2000 years ago. It may seem like an odd transition, but hear me out. Because God is perfectly good and holy (morally pure), He can’t ignore sin, and it has to be perfectly paid for. It has to be paid for by man, because sin came into this world through man. But it needs to be a payment so valuable that it is sufficient for every sin ever committed. That’s a lot of sin! What in the universe has that kind of value? Only God himself. So God, because He is so kind and loving, came to earth and took on a human body to be that sacrifice.
Jesus was born, as the passage in John above tells us, as truly God and man. The Gospels (eye-witness accounts of the life of Jesus) show us that He lived the perfect life, not sinning even once. Then, after preparing a special group of people to carry on His message, He allowed Himself to be arrested, wrongly convicted, beaten and tortured, and then hung on a wooden cross. There He bore the punishment for sins, paying the full price once and for all. As He breathed His last breaths He said “It is finished!”, showing the debt for sin was paid. He died so that the sins of all who trust in Him would be fully satisfied. What an amazing gift!
Jesus was buried and in the tomb three days. Then, as He had promised He would, He rose again, proving His power over sin and death, and proving who He claimed to be. He visited with His followers, encouraging and preparing them, and then rose into heaven. His followers, encouraged by the truth of who He was and what He had done, and energized by the work of His Spirit, went throughout the world, sharing the good news of sins forgiven through Him.
And that’s the message I hope you’ll hear and consider today. All have sinned and broken God’s law. All deserve to be punished, and should spend eternity being rightly punished for our wilful rebellion again God and His law. That’s what Hell, eternal fiery punishment, is about, and we all deserve it. But God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (Jesus), so that whoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). If you will turn from your sin (not perfection, but a change of direction) and turn to the savior Jesus, trusting Him alone for your forgiveness and eternity, then when you stand in judgement before God one day, as we all will, you can know that your sin is paid for, that you are seen as righteous before God, and you will spend eternity with Him, in joy and relationship, not because of your goodness, but because of God’s goodness.
So turn, my friends. Turn to the savior. Don’t delay. None of us is promised tomorrow. We’re not even promised the rest of today! Any one of us can be snatched out of this life at any time, so there is no time to waste. Turn to Christ now, while He’s given you time. Turn to Him, and your sins will be forgiven. Turn to Him, and your heart will be changed, so that you will desire nothing more than to follow and obey Him every day of your life. Turn to Christ, and live!!
If you have questions about about this message, about God, the Bible, Christmas, or how you can be saved from your sin and made right with your creator, leave a comment below. I’ll be adding answers to commonly asked questions below as the season goes on, and I’m happy to reach out to you personally. Hope to hear from you!
The Jesus Film – The life of Jesus, seen by millions, and available in multiple languages
NeedGod.com – Are you good enough to get into heaven? Take this quick test to find out!
The Creator in the Manger – AIG Article
Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? – AIG Article