Jesus Christ Is the Light
by Rick in VA
based on Luke 2:1-20
The Christmas story. There are so many ways to tell it, so many ways to announce the
coming of God to humanity, but I still love to hear the rich words of the King James text
as Luke explains the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. They help put me in the
Christmas Spirit. They help me stay in the Christmas Spirit. But what is the Christmas
Spirit? How does one describe it?
While preparing for todays message, I came across the following true story that I
believe helps chip away at the definition:
Mrs. Elizabeth English and her husband Herman owned an appliance store that sold just
about everything a person could need in their home. They also sold a number of smaller
things, including childrens toys. This particular Christmas in 1949, shortly after
the end of World War II, they had practically sold out of almost all of their toys. Mrs.
English had been uneasy about leaving their store that Christmas Eve because a single
package on layaway had not been claimed yet. It might not have been anything important,
but on the other hand, it might be some child's only gift. So Mrs. English and her husband
Herman stayed at the store, but after waiting as long as they could, they decided to close
down and make their way home. The next day, Christmas day, Mrs. English couldn't seem to
get into the Christmas spirit. She cleaned a little around the house, and tried but she
still felt restless. Strangely enough, she began to get the urge to go to the store that
very morning. Now Mr. and Mrs. English never opened the store on Christmas, and the
weather outside was a freezing mix of snow and sleet, but still she felt drawn to go to
the store. After an hour, she gave up fighting the urge and told her husband she was going
down to the store. He wasn't very encouraging, but she had made up her mind. As Mrs.
English slid along the snowy sidewalks to the store, she began to question this still
strong urge to go to the store, yet she trekked on. As she got to the store, she noticed
two small boys, about six and nine years old, standing in front of the store. The little
fellows got very excited when they saw Elizabeth coming. They were two small black
children, and they were almost frozen. The younger one was crying, but he stopped when he
saw Mrs. English. When she fussed at them for being out in the cold, they explained that
they had been waiting for her. The older boy explained to her that his younger brother
didn't get anything for Christmas, and so they had come there to get the little boy, Jimmy
some skates. He pulled out three dollars and placed them in front of her. Sadly, Mrs.
English explained to them that she had sold almost all the toys in the store, and they
were out of skates. But as she glanced around the store, she noticed the lone package on
the lay away shelf. She walked over and ripped off the wrapping to find that it contained
a pair of child's skates! Jimmy reached for them and tried them on. They fit perfectly.
When the boys tried to pay Mrs. English for the skates, she told them to use their money
for a couple of pairs of good gloves instead. The boys grinned in amazement at this gift
of free skates. After both children were warm, Mrs. English began to close up the shop
again. She remarked to the boys that it was so lucky they had not frozen out there that
morning. She asked, . . . how did you boys know I would come?" The older boy
answered, "I knew you would come. I asked Jesus to send you." Elizabeth English
went home to her husband that day, having found a piece of that elusive Christmas spirit.
Two days have passed since weve celebrated Christmas day and I cant help
but wonder at how the full meaning of the season is missed. Many people will soon be
putting away the decorations, bringing down the Christmas tree, and returning
more routine way of life. Many people will soon be paying off those swollen credit cards,
returning unwanted or ill-fitting gifts, and returning
to a more routine way of
life. Many people will soon, once again, be setting aside thoughts of a God who humbled
Himself and became man, setting aside reflections of who this God-man was and returning
to a more routine way of life. Yes, the routine of life calls. It calls us back to
busyness or idleness, to worries and concerns, to work and play, to joys and to sadness.
It calls us to distractions.
But before you and I get back to the routine, lets stop for a moment, just a
moment this morning and lets dwell on the real and impacting meaning of Christmas. A
meaning that centers on God becoming human to manifest His love for us, to give us purpose
and hope, and to save us from our sins.
Sadly, for some, Christmas has become more of a secular holiday than a sacred one. For
some, it has become an occasion for clear greed & shallow devotion. Some may use
Christmas as an ideal excuse for round after round of parties & stolen kisses under
the office mistletoe. And Im afraid these same people lose out on the true meaning
and spirit of Christmas. They allow themselves to be distracted by what has become
routine. Recently, I heard about a lady who was Christmas shopping with her young
daughter. The malls were crowded and the mother was preoccupied with work at the office.
She was also tired, hungry, her feet were hurting, and she was more than a little cranky.
As they left the last store, she asked her daughter, "Did you see the nasty look that
salesman gave me?" Her daughter answered, "He didn't give it to you, Mom. You
had it when you went in."
Day to day distractions and concerns easily keep us from experiencing or understanding
the true meaning and spirit of the season. But should we only experience and understand
this in December?
I think not.
I believe that delving into the meaning of
Christmas at any time will help us maintain that spirit year round. So what is the meaning
of Christmas? Why did God become man? What are the reasons He chose to reveal Himself in
this way? There once was a man who was reflecting on the meaning of Christmas one cold
Christmas Eve in front of the fire. He could not understand why God would give up even one
minute of bliss, one minute of glory, to come and be one like us. Why would God, who was
almighty, omnipotent and sovereign, humble himself and become man? Suddenly, through the
window of his lakeside cabin, he saw a gaggle of snow geese frantically honking and wildly
flapping their wings amid the deep snow and frigid cold. They seemed dazed, confused and
bewildered. Apparently, due to exhaustion, they had dropped out of a much larger flock
migrating southward to a warmer climate. Moved with compassion, the man bundled himself up
and went outside. He tried to "shoo" the shivering geese into the warm garage,
but the more he shooed, the more distressed the geese became. "If they only realized
that I'm trying to save them," he thought to himself. "How can I make them
understand my concern for their well-being? How can I convince them that Im trying
to help them?" Then a thought came to him: "If for just a moment, I could become
one of them, if I could become a snow goose and communicate with them in their own
language, then I could tell them what it is Im trying to do." In an instant,
the realization of what he had just said made the meaning of Christmas become a bit easier
to understand: God became one like us to tell us - in simple terms that we could
understand, as a human being - that He loves us, that He loves us today, even now, and
that He is concerned for our well-being. Yours
But theres more that we should understand. God came not as we might expect Him,
powerful, and almighty, but as we might least expect Him. In fact, He so surprised us that
even today, 2000 years after He became human, many still miss Him, and many still expect
Him to reveal Himself to us in grander and more powerful ways. Yet God, in His infinite
wisdom, chose to come to us as a baby, as a small and very dependent little infant. And
His subtle ways are easy to miss if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the routine of
I want to digress for a moment and personalize this just a bit. An event that triggered
my own journey to becoming a Christian and to knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior
was the birth of my oldest son.
Ryan was born in 1985. At that time I knew Jesus not. My relationship with God took all
of 5 seconds each night as I prayed a small prayer superstitiously asking for his
protection. Ryan's birth was simply miraculous. No, there weren't any complications, thank
God, and he was born healthy except for a touch of jaundice that was later cleared up
under fluorescent lights. The miracle for me was Ryan. Being a new Dad, the entire
experience of pregnancy and finally delivery was simply awesome. As my wife grew more
pregnant, and finally Ryan was born, I watched the whole thing, in awe. The physical
changes in my wife, coupled with the actual delivery, were nothing short of miraculous for
Until that moment, my life consisted largely of work and play. I had no one who I was
accountable to or responsible for. My wife and I simple did whatever we wanted to do,
whenever we wanted to do it. Some of what I did at that time was responsible, some of it
was not. I was entrenched
in the routine.
Ryan's birth changed all that. I became aware of what all adults eventually become
aware of. I was now responsible for a baby, one who I initially was afraid to hold because
he was so tiny I thought I might crush him. I was now accountable to him in the sense that
the consequences of my behavior would now also affect him. In the miracle of Ryan's birth,
I became an adult. I continue to struggle with how much that means. The 2nd chapter of the
book of Matthew begins "Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this
way..." and it goes on to describe the circumstances surrounding yet another birth
that has had profound effects on me. The miraculous birth of the God-Man Jesus. Ryan's
birth was that defining moment that made me aware of the world outside of myself. Jesus'
birth, His life, His death, His entire being continues to carry my focus outward while
sharpening who it is that I really am. God became real to me and gave my life purpose.
Thats an essential part of His character. Its part of the meaning of
God reveals Himself to us
and gives us purpose.
But theres yet one very important aspect to Christmas that we cannot forget, that
we must understand gives real meaning to this holiday. This one, I believe, is more
important than any other. The birth of Christ leads eventually to the cross. There, on
that hard wood, stained by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus took upon Himself every one of our
sins. Every disgusting wrong, those we know weve committed, those we are not aware
that weve committed, those weve committed in the past, those we will commit
today and tomorrow, were laid upon Him. And He willingly paid the price for every wrong. A
price you and I should pay. A price, He instead did, to prove His love for us. The
Scriptures tell us plainly, that no greater love is there than the love expressed by a man
who lays down his life for us. Jesus, who is God, laid down His life as man, so that we,
who deserve death, might live forever in His presence. This is the truth that is born in
us in this holiday we call Christmas. This is the truth that births hope in all of us.
I want to share as I close a version of a poem that was written by a pastor friend in
Pennsylvania named Penney Rahm. This pastor gladly shares her talent with each of us. I
believe she more accurately captures the essence of Christmas in her version of a much
more secular poem. Youll recognize the title, its called:
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS Twas the night before Christmas and in Beth'lem down
All the inns were so crowded, Mary couldn't lie down. The baby was coming, all willing and
able The only safe place to be born was a stable. The shepherds were sleeping on a
hillside nearby, While Mary was singing her first lullaby. The lambs in their sheepfold,
all wooly and white, Had just settled down on this clear starry night, When an angel
appeared right there where they laid, While they rose in fright, he said, "Be not
afraid." The Lord's glory shone as the angel did say, "Good news, I bring to you
all on this day." A savior in Bethlehem was born for you, Now he lies in a manger,
ragged cloths are the clue." When what to their wondering eyes should appear, But a
sky full of angels singing loudly and clear. God's glory they sang for all they were worth
And peace among all whom he favors on earth. More rapid than eagles they all disappeared.
A shepherd then shouted to all who would hear, "Now, Levi! Now, Reuben! Now, Isaac
and Jacob! On, Eli! On Matthew! On Simon and Caleb! To the stable in town, to the manger
of hay, Let's go quickly and see where Christ Jesus does stay." The shepherds could
hardly believe what they saw, Jesus lay in the manger asleep in the straw. So, down to
their knees all the shepherds then sank, With their hearts full of wonder, their God they
did thank. And then in a twinkling to Josepph and Mary, The words of the angels, the
shepherds did carry. As they drew in their breath, their heads spinning around, From the
stable the shepherds left without a sound. Mary pondered these words in the depth of her
heart. She ne'er would forget how the shepherds took part. A bundle of joy, Mary thought
of her child, And he looked like a pure lamb, so gentle and mild. His eyes full of wisdom,
even though just a baby. "My Jesus, a Savior?' she wondered. "Well, maybe."
His soft, little face seemed to glow with a smile, So their troublesome journey now, too,
seemed worthwhile. Soon after came wise men from places afar. Many days had they traveled
to follow a star. They looked for a king who would rule over all, After speaking with
Herod, the worst choice of all. Herod plotted and planned--a right nasty old king
Who tried to kill Jesus and end this whole thing. The magi came in and they kneeled at
Christ's bed And gave him three gifts and then thinking ahead, They took a new road on
their long journey home. And Jesus and family to Egypt did roam. And later he laid down
his life for our souls, Forgiving our sins, Jesus Christ makes us whole. He rose from the
dead, to his friends gave a mission. And we are now given new life with a vision. So let
us exclaim on this most holy night, "Merry Christmas to all,
is the light."
Let us pray