What do we need for Christmas? - Luke 2:10-11
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
What do you want for Christmas? With only seven days to go until the turkey appears on the table, the in-laws arrive at the door and Terry Wogan finally announces the winning festive tune, what are you expecting to find under the decorated Christmas tree? I donít know if you are the kind of person who loves to make up a Christmas wish list. Perhaps you are someone who is so fearful of receiving yet another one of Aunty Bettyís homemade jumpers that you have decided to take the destiny of Christmas into your own hands. "This year will be different", you say. "No more socks, no more gloves and no more scarves. I have written a list."
I want you to imagine that David and Sarah are about to leave their house on Newland Avenue to pick up their Christmas shopping. The year so far has been okay. No major disasters. Work as tiring as ever. But overall itís been quite a good year. What do they want for Christmas? One of those new High Definition TVs. Do you know the ones I mean? They still show endless hours of Strictly Come Dancing, so even if you wanted to, you canít escape the mindless booing and cheering, but now you can at least watch the twirls at a slightly higher quality. The TV has been on the wish list for many months but today it will finally be in their possession. They cannot wait. This is what they want for Christmas. But just imagine that as they are about to leave the phone rings. Itís Doctor Patterson from the hospital. Sarahís test results have come through. David can see from the look on her face that this is the news they have been dreading. He cannot tell them the results over the phone. They must come to the surgery. What do you think David and Sarah want for Christmas now? After the announcement of this life-changing news I think we can safely assume that the new High Definition TV is no longer a priority. Instead all they want for Christmas is for Sarah to live.
What we want for Christmas is affected by what we need for Christmas. So, for example, if life is treating us well then no doubt at the top of our Christmas lists will be ipods and XBox 360s and all sorts of other needless luxuries. But as soon as we are presented with a significant personal need then which one of us would not score out what we have already written to focus on what really matters.
What do we need for Christmas? We need a saviour, and his name is Jesus. Have a look at verses 10 and 11 on the back of the yellow comment card. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Very few people in our world like sitting exams, do they? If we are given a choice between lots and lots of exams or very few exams then most sensible people go for option B every single time. So let me apologise for what I am about to do. Can you believe this, especially at Christmas, but the preacher wants you to sit an exam? Are you sitting comfortably? Here is the question. A question designed to check out whether you have truly grasped the authentic message of Christmas. Is the message of Christmas the greatest message you have ever heard? Let me say that again. Is the message of Christmas the greatest message you have ever heard? Because if itís not then you have still to discover why the angels got so excited when Jesus was born. Did you see that in verses 13-14? "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and peace to men on whom his favour rests." Did that happen when you were born? Of course not! The appearance of angels is not an every day occurrence.
And yet here at the birth of Jesus we donít just read about a couple of angels popping their heads around the door to see how everything is progressing but we read about the whole heavenly choir appearing in front of these stunned shepherds for a live performance of their Christmas number 1! Why are they so excited? Because Jesus the saviour has finally been born. For thousands of years the preparations have been made, for thousands of years the heavenly choir have been in rehearsal but now at last the saviour of the world has arrived to complete his mission.
Do you ever fear that someone may try to use Christmas as an opportunity to drop you a subtle hint? What would go through your mind if you received this can of deodorant in your Christmas stocking? (Hold up a can of deodorant) Suppose this was all you received, would you conclude that the person who gave it to you was trying to tell you something about your personal hygiene? Well, maybe not. I am reliably informed that if you wander into the Boots Cosmetics Department you can find a large number of hint-free quality soaps and toiletries that make ideal last minute presents. But what about if someone gives you these? Super strength odour eaters (Hold up odour eaters). Surely if someone gives us these they are trying to give us one massive hint that they hope we will pay attention to. So let me encourage you, if some brave soul gives you odour eaters, swallow your pride, listen to the hint and accept the gift.
What do we need for Christmas? The hint is in verse 11. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you. 2000 years ago God gave the greatest gift of all. He sent his only Son into the world to complete a rescue mission that would save everyone who decides to put their trust in Jesus. But letís be clear on this. The gift of Jesus to be the saviour of the world is a massive hint that we are supposed to recognise. What is the job description of a saviour? They are in the business of rescue. So the gift of Jesus is supposed to alert us to our need of salvation.
You donít send a saviour unless the people are in danger. So what do we need saving from? There are many problems facing the human race. Christmas may be the time of parties. It may be the time of escapist entertainment but even at Christmas we cannot escape from the massive problems confronting humanity. The excessive drinking, the uncontrollable debt, the family-collapsing debauchery, the addictive drug taking and the ever-present reality of human death. Does your heart not cry out: where can we find rescue from all these things? The answer: only in the saviour, Jesus Christ.
But although the Bible does make it clear that Jesus can save us from all these difficulties it also announces that we have an even greater problem that requires a solution. What is our greatest problem? It is that you and me are waiting in a queue. Because of our past behaviour, because of the way we have treated God, we are now stranded on spiritual death row. We are waiting for a sentence that we cannot avoid. We are living out the days before we experience the sheer horror of the judgement of God.
Now at this point I could provide you with quite a number of clever illustrations to convince you that you are not the good moral person you might think you are. But I wonít. Instead what I want us to do is to consider the identity of the child who was born in the manger and then ask ourselves this question: If the problem was not serious would such a birth have taken place? Have a look at the end of verse 11. Who has been born as the saviour? He is Christ the Lord. And the key word for us to notice is Lord. To speak of the Lord is to speak about the Creator of the Universe. So do you see the amazing claim at the end of verse 11? Who is the baby in the manger? Who is the one looking up to the sky? It is the one who formed the shining stars in the first place. It is the creator being observed by his creatures. Therefore, how much more serious can the problem be if our creator has to be born as a man?
We know that big problems call for big solutions and so therefore here in the manger must be the solution to the greatest problem of all.
How can we be rescued from death row? We are guilty of the crime of treason against God our wonderful King. And we know that because his courts are completely just the judgement of our offence cannot be conveniently swept under the carpet. This is reality. We are in danger. We need to be rescued. But how? What a nonsense it would be if one of the prisoners on death row announced to the governor that he was more than happy to substitute himself in the place of another prisoner? What a ridiculous situation! How can one guilty man take the place of another guilty man? The offer is a non-starter. So how can we be saved from the judgement of God? Only if someone not on death row, only if someone not guilty of treason again God, only if someone whose life is worth an infinite amount of value decides to take the place of millions of other guilty people in an act of unique and overwhelming love. What does the Bible say? Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Here was a baby who was born to die. So yes he lived, yes he taught, yes he performed some amazing miracles but the life of Jesus was always pointing towards his death. And the reason is simple. It is because when died he rescued those who trust in him from their greatest ever problem. When he died he went to the execution chamber of his followers. He stood in their place, he took their sin and he endured their penalty. And he did all of this because he loves us more than we could ever imagine.
In preparation for this Christmas sermon I considered preparing a list of the names of the people in Hull who needed a saviour this Christmas. But to my great joy I discovered that someone had already beat me to it. I donít know if you possess your own copy of this list but I do believe the White Pages comes free to every household in the city (Hold up the White Pages). Every name in this book needs a saviour for Christmas.
Do you remember what the angel said? I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Not just for some of the people but for all of the people. And the reason? Because every single one of us needs a saviour and his name is Jesus.
And let me say to you that tonight Jesus is waiting outside your prison cell. He has already been to the execution chamber on your behalf. He has already paid the price to release you from the judgement to come. But here is the issue. If we want to be saved we must come to Jesus, we must ask for his forgiveness and we must give him control of our lives. So let me ask you: Is that something you want to do?
A number of years ago a lady called Debbie realised that throughout her life she had been ignoring the God who made her. Her Christian mother had recently died from cancer but in the days beforehand Debbie had been struck by her motherís courage in the face of death. "Itís all right, Debbie", she would say, "Donít be sad for me. Iím going to see my Lordís face. Iíve been waiting for this all my life." Debbie was sure that her mother was going to heaven but this is what she writes about her own destiny: "Then it hit me Ė I didnít have the same relationship with God that she does. What did this mean for me? I knew enough about the Christian faith to realise that unless I trusted in God, then heaven was out of the questionÖI became very frightened. I remember thinking, ĎIím forty, and I have never thought about my mortality. What if I donít make it to old age to become a Christian? If I died tomorrow, I would go to hell!í" A few days later Debbie asked a Christian friend to explain to her how she could have a personal relationship with God. Her friend made it very clear that there were only two ways to live. One was to continue rebelling against the right of God to loving rule her life and the other was to submit to Jesus as Lord. The first would lead to judgement and the second would lead to a home in heaven with God. So her friend said to her, "Which way do you want to live?" Debbie says the answer was as clear as crystal. "I knew there was no other decision I could makeÖI was desperate.
I couldnít put this off a minute longer. And so together we knelt in the grassÖand I asked God to forgive me for my forty years of rebellion, and thanked him for sending Jesus to die for me."
So let me ask you: Is that something you want to do? Some of you may need more information. No problem. Let me encourage you to come along to Christianity Explored on the 12th January. All the details that you need are on the pews in front of you. Why not take a leaflet and come along in the New Year?
Or if you want more information before you leave then do visit our book table afterwards, over in the side chapel, where you can pick up a free copy of a book that explains in more detail why the person of Jesus is relevant to you. Just go across and ask for it.
But maybe you know that tonight you have finally reached the point when you want to become a Christian. If that is you then let me encourage you to use the prayer printed on the comment card. Why not pray it after the service is finished? Before you rush off to have some mulled wine and mince pies, why not take a few moments to ask Jesus Christ to be your saviour? Let me promise you that if you do, Christmas will never be the same again. Letís pray.
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