What if we could look back at the 2020 Christmas season with no regrets about how we spent our time and resources? That’s our goal with this series. We believe with some coaching, prayer and study we can all get this Christmas right.
I will use the following as reminders:
- Nativity Scenes – That was a real event in human history.
- Christmas Cards – I’m on God’s friendship list.
- Gifts – Salvation is a gift.
- Lights – Jesus is the light of the world.
Full Sermon Script
Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Something catches your attention – a new car, a piece of clothing, jewelry, golf clubs, a new phone or computer – something catches your eye. You maybe read up on it. You go look at it. You save your money. You think this is going to be the greatest experience of your life if you can only acquire this one particular thing.
You buy it, and then you get it home and you use it or you wear it or you drive it. And you have that gnawing sense of dissatisfaction in your spirit and you think, “Why did I spend so much money on something that isn’t giving me the payoff that I thought it would?”
Buyer’s remorse – it’s a common phenomenon.
I bring this up because there’s another common phenomenon that happens around this time of the year. It’s what I want to speak to it in this series.
Here’s what happens with this phenomenon.
It’s the first week of the new year, and I ask, “How was your Christmas?”
More often that you might think, people hang their head, and talk about a kind of Christmas remorse.
And here’s how it comes out:
“Matt, I had such high hopes going into this Christmas season:
I wanted it to be the most spiritually tuned in Christmas ever.
I wanted it to be filled with worship and wonder at our great God for sending his son.
I wanted there to be some wonderful family times that wouldn’t be rushed.
I wanted to give to the poor and serve those in need a few times during the Christmas season, just out of a heart that was overflowing with gratitude to God for meeting my needs.
I had such good intentions coming into this Christmas season.”
And I’ll say, “So what happened?”
And they’ll say, “Well, you know how it goes. Here I am on the other side of it now – exhausted, emotionally numb, bruised relationships with family, and I didn’t do anything for the poor.”
And then they say, “And the worse thing of all – I’m further away from God now than when I entered the Christmas season. The whole thing was a waste.”
But then, like dedicated Raider fans, they say, “But next year – next year I’m going to get Christmas right.”
Well, I’ve been reflecting on that these last few weeks.
And I started thinking, what would happen if you and I made a covenant together that we’re going to get this Christmas right – that we’re going to move toward God and walk more closely with him, that we’re going to make some really good family decisions, and some really good decision about how we use our resources to bless people this year.
So that when we get to the other side, we look back with great satisfaction and say, “This was a Christmas season we got right.”
That’s my goal with this series – that with some coaching and prayer and study, we could all get this Christmas right.
And to get us started right this Christmas, I’m going to read the Christmas story to you right now. We’ll at least get this right a few weeks before Christmas.
Luke, chapter 2:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
You know, every time I read that simple story, there’s some aspect that God sheds light on for me to see in a new way. There’s some little point that had been forgotten in my life somewhere along the way.
And I hope this isn’t the last time you read Luke 2.
I hope at least once a week, if you’re really serious about getting this Christmas right, you will read that story and you’ll be reminded of what God did to meet your need and mine – how God saw the condition of this Earth and he didn’t look away.
But he looked at our sinfulness and fallenness, and he knew that we needed a Savior… so he sent one.
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us an innovator.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent a Savior.
And at Christmas we’re reminded that God sent the best he had for our most pressing need; and he met that need.
He had you in mind when he commissioned his only son to take on human flesh. He had you in mind. He had me in mind.
And when we start thinking these kinds of thoughts, as we let these fundamental Christmas truths wash over us, what happens?
We start letting those truths draw us nearer to God.
We sense his presence more.
We’re filled with a kind of wonder and worship.
And then we look at people around us and we say, “Well, he came for you too.”
And we begin to treat people with a little more dignity.
And we look at people with less, and we say, “I have Christ. I have eternal life. I’ve been adopted into God’s family. I have so much. I have a heart to want to help those with less.”
It changes the way we relate to family and friends. A Christmas spirit begins to take root in our spirits.
So for the next three weeks, we’re going to work very hard, to wash and rewash your heart with Christmas content that will help you get this Christmas right.
Alright, what I want to do now is identify some Christmas elements that we will see or experience a lot of this Christmas season.
And I’m going to try to identify them as memory aids tethered to a Christmas truth so that when you see these things out there you’ll go, “That’s a reminder to come back to the content of Christmas and be washed again, right in the middle of my day.”
The first thing we will see a lot this season is the nativity scene.
You’ll see them on your neighbor’s lawn.
You’ll see them in public places.
You’ll see them in your own home.
And if I’m not careful – if I’m in operational mode – do you know what thoughts will come from the deep well of my life?
I’ll look at one of those and I’ll say, “Who has the time to put up decorations like that?”
That’s a deep thought, isn’t it?
Or I’ll have another deep thought when I’m in this operational mode, “Where do people store that stuff for most of the year?”
And then I’ll just keep driving by.
Now, I’m going to suggest a deeper thought. I’m going to suggest that we tether this to a more central reality. And here’s what I’m going to ask you to think:
That was a real event in human history.
Whenever you see a nativity scene, just say, “That was a real event in human history.”
A few years ago Kathy and I were in New York City, staying at a hotel in Soho where we could see the new World Trade Center building.
We walked over to the World Trade Center memorials, where all the names of those who died on September 11th, 2001 were written on the wall that surrounds the waterfall where the old World Trade Center buildings used to stand.
We walked by a memorial that was built for the men and women who died in the line of duty that day, men and women in the police department and fire department who were going in to save lives and ended up sacrificing their own.
I kept saying to myself, “That was a real event in human history.”
I was in Israel about ten years ago and I actually stood in the fields where the shepherds were when the angels sang the first Christmas Carol: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”
We were in that field.
And then we went to the place where the stable was where Jesus was born.
And then we walked the streets of Nazareth where Jesus, as a boy, grew up and learned how to become a carpenter.
Then we sat on the grassy slopes overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount.
Then we stood quietly and looked at the place where Jesus was crucified between two thieves – where he purchased my salvation and yours.
Then we prayed prayers of thanksgiving in front of the empty tomb where he conquered death through the resurrection.
Each day we would visit a new site and I would think, “That was a real event in human history. That was a real event in human history.”
When you see a nativity scene this year, remember, that was a real event in human history.
Alright, another thing we will see a lot of are Christmas cards.
We got our first Christmas card last week.
And when I got it, again, my first deep thought was, “Whoever sent me this is under-challenged. They need a bigger challenge at work. They need to find a place to volunteer at church. If their lives are so in order that they can get their Christmas cards out before Thanksgiving, they’re under-challenged.” Am I digging a hole for myself here?
Let me explain the facts of life about Christmas card sending?
Some of you don’t understand how this really works. Here’s what people do.
Throughout the course of their year, they evaluate their relational world. And then, when it comes around Christmastime, they actually form a list. And it’s a list of their friends. And they want to touch or bless the lives of their friends around Christmastime, so they send them a card for encouragement.
Whenever you receive a Christmas card, first thing you ought to think is, “I’m on someone’s friendship list.” That’s a beautiful thing. Thank God for friends. Thank God for friends who have you in mind and who want to bless your life with a little encouragement via a card.
So when you get it, just say, “God, thank you for friendship and that I’m on someone’s friendship list.”
And then, before you put it on the stack, here’s what I want to encourage you to do. Hold it in your hands for just a second, and say, “The writers of Scripture teach us that when we’ve opened our hearts to Jesus Christ, we’re on God’s friendship list.”
Jesus said one time in John 15:15 to a group of followers, “I, now, call you my friends.”
Through Christ – I’m on God’s friendship list.
You know, the best human friend you have is flawed. They don’t have unlimited time for you. They don’t always have perfect listening skills or empathy. They don’t have perfect counsel. The best human friend you have is flawed.
They try. I try. You try, but we’re flawed.
When you’re on God’s friendship list, you’re in a relationship with a flawless friend.
His love is love of another kind. It’s never flawed.
His listening skills are unparalleled.
He’s available 24 hours a day.
His counsel to you is always wise and true.
His power and his resources are infinite. And he makes them available to you.
Maybe you’re heading into this Christmas season, and you’re pretty sure you’re not going to get it right. It’s going to be a dreaded Christmas.
Maybe there will be an empty chair at the table this Christmas. Maybe a loved one died. You can’t imagine how you’re going to make it through this Christmas.
Maybe this is the first Christmas you’ll be single, because of divorce or death.
Maybe this is the first Christmas you’ll be unemployed.
Maybe this is the first Christmas you’re contending with the eminent loss of someone.
Well, you need to be made aware today that you are not alone going into this Christmas. You’re on God’s friendship list.
And he’s coming to you right now, as I’m speaking, and he’s saying, “Friends come alongside friends when the road is tough. And I’ll walk with you into this Christmas season. And even if you’re facing the valley of the shadow of death, I’ll be there. It’ll be okay. It might be hard, but we’ll make it. We will make it.”
Whenever you get a Christmas card, between now and Christmas day, say, “God, thank you for friendship, thank you that I’m on someone’s friendship list.”
And before you put the card down, say, “And thanks for the greater miracle, that through Christ, I am on God’s friendship list and his friendship is available to me every moment of every day of this season.”
Alright, I want to give you two more reminders.
Something we’ll see a lot this Christmas are gifts.
Around Christmastime, people who love, give. It’s just that simple – people who love, give.
When you get a gift in these next few weeks, of course, breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that love motivates giving and love motivated the person to give this gift to you. Thank God for the person whose love made your gift possible.
But then, just think for a moment, before you unwrap it, just think for a moment and say:
Salvation is a gift.
“What I needed most in my life, forgiveness from my sin, redemption, a cancelled slate, moral debt removed – what I needed most came my way as a gift. I did not earn my salvation. I cannot merit my salvation. Salvation is a gift.”
Ephesians 2 says:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
If you have received salvation, you’ve received it for free. It was purchased at a great price and made available as a gift.
Jesus Christ is God’s Christmas gift with your name on it.
And he says you don’t have to get on a treadmill and try to earn it. You don’t have to do a full series of deeds to try to merit it. You admit your sin. You open your heart and you receive the gift.
And you say, “What an unbelievable God to give a gift like that.”
So remember the gift of salvation when you receive any Christmas gift this year.
Alright, last one:
Something we will see a lot of this season are lights.
And here’s the reality for each of us this season – we need God to shine his light on us so that we’re not walking around in the darkness.
Darkness is spoken of around 200 times in the Bible. It’s a picture of life apart from God, apart from His direction, apart from His wisdom, apart from His love and care.
And when we live in darkness, we can’t see. So we make foolish decisions. We’re confused. We flounder around. We hurt people. We become afraid. We lose hope.
There was a Harvard study that I read not too long ago where they asked students at Harvard:
If prices were the same, which option would you choose:
Option A: you make $100,000 per year and everyone else makes $50,000 per year.
Option B: You make $200,000 per year, but everyone else makes $300,000 per year.
Which option do you think the majority of Harvard students chose? Option A. That’s the human heart.
A majority of us are willing to take a 50% pay cut in order to feel superior to other people, in order to get other people to envy us.
We walk in darkness.
I was impatient with my kids recently. They were supposed to be getting ready for bed, but they kept getting distracted by other things.
I was short with them. I said some things that I regret saying.
As I walked into the other room a little voice inside me said, “You should go back in there and tell them sorry for being so impatient and uncaring. Ask for forgiveness.”
And I said to that little voice, “I don’t like that idea. What else you got?”
I walk in darkness.
There’s greed inside of me.
There’s deceit inside of me.
I can give into fear, but then make it sound like I was really brave.
Sometimes I don’t know what the right thing is to do, but I pretend like I do and try to convince other people that I do.
Sometimes I know what the right thing is to do, but because I’m afraid of what the consequences might be, or for some other darker reason, I don’t do it.
Sometimes I compare myself to someone, then I hear something bad about that person’s life and something inside me feels kind of good, kind of superior.
Then I think, “Where did that come from?”
There’s darkness in me.
And darkness is inside each of us.
We kind of get used to it. If our own lives are going well, we get used to living with darkness.
John 3:19 says:
This is the testimony, that the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light; because their deeds were evil.
That’s just the human condition apart from God.
This Christmas, let’s remember God saw the human race – you and me – stumbling around in the dark.
We’re confused. We’re ignorant. We’re afraid. We’re stained with sin.
We are. And I know that’s hard to hear, and for some hearts there’s a stubborn response: “I don’t like those words.”
Well, I don’t like them either. But it’s true.
God sees this. He sees our world, and He sees our souls.
He doesn’t send a warning.
He doesn’t send a rebuke.
He doesn’t send a punishment.
He doesn’t send an idea.
He doesn’t send a religion.
He sends this man who embodies all that the human race was intended to be and all of the love that God has for us.
He sends a person.
He sends His Son.
He sends Jesus… and Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world.”
It’s quite a staggering statement when you think about it:
I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
Newsweek released a nation-wide pole that said 89% of Americans say “I believe Jesus was the Son of God.”
That means most people in America know what happened at Christmas.
But I wonder how many people know why Jesus came.
I wonder how many people know that the reason we celebrate Christmas is really for our benefit – Jesus came for us – to help us, to be a light to shine in our darkness.
So this season as we see all the amazing light displays in yards and on houses, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that Jesus came to be a light in this dark world… and let’s say:
Jesus is the light of the world.
It’s amazing to me that at the first Christmas, the wise men, it says they saw this star, this bright shining light in the sky and followed it from the east to the west to find the baby Jesus.
For over 2000 years astronomers have been trying to figure out what that star was. Was it Haley’s commit? Was it a meteorite? Was it an asteroid? We don’t know, honestly.
But the thing is – it was obvious enough that everyone saw it.
I don’t think the wise men were the only people who saw it. It was in the sky. The writers of Scripture don’t say the wise men were the only people who saw the star. Everyone saw it.
But not everyone did something about it. They saw the light but they didn’t do anything about it. The wise men saw the light and they followed it to Jesus. That’s why they’re the wise men.
The question is, how wise are we?
It’s one thing to know Jesus is the light of the world. It’s another thing to let Him light up your life.
Let’s let him light up our lives this Christmas. So when we see an amazing light display, let’s just pause for a moment and say, “Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus wants to be the light in my life.”
Okay, so let me do a quick review and then the band will lead us in a closing song.
First, when you see a nativity scene, let’s just remember, “That was a real event in human history.”
And when you realize someone put you on their friendship list and they give you a card, thank God for human friendship, and then remember – you’re on God’s friendship list. And when you receive a gift, remember that wonderful verse, “For by grace I have been saved through faith.” Nothing earned, nothing merited, nothing deserved. It came as a gift of God available to each of us. And remember – Salvation is a gift.
What I needed most, forgiveness, came my way as a gift. I did not earn my salvation. salvation is a gift.
And when you see an amazing light display between now and Christmas, remember that Jesus came to be a light in this world – Jesus is the light of the world.
Let’s work hard for the next three weeks to get this Christmas right.
Blue Oaks Church