Christmas, Part 1

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So I’m going to invite you to turn to the book of Luke chapter two so we’re going to beat today and while you’re getting there, I’m going to let you know these hoodies are available for you this morning. If you would like to purchase one for $30 just you know the church doesn’t make any profit off this. We charge what we give to have these things produced. So if you’re interested in picking one up, you can do that on the way out as we are dismissed today. We’re going to start a series together on Christmas. Just just so you have a platform of where we’re going together. Over the next few months, we’re going to be talking about the book of Jonah running away from God and the start of this year we’re going to go to Malakai talking about leaving a godly legacy and what that looks like.

We’ll spend some time before Easter talking about the family, what God’s picture is for marriage, family, kids, how that works in the life of a church and this Christmas season. We’re going to spend these next few weeks leading up into Christmas. Just discussing the Christmas story together and I’m going to start very simplistic and where we’re going to in this series together. We’re going to talk about leading in the weeks ahead. We’re going to talk about hope and peace, how to discover hope and peace in our lives and live as people of peace and people of hope. And I’m not going to do it in a kind of fluffy way where I just tell you to be hopeful because you should just be hopeful, but to show us really when, when life is difficult and there are things that may rock us, how our faith can sustain in those, in that, and so hope and peace are very important to the Christian life and especially it’s themed towards the Christmas story and what Jesus brings.

But today we’re going to start a little more simplistic in that foundational in that I want to get more focused on where you are in your home as it relates to the idea of Christmas and what it represents because really the the home starts as the platform to why we do everything that we do and it sets the trajectory of, of your identification as a family. There are certain traditions that you engage as a family that sometimes you don’t even think about it, but when you, if you get married and you move on in life, there are certain, certain things that you adapt from your home that you didn’t even realize was just a tradition to your home that you do when you do them. They make you feel like you’re at home and those things are important. I think especially around the Christmas season, the way that we approach the Christmas season, we can lead Jesus Alva, but there’s certain traditions that we can bring into the home related to Christmas that puts Christ at the focal point of that and helps our family develop traditions that honors the Lord rather than diminishes from what this season is about.

Like here, here’s, here’s a sobering moment. If you’re driving down the road and you just maybe turn to your kids and you ask him what Christmas is about and then you have to remind them that it’s about Jesus like that, you know, maybe at some point there’s, there needs some be some transitions there in home that identifies what the Christmas story is really all about in our lives and Christmas season. Even talking about the Christmas season, starting off this simplistic, I feel like out of everything that we do, this is going to be the most divisive because I can tell you when I hear opinions on Christmas, like it is across the board on how people feel about, about this time of year. And, um, statistically, uh, psychologists, counselors will, they’ll tell you that this is also one of the most depressing times of year for people. It’s a reminder maybe of an absence of a loved one, family disputes getting you around, things that maybe you really don’t want to be around or experienced.

It might bring up painful memories of the past. Uh, uh, not to mention just this time of year anyway. It’s, it gets darker sooner and you’re inside longer. And so the, the meaner seasonally in the winter months is more of a depressing state. And so the holiday seasons are, it can be a struggle for some of us and others. Others of us come to life though, you know, you as soon as you start thinking of like Thanksgiving, Christmas, I don’t know about your home but maybe this might be happening in my home. As soon as that season comes around, like hallmark channel’s on instant loop forever. It’s like you can’t escape it. Like something about you just comes to life. Your inner Martha Stewart wakes up and you’re skipping everywhere you go. You know what that’s like, right? Cause cause then you live, if that’s you, the typical a typical responses, you might live with the antithesis of that you might live with the person that, uh, is the yin to your yang.

Right. You hear, they hear holiday season, they’re like, it’s, it’s the garlic to Dracula, the kryptonite to their life. You know, some of you that might, that might feel that way. I captured your mugshot to express it this morning, just so you see how you might feel. And so I think it’s just an important question though to ask, um, what does God think about the holidays and when we go around in the hustle and bustle of what everything is with Christmas season, how does, how does he view that? Yeah. You study the early church and they developed, they developed holidays that, uh, centered around to really pinnacle moments in church history. But they, uh, they had the advent season, which started last week, which leads up to Christmas and, and then they have, um, lint, which leads up to Easter resurrection Sunday and Monday, Thursday and good Friday. And so the early church developed these these particular times a year to focus on something significant and then, uh, the, uh, for the church.

But, but the simplistic question in all of it is w what’s God think about the holidays? Because really that becomes the basis for how God’s people honor him in the way they choose to live their lives. I mean, should we even be celebrating Christmas? Like when I asked that question, I’m about to go there, uh, in, uh, in a hearing, uh, just opinions that have come into our church. Like some people even think it’s like, it’s like a devilish holiday. I mean, it would be kind of contradictory for us as a church to agree with that and then be selling Christmas trees in the parking lot that goes to help our church. So that’s not our approach to it. But there’s, there’s a gamut of repurchase that people have to, and if you, and if you love Christmas, if I’m answering that question, you’re like, you better not take this away for you.

Really. If you don’t, you’ll you say something negative. I don’t want to keep doing this. You know, like you think Grinch in this, but what, what does God think about the holidays? Well, if you start in Luke chapter two, I’m going to tell you, I’m going to bounce around a lot this morning, but Luke two and when you read the gospels, there are two books in the Bible that really even really describe the Christmas season. And there’s only two chapters. And each of those books, the book of Matthew, the first two chapters talks about the Christmas holiday, the first Christmas we should say, and what that looked like. Matthew follows more of the Jewish tradition in that he, he quotes several Testament passes, just passages to show how, how Jesus is fulfilling scripture and so, and so Jesus just doesn’t appear that God has been working and orchestrating this plan since the beginning of time.

And, and so Matthew shows that and he shows how that works in the Jewish community. Luke, on the other hand, he takes more of a sort of a rustic approach. I guess he shows the common man and the story and their approach to Christmas when he appears to the shepherds. And that’s what Luke is about. And when you get into chapter two, you see his appearing to the shepherds and then them coming and telling the town and the town coming and looking to this new, this Messiah that just was born. And in chapter two verse 19 this is at all the Christmas story. I want to start here because this is my, my favorite verse in the whole story that’s told in Matthew and Luke and, but this is Mary’s response and this is how she celebrates the first Christmas it says, but Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart and the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen just as had been told to them.

Not to think when you, when you ask the question, what is God? Think about the holidays, this Christmas season, how do we maybe honor him and our family? It’s probably good to start with the first one and maybe, maybe the mother of Jesus give me a good indication as to what God or how people have responded throughout this history. But you know, when you just asked that question a very general sense, what does God think about the holidays? You’ve got Mary’s picture here, but when you approach the scripture, the Bible is pretty indifferent. Believe it or not.

Romans chapter 14 is a chapter of scripture that’s kinda, it’s kinda like the, if I had a title, I’ll call it the gray area of the Bible. Like what do you do with things that you don’t know what to do with? Or Romans 14 tells you, and it kind of labels it as the gray area of things, but this is what it says in Romans chapter 14 and verse five in regards to Christmas, one person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. So whether or not someone celebrates Christmas when you’re thinking, what does the Bible say about this? What does God say about this? There’s not a verse in scripture that says you’ve got to celebrate Christmas. I mean, you saw Mary’s response in Luke chapter two. And I want to come back to that because I think this time of year is important and I want to point to a why, but when you look at it from just a perspective of wanting to find the Bible verse that commands you to observe Christmas, Romans 14 just tells you, uh, let, let each person be fully convinced in his own mind how you regard one day over another.

And what it seems to be saying to us in this passage of scripture is that God is more interested or is interesting to be more in the person than in the day. Like Sunday. There’s, there’s nothing magical about Sunday. But the reason we choose to meet on this day is this happens to be the cultural day that in a week that, that we as Americans tend to open our ears to spiritual things. So if we want to capitalize on that, it sorta makes sense to say, okay, let’s, let’s gather on Sunday and let’s talk about godly things to encourage our lives. But it says in this passage is that God’s not so much concerned about the day or how you approach certain days in your life, but rather what’s going on in your heart. God’s more interested in you than he is and the legalistic practice of just showing up or just participating in something because you feel like you should.

And so God’s interest is in you when you study this from a, uh, a cultural standpoint, that there is no Bible verse that says you’ve got to celebrate Christmas. In fact, the early church didn’t start celebrating this holiday season until the fourth century, but when you celebrate Christmas, you’re celebrating something that’s been around for 1600 years. And the way that the Christmas celebration started that I can tell from observe, I’ve looked at history. I think Saint Nicholas played a part in that. He was a part of the early church. He was a very godly individual. He started practicing generosity, especially during times a year that they honored as Jesus his birth date. And so he would, he would point people to Christ by being very generous. Saint Nicholas was a wealthy individual as a young man. His parents died when he was young, left him a fortune, and he gave that away to people in need in order to point them to Jesus, love on them as Christ would love them.

That’s how that tradition started. And it continued to grow until the end of the fourth century that the, the church, um, sort of made it a officially unofficial holiday that they, that they, um, honored. And this is just my guess, I don’t, I have not been able to prove this from history. I don’t know that anyone has. But in early church history, they noticed that the pagan celebrations around them would fall on particular days. And so as the, as the early church started to become the dominant people group that were honoring Christ, they started to use their influence to replace the pagan holidays with godly holidays. I don’t even think Jesus was born on December 25th, but it was the winter solstice when they would celebrate pagan worship. And so they, they picked a time of year when they would celebrate and just see, you know, the Eastern West church wasn’t even specific on which day they would celebrate as Christmas. The Christmas holiday falls anywhere from December 25th on 12 days past that. And so we celebrate it culturally here on the 25th but the whole point of the holiday wasn’t the holiday itself. It was to engage the heart where they were to point them to something significant that happened in history that was intended to impact our lives, to draw us near to God.

First Corinthians 10 23 says this, all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things Edify. So the point of the passage is the pursuit of the edification of the individual. What, what helps you engage God in your relationship? What encourages you to to draw near to him and the early church saw opportunity to capitalize on, on a season in which they could point people more specifically to what Jesus has done.

No, if you’re thinking this is negative, let me go a little deeper. First Isaiah chapter one I could tell you I went through scripture and I’ve probably found the most negative verse on celebration here, but I want to read this and don’t worry, we’re going to spin this positive in the end. Okay. Isaiah chapter one in verse verse 13 God is talking about the celebration of certain days. He gave Israel the celebration of certain days within their, their uh, calendar year and this is what he said. He to this place where he says, bring your worthless offerings. No longer incense is an abomination to me. Newman and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies, I cannot under iniquity and the solemn assembly, I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts. That’s, there’s this no more plain way to put that. I hate, I hate your moon, your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts.

They have become a burden for me. I am weary of bearing them. Do you think you’ll like this time of year, like if we asked Jesus, how many celebrations have you had to show up for this year? Jesus. He’s like, I have 3 million office parties and 20 million kids plays. Like, he’s like, well, why does he have to show up? It’s his birthday, you know? And he’s saying at the end they become a burden to me and we’re burying them. And so what is, what is God saying in this? Because when you, when you look at the old Testament, God commands Israel, he says he commands them to have seven feats. He commands them to have these new moon festivals. Now is he like, is he contradicting himself? He’s, he says now in this stuff there, they’re abomination to him. He hates them. Do not do the right and he cannot endure them anymore. And even talks about the, the calling of the assembly or the worshiping on the Sabbath, the gathering of God’s people, he, he’s irritated by all that. And it’s pretty bah humbug of him, right? I mean, what does it mean? You know, when you look at the new moon celebration in Israel, what that represented the new moon, if you look at Israel’s calendar year, they didn’t follow the calendar like we follow, they followed the lunar calendar. And so when a new moon happened, it represented a new month.

And so God wanted them to take particularly each month and he had particular things he wanted to do at the beginning of the month in order for them to, to consecrate themselves to the Lord. It was sorta like a reset. It’s kinda like what we do new year. You know, you think you look back at the year and you’re like, all these things I didn’t do. I feel so bad that, uh, I had this list of accomplishments I did not make. And, and so you look at the next year like, okay, new goals, fresh star all over. Well, God, God looked at the beginning of each month sort of that way. And so he would command Israel. He says, okay, I want you to bring animals to sacrifice this in numbers chapter 28 verses 10 to 13. He would tell him, I bring these animals, I want you to sacrifice these animals. And then there was these, the grain offerings. And then there were, there were a drink offerings and then there were burns offerings. And then there were sin offerings, which are two different types of sacrificial offerings. And then they would blow trumpets over the sacrifice. But, but the whole point of all of it was for them to see the start of the new month as a way to consecrate themselves to the Lord. It was really looking on the horizon of what this new month would represent and and focusing on giving it to God.

On top of that, Israel celebrated feasts. There were seven feasts Israel had within their practices together during the calendar year. And the word feast means it actually means a pointed time in the Hebrew. So there was this appointed time they would celebrate the these feasts and Clawson’s. It says this, therefore no one has to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to festival or these fees or a new moon or a Sabbath.

And so God is saying in Isaiah one, he’s tired of the way that they represent him in the feast. But then in Colassians he’s saying like this, if you’re thinking, well, all that sounds negative, like God doesn’t want me to do holidays. Well this is, this is your repeat verse or here, don’t judge me either. You let my, you let my Martha Stewart go for it. That’s what it’s saying. This verse, let no one act as your judge in regard to the, to the food or drink, earn respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. And God appointed these seven feasts in Israel’s history, which means a point in time to ultimately point to one significant appointed time, meaning all of the feasts found themselves, culminated in everything Jesus was. Jesus was the fulfillment of what these feasts represented. And so you look at Colossians two 16 and it makes the statement, let no one act as your judge in regard to these things. And then it tells you why in verse 17 what’s the point of the new moon and what’s the point of the feasts of the old Testament? Why did they celebrate those holidays?

It says this, these things which are mere shadows of what is to come. But look, but the substance belongs to Christ, the holiday tradition, or at least the representation of what Christmas is. Yeah. Our holiday is loaded with symbolic representations of everything that Jesus is Israel in the celebration of these feasts. We’re forgetting the main point. That’s why I say God’s not so much interested in the fact that you do or don’t celebrate holidays. God’s more interested in the people that choose to celebrate or not celebrate this holiday I saw in Israel the opportunity to leverage and call them to these particular points within their lives in order for their heart to better engage them or him. Excuse me. You know what happens in a person’s heart?

The battle for your heart is always raging and your heart represents something that needs to continue to be confronted and challenged in the direction that it’s going. And the Bible tells us the heart is deceitful above all things, a heart’s prone to wandering and Proverbs, it tells us that, uh, there’s a way that seems right to the men in the end that leads to destruction. And so what he’s, what he’s recognizing the whole point of these fees isn’t the fees itself, the whole point of these holidays, that’s not the holiday itself. The whole point of the new moon is not the new moon itself. It’s to recognize in our lives there comes a place in our heart where, where it just needs awaken and it needs impact and it needs reminded. And there’s times that you need to do that. And so those days are used as catalyst to spur our lives to the life that we have in Jesus. And so I know I can read Bible verses that say, don’t, don’t, you don’t have to celebrate Christmas. And we’d be like, yeah, I’m not going to just because just because I want to be rebellious in it. But, but rather what it’s saying is when you approach certain opportunities like this, use these as springboards again to awaken your heart to what God wants to do in your life.

So why Christmas? God historically created a special time of year. All of history points to, I may even write it down when you put the date on a paper that you signed, Jesus is coming culminated all of history. When you read scripture from old to new Testament, all of it was to look to the shadow of what things were, but the substance belongs to Christ that the old Testament pointed to the arrival of the Messiah. The new Testament looks back to the coming of a Messiah. All of our hope rests in this pinnacle moment and, and I know we could say things like, well, well, Easter, Easter to me is more important than Christmas because we needed a savior and we don’t have salvation without the death and resurrection of Jesus. To which I would say that’s true, but you don’t even have the death and resurrection of Jesus unless he comes. Right? I mean, it takes the birth of Christ in order to lead to the death of Christ. And so I don’t think I put a, I’ll put one holiday is more significant. The other ultimately culminates in what Easter represents. But the whole story of what Jesus is, if I could just connect my heart to that and put my trust in that, that’s what, that’s what Christmas is about.

And so when you look at the holiday season, above everything, what is intended to do is to provoke our hearts to worship. So truth is experiences in life help define us. You think about when I say to you what makes you who you are, that typically when we think back in our lives, there’s maybe certain monumental things that have happened in our lives where you think, you know this, this really helps shape me in, in who I am. And then there’s other things that, it may not be one set moment in our lives, but there are certain practices that have happened over the course of time that we didn’t even realize that we were being shaped by it until later in life. But, but these practices helped culminate what we were becoming. And, and I think the holiday season can something like that. When a family gathers around some sort of idea, whether they choose to leave God in it or alphabet, it shapes a pattern that you’ll continue to display within your life.

And you’re defined by something. I think God’s desires for us as people to really, in a sense, new moon, our hearts to him to look for times in which we set aside something, encourages us to set aside our, our lives to new moon, our hearts to him. This is funny, but in thinking about this word, new moon this week, I decided to Google the new moon on YouTube just to find whatever song relates to new moon. Almost didn’t want to say this because of what I found. But um, for all you Twilight fans out there, they have a song called new moon and it’s loaded with Edward and I became the Grinch at every mall in this new moon. Almost ruined it for me. Took my heart, I gave it back to the Lord of skin. But new moon, it’s not, it’s not the holiday that’s special. It’s what happens within the heart as it can engage as the day that creates the uniqueness of what a holiday is and what God desires in it, so what does God think about the holidays? I think it’s different from culture to culture in the grand scheme of things. To him it’s not that big of a deal, but how we use the seasons to connect our heart to him that that’s where he cares and so let me do this. I’m going to bring us back to the story in Luke for just a moment because when you read the Christmas story, the first Christmas story that’s ever celebrated, what you see in the story, Matthew chapter one, chapter two, Luke chapter one, chapter two when they’re telling the story, you see all these characters being discussed, the wise men, Herod, shepherds, townspeople, Mary Joseph, and you see all these, all these characters discuss.

But one of the things that I think the authors are trying to get across to us in each of these stories as they’re told of these individual characters is how they interacted with this time of year where their heart rested. Because when you get to what I, what I think is my favorite passage in the Christmas story, it seems like at the end of what is the Christmas story in Luke, that, um, that he’s really showing the, the diversity of the way people approach this. And here, here’s what I mean. It says this in verse 18, the shepherds, the shepherds went in, in verse 18, they declared to the town that the Messiah was there and they brought the towns, people in it said this all who heard it, wondered at the things which were told to them about the shepherds. And then there’s this contrasting word.

You know, when, uh, when, uh, when you first read this, um, in verse 18, when it says, and all who heard it wondered at the things, you know, I’m thinking this is good. This is good and godly. There they’re wondering about the story that’s being told to them. How, what a great way to celebrate Christmas that the individuals here are wondering about this. And then when you get to verse 19, you realize, Oh, it’s not necessarily a good thing, but Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart, and the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen. Just as had been told them. Yeah, we talk about Jesus, his ministry. Jesus constantly had crowds that followed him around. But those crowds, the typical Mark of the crowds was that they were, they were people that wondered but never really engaged.

And that’s, that’s like kind of like Christmas season now you get to drive around, you get to see all the lights to pay, load up the van, go to Thanksgiving point or whatever it is that you do that becomes your Christmas tradition. Get out the lights yourself, decorate your house, and you get to go around and you get to see a lot of wandering things. Right? A lot of, um, a lot of things that, uh, the, the Greek also would say is amazed. A lot of things that just, they’re just nice things. But in verse 19, this contrasting word is to help us recognize that doesn’t mean that God engaged your heart in it because what it says about Mary then is that different than just being amazed, like it’s a fleeting moment of just appreciating the, uh, the, the glitz and the glamour. Mary took an extra step and she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.

And this word for this word for pondered in Greek, it’s kind of a, it’s a forceful word that says that there was this collision of combining. It’s this collision of combining what the, what the picture was really of the old Testament, what God’s doing in the story right now. It’s this collision of, of combining everything that God’s culminating in this world in this moment. And she’s, she’s taking it into her life and she’s making an impact who she is and what God desires to do in her and through her. And so I think what happens, the difference in the contrast to this story is that Mary takes the extra beyond just simply being amazed and brings it as an attitude of worship. I say all this to start in this place this morning because, and we’ve talked about everything that Christmas represents and how to display the attitude of Christmas in this world and what it means to walk in peace and hope with God. I think the foundation for all of that establishes itself and the whole and if I’m being more specific, it really starts in the heart. Cause here’s the danger. Um, the day’s dangerous. Isaiah chapter one verses 13 and 14, all right?

Where Israel went through the motions, they did the office party and they did the kids singing thing and they did the shopping and they did the setting up of the tree. And they did that. And they did that. And they did that. And they did that and they did that and they forgot. But the whole point of this celebration is a birthday in the birth that’s being honored, Jesus and what Jesus desires more than the holiday as the people within it. So I don’t know what that does to your Christmas, you know, every year I feel like I’m trying to figure it out myself. Yeah. This is a new year. This is a new moon. This is a new place. You’ve given me this responsibility in life. These people around me, God, how can we become weak 19 and avoid Luke 18 I don’t think it has to be complicated, but I think when you think this way, something as simplistic as putting up lights on a Christmas tree can be a time of worship for a family.

Kids is you hanging around a tree, let’s say to your kids, you know how we put lights on a tree? Let me think. Let me show you in scripture. Jesus is called the light of the world. And this reminds us has as winter times around and it gets darker and darker outside and things become, uh, hibernated that there’s still light in Christ. And we put it on a green tree. Because when everything else is dead around, Jesus still has life. And the reason we put a a star or an angel on top is because when that beautiful story of life is told, the star of Bethlehem appeared in the sky and the angels proclaim the glory of God to the shepherds.

All of this. It’s because of the greatest gift we’ve been given. The opportunity for me to make things new amount of life, and this is what I think is saying in Luke chapter is it’s the encouragement to us and the story is you see the, the the Christmas story unfolding in these two chapter, these four chapters in the Bible, two in Matthew and two in Luke. There’s all of these different characters engaging all these different ways and you get to the really the tail end of what the story is, the end of Luke, and it’s saying that there are these people that were just amazed by, but there was, there was one, I had a collision course, the grace of God. Well when it comes to the holidays, the holidays are just a semantical background to what is the most important thing, not as God’s pursuit for his people as you connect to him.

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