A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church dated December 5, 2021:
For the “Live in Church” audio version of this message, click here.
Well, we’re now in December, and there are 20 days left until Christmas. As of today, you should already be winding up whatever is left of your Christmas shopping, and we also know that it is Christmas season because we’ve finished up the last set of leftovers from Thanksgiving, and the search is on for a new turkey at the grocery store.
One of the customs in our household is watching the classic cartoon programs associated with Christmas. This is more than just a custom…it is a necessity. Programs such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Year Without Santa Claus,” “Frosty the Snowman,” Mr. Magoo’s version of “A Christmas Carol” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” come to mind. My wife reminded me that I am completely responsible for notoriously killing her impression of the Santa character on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. She read to me a post I had made on Facebook from five years ago about this:
“Every time I watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I can’t get past how much of a jerk Santa was before he “saw the light.” My lovely bride “was watching this for years until I pointed it out to her a couple of seasons ago. Watch for yourself and see what you think the next time you want to play reindeer games.”
See? I ruined the experience for her, but she had to acknowledge that, yes, a beloved figure associated with Christmas was not being portrayed in the best possible light. Santa was rude, cranky and impatient. Hey, I was just calling it as I saw it. If you catch Rudolph this year, check it out and see it for yourself.
I can also think of another figure associated with Christmas who has not been portrayed in the best possible light. It’s none other than Jesus. I mention this because of how Jesus has become less of a meaningful presence and more of a shadowy one even though His very name is within the word “Christmas.”
We all know that it’s Christmas time, and Christmas time begins just after Thanksgiving with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and putting up a tree, lights and decorations, and a methodical countdown of shopping days before Christmas morning. In all of this activity, let’s make sure that we take the time to make room for Jesus. Let’s speak openly about Him, stay in prayer with Him, and declare Him as Lord before others as we go about our business.
I have found that some of us have fallen into a habit for greetings that I have observed for several years now. As you meet and greet others, the words “Happy Holidays” have been used within the communication. Now, on the surface, that seems very innocent and not really worth the attention, but if you give this some thought, it occurred to me that some of us have been conditioned to take the general holiday greeting because there may be others who do not celebrate Christmas. Many Jewish people, and even non-Jewish people recognize Hanukkah, and there are greeting cards out there for Hanukkah. There are some who prefer to celebrate Kwanzaa just after December 25. In either instance, those who recognize different holidays should not diminish our ability to celebrate Christmas nor express the joy of Christmas…so let’s freely offer our greetings with the words “Merry Christmas,” and also celebrate Jesus Christ as often as necessary!
The name of Jesus is the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Let’s not act in a manner where mentioning Jesus is offensive or to be glossed over. Others can celebrate the other holidays for this month, but we are to look to Jesus as our reason for the season.
Our reasons to keep Jesus at the forefront with our communication with others goes back to our appreciation of His amazing, wonderful goodness to us! One of the chorus portions of Handel’s Messiah1 reflects the prophet Isaiah’s account of the coming King:
Isaiah 9:6 KJV
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Let’s focus on the following three attributes as to why we need to “speak up” more about Jesus early and often:
- His love for you
- His saving grace for you
- His eternal promises for you
First, let’s look at His love for you.
Christmas time in the media is flush with Hallmark movies that focus more on stories of love and romance with a “hint” of Christmas. The movies are fine for romantics, of course, but we, as believers of Jesus, need to point to our relationship with Jesus as the ultimate love story.
John 3:16-17 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
1 John 3:1 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 4:8 ESV
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This kind of love goes well beyond our casual references of “Happy Holidays.”
And as Jesus loves us, our relationship with Jesus comes with an important responsibility, and even in that responsibility, because He loves us, He gives us the help that we need to focus on His truth.
John 14:15-17 ESV
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Keeping the “Christ” in Christmas is as simple as living as a reflection of Him in everything that you do.
Next, His saving grace through faith.
We celebrate Jesus because He provides the remedy to address our sin nature, and we are thankful for His grace.
1 John 1:9 CSB
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 10:9-10 NIV
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. 9 And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 6:14 ESV
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Our salvation comes from our believing that Jesus was with us from what we understand to be “the very beginning” and because of His love for us, He has the power and authority to save us. Faith is the bridge to this reality.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 6 CSB
1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For by this our ancestors were approved.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Acts 4:12 ESV
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
This is a matter of faith, as well. Jesus is the only One who can deliver what is proclaimed in Scripture.
Finally, Jesus has made eternal promises to you, and that if you trust in Him, He will keep them. We should be thankful that Jesus is faithful.
John 14:1-4 NIV
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
1 John 1:1-4 CSB
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Jesus promises that as you lean upon Him, He strengthens you and sustains you. In fact, you recognize over time that your energy comes directly from Him; otherwise, you would collapse under the weight of trials.
Isaiah 40:31 ESV
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 43:2 ESV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
His nature embodies patience that more will come to know Him as Lord and Savior.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Look at all of these wonderful references of Jesus and His love, His salvation by grace and His eternal promises!
Do you need more evidence of these things today? Let’s say that you do. The best way to experience Jesus in your life is to put His words to the test. The condition of all of this is to be obedient and trust Him in faith. I assure you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will know firsthand about His goodness, and you will speak about His wonderful name all year round—not just at Christmas time!
An excellent section of Scripture that reinforces all three of our points to celebrate Jesus’ love, His saving power and His eternal promise:
Titus 3:3-8 NIV
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Note the summary here: If you trust in God, you are to devote yourself to do what is good. Doing good in both words and actions is very important. It has a ripple effect for all in your midst who believe, and it shares the gospel of Jesus to those who need to hear it.
This Christmas season, it is good and proper to go beyond extending greetings of “Happy Holidays” by saying “Merry Christmas!” Let’s keep Jesus Christ at the forefront and live in such a manner that He is glorified. He is worthy of our worship and praise! Hallelujah and Amen!
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines
1 Handel’s Messiah Lyrics – Toledo Symphony Orchestra. Toledo Symphony Orchestra. (2019). Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.toledosymphony.com/clientuploads/20192020season/TSOinHD/2020_0412_Messiah_Lyrics.pdf.