Let’s play the Home for Christmas Family Game.
Today, we’re going to play a little game called Before or After. I’m going to give you two Christmas events. You have to decide does the second one happen before or after the first one. Okay?
Here we go:
- Jesus is born / Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem (before)
- The Angel Visits Mary / The Angel Visits Joseph (after)
- The Shepherds Visit Jesus / The Wise Men Visit Jesus (after)
- BONUS: The Wise Men Visit Jesus / Joseph and Mary Travel to Bethlehem (before)
Who got them all right? You’re for sure going to heaven (just kidding).
Whatever the world may think of when they think of the Christmas story, it is impossible to deny one thing. It is impossible to deny that just over two thousand years ago, something happened which has absolute revolutionized human thinking, human history, and human life.
Welcome to Christmas at Neighborhood. We are so honored that you’ve joined us. Our theme for this year is Home for Christmas. Today, I’d like to begin with this Scripture.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2, NKJV).
It’s an ancient prophecy. It’s older than Christmas itself… Micah’s prophecy goes back 700 years before Christ.
And what did he forsee?
- The City — some big thing would happen in a small, backwater town called Bethlehem that would change the world.
- The Person — that this big thing would involve the coming of a ruler. A ruler in Israel, and therefore, a ruler of the world. God in heaven lifted the veil, and let this man, Micah, see a secret that would change the world.
- It involved a City, and a Person.
- The Miracle — there’s something in this prophecy that explodes the categories of history and science. This person to be born in this city, his goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
What does that mean?
It means that this coming King has something true about him that is true about no other person ever before or since.
The prophet is declaring this incredible message:
Birth is not the beginning for this One who will be King.
Alone, among all the great names of history… Only Jesus Christ pre-existed his own birth. This ruler. This child. This ruler from Bethlehem. He was born, yes, but birth was not his beginning.
He came forth from the Virgin Mary, yes. But he came forth from heaven first.
No one else can make that claim. Only Jesus.
I said our theme this year is Home for Christmas, so I invite you to think with me during the three weekends of December on the topic of Christ’s three homes.
- His Eternal Home in Heaven.
- His Earthly Home in Bethlehem.
- His Spiritual Home in Your Heart.
Have you made room in your heart for him? That’s my hope for you for today’s talk, and for every talk in this series.
That you would make this Christmas your first Christmas as a child of God.
I want to help you do that today. I want to help you make room in your heart for Jesus.
So today, think with me about His Eternal Home in Heaven.
Home in Heaven
1. Jesus enjoyed the FELLOWSHIP of heaven.
Jesus was eternal… from eternity past, to eternity future, he is fully God. We believe that Jesus existed in heaven long before he was ever born. He is, was, and always will be God. The Second Person of the Trinity, The Son of God. Co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who was, and is, and is to come. He is not only everlasting — a long timeline stretched out to infinite. He is also eternal — timeless… bigger than the timeline, he holds the whole thing in his hand.
- Jesus was almighty… the all-powerful, omnipotent, creator God.
- Jesus was all–glorious… he radiated power and love and beauty and joy.
- Jesus was worshipped… all the mighty angels bowed before him. They had no greater joy than to see the Son’s smile.
Jesus was beloved… if we could fly up to heaven, if we had the equipment to look at the Triune God, what might we see? We would see pure, bright, shining LOVE. The Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit who loves the Father. Each person of the God head, crackles and sparks with infinite love for each other person. When the Bible says, God is love, it isn’t just theoretical. It is the deepest relationship, the most intimate communion ever thought of.
It’s a deep mystery, this relationship within the God head. One God, yet in three persons. No human mind can wrap around it. It makes all other truths in Scripture make sense.
I feel a deep respect when I talk about these things, because it’s place of mystery and beauty and wonder and awe.
And there was the Son of God. The joy of heaven. Beloved of the father. Beloved of the Spirit. Adored by the angels. They celebrated him. They worshipped him. They enjoyed his company. No one can really capture the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A relationship. An attachment. A friendship. A companionship. Unity. Harmony. Closeness. Affection. A bond, and a tie like none other. The heart of the Son of God overflowed with the FELLOWSHIP of heaven. And not only that.
2. Jesus enjoyed the COMFORTS of heaven.
The Bible says heaven has streets of gold. And I only have one question. If the streets are made of gold, what’s everything else made of?
Fullness of joy.
It’s a place of goodness, and mercy.
A place of great reward.
It’s an inheritance. A mansion. An enduring possession.
A home. A treasure. A promise. A Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Its river is clear as crystal.
Its light is the glory of God.
Its gates are made of pearl. Its walls are precious stones. Its builder and maker is God. Its citizens are angels of glory, too numerous to count.
It’s a land of unclouded skies, living waters, and undiminished goodness, happiness, and peace.
No words can even begin to do justice to Christ’s heavenly home before that Christmas day.
This is where the Son of God had his goings, “from of old, from everlasting,” as Micah’s prophecy declared.
The Son of God was utterly at home in this transcendent place called heaven.
So why would he leave it? Hold that question for a moment.
There are a lot of people who struggle to find joy at Christmas.
Some have lost loved ones, and every Christmas the hole in their heart feels bigger.
Some might be alone, or single, or split up, and you look at pictures and posts of families having a great time. A little voice in your head says, “I’ll never have that.”
Some are super-lonely. Nobody really knows, because you cover it up. And everyone thinks you’re having a great time. But you’re not. You plan to spend Christmas alone… just getting wasted and numbing yourself to the pain.
Experts report higher incidents of depression, self harm, and attempts at suicide around Christmas.
Some feel the pressure of comparison, and victimization, and ask themselves, “Who cares?”
- Who cares about me?
- Who watches over me?
- Do I matter to anybody at all?
You might have all the money in the world. You might look great on the outside. You might have a nice house, nice car, nice clothes, great build, and all your hair.
But, on the inside, you are hurting. There’s something broken. Something wrong.
When C.S. Lewis grieved the loss of his wife, he wrote this:
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. (C.S. Lewis)
When you look at the joy that Christmas should represent, and see how far below that joy your own life falls, it can be painful beyond words.
Why is this?
3. The Human Race has shut itself out from our truest home in heaven.
We are fallen members of a fallen race.
We don’t live up to God’s standards.
We don’t even live up to our own standards.
When God invited us into fellowship with him in heaven, we collectively said, “Maybe later,” and turned our backs and walked away.
A few weeks ago, I told a story about a little girl in our church who is about eight years old. Her name is Hannah, and she’s the one who found a great friend in a boy on her school bus who has autism, and she sits with him and enjoys his company.
Well, Hannah is at it again.
Hannah asked her mom if another little girl from school could stay over night at their house. Hannah’s mom said yes.
The little girl arrived, and Hannah’s mom got nervous. See, this little girl comes from a very poor home. She has only one change of clothes, and she doesn’t wash up very much, or do her hair, and she smells like urine… none of the other kids like her, so she’s socially awkward, and doesn’t fit in.
So Hannah enjoys an evening with this sweet, shy, impoverished, VERY NEEDY girl. Her name is Chreia.
But it didn’t stop there. The next day at school, Hannah sat with Chreia at lunch. That was a first. She was so stinky and quiet, the other kids all stayed away from her.
But not Hannah. She went out of her way to sit with poor little Chreia.
Later, Hannah’s other friends talked to her about it. These were the popular girls, the cool kids. They told Hannah that if she was going to be the stinky girl’s friend, then they wouldn’t be friends with Hannah any more. They said Hannah couldn’t sit with them at lunch any more.
What do you think Hannah said?
She said that was okay. She didn’t get angry or hurt or anything. She just cared about her friend in need. Hannah said she could always enjoy lunch with Chreia.
She was happy to leave the cool kids’ table and to sit with the kid that smelled bad simply because she cared. The kid that was hurting. The kid that was lonely. The kid that nobody took care of. The kid that was dirty, and different, and unwanted, and invisible. She cared about that kid and would leave the cool kid’s table if that’s what it took to show her some friendship, compassion, and love.
By the way, I made up the name Chreia… it is the biblical word for “needy.”
Can you see why I might be telling you this story AT CHRISTMAS?
Who here isn’t needy before God?
- You need his forgiveness.
- You need his help.
- You need his acceptance.
- You need his love.
- You need HIM or you will never be complete.
So what did God do? He left heaven to come to you. He got your stink on him. Your pain, your darkness, your soil, your sins. He got your stink on him, and he washed it all away in a flood of Calvary’s love.
And what is your part?
Your part is to say YES. Your part is to believe and receive.
Won’t you be willing today? I want to help you do that in just a few moments.
Jesus told two parables about this, back to back.
“If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found.
In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:4-7, NLT).
“Or suppose a woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin. In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10, NLT).
Notice the parallels:
There’s the sheep, and the coin. Each one is precious in its own way.
In each parable, that which is precious is lost.
And not only lost, but incapable of finding their way back home. The sheep is bad at directions, and the coin is bad at movement. Or at calling out… “Hey, I’m down here in the sofa cushions.” They are needy. They are, in their own way, just like Chreia.
Then you have the Shepherd and you have the woman.
And here’s the important point. Both the shepherd and the woman leave their comfort zones to find that which was lost. The shepherd goes “into the wilderness” and the woman goes into every corner and nook and cranny of the house… even where there are spiders.
On Christmas Day, Jesus Christ left behind his fellowship, his love, his status, his stature, his comforts, his golden streets, his pearly gates, his endless sunshine, his Father’s embrace, his holy angels…
- He left behind the fellowship of heaven, and
- He left behind the comforts of heaven, and
- He left behind the glories of heaven,
- To come and look for you.
This is Christmas.
How High He Was
I can only imagine the surprise the angels felt when they were first told that Jesus Christ, the Majestic King of Heaven, would shroud his glory in feeble flesh and become a baby, and live, and die on earth.
We have no idea how the angels were told, but you can imagine how surprised they were.
What! Is it true that he who wore the glorious crown of heaven and all creation would lay that crown aside?
What! Is it even conceivable that the glorious one whose robes shimmered with light and whose garments bore the brightness of ten thousand suns, would cast aside his royal robes and dress himself in peasants’ rags?
Could it be true that the one who was LIFE itself would die, that the CREATOR of trees would be nailed to a cross, that the IMMORTAL one would take on mortality and suffer death for others?
The Bible speaks of Christmas when it says:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The angels heard of it and could scarcely contain their amazement. For ages of pre-history, they prepared, and wondered at the day.
At long last that day came. They watched their beloved King remove his dazzling crown and set it aside.
They saw him unbind his robes of shimmering light.
They witnessed him cast away his sandals of gold.
The angels witnessed the mighty plunge out of heaven to earth to the depths of human suffering that knows no bounds.
What suffering they felt, he felt.
What pain they endured, he endured.
What poverty, shame, heartache, and loss they suffered, he suffered to the full and beyond.
And when he came, he didn’t come as a shining King. No. The angels watched him enter the womb of the virgin Mary. At his birth, was he honored in Caesar’s glorious palace? No. He was born in the stables, and laid the the manger.
And the angels couldn’t contain their shout, and they exploded across the night sky, singing Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace, and good will to men.
This Master and Commander of the Universe, this King of kings and Lord of lords, this possessor of the vaults of heaven… he became poor. Truly, profoundly, indescribably poor.
For your sake. For your sake, that you might be made rich… spiritual rich in things that money can’t buy.
- You were the lost sheep.
- You were the lost coin.
- You were the smelly little child…
- Morally speaking.
- Spiritually speaking.
- You were infinitely needy.
- He came for you.
- This is the meaning of Christmas.
He left his home in Heaven, And made a home in Bethlehem,
That he might find a home in you. And Bring you Home to Heaven someday.
Won’t you invite him into your life today? No pressure. No tricks. Just a simple choice set before you.
And a beautiful invitation from the King of Glory.
What is keeping you from saying yes to his invitation today?
O Little Town of Bethlehem
In the lyrics of O Little Town of Bethlehem, we sing these words:
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.
And that is what I would like for you right now. I am going to pray, in just a moment, and I am going to invite you to pray with me. I would like you to pray silently. God hears the silent prayer of your heart.
And the way this will work is simple. I am going to pray out one line at a time, and I will leave a little time for you to pray it back to God… you can be saved today. You can make this Christmas your first Christmas as a child of God. No excuses. No evasions.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in me today.
I hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell.
I come to me, abide with me, My Lord Emmanuel.
ADMIT: God, I admit I have been loitering outside the doors of your great feast. You have invited me in, but I have been too busy looking elsewhere. I am sorry for that, Lord. Today, I admit I need you and I want you. I admit I have strayed from you. I have sinned against you. And though I deserve judgement from you, today I come to you for mercy.
BELIEVE: I believe that Jesus is my way to you. He is my golden ticket to your great feast: to heaven, to forgiveness, and to a lifelong relationship with you, my holy God. I believe he is your Son. I believe he died in my place. I believe you punished him instead of punishing me. I don’t know how it all works, but today, on this week before Christmas, I am believing your Son is the Savior of the world, and the savior of me, personally.
CHOOSE: So right now, I choose to receive Jesus as my Savior. I choose to come to the party. Because of Jesus, I know you will let me in. Not because I am worthy, but because Jesus is worthy. So I’m asking you, right now, for his sake, dear God, please save me.