Let’s play the Home for Christmas Family Game, part two.
Today, it’s called Christmas Fun Facts. I’m going to put a question on the board, with three possible answers, and you pick the answer. Keep score for yourself, and you get a trillion points if you get it right.
In what city was Baby Jesus born?
After the wise men came, where did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel to flee Herod’s murderous decree?
Which is something the wise men didn’t bring to Jesus as a gift?
In western tradition, before the Christmas turkey became popular, what did people eat for a Christmas main course?
- Ham, with brown sugar and cloves
- Lamb, with mint and potatoes
- Lasagna, with sausage and meatballs
- A pig’s head smothered in mustard
Welcome to Neighborhood Church and Home for Christmas.
We are so glad you’re here, as we remember the season and its reason. I’m inviting you to think with me about the topic, Christ’s Three Homes.
- His Heavenly home, in eternity, last weekend.
- His Earthly home, in Bethlehem, our topic today.
- His Spiritual home, in your heart, for next weekend.
There is so much that happens around Christmas. Life can feel so hectic, and so busy. Our culture has turned Christmas into a lot of different meanings.
Because there is so much going on, and so many different meanings about Christmas, it’s really good just to take some time out, stop, and say… “Let’s go back to the original script.”
What did the original script actually say.
So sit back, snuggle in, and listen to the beautiful account of the original script…
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this shall be a sign unto you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:1-16, NKJV).
The only true historical reason for celebrating Christmas is as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
In this Christmas season, we remember the day when God became human without ceasing to be God. And when he became human, he became completely human, in every respect except for sin.
When we go back to the original script, we learn that there was great meaning for Jesus, when he came into his earthly home.
What did it mean for Jesus to leave behind his home in heaven, that he might make a home on earth?
Think with me about FIVE MEANINGS Jesus found in coming to his earthly home.
FIVE MEANINGS OF CHRIST’S EARTHLY HOME
His earthly home meant SACRIFICE.
Where’s your happy place? Where’s your dream vacation? Put yourself there. Ocean breezes on the Hawaiian Islands? Rustic cabins in the mountains? Urban loft, the theater and Chicago Symphony? Hunting, fishing, with friends? Shopping, dining with family?
Where’s your dream place? Imagine living there without a care in the world. Then discovering you have a friend in need living in the worst, nastiest, dirtiest, most dangerous, cold place you know…
And without hesitation, you leave your happy place behind to go help that person you care about.
That is what Jesus did. He sacrificed the comforts of heaven because you were his friend in need.
There’s no greater love than to give up your life for your friends, Jesus said. And that’s what he did.
He sacrificed his dignity. He sacrificed his rights. He sacrificed his glory. He sacrificed his comforts.
He sacrificed his pain-free existence, that he might step into this cold, cruel world that didn’t want him, and killed him as soon as they could.
The Ruler of the Stars was laid in a manger beneath the stars, on the day that mankind’s Maker was made man.
According to the original script, on Christmas day, the Son of God sacrificed his infinitely exalted position that he might become the Son of Man.
Why would he endure this great sacrifice?
He did all this for you. Because he loved you, Jesus Christ sacrificed his heavenly home, and embraced an earthly home that would soon put him to death, that he might open a spiritual home in your heart for him.
And my hope is that you will make Christ at home in your heart, even today. I won’t embarrass you or single you out. You’ve come to a Christmas church service, and I believe it’s for a reason far beyond what you imagine.
I believe God brought you here. He brought you that you might be saved. And I’m going to guide you through a simple prayer of salvation at the end of my talk today.
So what did Christmas mean to Jesus?
It meant sacrifice.
It also meant…
His earthly home meant LIMITATION.
A while back, Margi and I had to bring a whole lot of stuff onto an airplane. We didn’t want to pay all the fees for extra baggage, so we got these awesome inventions called Space Bags.
I’m sure you’ve seen them.
It’s a big plastic bag with a ziplock seam at the top. You shove all your stuff inside the bag — clothing, sheets, pillows, whatever — and seal up the bag.
Then what do you do?
You vacuum out the air. That’s my favorite part. It’s so cool to see all those bits of clothing or whatever get the space sucked out them. They get squeezed into this flattened brick. One minute ago, it would be used in a pillow fight.
Now it could be a weapon.
I especially like seeing what happens to stuffed animals in these space bags. A flattened face of Dora the Explorer.
In order for Margi and me to get everything we wanted into our duffle bags for this flight, we had to compress it into flattened little bricks.
According to the original script, I can assure you, that apart from a supernatural miracle of grace, no amount of compression would ever fit all the glories of the Son of God into the person of that little baby Jesus.
I can’t begin to imagine the limitations Jesus felt when he entered his earthly home.
The One whose knowledge base isn’t even scratched by google, the one who knows all the knowable and unknowable and can force all the ripple effects of a butterflies wing — that One compressed himself to a human IQ.
The One whose presence fills all of space, whose infinite being fills every finite point in the space time continuum and beyond, that One limited himself to a human body.
The One whose power raises up mountains and whose hand spun galaxies into orbit and wove dark matter into the fabric of creation, that One compressed himself to the helplessness of a newborn babe.
[[The One whose name is written on the deed to heaven’s vaults, whose hand holds the key to treasuries of gold and silver, the rightful heir to the collected wealth of heaven and earth, that One limited himself to the poverty of a poor, afflicted family, so poor he was born in a barn, and used a manger, a trough, for his crib.]]
The One whose heart beat in tender affection with the Father and the Spirit, who enjoyed the love of the Godhead in perfect, eternal fellowship, that One limited himself to the isolation of human skin, and the affections of the sweet but fallen virgin Mary and a caring step father named Joseph.
When Jesus Christ left his heavenly home to take up residence in his earthly home, it had to feel like entering a prison.
His will was not as free as it used to be.
His intelligence was crammed into a human brain, and not all of it would fit.
[[Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Jesus was a divine mind in a human body. No, because then he wouldn’t be truly human. There were things he knew in his deity that he didn’t know in his humanity. He willingly chose not to access those things.]]
He was as human as you and as human as me, and that means he felt all the limitations a human feels, all the barriers, and blockages, and disabilities, and restrictions of living in a fallen race.
He felt all of that, except for sin, because his earthly home was a gigantic limitation on him.
His earthly home meant PAIN.
Here is how the Bible describes heaven:
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
If that’s the picture of life in heaven, then what’s the picture of life on earth? It’s the opposite of all those things.
Not the absence, but the presence of: Tears. Death. Sorrow. Crying. And pain.
Christmas tells us that Jesus left behind a home where those things weren’t and moved into a home where those things were.
One of the most clarifying lessons God has revealed in the Bible is something about this world: the world is a giant pain machine.
Now, it’s not all pain. There is beauty. There is goodness. Love. Happiness, pleasure, and joy. There is great good in the world, the original script never denies that.
But, ever since the fall, even in the presence of all of its goodness, the world is a giant pain machine.
For Jesus Christ to have left heaven — when he didn’t have to — to step into the giant pain machine — when he didn’t have to — is undeniable proof of his love.
He loved you, so he did all this for you. He loves you…
- to the point of sacrifice.
- to the point of limitation.
- to the point of pain and even to the point of death.
- He accepted the pain of sin and death, that he might remove the pain of sin and death from you for ever and ever.
And he will do that, if you only receive him.
You may feel unlovable today. He loves you with an everlasting love.
You may be sure you have crossed a point of no return. There is no sin so deep he can’t forgive, and no prodigal so lost he won’t redeem.
You may feel rich or comfortable or decent, moral, and good today. You need a Savior, because you are not as good as you think you are, and you have no wealth or success that can afford the treasures of heaven.
No matter how high you’ve risen or how low you’ve fallen, Christmas means that Jesus came for you.
He came to lift away your pain, to ease your crying, to comfort your sorrow, to die your death, and to wipe away every tear from your eyes.
And he will do that if you only believe in him as your Savior. And you can do that. You can tell God today that you are receiving Jesus. I will show you how in just a few more minutes.
Christ’s earthly home meant sacrifice. It meant limitation. It meant pain.
And its fourth meaning this:
His earthly home meant DEATH.
I’m going to make a statement, and I’d like to know if you agree.
Here’s the statement: There are problems in the world today.
Do you agree with that? I’d be surprised if anybody disagreed. There are problems at every level. Personally. Socially. Globally.
Thankfully, there are many people trying to help with these problems, and to alleviate the symptoms. Many even in our own church. And that is good.
But the big question is what causes the symptoms?
If you’re only trying to alleviate the symptoms, you’re always going to have the symptoms.
But if you’re going to deal with the root cause, then you will make the symptoms go away.
What is the root cause of all the problems in the world today?
Some time after the birth of Christ, he was visited by wise men from the east. These were the famous Magi, who read the ancient prophecies about a coming king from Bethlehem.
These would be highly educated scholars, with royal authority, wealthy, and very important people. They would have travelled with a caravan, and found the baby Jesus.
When they found him, according to the original script, they gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
- Gold symbolized his kingship, and royalty. They knew that Christmas was the birthday of the world’s glorious king.
- Frankincense is a highly aromatic tree sap, which was used by priests in worship. They recognized Christ as the world’s Highest Priest, that is, as the go between to stand between a holy God, and sinful people, and bridge that gap.
- Myrrh was an oil used in perfuming bodies for burial. This was a symbol of his coming death… which would pay the price for the sins of all the world.
When the wise men gave Jesus these three gifts, they were recognizing something very important… a lesson I pray you don’t miss today.
It is that Jesus Christ came into the world, not just to deal with the symptoms, but to deal with the root cause of all the world’s problems, which is called sin. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Infected by sin. Fallen. And resistant to the love of God.
Christ came to not only fix the symptoms but to change the heart.
And that the only way he would do this is through death.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14, 15, NIV).
Why the God-man? Many reasons, but the central one is this:
The world’s root problem of sin (with all its symptoms) could only be solved by death, so he had to become human so he could die for our sins.
But in order for that death to have infinite value, for all the sins of all mankind for all of time and eternity, he had to be God so he could present an offering of infinite worth.
And the beautiful thing about all of this is that you don’t have to understand it all. You can receive Jesus, and still have questions, misunderstandings, and doubts.
It is enough to believe that Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again to reconcile God and sinners, which includes you.
We sing peace on earth,
And mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
In a moment, you can receive Jesus Christ, and be reconciled to God by him forever.
The coming of Jesus into his earthly home carried several unpleasant meanings. Sacrifice. Limitation. Pain. Death.
But here’s one more meaning of his coming, and this one is happy.
His earthly home meant SALVATION.
There are two people in the Christmas story who are often overlooked. One is named Simeon, and the other is named Anna.
Both were extremely old, and both met Jesus when he was eight days old. According to Jewish custom, when a baby was just over a week old, Mom and Dad brought the child to Jerusalem… for presentation at the Temple.
So, Joseph and Mary hit the trail. They travelled the six miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
Picture it. The temple is usually a busy place. Priests and people come and go. Families present their children to the Lord. Sacrifices, offerings, it’s a busy place.
In walks this one couple with this one child.
And they bump into a very old man. His name is Simeon. He loves God, a knows God loves him. All his life, he has been waiting for the Savior to come. In fact, Simeon had a deep impression from God that he would not die until he had seen God’s savior.
Here, again, is the original script
[Simeon] had been led by the Spirit to go into the Temple, and when Jesus’ parents brought the child in to have done to him what the Law required, he took him up in his arms, blessed God and said- “Now, Lord, you are dismissing your servant in peace, as you promised! For with my own eyes I have seen your salvation! (Luke 2:25-30, Phil).
And then a few verses later, this happens:
There was also present, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher, who was a prophetess. She was a very old woman, having had seven years’ married life and was now a widow of eighty-four. She spent her whole life in the Temple and worshipped God night and day with fastings and prayers. She came up at this very moment, praised God and spoke about Jesus to all those in Jerusalem who were expecting redemption. (Luke 2:36-38, Phil).
Jesus was not even two weeks old, and these giants of faith see him, and Boom! He is God’s salvation personified. Boom! He is the redemption of the world.
How did they know?
We can’t be sure, but here’s my best guest.
They knew because of a) a direct impression from God, AND b) they heard Joseph and Mary say his name.
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20, 21, NKJV).
Jesus means Savior, and there was something about Jesus, something about Mary and Joseph, that made old Simeon’s eyes grow wide, and old Anna’s eyes tear up. What’s your baby’s name? they said. Jesus, Joseph and Mary said. Where did you come up with that name? they said. An angel told us, Joseph and Mary said.
Jesus means Savior.
- If Christ had not made earth his home, then we could never make heaven our home.
- If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent a teacher.
- If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent a financial advisor.
- If our greatest need had been physical healing, God would have sent a doctor.
- If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.
But our greatest need was Salvation; that’s why God sent us a Savior.
Some years ago, there was a man named Phillips Brooks. And he was sitting on a hillside overlooking Bethlehem. As he sat there, he had a sacred experience. His mind and heart were overwhelmed with what happened in that tiny city so long ago. With tears streaming down his face, he wrote down what came gushing out of his heart.
Those words have became a very well known carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem.
In the fourth verse, he wrote this:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us today.
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today…
Oh come to us, abide in us,
Our Lord, Emmanuel.
Pray this prayer with me:
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.
If you pray that prayer today, believing it. Trusting in its message, you can receive Jesus today and the salvation he brings.