Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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Listen to the Angels

December 21st, 2008 by Vic

Matthew 1:20

What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is there just one meaning to Christmas? Can there be a false meaning of Christmas? Who decides what the true meaning is? How can I know what Christmas is supposed to mean? Why was Jesus born? Why do we celebrate the birthday of Jesus?

Christmas was not celebrated by the early Christians. They celebrated Easter and the resurrection, but it was not common to celebrate birthdays. So it was not until around 300 that celebrating the birth of Jesus was considered. It appears that the first date set was January 6th and the Armenian Christian church still celebrates Christmas on that day.

Because Luke tells us that Augustus was Rome’s imperial ruler and Cyrenius was the Syrian governor, the year of Jesus’ birth can be set within a 4 year period. However, the angels did not tell the shepherds what calendar date Jesus was born on. The shepherds received the birth announcement without the length and weight of the baby and without the date He was born.

Many scholars feel that Christ’s birth was more likely during the spring lambing season when the nights would have been a little warmer and the ewes were lambing and needing the shepherd’s care more frequently.

So why do we celebrate Christ’s birthday on December 25th? My daughter Vicki figured that out. Her birthday is June 22, but that date is during the summer when her friends were not around, so she had her birthday party on my birthday, December 8th. She chose another day on the calendar because the original date was inconvenient. That is one of the main reasons we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. Whatever the real date was, it has been forgotten. We celebrate on a convenient date set by the Romans.

There are a couple reasons that date was special. Beginning every December 10, the Romans for over 400 years had been celebrating the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun. December 24 was Saturnalia, the end of their celebra¬tion. There was elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, candle lighting ceremonies, and many other activities similar to our Caribbean carnivals or the old New Orleans Mardi Gra.

When Constantine required all Romans to be Christians in 323 Christ just became one more of the many gods that many Romans worshiped. The church leaders wanted to provide an alternate activity that Christians could attend instead of the pagan celebrations. Some churches today provide alternate activities on Halloween and New Year.

As parents we often do that. When our kids want to go to an activity that we do not feel is wholesome, we try to suggest an alternate activity. So Christ’s Mass was set on December 25.
The church leaders hoped to turn the people away from the temptations of pagan observances.

A birthday party was a new idea. Neither the Greeks nor the Jews had birthday parties. They celebrated a person’s death. The early church celebrated the day that Herod killed the babies in Bethlehem. They celebrated the day of Stephen’s stoning. They remembered many martyrs. But to celebrate a birthday was a new thing.

It seemed appropriate to worship the Light of the world at the time of the new Sun. It is interesting that the first Advent celebration started with a 2 week fast corresponding to the Roman celebration that had been developing for over 400 years. As the Roman’s celebrated the physical sun shining more brightly, the Christians thought it was appropriate to celebrate Jesus.

So what is the true meaning of Christmas? It’s up to you. There seems to be many opinions about the meaning of Christmas. I want us to look at 3 different opinions: some religions, some angels, and Jesus.

The Mormon church states that Jesus was the human son of the Adam-God. He was conceived because Mary had relations with this Adam-God who also started the human race by having relations with Eve. They say Jesus came to show us we can all be gods. However, the Bible says it was the Holy Spirit that caused Mary’s pregnancy, not a god with flesh.

The Jehovah Witness church says that Jesus was the human appearance of Michael, the archangel. They say Jesus came to be our example of a perfect man, but He was not the Son of God. So Christmas is not important to them.

Christian Science also denies the deity of Christ. They say Jesus came to show us how to unite our mind with the One mind. Jesus does not have to save us from sin because sin is not real. It is only an imagination of our carnal mind. Nobody has really sinned so we do not need Christmas.

The Unity organization denies the personality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God is only an impersonal mind principle. Jesus may have been a perfect man, but His physical birth is not important. We can have the inner Christ. The spirit of Christ can be reincarnated in any of us and we can be united with the God-mind-principle.

The Bahai faith says Jesus was a good prophet, but today’s prophets are more important.

The Hare Krishna is a branch of Hinduism. They revere Jesus as a prophet, but their Savior is Krishna.

The Moonies also distort Scriptures to interpret the Bible so they can deny the deity of Jesus. The Moonies say that when Jesus comes again, He will again be a baby.

Every religion seems to have a different opinion of Jesus.

What did some of the angels say about the birth of Jesus? According to angels, why did Jesus come? This is the 4th Sunday of Advent, the day we remember angels. Let’s listen to the angels.

Matt. 1:20-21 Jesus will forgive sins.
Luke 1:13-17 Jesus will be Lord.
Luke 1:30-35 He is the Son of God.
Luke 2:8-11 He is our Savior.

Angels are mentioned 273 times in the Bible. (They were white in Jesus’ tomb. Jn20)
They Announced:
a. The conception of Christ. Mt 1:20,21; Lu 1:31.
b. The birth of Christ. Lu 2:10-12.
c. The resurrection of Christ. Mt 28:5-7; Lu 24:23.
d. The ascension and second coming of Christ. Ac 1:11.
e. The conception of John the Baptist. Lu 1:13,36.

According to angels Jesus is the Son of God, Savior and Lord. He came to forgive our sins.

So what does Jesus say about Himself? 3 times in Mark’s gospel, Jesus states His purpose for coming. He knew His purpose in life.

Mark 1:38 He came to preach and what He preached is recorded in 1:15. The kingdom of God is at hand. God’s promise is true. God is faithful. Repent of your sins and believe in the plan of God for your salvation. Jesus said He came to show everyone that God is faithful.

When Jesus heard that everyone was looking for Him, He felt that was a signal to move on. Popularity was not why Jesus came. He came to be God among us and preach the gospel that God’s kingdom has come. God’s promise is being fulfilled. God’s power is being made known. The rule and reign of God is at hand. That is evidenced by the fact that Jesus healed and cast out demons. Jesus was attacking the kingdom of Satan.

Christmas brought good news for all of us.

Mark 2:17 Jesus compares Himself to a physician. His presence is like a spiritual hospital. Those that know they are sick come to Him.

Jesus was a friend of sinners. His purpose was to seek out the sinners. His mission was directed to the sin-sick and the Bible says all are sin-sick. All have sinned. There is none righteous. Spiritual health is a gift of God. All mankind has a need of spiritual healing, but not all see their sin and admit their need.

So if you don’t feel spiritually sick, there will be no healing. If life is a bed of roses for you, there is not healing. Jesus did not come for those who don’t feel sick. That’s why Jesus said, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. That is why Jesus said we must become as children.

Mark 10:45 Here Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man. This was another title used for the Messiah in the O.T. He came to earth to identify with the needs of man. He brought dignity, greatness, and deity to humanness. He brought greatness to lowliness. He did not come to be served but to bring honor to service.

The real meaning of Christmas is not some hidden mystery. It is very plainly printed in your Bible. Don’t listen to the cults, but listen to the angels speaking. Listen to Jesus. Jesus says he came to preach repentance and the kingdom of God. He did not come to call those who think they are righteous. He came to call the spiritually sick. He did not come to sit on an earthly throne and be served, but to give you an example on how to serve.

Christmas is about God coming as a child. The love of God can still be seen in the face of a child.

December 25th is not holy. It is only as special as you make it. It is only as meaningless as you make it.

In our world today we have observed the pagan rights of decoration and parties that begins long before Christmas.

Christmas will only be as special as you make it. At first Scrooge saw Christmas as any other day until he saw it through the eyes of a child. When he saw Christmas as a special day, his whole life was changed

Everybody who sings, “Silent Night” is not enjoying Christmas. For those without Jesus, singing the songs may remind them of what they ought to be, but are not. Christmas may remind them of love that they should have, but don’t. Christmas may remind them there should be peace, but they can’t see peace. Peace in the world starts in the Gift of a child in a manger.

The value of Christmas depends on the attitude of your heart. You can choose to make Christmas a special day or you can be a Scrooge and say the day is like all others. Your choice determines your joy this Christmas. Having a good Christmas probably will not happen by accident.

Like the people involved in that first Christmas we must choose to look in the face of God to receive His love and peace. We must choose to obey God and seek more truth.

Think about the choices in that first Christmas.

Luke 1:34, 38. It would have been easier for Mary and Joseph if the Holy Spirit would have waited till after they were living together. But Mary chose not to negotiate or bargain with God. Mary told the angel that things could happen to her according to the plan of God.

Joseph had a choice. As a righteous man he wanted to avoid a public scandal (Matt.1:19). He had to chose. Should he be logical and play it safe or obey the angel of the Lord?

The shepherds had a choice. Do we allow this night to be special or do we ignore it and continue with our routine? Do we explain it all away? Did we just eat some bad mushrooms?

The wise men made a choice to follow God’s clear leading or ignore it. They searched for more Truth and found it.

Herod had a choice, but he chose not to make Christmas special. He did not want any interruptions or changes. He wanted to keep all days the same. So he tried to destroy rather than believe the message from God. From the world’s point of view, Herod’s choice was shrewd. He had the most to lose. He refused to give up his title. He was afraid of a baby. He did not like himself and he knew that nobody else did either. His self worth was tied to his prestige, power, and position. He was anxious and insecure. The Gift of God was a threat to Herod.

Herod tried to destroy the threat and was forced to live in a fantasy world of his own making. He created only death. It was a deadly choice. If this child was to be King of the Jews as God had promised, Herod could only fight God to change the plan. On the other hand, if this child was a hoax dreamed up by these wise men, then he had nothing to fear from a baby.

Think about the world of Herod and our world today. They had a lot of pomp, ceremony, and tinsel. They had a lot of holidays. They had a lot of national heroes and American idols. They had a lot of pretend fantasies like Rudolph, Santa Claus, and Frosty the Snowman. Herod lived in a plastic unsustainable world like ours. Everything was glit¬ter, shallow, and unstable. His self worth was tied to his position in his pretend plastic world.

The choice is the same for us today. We can choose the reality of God, or we can choose to continue living in our plastic fantasy world. Not every one around you is real and honest. Not all jobs are as secure as we pretend. We act like we will live forever.

The fact is that into our fantasy world, God sent reality: the way, the truth, the life. God sent a real Gift. The fact is that the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, Mary and Joseph, were all real characters in history. To ignore that fact is to live in a fantasy world. To ignore or eliminate Jesus is to be like Herod.

You have a choice. You can choose the temporal or the eternal. You can choose the plastic or the real. You can choose to worship the King or the tinsel. You can choose to celebrate the Gift of God or choose to destroy all interruptions in your routines. In one sense, for the Christian every day is Christmas. Every day is a gift of God.

That may be why the angel never completed the birth announcement. We do not know the exact day Jesus was born. The physical birth was secondary to His life, death, and resurrection. Every day can be a birthday. Today, Jesus can be born in you and give you spiri¬tual life. Everyday can be a special Christmas. This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and give thanks.

Christmas day can be special. Christmas offers joy to children. Except you become as a little child, you won’t see God. Choose to make Christmas special. Choose to follow the sign and look in the face of God. Christmas is about children. Remember the love of God can be seen in the face of a child.

John 3:16
Joshua 24:13-15

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