????????? Christmas has come around once again.? The trees are ornately adorned with tinsel and lights.? The packages are neatly arranged under the tree to give the perfect aesthetic allure.? Children are eagerly awaiting the moment when mom and dad give the signal to dig-in so that paper will fly, smiles will burst forth from every corner on every face in the room, and adrenaline will rise like the August heat.? Christmas is a time of festivity, family, and unbridled fun?or is it?
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I see the commercials on television.? I?ve walked through the decorated malls.? I?ve even heard some of the joyous Christmas music.? In light of these exterior evidences I?m not so sure that Christmas is that much fun for everyone.? For many of the people I have been talking to Christmas is a difficult time.? Christmas is looking at the empty chair where dad sat last year, but because we held his funeral a few months ago, he?s not with us any longer.? Christmas is shuffling back and forth between mom and dad?s house for the first time because they decided this past year that they couldn?t live together any more.? Christmas is just another visit to the hospital where a beloved child is fighting for their life.? Christmas is wondering where you will get the money to buy the gift your child wants when you know you can?t afford it.? Christmas is feeling guilty because you can?t ?get with? the Christmas spirit.? Christmas is sitting at home on Friday and Saturday nights and watching ?It?s A Wonderful Life? for the twentieth time instead of going to?the homes of friends you don?t have.? Christmas is looking for a job rather than looking for gifts.? Christmas is a lonely time when many are reminded of the family and friends they don?t have instead of celebrating the one?s they have.?
????????? In listening to many folks struggling with Christmas over the past few weeks, it got me to thinking ? Christmas is really not that different for many people today than it was for a lonely couple and their new baby?two thousand years ago.? Listen to the story as told by Dr. Luke in the second chapter of his gospel.
At that time, Augustus Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register. {2} This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. {3} And all went to their own towns to be registered. {4} So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David. Joseph went there because he was from the family of David. {5} Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant. {6} While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, {7} and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a box where animals are fed. (Luke 2:1-7 NCV)
????????? The story of Jesus? birth, if you will take the time to study it, is not the glamorized Hollywood version so many of us would like to believe.? We like things nice and neat, sanitized, purified, and clean.? The story of Jesus? birth is nothing like that.? It is the story of a young virgin awed, but scared.? It is the story of a young fiancee trusting, but uncertain.? It is the story of a newborn baby, wrapped in borrowed blankets and lying in a feeding trough rather than a corporate health care facility.?? It is the story of a couple welcoming their new baby by running for their lives, rather than being honored at a baby shower by friends.?
????????? Oh sure, the new family does have their moments. The messenger of God appears to Mary and tells her not to be afraid because what was happening to her was from God.? There was the time when the angel spoke to Joseph and told him that his precious soon-to-be-bride wasn?t fooling around on him, but that the baby was conceived by God. There were the wise men that brought gifts and worshipped the newborn King.? Great moments, but as soon as the wise men left their gifts God told Joseph to get up and run with this family to Egypt because someone was trying to murder his new son.? Not exactly what you would call an ideal Christmas.
????????? There was so much uncertainty that first Christmas.? ?It?s going to be okay.?? ?What am I going to do with an expectant mother to whom I am not even married?? ?He will be the King of all Creation.?? ?I?m sorry, we don?t have any rooms left, but you can have your baby out back in the barn.?? ?He will be worshipped and adored.?? ?Run for your life, Herod wants to kill your son?? This is not the end of the story my friend. The uncertainties of Jesus? life continued for the rest of His life.? Would the people receive Him or reject Him?? For thirty-three years He learned that both would happen.? One weekend they shouted, ?Hosanna!? Glory to God in the highest!? as He rode into town as the Grand Marshall of the parade.? A short time later they shouted, ?Give us Barabbas! Crucify Him!?? The very people He came to love, hated Him to the point that they hung Him on a cross.?
????????? With all of the uncertainty swirling around Him day-after-day He was certain about one thing ? God?s love was real and God?s love was certain, even in uncertain times.? I do need to mention that there was a time in Jesus? life when He even wondered about the certainty of God?s love.? As Jesus hung on the cross, beaten and naked for all the world to see His humiliation, He wondered, ?Where is God??? He was supposed to be King, why was He being crucified?? He was supposed to be honored and revered, why was He being despised?? He was supposed to be the friend of sinners, why were the sinners scorning Him so?? With a loud shout Jesus said, ?My God, My God why do you forsake Me??? The feeding trough surrounded with animals had been lonely, but nothing like the cross.? The fear of Mary and Joseph at hearing that the life of their son was in jeopardy, was nothing like watching Him writhe in pain hanging like a criminal on the cross.?
????????? Years of worrying about her son had certainly changed the Christmas ?wish list? of Mary. ?While her son was a baby she dreamed big dreams like every other new mother.? At Christmas she wished for great things for her little boy.? She placed packages neatly decorated under the tree.? She got Him all of the toys that she could find and she longed to see His precious smiles, to hear the ?oohs? and ?aahs? on Christmas morning.? As He grew up, the years of being a mother to a lightning rod of controversy had changed Mary?s list.?
She had seen her son ridiculed. She had watched the authorities in town, the men with all of the prestige and power, do everything they could to bring about His demise. She had thought that long ago she had heard the voice of God whispering blessings in her ear, but what she had experienced since the birth of her baby seemed more like a nightmare.? What mother would desire for her son a life of rejection, ridicule, and constant rebuke?? What mother would desire a life of wandering?? He had no home to call His own, no wife and family to go home to at the end of a long day of work, and no accolades, promotions, or commendations to hang on His wall.? His life of struggle had caused Mary?s ?wish list? to change.
Funny how life does that to us isn?t it?? When we are young we want things, when we are older we still want but our desires are greatly modified.? Amy Grant wrote a song which beautifully illustrates what I am talking about.? The song is called ?Grown-Up Christmas List? and it goes like this:
Grown Up Christmas List
Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well, I?m all grown-up now
And still need some help somehow
I?m not a child
But my heart still can dream.
So here?s my lifelong wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself, but for a world in need.
No more lives torn apart.
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list
As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree.
Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.
No more lives torn apart.
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
What is the illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe in our blind belief can we ever know the truth.
No more lives torn apart.
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
????????? My grown-up Christmas list is quite different from my childhood Christmas list.? As a child I longed for the latest toy, but as a man I long for the hurt to subside in the hearts of countless dozens of you who are seated here in this sanctuary this evening.? As a child I dreamed of waking up to a morning filled with every toy I had circled in the Sears catalog, but as a man I dream of the day when divorce will never tear apart another home.? As a child I waited for my stocking to be filled with all kinds of goodies, but as a man I am waiting for the loneliness experienced by so many to be filled with deep, meaningful relationships which bless and build the lives of many.? My list has changed over the years, and each year there is but one thing listed at the top of the list for my friends.? I wish that the year will be filled with a deep, comforting assurance of the love of God in each of your lives.?
????????? I told you earlier that Jesus wondered about the certainty of God?s love while He hung on the cross.? It was a cold and lonely, painful time.? The grave was colder still, but one great morning, just three days later, Jesus learned that He was not forgotten ? No, He was the beloved Son of God!? For many of us here tonight it feels as if we are writhing in a grave of sorrow, a tomb of depression, a pit of failure ? hold on my friend for you are not forgotten by God ? You are His beloved child and He has not forgotten! My Christmas wish for each of you this Christmas Eve is that you would be able to leave this sanctuary with the certainty of God?s love for you. That is not a sentimental wish on my part. God has proven His great and glorious love for you and me my friends. The Babe of Christmas morning grew into the Savior who showed His love for us by willingly giving His life for you and me. Won?t you accept the gift of love, the gift of life, the gift provided by the Father for each of us here tonight.

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 24, 2006
bccpreacherman@aol.com

All I Want For Christmas Is…