Christmas time is almost here. Tonight little ones will toss and turn. Their minds will race all through the night. Moms and dads will discover missing pieces, batteries that are needed, and in anticipation they will await the sound of little footsteps and the sound of “He was here!” It’s all part of the fun of Christmas. Any parent who has ever had the opportunity to be one of Santa’s helpers and watch the wide-eyed wonder spread across little faces on Christmas morning knows that they are memories that will linger for a lifetime. You don’t need me to get you pumped up about what will happen in the morning. The excitement and enthusiasm will come in just a few short hours.
Tonight, I want, just for a few moments, to interrupt our thoughts about Christmas with its tinsel and bows, shiny packages full of what’s hoped for, and families gathered around a kitchen table. I want us to spend a few minutes fixated upon a life. A single solitary life. A baby who was born with “no crib for a bed” and grew to become a man who said of Himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58 NIV) How was this one man able to have such a far reach even though He never traveled more than 200 miles from where He was born? How has one single individual, an insignificant individual by societies measuring stick, been able to affect so many lives over such a long period of time? He wasn’t born to the prominent. He didn’t live a life of privilege. He never called a palace His home. Yet, He lived in such a way that the affect, the fragrance of His life, continues to linger. Let me read to you about His humble beginnings. Turn with me to Luke 2:1-18 and read along with me.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:1-18 NIV)
A census was ordered so Jesus’ family traveled to Bethlehem, the place of His earthly dad’s birth. While Joseph and Mary were checking in to the authorities who were taking the census, Mary felt the first pangs of labor. A cry rang out in the night. Some shepherds, tipped off by the angels of God, made their way to the baby. Once they had seen the baby Jesus they had to tell somebody. We read that all who heard the good news were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. That’s the Christmas story in a nutshell.
It is the Christmas story, but it’s not the story of Jesus’ life. It is a wonderful story, a miraculous birth, and the beginning of a life that transformed history as we know it. The problem for most of us, for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, is that we get stuck at the manger while Jesus calls us to move out into the world…just as He did.
The cry in the night coming from the newborn baby would later become a cry for repentance, holiness, compassion, and selfless service. The Savior’s cry continues to echo throughout all of creation to this very night. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. When Jesus began His ministry He visited the temple. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus took the scroll and found the section of Scripture that beat with His heart. Then He read,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21 NIV)
The die had been cast. His face was set. He had stepped over the line. There would be no turning back. He would live out the words He had just read until His dying breath. Jesus would love the unlovable. He would seek out sinners in order to loose their shackles of slavery to sin. He would reach out and touch those whom everyone else avoided like the plague. He would bring in the marginalized. He would strengthen the vulnerable. Along the way He would tell His followers to die to themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. He would remind them that the world was watching at every turn and that the world would know they belonged to Him by their love for others.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Though He was God, He willingly stepped out of heaven and made Himself a servant to those who couldn’t have cared less. Light came into the world, but we desired the darkness of our own desires instead. That’s what John said in John 3:19. Listen to this astounding statement.
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19 NIV)
The proud, the arrogant, the self-righteous, they all turned away from the Light, but He continued His mission to reach out to the broken, the lonely, the despised, and outcast.
There was the leper, who was forced by law to live outside the city, away from his family and friends. The leper who was forced by law to announce his uncleanness to everyone who approached him so they could stay away. As Jesus was walking He heard the cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” followed by, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus didn’t back away, He didn’t turn and walk in another direction away from the man, He didn’t hold up a hand to let it be known that He didn’t have the time. No, Jesus approached the man and in Matthew 8:3 we read, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’”
“I am willing.” Those are such important words aren’t they? “I am willing.” With those three little words much can happen. With those three little words, just three simple words, lives were forever changed, death was defeated, and new life emerged for so many.
Jesus was leaving Jericho one day when two blind beggars, sitting on the side of the road, heard the news that Jesus was coming. They cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Everyone around them tried to get them to be quiet. They rebuked them. “Would you BE QUIET!” Some stood in front of the men trying to shield Jesus from them. It was so embarrassing. Who did they think they were? Matthew tells us that the more the people tried to get the blind beggars to be quiet the louder they got. Jesus made His way to the men and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” They didn’t stutter, “We want our sight.” Matthew 20:34 tells us, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes.”
What more could Jesus have given these men than His willingness and His compassion? An “Elf on the Shelf?” How about a new “SingAMaJig” or a “Wii?” Things come and go, things wear out or lose their magnetism, but the willingness of an individual to reach out and touch someone’s life, the compassionate care of a person who cares will mark a person for life. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Jesus saw a world in need and He gave them a gift—the gift of a willing heart and compassion which led Him to get involved. Jesus saw the hungry and He fed them. He saw the vulnerable and He strengthened them. He saw the lonely and He visited them. He saw the broken and He healed them. He saw sinners and He loved them. We see the same sights and we throw up our hands in frustration because the world is such a mess or we pretend to turn a blind eye because you know “those” folks—they will drain the life out of you.
I heard a preacher one time talking about how Jesus forgave the “sinful woman” that we read about in John 8. The woman was kneeled down and her tears were falling on Jesus’ feet. She took her hair and wiped her tears from Jesus’ feet. It must have been a church meeting that the sinful woman had intruded upon because all of the religious folks in the room said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39 NIV) Jesus knew the woman’s reputation, but He loved her. The preacher who was talking about the passage said, “Jesus didn’t see a sinful woman, He saw His child—she was one of His own.”
I want to show you a video of a man who began to see others as one of his own and the difference it made in his life. I pray that as we watch this video that God will so move our hearts that we will begin to see with new eyes.
Christmas is all about gifts. I’m not against the giving of gifts. As a matter of fact I love the idea. I simply want to encourage us to rethink our gift giving. Instead of spending all of our time scouring the mall and the internet looking for the perfect gift, I want to encourage us to spend ourselves for the weak, spend ourselves for the lost, spend ourselves for the glory of God. We need to give, we are wired to give, but our giving needs to reflect the giving of Jesus—we need to give our willingness and compassion.
Eric Ludy’s life was changed by seeing a little boy in Liberia as his own child. Well, you and I don’t have to go to Liberia, we have neighbors right here in Oklahoma City who need someone to say, “I am willing.” We have neighbors who need someone who will wrap their arms around them and show them the compassion of Jesus.
The Christmas celebration will be over in a matter of a few days, but Jesus will still be crying out, “Go! Go! Go to the lost who can’t find their way. Go! Go to the broken and help them pick up the broken pieces of their life. Go! Go to the lonely, to the senior citizen who has no one to visit them. Go! Go to the child who is all alone with no guidance, no encouragement, no hope and walk with them, lead them to Jesus. Go! Go to the sick, to the alcoholic, to the addict, so that they might thirst for the Living water. Go! Go to the despairing and sit with them, pray with them, and walk with them until He leads them out of their pit.”
This Christmas can be life-changing. I will assure you that there is no toy under a tree that is going to change someone’s life, but if you and I will make the decision this very night to give our life in service to the Lord by loving His broken, lost, and lonely people then our lives will be changed and He will rejoice! Merry Christmas.
Britton Christian Church
December 24, 2010