by David Brenneman
This morning was reminded of the words of Linus in the Christmas Special "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
"Specifically, Luke 2: 8-14
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.
When he is finished with that last line, Linus turns and address someone directly: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”"
Then almost immediately I'm reading in Micah 5:2-5a NASB "But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From days of eternity." Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great to the ends of the Earth. This One will be our peace."
Peace is so stripped from most of the world today. Peace is sought after so much by all. People strive for peace even for 'five minutes" as we see in many television sit-coms concerning parents and their children.
We even find the Christmas story in the book of Revelation. When the depiction in the stars is given in Revelation Chapter 12.
The message to all mankind has not changed since time began...God loves us with an everlasting love. He hates sin and sin must be dealt with. When the time was right, Jesus was born of Mary and He lived a sinless life to be that atoning sacrifice that would be what was necessary to deal with sin. He died on a cross for the sins of all mankind, for those who believed in Him and for those who steadfastly refused to. All sin of all mankind for all time was heaped upon Him to the point His own Father in Heaven would have to turn His face away because He could no longer look at Jesus until all was accomplished.
Jesus entered Sheol(Paradise)/Hades and was triumphant yet again in His arrival, just as He had been here on Earth in entering Jerusalem. Millions upon millions, as the sands of the seashore in number, cheered and praised God for His arrival. They would cheer and praise God again when He announced they would be leaving there. The thief on the cross standing with Him alongside of King David, with King Solomon, with Samuel, Moses, Elijah and Elisha and many many others. Across the chasm that separates the two places countless billions saw Jesus and cried out for Him to help them for they were in torment where they were. Just as Jesus had spoken to. He probably told them the same that we read of the Rich man being told by Abraham. Those who had died in recent days such as the other thief on the other cross would see Jesus from where they were. Weeping and gnashing of teeth would be seen for sure when His answer was the same as what we'd read. They had their chance and they chose to deny God, to reject righteousness, to reject the hope of God which was to come, which is Himself. They will look upon Him who they pierced.
You, my Dear Reader, are not on either side of that chasm as of yet. In fact, when Jesus left Paradise, He took everyone there with Him. Paradise was closed, shut down, essentially destroyed. All who would die in Christ Jesus from that moment forward after He departed would only go straight to Heaven to be with Him forever. All who die without salvation in Jesus Christ find themselves in torment in Hell.
In this life you have choice. Death is the last of when anyone has any choice concerning where you spend eternity. Nothing in this life, in this world is more valuable than knowing where you will spend eternity. Jesus's purpose of coming was to save sinners. As Paul wrote of himself, saying he was the chief of all sinners, I count myself as he did. I sin every day, and every day I go to Jesus to ask to be forgiven. The Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse of us of all unrighteousness. That's a promise of Jesus. The weight of sin is too much for anyone to handle on their own. Oh we easily deceive ourselves when we go after things in this life. We are drawn to the world's acceptance of us as we are and miss out on what we could have been in Christ Jesus had we just come to Him for His free gift of salvation.
This Christmas isn't much different than others before it...it will likely have food, and family and presents. But no matter what the world tries to do with it, it's STILL about the birth of Jesus Christ to save mankind from the punishment of sin. Swaddling clothes were all that they had to wrap Jesus in after He was born. Swaddling clothes are burial clothes. In their culture you actually wore on your person your clothes for your own burial should you die. We see in even His birth that He was born to die.
This world loves to try to scrub the time of year by calling it only "Happy Holidays" or "X-mas" or other such nonsense. Trying to remove Christ from Christmas.
A group called Kutless had a song out called "This is Christmas"
Do you find it hard to sleep tonightResting by the Christmas lights?Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows and mistletoeThe tree with presents wrapped belowThere's more to this than you had ever thought
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?What is Christmas?If there never was a savior wrapped in a mangerWhat is Christmas without Christ?
Remember how the story goesGod's gift was wrapped in swaddling clothesBeneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels singThe wise man brought an offeringPeace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?What is Christmas?If there never was a savior wrapped in a mangerWhat is Christmas?If the angels never sangGlory to the new born king?What is Christmas without Christ?
There'd be no GloriaIn excelsis deoGloriaIn excelsis deo
What is Christmas?(Joy to the world)If there never was a savior wrapped in a manger(Joy to the world)What is Christmas without Christ?
This is ChristmasIt's all about the savior wrapped in a manger(Joy to the world)This is Christmas because of Jesus Christ(Gloria)This is Christmas(In excelsis deo)Because of Christ(In excelsis deo)Because of Christ
Jesus came, lived a sinless life, died a horrible death unlike any other in human history, arose from the dead 3 days later to sit victorious at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. Satan's greatest failure in bodily form.
Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus isn't done.
Jesus is returning and those who have died in Christ will have their bodies recovered and glorified. Regardless of how they died or what happened to their bodies they will get them back whole and restored and without the effects of sin. Those who are alive when He does will get their bodies transformed and have the curse of sin removed from them. Both groups will depart the Earth with Jesus to be with Him forever. Those who are still here when this happens will find millions and millions of people vanishing, graves collapsing, death everywhere from the collateral damage of the Rapture of the Church.
Jesus came to deal with sin. Sin will be dealt with. Sin will be destroyed. Those who cling to it will be found guilty. For those who came to Christ their sins will be remembered no more. A single sin is enough to cast anyone into Hell. One. No amount of 'good' a person could do in a lifetime can wash away a single sin.
Being friends with someone who's a Christian isn't going to get you in to Heaven on 'good behavior'.
Oh many won't have presents this year, many will have spent more than they can afford. People supposedly buying 'joy' for family and friends. The Joy of Christmas is found in the Manger. It's found only in Christ Jesus.
I can only imagine was written with the thought in mind of leaving here and opening our eyes in Heaven. I often wonder what those people in Paradise thought when Jesus Himself steps into what had become their world. Time had no meaning there no more than it does for any who die today and wind up in Hell. Time is for physical beings. I often have sat and wondered what kind of pure emotions happened at the joy of seeing Jesus. Possibly of Moses pointing and crying out "It IS YOU!!" The One whom He'd spent 40 days with when he wrote the 10 Commandments. I have often sat and wondered, after hearing Mark Lowry's "Mary Did You Know?" of what did Joseph think? What did Joseph know? What were his thoughts at holding the Son of God in his hands? What were his thoughts about his own sinfulness when he knew exactly why his son was born? Abraham held his son and was told to go and sacrifice him. His son at that time was possibly in his teens. His son carried the wood for the sacrifice on his own back. Abraham knew that he had been told to sacrifice his only son and he was willing to obey because he figured that even should his son die, that God could raise him from the dead, that nothing was impossible with God. Joseph held the Son of God. He was going to be the one to help teach God? He would teach him how to dress, how to walk, how to run, how to do life as a carpenter.
What's funny is to read of the day that Jesus got separated from His Earthly parents...and was found in the Temple. They had indeed, when He was born, treasured what they had been told in their hearts but in time had forgotten why He had come.
This Christmas remember it's about Christ. I also think of a song by Steven Curtis Chapman: This Baby.
"Well, He cried when HE was hungry, Did all the things that babies do; He rocked and he napped on His mother's la, and He wiggled and giggled and cooed. There were cheers when He took His first step, and the tears when He got His first teeth; Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as could be.
But this baby made the angels sing,
And this baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This baby had come to change the world.
This baby was God's own son, this baby was like no other one.
This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.
Look up the rest of the lyrics. It's part of why I was also thinking of writing a song myself of "Joseph Did You Know?".
Jesus is the reason for this time of year and every day of the year. Jesus opened the door to Heaven through Himself and what He did on the cross. Nobody enters Heaven without salvation in Him.
The messge to all is: Jesus came, lived a sinless life, died for your sins and mine, arose from the dead 3 days later. The Gift of Jesus is available to all who would come to Him to be saved. "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation....."Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.".
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