DO YOU STILL REMEMBER?
TITUS 2: 11-14
LUKE 2: 1-17
December 29, 2019
MERRY CHRISTMAS CHURCH ….
I know … I know … the requirement that we have pushed onto businesses across America to not say HAPPY HOLIDAYS even though we are in the final day of Hanukkah is over. In fact, for far too many people CHRISTMAS is over because the packages have been unwrapped and the gift paper is awaiting the pick up of trash collectors across the world.
But, I still want to say … no, I still want to shout and sing MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! JOY TO THE WORLD!! A Savior has been born. … can you still hear the angel whom Linus quoted in A CHARLIE BROWN’s CHRISTMAS? “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!”
Unto ALL PEOPLE … a SAVIOR … GOOD TIDINGS …. GREAT JOY … CHRIST THE LORD. Oh church …. Don’t you want to shout MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone because now we have remembered the birth and it’s time to celebrate the RISEN SAVIOR, which is Christ the Lord!! GLORY TO GOD in the HIGHEST and on EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARDS ALL ….
That’s a rather difficult thing to accept, isn’t it? Peace … good will … towards all? A lot of folks might think that a clever writer of Christmas cards came up with that phrase not intending that anyone should really put the words into action or to wrap their lives around the message and live it out every day. You wouldn’t think so, would you church? Why in the world would a sophisticated member of the 21st century like one of us choose to have good will towards all and be focused on peace … only the words for a moment because it is so easy to pack away the reason. Unless you really have the gift of God through Jesus the Christ.
So, with only a couple of days left in this decade … DO YOU STILL REMEMBER CHRISTMAS CHURCH? A Christmas beyond the gifts that you received … a Christmas beyond the cookies and food that you shared with family and friends. When someone asks you, ‘HOW WAS CHRISTMAS?’ … and you will be asked that if you haven’t been asked yet will you say …’I was reminded of God’s gift … a child who became my Savior. I am full of joy because Jesus was born to teach me how to live and then to die for my sins and rise up out of the tomb on Easter morning before returning to God. And, He’s coming back. I was so blessed to go to church with family and friends’ Will that be your response or like me will you answer with words such as ‘it was really cool seeing my grandson on his first Christmas.’
JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN CHURCH <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> …
So, on this last Sunday of the decade I want to again remember Christmas. Actually, I think it’s a pretty cool and awesome thing to always remember Christmas and that’s why you have heard me sing the carol JOY to the WORLD during summer sermons. I love revisiting the song MARY DID YOU KNOW … ‘Mary Did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water … Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?” Church the joy and the facts that the baby was born to save ALL is so essential …. THE BLIND WILL SEE, THE DEAF WILL HEAR … THE DEAD WILL LIVE AGAIN … the praises of the LAMB …. So church are you greeting people with MERRY CHRISTMAS and did your day of December 25th include opening up your own Bible …. To pause in your own faith walk … to read the story again?
And, we heard this morning in our first Scripture “THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED BRINGING SALVATION TO ALL PEOPLE!” There’s that word ALL … the angels used it GLORY TO GOD in the HIGHEST and on earth peace and good will to ALL!
Paul reminds those of us who understand that the baby was more than a baby … those of us who still remember that our raison d’etre; our reason to live is for Christ Jesus. We are to be Christ’s representatives sharing the truth that in God’s eyes through Jesus Christ ALL are part of this Salvation equation … “There is neither Jew nor Greek: slave nor free; male nor female … for ALL are one in Jesus Christ. YOU ARE ALL GOD’s children …”. And then Paul sticks that one little requirement that I mentioned here on Christmas Eve when quoting my friend’s song … ALL GOD ASKS … ALL JESUS ASKS … and here Paul says it … WE NEED TO BELIEVE and have faith in CHRIST JESUS.” REAL ACTIVE and TRUE FAITH.
I heard John Lennon’s song, HAPPY XMAS, on Friday. His lyrics that I have heard so many times stopped me dead in my tracks because I had just told someone about Dax’s first Christmas and how his little hands had tried to tear at the wrapping paper … “And, so this is Christmas … and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.”
Interesting … because John Lennon infers that Christmas starts a new year. And, I would totally agree because I believe that the ADVENT season helps us refocus on God’s gift in Jesus Christ. And, the design of having a specific day for Jesus’ birth should help us celebrate our personal faith and relationship with God and Jesus the Messiah opening us up for new possibilities of our faith … another year over and a new one just begun. We should be shouting MERRY CHRISTMAS with JOY and then telling everyone we know what Mary didn’t know … the baby boy would walk on water … the baby boy came to save the world … ALL people are equally entitled to this … we all need faith … we all need to believe!
And, friends and friends as we shared over the summer …. belief is not a word belief is an action … James was so spot on in what his Scripture lesson teaches if we do not put our faith to work through our life’s actions then that supposed faith … that claim to believe is totally as much of a myth as that other Christmas tradition that shows up in movies, stores, photographs, and even our homes every Christmas season.
Lennon continues in his song, “And, so this is Christmas for weak and for strong. For rich and the poor ones. THE WORLD IS SO WRONG.” So, here’s another clear lesson from a Beatle reflecting the truth of God’s teaching … we need to make an active decision, and no time better than the Christmas season, … that we are going to have a personal revival where we reject the world … and, I know you know what that means as much as I do. That we turn away from those who use hate … we reject those who reject the clear teachings of Jesus … that we live as Jesus taught because yes, THE WORLD IS SO WRONG. If you can’t remember or list a few things that Jesus taught that contradicts the world out there then I suggest just read your Gospels.
If you listened to the reading from Titus this morning. By the way, I was going to do a Bible knowledge quiz during the sermon but thought it might be embarrassing but think to yourself right now, do you know whether Titus is Old Testament or New Testament? Do you know approximately where in the Bible this book falls? Well, that’s for you to think about as a person of faith … it is as if John Lennon read Titus before writing his long lasting song about Christmas because in Titus we not only read that “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to ALL people.” We also read, that God’s grace “educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of the world!”
RIGHT NOW … in our present lives … you and me … all of us who believe … we are called to do this right now Lennon wrote “THE WORLD IS SO WRONG” and here Paul (not McCartney) writes that we as the people of Christmas need to be rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of the world! In the here and now … and friends if we remember Christmas and if we carry the Christmas message beyond just the beautiful candlelit Silent Nights and turn them into bold days for God we will truly be amongst the people who accept the gift of God through Jesus Christ and actively stand up against what is so wrong in the world beyond these doors.
If there is any one truth that I find myself focused on as another year comes off the calendar … as another decade goes into the history books it is the truth that each person I meet … each person I know … and Dave Delaney himself need to be in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Maybe I needed to hear that one song because it really struck home with me … “And, so happy Christmas for black and for white. For yellow and red ones … let’s stop all the fight.”
This song was written in 1971 not in 2019 but sounds almost prophetic … In Titus we heard again the promise of faith … real faith not the faith that annually places plastic figures of a mother, baby and shepherds under a tree before hiding them away for another year … “JESUS CHRIST gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior and to cleanse a special people for HIMSELF who are eager to do good actions.”
ACTIONS … eager to do good actions because that is the life faith calls us to. Christmas is offering us the gift of Jesus to again transform our lives and help pull us away from the clutter of the world to the calm of a manger under the star of God.
And, friends, “A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s hope it’s a good one … without any fear!” As John wrote, “there is no fear in love … perfect love drives out fear … we love God because God first loved us … the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister can’t love God. Those who love God must love their brother and sister.”
REMEMBER CHRISTMAS … and God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ! BELIEVE!