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John 3: 16-17
It happened at Christmas!
The leader of the children's department was doing a children's story at Christmas.
The presentations were always excellent.
This particular year, he had four children to help him tell the story of the star that shone over the stable
in Bethlehem the night of the birth of Jesus.
At a given signal, each child was to flip over a large piece of cardboard spelling the word, "S-T-A-R".
Unfortunately, the leader did not realize that the letters would be in the reverse order
when the cards were flipped over.
The word that all the people saw was "R-A-T-S".
This object lesson was such a surprise that it took some time until the laughter died down and the service could continue.
We can learn something from that presentation.
We need to take note of that revised message of R-A-T-S.
Christmas is not an easy time of the year.
There is a great deal of frustration, disappointment, and stress connected with the holiday season.
The Christmas season lays heavy stress on families.
For many it is one of the most stressful times of the year.
We do not dismiss this lightly.
We realize that those who are already hurting and grieving, are prone to real hopelessness
-- especially when they see others happily celebrating this holiday.
Christmas Is The Assurance Of Hope And Joy.
Christmas is a star to guide us.
Christmas is a Saviour to make us whole.
All of this seems light-years away for so many.
Assurance is turned around backwards, and it seems that our hopes are built up
at this time of the year only to be dashed.
This word is almost too mild an epithet for our disappointment.
The birth of the Saviour happened in a darkened world of evil kings, and there was no hope for those in need.
- Is it possible that Christmas has always taken place in a world that has lost its way?
- Is it possible that we have always gotten important things backwards?
Yet, none of this darkness and loneliness could banish the star from the sky.
Again, during this Christmas season, hope is still shining like a star that can turn our world around
-- if we will look up and believe.
We Live In A World Where Grief Is Reality.
Tennyson once wrote, "With such compelling cause to grieve, how dare we keep our Christmas Eve."
Grief is a response to loss.
Can we deny the losses we have experienced this past year?
To deny is not the answer.
The prophet reminds us that those who dwell in darkness shall see a great light.
Not even the pall that hangs over our losses can expel the light.
What is your loss?
- Have you lost someone who was close to you?
- Have you lost a job that was your security?
- Have you lost your zeal for the Christian life?
- Have you lost your need to worship God?
It is not wrong to grieve, but Christians do not need to grieve -- as the Bible says, "Without hope."
Our hope is in the Lord!
It is our Lord who turns around our hopelessness.
I know a man who lost his business.
He lost millions of dollars.
But, in his loss he found himself, and he found the Lord.
After that, he and God built a new business.
He continues to praise God for turning his life around and giving him hope in the midst of loss.
Another Aspect Of Christmas We Have Gotten Backwards Is The Holding Of A Grudge.
We can pray in all sincerity,
"Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmases against us."
Christmas should be a time of year marked by forgiveness:
"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
Instead of forgetting the sins of Christmas -- we remember!
We must confess that we resent the "grinches" in our lives.
- Oh, how well we remember!
We remember every little slight.
We remember every person who appeared to snub us.
- Oh, yes, we remember...
They are the ones who steal our Christmas joy.
If we choose, we can nurse and pet that resentment.
Christ came to turn it around, and to turn us around.
By admitting our resentment, we can allow Christ to forgive that which we cannot forgive on our own.
When we talk of aspects of Christmas that we have gotten backwards,
We must mention greed.
Linus is expounding about Christmas to Sally in the cartoon strip, "Peanuts."
He goes on and on about the true meaning of Caesar's census, the inn, and Bethlehem.
Obviously fascinated by all of this, he asks Sally, "What do you think?"
She answers, "I think if I don't get everything I want for Christmas this year, I am gonna gross out!"
Isn't that the great irony in the season set aside to celebrate God's gift?
We end up placing emphasis on getting.
Let's not get Christmas backward.
Let us not major in what we can get, but let us major in what we can give.
Perhaps, we will discover that the one gift worth giving to God is the gift of ourselves.
Our greed is turned into giving, when we come to realize that God has turned it around once and for all.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..."
I read about a man who was asked by his wife to attend the Christmas Eve service in town.
He said that he would be a hypocrite if he went because he didn't believe.
So, he stayed near the fire on that blustery, stormy night.
His solitude was interrupted when he heard three distinct thuds coming from the living room.
It soon became apparent that three small birds, dazed by the storm, had crashed into the picture window.
He threw on a coat and rushed outside to help the birds.
But they would not trust him.
Each time he would get close, they would hop away.
They were unable to fly; so, they would just flutter beyond his grasp.
He was only trying to help.
He was trying to save them from the freezing cold.
Bread crumbs could not lure them into the haven of the warm barn.
All his attempts to help were of no avail.
Finally, in an exasperated tone, he said,
"If I could only become one of them, then I could show them the way."
At the very moment he said those words, the church bells rang announcing midnight.
It was Christmas Day.
God so loved us that He came to dwell with us -- in His Son Jesus.
And, Jesus showed us the way to God!
Christ died so the way to life and peace would be opened for us.
Christ is the only hope for the world to be turned around.
Christ is your only hope for your life to be turned around.
Christ is the message of Christmas!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org