A little boy was so excited before Christmas because he had requested a watch. To make sure he would get his watch on Christmas morning, he kept asking his dad not to forget the watch. Tired of his son’s incessant questioning, the father told his son, “If you say anything more about a watch, you’ll not get it.”
Around the dinner table one evening, Dad asked everyone to read his or her favorite scripture verse. When it came to the little boy, he said, “My favorite verse is Mark 13:17: ‘I’ll say to you what I’ve said already, “Watch.” Children almost explode with expectation of receiving presents at Christmas. It’s the only morning of the year that they awake before dawn to run to the front room where a decorated tree seems to have dropped wrapped presents below its branches.
I enjoyed watching my children’s joy in opening their gifts at Christmas, and now I see my grandchildren’s delight in tearing wrapping paper to shreds. Yet, once all gifts have been unwrapped and paper thrown away, a Christmas day celebration without Christ has no lasting significance.
So, life-changing was Christ’s entry upon earth that all of history is dated before or after his birth. Every time you write the date on a check, on a form, or letter, you have reason to remember Christ’s coming 2020 years ago.
The Christian’s celebration at Christmas is not merely the fact that Jesus was born. We celebrate something we couldn’t do for ourselves. We celebrate because Jesus transforms our hearts and minds by entering our bodies through the Holy Spirit. The celebration of Christ’s coming reminds us that over that manger was the shadow of a cross. This baby was God whose love for us was demonstrated by his death upon a torturous cross (Romans 5:8).
The emotions stimulated by Christmas day celebrations fade and leave many people tired, empty, and broke, Yet, the perfect gift of Christ energizes living with strength, fulfills with joy, and makes the receiver rich with spiritual power, not for a day or a year but for all eternity. Is your Christmas filled with the experience of knowing Jesus as the gift that gives from here to eternity? His love working in your heart and mind, replaces your fears of the past, present, and future with his thoughts, his emotions, and his actions. Consider with me the gifts you receive from the Christ of Christmas.
First, because Christ came, your past can be forgiven. Rom. 3:23-24. Regrets for living a hell-bound life filled with sin upon sin become a nightmare that can control the present. In other words, the present can become unbearable for people whose past sins have resulted in a tragic life.
A 7-year old boy wrote a letter to Santa Claus that read: “There are three little boys in my home. Jeff is 2 years old and is good some of the time. Four-year old David is good some of the time. Norman is good all the time. I am Norman.” That’s a lie. (Romans 3:10) We are not made right in God’s eyes by thinking we’re better than someone else. It’s not how much we’ve sinned that makes us a lost soul. It’s the fact that we’ve lived our lives according to our own desires, not according to God’s will.
You may think, “My life is not a tragedy because I’ve lived my life without Christ.” From God’s perspective, any life without Christ is a tragedy. It’s not the amount of sin that makes us sinners, it’s the fact that we have sinned and spurned the salvation in Christ.
Since God created man and woman to be perfect, anyone who violates God’s original plan is a sinner. You cannot save yourself, no matter how much good you’ve done in comparison with others. Jesus stated the end result of a person who believes his personal goodness is his salvation. (Luke 17:33). A life lost in hell; that’s the tragedy unforgiven sin brings.
Unresolved guilt for past sins can crack a person mentally. The only cure for guilt is God’s forgiveness, which eradicates our sins. You can’t earn it, you can’t beg God for it, you can’t bribe God for it – it’s undeserved (2 Cor. 5:21). We can’t explain how God washes the guilt-ridden soul; that cleansing is only known by faith in Christ.
Only people who are reborn in Christ know the freedom and peace that forgiveness brings. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas; nothing else compares to the salvation of our souls from the guilt of the past.
Doug Stull is the pastor of the Shepherd of the Valley United Brethren in Christ Church located at 297 Riff Ave.