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The Heart of Christmas: Love, Hope, Joy
Text: Luke 2:8-14
Dr Alex Tang
The Heart of Christmas is Love, Hope and Joy
Text: Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
What is the heart of Christmas?
A few years ago, I spent Christmas with my brother’s family in Honolulu, Hawaii. The day before Christmas, we went to the largest shopping mall in Honolulu. It was like a war zone. We have to fight to get a parking space. People were rushing around in a shopping frenzy, pushing and elbowing their way around to get their last minute shopping done. Is the heart of Christmas shopping?
Every year, I would go to Singapore to look at the decorations for Christmas in Orchard Road. It is interesting to see the various decorations and the bright colorful light up. But these decorations are either about the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and reindeers. I have yet to see a decoration about the birth of Jesus. Where is the Christ in Christmas? Is the heart of Christmas Christmas sales and fancy dinners? Is the heart of Christmas is about money and gluttony? In America, people will go into debts, using their credit cards to buy things and spend the rest of the year repaying the loan. Is the heart of Christmas about greed? I want this, and this and this.
So what is the heart of Christmas?
II. Bible Exposition
A. Love (v.12)
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
(1) Love is when God became a Man.
There is a powerful hymn written by John Walvoord, “Love Was When”
Love was when God became a man, locked in time and space, without rank or place.Love was God, born of Jewish kin, just a carpenter with some fishermen.Love was when God became a man, down where I can see, love that reached to me.Love was God, dying for my sin- and so trapped was I; my whole world caved in.
I wonder whether we can ever imagine what it is like for God to give up his Godhead and take on the form of a human being. And not only a human but starts out as a fetus in Mary’s womb. We talk about baby Jesus. I am sure we are aware how helpless a baby is. He needs to be fed and washed and cleaned. Imagine God, who is all-powerful and who with one word bring creation into being, take on the form of one of his creature as a helpless baby.
What type of love would make one take such a step? When I read about St. Francis of Assisi, I marvel at the love of the man. He came from a rich family but he gave away all his riches. Then one day, he met some lepers. He was revulsed and turned away. That night, he felt such love of them in his heart that the next day, he went back to them, gave his horse to them and kissed their wounds and stayed among them. The lepers were the outcasts. The unclean. St. Francis’s love for the lepers allowed him to do what he did. Yet that is a tiny fraction of what God’s love for us when he limited himself as one of us.
(2) Love is forgiveness.
Love is also forgiveness. It is God’s love for us that brings us forgiveness. God knows that if He did not do anything, we are all condemned. Doomed for the eternal fire. It is love that offers us forgiveness.
In South Africa, during the days of apartheid, the blacks have been brutalized by the whites. When Nelson Mandela became president, he started a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation where the cases of abuse of powers were investigated. The victims were often called to bring charges against their aggressors. There was this black lady who lost both her husband and her son to a particular police officer. Both the men died in prison. So on the day of the hearing, the police officer feared for the worst. He was sure that the victim would ask for the harshest penalty on him. He was shocked when he heard the lady said. “ I forgive you as Jesus have forgiven me. The only thing I ask is that you come to visit me once a month and have tea with me and we will talk”. Love is forgiveness.
B. Hope (v.11)
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
There are three key words here: savior, Christ, Lord.
(1) In God’s Promises
Our hope is in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is though Him that we receive our salvation. Our hope is also in the promises of God. All that we have, all that we believe in is the promises of God. If God do not deliver on His promises, we are lost. The birth of Jesus is the proof that what God has promised is coming to past.
4 There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(2) A Better Future
There is also hope for a better future. This world we are staying in is a broken world – full of suffering and pain. Because of the birth of Christ, we can look forward to a time when there is no pain and suffering. We can also look to God to help us to live in this world.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
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.
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
(1) Immanuel – God with Us.
Matthew 1:23 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us." The joy came from the reassurance that God is with us. That no matter how far we have fallen from Him, He is with us. He will never abandon us.
John 10:27-29 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
Last week I was attending an Asia Missionary Conference in Trinity Theological College in Singapore. The theme of the consultation was ‘Mission as Transformation in the 21st Century.’ Theologians and missiologists from all over Asia came together to develop a consensus on mission development in the Asian context.
The representative from Indonesia shared the experiences of the Christians in Indonesia last year when there were riots and the Jihad warriors attacked the Christian community in the Maluku islands. ‘Indonesian Christian Forum for Communication’ reported that from December 1995 to early March 2003, 907 churches has been destroyed (bombed, burned, razed to the ground). On the Maluku islands, there is a wall called persecution wall. The Christians expressed their pain in art. On this wall is a painting of churches burning and Christians being killed by the Jihad warriors. And above all the carnage is a painting of Jesus holding His heart. The caption below the painting was ‘Jesus holding His heart in pain at the suffering of His people’. God with us.
In Indonesia at this moment was a great revival in prayer. In May 2003, 11,000 intercessors attended a prayer rally in Jakarta and recently 51,000 intercessors filled up another stadium in Indonesia. In their pain, Christians turn to God and God has not abandoned them. God with us and there is joy. Joy even in the midst of intense sufferings.
(2) Immanence –God within us
Our true joy come from knowing and experience God. And God now lives in us. When Jesus died and ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. And it all started with Christmas.
III. Lessons for Us
The heart of the Christmas message is not shopping, buying or eating. It is love, hope and joy. Jesus Christ’s birth is an important historical event. It is the most important pivotal event in the whole history of the world. That is why dates used to be written as B.C. and A.D. B.C. is Before Christ and A.D. is Anno Domini (Latin ‘in the year of our Lord’), After Christ. Nowadays, some people use the word C.E. that means Common Era. But Common Era still dates from the birth of Christ.
IV. Closing Remarks
That last Christmas that I spent with my brother in Hawaii was a peaceful one. On Christmas day itself, we went to their in-laws’ house. There we exchanged presents and have a Christmas brunch. We spent the day chatting and watching the children play. I still remember that Christmas fondly. There is family, love, hope and joy.
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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