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Keeping Christmas Holy And Wholly

Luke 2:1-14

Christmas is more than just a season. Christmas is a time to keep. The things that make Christmas Christmas ought to be true all year round.

In the first place, Christmas gives us a new understanding of power.

In King Herod and in Bethlehem’s Babe, there are symbolized two kinds of power which are continually at work in our world. One is the physical power of brute force while the other is the spiritual power of gentle love. One is fearful and domineering while the other is winsome and persuasive. One is boisterous while the other is quiet. So the story of Bethlehem is the story of power — not the power of force but the power of love; not a power that blasts, kills, and destroys but a power that blesses, redeems, and heals. It’s the story of a power that wins its way rather than forces its will. The story began in the apparent weakness of a stable birth and ended in the apparent weakness of Calvary’s cross, but to literally billions upon billions of people, it is the power of God unto salvation.

Here is the point: Only a victory forged in love can long endure in this world. Read your history books and you will find that to be true. The empires of Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, empires built upon force, where are they now? They are dust and ashes, and I am willing to declare to you that ultimately the same will be said of the dictatorships built upon force in our own time—dictators like Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, and Fidel Castro. Dust and ashes is their destiny. Only the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, built upon love, grows greater with the centuries. Someone has written “With pierced hands and quiet words, Jesus has lifted empires off their hinges and turned the stream of the centuries out of its channel, and He governs the ages still.” You see, the kind of power we see in the Christ of Christmas ought to be utilized everyday. That’s why Christmas ought to be more than just a momentary celebration. We ought to keep the spirit of Christmas all year round.

And Christmas reveals to us a new concept of greatness.

No one who played a part in the drama of the first Christmas could ever be called great. Oh I know, King Herod called himself, “Herod the Great.” But there was, in the last analysis, nothing about him worthy of such a designation. And of course, Joseph and Mary were anything but great. They were ordinary, obscure people without social or economic prestige. They were not prominent even in their own community. All we could say of them was that they loved God, they lived good lives, and they tried to do an honest day’s work in the carpenter’s shop and at home. Yet, amazingly enough, God chose Mary and Joseph to provide the home for His only begotten Son. And certainly the shepherds were not great, as the world counts greatness. They were anything but that. No one who really mattered took any special notice of those simple nomads out on the Judean hillsides. In fact, their occupation was even held in contempt by the religious leaders of that day. Yet, we dare not forget that the first announcement of the Lord’s birth came to “certain poor shepherds.”

Even Jesus was not great as we count greatness. He was not born of nobility or royalty. He had no social standing and little formal education. As someone has noted: “He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never went to college. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place of His birth. He never did any of the things which usually accompany greatness.” Yet, we dare not forget that in the considered judgment of many people, Jesus is the single most dominant figure in all of human history. And in just a short while from now, the whole world will stop for twenty-four hours in honor of His birth. That kind of greatness which we see emerging from the Christmas story is the kind of greatness we ought to pursue—not just for a day, at Christmas, but all the year round.

Let me finish with this.

Terry Schaeffer wanted to buy her husband, David, something special for Christmas. She had two problems. The first problem was the cost of the gift. The second problem was locating the gift. Her town of Nolan, Kansas was not exactly a shopping mecca. So she began to travel, far and wide, looking for the gift she desired to give the man she loved. When she finally found what she wanted for her husband, she nearly backed out because it cost so much. And yet, in the end, because she didn’t back out her husband’s life was spared. She would have backed out except for the kindly help of the shop owner. You see she didn’t have enough money, and because it was a very expensive gift and her husband’s salary, though adequate, left little extra at the end of the month, she asked the owner if she could put the gift on lay-a-way and then possibly pick it up before Christmas. The shop owner said, “No, I don’t do that. But neither am I going to let you walk out of here without it.” He presented the item to her and said, “Pay me when you can.” Well, she was so excited that, when she got home, she couldn’t contain herself. She decided she couldn’t wait until Christmas to give her husband, David, the gift she had bought for him. She decided to give it to him right away. It was a second decision which she has never regretted because, you see, it was only one day later that there was a knock on her door at seven o’clock in the morning. Her husband’s partner, a fellow policeman, was standing at the door, his face showing the wear and tear of a long night patrolling the streets. He calmly explained to Terry Schaeffer that her husband, David, had been the recipient of a slug from a 45 pistol point blank. Terry let out a cry, not of sorrow, but of sheer relief—relief that she had gotten the gift, relief that she had decided not to wait until Christmas to give it to her husband, and relief that her husband had been wearing the gift the night before. As a result, her husband, David, was in the hospital, not with a terrible wound, but with a bad bruise. You see he had been wearing the bullet-proof vest, the Christmas gift his wife just couldn’t wait to give him, and that gift had saved his life.

Not all Christmas gifts are so dramatic, I suppose. Most of us receive Christmas gifts, not to save our lives, but to make us look better or smell better. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say to you that there is one Christmas gift that, if you have received it, is a gift which will save your soul. It is God’s gift of Jesus Christ. He is the real reason we ought to keep Christmas holy, and He is the real reason we ought to keep Christmas wholly. Yes, we ought to keep Christmas holy and wholly not just for one day, but all the year round.

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