Christmas is not just a date on the calendar. It is the celebration of the event that set heaven to singing, an event that gave the stars of the night sky a new brilliance.
As we come to Christmas, we again read the words the prophet spoke 800 years before the birth of Christ: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” In this passage the prophet had his first glimpse of Christmas. It is the promise of the coming of Christ and the light that was to dawn upon the world.
It heralds the entrance of God into human history. It is heaven descending to earth. It is as though a trumpeter had taken his stand upon the turrets of time and announced to a despairing, hopeless and frustrated world the coming of the Prince of Peace.
No informed person today will deny that the human race walks in darkness. There are dilemmas and problems that seemingly have no answer. Many competent observers not usually given to pessimism despair of solving the problems of the world; they suspect that we are people who not only walk in darkness but walk in darkness to our doom.
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For years people have been seeking to organize human life without God. They have tried to thrust him out of the universe. Many secular critics are using subtle forms of attack against evangelical Christianity throughout the world.
Because these modern critics find it hard to believe in God, they have transferred their faith to man. They have invented in the past few years a creed which is the worship of humanity. “Glory to man in the highest” is their theme.
This worship of human nature has grown in popularity because it feeds on our own conceit. We have been told in the past few years, especially in some of our classrooms, that there is no sin, that the human race has a bit of selfishness which time will correct. It flatters the egoism in us; it seems to make redemption unnecessary; it empties the cross of its meaning. People will grow better, we are told.
However, the failure to solve the problems of the world in the past few years has shattered the hopes of many. We are more unsure of peace and have less freedom than ever before. We have built a world of television and spaceships, but we also have the possibility of radiation poisoning and mass suicide. In our brilliance without God we have become fools.
We look at the world today and wonder at the incredible folly of it—the ignorant conceit, the puffed-up egotism of the human race during the past few years. It is obvious that unredeemed man without the help of God will take the path of destruction, judgment and hell. We stand on the very edge of Armageddon.
The Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel not only believed in God but they worshipped God. They believed that God could be seen in nature. They believed that he had made the world. But all through the centuries they seem to have been saying, “I wish that God would become personal.”
This is precisely what he did that first Christmas night. He became personal in Bethlehem. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” At a specific time and at a specific place a specific Person was born and that Person was God of very God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the lips of Jesus came these words, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Like piercing trumpets these words herald the breaking in of the Divine into human history. What a wonderful and glorious hope we have because of that first Christmas!
Christ came into a world that was facing problems very much like the ones we grapple with today. We often imagine that the world Jesus came to was not complicated, that its problems were not complex. But historians tell us otherwise. They tell us that the problems of that day were similar to the problems of our day.
And right into the center of this kind of life came Jesus Christ. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And he said, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus had a healing word for everyone.
At this Christmas season, despite the affluent society that surrounds us, there are many who find life a burden. Purpose and zest have fled, hearts ache with emptiness, and even the joys of this happy season leave many of us lonely and wistful.
This Christmas the Lord Jesus Christ stands at the door of our heart and knocks, saying, “If you will open that door, I will come in to you and sup with you, and you with me.” In other words, Jesus wants to have Christmas with us.
Christmas means that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Christmas means that Emmanuel had come—that “the people…in darkness have seen a great light” and that he walks with us through the shadows—it means that “God is with us.”
It means that our sordid, failure-fraught past can be wiped out by his sacrifice on the cross and that we can become members of God’s family, heirs of God and citizens of heaven. Christmas means that he comes into the night of our suffering and sorrow, saying, “I am with you. Let Me share your burdens.”
During the Korean War one Christmas Eve a young Marine lay dying on Heartbreak Ridge. The chaplain climbed up the slope and stooped over the Marine and whispered, “May I help you, son?”
“No, it’s all right,” he answered.
The chaplain marveled at the young man’s complacency in such an hour; then, glancing down, the chaplain noticed a New Testament clutched in the Marine’s hand. And the reason for the young man’s tranquility was found on the page where his finger was inserted: “My peace I give unto you.”
Today, in the midst of trouble, terrorism and war, that peace can be yours. It can come if you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He is offering to every one of us eternal life if we will put our trust and our faith in him.
The gift of eternity can be ours now. “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life.” This is the real meaning of Christmas.
Will you accept Christ into your heart this Christmas season?
“The Event That Set Heaven to Ringing” was originally printed in December 1985, and updated in 1995. The original message for the sermon booklet came from “Hour of Decision, December 23, 1979.”
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