Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Well, it’s a crazy time of year isn’t it?
Think about the incredibly long list of activities people try and accomplish every December.
That list is a different size for different people, but for almost everyone, it’s a long…which makes for a Long December.
If you don’t believe me, I’m going to start listing off the many things the average American does from about Thanksgiving to Christmas Day
You might not do ALL of these things, I hope for your sanity, that you do not, but you might do A LOT of them.
Put up a Christmas tree
Or, if you have the time, chop one down, and put it up
You might do Christmas baking, make cookies, or even a gingerbread house
You might put up Christmas lights
I’m starting to see people just pay other people to put up their Christmas lights at their own house…because they’re already so busy
You might have a tradition of taking an evening to drive around & look at lights
Which if you do, drive around the East side of the Lakes, because there’s a house over here that you can see from space
You might have traditions like watching annual Christmas movies (Elf, of the Christmas Story, or Rudolph)
You might always take your kids to get pictures with Santa
You might always build a snowman, or make homemade ornaments, or take the family sledding
You might go shopping on a certain day (or 10 certain days)
(speed up) You might always see a Christmas play or a do a drive-thru Nativity
You might go caroling
You might send out Christmas Cards
Which means you also have to take photos, and get addresses, and mail each one out
You might go to Christmas parties (for work, for school, for church, for your neighborhood, for your office)
You might go crazy.
And we feel this pressure from all over to participate in the December craziness.
Pressure from our parents, from society, from our neighbors, from Pinterest, from everyone’s Instagram posts of their family making Christmas cookies and cutting down the tree,
You get seemingly everyone else’s picture-perfect Christmas Card in the mail, so you better have one too because the Johnson’s sent one out!
And we just “embrace the crazy”
WHAT THE REAL TRAGEDY IS
And you know who gets forgotten in all of the hustle and bustle of “CHRISTmas”?
Survey Says: Christ.
And that’s a tragedy
But let’s take a moment and clarify what the “real tragedy” is…because I’m not sure Christians understand this very well.
The real tragedy is not necessarily that we’re now absolutely inundated with a litany of secular versions of Christmas.
Everywhere you look, Christmas has become Reindeer, Snowmen, and Pop Artists singing that All they want for Christmas…is you!
Let’s stop and think about this for just a moment.
Would it be great if Christmas was only about the baby Jesus and not about Elf on a Shelf…yes.
The world would be a better place.
Is the secularization of Christmas going to go away?
It is not.
People who simply do not personally know how amazing Jesus is…people who think he’s merely a figurine from a Hallmark Nativity set, aren’t going to understand…and are always going to make Christmas about something else.
And it doesn’t ALL have to be a bad thing.
There are evangelistic openings here.
People who would never consider talking about Jesus, for one month a year, start listening to songs about “The First Noel” and “Holy Night”
Instead of getting so upset about it, let’s use this time to our advantage!
Personally, I’d like to see more Christian leaders take the middle ground on all of this.
Yeah, we need to focus more on Jesus…and we’re going to talk about that today
But as Christians, I’m just not sure we need to get out our flamethrowers and melt our snowmen and burn our Christmas Trees
Yes, let’s make Christmas about Jesus, but not every seemingly non-spiritual thing is necessarily anti-spiritual
You can still really bond with your family by cutting down a tree together…and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
It can be a great thing.
“No, I actually don’t think the tragedy is that there are other activities to do at Christmas time, I think the tragedy is that WE get engaged in SO MANY other activities, that we miss the real message.
We miss an incredible opportunity to seize the season and let Christmas be a catalyst to our faith.
And that’s the irony of it.
The way in which most of us celebrate Christmas, would be like celebrating your young son’s birthday by going to a Viking’s game, a great dinner, and a trip to chuck-e-cheese, but forgetting to bring your son.
I mean, it’s HIS birthday
But we get so busy…and December gets so crazy…that we miss it.
And when December is a blur, you can’t see Jesus.
If you get one thing, get that.
When your December is a blur, you can’t see Jesus.
But how much is too much?
What if you’re not even doing most of that stuff I listed earlier?
I would say that if the story of Christmas isn’t having a spiritual impact on you each year…if you’re not seeing Jesus in Christmas each year, then your December is too much of a blur.
And it’s time to slow down.
2,000 YEARS AGO, THEY MISSED IT TOO
A number of years ago, there was a TV show on where they would have celebrities work random jobs and see if regular people noticed them.
I remember there was an episode where Jeff Probst, the host of TV’s survivor, worked as a cashier at a grocery store.
And people would go right through his line, and miss it, because well, they obviously weren’t expecting it.
And I’m sure later, if they saw it on TV, they thought, “How did I miss that?!
It makes me think about the people who missed the coming of Jesus…because they weren’t expecting it.
Or, maybe even because they were too busy.
Let’s take a look at the beginnings of the Christmas story from Luke 2
(Luke 2:1-7) – NIV
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Now, the NIV translation that we read ends with “because there was no guest room available for them”
I’m not sure why they did that or if they were trying to get cute J
The Greek (which Luke was written in) reads like you know it…there was no room for them in the inn.
Now think about that innkeeper.
If he didn’t hear about baby Jesus over next 2 years while King Herod was trying to kill all the babies in Bethlehem, surely he found out that it was indeed Mary & Joseph at his door when he died and met God
Mary & Joseph came…to HIS inn…essentially asking if the Son of God could be born there
And he said, “Nope. No room here.”
One of the things that God wants to get across to us in the story of Jesus’ birth…is that the world missed it.
Yes, it was humble beginnings, and that part matters.
But also, the world missed it.
Because they didn’t understand. And they weren’t looking for it.
But that’s not true of everyone.
For instance, when Jesus is brought to the temple 40 days after his birth, there is a man named Simeon.
Watch what happens:
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
There was also a prophetess there named Anna, who also knew that this baby Jesus would be the savior of the world.
Look at what the doctor and historian, Luke, says about her:
(Luke 2:36-38) – NIV
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
What’s the difference?
What’s the difference between people like the Innkeeper, and people like Simeon and Anna?
Simeon and Anna were tuned in to God…listening to His words…His story.
Meanwhile, the Innkeeper was simply just busy with life.
I don’t know if you caught it back in verse 1 of our chapter, but there was an enormous census going on in the entire Roman Empire.
The only reason Mary & Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place was because Joseph had to leave Nazareth and come to Bethlehem to register for the census.
And a census was an Innkeeper’s dream!
Everybody has to come from out of town and stay for the census.
He was probably busier than he’d ever been in his life.
And so, in his busyness with life, he tells the parents of the “son of God,” meh, there’s no room.
But if he would have been listening (like Simeon & Anna), he wouldn’t have said, “there’s no room,” he would have said, “we’ll make room!” OR “you can have my room!”
But his life was a blur, and he didn’t see Jesus.
HOW NOT TO MISS IT
And unlike the innkeeper, we have hindsight.
We know the story.
We know it’s real.
And yet, we make his same mistake every Christmas.
We get so busy with so many activities, that our lives become a blur.
And when our lives are a blur, we don’t see Jesus.
Christmas is such an incredible opportunity for us to remember how much God loves us.
See, rather than seeing Christmas as a drain on your energy and faith, I THINK…that every year, Christmas, can be a jumpstart to your energy and faith.
If you can be intentional and focused about using this season as a time to remember how God miraculously sent his son to save you in your sin
If you can see the season as a ANNUAL SPIRITUAL OPPORTUNITY to grow…
If you can do that, then rather than entering January each year feeling like you need a week off, you’ll feel renewed, refocused, and re-energized to walk closer with Christ the next year.
I’m telling you the biggest tragedy is not all the extra stuff, it’s that we miss this incredible opportunity to let the Christmas season be a catalyst for our faith.
So how can you do this?
I think one of the most important things you can do is to decide what you can cut out.
What are the things that you do every December that you don’t really HAVE to do?
What are the things that, instead of helping Jesus come into better focus, end up just making him more blurry for you?
If you don’t believe me on the excess of these things blurring Jesus, try this activity:
Go home and actually try and add up all of the hours you spend on Christmas activities each December (lights, trees, cards, etc.), and then add up all the hours you spend letting the birth of Christ impact you spiritually
And you’re gonna see that for most of us, we’re letting the lesser things (not bad, just lesser)…we’re letting the lesser things drain us rather than letting the powerful things renew us.
And I want you to look at Christmas differently.
And once you’ve taken out the things some of those excess things that end up just blurring your vision of Jesus, how do you do things to help him come more into focus?
There are probably hundreds of ideas here, but let me give you just a few:
Every Christmas, read Luke chapter 2 together (the Christmas story…we read parts of it today)
Whether it’s just you on your own
Just you and your spouse
Or if you have kids
Read it on Christmas Eve BEFORE the presents…or Christmas morning.
Pick a time to help everyone remember WHY we’re celebrating.
When you decorate your house, don’t forget Jesus.
A nativity scene can be a good visual for kids to remember the reason for the season
You can have a birthday party for Jesus
I know Lindsey told me that her mom would sometimes bake a birthday cake for Jesus when they were little. J
When you give gifts, find a way to serve, or to give away gifts to people who actually need something.
I know many of our parents gave to Operation Christmas Child this year (we packed 41 boxes in fact) to help kids in need.
Those are awesome ways to help kids especially understand that Christmas isn’t all about just “getting”
Don’t miss one of our Christmas Eve services here.
It’s one of the best ways to celebrate WHY we fuss about Christmas for a month J
You could do an advent devotional or study.
Advent simply means “coming” or “arrival”
One that’s really modern and well thought out is from Matt Chandler’s Church in Texas, the Village.
If you want to look it up and have daily readings or it even has ideas for how your family can talk about it, just google:
Google: Village Church 2015 Advent Guide.
You could also just google advent devotional guide, and you can find more daily readings online too
And listen, I think every year we FEEL these truths (I’m too busy, I miss the point), but we rarely EVER…I mean EVER…do anything about it.
This December…do something about it.
See Christmas as an opportunity to jumpstart your faith every year!
MAYBE LIFE HAS BEEN A BLUR
Or, maybe you’re sitting here this morning, and the challenge is really one of a larger scale if you’re honest.
It’s not that your faith becomes blurred in December because of all of the busyness…
It’s that your whole life has been one whirlwind from the next.
And sure, maybe you’re familiar with the whole Jesus thing…
You know He came to earth as a baby in a manger
And that at some point he died on a cross or something like that.
But honestly, not just December, but LIFE has been too much of a blur to take time to look at Jesus any more clearly than that.
But what if there is more?
And why did he come in the first place at Christmas?
Before we go further, I want to show you a video of a person from our church, who had been living a normal life like any other American, but then, she had her eyes opened…and Jesus finally came into focus.
Take a look
(Play Kelli Anderson Testimony video)
Since I have you here, and for a second, life isn’t a blur…here’s the real story.
God sent his son Jesus, as a baby, 2,000 years ago.
But not just so we could have nice nativity scenes and Christmas Carols.
He sent him on a mission.
So that one day, he would grow up, and do the most important thing anyone has ever done.
Take our place, and die on the cross.
Why? Because you and I are sinful people.
We hurt each other, we lie, we ignore God, we can’t stop doing wrong most of the time
And for that, we deserve, not an eternity in heaven, but an eternity in hell, apart from God.
There isn’t a person on this planet that DESERVES to sit in the presence of an Almighty Perfect God for all of eternity because of their life.
We sin…and God must serve justice for that.
But, yet, the Bible says he doesn’t WANT you to suffer and perish for it.
So, he devised the most perfect plan, and sent his son to earth on Christmas.
So that 33 years later on Easter weekend, he would die on the cross, taking your punishment for you.
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And we’re told that if we BELIEVE that he died for us…we admit that we’re sinful and we can’t do it on our own, all of our sin will be forgiven, and we can start an amazing relationship with this God.
And He can really change your life like you saw in the video!
He can pull you out of the blur and give you purpose.
And I believe for some of you in this room, today is the day that you do exactly that and put your faith in Jesus Christ…and let him give you purpose.
This is an amazing thing to do as you saw in our video today.
And so I want to give YOU an opportunity to make that incredible choice too….and allow your LIFE to come into focus.
In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to do this …in just a moment, I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am. I know you’ve been leading me here. And I want to tell you that now, I believe, and I’ll follow”
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
This is just a way for you to symbolically say, “I believe. I’m putting my faith in Jesus.
“From this moment onward, to the best of my ability, I will be a follower of this amazing JESUS.
Maybe you are here today and have believed God exists, but you don’t have a relationship with him. You’ve never made this commitment. This is a time for you to do so.
So wherever you are, all across this room right now.. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
(you can keep your eyes closed)
If you are standing, I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take 2 minutes, but it’s 2 of the most important minutes of your life.
In just a second, I’m going to pray, and right as I begin praying, I need you quietly sneak out of your row, and go to the back of the room
Our follow-up team is back there by the blue rectangle to give you some extremely important resources to get started on the most important journey in your life.
So head back there…it’ll only take 2 minutes…and you’ll be able to sneak back to your seat
Let me pray (You can go back)
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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