Many of us are going to spend a lot of time on Christmas Day putting things together. It was fun to buy those things in the toy store. But guess who gets to put them together now?
One year I ordered a dollhouse for my granddaughters, and it was a fairly elaborate little thing that had to be put together. So I gave it to my son, Jonathan, to do. Here is what the directions said: “Tools you will need: screws (included), a Phillips screwdriver, tweezers …” And, finally, these words: “The ability to remain calm.” You know that something is going to be hard to do when you read that. And it was.
On the first Christmas, the message the angels announced to the shepherds was, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Why do we need a Savior? Because we are drowning, that’s why.
We don’t like to say, “I need God’s help.” We want to say, “I am a good person. I am a strong person.” Really? I hate to break this to you, but you are a sinful person. And though you may be a good man or a good woman, every one of us have sinned, and one sin is enough to keep us out of heaven. That is why we need a Savior. That is God’s gift to you: the gift of eternal life. No batteries required. No assembly required.
Thank God we don’t have to assemble our lives alone. There is born to us this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
Christ means the anointed one. He was the anointed one from God. Or, another way to put it, He was the Messiah.
The people of Israel were not so much looking for a Messiah as they were looking for a warrior. They didn’t want a Messiah who would die for their sin. They wanted someone who would overthrow the tyranny of Rome. You see, they didn’t always understand or appreciate God’s gift to them. And sometimes we don’t appreciate the gift God has given to us.
Nothing is more disappointing than getting a gift for someone that you think they will like, and, when they open it, they are not that excited. In fact, they fake their enthusiasm. We all know, because we all have faked it ourselves: “Oh, wow! I have never seen anything quite like this.” We look for the diplomatic way to say it.
God has given us what we need, but maybe not necessarily what we want. I heard Pastor Chuck Swindoll tell a story about his boyhood Christmas. He had badgered his parents about getting a basketball. When Christmas was approaching, there was a box under the tree, and he thought, that is my basketball. He even went to the box, shook it and heard it rolling around. He thought, Yes! On Christmas morning, he opened the box, and it was a world globe. Not quite what he was hoping for.
God does not always give us what we want, but always what we need. The people wanted a warrior king, but God sent them a humble Savior because they needed his forgiveness, and we do as well.
What was the message to the shepherds? What is the message to us? We have a Savior. We have a Christ. And we have a Lord.
This means that we have a God who has a plan for our lives, a God who wants to lead us in life, a God who will protect us in life, and a God who will one day welcome us into heaven when we have completed our task.
This was a joyful day, and Christmas should be a joyful time. But not everyone feels that way. You might not be feeling a lot of joy today. Maybe your family has unraveled or you have had a spouse leave you. Maybe you have a lot of friction in the home, and it is not a happy place to be.
Maybe you are estranged from one of your children or your parents. Maybe you have just gotten really bad news from the doctor. (Why does it always seem that bad news comes in December?) Or maybe a loved one who was with you last year is no longer with you, and you feel deep sadness. When you watch other people having a good time, it actually makes it harder for you. The happiest time of the year has actually become the saddest time of the year for you.
Here is the thing that you and I need to know: We need to realize that the great hope and joy is not in Christmas; it is in Christ himself. That is where the joy comes. Christmas cannot deliver on its promises. We get it so built up in our mind as though it is going to be the Second Coming or something.
But Christmas cannot bring harmony to your home. Christmas cannot bring peace on earth. Christmas cannot bring happiness. But Christ can do all of this and more. And when you get down to it, that is what we are longing for deep inside. Not Christmas, but Christ. Not merriment, but the Messiah. Not goodwill, but God. Christmas is a promise of things to come.
The incarnation was for the purpose of the atonement. The birth of Jesus was so there would be the death of Jesus. Jesus did not come to this world and be born in a manger so we could all go shopping. He was born to die that we might live. From the moment of his birth, he was always headed toward the cross. That is why he came – to forgive us of our sins and give our lives purpose and meaning and to make us right with God. That is what Christmas is about – not tinsel or shopping or even presents under a tree. Christmas is not the gifts under the tree, but the gift that was given on the tree – on the cross.
The joy doesn’t come from Christmas. It comes from Christ himself.