You know it’s hard to believe that we are already heading into the last few weeks of 2022! We are really looking forward to our Christmas eve services with you and to our combined breakfast and service to bring in the New Year! But it is just amazing to me how quickly time flies. So here at MRC we are hopeful that you can take some time this Holiday Season and really slow down, and enjoy family and friends, and really reflect on the true reason for the season which we will spend a lot of our time on today. We have been talking a lot this fall about our purpose and why we are here on this Earth which has been important and a lot of fun. That conversation is going to lead us into another important conversation to start 2023 on the church, and really diving into the point of that, and our role in that. It’s an awesome conversation to come, but very intentionally comes after we figure out who we are and why we matter as people! So, let’s talk for a bit because this fall conversation really has just felt big to me. It’s a journey that we have been on together to find answers to life’s biggest and most important questions. Questions that we all wonder about, that can weigh on us in the deepest parts of our hearts and minds. Questions like why am I alive? Does my life matter? Why is life so hard? What is the meaning of my life, what is my purpose? This is the big stuff, the deep stuff, and quite frankly, these are important questions for us to be able to answer on a personal level. Because if you can answer them, you find direction, purpose, focus, energy and so much more in your life, but if you can’t answer these questions, you will walk through life hopeless, aimless, wishing for energy and focus, and so much more because life without purpose and meaning, is an empty life. So, this has been an important fall conversation spending our time together getting to the truth and the answer to meaning, value, and purpose in our lives. And I want us to take some time and think about where we have been…if you remember, I introduced the series to you as we tried to answer one very challenging and important question. What was the question? It was what on Earth am I here for? We learned that we were created by God on purpose for His purpose, and we learned that purpose was to love us and us to love forever. Then we started walking through the five great purposes of our lives. Ken had purpose one which was that we were created by God for His pleasure, we were created to Worship, and we learned that worship is bigger than the songs we sing on Sunday morning, it’s all about trust. Then I was back talking to you about the second purpose of our lives, which is the hardest and most challenging thing for me when it comes to my faith, the public introvert that I am who has spent over 20 years in the same church. That second purpose of our lives is to love others. We were shaped by God to live life with other people, this is called fellowship. In that talk we discovered not only the importance of our loving others but also why it is so difficult and painful at times too to be part of the church, which should be our Spiritual Family. That was one of my favorite talks in a while to share with you on a topic that has hurt and challenged me so deeply over the years. Then Ken had the third purpose of our lives, and that is that we were created to grow, and become like Christ. We call this discipleship, which is such a big deal, that it comes right after loving God and loving others, because if we aren’t growing in our faith to become like Christ the last two purposes will not happen. Purpose four is that we were wired by God, created, and formed to serve and then Ken wrapped up the great purposes with the last but most definitely not least of the purposes…and that is that we were created by God to jump in and engage the mission. His mission becomes our mission. So, we love God (Worship) we love others (Fellowship) we love to grow (Discipleship) we serve, and we engage the God mission. Do you see it? We were created on purpose for God’s purpose. You do matter. You are here for a reason and when you stand in your God given purpose you experience that full life that Jesus told you He came to provide for you all along. It’s life changing, it’s inspiring, and just amazing to recognize, and even more fun to find and fulfill the plan God has for our lives…which really is what MRC is all about isn’t it? We exist to help people find and fulfill the plan God has for our lives. Fun, fun stuff.
But here we are, the last Sunday before Christmas coming off an awesome conversation on purpose and asking and diving into these deep and important questions of life, and we are looking Christmas right in the face here this week which gives us another purpose to dive into today. I want us to be able to dive in and answer this question today. What is the point of Christmas? We will spend our time today looking at the point of Christmas because it is such a big deal to us on such a personal level. Christmas is everything…but let’s be real for a moment, for many of us, Christmas has lost some of its meaning and for all of us Christmas brings up different thoughts, emotions, and tensions as well. In all the stuff that gets thrown at us around the Holidays it can be very easy to not know how to answer, or just entirely forget and not think through the point and purpose of Christmas and I want us to slow down and really dive into this and reflect on this today. But you know me, I like things to be real, and we can’t talk about Christmas without bringing up so much of the realities we face through these big holidays.
It’s interesting to me, when we are children, we are so pumped for Christmas aren’t we? I mean it’s presents, and family, and food, and presents, and Christmas lights, travel, and no school, and presents! Am I right? Then as adults all those things that excited us and filled us with Christmas spirit seem to be the very things that stress us out, and make us feel like the Grinch, rather than Mr. or Mrs. Christmas time. It’s the presents, and family, and food, and Christmas lights, and the kids aren’t at school, and the travel, and presents…all the stuff that used to be fun, well, now you have to make happen with your time, energy, emotions, and it can be a lot…in so many ways all that stuff can really hijack Christmas from what it truly should be about. The other great reality for so many around significant holidays is that it is a time of heavy hearts, where we are missing loved ones, so it isn’t always joyous to everyone this time of year, for some it’s a very painful and lonely time too. The world, our culture, all the pressures and commercialization of Christmas can really take away or lead to us missing the great reality of what we are to be celebrating, and it is a celebration regardless of any of our circumstances because the whole point of Christmas is Jesus. Jesus is the reason for the season…I know that is a shocking thing for you to hear on a Sunday morning in church, but I want you to sit in this today. Christmas isn’t about you. It isn’t about the gifts, the meals, the travel, the lights, the trees, the songs…or even the family time that we get, it’s all about Jesus. All the other stuff is there, but none of it is the point, it’s all about Jesus. Which is really good news which leads to great joy for all people. So, let’s start here today…
Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” NIV
Listen, I get it, for most of us as we dive into all the Holiday’s throw at us we aren’t finding a lot of good news and great joy as we try not to max out credit cards, and over eat, as we navigate weather and travel while trying to keep the kids and the pets out of the Christmas trees…maybe while hurting and really missing some people through this time of year. But the one thing that we all can find great joy in is Jesus, who should be at the very center of all we do, think about, and celebrate at Christmas. Regardless of what you are doing, walking through, feeling, or dealing with Christmas is a time of good news and great joy because of Jesus. Why? Well let’s start here.
Christmas is a time of good news and great joy because God loves us enough to give us Jesus!
John 3:16 “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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” NIV
God loves us so much that He gives us the ultimate gift in Jesus, and if you notice in verse 17 there, God is for us, He didn’t give us this gift to condemn us but to save us!
Christmas is a time of good news and great joy because God is now with us!
Isaiah 7:14 …The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). NLT
This is huge, God loves us and is now with us and we know in His word that He will never leave us or forsake us. Immanuel God with us is here!
So regardless of what we are walking through, this is our reality as people at Christmas time. We may miss people this time of year. We may be stressed out over money, time, and travel. We may be absolutely done wrapping gifts, cooking, and decorating, but we all can celebrate Christmas because it’s all about Jesus and when we recognize and focus on God’s love for us in Jesus it’s a time of great joy and celebration because God loves us, is for us, and is now with us. It’s all about Jesus and the whole great concept and celebration of Christmas really rallies around the fact that we sinners are now saved through Him! God’s amazing gift of Jesus is the cause of celebration. Remember what the shepherds were told that a Savior has been born! Look at what the angel tells Joseph as he sits wrestling with the idea of divorcing marry over the fact that she is now pregnant, and she is still claiming to be a virgin.
Matthew 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” NIV
Jesus will save us from our sins…and why is this so important? Well, it’s because we all sin, all of us.
Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. NLT
As people we all sin, even those of us who try to pretend or act like we don’t, we don’t measure up to God’s glorious standard. Thankfully we are given the greatest gift of all by God, and that is a new eternal destiny that can only be done through God’s amazing grace, the gift is Jesus who takes care of our issues and sins for us, so we can live, love and experience God forever. This is why each and everyone of us can celebrate, this is the good news, the great joy that we should center on at Christmas, Jesus saves us and because of Him taking care of what we can’t, we are saved! I love how Paul talks so transparently about the challenges he and we all face with sin…check this out in Romans 7…
Romans 7:17 …if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18 I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. 19 I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20 My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God’s commands, 23 but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. MSG
Wow does Paul just nail it there! Can’t we all relate to this tension and battle in our lives? Wanting to do the right thing, but struggling with sin…we need help, and God loves us enough to give us that help in Jesus. Do you see it? We all fall short, we all sin, and we all wrestle with junk, we aren’t perfect, we mess up and we ALL can thank God that we have Jesus who saves us from this sin issue and sets things right with God for us…we didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve, but God loves us this much. This is why we call it grace…Jesus is the ultimate Christmas present! Jesus is the gift of good news and great joy that we can all celebrate because through Jesus we are all saved! We are celebrating the birth of our savior! But I want to take you through another incredible gift that our Savior gives us, and it’s one that we all want, and crave in our souls. It’s peace. Now that concept of peace sounds really nice doesn’t it? We sing songs at Christmas like Silent Night, and I know if you are raising kids, Christmas doesn’t give you to many silent nights of your own, but what about this concept of Heavenly Peace that we sing of this Christmas season…well, I think we all need it, we all crave it, and I want you to see that because Jesus came we can all have it.
So, Christmas is a time of good news and great joy because God gave us Jesus who saves us and gives us peace and I wanted to take the time we have left and talk to you about this idea of peace and the three ways that Scripture shows us that we now have peace through Jesus.
First, Jesus gives us peace with God. We talked for a bit about the tension or wrestling match we all have because we all sin…well we need to understand that because of Jesus we now have peace WITH God. Listen to what Paul says here…
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV
So, Jesus gives us peace with God, which implies that without Christ we don’t have peace with God. Jesus came and solved the sin problem, and it was this sin problem that causes us humans to walk in conflict with our Heavenly Father. If we live for ourselves in our selfishness, we will not have peace with God, and we know that at its core sin is us doing what we want, living for ourselves and not God. So, let’s slow down for a moment here and take a look at your own life. Take a moment here and think through some questions here on a personal level.
- Would you describe your life as peaceful or is it volatile? I want you to think about this for a moment.
- Would you say your life is peaceful or does it swing widely to extremes of chaos, conflict, stress, and fear?
This really important, someone living for Jesus who has surrendered their life to Christ and walking in a personal relationship with God will walk in peace with God. It’s something Jesus did for us all and a great sign of how you are choosing to live your life is to ask yourself how your life is going. Are you walking in peace or is your life chaotic? Now let’s get really practical for a moment.
- What does your life look like behind the scenes when no one is looking?
- What choices are you making each day in your life?
- Would you say you are feeding your earthly desires, or would you say you are steering clear of your sinful desires and living in step with God’s desires for your life?
I really want you to see this, I want you to take a long and very personal look at your own life, your choices, and how you are choosing to live right now. Would you describe your life as peaceful? Are you at peace with God or is your life filled with chaos, volatility and tension? Now I’m not talking about the everyday responsibilities you have in life, those will bring fear and tension to your life…paying bills, taking care of your family and finances and careers are important and can bring stress…what I’m asking is something you know the answer to in the deepest part of who you are. Are you walking in peace, or not? I want you to see that the tension between us and God is sin, and through Jesus we can now be at peace with God…but many aren’t.
You know, for many people and frankly many Christians the last few years have been really challenging as we all walked through our first Global Pandemic and world shutdown. But what has been interesting to me, is how many if not most people have come out of the other side of that pandemic and world shutdown struggling with mental health, volatility and chaos in their lives, and never seeming to walk a day in peace…and I think it’s time for us as Christians who love God to be honest about what happened during that time when we had nothing but time on our hands. For many people they slipped back into old habits and selfish desires and are struggling to get out of those habits…they have distanced themselves from God and now look around wondering why they feel so much tension and crazy intensity in their lives…we have lost this concept of peace with God…and we must remember what causes the tension between us and God? It is sin. It’s the wrestling match between living in our own desires or living for Him…which can all be set right through Jesus. When we follow God we find peace, when we live for ourselves and try to satisfy our desires, we will only find tension and volatility and chaos in our hearts, minds and souls because we aren’t walking in step with God.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace, all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! NLT
So, let me ask you again, would you say your life is peaceful or is it complete chaos and turmoil? Look at your life, look at the choices you are making, are you walking with God and willing to live for Him or not? We celebrate the good news of great joy because through Jesus we are put right with God, we can walk in peace with God. The conflict was sin which Jesus handles for us, so if you don’t feel that peace with God it’s ok, the beauty is that through Jesus, you can have it today.
Second, because of this gift of Jesus we now have the peace OF God. So, through Jesus handling the big conflict and tension between us and God which is sin, we celebrate the gift of Jesus because we can now have peace with God but through Jesus, we also have the peace of God which Paul says is so peaceful and awesome that it is really beyond something we can understand.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV
Do you know what it means to walk through life with the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding? Well think about life for a moment, it is really difficult, isn’t it? You walk through pain, hurts, regrets, mistakes, and you have all the practical stressors and responsibilities of your day, yet in all the tough stuff from home or car repairs to relational issues, to finances, to remorse and regret and the grief that can hit our life, we can walk with the peace of God in us…that doesn’t make sense, does it? That in all of life’s difficulties we can be at peace. Well, it only makes sense because we have Jesus in our life, who allows us peace with our Heavenly Father, and the peace of our Heavenly Father in us reminding us that even in the tough stuff, we are loved by God and have Him with us, with a beautiful eternal future to look forward too. When God is first, and we trust Him we can have this kind of peace.
Lastly, I want you to see that through this gift of Jesus we also have peace with each other. Wouldn’t that be nice. I have to say I think one of the hardest things about the Holidays is dealing with all the people. You may be heading to see some family this Christmas, some you are excited to be around and some that you have done an amazing job of avoiding all year long that the holiday kind of forces your hand and you will be sitting at a table with them in the near future…well through Jesus we not only have peace with God and the peace of God in us, but we also have and should have peace with each other. After all, with God in us, filling us up, it’s God’s love that should be flowing out of us and into our relationships and the people around us. We have been talking about this a lot but that is how people know you are walking with God, it’s through that love we have for each other!
John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” NLT
So as we really start to land the plane on the year 2022, and as we continue to process and think through the point of our lives and why we are here. It’s really our prayer at MRC that this Christmas you will really reflect on the true point of Christmas and why it’s a time of good news and great joy. It’s not about the presents, the food, decorations, or the parties…it’s all about Jesus. Because Jesus is the ultimate gift and I just wanted us to take some time today and start to remember why this gift was so important. It’s so important because it’s through Jesus that we are saved which we all needed. It’s through Jesus that we are finally at peace with God because Jesus handles the sin problem that keeps us in conflict with God. It’s also through Jesus that we have the peace of God to walk through life with and hopefully the peace in our hearts to love others well through the holiday season and beyond. So, a couple of questions as we close.
- When you think of Christmas what comes to mind, if the first thing isn’t Jesus what is it?
- What distracts you from truly celebrating the good news of great joy that is Jesus at Christmas?
- Do you take time out of the busy holiday to truly thank God and reflect on the amazing gift He has given you in Christ?
- Is there a moment during the Christmas season where you talk or think of your salvation?
- When you look at your life would you describe it as peaceful or chaotic and stressful?
- When you look at your choices, and how you are living your life would you say you are at peace with God or still fighting with God for control and over whose desires you will feed?
- Would you say you have the peace of God in you that allows you to walk in peace regardless of what life is through at you?
- When you look at your relationships with others do you see peace or conflict?
Listen, we love you so much and we want the Christmas season to be an amazing time for you to enjoy your family, to remember and laugh, and have fun…but we never want to lose sight of the point of what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the greatest gift of all, which is Jesus, our savior who came to save us and give us peace!