(1) What is significant about today – 25th Dec.?
The usual answer will be, “It is Christmas”. Actually, it was on this date, in 597AD, England adopted the Julian calendar. Which became the standard of the entire world, until it was amended to the Gregorian.
It was also on this date, in 800AD Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of Europe, and on this date, in 1066, William the Conqueror is crowned King of England.
Again on this date, in 1776, General George Washington crossed the Delaware River and obtained their first victory in the American war for independence.
But there is no doubt about it, it was on this date, in 325AD, the Roman Emperor announced Dec.25th which was normally a celebration to the pagan god Saturn, called Saturnalia, to be the 1st Christmas day. We ought to be aware, that really was not the start of the celebration of Christmas. It has a long & curious, and sometimes unpleasant history. It began in Mesopotamia about the time Abraham left before 2000BC. In those days, of course, it had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, but was thoroughly pagan in its theology and practice. It was later adopted by the Babylonians, the Persians and Medes, the Greeks, Romans, and other nations. It went by different names, but al-ways on Dec.25th; that marked the winter solstice – shortest day of the year (northern hemisphere). For more than 2,000 years, Christmas was openly heathen.
(2) But then something happened.
At the conversion of the Roman emperor, Constantine, the Roman Empire became formally Christian. And this left them with the anomaly of a Christian Empire celebrating a pagan holiday. What would they do? Some thought they should abolish it—but the people wouldn’t stand for it. Others thought they should let it go on as before—but the leaders of the Church would not accept it. And so, after forty years of haggling, a compromise was finally worked out: The old holiday would remain, but it would now honor the birth of Jesus Christ. For hundreds of years, then, Christmas was a mishmash of paganism and Christianity.
(3) But then another change occurred.
In the 19th Century, many Churches were undercut by theological liberalism. This put their leaders in an awkward position: they wanted to hang on to the joys of Christmas, but how do you do that while at the same time denying the deity of our Lord and His virgin birth? Here’s what they did: They became sentimental. Christmas became a celebration of good cheer, and giving of gifts. This turned the emphasis away from the Incarnation of God.
A typical example of this were books like, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge is converted at the end, of course, but it has nothing to do with Christ! The old miser becomes generous, but not Christian. That view prevailed for more than a hundred years: Christmas as warm feelings and family cheer and giving of gifts. Hollywood got into it, with movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart.
(4) Finally, about 50 years ago, we had another change (and it’s still with us).
Christmas as an Advertising Campaign! The big department store corporations realised this was a billion dollar money making concern. Listen to the news, they often announce the expenditure; running into the trillions now. We have slogans now like, ‘trying to beat the Christmas Rush’. Millions of people buying gifts they cannot afford for people they do not love, simply because they feel obliged to match the gift they expect to receive, which they really do not want. This is Christmas 2016 — a trillion dol-lar marketing scheme.
II. Behind all this charade, there is a very dangerous thing going on.
I don’t begrudge people having a good time and enjoying themselves at Christmas. If someone says, “Merry Christmas” to me, I’m not going to be a sour puss and ignore it – I know they mean well, and I say thank you, and I wish them well also. But there is something else going on here. There is something very dangerous about Christmas.
But I want us to spare a thought and to feel pity for all the millions of people who read & sing holy words – “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity; Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.” Come let us adore Him; He is the light come into the world; these are glorious truths. People say these things then live their lives without considering what it means.
It is dangerous, because the Bible says – Heb.12:25 “…if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from Heaven.”
III. Let’s consider again, who was born, and do so as those who will not refuse Him.
The angel said to Joseph – “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus said, “I am to give My life a ransom.” He was born for this purpose – in order to be a sacrifice.
The prophet said, speaking of the Messiah, Isaiah 53 says, It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. “ It seems wrong that God would be pleased with the torture and death of His Son. It was not because He hated His Son — but because He loves us. And there is no way to save us from our sin and misery but through the suffering and death of His own precious Holy Son, who came into this world as a man.
IV. This is why Jesus Christ came. He came to suffer and die to take away our condemnation.
What is implied by the words, ‘take away’? If I ‘take away’ something from you, it means you had it — it was yours. You can’t take away a million dollars from me because I don’t have a million dollars. But you can take away $14 out of my wallet because that’s what I’ve got in it (I think).
If our Lord died to ‘take away’ our condemnation, it means we were condemned. To be ‘condemned’ means to be tried and found guilty. This is just what the Bible says about us, about all of us without exception. In a word, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, or, turning it around, There is none righteous, no not one.
The Bible says, ‘Every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.” This is how Paul described himself before his conversion? Ephesians 2:3 says, “We were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others.” To be ‘a child of wrath’ means to be under the wrath of God, to be condemned, in other words. Paul says he was every bit as condemned as others people are.
John 3:18 “He who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.” To be condemned means to be guilty before God and subject to just pen-alties of His Law.
V. This is what is so dangerous about Christmas.
Breaking God’s Law under Moses brought swift and sure punishment. We read in Heb.12:25 “they did not escape who refused Him.” They were attacked by snakes; struck with disease; swallowed up by the earth; slain by enemies; slain by their own leaders. Under Moses, many refused, and they did not escape.
And the text says, “much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him.” This is the main message running all through the book of Hebrews. A message of warning, that the whole world needs to hear.
Heb.10:29 says, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, … and insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when multitudes of people everywhere, take up these amazing words of praise and worship, only to tread them underfoot. They cast them aside, and their lives are unchanged. There is nothing but severe warnings in the Bible for such a thing.
The most important message for us – The great conclusion to the suffering and death of Christ is giv-en in Rom.8:1; this: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. To be ‘in Christ’ means to be in relationship to Him by faith. Faith in Christ unites us to Christ so that His death becomes our death and His perfection becomes our perfection. Christ becomes our punishment (which we don’t have to bear) and our perfection (which we don’t have to perform).
God offers this freely to us. See that we don’t refuse Him.