The Star of Christmas Part 2
Series: Special Occasions
December 10, 2017
Last Sunday we took a break from the Book of Job and started a mini-series called the Star of Christmas. We began, of course, with a key Christmas text in Matthew…
Matthew 2:1–11 (ESV) — 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
I know I harshed a lot of Christmas mellow when I revealed that the wise men weren’t really kings and weren’t really there at the manger, but it’s OK to lump them in with the Christmas story since they most likely saw the star when Jesus was born and then began their journey to find him.
What’s the significance of the star? We could talk about whether it was a natural or supernatural phenomenon, but to do so might have us missing the bigger picture here.
Very simply, the star showed the magi the way to Jesus. And that’s of cosmic, this-changes-everything importance because Jesus shows us the way to God.
We talked last week about this and why we needed to be shown the way to God. The reason was and is because we can’t find our way in the deep spiritual darkness we all are lost in.
Life is hopeless without a light to guide us, to rescue us. That’s why Jesus said of himself…
John 8:12 (ESV) — 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The star that led the wise men to Jesus reminds us that Jesus is the light of hope we need so badly to lead us out of the darkness into a relationship with his Father, our Creator. The star leads us to HOPE. That hope is a person: JESUS.
There’s something else the star of Christmas wants to show us. I’m going to use the most famous verse in the Bible to show you what it is.
In-N-Out Burger chain prints it on the inside of the bottom rim of their paper cups, clothing chain Forever 21 prints it on the bottom of their shopping bags. Many display the reference in large letters at sporting events. Every church going person alive probably memorized at one time or another. I’m guessing you’ve got it by now.
John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Why is it so popular? Perhaps because, as Martin Luther said of it 500 years ago, it is “the heart of the Bible—the Gospel in miniature.” That one verse packs a mighty punch, doesn’t it?
As famous as it is, though, we most often don’t associate it with Christmas. You may be thinking, Pastor, were you having trouble finding enough sermons for the holidays this year?
This verse has more to do with Christmas than we could ever fully explain because it answers the big question: Why would God send his son, Jesus, to give us hope in the first place?
Remember how we talked about that darkness? How it is not only around us, it is in us? I held back on explaining that a little. These days in the church we probably don’t talk about it enough.
The prophet Jeremiah nailed us all when he wrote…
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
And Jesus expounded upon it when he said…
Mark 7:21–22 (ESV) — 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
What we do with our hands begins in our hearts. If we were all honest, we’d have to admit at the very least we’ve entertained these things.
And Paul the apostle, in his letter to the Romans, left no room for doubt when he wrote…
Romans 3:9–18 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Louie Giglio says, “It is impossible to overestimate the corruption sin caused in our hearts. Sin didn’t knock us down to God’s JV team or put us on probation or put us on a slower track to get our mansion in heaven. Sin wiped us out.”
So back to my original question. Why would God send such hope to such a bunch of hopeless, wiped out sinners?
Why didn’t God just scrap the whole human race and start over?
Look at the first four words of John 3:16: “For God so loved…”
The God of the universe who is all powerful and all knowing is also all loving!
The apostle John explains…
1 John 4:7–10 (ESV) — 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God didn’t just say he loved us. He showed us in the biggest, most powerful, most costly way imaginable.
Romans 5:8 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The biggest way I could show you I loved you wouldn’t be to sacrifice my life but my child’s.
CH Spurgeon said…
“God so loved the world.” That love of God is a very wonderful thing, especially when we see it set upon a lost, ruined, guilty world. What was there in the world that God should love it? There was nothing lovable in it. No fragrant flower grew in that arid desert. Enmity to him, hatred to his truth, disregard of his law, rebellion against his commandments; those were the thorns and briars which covered the waste land; but no desirable thing blossomed there. Yet, “God loved the world,” says the text; “so” loved it, that even the writer of the book of John could not tell us how much; but so greatly, so divinely, did he love it that he gave his Son, his only Son, to redeem the world from perishing, and to gather out of it a people to his praise.
Whence came that love? Not from anything outside of God himself. God’s love springs from himself. He loves because it is his nature to do so. “God is love.”
One thing I try to do when I preach is think about what you might be thinking. Now we all should be thinking what a wonderful savior we have, but some might be stuck on what terrible sinners we are. Maybe you have a problem with that. I’m with you.
Back in Bible college I had a professor who began and ended every class by referring to us as dirty, rotten, stinking sinners. Man, it bothered me. I didn’t like it. I still don’t. No one wants to embrace that about themselves.
That’s especially true of the culture we live in today, a culture that promotes self worth like a religion. Now in one sense that’s not a bad thing. A low self image leads to a ton of problems, serious problems, and our past culture was pretty brutal towards those that didn’t fit in the norms.
But we try to raise our self worth by telling ourselves how good we are, how lovable we are, how beautiful we are, and how worthy we are.Yet when we look into our hearts - and if we’re honest, truly honest - we see the Bible is right. We clearly see our hearts are desperately wicked. So we do one or a combination of a couple of things…
- pretend all that self flattery is true when it isn’t. In other words, we live a lie. When we do that we are forced to justify our bad, selfish acts, calling it loving ourselves, following our hearts, or believing our own truth. We leave those we love and care about in a wake of destruction when we do that.
- see who we really and get so discouraged we give up. I’m a horrible person so I might as well live like it.
- reject God and the Bible all together. If God is not OK with who I am then I’m not OK with God. I can’t believe in a God who would condemn me for being me. If He is a God of love then he cannot be a God of condemnation. In truth, love requires it!
Oh, dear friend, you are missing the forest for the trees! Listen to what John 3:16 says. For God so loved the world. That’s you. He loves you in spite of all your frailties and failures.
What makes you or me lovable and valuable and worthy isn’t who or what we are; it’s who loves us. Love yourself because God loves you and no other reason. When the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who by his will holds the universe together, says you are worthy and valuable, that’s way better than if you try to tell yourself that! It changes you.
When the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who by his will holds the universe together, says you are worthy and valuable, that’s way better than if you try to tell yourself that! It changes you.
Liz Curtis Higgs is a well known Christian author and speaker. Speaking of her life before Christ she says…
As a radio personality, I traveled from town to town, up and down the dial through my twenties, including a stint at a hard rock station in Detroit, where Howard Stern did mornings and I did the afternoon show. As a one-sentence summary of how low my values had plummeted, even Howard once shook his head and said, “Liz, you’ve got to clean up your act!” It wasn’t my on-air show that was in trouble; it was my risky off-air escapades that needed changing.
By the fall of 1981, I found myself in Louisville, Kentucky, playing oldies at an AM station and playing dangerous games with marijuana, speed, cocaine, alcohol, and a promiscuous lifestyle. I’m one of those people who had to fall all the way down to the bottom of the pit, until I had nowhere else to look but up.
Leaning over my pit of despair and extending a hand of friendship was a husband-and-wife radio team who’d just arrived in town to do the morning show at my station. Although they’d enjoyed much worldly success, what these two talked about most was Jesus Christ. Even more surprising, they seemed to like and accept me as is. (Can you imagine what they must have thought when we met? “Now, here’s a project!”).
But they didn’t treat me like a project. They treated me like a friend who needed to hear some seriously Good News. Simply put, they loved me with a love so compelling that I was powerless to resist it.
I remember February 21, 1982, like it was yesterday. It was my seventh Sunday to visit my friends’ church, and by then I was singing in the choir. When we closed the service singing, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” I walked out of the choir loft and down to the baptistry, ready to make my confession of faith.
The whole alto section gasped. “We thought she was one of us!”
Finally, I was. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord Jesus.
When we agree with God about the condition of hearts, and accept his love for us shown through Jesus, he steps in and begins cleaning us up. When we encounter a love like that we want to change, or repent as the Bible calls it.
But there’s more. Look what happens when we love God because He first loved us…
John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus defined for us what eternal life is...
John 17:3 (ESV) — 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
They say it’s not what you know but who you know. That’s true. If you know the owner of a company you get a job. If you know a judge, you get out of ticket. If you know an auto mechanic, you get a good deal on a car repair. If you know a doctor, you get a diagnosis for free. But if you know God through Jesus you get eternal life!
Eternal life is so much more than just living forever! It is living free from the penalty, power, and – one day –the presence of sin. It is an entering into a relationship with God that begins in this life (affecting every nook and cranny of it) and carries over into the next.
Eternal life isn’t automatic, though. Neither is eternal life inherited. It’s not passed along by bloodline or imparted through communion, baptism, catechism, or conferred by any denomination.
The qualifying phrase in our verse is “that whoever believes in Him...” Yes, Jesus died for all our sins so we could have eternal life, but only those who believe in the One who was crucified, buried, and then arose again appropriate God’s gift.
What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Look at…
Matthew 22:37 (ESV) — 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Note the unseen parts of us Jesus referred to: mind, heart, and soul. They are invisible but they are real and just as much a part of us as our feet, or eyes, or hair.
Believing in Jesus involves all three: mind, heart, and soul.
It is a matter of the mind but more than that. I can believe George Washington existed, but is has no impact on my life.
It is a matter of the heart but more than that. Folks get emotional about Elvis or Dale Earnhardt too. But it won’t help them when they die.
It is a matter of the soul. The soul is that part of us where the will resides, the ability to choose given us by God. Kamikaze pilots believed in the Japanese Empire with all their mind, hearts, and souls. They gave themselves over to it. But it didn’t help them in the end.
The belief of John 3:16 is a matter of the mind, heart, and soul. It begins in the mind as we grapple with the truths of Scripture and the message of the gospel. It makes its way into our hearts as we come to terms with our sin and what Christ has done for us. Then it seeps down into our souls, where we have the choice to lean towards it in faith, where God then steps in and takes care of the rest.
Conclusion: We used to live near railroad tracks. Over time, we became so used to it roaring by, we didn’t hear it anymore. We became desensitized to it. We hear John 3:16 so much the same thing happens.
Don’t become desensitized. Don’t let it ever be lost on you. Don’t ever lose sight of how far God went to break down the barrier between us and restore us to Himself.
AW Tozer said…
“Jesus Christ came not to condemn you but to save you, knowing your name, knowing all about you, knowing your weight right now, knowing your age, knowing what you do, knowing where you live, knowing what you ate for supper and what you will eat for breakfast, where you will sleep tonight, how much your clothing cost, who your parents were. He knows you individually as though there were not another person in the entire world. He died for you as certainly as if you had been the only lost one. He knows the worst about you and is the One who loves you the most.
If you are out of the fold and away from God, put your name in the words of John 3:16 and say, “Lord, it is I. I’m the cause and reason why Thou didst on earth come to die.” That kind of positive, personal faith and a personal Redeemer is what saves you. If you will just rush in there, you do not have to know all the theology and all the right words. You can say, “I am the one He came to die for.” Write it down in your heart and say, “Jesus, this is me—Thee and me,” as though there were no others. Have that kind of personalized belief in a personal Lord and Savior.”
― A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John
The star of Christmas points us to the hope we have in Jesus and it points us to the love God showed us in giving us Jesus.
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