The Traditions of Christmas

John 3:16-21

 

Introduction:

  1. Waiting for Christmas
    1. The smell of pine trees, glittering lights, yard art, manger scenes, jolly old Saint Nick in his red suit.
      1. All of these scents and images awakens an awe and anticipation in each one of us.
      2. They bring back memories of Christmas season seasons past and anticipation of something special.
    2. When I was a child, my family didn’t focus on Christ as the center of
      1. But there was still anticipation.
      2. Wondering if it would snow in time for Christmas.
      3. Hoping for special presents.
      4. Looking forward to visiting my grandparents.
    3. When I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I finally found out what that waiting was: I was looking for my Redeemer!
      1. I was born again on Christmas day in 1962 and Christmas has been infinitely more exciting ever since!
      2. Now every part of Christmas is filled with anticipation for the coming of our Lord!
      3. I often find myself thinking about what it would be like if Jesus came back on a Christmas day!

 

  1. Traditions and the Gospel
    1. Advent Candles
      1. The advent wreath marks the four Sundays before Christmas with the ring of evergreen signifying God’s everlasting love and the candles reminding us that Christ is the light of the world.
      2. The first week’s gold candle reminds us of the prophets who announced Christ’s coming.
      3. On the second week we light the gold and the white candles, the white signifying the angels who announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds.
      4. The third week the gold, white, and green candles are lit with the green signifying the shepherds, who told about the angels’ message.
      5. On the Sunday before Christmas all four candles are lit, the last, purple one reminding us of the royal wise men who came to worship Jesus.
    2. Christmas Tree
      1. If you look you can see Jesus in the Christmas Trees which you place in your homes!
      2. Evergreen trees are a tradition that dates back for centuries and has become a Christmas Tradition.
      3. The fir trees took on the meaning life, strength and hope even in the harshest time of year.
      4. The first Christmas tree appeared in 1510 in Latvia and was also called the paradise tree of life.
        • The church leaders looked at the tree as a symbol of the life giving power of the Lord Jesus and His willingness to die on a tree for the salvation of the world.
        • Martin Luther said that the tree represented the everlasting love of God.
        • He pointed out to his church that the evergreen’s color did not fade, just as the love of the Lord did not fade even in the harshest of times.
      5. The tree may have started out as pagan worship but the Lord tuned the practice around for good and it today points to Jesus great sacrifice.
    3. Saint Nicholas
      1. Now this is a real person – a special Christian who lived in the 3rd century AD in what is now Turkey.
      2. His real name was Nicholas.
      3. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.
      4. In St. Nicholas’ town there were many poor children.
        • They didn’t have enough food, clothes, or toys.
        • Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the poor children buy food, clothes, and toys.
        • He didn’t want them to be embarrassed by his gifts, so he gave secretly.
      5. Because of how much St. Nicholas loved Jesus, and because of the many gifts he gave the poor children of his town, we still remember St. Nicholas at Christmas time.
    4. Our Scripture text tells us there will be those who will try to fight against the light of the world and will try to remove Him from Christmas!
      1. They have been doing this since the first Christmas.
      2. Why, do they do this? Because they are evil and they hate what the light represents.
      3. They fight against Jesus this time of the year because they do not want to be reminded that they are living for evil not for good.
    5. Christmas in America has many traditions and symbols associated with the celebration.
      1. The truth is many of the symbols you see at Christmas originated through pagan worship practices.
      2. But in Genesis 50: 20 Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
      3. God always has a way of taking something meant for evil and turning it around for good!
      4. This is what He did with the many celebrations and traditions of Christmas which we practice today.

 

  1. Christmas and Giving – John 3:16
    1. The Gift That Started It All
      1. For God so loved the world, that He gave…
      2. Many people tie the giving at Christmas to the Wise Men’s gifts to Jesus and they certainly did give in response to Who Jesus is.
      3. But the gift that started all the giving at Christmas was God’s gift to us! His only begotten Son.

 

  1. What Makes a Gift Valuable?

What do YOU say makes a gift a really good gift? How big it is? How pretty it’s wrapped? How much it cost?

 

The gift is valuable because of…

  1. Who gave the gift
    1. John 3:16 “For GOD…gave…”
    2. Many times the value of a gift is wrapped up in who it was who gave it to you.
    3. In the case of the Gift that started it all, the Gift itself is actually the most valuable gift ever given.
    4. But part of its great value stems from Who gave it to us…our Heavenly Father.
  2. Why it was given
    1. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”
    2. In English we just have one word for it: “Love.”
      • But in Greek there are four words:
      • When it comes to God’s love toward us, the word is Agape or Agapao.
      • Agape love carries no conditions, has no limits, never ends.
    3. God’s love loves no matter what and always gives us the best.
    4. Giving is the natural response of love.
    5. So, because God so LOVES us, He gave…
    6. Christmas is the time God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, the Father sent Jesus TO us, and Christ died FOR us.
  3. How much it cost
    1. John 3:16 “…His only begotten Son…”
    2. Philippians 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
    3. God the Father spared no expense.
      • He gave us the most precious gift He could possibly give…
      • He gave us the Gift that cost Him the most of any gift He could have given.
      • He gave us something that is one of a kind…He gave us His one and only Son to die for us.
    4. If you judge the greatness of a gift by its cost, then the Gift that started it all is the greatest gift ever!
  4. How useful it is
    1. John 3:16 “…so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
    2. I’ve done some research, and I’ve discovered that the death rate here in Brazoria County is 100%!
    3. And it’s the same in every other county, and every other country in the world.
    4. And yet, talk about a useful gift, God has given us the gift of eternal life in Jesus.
    5. 1 John 5:11-12 “…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
    6. If you judge the greatness of a gift by its usefulness, the Gift that started it all is the greatest gift ever!
  5. Opening your gift
    1. Today, the Gift that started it all IS here in the room…it’s wrapped up with your name on it, awaiting your acceptance, awaiting you to receive it and open it up.
    2. Of course, the Gift has a name: His name is Jesus.
    3. It’s big….It cost a lot…It was given by God Himself…because He loves you…and it will change your life for the good…and forever.
    4. Have you opened it yet?

 

  1. Giving at Christmas
    1. A question that is rarely asked after Christmas is over is this, “What did you give for Christmas?”
      1. Have you ever asked someone that question?
      2. If you do that, you likely would catch someone completely off guard.
      3. By nature, we’d rather talk about what we got – that’s more about me, what I have – as human beings we are more focused on getting things than we are on giving things
    2. The greatest gift you can give at Christmas is the same One God the Father gave when He started all this giving!
    3. His only begotten Son! Jesus Christ – The best gift you could ever give someone you love!

 

  1. Christmas and Believing – John 3:17-18
    1. Cultural Images
      1. “Miracle on 34th Street”
        1. Jesus said in Mark 10:16, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall by no means enter it.”
        2. Little children believe and Christmas faith is a faith that believes in a personal God.
      2. “The Polar Express”
        1. Faith is essential to understanding the message of Christ – especially during Christmas.
        2. Do you remember the animated film, “The Polar Express”, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg.
        3. The Polar Express takes us on one boy’s journey from doubt to belief.
          • In the movie, the young boy struggles with his belief in Santa Claus.
          • He lies in bed on Christmas Eve, hoping to hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh, but his doubt grows.
          • Later, he is awakened by the loud and surprising arrival of a train in his front yard.
          • Walking outside, the boy is greeted by a conductor, who asks, “Well, are you coming?”
          • Boarding the train is the most important decision he makes.
        4. Along with many other children, the boy travels to the North Pole, where Santa will present the first gift of Christmas.
          • During the trip, the boy continues to struggle with doubt, at one point trying to wake himself up.
          • But in the end, the boy realizes that you first have to believe in order to see.
        5. Towards the end of the movie, the conductor says to the boy, “It doesn’t matter where you’re going; what matters is deciding to get on.”
          • The choice of getting on is the decision to trust Christ once you believe.
          • Life is a journey and the Lord wants us to believe on Him, to get on His train.
          • The Lord wants us to trust Him.
          • What’s important isn’t where we want to go or what we get, but that we trust Christ enough to follow Him.
        6. Another important spiritual lesson is when the conductor says to the boy – “The most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”
          • 2 Cor. 4:16-17, “We don’t look to the things that are seen, for the things that are seen are passing away, but we look to the things that are unseen, for the things that are unseen are eternal.”
          • Faith is trusting in what we can’t see.
          • It’s real, but it hasn’t been fully realized yet.

 

  1. The Importance of Believing
    1. Why is faith so important?
    2. John 3:16-18
      1. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    3. Faith believes and trusts.
      1. It’s more than an intellectual belief or recognition of something.
      2. When we trust someone or something we not only believe it is true, but we act on that belief.

 

  • Christmas and Lights – John 3:19-21
    1. The Light of the World
      1. The lights that we place on the tree remind us of The Light of the World.
        1. It is so easy to get so caught up the beauty of the lights that we might think that that is what Christmas is all about, but it isn’t.
        2. The lights should be reminders of the One True Light that came to bring light into the world.
      2. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem He brought into this dark world the light of Heaven and a hope for the future.
        1. John 8:12: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
      3. Martin Luther was the first person to put lights on a tree at Christmas and he forever changed the way we see the evergreen tree today.
        1. “Martin Luther after a late night December walk through the German woods almost five hundred years ago. Enthralled with the way the star-light looked as it filtered through the branches of evergreen trees, he felt as if the hand of God had touched his soul and had allowed him to see the world in a much different way. Stopping on a snow –covered rise, he studied the scene for some time. Its tranquil beauty and soft light brought a great sense of peace to Luther”.
        2. His tradition spread rapidly as many Christians adopted the practice to make a point to their families about the importance of the Christmas light to the world.

 

  1. The Light Of Christmas Shines For All Men – John 1:6-8
    1. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. John 1:6-8
      1. God’s light shines for everyone (7,9)
      2. God is no respecter of persons, He gives his light for all to see.
    2. John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness.
    3. We put out Christmas lights for everybody to see.

 

  1. The Light Of Christmas Shines Through Us
    1. We are “Children of the Light” and God has placed us here to let the light of Christmas shine though us
      1. Matt 5:14,16 – 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.16 Let your light so shine before men,
      2. Phil 2:13-16 For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;
    2. The light of the world has been born in our heart that he might continue to shine to a dark world
    3. This Christmas, as we enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights, let’s remember that while they are beautiful, they are only reminders of the one true light — Jesus.
      1. Each one of us should strive to let the Light of Christmas shine through us

 

  1. The Meaning of “Christmas”
    1. Christ Mass
      1. There are so many misunderstandings about Christmas…beginning with its meaning.
        1. If you ask people to tell you what Christmas means to them, you’re likely to hear things like
          • “it’s a time for the family to get together,” or
          • “a time to give presents,” or
          • other things, such as singing Christmas carols, shopping, etc.
        2. But actually Christmas is about worship!
          1. When our Roman Catholic friends say they’re going to a worship service, they call it going to Mass.
          2. Christmas MEANS the Mass of Christ, the worship of Christ.
          3. Of course, that’s a lot different from how many people celebrate it.
        3. Christmas is an ancient Christian word from Latin that means “to send Christ” or “Christ is sent”!
          1. “Mass” is from “missa” which is from the Latin phrase Ite, missa est
            • Etymology: ME masse < OE mæsse < LL(Ec) missa, mass, lit., dismissal, orig. pp. of L mittere, to dismiss < the words said by the priest ite, missa est
          2. These are the concluding words addressed to the people in the Roman ritual Mass.
          3. The words are Latin for “Go, it is sent”.
          4. Literally, it says to people who receive communion – “Now go, you are sent.”
        4. John 3:16- 17 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
          1. These verses tell us why God the Father sent Jesus to the world over 2,000 years ago into that manger in Bethlehem.
          2. In an act of love God sent His Son so that mankind could be saved and delivered from the power and the destruction of sin.
          3. God sent Jesus, the Light of the World, to a barn to be born so that you and I could be saved from our sins!
        5. John 17:1818 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
        6. John 17:24-26 – 24“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.25O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
          1. That is what each one of us are called to do!
        7. It is Christmas – “Go, you are sent to tell people about Christ!”
        8. That is what Christmas means!