Today is without doubt, the largest, the longest, the most joyful, colourful and costly celebrations in the whole world. Literally billions of people, have set aside their normal routines to take a midweek holiday, decorate their homes, send greeting cards, buy special gifts to give, attend church services and parties, sing Christmas carols and travel long distances to be with family. And in an hour or two, depending on their time zone, people will be sitting down for one of the largest, most colourful and tasty meals of the year. And most of us will eat too much and need a short nap afterwards. Isn’t it incredible that the simple birth of Jesus in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago has caused such ripples?
The anniversary of his birthday each year leads to record retail sales and traffic jams as far away as New York, Tokyo and Sydney. So special is Jesus birthday that your own birthday is dated from his! Every single time we check the calendar, or refer to a date, or write one in our diary, we are using Jesus birthday as our reference point.
And what does celebrating Jesus birthday signify? That God loves you. God is with you. And God is for you.
Dont be Afraid of Christmas from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.
- God Loves You
On the first Christmas morning, countless angels from heaven announced the birth of Jesus. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10).
Jesus did not come to scare you but to save you. That is why the angels said “Do not be afraid”. There are actually 365 occasions in the Bible where people are told not to be afraid. That’s one for every day of the year. God is saying, “Get the message” You don’t need to be afraid. Because, “I love you, I’m with you, and I’m for you.” That’s good news.
Observe first that it is personal: “I bring you.” Not only that but it is positive: “good news of great joy.” Personal. Positive. And notice it is also profligate: “for all the people.” For all people, not just some people, not just good people, not just young people, beautiful people, intelligent people, or religious people, but all people. So it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or where you’re headed — this good news of God’s love is for you. It is personal, it is positive and it is profligate. The angel brought the best news in the whole wide world for the whole wide world. Christmas is the greatest news ever told. The most famous statement in the Bible explains why Jesus came to earth:
“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
God loves you so much that he came to earth as a human so you could get to know him and learn to trust him and love him back. The Bible tells us that God’s very nature is love.
It doesn’t say God has love, but God is love. Love is the essence of God’s character. It is his very nature. The reason that everything in the universe exists is because God is love. “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:9). Think about this. If God didn’t want to love something, he would not have created it. Everything you see, and the trillions of things you can’t see, was made by God for his enjoyment. He loves it all, even when we mess it up with our sin. He still has a purpose for it.
Every star, every planet, every plant, every animal, every cell, and, most of all, every human being was created out of God’s love and compassion with a purpose. You were created as an object of God’s love. He made you in order to love you! His love is the reason you’re alive and breathing and here this morning. Every time your heart beats and every time you take a breath, God is saying, “I love you.”
The Bible says, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (James 1:18). Because God’s love for you is unconditional, he loves you on your bad days as much as on your good days. He loves you when you don’t feel his love as much as when you do. His love for you is unchanging.
Everything else will change during your lifetime, but God’s love for you is constant, steady, and continuous. There is nothing you can do that will make God stop loving you.
God’s love for you is based on his character, not your conduct. It’s based on who he is, not what you’ve done. When the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they stretched his arms as wide as they could.
With his arms wide open, Jesus was physically demonstrating, “I love you this much! I love you so much it hurts! I’d rather die than live without you!” The next time you see a picture or statue of Jesus with outstretched arms on the cross, remember, he is saying, “I love you this much!” John Calvin put it this way, “The Son of God became the Son of man that the sinful sons of men might be made the sons of God.” God loves you. Never doubt it.
- God is with you
Sometimes we give babies names to honour their relatives. God gave Jesus several names to explain who he is and why he came. The Prophet Isaiah, quotes one of those names,
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means “God with us”. (Isaiah 7:14)
In Jesus Christ, God has made himself known fully and finally. He is now with us. Not just for Christmas Day but every day. The Bible asks “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
Space and time are irrelevant to God. God is always everywhere at the same time. No wonder the angels told the shepherds “Do not be afraid”. C.S. Lewis put it, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him.” That’s a fact whether you feel it or not. You may have been abandoned in life – by a spouse, by your parents, by your children, or by people you thought were your friends. We have all experienced the pain and heartache of rejection in some way or another. You may have experienced the sting of racial or ethnic prejudice, gender bigotry, or religious intolerance. But God will not abandon you if you trust in Him. He never will. In the Bible, God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). Whatever difficulty you are facing or where the heat is on in your life, God knows about it, cares about it, and is with you. You are not alone. God loves us. God is with us.
- God is for you
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10). He now only loves you, and He’s not only with you, but the Bible says God is for you. He’s on your side. He wants you to win. He wants you to succeed. He wants you to live. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Not just with us but for us.
Too many people are afraid of God. They feel that God is just waiting to catch them out, so he can pounce on them and punish them. You know why? It’s called guilt. Guilt separates us from God. The Bible says – “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (John 3:17).
That’s good news. “If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39).
No wonder the angel said “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10). God loves you, God is with you. God is for you. And that’s what we are celebrating today. Lets pray.
With grateful thanks to Rick Warren and “The Purpose of Christmas” for ideas and inspiration.