Monday, December 27, 2010

The Day After Christmas: What if Jesus Had Not Been Born?

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, December 26, 2010

Galatians 4:4-7, ”But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
2 Timothy 1:8-12, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
This morning, on this beautiful Day-After-Christmas morning, I’d like to invite you to do three things with me as we give God a chance to speak to us today. First of all, and most important of all, I want to urge you to hear and to heed what this Book – God’s Word – has to teach you today. Secondly, I invite to think about this world, the world that we live in, as we know it and understand it. And, then, thirdly, I want to ask you to do something just a little bit different with me today, than what you might be accustomed to doing on the day after Christmas. Yes, I know that for many of you, today, the Day after all the hoopla and excitement of yesterday, there may be dishes to wash, and decorations to put away, piles of Christmas wrapping paper trash to take out, and leftovers to reheat. But, listen – in the midst of all of those ‘Day After Chores’ – will you do something for me? Will you pause for just a few moments, and consider this disturbing question: “What if Jesus had not been born?”

Think with me about these Scriptures that we’ve just read, and others to which we’ve gone for instruction this Christmas season, passages from God’s Word that we believe and accept as true and reliable – consider the world we know it, as we’ve experienced it, and then, imagine this awful thought: IT’S ALL A BIG HOAX! Jesus never really was born!

What difference would it make in this world, as you and I know it, if Jesus had never been born – and – how would we be different if He had not been born?

You saw, as I saw, their red kettles, and their smiling, friendly bell-ringers in front of many of the grocery stores and department stores this season – who are they? You know, they are the Salvation Army. And, what are they doing? Collecting donations. Why? To do… say it with me, “to do what Jesus said to do!” To clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to help the weak… What would this world be like, if there were no red-kettles? No bell-ringers?

Just up the road a few miles is a place we’ve visited before. In fact, several years ago, a number of times, we had the opportunity to prepare and serve a supper meal to the folks staying at this place. It’s a place designated by the name, “The Samaritan Inn”. Where did this place come up with such a strange name? The Samaritan Inn? I mean, this is McKinney, right? This is Collin County, right? This is North Texas, right? Not Samaria! Why the name the ‘Samaritan Inn’? You know why, don’t you? It’s because Jesus told a parable about a compassionate, generous, willing-to-help man from Samaria – who gave aid to an otherwise beaten, bloody, and abandoned soul on the side of the road. What if Jesus had never been born? Would that parable have been told? Would those people, those precious souls, whose lives God used us to touch through pans of baked beans, and trays of fried chicken, through smiles and hugs and handshakes, would they have been helped at a place called the ‘Samaritan Inn’ if Jesus had never been born?

‘Season’s Greetings’, ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Winter Break’ – These and other odd expressions, conceived in the minds of people who pay for signs on the side of city buses - signs that say things like, “Four million Happy Atheists”, “God – we are just fin without you”. “Season’s Greetings”, “Happy Holidays”, “Winter Break”, “Yuletide Carols” – What if those phrases were all we could say, because Jesus had not been born?

Recently, we’ve had the names Matt W-----, and Justin A---- on our prayer list. Some of you know these young men and have ached for them as you’ve watched them struggle, and make wrong choices and then, end up facing the consequences of those choices, including time spent in the prison system. Listen, my Loved Ones - for every Matt and Justin you and I know, there a million or more just like them, behind bars today! TODAY! And, here’s the really sad part, in a sense, their families are behind bars, too! Their parents and grandparents, their siblings, their spouses, and to me, worst of all, their children – the children of inmates are behind bars! Now, let me ask you a question: Who is ministering to those inmates and their families? Who is at work to bring them help and hope through Bibles and Christian literature, and also, through practical things like teaching those young (and not-so-young) men and women how to do things that we take for granted, things like how to read, and how to do math, and how to prepare themselves to complete an education and to enter the workforce with real, marketable skills? And, who is seeing to it that as many of these inmates’ children receive at least one gift, at least one expression of love, sent in the name of their incarcerated parents, this season of the year? Is it the American Atheists Association? Is it the American Humanists Society? Is it the ‘God, we’re doing just fin without you’ crowd?

What if Jesus had not been born? Every year, several times a year, we read, we hear, and yes, with satellite TV beaming reports from all over the world, every year we see the terrible devastation and loss of life and a way of life caused by what we call ‘Natural Disasters’ – earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, mud-slides, wildfires, floods, etc., etc. Who is almost always first on the scene to help? The Red Crescent moon? The Red Star of David? The Red Hammer and Sickle? The Red Swastika? You know better don’t you? The always-first-on-the-scene relief workers are from the Red Cross – the Red Cross! And why a CROSS, instead of any of those other symbols? Because Jesus whose saving, helping, healing work is designated BY the cross, is the One who taught us and showed us what it means to love and assist those in need!

What if Jesus had never been born? I dare say that virtually all compassionate ministry to the needy in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, orphanages, and disaster scenes would be absent! I dare say that the unwed mothers would only have one option: Planned Parenthood, and what it sells – rather than two options! I dare say that there would be a lot more people living under bridges and in card board boxes, if Jesus had not been born.

But, just for a minute, think about this also. Who are the folks who have painted and sculpted and carved the beautiful works of art that people the world over recognize and appreciate? The Michelangleo’s, the Leonardo Divinci’s – who are those people? And, who are the scientists who have studied, and researched, guided by a wisdom and power greater than their own, to discover cures for diseases, and inventions to make our lives more enjoyable? And, who are the men who founded great institutions of learning like Harvard and Yale and Princeton – for the advancement of a cause that yielded such things as the Red Cross and the Samaritan Inn and the Salvation Army? And, who are the men and women and families - some of whom we know, like the Relyea family – who have sacrificed literally years of their lives to travel to remote tribes of people, to learn their language and culture, to prepare an alphabet – a written ALPHABET for their tribes – that they might have books in their own language and be taught how to read them? Who are all these people? And, whom do they represent?

These men and women and families are and were followers of Jesus. They represent the One who taught them to love their neighbors as themselves, the One whose Great Physician’s hands set the example for their hands. The One whose words regarding the least of these - the poor, the blind, the naked, the hungry, the lonely, the imprisoned, the lost and dying – propel them to go and do what representatives of the crescent moon and Hammer and Sickle don’t do!

What if Jesus had not been born? To be honest with you, I don’t like to think about it! I don’t want to have to imagine a world without Christmas, do you? I don’t want to have to live, as a slave, under the bondage to the law! I don’t want to do without the glorious privileges of Son-ship, being able to cry out, “Abba, Father!” to my Maker, and my Redeemer, how about you? No! I am so glad to know – for certain, 2 Timothy 1:9 and following – I am so glad to know that before time began God had a plan for my life, a plan to extend His grace to me through His Son, Jesus Christ. And, then, look – look at what the text says. 2 Timothy 1:10 – a verse that means more to me now, than it did even three months ago; that before-time-began-plan, what did God do with it? Did He leave it on heaven’s drawing board? Did He scrap it and decide not to carry it out because of how much it was going to cost Him?! No! Listen, my friends, it’s the day AFTER the anniversary of the birth of our Savior! Why? Because God, who before time began purposed to extend His grace to us in Christ Jesus – what did He do? Listen to this, He “revealed [that grace] now, by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.” And, that’s not all! Look at it! The appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, the reality of the Eternal Word of God becoming human flesh and dwelling among us, the wonder of Immanuel, ‘God With Us’, the Virgin Birth, sinless life, atoning, sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, glorious exaltation of Jesus, and all that goes with these things, they did something for us that the ACLU, the American Atheists Association, the American Society of Humanists, the Crescent Moon, the Hammer and Sickle, and Swastika would never do for us! That Baby born in Bethlehem, our Savior and King, His appearing – look what He brought us! Talk about Christmas gifts! Look what He did for us! “He has abolished death!” Praise God! “And has brought life, and immortality to light through the gospel!” Hallelujah! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Let’s pray.

“God in heaven, our Father, I praise you today – December 26th – that I don’t have to think too long about a world without Christmas! No, Father, rather, I glorify you today for bringing that eternally-gracious plan to pass, when You sent your Son to do for us what no one could do, what no on else would do! Yes, thank You, thank You, thank You, for victory over death, for the adoption of sons, for life and immortality, for the Spirit of Your Son by Whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ Merry Christmas, Father.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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