A Christmas That Matters part 4
How Christmas Matters In History
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 19, 2010
There’s the Grinch [PowerPoint]… that familiar villain of Christmas.
That was one of my favourite Christmas shows as a kid. Hey, what am I
saying? It’s still one of my favourites! Who here has ever seen “How
the Grinch stole Christmas”? Sure, just about everyone! In fact, even
this week I’ve seen it three or four times with Nate. So I’m passing
the Grinch on to the next generation.
you know about the Grinch, then you know that he hated Christmas. In
fact, he hated it so much that he decided he would ruin it for
everyone. He thought if he stole all the toys and all the decorations
and all the Christmas goodies from all the Whos in Whoville, Christmas
would disappear. He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch. Here… sing the song
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus, You're as charming as an eel.
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel.
You're a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders, You've got garlic in your soul.
I wouldn't touch you, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.
Given the choice between the two of you I'd take the seasick crocodile.
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch. You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, Your soul is full of gunk.
The three words that best describe you, are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."
You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch. You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot With moldy purple spots,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch. With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey And you drive a crooked horse.
You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich With arsenic sauce.
Copyright © 1957, Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss sure had a way with words, eh? Of course, the Grinch’s plan
to steal Christmas didn’t quite work and he didn’t ruin Christmas and
Christmas went on despite all his efforts. But what if he had
succeeded? What if someone could really steal Christmas?
the past few weeks we’ve been working our way through a series called
“A Christmas that Matters.” Mostly we’ve been talking about making this
Christmas matter. But you know which Christmas really matters? The
“Regardless of what anyone may personally think or
believe about Him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in
the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were
possible, with some supermagnet, to pull up out of history every scrap
of metal bearing at least a trace of His name, how much would be left?
It is from His birthday that most of the human race dates its
calendars, by His name that millions curse and in His name that
~ Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan
So what if such
a supermagnet existed? What if you really could erase Christmas? What
if Jesus never came to earth as a baby? How would our world… how would
human history… be different?
This morning I’m going to give you
four ways this world would be different. The first one’s not all that
important, the next two are a bit more significant, and the fourth one
is crucial for every person everywhere for all of time. Okay? As I
said, this first one is not all that important. But it is pretty
obvious. Without Christmas…
1. Our Christmas traditions would not exist.
What would that mean for us? Well, think about it…
December 25 would just be another day on the calendar. Our winters here
in PEI can be loooong, but from my perspective Christmas makes it worth
it. Christmas provides a good break.
• Students would have no December break from school. Okay, maybe you parents would actually enjoy that.
• There’d be no family gatherings for the holidays, no carols to sing, no gifts to give.
• There’d be no market for artificial trees or strings of lights.
• No decorations.
• Our economy would grind to a halt.
• There’d be no first-telling, let alone retellings, of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.
There’d be no annual airings of “The Sound of Music,” “It’s a Wonderful
Life,” or Charlie Brown Christmas specials. No Handel’s Messiah.
There’d be no angels, or mangers, or shepherds, or pastors dressing up
in bathrobes for a kids’ Christmas presentation.
• No Santa Claus… no elves at the North Pole.
• No Dasher! No, Dancer! No Prancer or Vixen!
• No, Comet! No Cupid! No Donder nor Blitzen!
• And there’d certainly be no Rudolph.
Christmas, there’d be nothing to look forward to as the days get
shorter… nothing to anticipate all year long. There’d be plenty of
things we would miss, if there were no Christmas.
But those are
all surface things. Traditions are nice, but what do they really
matter? If Christmas didn’t exist, there are some much more important
things we’d be missing. Like this…
2. There would be fewer charities and humanitarian organizations.
Jesus had not come, then He would not have grown up to teach us how to
love our neighbour as ourselves. And let me tell you, judging by the
way we were going before He came, there’s a good chance we would have
never discovered that on our own. We needed God in the flesh to teach
us to be godly.
Think about the world Jesus came into. At that
point in history, the world was segregated. You think it’s bad now?
It’s nothing like it was then. There were Greeks, Romans, Jews, slaves,
free, civilized, barbarians… there were competing philosophies, guilds,
tribes, nations, ethnic religions… Yes, some of that still exists. But
it’s much better than it was then. And it continues to improve.
has made the difference? The Church that Jesus came to establish. Why?
Because it brought a message of love and acceptance, not division and
animosity. It taught the value of every person, regardless of tribe or
creed. This is what Paul wrote…
Colossians 3:11-12 (NIV)
there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian,
Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And where did that come from? It came from what Jesus taught…
Luke 10:27b (NLT)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
do you remember who Jesus said is your neighbour? Yes, it’s the person
who lives in the house next to you. That’s your neighbour. And Mr.
Rogers always wanted to be my neighbour. But Jesus taught that our
neighbour can be anyone. And to illustrate, He told the story of the
Good Samaritan. The Jews despised the Samaritans. If they saw one
coming down the street, they’d cross to the other side. But Jesus
taught a message about setting aside our differences and expressing
love and compassion instead.
And what happened because Jesus
came and taught us to love like this? Well, because of the teachings of
Jesus in the midst of a violent culture, the early Christians began to
care for widows and for orphans… they cared for the sick and the
disabled. They cared for the dying. When plagues hit, Christians ran to
the center of town to help the victims rather than fleeing to the
safety of the countryside. Eventually, the Christians built and staffed
hospitals. They took care of the poor and the underprivileged. And
right down to today, almost every charitable organization that exists
was begun by a Christian… including the Red Cross, the Salvation Army,
World Relief, World Hope, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion
International, the YMCA, soup kitchens and food banks, homeless
In fact, after the earthquakes in Guatemala and Haiti
this year, after Hurricane Katrina, after the Tsnuami of 2004, and
after just about every disaster that happens anywhere in the world…
Churches and Christians and Christian-rooted organizations have been
the first ones in to provide medical aid and relief. All because Jesus
loved us enough to come to earth as a child, to grow up, and to teach
us to pass that love on to others.
Yes, the Church has warts
because it’s populated by fallible people. But on balance, the Church
has been the greatest force for good and the greatest influence on
society in the history of the planet.
There are three or four
high-profile atheists today who are blaming the Christian Church for
all the problems in the world. But the truth is, the greatest advances
in medicine, humanitarian aid, science, technology, education, and even
commerce have come about because of the movement Jesus started.
Which brings us to number three. Without Christmas…
3. The face of education and science would be very different.
like charities and humanitarian organizations, all the top educational
institutions were begun by Christians. Oxford, Harvard, Yale,
Cambridge, Princeton… all began as Christian schools. Perhaps they were
inspired by words like this…
Romans 12:7 (NLT)
If you are a teacher, teach well.
2 Timothy 2:24 (NLT)
A servant of the Lord must… be able to teach…
Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…
Or from the words of Jesus…
Luke 10:27a (NLT)
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.”
the reason, followers of Jesus were at the forefront of education. Even
Sunday Schools, when they began back in 1780, were begun by Christians
to provide schooling for children who were working in the factories
during the Industrial Revolution.
Plus, the Church has a rich
history of supporting and sponsoring scientific progress. This concept
that the Church and Science are at odds with each other is a pretty new
idea. And when that claim is made, there are generally two examples
that are brought up: Galileo and the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Galileo was himself a Christian who believed his model of the solar
system was consistent with Biblical teaching. The Church at the time
disagreed, put him on trial for heresy, and Galileo lived out the
remainder of his days under house arrest. But it wasn’t Christianity
against Science; it was different scientific views held by Christians.
thing with the Scopes Monkey Trial. A Tennessee high school biology
teacher named John Scopes was put on trial for teaching the theory of
evolution. But again, this was not a fight between Christianity and
Science. It was a clash between two branches of
Christianity—fundamentalists vs. modernists.
So while those two
cases have come to epitomize a supposed conflict between science and
Christianity, they are the exceptions and are generally misunderstood.
Historians generally credit Christianity with the rise of scientific
discovery in Western Society.
“Christian theology was necessary
for the rise of science… Christianity depicts God as a rational,
responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as His
personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure,
awaiting human comprehension… Christians developed science because they
believed it could be done, and should be done.”
- Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God
popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed
hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have
shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific
endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either
tension or attempts at harmonization.”
– Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion
education and scientific discovery and invention and technological
advancement… they all find themselves rooted in Christianity and the
teachings of Jesus. All the way back in the 4th century, Saint
Augustine—one of the most influential people in the history of the
Christian Church and the person credited with starting Western culture
(in Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin)—taught about the importance of
Christians learning from science.
The father of modern Science,
Francis Bacon, around the year 1600 AD talked about how scientific
discovery would reveal more about the mind of God while allowing us to
improve the human condition. It what that perspective that kicked off
our current age of science.
If that first Christmas had never
happened, the face of education and science would be very
different. And if we had time, we could go on to talk about how
Christianity has contributed to Art, to Literature, to Music… How
without Christmas there’d be no…
• Mother Teresa
• Billy Graham
• Paul of Tarsus
• Saint Peter
• Isaac Newton
• Francis of Assisi
• Soren Kierkegaard
• Martin Luther
• Martin Luther King
• Charles Dickens
• Abraham Lincoln
• Michael Faraday
• Ernest Rutherford
• Marco Polo
• Christopher Columbus
• William Wilberforce
• George Washington Carver
• C.S. Lewis
• J.R.R. Tolkien
• Corrie ten Boom
• Thomas Aquinas
• Dietrich Bonhoeffer
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Johannes Gutenberg
• Johannes Kepler
• John Wesley
• John Calvin
• John Wycliffe
• John Bunyan
• John the Baptist
• John Milton
Without that first Christmas, this world would be a much bleaker place.
there’s one more way in which this world would be different without
Christmas. And as I said, it’s the most important way. Without that
4. We would still be hopelessly lost to our sinfulness.
But that first Christmas did happen, Jesus did come, and He came to rescue us from our sinfulness. Jesus Himself declared…
Luke 19:10 (NLT)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
came at Christmas to seek and save the lost. And who are the lost?
Without Jesus, we’re all lost. Jesus came for you and for me. And
someday, he will set His people free from all the darkness and all of
the turmoil and all of the stress and all of the depression and all of
the bleakness of life as it is now.
But let’s look back at the
first Christmas. In fact, let’s look back even before it. 700 years
before Jesus came, there was a prophecy given to Isaiah…
Isaiah 9:2, 6 (NLT)
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. …
a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest
on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
At the time Isaiah
shared this prophecy, the nation of Israel was under an occupation by
the Assyrians. The Assyrian army had conquered Israel and had taken
many of the citizens away to a foreign land as captives. They were
living in a time of darkness for them. But Isaiah wrote about a great
light… a child who would be born and would set them free from the
And then in the New Testament, in the Gospel of John, this is what it says about the coming of Jesus…
John 1:4-5, 9 (NLT)
Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought
light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
can never extinguish it. …
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
the time John wrote those words, Israel was occupied by the Romans. The
people were once again subject to a foreign power. And they didn’t much
like it. It was a time of darkness for them. But here again, we’re told
the light that will break through the darkness and overcome it.
at the time of Isaiah’s writing, the people thought that maybe this
child who would be born would overthrow the foreign power and set up
his own kingdom here on earth. That’s why the circumstances of His
birth were so unexpected. They were expecting an actual king born to a
powerful, royal family, not some illegitimate kid born to a carpenter
and teenaged girl in a barn.
And even during Jesus’ lifetime,
there were some who expected Him to overthrow Rome. Including Judas.
Many believe that Judas betrayed Jesus in an attempt to force Jesus’
But what they failed to understand was that Jesus’ Kingdom
was already established. They were looking for Him to re-establish the
Kingdom of Israel, but Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God… the
Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus came to defeat spiritual darkness. He came to
restore our relationship with God the Father… the relationship that was
severed when we as a race rebelled against Him. That’s why He came.
That’s why Christmas matters. As the Apostle Paul said…
Acts 13:38-39 (NLT)
are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness
for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is declared right with
God—something the law of Moses could never do.”
And Jesus Himself said…
John 10:10 (NLT)
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
came at Christmas to give life, and that’s good news! You see, death is
the penalty for our rebellion against God, physically and spiritually.
We all eventually die physically, but without Christ we’re already dead
spiritually. So Jesus came and died in your place so that you could be
offered a new life… eternal life… instead.
So how do you take
Jesus up on His offer? How do you accept the life that Jesus came to
give you? Well, John chapter one lays it out for you. John tells us how
Jesus was in fact God who came to earth as a child. But even though He
was the God who created everything that exists, many didn’t recognize
Him. But then John wrote…
John 1:12 (NLT)
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
So what do you have to do? You have to believe He is who He says He is, and you have to accept Him. Believe and receive.
if you’ve never done that, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do that
this morning. He invites you to do it, no matter who you are or where
you’re at. What better time than Christmas time when we celebrate the
birth of Jesus for you to begin your new life, too?
bow your heads and close your eyes? No talking, no looking around.
We’re going to pray in a moment. But before we do, let me ask you, do
you want to receive what Jesus is offering you this morning? Do you
want to receive this new life today? If so, then just look up and make
eye contact with me.
All right, for those of you who raised
your hands, or perhaps for those who wanted to but were a little scared
to do that, I want to invite you to pray something like this… you don’t
have to pray out loud, just pray in the quietness of your heart… You
“Jesus, thank you for coming at Christmas. I believe
in You, and this morning I want to receive the life you came to give
me. I’m sorry for trying to live life my way; I now choose to live it
your way. Thank you for loving me enough to come to earth for me.”
you’ve just prayed that prayer, then you need to let someone know about
it. You can talk to me or the person you came with, or even mark it on
your Communication Card. For the rest of you, you may want to pray
something like this…
“Thank you, Jesus, for coming that first
Christmas. Thank you for the difference You have made in this world and
in my life. Thank you for the hope and peace and love and joy that is
mine because You came. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
[Some material adapted from Hal Seed]