by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 26, 2004
[This "top ten" list was
used at the beginning of the service to welcome people.] Well, it’s
almost here. Are you excited? Only 13 weeks to Easter. Does it ever
stop? How was your Christmas? Was it fun? Did you get to spend some
time with family or friends? Did you have lots of good food? Maybe too
much good food? What are the chances you overdid it this Christmas?
Probably pretty good. But how can you really know? Here are the top ten
signs you overdid it this Christmas?
Top Ten Signs You
Overdid it this Christmas:
10. Paramedics bring in
the Jaws of Life to pry you out of the EZ-Boy.
9. The “Gravy Boat” on your table was 12-feet long.
8. You set off 3 earthquake seismographs on your jog this morning.
7. Your credit card debt could bankrupt a small country.
4. Your address is 29 Earl Drive. (explanation - we have a
lady in our church who saturated her yard with 50 strings of lights.)
6. Pricking your finger for cholesterol screening only yielded gravy.
5. The police come to your door due to excessive carolling.
3. Representatives from the Butterball Hall of Fame called — twice.
2. You hear the sound of cranberry sauce sloshing as you walk.
1. That rash on your stomach turns out to be steering wheel burn.
Before we get into the
message, I received some rather disturbing news via email that I need
to share with you. Apparently there was an accident a couple days ago
on Christmas Eve. Let me just read it for you…
There was a perfect man who met a perfect woman. After a perfect
courtship, they had a perfect wedding. Their life together was, of
On Christmas Eve, this perfect couple was driving their perfect car
along a winding road, when they noticed someone at the side of the road
Being the perfect couple, they stopped to help. There stood Santa Claus
with a huge bundle of toys. Not wanting to disappoint any children on
the eve of Christmas, the perfect couple loaded Santa and his toys into
Soon they were driving along delivering the toys. Unfortunately, the
driving conditions worsened and the perfect couple and Santa Claus had
an accident. Only one of them survived the accident.
Question: Who was the survivor?
The perfect woman survived. Everyone knows there is no Santa Claus and
there is no such thing as a perfect man.
By the way, if there is no perfect man and no Santa Claus, then the
woman must have been driving. This explains why there was a car
Well, Christmas has
indeed come and gone. Now what? Jesus has been born… the King has come.
Now what? The Emmanuel is here, God is with us. Now what? Over the next
couple of weeks decorations will come down, discarded trees will line
our streets, credit card bills will start to arrive, and our annual
celebration of Christmas will be packed up for another year. But is
that it? Is that all there is to Christmas?
One of the most moving stories of the effect of the Christmas season is
the story told many years ago by an old German man. He had fought with
the German forces in the First World War. In those days warfare was not
high tech… it was hand-to-hand trench warfare. Soldiers lived, fought,
and died in trenches full of mud and blood and vermin. In those
trenches, dug in the fields of France, enemies could actually hear each
other talking. They didn’t need satellites to locate the enemy. The
enemy was literally just over there.
This old soldier told how on one cold, moonlit Christmas Eve, he
huddled in the bottom of a trench. Because of the annual Christmas
truce, the fighting had stopped. Suddenly, from the British trenches a
loud, sweet tenor voice began to sing “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” and
the sound floated up into the clear, moonlit air.
Then the soldier said something surprising happened: from the German
trenches, a rich baritone voice joined in. For a few moments, everybody
in both trenches concentrated on the sound of these two invisible
singers and the beautiful music and the harmony. The British soldier
and the German soldier sang praise to the Lord who was their shepherd.
Then the singing stopped, and the sound slowly died away.
The soldier said, “We huddled in the bottom of our trenches and tried
to keep warm until Christmas Day dawned. Early on Christmas morning,
some of the British soldiers climbed out of their trenches into the no
man’s land, carrying a football.” – What we know as a soccer ball.
Apparently whenever the British go anywhere, they always take two
things with them: their teapots and their soccer balls. So these
English soldiers started kicking around the ball, in a pickup game in
no man’s land, between the trenches.
Then the old man said, “Some of the German soldiers climbed out, and
England played Germany at football in no man’s land on Christmas Day in
the middle of the battlefield in France in the first World War.” (In
case you’re wondering, England won.)
Then he said, “The next morning, the carnage began again, with machine
guns and bayonet fighting. Everything was back to normal.”
(Stuart Briscoe, “Christmas 365 Days a Year,” Preaching Today, Tape No.
Their ceasefire lasted for one day. In our society, we’ve stretched it
out to the few weeks leading up to Dec. 25. But then, other than
returning gifts to the store and packing the decorations away, it’s
just business as usual. Is that all there is to Christmas? A bunch of
hoopla building up to one day and then it’s over?
The very fact that I’m asking that question implies that I believe
there’s more. In fact, I believe there’s much, much more. You see, for
the Christian, the birth of Jesus is only beginning. Our celebration of
Christmas doesn’t only lead up to His birth; it grows even larger after
His coming. The incarnation of Jesus, the coming of Jesus as a human,
simply means that Jesus is here. The real question is, “now what?” What
are you and I going to do with this Jesus? What are we going to do with
the Messiah? What does it mean for you and me today? In your notes…
The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by
the Spirit of Christ.
The spirit of
Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal.
The spirit of
Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural.
The spirit of
Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ a divine Person.
Okay, so what does this
mean for you and me? What does the coming of Jesus mean to you today
that goes beyond December 25?
Christmas Day 2004 is over, but I believe God wants to give you three
Christmas gifts that you can take with you throughout 2005 and the
years to come.
The Lasting Gifts of Christmas:
1. You Can
Luke 2:11 (NLT)
“The Saviour--yes, the Messiah, the
Lord--has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
Note that word Saviour. Circle it in your notes. That’s what Christmas
is all about. But why do we need a Savior anyway? Well, let me just cut
to the chase. The Bible describes Heaven as a perfect place. There are
no mistakes or inconsistencies there; it is perfect. Because of that,
only perfect people get to go there. If God let imperfect people into
heaven, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore. That means I don’t stand a
chance in a million of getting into heaven on my own effort… and by the
way, neither do you. I lost my chance at perfection a long time ago. So
God took it upon Himself to come up with another way. So He sent us a
Savior so we could get in on somebody else’s ticket. That’s the good
news: A Savior has been born, and He’s been born for you!
I read about one little boy wrote a letter to Santa Claus that said,
“Dear Santa: There are three boys living at my house. Jeffrey is two,
David is four, and Norman is seven. Jeffrey is good some of the time,
David is good some of the time, and Norman is good all of the time. I
You know the problem with that? Not one of us is a Norman. None of us
bat 1000. None of us are always perfect or always right. That email I
read earlier… of course there’s no such thing as a perfect man. There’s
no such thing as a perfect woman, either, with the possible exception
of my wife. None of us is perfect. In fact, if we had a giant screen up
behind us and were able to view everything we’ve ever thought, said, or
done, most of us would be extremely embarrassed. We all live with a
sense of regret because none of us are perfect. And that’s why we need
“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an
educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent
a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent
an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have
sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so He
sent us a Saviour.”
~ from a Christmas card
Yes, you can be forgiven. You have a Saviour.
Rags for clothes: $5.00
A manger for a bed: $25
Having your sins forgiven: Priceless
It’s the most priceless gift you can get, the gift of a clear
conscience. You can’t even buy that on the Internet; it’s priceless.
You can buy grilled-cheese sandwiches with images of Mary, Jesus’
mother, you could have bought the last hot dog served at a Montreal
Expos game, I even read about one woman who was selling the ghost of
her father. But you can’t buy forgiveness on eBay… if anyone ever
tries, it’s a hoax. Yet at Christmastime and anytime God offers you the
chance to have your past forgiven and wiped clean, so you can start
over, brand new. That’s good news!
Now, how do I let Christ be my Saviour? How do I allow Him to save me?
Look at this… read it with me:
Acts 10:43 (NLT)
“…Everyone who believes in him will have
their sins forgiven through his name.”
Notice that is simply says “everyone who believes.” Underline that.
“Everyone” means you. You just need to admit you need Him to do so.
One of the things that all lifeguards know is that you can’t save
anybody as long as they’re trying to save themselves, because they’ll
take you under the water with them. You swim out to them, and if
they’re flailing around in the water you just wait until finally they
just give up and collapse. Once they give up, it’s really easy – you
just put your arm over their shoulder and swim back to shore. There’s
nothing to it. But you can’t save them as long as they’re trying to
You know our problem? We’re always trying to save ourselves. We think
we can work our own way into Heaven. We say, “Oh, God, I’m a good
person. I’m a much better person than they are. Look at the
difference!” The only problem is that God doesn’t grade on a curve. You
might say, “Well, I’m better than Hitler.” Well of course you are –
you’re probably better than me, too. But God doesn’t judge you against
anybody else. And since you’re not perfect, you need a Saviour. And
that Saviour is provided. Jesus is there offering you forgiveness. It’s
a free gift; just accept it.
2. You Can
Discover Peace of Mind
What did the angels
Luke 2:14 (NLT)
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and
peace on earth to all whom God favours.”
Psalm 119:165 (NLT)
Those who love your law have great peace and
do not stumble.
Peace. It’s is a word that our world uses a lot, but most people don’t
have the foggiest idea of its true meaning. For many, peace of mind
means drinking until they’re so drunk and numb that they can no longer
feel the pain in their hearts.
For some, peace means hopping from one relationship to the next, to the
next, to the next, hoping that somebody will fill the void in their
life. But nobody ever does.
For some, peace means staying busy all the time so that at night they
just kind of collapse into bed and don’t have to think. Because any
time they’re quiet, those haunting thoughts, those fears, and that
terrible loneliness come caving in on them, and they don’t like that
For other people peace means working and working, becoming a workaholic
and overachieving, so they can be a success and prove to the world that
they’re a somebody! But inside they’re still saying, “I don’t really
feel like I’m a somebody.”
For other people peace means trying gimmicks, like gazing at crystals,
or using aromatherapy, or sitting in a lotus position and contemplating
the lint in their navel. But that’s not peace of mind either.
Real peace of mind is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s
Son, and becoming friends with Him.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what I do, God will never stop
Real peace is knowing that no matter what happens, God will never leave
me alone. He’ll always be with me.
Real peace means that no matter what happens in the New Year, or in the
years to come, I know that God is going to give me the strength to
Real peace is living by God’s Word, the Bible, so I can avoid a lot of
the needless hang-ups and hurts and habits that mess up my life.
There are three things that rob us of peace of mind:
Robbers of Peace:
You don’t have to walk around with guilt. God tells you, “I sent a
Saviour to wipe away your sins so you can be forgiven.” Jesus gives us
a clear conscience, like an Etch-A-Sketch. If you haven’t been cleansed
from your sins by placing your faith in Jesus, guilt will rob you of
This is powerful…
Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
So now there is no condemnation for those
who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has
freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to
You don’t need to be a slave to your guilt anymore. Trust Jesus to
forgive you, and believe that He’s done it.
Maybe for you, Christmastime brings up all kinds of hurtful memories. I
always hate hearing about a tragedy that happens at Christmastime,
because I know that for some Christmas will always be associated with
those sad memories. So you may remember the loss of a loved one, or a
parent who abandoned you, or a broken relationship that threw you for a
loop. You have grief that robs you of joy and peace of mind. If that’s
the pain you’re carrying, I want you to know that I’m sorry you’re
hurting. I really am. But beyond my concern, God cares about your hurt.
He sees it, and He knows all about it. You were never meant to carry
that grief all on your own. A terrific verse to memorize is found in 1
Peter… say it with me…
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)
Give all your worries and cares to God,
for he cares about what happens to you.
Give Him your worries and troubles, and receive the gift of peace.
Grudges cause us to be resentful. We feel guilty when we hurt others,
but we become resentful when others hurt us and we hold a grudge. Let
me tell you, you will be hurt in life, whether intentionally or
unintentionally. But how you respond to that hurt will in no small
measure determine your level of happiness in life. For your own sake,
your own peace of mind, you’ve got to let go of those hurts, because
resentment doesn’t hurt the other person; it only hurts you. You’re the
one who’s stewing while they’re living their life.
You may still be letting people from your past hurt you today, and
that’s not too smart. You’ve got to let go of your grudges. You may
say, “I just can’t do that. They hurt me too much. I can’t forgive
them.” You’re right. That’s why you need Jesus Christ, because only He
can give you the power to let go. Why? Because they deserve it? No,
they don’t deserve it. But remember, you didn’t deserve to be forgiven
either but God still forgave you. Plus, you need to forgive for your
own sake, so you can get on with your life and not stay stuck in the
past over a grudge, a hurt, or a resentment.
Leviticus 19:18 (NLT)
“Never seek revenge or bear a grudge
against anyone, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.”
3. You Can
Receive Eternal Life
Here are the facts of
“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you
have the Facts of Life.” Okay, bad joke. Let me give you two facts of
going to die someday.
Now that’s not a pleasant thought. I don’t think you need to be morbid
about it, or always be worrying about it, but the fact is we are all,
each of us, going to die someday. Today, tomorrow, next year, ten years
from now – we don’t know when. But we will die.
to spend more time on the other side.
We’re going to spend more of our life on the other side of death than
we’re going to spend on this side. You get sixty, seventy, eighty,
maybe ninety years here on this earth. Maybe even a bit more than that.
But on the other side of death you’ll spend the rest of eternity. Only
a fool would go through life totally unprepared for something he knows
is inevitable. It doesn’t make sense to know that someday you’re going
to die and to not be prepared for it. You’re not ready to live until
you’re ready to die. Fortunately, the good news is, that’s why God sent
Romans 1:17 (NLT)
“It is through faith that a righteous
person has life.”
John 3:16 (CEV)
God loved the people of this world so
much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him
will have eternal life and never really die.
God says you can find
eternal life by trusting Him… by trusting Jesus. He says, “I’ll take
care of your past regrets, your present problems, and your future
fears.” When you summarize this in one word, do you know what it’s
called? It’s called salvation. And what does salvation mean? It means
God saves me. It means Jesus saves me. It means He clears up my past,
takes care of my present, and secures my future. That’s one gift you’ll
never get anywhere else. You can’t find it under the Christmas tree.
You can only find it in the Man of the cross. In Jesus.
You know our problem? Too often, we don’t know what we’re looking for
in life. We think we’re looking for happiness, and so we go out and we
try all kinds of things to give us happiness. We think we’re looking
for love: “I just want somebody to love me, to fill this void in my
life.” Or we think we’re looking for success, security, significance,
or meaning and purpose in life.
We think we’re looking for all these different things, but actually
what we’re really looking for is God. That void in your life… It’s God
that you’re craving. It’s Him that you’re really searching for. God has
placed in you a God-shaped vacuum that nothing else can fill. Our
hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. But here’s the
good news. All the time when you were looking, and you didn’t know it
was God you were looking for, God was reaching out for you, too. That’s
why He came as Jesus Christ at Christmas so many centuries ago.
1 John 5:20 (NLT)
And we know that the Son of God has come,
and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And
now we are in God because we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the
only true God, and he is eternal life.
Do you see what Christmas is? Christmas is really the celebration of an
invasion. It’s a close encounter of the God kind. God invaded earth
nearly two thousand years ago as a human being. Why? So we could know
He’s not just some big force in the sky. He’s more than that. He wants
us to know what He’s really like.
If God had wanted to communicate to cows, He would have become a cow.
If God had wanted to communicate to ants, He would have become an ant.
If God had wanted to communicate to dogs, He would have become a dog.
But He wanted to communicate to human beings, so He became one of us, a
human being. So now I can look at Jesus and say, “Oh, that’s how God
wants me to live. That’s what God is like.” By getting to know Jesus, I
find out that He’s not some impersonal force in the sky.
How did He come to earth? The same way all of us did: through a birth
canal. Why? Because nobody is afraid of a baby. I mentioned that at
Christmas we’re celebrating an invasion, but God didn’t come to scare
you. He came to save you. The Bible says…
Luke 19:10 (CEV)
“The Son of Man came to look for and to save
people who are lost.”
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. While you’ve been seeking,
He’s been seeking you. And He says, “I offer you forgiveness for your
past, peace of mind in the present, and a solid future in eternity.”
Those are the gifts. You ask, “How do I find those gifts?” They’re all
wrapped up in Christ. Read this aloud with me:
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
“You will seek me and find me when you seek
me with all your heart.”
Now if you don’t get anything else out of this morning, get this. You
matter to God. Your problems matter to God. Your pain matters to God.
Your potential matters to God.
God came to earth in human form, and He is seeking you while you’re
seeking Him. What better time than at Christmas to make contact? He
says, “Seek Me.” Two thousand years ago, wise men sought Christ. And
wise people still seek Christ today. I challenge you to be a wise man
or woman and seek the Christ of Christmas. Because God says, “Seek and
you shall find.” It’s His promise. It’s His gift to you.
Thousands of years ago, even before you were born, God knew you would
be here at Sunrise this morning hearing about Him, right here, right
now, at Christmastime. And He brought you here in His providence so He
could get your attention for long enough to say to you, “I really care
about you! I know everything about you. I saw your birth. I know when
you’re going to die. I know everything in between. I made you for a
purpose, and I have a plan for your life. Life does have meaning when
you get involved in My plan and develop a relationship with Me. I love
you, and I want you to know Me so badly that I sent My Son to earth two
thousand years ago to show you what I’m like.”
What I’m talking about this morning is not religion. I’m talking about
a relationship. Religion is just man’s attempt to get to God.
Relationship is God’s way to get to us. It’s when you get to know Jesus
Christ in a personal way and He becomes a Friend. I’m not afraid to
die, because I already know what God is like.
I don’t care what your background is. You may have a Catholic
background, you may have a Protestant background; Perhaps you’ve even
explored Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism… I know of a few people who
investigated all the different religions. Or maybe you have no
background in religion at all. That really doesn’t matter. What does
matters is this: Have you established a personal relationship with
Christ? Because those gifts – forgiveness, peace of mind, and eternal
life – are wrapped up in Him.
Can you imagine being given a gift at Christmas and never unwrapping
it? That would be silly. My father’s done that. My brother and his wife
have given my father the same chainsaw I think three times now. He’s
never opened it, always forgets about it, and they give it to him again
the next year. It’s actually kind of funny and sad at the same time.
If you gave me a gift at Christmas and a year later you came over and I
still hadn’t unwrapped it, you’d think I was a little nutty.
“Why haven’t you unwrapped it?”
“Oh, I love the wrapping paper. I’m sure I’m going to love the gift.
I’m going to get to it one of these days.”
And yet, many people… maybe you… continue to move a little closer to
God Christmas after Christmas after Christmas after Christmas. They’ve
celebrated every Christmas for as many years as they are old; they know
the songs and the stories, and they know what it’s all about, but
they’ve never unwrapped the gift.
What gives? What’s the logic behind that? God says, “I want to offer
you forgiveness, peace of mind, and eternal life,” and you haven’t
unwrapped it? You’re never going to be offered a greater gift than
Jesus! So receive Him today!
If you’d like to do that, then here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going
to ask everyone here to close their eyes and pray. I’ve you’d like to
receive Jesus today, then in silent prayer, from your heart, right now,
tell Him thanks for coming as a baby so you could know Him. Let Him
know that you’re sorry for the ways you have hurt Him. Tell Him you’d
like to receive His gifts of forgiveness and peace of mind and eternal
life. And tell Him you want a growing relationship with Him, starting
primarily from "What Will Your Find at Christmas?" by Rick and Kay