WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN?

                                                                                                                                          

                              Galatians 4:4-5

With Christmas drawing near I wanted to share with you a message I shared at a local church recently. Merry Christmas to all.

Intro:   

What a wonderful time of the year it is, amen ? Have you noticed the decorations on the houses in all the towns in this area —or the lighted displays that are up all over the place. And how about the many commercials now on tv that are enticing us to spend more money on more gifts?  Ohh yesss all those Christmas songs being played on the radio these days. Yes, it is Christmas! What does Christmas mean to you? (Pause briefly)  

Perhaps you think like some people who say that It is the time to reflect on what’s truly important in life. To “reflect” on your life, the good, bad and ugly and “re-orient” your thinking to the “truly” important things that you, perhaps, have forgot about along the way.  

Or maybe you think as some do that It’s about showing gratitude and compassion. It’s a time to make others happy. A time to make up for the rest of the year where you weren’t so compassionate and giving.  

Possibly, your answer is more along the lines of Christmas being all about opening presents and having fun, being with your family and being out of school or work for a day or two.   

But I hope, and am pretty sure, most of you sitting here this morning would answer that Christmas is not about presents- but to remember Jesus’ birth and to thank God for His sending His one and only Son to be the total satisfaction for the debt sinners like us here today owed.    

(Read our text) Galatians 4:4-5  

What I have just read here to you, you are familiar with elsewhere in the Bible, i.e., the incarnation of the Son of God. Turn to Matt 1:18-25. (Read)  Paul has given us the,  “readers digest condensed version” of this account.    

This story of the Christ Child is as beautiful as it is miraculous, but as beautiful as the story is, as touching and special as it is, I wonder, do we truly know what Christmas means?  

What does Christmas mean? Well, as you can see in your outline–    

1. Christmas means that God (is interested). Paul said, “God sent forth His Son.”       

Dear friends, God is not a far off, impersonal, indifferent, insensible God unmoved by man’s problems. Quite the contrary! He is a (personal) and (responsive), (involved) and amazingly (loving) Father.  The Psalmist wrote: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” Church, this is important for us to understand because it will encourage us and strengthen us on our walk of faith with Christ. What a blessing it truly is knowing that God is interested in us.       

Actually, I believe we can say- This is the gospel! God is interested. We read here together a few moments ago: That when the time was right, He intervened on man’s behalf. “God sent forth His Son.”  

The message of Christmas, the importance of the baby in the Bethlehem manger, is that God is interested!  

He is interested in your struggles, fears, doubts, addictions, whatever hang-ups you may have. HE IS       I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-E-D!  

Perhaps there is at least one person here this morning that is thinking that God is NOT interested in them. Why would He possibly care about me, you think, after all, who am I in the grand scheme of things?  

Friend, I beg you —please listen to me as I share some examples from our Bible that prove just the opposite .  

Examples:   

Hagar and Ishmael Genesis 16 and 21 (cruelly mistreated)  

Sarai was married to a man named Abram (Sarah and Abraham). And she was barren (could not have children). Now, the Lord has promised them that they will have a child, a son, but time has a way of moving ever forward, and Sarai was still without any children.       So, she concocted a scheme in which she would give to her husband, her hand-maiden to have relations with and then, as she stated: “I shall obtain children through her.”

 Ironically, Abram agrees and has sexual relations with her maid, Hagar the Egyptian. She conceived, BUT this IS NOT the son of the promise and a magnitude of problems immediately arise. Sarai treats Hagar harshly, so bad, that Hagar “fled from her presence,” she ends up in the wilderness, alone, distraught, confused. Is the God of all creation concerned about this one seemingly insignificant woman in distress in the wilderness? Could it be possible for Him to be “interested” in her life? Verse 7 tells us that the angel of the Lord found her. He came to her where she was and expresses mercy toward her. He cares. But we take notice to verse 13 as well. He is a God who “sees.” He see’s, He knows, He cares, he IS interested, and church, He is m-e-r-c-i-f-u-l toward us!    

Religious yet lost Acts 8 (searching, questions)  

Here we find a man, an Ethiopian eunuch, on a desert road that went from Jerusalem to  Gaza. He had come to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews. Sounds like a good thing, and it is, and yet, as good as it is, as religious as this man is and as sacrificial in his time spent to worship this God that he is—-he is still lost in his sins, you see (religion) or religiosity never saved anyone, ONLY CHRIST CAN SAVE SINNERS!      

Does God care about skeptics? Is He concerned about those who doubt and are honestly searching for the truth?    

Yes, yes, he is VERY interested. Look at what He does for this man. He speaks to Philip, an Apostle, and directs him to this man. Why? Look at verse 29. Philip is sent to him to explain to him what he is, or WHO he is reading about in the scriptures. HE is interested, He wants this man to come to a personal relationship with Himself. Philip explains the scriptures (35), the man believes the scriptures, puts his faith in Christ and is than baptized.  

Is God interested?         

Names of God–=El Roi—the God who sees: Jehovah Shammah—the Lord is there: Jehovah Jireh—the Lord will provide.   God is interested!  

But being interested in something or someone is not very helpful without acting on behalf of that person or thing. Interest without action is not very helpful. So, what do we see God do?   

2. Christmas means that God is acting.

 “God sent forth His Son. . . (vs 5) to redeem them that were under the Law.”      Sending His Son was not only a show of God’s interest. God acted on our behalf. He acted to free us from the bondage and frustration of attempting to keep God’s laws by our own efforts.    

But, why Send His son? Why do we need to be “redeemed?” 1:4 says Jesus: “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” 

You see, God’s standard is perfection, mess up in one area of the law and you are found guilty as a lawbreaker. (one lie makes you a liar and guilty before a holy God) According to James, such a one is guilty of breaking all by that one offense! (James 2:10)   

Precise and consistent obedience to the divine will is beyond our natural ability. Our imperfections can never satisfy a perfect God. Paul says it this way: “There is none righteous, not even one, there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God….” (Rom. 3:10)  

We are forever defeated and always under condemnation when law-keeping (trying to be good enough) is the basis of our would-be relationship with God. It was not intended to be that way.            

Faith is what justifies a sinner!   Paul in Romans 3:23-24 Says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I know we heard that all ready, but it bears repeating because then he says, “being justified (good enough) as a GIFT by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  

Listen as I sum up chapter 3 (Read Gal 3:13,14,19,24,26,27,28)   

Paul is writing to Jews who had left their Judaism to follow Christ. He is reminding them of these elemental truths because they were listening to false teachers and turning back to the ceremonial aspects of the law. They were adding it to their faith in Christ and Paul is seeking to remind and encourage them that their salvation, just like ours, is by faith alone in Christ alone.   

The greatest give any one of us can receive is the gift of redemption through Christ Jesus!  

One great preacher said: “we never know how bad man is until the gospel is preached to him. The gospel acts as a white background to set forth the darkness of man’s heart.”  

So dear friends, it is because of the black stains of sin in your heart and my heart, OUR HEARTS, that Christ came!  

So many people give excuses why they can’t trust in Jesus today. “Satan is always ready to help men with excuses…If you will fire the gun, Satan will always keep you supplied with ammunition.” (CHS)     

So, God acted to redeem us. Now, I know It is comforting to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” But isn’t it(more deeply) satisfying to hear (Jesus) say, “The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  

         Not only God with us but God acting on our behalf.   

Do you remember the angels announcement to Joseph? “thou shalt call His name Jesus, for he shall save His people from their sins.” This is what Christmas means.  

Brothers and sisters, friends, guests—Christmas, ultimately, is all about the cross!  

The Christ child, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is God’s action. For as Paul wrote, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19)   

If we could Read together Isa. 53 We would see how that looks in application.

He poured out Himself to death, to pay the price necessary, to redeem (buy back) sinners from the curse of and bondage to their sin.                                               

Christmas means -God’s interested—-God’s acting  

And It also–   

3.  Christmas means that God is completing.

Our verse states: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the (adoption of Son’s).” This scripture is telling us  that God acted to redeem us because he wants to bring His relationship with us to its completion:  (Future Rom. 8:23) in accordance to “the kind intention of His will) Eph. 1:5.

  Actually Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Just as He chose usin Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love. He predestined us to (adoption as sons) through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. (Eph. 1:4-5)  

Church, Predestination does not refer here to the choice of who will be saved. (Election or chose above deals with that)It refers to the destiny appointed for those who are chosen. First, God chooses, that is, he unconditionally sets his favor on whom he will, THEN, he destines them for their glorious role in eternity. (piper)  

What can we learn from this scripture and others about God’s completing work: this “adoption as sons?    

1. Adoption was (for God) costly. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (in order that He might redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.) (Galatians 4:5)  

I want to place stress on the word redeem here. To redeem means to obtain or to set free by paying a price. What was the price that God paid for our liberation and adoption? In the previous chapter, we read the answer: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13-14). It cost God the price of his Son’s life.    

2. Adoption did involve the legal status of the child. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:5)  

(Highlighted part is our emphasis) Because there were legal realities God had to deal with. His own justice and law demanded that we be punished and excluded from his presence for our sins. Righteousness was required and punishment demanded. God had to satisfy his justice and his law in order to adopt sinners into his family. This he did by the life, death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.  

3. Adoption is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)  

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:15-16)  

God does not leave us in the condition of aliens when he adopts us. He does not leave us with no feelings of acceptance and love. Rather, he pours his Spirit into our hearts to give us the experience or Spirit witness of being embraced in the family.   

Listen as I quote one preacher on this topic: “Adoption in God’s mind was not Plan B. He predestined us for adoption before the creation of the world. Plan A was not lots of children who never sin and never need to be redeemed. Plan A was creation, fall, redemption, adoption so that the full range of God’s glory and mercy and grace could be known by his adopted children. Adoption was not second best. It was planned from the beginning.”   

God did not begin something with no thought to finishing it. He is a completing God! He, throughout the ages said what He would do, and He did it, ALL of it. He is a completing God. You and I Christian, can rest in the truth that God will finish the work that He has begun in us. He will achieve the goal He set for us!   

Christmas means that God is interested in us, He is acting on our behalf, and He promises to accomplish everything involved in our sonship!

Closing prayer: Closing hymn:      

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