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What Ever Happened To Christmas?

Luke 2: 1-20

Every year during the Christmas season we sing one of the most popular carols:
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
"

That great hymn reminds us that the Christmas season is to be a time of joy as we honor the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is to be a time of celebration as we think about God's great gift to humanity.

On that first Christmas, the birth of Jesus was announced by the heavenly host of angels singing praises to God.
That first Christmas was celebrated by a group of shepherds whose hearts were filled with joy as they praised God
for all they had seen and heard.
The whole realm of nature gave notice to the birth of heaven's gift to man, and that first Christmas was filled with joy.

That was the way Christmas was then, but what about today?

If you have been trapped in the mad rush of Christmas shoppers, or if you have taken notice of what is going on
this Christmas season, you have noticed a distinct lack of joy in people's lives.

We still sing "Joy to the world."
But Christmas has become a hassle, an unpleasant interruption that is characterized by anything but joy.
We hear people, when asked if they are ready for Christmas, growl and say, "Yeah, I'm ready for it to be over!"
I suppose there have been times when each of us has felt that way.
Christmas has become a threat to many people.

As we look around us, we have to wonder where is the joy and peace the angels sang about?
We ask, "What ever happened to Christmas?"

Perhaps, by rereading the story of that first Christmas, we can identify some things that have happened to Christmas.

We Have Made Christmas More Of A Holiday Than A Holy Day.

The angel said, "Do not be afraid, for... I bring you good news... today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Saviour.
" (Luke 2:2)

There was something special about that day. Christmas was born in the mind and heart of God.

God determined the day Jesus was to be born, but we have taken Christmas out of the hands of God and placed it in the hands of men.
As a result, Christmas has become just another holiday that we look forward to because it means a day off from work,
a vacation from school, and a chance to visit relatives.

Now, all those are desirable things, but we sometimes get to the point in all our coming and going and celebrating
that we are like the little girl who looked at the decorated tree and all the presents under it
and asked the question, "Where does God fit in to all of this?"

Ask any child who is about to have a birthday, and he will tell you that his birthday is a special day.
It is a day unlike all the rest of the year.
Christmas is a holy day because it marks the greatest birth this world will ever know.
It is a special day when we celebrate the fact that God did something special for us many years ago.

How will you celebrate Christmas?
It is tragic that we readily associate Christmas with presents, parties, reunions, and delicious dinners;
but we usually fail to make room in our day for worship.

That first Christmas was observed in the form of worship service as the shepherds shared the message of the angel,
and the heavenly choir sang.
Mary meditated, and the service was concluded with a time of glorifying and praising God.

As we celebrate Christmas, we need to take time to sit down and reflect upon this holy day,
and thank God for all it means.
Without an awareness of God's purposes for this special day, Christmas ceases to be a holy day and becomes a holiday.

We Have Commercialized -- Not Christianized Christmas.

We have placed the things of Christmas before the Person of Christmas.

A professor of psychology gave his class of 40 students a word association test.
They were to write down the first thought that came to mind after he said a certain word.

One of the words he used was Christmas.
He received such answers as "tree," "holly," ""mistletoe," "gifts," "turkey,"
"holiday," "carols," and "Santa Claus."

Not one student answered, "The birthday of Jesus."

Perhaps, the shepherds on that first Christmas were fortunate.
They did not have all the festivities, decorations, and traditions to detract their minds from the real meaning of Christmas.
Their only desire was to go straight to Bethlehem and see that which the Lord made known to them. ( Luke 2: 50)
All they knew of Christmas was that a baby was born -- who was Christ the Lord.

Today, Christmas is big business.
The market is flooded with every new gadget and toy imaginable, and we, the shoppers, are lured into buying
one of everything so that our families can have a big Christmas.

We magnify a mystical sleigh ride and a Santa who is always watching and is coming to town.
We get caught up in the madness of the shopping mob, and I believe it all disappoints our great God.

Can you imagine what a Christmas without a tree, without decorations, without lights, without presents,
and without parties -- would be like?
We tend to pity those who cannot afford such luxuries, but that is the way it was on that first Christmas.

The amazing thing about it is that no one seemed to miss all the frills.
The angels were singing, the shepherds were praising God, and Mary was treasuring all this in her heart
-- this wonderful work of God -- this wonderful baby in the manger.
All that was necessary for a joyous Christmas was the presence of Jesus.

So, where does Jesus fit into our Christmas?

Christmas without Christ is like a counterfeit dollar; it is worthless.

We become so concerned about the presents we put under the tree, but are we as concerned about bringing
Christ into our homes and into our Christmas celebration?

Let us determine that we will have a Christ-centered Christmas this year.
Remember, it is His birthday we are celebrating; so, let us treat Him like the honored guest.
We must not allow Christmas sentiment or tradition to detract from the real meaning of Christmas.
The real meaning is still found in the declaration of the angel,
"I bring you good news... today the Saviour is born who is Christ the Lord."

We Have Placed More Emphasis On Getting Than On Giving.

We rarely hear anyone ask, "What did you give for Christmas?"
We always want to know what you got.

Now, we always enjoy opening presents... but we must remember that we only have Christmas because of an act of giving. Giving of Himself was God's expression of His love for man.
Likewise, we are to express our love for God by giving.
Getting is an exciting, vital part of Christmas.
But the question is, "What are you giving to God for Christmas?" What will your gift be? A children's song says it well:

"What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would give Him a lamb;
If I were a  wise man, I would do my part.
But what can I give Him?
Give Him my heart!
"

Have you made that gift to God?

God gave His life for you.
Will you give your life to Him?

What ever happened to Christmas?
Nothing!
Christmas is still the same.
It is still the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The message of the angels is just as real today as it was on that first Christmas. Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@ aol.com