1. THERE'S ANTICIPATION!
A big part of what makes Christmas so exciting is the ANTICIPATION—the build up! When I was a kid, it was REALLY hard to wait until Christmas. It seemed like time slowed down and the days passed by slower than ever! We were so anxious to open our gifts that we would even sneak around and see if we could find where they might be hidden!
From the very beginning, and all through the Bible we’re given TEASES that God had a plan to make a way for us to be forgiven for our sins!
Isaiah 7:14 is probably one of the biggest teases in the Bible. It was written 700 YEARS before Jesus was born! (This is one of those examples of Prophecy that came true in Jesus that we looked at a few weeks ago. Remember, in the New Testament—the second part of the Bible, there are people who are actually READING the Book of Isaiah. They are reading the Bible in the Bible! How? Well, as we looked at, the Bible wasn’t written at one time--- it was written by many people over thousands of years.)
This is what Isaiah said---“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Think about that! 700 years before Jesus was born, God told Isaiah to deliver a message--- that there would be a virgin birth! This alone is incredibly miraculous! That kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday. AND then he says that the child will be IMMANUEL- that this baby would somehow be GOD IN THE FLESH!
In Isaiah 9:6—again, written 700 years before Jesus was born, it says, “For 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.” This again, is some pretty shocking stuff--- the TEASE is that a baby would be born who would be called MIGHTY GOD, AND EVERLASTING FATHER!
All through the Old Testament people are told that a saviour would be coming to help them know and follow God. If you think waiting for Christmas is hard when it’s a few weeks away, they were waiting sometimes THOUSANDS OF YEARS to unwrap this gift---for God’s promise to come true!
2. THE BIG DAY ARRIVES!
As a kid, it was REALLY hard to get to sleep on Christmas Eve, but it was SO worth it--- because we knew that there would be some amazing presents under the tree! It was so exciting to unwrap a gift and find that thing that I had been wishing and hoping for! Well, in the Bible---- after a long, painful wait, the thing that the people of Israel had been wishing and hoping for, finally happened!
Some INCREDIBLE THINGS happened on this first Christmas. Mary was visited by an angel! She was told that, through her, God would save the world from their sins! She was then told that she would become SUPERNATURALLY pregnant with this saviour! (Imagine having to explain that to your parents and fiancé. They probably thought she was the biggest liar in town!) In fact, it was so hard to believe that Joseph (her fiancé) was going to break things off until an ANGEL visited him and confirmed everything! Then, when Jesus was born, a STAR appeared to mark the place of his birth! Angels showed up in the fields to announce to shepherds that God’s promised saviour had been born!
That’s the reason why we celebrate Christmas today. God has given us this FREE, AMAZING gift. He wants to forgive us for all of the wrong things we’ve said and done. He wants to give us a brand new start! The God of this Universe wants to have a friendship with us--- and all we have to do is unwrap the gift--- to invite Jesus into our lives! And what's really cool is that the Bible says that when we do that--- when we accept this gift God has given us, it says that ALL OF HEAVEN celebrates! (Luke 15) It’s a BIG DEAL! It’s a BIG DAY!
3. SHARING GOOD NEWS
If you unwrap something AWESOME, you usually don’t keep it a secret! You tell your friends! You’re excited about it! In the Bible, The Shepherds had angels appear to them in the middle of the field to announce that the Saviour had been born! They then were told to go to Bethlehem to see for themselves….AND THEY DID!
Luke 2:17 says, “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished”. These guys couldn’t keep it to themselves!
We have REALLY good news to share with other people… and God wants us to share it!
4. THE THANK YOU NOTE!
Luke 2: 20 says that after the shepherds spread the news, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told”.
It says they worshipped God! They expressed their thanks and praise to him!
Did you ever have to write a thank you note after Christmas? It can be a real pain for some kids—a huge hassle, because we don’t want to write a note THANKING someone for the videogame, we just want to play it! Eventually, we all learn that it's really important to express appreciation to people who've given us a gift. They didn’t have to do it! They didn’t have to spend time and money on you, but they did it because they care about you and want to show it in a tangible way! I learned as a kid that, even if I unwrapped a pair of huge, ugly, hand-knitted wool socks (and I’m allergic to wool) that I could be TRULY thankful that the person cared so much about me. That, at the very least, it’s the thought that counts! Well, thankfully, God’s gift to us is WAY better than wool socks!
If you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness--- if you’ve invited Jesus into your life, then every day of your life can be a THANK YOU CARD to God!
That means that we can thank God by singing songs of worship that give him props! We can thank him personally through prayer! We can thank God by spending time reading the Bible and thinking about it on our own! We can thank God by coming out to CATALYST or being a part of church because it shows him that he’s important to us! We can thank God by making the right choices in life even when it’s REALLY hard! We can thank God by living our lives the way he designed them to be lived! We can thank God by giving, helping and showing kindness to others! Our lives can be one big THANK YOU card to God!
Christmas is fun and exciting---and that really mirrors what happened on that very first Christmas! It was kind of a big deal! There was a ton of anticipation! The big day arrived with all kinds of miraculous stuff going on! The shepherds went into the town and told everyone they could about the good news (even if it might have sounded crazy or weird!) AND then they worshiped God! And thousands of years later--- we’re reminded that this gift of Jesus is for us too! We can experience his love and forgiveness for ourselves! We can have a friendship with God! We can show and tell others in the things we say and do that we love and follow God! AND we can worship him with our lives--- not just through singing or talking to God personally, but by living life the way he designed it to be lived!