By John Stallings
A pastor worked in his study all through Christmas Eve preparing for the Christmas morning service.
Being very tired he dozed off and dreamt of a world to which the Savior had never come. In his dream he was looking around his home but there were no Christmas decorations, no candles or Christmas wreaths. He walked into his study and thumbed through his library but found no books about Jesus, and the Bible he found ended at Malachi.
He noticed that the last words of the Bible were:
“Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
He walked out into the streets and found no church spires pointing heavenward. He went back inside and a knock on the door brought a request to visit a dying mother. He went to her bedside but could find no comforting scriptures, for the gospels were not there. Paul’s comforting letters that included passages about life beyond the grave were missing. There was no promise beyond the grave. Even John’s book of Revelation was not there.
He could only bow his head and weep in hopeless desperation. Two days later he stood by the mother’s grave and conducted her burial but he could give no word of changed hearts and glorious resurrections, only, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” It was just one long, last, final farewell.
Suddenly nearby music awoke him from his sleep and he was sobbing uncontrollably. He realized he was hearing his own church choir in the sanctuary next door practicing for their Christmas service and singing “Oh come let us adore Him.” The fact was, Jesus had come and His coming had split history in two, giving hope for eternal life to all who trust in Him.
What Would A World Without Christ Look Like?
Had Christ not come we’d have no New Testament, no gospel, no church, no Lord’s Day, no repentance, no forgiveness of sins, no changed and transformed hearts and lives and no hope of His eternal presence. The angel wouldn’t have told Mary, “With God nothing is impossible.” The angels wouldn’t have sung to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.”
One of my favorite secular Christmas songs has always been Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Though it’s always been a dream of mine, I can’t say that I ever experienced a white Christmas. In the last few years that dream has faded, and been replaced with the desire to celebrate each year, a Right Christmas. What does a right Christmas look like?
A Right Christmas Is Beautifully Simple And Simply Beautiful.
Have you ever tried to explain the real meaning of Christmas to a child? It isn’t easy. There’s so much tradition mixed up with spiritual truth that it’s sometimes hard to tell Jesus from Santa Claus and the Wise men from the snowmen. The very young have puzzled looks on their faces as they try to sort it all out. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight…Christmas is Baby Jesus’ birthday, but I get the presents?” They end up thinking: “Is this a great religion or what?”
The Most Neglected Christmas Verse of All
There is one verse that for me sums up the real meaning of Christmas better than any verse in the Bible. Within this short verse we find the answer to the question, what is the right attitude about Christmas and what is a right Christmas? Here is the verse,
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Let’s examine this verse for in it I believe we find the essence of a right attitude toward Christmas.
A. He Was Rich
I read last week that Wal-Mart is the richest and most successful business that’s ever existed on planet earth. My computer even knows who Wal-Mart is because it just corrected my spelling of the name. This brings up a question in my mind: “Why don’t we let Wal-Mart bail out General Motors?” But I digress.
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart was a “rich-en.” He was among the group of old boys who would light their cigars with a hundred dollar bill. The average rich ride first class. The medium rich charter a jet. The super rich own the jet. The incredibly rich own the airline. But Jesus Christ owns the skies. The Bible says: He Was Rich!
This is speaking of what He had in heaven before He came to earth. You can take the richest men who ever lived, the most powerful rulers who ever lived, the wisest men who ever lived, the mightiest generals who ever lived, the strongest athletes in every sport, the most spell-binding orators, the greatest political leaders and any other great men on earth, calculate their wealth…power…skill…genius…wisdom…insight…and ability. Whatever that vast sum comes to, Jesus had more in heaven. No man or collection of men could touch Him. The pre-existent Jesus Christ wasn’t a pauper but a man who lived in glorious untold splendor. He Was Rich!
B. He Became Poor
When you and I celebrate a right Christmas we keep in mind the lowly baby Jesus who became poor. Exactly what does that mean? He was rich in eternity but He became poor when He moved into time. He left heaven for a remote village in a forgotten province, to join a despised race, to be born of an obscure teenage peasant girl in a stable, wrapped in rags and placed in a feeding-trough instead of a crib.But Jesus didn’t act “high and mighty.” He knew it all but wasn’t a “know it all.” He owned all the stuff but never did “strut His stuff.” He wasn’t a “name-dropper.” He wasn’t a showoff. He never asked people, “Want me to beam you into the 21st century?” Jesus could have constantly been saying things like, “I’ve got some property on Jupiter.”
But Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to show off but to show up. Jesus was holding the entire Universe together but you couldn’t tell it by watching or listening to Him. He wasn’t like that. Here is the Creator of the Universe who looked no different than the guy down the street. Jesus became poor and pitched His tent among us for a while. He didn’t Lord it over us but loved us so much He was willing to die for us. He wasn’t on an ego trip he was on a rescue mission.
A Right Christmas is one that remembers that we are something special to God. Notice that Jesus became poor. You and I are made poor by circumstances, but Jesus of His own freewill became poor. The Man who was richer than any man has ever been gave it up freely and became poorer than any man has ever been. If we have a Right Christmas we’ll be remembering that the heart of it all, the heart of the gospel is that the richest person in the universe of His own freewill became poorer than the poor.
I love the story of the atheist who would never go to church with his Christian family. One Christmas season, his wife and children were readying themselves to go to Sunday morning service and pleaded with him to go just this once. It was a special Christmas service and there’d be beautiful music. The unbelieving man refused to go, as usual, telling his family it would just be a waste of time for him, that Christmas was just a silly old tradition about a man who never really existed. The family left for church leaving the father sitting in his recliner near a large picture window that overlooked a big back yard. It was snowing and the sight of the flakes building up on the barn behind the house was breathtaking. He thought how much it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.
Then something happened that almost startled him out of his chair. A flock of about twenty birds, not seeing the glass window, flew right into it, leaving several of them wounded and flapping around on the ground. The man, pitying the poor birds slowly got up, and walked toward the window to get a better look. He stood and watched the birds slowly regain their composure and then begin to wander around the backyard in a state of confusion.
He went and dressed and got some bread from the kitchen thinking he’d try to feed the birds if they’d allow him to get close enough. His worst fears were realized when he approached the dazed and confused birds when they fluttered away, seeing every move he made as a threat to them. This went on for quite some time and the man finally had an idea. If he could open the big barn doors, and get the nearly frozen birds to go in they could have shelter from the blistering winds and maybe live to fly again. The man slowly moved across the barnyard and opened the doors, placing the bread crumbs on the ground hoping the birds natural survival instinct would kick in. The man tried every trick he could think of to get those disoriented birds to see that life was within their reach just a few feet away, but the birds stubbornly refused to cooperate.
Finally the man, not able to stand the bitter cold, had to give up and go back inside to warm himself. As he stood at the window and watched the birds, still wandering aimlessly around the yard, the thought came to him: there was only one way he could ever hope to get those birds to go into the barn, but it wasn’t within his power to do it. The only way the birds could be saved was if he himself could become a bird and join the little flock and lead them into the safety of the barn. When his family returned from church, the man shared the experience with them.
Through that visual experience with the birds, God had shown him the meaning of Christmas. Bethlehem was about God wrapping Himself in human flesh and becoming a Man. He entered the human race and became poor like us, so that we would hear Him saying, “I love you.” Immanuel—God with us.
C. That We Might Become Rich
Here is “The Right Christmas” message:
Jesus became poor so that we who were poor might become rich.
Think about that. All the riches and grace of God is available to me by virtue of my relationship with Jesus Christ. All the power and all the right standing with God are mine through Him. You may say, “You don’t deserve that.” Indeed I don’t, but that’s the grace of our Lord Jesus. If I deserved it, I wouldn’t need Jesus, but through my relationship with Him, suddenly I’m a rich man.
The theologians have a word for it. They call it the Doctrine of Imputation. He takes my sin, and I take His righteousness. That’s grace by association or imputation.
Do you remember the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles? We saw a TV movie about it recently. Diana didn’t exactly come from poverty, but compared to the royal family, her family was poor. But now, by virtue of her marriage to Prince Charles, all the wealth, all the prestige, all the power, all the pomp and glory of the royal family belong to her. Once she was an outsider; now she has access to the Queen. Did she earn such a lofty standing? No. It was imputed to her by virtue of her relationship to Prince Charles—imputed honor, imputed wealth, and imputed status or standing. What do you call a poor girl who marries a prince? You call her, “Your Highness.”
So it is that when we came to Jesus, we were spiritual paupers. Our hands were empty and our pockets were bare. We had nothing to offer, and no claim to make. All our lives, it had been one step forward and two steps backward, but when we came to Him, we were fed, clothed, filled, forgiven, and crowned with every good thing. Jesus took away our rags, and placed around us His own righteousness.
Everything that was against us was gone, and everything we lacked we now have. All this happened because of Christmas. He who was rich became poor for my sake, that through His poverty I might be rich. The Son of God became a Son of Man in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God. Again, what is a Right Christmas?
A—He was rich;
B—He became poor;
C—that we might become rich.
And that’s the true meaning of Christmas. Only one thing remains. Have you found the Christ of Christmas and asked Him to be your Savior? Have you placed your trust in Him? Have you given up your spiritual poverty for the spiritual riches He offers you?
One of my favorite Christmas songs is: O, Little Town of Bethlehem. I love this verse:
How silently, how silently
This wondrous gift was giv’n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessing of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
And so He does!
May that be our experience as we all enjoy,
A Right Christmas!
Merry Christmas everyone!
John Stallings is an award-winning Southern Gospel songwriter, who wrote numerous classics such as: Learning To Lean, Love Grew Where The Blood Fell, Touching Jesus, One Day I Will, You’re All Invited To My Mansion, Blessing After Blessing, Light The Light, Angels Camping All Around Me, God’s Gonna Do It, and many more. His songs have been recorded by many well-known Gospel artists, including, The Blackwood Brothers, The Speers, The Stamps Quartet, J.D. Sumner, Wanda Jackson, Del Reeves, Wendy Bagwell, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, among many others. His singing career was launched at the young age of six in a citywide revival at famed Soldier Field in Chicago. At the age of sixteen he began preaching. John was Nashville’s prestigious Dove Award recipient in 1977, as well as many other awards over the years. He’s also a veteran pastor, evangelist, church-planter, and travels internationally with his wife, Juda, as singing evangelists. They reside in Altamonte Springs, Florida. John’s twin-daughters, Mary Alessi and Martha Munizzi, are both award-winning Gospel recording artists and songwriters in their own right, who with their husbands co-pastor churches. John’s blog, Wisdom and Wit of John Stallings, is a featured column here on Spirit Life Magazine (see left sidebar).
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