Christmas Makes Us…

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

1 John 1:1-4

-What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

-25 years ago I accidently created what has become my parents favorite tradition because I was too creative for my own good. I found a puppet book at church and created an entire Christmas story play with script, backgrounds, and puppets and forced my sister to do the puppet show with me. 

-The problem was I didn’t expect to be forced by my parents to do it into my 30s, nor did I expect to have in-laws roped into the festivities. 

-For about the last 15 of those 25 years I’ve tried unsuccessfully getting out of it, but this year is finally the year. I have produced enough progeny that I get to watch the play I foolishly made a quarter century ago.

-That’s my least favorite, my favorite has become lighting the candles on Christmas Eve.

-We’re not the first generation of Christians to spend time contemplating what Christmas (Jesus’ first coming) does to us. John, described in his Gospel account as the disciples “whom Jesus loved,” also contemplated the implications of the incarnation (try saying that 5 times fast!) in his first Epistle.

READ/PRAY

  1. Christmas Makes Us Remember (1, 3)

-John is encouraging his readers to think back to what’s really real. This letter was written (as most NT are) to correct an issue, people thinking and believing something untrue about how God has revealed Himself to be. In this case, John is writing because there’s a group of people who didn’t believe Jesus was really God.

-Does that sound like a familiar argument you may have heard before? So many people act as if they’ve uncovered some novel or new idea that no one has thought of before, especially in regards to Jesus. I was recently listening to a podcast that was arguing that modern day atheists are just a repackaged form of Epicurians. I don’t have time to go further on that, so I’ll let you do your own research and thinking on that if you want, but I think it’s an insightful idea! There’s nothing new under the sun, but people will try to come up with new or clever ways of saying the same old thing! I’d rather stick with the true original, God created everything!

-Which is also where John begins. “That which was from the beginning.”

-Do you remember how he begins his Gospel account? “In the beginning was the Word…” This story that we celebrate each year should bring our minds back to the very beginning, before the world was formed, before anyone walked the face of the earth God was. God created everything and it was very good, for 1 page! We know the story of Genesis 3 where sin enters the world, and as Romans reminds us death through sin.

-Some of those realities are the reason Christmas may be difficult for you. Because of sin, because of fractured relationships, because of death Christmas isn’t full of “good cheer.” I know some people in our body have lost loved ones this past year, and Christmas can be difficult when someone who’s supposed to be there isn’t. It’s a reminder that this side of heaven isn’t the way things are supposed to be. We all have a longing for what the Bible calls “shalom,” everything being at peace. That’s far more than the absence of conflict, it’s everything being in its’ proper place. Relationally, in the world, even your tools always being in the right spot!

-John goes on to say that the way we can have that shalom, peace, is because of what they saw with their own 2 eyes.

-Remember, there were people in this congregation who didn’t believe Jesus was truly God. But unlike John, these people weren’t there.

-Think of some significant events in history, the biggest one in my life was 9/11. I wasn’t there, but I watched the news as the planes flew into the WTC. One of my favorite pastors is Timothy Keller who served in NYC for a majority of his ministry. He lived and served in NYC when this event was happening, he saw it. Whose story do you think would be more accurate, his or mine? Similarly here, John saw, touched, heard, and it wasn’t just John, WE, other disciples were there too! There’s a whole group of people you can talk to about what happened!

-Christmas makes us look back, seeing how God has worked in human history, how He sent His one and only Son into the world, which leads us to this second Christmas makes us do:

  • Christmas Makes Us Proclaim (2)

-Christmas is the news that changes everything! Christmas is the reason we can and should proclaim about the realities of what Jesus has done! We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks looking at this! 

-We’re caught up in something far bigger than ourselves, we’re caught up in God’s work of reconciling the world back to Himself. John describes this as “eternal life,” and when we read eternal life we have a tendency to only think about life after our time on earth is done, but when the Bible talks about eternal life it talks about something that starts now, the moment when you’re brought from death into life and put your faith , your hope, your trust, your confidence in Jesus’ work on the cross on your behalf.

-But it’s not enough for you to keep that news to yourself, part of being a Christian means sharing the with everyone else what’s really happening in the world around us. It’s so easy to get distracted or caught up in what Jesus describes as “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” Those things seem to matter a lot, don’t they? We need to eat, have a house, have a full life. The problem is all those things are wonderful gifts, but if those gifts become the end itself you can’t really enjoy them.

-Think of your favorite food. Mine is a perfectly cooked steak. If steak becomes your entire focus it starts to lose it’s specialness. Even the best steak in the world is only meant to serve as a small taste of the perfect gifts God has given us. When you’re able to use God’s good gifts without excess or as an end in themselves you’re able to live in a way that demonstrates to the world what God does to you, and how He lets you live life to the fullest!

-But this also should make us question: what is it we’re proclaiming? You naturally share the things that you’re most passionate about and most enjoy. 

-I love coffee, reading, and basketball, but my love for those is miniscule compared to the love of my wife, kids, and that’s even less than my love of the Lord! In conversations with people I’m going to be looking for opportunities to talk about the things I love. Cara has even asked me after we’ve spent time with people why I kept bringing some of these things up. I care greatly about people finding and knowing more about the God! And so should you! Anyone who is now in Christ needs to work out best to proclaim the truths about what God has done in you, and how He loves others. John talks about it, and so should we.

-Christmas makes us look back and remember, Christmas makes us proclaim the truths of what Jesus has done, but we don’t do it alone:

  • Christmas Makes Us Relational (3b)

-One of the things we saw last night is that Jesus’ arrival brings peace. The normal state of affairs in the world and in relationships is conflict and turmoil. It’s difficult to be in relationship with others because it means being hurt regularly, and being willing to forgive. On top of that, it also means you’ll hurt someone else regularly, someone that you love. In order to have a real lasting relationship it requires regular repentance and forgiveness. 

-But notice as well that John talks about fellowship connected to the proclamation.

-As we preach the gospel, it allows and finds its’ fulfilment in fellowship. True, lasting open relationship is now possible because of God’s perfect plan coming to fruition. 

-This also means there’s more to fellowship than enjoyment of the same things. Those who denied the reality of the incarnation were breaking fellowship with the believers. This tells us that we can’t have true fellowship with those who deny orthodoxy. This isn’t something that people like to talk about or admit today, but it’s not a new issue. True, lasting fellowship isn’t possible with those who have abandoned Scriptures clear commands and teachings. They need to be brought back into last fellowship with God and others, but it’s only possible by proclaiming/believing the right things. 

-That’s what John goes on to say here, fellowship horizontally is dependent on fellowship vertically. How can you have fellowship with God? By believing in His Son and then living in light of His coming.

-When our relationship with God is right, it is made visible by our relationships with other believers.

-This also shows us the importance of being a part of a local expression of fellowship. When God saves us He makes us a part of a huge family that is made visible by local churches, local expressions of fellowship where we can demonstrate and live out all the requirements of being in relationship with one another (look up the “one anothers” of the NT if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) Summarized as “love one another.” 

-We’ve seen: remember, proclaim, relational, but when those 3 things are true it will lead to the fourth things Christmas makes us:

  • Christmas Makes Us Joyful (4)

-Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a fleeting feeling that can change in seconds. Joy is a conscious decision that is far more lasting than a fleeting feeling. Remember how John has through this whole section been talking about the implication of the incarnation, or what happens because of salvation. The final marker of salvation in the believer is that they are a joy-filled person. 

-Paul commands believers to be joyful always in 1 Thess. 5, and he is someone who manifested that perfectly. Paul is the guy who had learned the secret to being content in all circumstances. He learned how to be joyful when he had plenty, when he didn’t have enough to eat. He learned how to be joyful when he was mocked and belittled, or when he had an audience with people in high standing. When Christ is in us, we can choose to keep our eyes on what God’s doing and how He’s continuing to work in you. 

-When God saves you, the culmination of that is joy. But notice the pronoun connected to the joy: OUR. It takes a community to be joyful. You can’t do this on your own, nor does God want you to do it on your own. It takes others to help you express your joy. I heard a quote last week that I really like. It’s a Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.”

-Isn’t that true? When you’re celebrating you want others to join with you in that celebration. And when you’re struggling you need others to help encourage you to not give up. It’s another way of saying what Paul reminded us of in Rom. 12: “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” By fellowshipping together, we can have that fulfilled joy. 

-All of this is a description of what is true because of the gospel message, author Trevin Wax wrote an article a few years back where he said it this way:

Trevin Wax: “If you excise the gospel community from your thinking about the gospel announcement, you gut the gospel of its purpose. Though the church is not the subject of the gospel announcement (Christ alone is the subject, of course), the church is a necessary object. Christ’s death has a purpose: to save sinners and incorporate them into a community that reflects His glory. . . . I fear that most evangelicals see the church as ‘just an implication of the gospel’ instead of thinking, This is the whole point of the good news—God forming a people for His glory and the good of the world.”

-Christmas changes everything, and causes us to respond by remembering, proclaiming, relating, and being joyful. 

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