Billy Graham - Go Tell It From the Mountains (Christmas Message)
Some months ago I flew over a little town in the beautiful Austrian Alps. As I looked down from 30,000 feet I could not help but remember that scene 160 years ago. It was Christmas Eve, and in Oberndorf, the reverend Joseph Mohr, the 26-year-old assistant pastor of St. Nicolas Church was troubled. Mice had eaten into the bellows of the old church organ, and there would be no music at the Christmas Eve service. However, Joseph Mohr sat down and quickly wrote a poem of six stanzas celebrating the glory of the birth of Jesus Christ. He brought the poem to the church organist and requested that the musician set the words to music.
That night gruber and Mohr sang their melody, little dreaming that this song would go around the world and become possibly the greatest Christmas Carol of them all... "Silent Night, Holy Night" seems like a romantic dream or even a false hope that vanishes in the face of the realities of life, but there can be peace in our hearts when we turn to the only true source of peace, Jesus Christ.
Think back to that first Christmas almost two thousand years ago. You remember the story... It was probably late at night on the plains just a few miles outside the little village of Bethlehem. The stars shown like diamonds in the sky, and the little band of weary shepherds had settled down to sleep on the cold, rocky ground. They had no reason to expect it would be different from any other night just as you may think in your own life that nothing can change, but God had other plans. For this was the night that would be the most important night in human history... the night when God himself would come to earth.
Listen to Luke's account of that remarkable night, "And lo the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, 'fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you was born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord'". Can you imagine the fear that must have gripped their hearts? One translation says, "And they were terror stricken", but the first words of the angels to those shepherds were "Fear not"... There's good news. Fear not, because Christ has come, and he makes all the difference. Because Christ has come you need not be bound by fear and despair. You can know that all is calm and all is bright because of Christ.
You know, four times in the Gospel accounts of Christmas the angels use that expression, "Fear not". Zacharias, an old man, was filled with fear when he was told that he would be the father of John the Baptist who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. The angel told him, "Fear not". Mary was told that she would have the awesome privilege of bearing the Son of God. Fear filled her at first, but the angel said, "Fear not, Mary". Joseph, betrothed to the virgin Mary was filled with fear and embarrassment when he discovered she was pregnant, but the angel declared, "Fear not, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost". Then, when the Holy Child was born the angel came to those shepherds that we spoke about a moment ago and said, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord".
And that is what God says to us today. "No matter what our fears may be it is what he says to you right now... Fear not". Fear not because Christ has come. Because there is no longer any reason to be gripped and enslaved by fear. Think of the fears that so easily assault us. This fear of problems that we face and what we think they may do to us, but no matter what problem you face, the Bible says, "Fear not". Why? Because Christ is with you. Jesus declared, "In the world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". He invites you today to bring your cares and your burdens to him. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest", he said.
Or there's the fear of loneliness. You're never alone when you know Christ. He has promised, "Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world". You were created for fellowship with God, and when you come to Christ he makes you a child of God. You have a special relationship with him, and nothing can take that away, because Christ made it possible through his death on the cross. Then there's the fear of death. There was another time in the Bible when the angel came and said, "Fear not". It was spoken to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus early on that first Christmas morning and discovered the tomb was empty. "Fear not ye, he is not here for he is risen".
Christ is the answer to death. By his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead he took away the sting of death. He took away our sins by dying on the cross in our place, and by putting your faith in him as your Lord and Savior, you can know the joy of forgiveness and peace with God. Christmas was just the beginning. Ahead was the cross, and beyond the cross was the empty tomb. The cradle, the cross, and the crown all go together if we're to understand Christ, and the difference he can make in our lives.
You see, Christ has come to take away the source of our fears. Fears are real, and Christ does not tell us that we should simply cheer up, and they'll all go away. It's right to fear death if we do not know Christ. It is right to fear loneliness or the problems that seem to overwhelm us, because those things are very real, but so is Christ, and when we realize that he has dealt with sin and made it possible for us to be reconciled to God then we do not need to be paralyzed by fear any longer. Instead, we should do what the shepherds did... Come to Christ. Come to him with our sins and cast them at his feet, then we can know silent night, holy night. Then we can know what the Bible calls the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
Jesus promised, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid". Yet, there can be no doubt that in the midst of all the Christmas rush the Prince of Peace has often been left out, and we too often forget that it is actually his birthday that we're celebrating. The precise meaning of that first Christmas was clear... God has come to earth in human form, and the impact was so great that calendars were torn up. Old prejudices were laid aside, and eventually millions of earth's people began to walk in a newness of life and talk about the possibility of peace on earth. Nearly two thousand years ago the angels revealed to the wandering and trembling shepherds the glorious news that there was born that very day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.
You see, these were not ordinary shepherds. They watched the sheep that would be sacrifices on the altar of the temple for the sins of the people, and these shepherds were considered religious outcasts, because their job made it impossible to keep the rabbinic law. How appropriate that the angels gave the most glorious message ever heard to them first. These sheep, under the sentence of death as if the angel said, "Your time for dying is almost over, for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is born tonight".
How appropriate he gave the announcement to these outcast shepherds, for men had been spiritual outcasts ever since the Garden of Eden, and Jesus had come to open the way home. There are thousands of human schemes for social and political improvement. Many of them are very good, but they will ultimately fail, because they are not dealing with man's basic disease. They change the circumstances, but leave the man untouched. They alter the surroundings but have no power to change and transform character. If mankind is to be saved at this tragic hour of history, if the world is to be transformed, if we're to have peace, then salvation must come from a source outside of man.
Christmas emphasizes the glorious truth that what man is unable to do for himself Jesus Christ has done for him. Man could not save himself, because he could not deliver himself from the guilt, power, and the consequences of sin. Man was in rebellion against God and had no terms of peace to offer that could be acceptable by God. Only God himself could make peace, and this he did through the atoning sacrifice of his son, through the merits of Christ's life and death we are offered full and free forgiveness. Christmas tells us what it cost God to save the world, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son".
Christ is God's great Christmas gift to the world. The scripture says, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift". However, the hope that was given to those shepherds on that first Christmas morning is available only to those who believe. To know the pardon, joy, and peace and power which comes through Christ man must personally receive him by faith. Faith must be real if the heart is to be changed. There are many of you watching at this moment who long for peace in our own heart at this Christmas time. You too can meet God at the foot of the cross and find the peace that you have searched for so long.
You say, "What do I have to do"? Well, you have to turn from your sins, receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, commit your life to him. He will come into your heart, and this Christmas you can spend knowing the Christ of Christmas for the first time. Whatever you need, Jesus can meet it. Whatever the desires and longings of your heart Christ can touch your life and transform you and make you a new person.
I'm going to ask you to make that commitment and that decision tonight. What a wonderful time of the year to say "Yes" to Jesus Christ and let him change your life and change many of the circumstances that you find yourself in now. I'm going to ask you to follow along a little prayer with me that I would like to pray. I want to pray for you right now, and with you, and while we are praying you make that heart commitment to Jesus Christ, and he will receive you, and he can transform you from the inside out. Shall we pray?
Our father and our God, we thank thee for the glorious Christmas gift that you have given us in Jesus Christ. We thank thee for the power that he has to transform our lives and to bring peace to our troubled hearts, and I pray just now that those that are watching will pray this little prayer... Oh God, I have sinned against you. I'm sorry for my sin. I'm willing to turn from my sins, and I receive you as Savior, and I confess Christ as Lord. From this moment on I want to follow him. Amen.