Charles Stanley - Christmas, A Time for Giving
Christmas is the happiest time of the year. Not only is it the happiest time of the year but it's specially the happiest time of the year for all of us who are believers who know that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior. Now that doesn't mean there's not a happy time of the year for people who are unbelievers because I think for the most part it is. There are those situations and circumstances where people have lost their loved ones, maybe at Christmastime, or maybe they don't have much family left or any family left. And so Christmastime can oftentimes be a time of sadness and sorrow and regret. But for the most part it's the happiest time of the year. And there's a reason for that. And when you think about how we celebrate, we who are believers we go to church for example, we sing carols. We likewise shop and we purchase, and we wrap our gifts and decorate our trees. And we have parties, and we fellowship, and we feast and we have a great time.
You say, "What about the rest of the world"? They do the same thing only they leave God out of it most of the time, think very little of Him, and probably don't go to church, at least for the most part. But the issue is what is it that makes Christmas the happiest time of the year? There are other times of the year that are, that are probably weather-wise may be much, much better. But why is it Christmas? And I'll tell you why. Because Christmas is a time that more people are giving than any other time of the year. Now we talk about commercializing Christmas, and we talk about that we oughta make it more sacred and so forth and we absolutely should. And for many people, they don't understand what Christmas is all about. It never dawns on them what the real meaning is, but it's the celebration of that moment, that momentous time in life, that critical time in life. That time in life when God came into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, in order to redeem lost mankind through His cross. That's what it's all about.
And so, when we think about Christmas and we think about all the commercialism, we say, "Well people should stop doing all this". Well, the truth is that buying gifts and giving them to people we love, people we are grateful for, people we appreciate, there's nothing wrong with that. Now there are some people who overdo it and about January and February when they get their credit card statement, they wish they hadn't been so generous maybe. But the truth is, there's more to give than some, simply physical things or material things. But this is a time to give. It's a very special time to give. It's what Christmas means to all of us. Jesus Christ who gave not only His best, but who gave His very life. And what I wanna talk about in this message is simply that and that is "Christmas: A Time for Giving".
I want you to turn if you will to Luke chapter two. And I want us to read this account. We've read it a thousand times, a thousand times. Never gets old because it's the heart of what all of us who are believers really and truly believe. That Jesus Christ was indeed God who came in human flesh to walk among us, show us the truth, reveal the truth, teach us the truth and then to die on a cross and make that truth a living reality in every one of our lives. So, beginning in the second chapter and verse one:
"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and the family of David; in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.' So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them".
What a story. How many times we have read that story Christmas after Christmas after Christmas and isn't it interesting it never gets old. Why? Because the gospel never gets old. The hope and the cheer and the joy and the assurance and the confidence and the forgiveness and the love and the joy that the Lord Jesus Christ places in our heart never gets old. What I want you to see in this message is this. And that is, "Everything about Christmas has to do with giving". And I want us to begin looking at the birth of Jesus and understand how everything surrounding that birth, everything a part of that birth has to do with our giving. And I want us to begin for example, with the Virgin Mary herself. And I want you to see what she gave. She gave more than most of us realize. And if you'll notice the scripture says in that thirty-eighth verse of the first chapter of Luke, "And Mary said to the angel who had announced what he was going to do; and that is she was gonna be conceived by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son and His name would be called, or he would be called the Son of God; and here's what she said after He said nothing will be impossible with God, Mary said, 'Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her".
Now what did Mary give? Mary first of all gave her body, because the angel said, "In your womb will be born the Messiah. He will be called the Son of God. His name is Jesus". Well, she said, "As you've spoken may it be done to me according to Your Word". That is she surrendered, she gave her body to bare in her womb the Son of God. But that's not all she gave, because I'm certain that while the angel was saying this, there ran through her mind probably in a very serious note, "What does this mean"? Because you see, in those days when a husband or when a couple were engaged, it was just like being married. They were husband and wife. Only the marriage was not consummated till the end of that engagement period.
Now if a woman became pregnant during that period, she was called and guilty of adultery. She was called before the elders of the city and they made some judgment. And of course, she was shamed and embarrassed had to bear the guilt and the condemnation of her friends, her family, and especially would Mary have to deal with this issue of how Joseph thought. Because in her mind, she thought, "Well, what will he think"? Because they'd been engaged and her she was, she was going to be pregnant. How would she ever explain that to her husband and say, "Well, let me tell you what happened. This angel came to me and spoke to me and said I was gonna have a miraculous birth". Who would believe that? Besides that, if she were to tell that to some elders of the city, they'd never believe that. A miraculous birth, a virgin birth, you are guilty of adultery.
And you'll recall in the eighth chapter of John when the woman was caught in the very act of adultery and she was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and the scribes and the Sadducees. Remember what they said? They said, "Rabbi, according to the Law of Moses, this woman who has been caught in the very act of adultery is guilty of adultery and according to the Law of Moses, she should be stoned to death". Imagine all the things that went through Mary's mind. She was willing. She gave her body, but let me tell you something else she gave. She laid her reputation on the line. And you see, of course we know that the angel also spoke to Joseph, and he understood. But when the angel spoke to Mary, she had to deal with her reputation. She had to deal with what was gonna happen. What would people say? What would they think? How would they respond? What would, what would Joseph think? And yet God had taken care of all of that.
What I want you to see is before Jesus was ever born, giving was a part of that birth. Then it's interesting if you'll notice what happens, that the angel of the Lord appeared to those shepherds out in the field. And what did the angel give? The angel gave the proclamation of the birth of the Messiah. And notice as we read a few moments ago exactly what happened. The angel, "Suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. Anybody would have been. The angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy.'" Listen, this wasn't just an announcement. This was good news, great joy which he said will be to all the people. And what was that news he gave? He said, "Today in the city of David there will be born a Savior, who is the Messiah the Lord".
There was a great sense of expectation going on in those days. And this angel appeared not to kings and queens and rulers, but to a group of lowly shepherds. He was born in a lowly place, announced by an angel from heaven to lowly shepherds. He said, "This will be a sign: you will find that baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a cattle stall and in a place where they feed the cattle". Well, what I want you to notice is this. The angel gave more than just news, but he gave, listen, encouragement, a sense of comfort, an awesome sense of awareness that the prophets concerning the coming of the Messiah, all those prophecies were now being fulfilled in one night, in one place, announced to one lowly group of shepherds. They could have been people anywhere, everywhere. Why to shepherds? Because if you'll notice, all through Jesus's life He was being identified with those who were the poor and the lowly, not with kings and queens and rulers. And so what happens?
These shepherds, once they heard this, what happens is the scripture says that all of a sudden there was this awesome appearance of this multitude of hosts of heavenly angels, the hover, heavenly host of God, and they were praising and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased". When he used the word peace here, this is the peace of reconciliation. That is when Jesus Christ comes into a person's life, here's what He does. He reaches down into your sinful heart and because of your sin you've been separated from God, and He reconciles you. That is, He brings you back into a right relationship with Himself. And what this angel was saying was this. The Messiah has been born. And reconciliation is now taking place. And sin that has separated mankind from God has now been settled once and for all in the coming of the Messiah.
And so, the angels sing or make their boasts of the coming of the Messiah, glory to God. Imagine what they must have said. We probably just have a little bit of it here. And then what happens? The scripture says then the shepherds who heard it had something to give. They said, "Immediately, let's go right now, let's go straight to Bethlehem, let's find out, let's find this child". Now I want you to listen carefully what happens. Let's find this child. And so, they went and of course the Lord led 'em to the right place. The scripture says they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as he lay in the manger, just as the angel had said, "When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds".
Now listen carefully. Watch what happens here. When the shepherds heard the truth from the angelic hosts and from the angel of the Lord, they immediately went to find out if this is true. And of course, they were rather convinced with this whole host of angels glorifying God. They went to find out for themselves. And once they found out, once they discovered the child, once they recognized this is the Messiah, this is Christ the Lord. This is the One we've been looking for, this is the One we've been expecting. They went out with enthusiasm, with excitement, with a confidence in their heart. What did they give? They gave the first personal testimony of the Son of God. They must have done it with enthusiasm, with excitement. They must have done it very convinced in their minds and hearts, we have seen the Messiah. This is the One we've been expecting.
What I want you to remember is this. I want you to remember the response of those who heard the personal testimony of those who first saw the Messiah. And ask yourself the question, is this the way I've often responded to the truth? Listen what happens. "And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds". Period. Not listened and said to themselves, "Let's go find out. Let's see if that's the truth. Let's find out if this is the truth". They just wondered about it and went on with life. And you know what happens? Many of you have done the same thing. You've heard the gospel of Jesus Christ very clearly. You've heard the fact about your sins have separated you from God. And you've rationalized what you've heard oftentimes and said, "Well, I'm not so bad. And I'm as good as other people and all the rest". But deep down inside you know you've heard the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me". You've heard it again and again and again and again. And you know what you've done? You've done exactly like those who heard the testimony of the shepherds who saw the Son of God as a child. You've just wondered about it. You've just sorta thought about it and you've let it pass by, and you keep on living your life the way you've been living it. And you keep hearing the gospel, but instead of applying it to your heart, instead of searching it out and asking God, "Lord, is this a message to me? Are You trying to speak to my heart? Are you saying something to me personally? Is there something I need to deal with in my life? Is it my sin I need to confess"? And I need to repent, and I need to be saved, and I need to be what You want me to be. Or have you just kept on wondering about it? Listening, closing your mind, closing your heart to the awesome truth of God.
And here's what happened. The shepherds, listen, the scripture says, "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them". They were excited about it. Why? They had seen the Living God in human flesh. They didn't even realize how much they'd seen, but they were fully persuaded this was the Messiah, the long-expected Messiah. The others just wondered about it. Could that be true of you? That you've just wondered about it, wondered about it, wondered about it. Christmastime comes and you see the manger scenes and you've seen 'em before. You hear the Christmas carols, you've sung 'em before or heard 'em before. You hear maybe a sermon or two about Christmas, you've heard 'em before. And you just keep on wondering about them. What you don't realize is this. You don't realize what you've missed. You see, the people who heard the testimony of the shepherds didn't take the time to go find out and see for themselves.
Look what they missed. They could have seen the Messiah. They could have understood who He was and recognized this is the Savior of the world. One of those days when their children grow up they could say to them, "You know what? This man who's preaching and teaching is the Messiah. He's the Son of God. I saw Him. I looked upon Him with my own eyes when He was a baby in a manger. I saw Him as a little child. And I want you to know, son; I want you to know, sweetheart, this man is the Son of God. Believe what He says". They just wondered about it. Has it ever dawned on you how many people that you've walked by to whom you could have shared the simple gospel of Jesus Christ that gives eternal life? And because you just wonder about it and never make a decision about it, never ask personally what could it mean to you. How many people may have missed the truth of the gospel because you just wonder about it instead of dealing with it personally. Well, there's someone else here that I want you to notice here. Not only did these shepherds have something to give, but someone else had something to give. Over in the East, probably somewhere around Persia thereabouts, these wise men came.
Now they probably weren't there that night. Could have been, could have been the next day or the next week or whatever. But they came. These were men who were scientists, who were very intellectual who were philosophers. They received the message that a king was born and that the light that they saw, this strange light, this glowing star, whatever kind of light it may have been, would lead them to the very place this child was to be born. So, they took a journey. Don't know how long it was, how long before, but certainly it's true that God also arranged just like He arranged the giving of the decree by Caesar Augustus, He arranged one of His heavenly bodies to begin to move and to move all the way to Jerusalem. When they received that light, understood the message somehow, they came to Jerusalem, they began to ask, "Well, where is the one who's born King of the Jews"? Well of course, they said, "Well, He's to be born in Bethlehem".
And so, they found Him. And when they found Him, what did they do? They fell upon their knees and the Bible says they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh. How many there were, we don't really know. They gave three gifts, there could have been three, they could have been many more. But they gave gifts fitted for a king. So that if you'll notice, everything surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ has something to do with somebody giving something. And then there is the other One who gave and that is God the Father. And God the Father had given many, many gifts before this. He'd given to us this planet Earth upon which He gave such a tremendous abundance of things. He gave those bodies in the Heavenlies (the sun the moon, the stars) to light our way. He gave us seasons for fruitfulness and change and beauty. Then He also gave us the revelation of Himself, that is, in nature, in the creation God says in Romans chapter one that God has revealed Himself in creation. Revealed His power, revealed His creative power, revealed many things through His creation. And He says, "Therefore no one, no one is excusable for not believing that there is a God, not believing in God, when creation itself is such a beautiful testimony of such order, completeness and perfection in every aspect". He is the source of it.
And when you think about all that He's given, He's given the revelation of Himself. But He's also given the most precious thing He could possibly give. And that is His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And with Him He has given us the forgiveness of our sins. He's given us the possibility and the privilege of being a child of God, a person in the family of God. He's given us the promise, the presence of His Holy Spirit living within us which means that every single believer has within himself and herself the Living God living within us. He's given us the promise of our provision, our protection, His presence and some bit of prosperity in all of our lives. He hasn't left out anything. But the thing that He's given us above all else which no one else could possibly give us is the gift of eternal life. And all of that comes through His Son, Jesus Christ. He's given us many things. He's given us life itself. He's given us a mind that's creative, that can discover and create and develop. But most of all He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now think about this for a moment. If everything around His birth was giving, and everything related to His life was giving, and all of us are followers of Jesus, what should be characteristic of your life and mine? Should we not be characterized by people who are givers? Our Heavenly Father who saved us has given us eternal life. Jesus gave His body to bear our sin-debt in full. Everywhere you turn God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit is giving. Who energizes us to share the gospel? The Holy Spirit. Who enables you day by day to live your life? The Holy Spirit. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit always giving. Is it too much to ask of us that you and I would walk as He walked? And that is as givers. And here's the ultimate last question. Are you willing to give Him what He asks for? Not something that can be wrapped up in a box, no ribbons, no tags, something on the inside of you that He wants. Would you give Jesus what He's asking for of your life today?