Charles Stanley - The Real Meaning of Christmas
If you had to state the meaning of c in one sentence, what would you say? How would you describe what Christmas means to you in just one sentence? Would you say that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus? That's probably what most people would say. Or it is the birthday of the Son of God. Or it may be many other things, but more than likely, most people would define what Christmas means to them by how they celebrate it. And so if a person's celebration is primarily parties and so forth, they would think in terms of this is what Christmas is all about. But if you'll think about something we have been celebrating all these years, and how many people really and truly understand, what is this I'm celebrating? Especially if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and God is somebody who's sorta foreign in your life, what in the world's all this celebration about anyway?
And so what I want to do in this message today is to make it very clear. What is the real, true, genuine meaning of Christmas? Now, people spending lots of money, buying lots of gifts, lots of decorations, but do we really and truly understand what all this is about? So I want you to turn to Luke chapter two. And in this second chapter of Luke is, indeed, the account of the birth of our Lord. And I want us to read this, but I want us to go to another passage also, but so that you and I will not get too familiar, and sometimes those passages that we know best, we become so familiar with them we think, "Oh, I know that one". I want us to read this because it is God's inspired Word about His birth. And so I want us to read these first few verses of this second chapter. And so it begins like this.
"Now it came about in those days that 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 all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And 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," and so he had to go back to that original place.
"In order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that 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. And 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. And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall 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. And 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.' And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that 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.' And they came in haste 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. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them".
Now, that is the story, the narrative of the birth of Jesus and sorta what happened. And of course, Matthew also gives an account of the birth of Jesus. But the important thing is not so much what happens, and what happened, but what does it mean? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message. And I want to say, make one statement over and over and over again because what I want to happen is this. When this message is over, I want you to be able to state, "This is the meaning of Christmas". Because I want to share with you what I believe the Word of God teaches about the meaning of Christmas. Now, the world's view of it, as we said, is something entirely different from God's view. And so what we have to ask is: What is God's view of Christmas? So I want to make a statement. I'm gonna add to it two more times.
So I want to state it several times. Here's what Christmas is all about. Christmas is the celebration, listen, Christmas is the celebration of that historic moment in time when God, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, stepped out of heaven onto earth for the purpose of saving mankind from his sin and her sin. Christmas is the celebration of that historic moment in time when God, in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped out of heaven onto earth in the person of Jesus Christ His Son, in order to save mankind from our sin.
Now, when you think in terms of what Christmas is all about, that's God's view. When God thinks in terms of Christmas, that's what He thinks about it because that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas isn't just about manger scenes and cattle and wise men. Christmas is about an awesome historic moment in time when God, when God entered this universe and entered mankind and entered humanity in a very unique way. And when you think about how He did that. He was in absolute, total control. And you and I can read in the scriptures here the things that happened and the things that looked like were taking place at that time, but what was really taking place started, started taking place long before this. For example, what happened that night was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies.
Let's just look at one of them. Go back, if you will, to Isaiah chapter nine, and notice what Isaiah says in the prophecy of the coming of our Lord. There are many prophecies, but this is just one. In the sixth verse, look at this. It could not refer to anybody other than Jesus when it says, "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders;" that's the government of all the earth, all of life, "and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace". And the scripture says, "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this".
Who else could he be talking about when he says, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace," could be no one other than the person of Jesus Christ. And so when we think in terms of how God sees our Christmas, what does He see? He sees the fulfillment of the prophecies that He gave those prophets down through the ages. If you'll turn to Galatians, chapter four for a moment. Galatians chapter four, verse four tells us something else very significant because God was certainly engineering every single event of that night. And we say, "Well, you know, was He engineering the fact that Jesus was born in a stable and not born in an inn where someone else could've been born, or where anybody of His royalty should have been born"? Yes, He was. But look, if you will, in Galatians chapter four, verse four. He says, "But when the fullness of the time came".
The fullness of what time? The fullness of the time that God had prepared down through the centuries. "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law," that means under the Jewish law, "in order that," why was he born? That "He might redeem," save, forgive "those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" That is, all of us who have been redeemed, who've been saved from our sins, have the privilege of calling God the Father our heavenly Father. Did He not teach us to pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven".
We have the privilege of being the sons and daughters of the living God. Christmas, from God's viewpoint, is that historic moment in time when He stepped out of heaven, into earth, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, in order to forgive us of our sins, in order to reconcile us unto Himself, in order that you and I may one day step off this earth into the presence of God and live eternally with Him. God absolutely governed every single aspect of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ that first Christmas. And what I want you to remember is this, that Almighty God who is sovereign, and when we talk about the sovereignty of God, we're talking about the fact that God is in absolute control of every single solitary thing. So that in this day and time when either presidents or rulers or kings or governors or whoever, or dictators, whoever they may be, they think that they're operating on their own, they think they're in control of their nation, they think that they're making the final decision. The truth is there's a sovereign God in this universe who's overseeing every single solitary thing that happens.
Now, I don't always understand why He allows certain things to happen, but He is in control. And it's interesting how oftentimes He will use the ungodly to accomplish His purpose. For example, God warned and warned and warned again the nation of Israel because they violated the laying aside of the land every seventh year for it to rest. They violated that, and so what did God do? He sent the message through His prophets. He says, "I'm telling ya', the wrath of God is coming, the judgment of God is coming". They totally ignored it. So what did God do? He raised up Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian wicked king, and what did he do? He came in, destroyed Jerusalem, took away many captives.
Seventy years passed by, and Jeremiah, who had made that prophecy, you'll recall that Daniel was reading the scriptures and knowing that the time was about right, and he began to read the scriptures and realized that seventy years was... that time was up. And so what did God do? He used King Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, all three Persian kings, ungodly kings, to do what? To allow the people of God to go back to Jerusalem, rebuild the walls, rebuild the temple, rebuild the gate. God used ungodly men to accomplish His purpose. Let me tell you something. Whenever some upstart of dictator rises up and tells he's gonna do this and he's gonna do that, you just remember this. He's not gonna do one single thing the sovereign almighty God of this universe does not allow him to do. Besides that, he'll give an account for everything he does do.
So what I want you to notice is this, when it says here in this passage that Caesar Augustus called for this decree, this taxation, everybody had to go back to their home. I'm sure he thought that was his idea. Well, that wasn't his idea at all. God had preplanned that hundreds of years before because, listen, out of Bethlehem shall come this child. Well, how was God going to get this couple who lived in Nazareth down to Bethlehem? Well, they didn't just decide to take a little journey. God used the decree of Caesar Augustus to require that they come to Bethlehem for taxation. And what happened? The scripture says He was born in a stable. You say, "Well, now, wait a minute. How could God have been in charge of His only Begotten Son being born in a stable? Surely, if God had arranged these prophecies of Isaiah, and if God had arranged this prophecy of Micah, of when He would be born and the city He would be born in, surely God could've done a better job of having at least a half-way decent place for His Son to be born rather than out in a stable among the cattle".
Was God in that? Absolutely. Because the scripture says that all through the Old Testament, every single time a lamb was slain, blood was shed, sin forgiven, what was that? The Bible says in Hebrews, all of that was a foreshadowing of what? A foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who would come and lay down His life ultimately and finally in order that man might be saved. So, it would just be natural and normal in God's viewpoint of it all that Jesus Christ would be born, listen, among the lowly, in a stable with cattle, and laid in a cattle trough which we call a manger, to be born. In this historic moment in time, God in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, in the form of a baby, stepped out of heaven onto earth in order to walk among men as a man, to forgive man of his sins, to redeem man of his sins, and to reconcile him to God.
The message of Christmas is this simple. It is the celebration of that historic moment in time when God in the person of Jesus Christ stepped out of heaven into earth in the form of a baby to grow up to be a man, to walk among men as the Son of God, to forgive man of his sins, to redeem man of his sins, and to reconcile him unto Himself. When somebody says to you, "Well, what is Christmas"? That is what Christmas is all about. It is God in all of His glory and wonder and power and majesty, ruling and reigning and governing every single aspect of it. Well, the Bible tells us also that these three wise men, or magi, came, and they brought gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Was all that an accident? No, it was not. Because you see, it's interesting when you read the Bible in Genesis, it's interesting that first chapter when the Bible's talking about all the things that God created. And it's like he just sorta dropped this in, and the Bible says, "And He created the stars also".
And you think about the fact that God in the heavens, what was He doing? Not only was God working among men and scenes and situations and circumstances on earth, God was governing, listen, He was governing the stars, governing the earth, governing every single thing that He created. And on that night, what was happening? On that night and the days that followed, God was so guiding and leading these men that they would come to the very place. That certainly could not have been just a normal star out there somewhere because not very much distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and somehow they knew that that star was over Bethlehem. That star was over the place of our Lord's birth. Or if it were days later, at least where He was at that particular time.
When I think about Christmas, I think about how most people see it. They think of scene, they think of nativity and giving and parties and fun and family and food and somehow if we were really, really and truly honest, Jesus doesn't get a whole lot of attention other than that. Do we stop to ask the question: Why did He come? Oh, we say, "I know the Bible says He came to forgive us of our sins," but do we understand what is involved in that? Do we understand that is the motivation of God for coming to this earth? When the Bible talks about Him coming in the person of Jesus, we call that the incarnation. Now, that word is not found in the Bible, but what it means is this. It means that God, the Son, Jesus, took upon Himself the form of human flesh. That is, He was born like any other child was born except He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, not His father Joseph. This is God, taking upon Himself the form of human flesh in order to walk among us, in order that we may understand who God is to the fullest.
Now, why did He do it? Here's the reason He did it. If you'll turn to Romans chapter five for a moment, you'll find out why He came. And I could say, "Well, He came for this reason, that, and the other," but I want you to see why He came. Look at this, if you will, in the fifth chapter of Romans, because while some of you'd be familiar with this passage, some of you would not. This is the condition of mankind. This is the reason, this is what motivated God to send His only begotten Son. This is what motivated God to step out of heaven, onto earth, in the form, in the person of Jesus Christ, in order that you and I may be forgiven of our sins, that we may be redeemed, that is, delivered from them, and we may be reconciled to Him, brought back into a beautiful, wonderful relationship of Father and sons. Listen to this. Verse six, "For while we were still helpless," that describes the condition of humanity, helpless to forgive, to save themselves, "at the right time," that is, God's perfect time in the fullness of time, "Christ died," listen, "for the ungodly".
Listen, without any merit, without anything we could do for ourselves, for the ungodly, he says, Jesus died. He's says, now, "For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners," we were guilty of sin, separated from God, while we were yet sinners, "Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified," or be declared not guilty, "by His blood," as a result of going to the cross, "we shall be saved from the wrath of God," which will come upon mankind, "through Him. For if while we were enemies," listen, hostile toward God, antagonistic toward God, unfriendly toward Him, rebellious. He says, "While we were enemies toward Him, we were reconciled," brought back into a right relationship with Him, "through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life".
That is, listen, not only have we been reconciled, brought back into right relationship with Him, but every single day of our life now that we're saved, Jesus Christ who lives on the inside of us is the one in the presence of the Holy Spirit who enables us to walk godly before Him. He's the one who enables us to do everything that God calls us to do. So He says, "And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation". That passage of scripture describes for us why the Lord God, why the Lord God came in the person of Jesus Christ in order to do what? To save us from our sins, in order to do for us what we absolutely could not do for ourselves. He says, "The helpless condition of man".
Now, one of the things we forget is this. Listen carefully, we either, listen, we either live under, listen, we either live under the wrath of God, or we live under the canopy of God's great grace. It's either wrath or grace. And sometimes a person says, "Well, I'm not a Christian, but I'm not bad. And so, you know, somehow I'm gonna make it". No, you're not. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". No, you're not. Unless you deal with this person whom we call Jesus Christ, unless you deal with the babe of Bethlehem, Christmas is not only, it's not just about a baby, it's not just about a manger scene, it is about God. In a historic moment in time, stepping out of heaven in the person of Jesus Christ for the purpose of saving you, forgiving you, redeeming you, reconciling you, declaring you not guilty, making you a child of God, and taking you home to be with Him.
That's what we're talking about, that's what Christmas is all about. God the Father loves you and me so much, that in the fullness of time, at that moment in time, when He knew this was the most perfect time to do it, He, listen, He stepped out of heaven, into earth, to be born in that fashion, to grow up among us so that when you and I go through difficulty, hardship, trial, suffering, mistreatment, tribulations, physical suffering, emotional suffering, times of discouragement, times of loneliness, times of frustration, times of fear, times of agonizing, times of feeling rejected, times of being isolated, times of being misunderstood, you know what the Father wanted? He wanted you and I to be able to have someone we could relate to, that we could say, "You know, Lord, I know You know how I feel because here's what happened to You". And you and I can go through the Gospels and look at all the things that Jesus suffered, all the difficulties and the hardships and trials that He went through, the misinformation passed out about Him, accusations made toward Him, persecution, finally death.
Can you think of anything that you and I could ever go through that He doesn't understand? You say, "Well, He never got sick". No, He didn't, but you know what? He was around the sick all the time. He understood what they felt. He touched lepers. He raised those who could not stand up. He gave hearing to those who could not hear and speech to those who could not speak and sight to those who were blind. He understood sickness. He understood illness. They were clawing at Him all the time, touching Him, trying, just anything to be healed. He understood broken hearts. He understood the sorrow of death. He understood when people were in great need. That's why He said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I'll give you rest". Why? Because He knew what it meant. Jesus got tired. He became weary like other people became weary. He understood exactly what men were going through.
That's why you and I can come to Him and we don't have to say, "God, our righteous Father out yonder, somewhere in heaven, transcendent above all humanity in the universe, sovereign God of this universe, in absolute control of all things, God, down here, here I am," as if we do not believe and did not understand or would not feel that He understands what you and I are going through. Listen, here's the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is that historic moment in time when God the Father, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, came into this world to forgive us of our sins, to cleanse us, to redeem us, to justify us, to sanctify us, to glorify us, and, listen, dying on the cross to save us from our sins, going through all that humiliation, but likewise, to make it possible for you and me to come to the throne of grace, as He says, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, in order to do what? To find help and mercy in time of need.
He says for remember, you don't have a Savior, a high priest, you don't have a friend in Jesus who can't sympathize, but one who can sympathize with you because whatever you're going through, whatever you're facing, whatever you're feeling, He's been there and He can say to you, "I understand, I fully understand". So I want to ask you a question. I told you the truth. The question is this. What are you gonna do with this Jesus, who is God in the flesh, who came because He loves you, who gave His life in your behalf, who desires that you accept Him, believe Him, and follow Him, who has offered the best that Almighty God can give to humanity? What will you do with this Jesus? Well, you don't really have but two choices. It's just this simple. Two choices. You say, "Well, I'm gonna think about it". No. Listen to this, two choices. You've heard the truth, and the way you accept Him is you accept the truth of His Word which you've heard, and you ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and you trust that He will do it because He said He would. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved".
You trust Him because you believe He'll do what He says. You ask Him to forgive you and to cleanse you and He does what He says. If you're willing to do that, He'll forgive you, make you a child of God, and forever you'll be one of His children. Now, you can either do that, or here's what you can do. You say, "I'm gonna think about it". Then what you've said is, "I reject it at this moment". Now you say, "I'm not rejecting it". Yes, you are. In other words, this is the invitation of... it's not my invitation, this is God's invitation to you. To do what? To bow in your heart before Holy God, before the person of Jesus Christ who went to the cross and died for your sins and acknowledge your sinfulness and tell Him, "God, I'm helpless to save myself. I'm trusting You as my Savior".
Thinking about it, you either say, "Well, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put it off". You may not live that long. You may or you may not. But when you hear the gospel, here's what I want you to remember. God nowhere in the Bible ever gives the slightest indication that the Lord has ever said at any time, "Be saved next week, next month, next year, when it's convenient, when you feel better, or when you feel more inclined to". The Bible makes this very clear. "Behold," look, that's what that means, look, "today is the day of salvation". Not tomorrow, not next month, not next year. You have two choices. You either receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, surrender your life to Him, or you reject Him.
Well, here's what I want you to remember now. Don't let Satan deceive you. Listen, you have to remember this. When you reject Him, you choose to live under the wrath of God. You choose to live in rebellion toward God. You choose to live in sin against God. You choose to live in the danger of inevitable judgment of God. That's what you're choosing. You're choosing to live your life on your own without God. You're choosing to have it your way. You're choosing to risk your life without Almighty God to help you through the difficulties and trials of life. My friend, why would you want to make such a terrible, terrible decision when you can have the love and grace of God, bought, listen, paid for, purchased by the death of His Son at Calvary, and it is an offer of love.
Listen, you could not do anything greater than to give your life to Jesus Christ because, my friend, when you do that, you lock up your eternal security forever and ever and ever. The Son of God comes to live on the inside of you forever and ever and ever. What greater decision could you make than to say yes to God? Yes to Jesus. Yes to the Holy Spirit. Yes to the best life man could possibly live. If you're wise, if you're a thinking man, a thinking woman, you will trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior right now. You say, "Well, how do I do that"? You ask Him to forgive you of your sin. Tell Him you believe the gospel you've heard and you're trusting your life into His hands. And my friend, that moment He says you're a child of God and everything we've said becomes a reality in your life. You will have been brought from separation into reconciliation with God the Father. And I love to put it this way, it's like the Lord just wraps His loving arms around you and says, "Welcome home, listen, welcome home forever and ever and ever". Hallelujah! Amen.
Father, thank You for loving us. My, my, my, when I think about Your love and how much it encompasses and how sinful we are compared to Your absolute holiness, it's beyond our comprehension that You could love us that much. I pray that You'll seal this message in every one of our hearts, that every single person who hears it can make that statement in some form or fashion, that Christmas is the celebration of that historic moment in time when God, in the person of Jesus, stepped out of heaven onto earth to live among men, to save us from our sin through His death at Calvary, that we one day may step out of earth into heaven to live forever and ever and ever. We bless You and praise You, Father, in Jesus's name, amen.