Dr. Ed Young - Born Crucified
I love Christmas. I don't know why, I just do, don't you? Something about it, something about it. When you think of Christmas, I think of home. When I think of home, I think of Christmas. But, around the world today, there are 271,521 people in the armed services who will not be home for Christmas, and millions of others around the world who are citizens of America will not make it home for Christmas. And, in our own United States, how many thousands are there who want to be home, would like to come home, but couldn't afford to come, had other conflicts, and had to stay, and somehow they'll not be at home Christmas. What is it about Christmas that makes all of us want to be at home? No other holiday's like this. Nobody says, "Well, I sure hope I'm home for the 4th of July," you know, or, "We gotta be home for Labor Day".
But for Christmas, we just almost have to be at home. When I was away from home, when I went away, I hitchhiked one whole day just trying to get home for Christmas, and I remember when I finished my first year in seminary, Jo Beth was graduating from college way in North Mississippi, Blue Mountain College. And I finished my finals, I'd been up for 3 days and nights trying to cram it all in, but when I got through, I got in my car, threw it there, and I started for Blue Mountain. Drove all night long, got there, and picked her up, put her in the car, and we drove to Laurel, Mississippi. We'd been dating for almost 6 years.
We went down that Christmas to a little jewelry store in our home town that was operated by a classmate of ours, and he showed us all these diamonds, and I found one big beautiful one, cost little over $600, and made a down payment. She picked out a setting, and then, on Christmas Eve, I took her to the goalpost there in the junior high school where I first kissed her, and gave her that engagement ring, that Christmas. And then, we went to my folk's house, her grandparent's house, her folk's house, and told everybody that we were engaged. We all have moments in Christmas like that. It's monumental times in our lives. We have traditions in our family.
In my family, my mother would always make a fruitcake, and I smell that fruitcake now, every Christmas I think about that. And we would have mincemeat pie, and we'd have turkey, and dressing, and aunts, and uncles, and all the family would come over, Christmas tradition. Some of you have your big meal on Christmas Eve, tonight. Others will have your big meal tomorrow on Christmas. Others will open presents tonight, that's when the kids want to do it. And others wait, and open the presents Christmas morning like you're supposed to. But we have our traditions, but every Christmas is different. There's some chairs that are empty that were filled last year, some marriages that are no longer functioning, some grandparents that aren't here, or parents, or friends, and so, we go back at Christmas. We have all those remembrances that just flood through our minds, but the main thing, we just, if at all possible, want to be at home for Christmas.
Now, its ironical, maybe you've never thought about it, in the first Christmas, the leading actors there, not a single one of them were at home. Mary and Joseph were not at home, Nazareth, they're in Bethlehem for taxation purposes. They were not at home. The shepherds, they were not at home, they were running the night shift to protect she sheep from the wolves. They were certainly not at home that first Christmas. And the wise men, they were a long, long way from home, because they traveled a long time from the East, following that supernatural star that would lead them to the advent, to the coming of the Son of God into the world. The wise men were a long way from home, and you know who was the farthest from home of anybody that first Christmas? Jesus, the Christ child, he left heaven, another dimension in paradise, and the throne, and came all the way down to this earth, God in flesh, the humility of God in that manger, in that stable. Jesus was farther from home than any other single individual. Home, Christmas, Christmas, home, synonymous.
Now, what gives you and I a sense of at-homeness? What makes us feel, you know, "I'm at home"? What is the dynamic of home? It's not geography, it's not really the apartment, or the house where we were brought up, or raised, or where we live, it's not that. Home, first of all, gives us a sense of belonging. When you're at home, you say, "I belong here. This is my family". We have a place there, we know where we sit, we know the conversation. We don't have to prove anything. Everybody knows everything about everybody else. I belong here. This is my spot. This is my history. This is my heritage. This is who I am. A sense of belonging gives us a sense of being at home.
Also, at home gives us a sense of security. You feel it's safe at home. You feel like we stand together, we're one, we protect one another. Front and back, we're always there. We feel secure at home. And in our world of so much insecurity today, we know, in a flash, a capricious mistake by a nation, and all of a sudden, we are facing a world war of proportions we can't even imagine. A lack of security in our world. Economic security, capriciousness, this is worth that, it may not be worth anything. Is it depression? Is it inflation? So we don't feel secure, but somehow we get with our family, our friends, at Christmas, at home, there's a feeling of warmth, and security, and a feeling that we belong together, we're one.
Also at Christmas, there's a sense of forgiveness. I mean, more than once I'd left home and not been exactly right with my dad, and I'd come home for Christmas, he'd see me, there was healing, and forgiveness, and all was forgotten. And with a brother, or sister, or member of the family, or a friend, Christmas has tremendous healing around the worship of Christ, the Son of God. So it gives a sense of belonging, a sense of security, a sense of forgiveness. That's big, forgiveness. How we need forgiveness. You never feel at home until you know you're living, you've experienced genuine forgiveness.
There's a wonderful story about a reporter for the "Chicago Sun Times" named Jack Davenport. Jack knew he was adopted. He knew that he was born in Clearwater, Texas. He knew his parents went down and picked him up as a baby, but that's all that he knew. But, in a couple of weeks before Christmas, one December, he received an envelope, and in the envelope there was a picture of a church, black and white, old picture. And he looked at it, and it said on the front of the church, "Clearwater Lutheran Church". And he didn't know anything about Clearwater, he just knew he was born there, but it was intriguing. Why would someone send him an envelope with just this old black and white picture of this Lutheran Church in Clearwater?
At the same time, he and his wife, Meg, were having problems. Years before, he'd been unfaithful. They'd had trouble communicating, trouble getting back together, and she was always on top of him, and nagging as he called it. And it got to the point that they decided they would have a trial separation to see if their marriage would stand. And with that picture of that church, and knowing he had an assignment from the newspaper soon to go to Dallas, he left 3 or 4 days early, made his way to Dallas, by plane, rented a car, and went there to Clearwater, Texas, looking for this church. He drove in that little community, he soon found the church, he parked his car, it was cold, it was windy, and he got out not knowing anybody, and he started walking up the way, the path to the church.
And on the right was a beautiful little manger scene, carved figures, almost life-sized. They were painted. He could tell that was a magnificent work of art by an artist who worked with wood. And he went over and started looking at it, and it was even more magnificent than he had guessed. The eyelashes were carved, and the eyes, and the hands, and the knuckles, and the fingernails, and he was just overwhelmed at such a beautiful, beautiful piece as this manger scene. About that time, a man walked up, had on a baseball hat, big glasses, had on a uniform, and over his pocket it said, "Maintenance". And he went up, and said, "I'm Joe". And Jack turned around and says, "I'm Jack". He said, "You're not from around here". He said, "No, I'm from Chicago. I came down and I'm just spending some time here".
And he said, "I'm admiring this beautiful work of art". He said, "How did it happen to get here". He said, "Well, there was a man named Mr. Ottoman. We have a lot of German background people here. He made wooden furniture," and said, "He was married to the love of his life, and she was expecting, and he was drinking, and they had a car accident. His wife was killed, but the baby survived, and he spent 10 years doing penance, carving out this manger scene for the church". He said, "I wanna show you something about this scene you wouldn't notice". And he got the little wooden Christ child, there in the manger that was covered with a blanket, and said, "Look at the chest of the baby," and there was a little cross carved in the chest.
And he said, "What does that mean"? And Joe said, "Well, it's unusual," but he said, "Mr. Ottoman was not a Christian when this tragedy happened", and he started to carve this and said, "he went to church though, with is daughter, Carmen, just the two of them. They sat on the front row, and the pastor delivered a sermon entitled 'Born Crucified, Born Crucified.' And he pointed out how the baby in the manger was born to die on a cross. That Jesus came not just to live with us, he came here to die for us". And he said, "That changed Mr. Ottoman's life. He became a Christian," and said, "He would talk about it all the time. How Christmas was Calvary, Jesus was born to be crucified so we could be forgiven of all of our sins".
And the reporter asked, "Well, what happened to Mr. Ottoman"? He said, "This is the hardest thing to believe". He said, "He brought up his little girl, Carmen, she was beautiful," he said, "She had long black hair, black eyes," he said, "She was striking". And said, "He was from the old school and said, 'I don't want any boys getting around my daughter,' and he protected her, and protected her in her teenage years. Wouldn't let her go anywhere, or do anything, he just was fearful of any kind of boy being with his daughter. He did a good job, almost. Carmen discovered she was pregnant. She couldn't tell her dad, and therefore, until it became obvious that she was in the month of December, he was devastated. He began to drink again. In the process," Joe told the reporter, "You'll never believe what happened".
Can the same thing happen to the same man twice? The woman that he loves, carrying a child, he drinking and an accident cost the life of both women. Can it happen twice? And he said, "Sure enough, that happened". They were going to the hospital, and he had an accident. He was drinking again, and there they were, Carmen in a coma, his daughter, pregnant, and there was Mr. Ottoman. He said, he prayed, "Oh Dear Jesus, save Carmen, oh dear Jesus". He said the doctors said that when Carmen gets strong enough, we'll be able to take the baby, the baby is okay.
And so, then a day before Christmas Eve, Carmen awakened, and she looked and said, "Papa, where am I"? And he explained to her that he'd been drinking, and there was an accident, and they were in the hospital, and he said, "Can you forgive me"? And she said, "Papa, I love you. I forgive you". And then, she said, "Papa, there's one thing. Has the baby come"? He said, "No". She said, "Oh, I want so much to hold the baby in my arms on Christmas Eve," and she went to sleep. Christmas Eve came, still in a coma. Mr. Ottoman said, "Joe," he said, "All of a sudden he had an idea. He got up and left the hospital room, the first time in over a week, and went across the street, and he went and got the baby out of the manger scene".
He said, "This little baby here," and took that little wooden baby with the cross carved on his heart, and took it in the hospital room, and put it there in the arms of Carmen, and said, "Princess, now you're holding a baby on Christmas Eve". And the reported asked, and said, "Well, what happened"? He said, "Carmen died". But he said, "What about the baby"? He said, "Oh, he lived". He said, "Well, what happened to Mr. Ottoman"? He said, "Well, he could never go home again," he said, "He was a good man who twice had done a bad thing he said he'd never do again, but he said he couldn't go home, and so the church took him in, and put him in a little room, and let him work there and be the maintenance man".
And Jack, the reporter, looked at him, and said, "Joe, who are you"? Joe said, "You have her eyes, you know". He said, "Was Carmen my mother"? "Yes, she was". "Then you're my, my..". "Grandfather, yes". He said, "I took a chance hoping you'd come when I sent that picture of the church. I took a chance that maybe we could know one another". A few hours went by, and Jack called his wife, Meg, in Chicago. Told her the story, he found his roots, and Meg said, "Did you feel angry at Joe"? He said, "No, I didn't feel angry, I just took his explanation. A good man did a bad thing and had found forgiveness". Then he said, "Meg, can you forgive me? Can we have a home again"? She said, "Certainly, I forgive you". And he says, "I'm coming home to Chicago for Christmas". She said, "No, I've got a better idea". And Meg flew to Texas, went there to Clearwater, Texas, and the next night, had a evening meal with two men who had found the grace and the forgiveness of this season. Two men who had found their way home at Christmas.
Is anyone here lost? Is anyone here, you just wandered away? Is anyone here you don't feel like you really belong to God, and belong to Christ as you once did, or as you should? Do you not feel the security you used to feel when you were at home with God, and home with Christ? Is there any forgiveness that needs to take place as you confess to him and get things right with others so there can be healing and confidence in your life? Does anyone here need to pray a homecoming prayer and say, simply, "Lord, I've just wandered away in this world in my activities, and I've moved away from knowing you and your church in faithfulness and worship in my own life. I want to come home to Christ this Christmas. I want to come home to Christ this Christmas so I belong. I'll feel secure. Oh yes, so I'll be totally forgiven".
When we look at a Christmas tree, we see the ornaments, and lights, and most of us are probably more concerned with presents under the tree than anything else. But, it's not the presents you'll receive, the presents I'll receive, we wonder whether or not that present we got for our wife, or our husband, or the presents we got for our kids, will it really meet their needs? Will they really be excited about it? You see, the perfect gift expresses the personality of the giver, and meets the needs to those who receive it. God did that in Christmas. He gave his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus perfectly expressed the personality of God. What is God like? Look at Jesus.
Also, Jesus met your needs, and my needs. He came in this world, lived a perfect life, died on a cross for your sin, and my sin, so now we have an entree to God. We can have a relationship with the Almighty God because Jesus died on the cross for you and for me. Would you like to know that you have that relationship? It's a simple thing to do, but it's life-changing. As the Lord is leading you, would you like to know that you're in God's family, that your sins are forgiven? The provision is there, the opportunity for you, right now, to enter into a relationship with God because of Jesus Christ. He has been the mediator between you and God. Accept that, invite him into your life. If you'd like to do that, would you pray this prayer? Right were you are, answer these words, right after me.
My heavenly Father, thank you for meeting my needs, that's right. Thank you for coming into this life and dying for me, that's right. Right now, I confess all my sin, I turn from all my sin, and right now, I invite you to come into my life. I give you all that I am and all that I'll ever be. Thank you for salvaging me, restoring me to the purpose for which I was made. Thank you for giving me, this is a great Christmas. That's right, tell God that. And I thank you for inviting me into your family. Thank the Lord for that, in Jesus' name, amen.
Now listen, if you prayed that prayer with me, call the number on your screen. We want to rejoice with you in your decision. We have some materials we'd like to send you to help you begin your brand-new winning walk with Christ. And, from my home to yours, I want to wish you a blessed, celebratory, Merry, Merry Christmas.