Robert Jeffress - The Night Before Christmas
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The night before Christmas, isn't just a beloved poem that parents read to their children every year. It's also a frank assessment of the spiritual condition of the world. The day before Christ arrived on planet earth. In John 8, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world". And in a world enveloped in spiritual darkness, Jesus came to shine his light by accomplishing four crucial objectives. My message is titled "The Night Before Christmas" on today's special edition of Pathway to Victory.
Should Christians celebrate Christmas? I know for some of you right now who may be drowning in a sea of last minute shopping or dealing with overcrowded malls or overextended credit cards, you may be asking yourself the very same question. Why do we do this to ourselves every year? But you know, when people ask me the question, should Christian celebrate Christmas? They're usually talking about a theological point, a historical point. They'll say, pastor don't, you know, that Christmas was actually a pagan holiday meant to worship a mythological god, why are we Christians using a pagan holiday? And there is some truth behind that. Did you know, for the first 300 years of Christianity, Christians really didn't focus on the birth of Christ, there was no celebration of the birth of Christ. The celebrations were centered on the death and the resurrection of Christ.
But then in 321 ad when the Roman emperor Constantine, was converted to Christianity. He is the one who took December the 25th, a date that had been devoted to celebrating the birth of the mythological sun god. Constantine took that date and said, let's use it to celebrate the birth of the real Son of God, Jesus Christ. And that's why we celebrate Christmas today.
Now, the question is of all the pagan deities that Constantine could have chosen to link with the birth of Jesus. Why did he choose the mythological sun god, to link with the birth of the real Son of God? The common denominator between that mythological god and Jesus is the concept of light. Just as the sun god was a god of light. Jesus the real God is also a God of light. You know, all throughout the season, notice how much the image of light is used in the celebration. I mean, drive around our city, you see lights everywhere on homes, at shopping malls, you see them on our Christmas trees. You see them all around the church as well. Light is a very important part of Christmas because light is associated with Jesus Christ.
In the opening of John's Gospel, he writes this about John the Baptist, who was not the light. John says "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light himself, but came that he might bear witness of the light". "There was the true light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man". In John 8:12 Jesus said about himself. "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life". In John 12:46 Jesus said about himself. "I have come as light into the world that everyone who believes in me, may not remain in darkness". Why have hymn writers, the theologians, the Gospel writers, even Jesus himself linked Jesus Christ with the light.
I read an interesting article this week by Bob Russell, that mentions four comparisons between Jesus and light. And I'd like to expand on those for just a few moments this morning. How is Jesus Christ like light? First of all, think about it. Light commands our attention. Light commands our attention. I remember when our girls were little, we took them to Carlsbad cavern. How many of you have been to Carlsbad before? You know the experience you go into that deep cavern, it's dark, you can't see two inches in front of you. And then somebody turns on a light. Where does your attention immediately go? Not to the darkness, but to the light. There's something about light that commands our attention. And that was true about Jesus hundreds of years before he came to earth. Isaiah wrote this prophecy about him in Isaiah 9:2 "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned".
I titled this message "The night before Christmas," because before Christ came, this world was enveloped in darkness and night. But the light of Christ broke through that darkness. Light commands our attention now, admittedly, Jesus coming did not attract a lot of attention at first. No reason it should have when you think about it. Here he was born in Bethlehem, a town so small, it wasn't even listed in the registry of Judean villages. He was born to two parents who didn't have two denarii to rub together. When he lived his brief life, he never held any public office. He never owned a home. Never had a family. Died relatively young. He lived 1.450 years before the printing press was invented. He lived 1900 years before radio was invented. And yet 2000 years later, we're still talking about him more aren't we? He is the center of human history. In fact, even unbelievers have to acknowledge his coming.
This coming year every time anyone ever writes or types the date 2018, they are testifying to the birth of Jesus Christ. They are saying it has been 2018 years since the most important event in human history, the birth of Jesus Christ, the whole world testifies of his life. He is the center of this universe. And that's why as a church, as we enter into a brand new year of ministry and the coming year and what a great year it's going to be, we need to remind ourselves our job is not to lift up a Philosophy, not to lift up a moral code, not to lift up political dogma. Our goal is to lift up the person of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus said, if I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself. Light commands our attention. Secondly, Jesus is like light in that light reveals our flaws. Light reveals our flaws.
Now this is a part of light, quite frankly, we don't like that much. I mean, think about it. When you want to have a Romantic dinner with somebody, you do it over candlelight, not over a spotlight, right? Why is that? Have you ever thought why that is? We don't like a bright light shining on us. If we're trying to Romance somebody, we don't want them to see our imperfections and our flaws. And that's true about the spiritual world as well. Many people are repelled from the light of Jesus Christ because he reveals our flaws by his perfect nature. He is like a ruler that immediately reveals a line that is crooked. That is true about Jesus Christ. And that's why in the passage we read this morning, Jesus said about himself in John 3:19-20. "And this is the judgment, that the light is coming to the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed".
My brother was a policeman for 30 years and he would tell me, you know when most crimes occur, not during the daytime it's at night. If you want to protect your home, what are you told to do? You're told to use light, keep the lights on because burglars are naturally repelled by the light. It's the same reason that people are repelled from Jesus Christ. They don't want to have their imperfections, their lawlessness, their unspirituality exposed. You know, you see that illustrated in the story of the coming of Christ himself. Two very different reactions to the light of Jesus Christ in his arrival the planet earth.
If you have your Bibles turn over to Matthew 2 for just a moment, Matthew 2. And I want you to notice the difference in response to Christ's birth by the magi, the wise man, and king Herod. Matthew 2, beginning with verse 1. "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east, arrived in Jerusalem saying, where is he? Who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled". That word troubled literally means stirred up, agitated. "When Herod heard the same news, the magi heard that he was troubled and all Jerusalem was troubled with him". When the king wasn't happy, nobody was happy. Herod wasn't happy because he heard of a rival king that had been born. And so in verse 8, he says for the magi, you go and search for him. And when you search for him, come back and tell me where he is so I can worship him as well. Sure, sure.
Now Herod searched in darkness for Jesus Christ and never could find him. The reason he was searching for Christ is he wanted to extinguish the light, never found him. But the magi had a sincere heart, the magi wanted to know God. And you know, the promise of God is anyone who sincerely wants to know him. He will reveal himself to that person. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, "And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart". If you're here today, listening to this message and something inside of you really wants to know your Creator, the God of the universe. He will reveal himself to you and you know where he will take you? He will take you exactly to the same place, he took the magi to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God. If you want to know God know Jesus Christ. Light commands our attention. Light reveals our flaws.
Thirdly, light overpowers darkness. Jesus is like light because light overpowers darkness. In any contest between light and darkness, light always wins. Not just some of the time, but all the time. Light always overpowers darkness. Let me illustrate that for you if I could for just a moment. Let's turn out the lights for just a moment, all the lights everywhere can we do that? Now, those of you watching on television, trust me we're still here. Take it by faith we're still here. It's dark it's almost virtually dark in this room.
Now let's turn on a spot, one spot light. Isn't that interesting that no matter how dark it is in here, that light overpowers the darkness. It doesn't matter, if it gets darker and darker, it can extinguish that light. In fact, it only highlights that light, the darker it is in this room, the light always overpowers the darkness, but darkness can never overpower the light. And notice this as we gradually turn up the lights in here and more and more light shine, the darkness completely dissipates and goes away.
What is true in the physical world is true in the spiritual world as well. Light, always overpowers darkness. You know right now the Bible says there is a spiritual war being waged in this universe. It's a war of contest between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Every battle you're facing right now in your life is ultimately that spiritual battle between light and darkness. Paul said it this way in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places".
This struggle where the kingdom of darkness is real, and perhaps it seems right now to some of you, it seems like darkness is winning. I know I'm speaking to some of you right now that frankly have a hard time entering into the festivities of Christmas. Maybe because you've recently lost a loved one. It maybe because of a painful memory from the past that you can't erase from your mind. It may be because of a prodigal child you haven't had contact with in months or perhaps years. Perhaps it's because of an illness you're facing or somebody you love. It seems like darkness is winning in your life. But remember light always extinguishes the darkness, not always immediately, but ultimately.
Do you remember 2000 years ago on that good Friday, Jesus was hanging on the cross. It was the middle of the day, but darkness enveloped the earth for three hours. And then when Jesus died, they took his body down and they placed it in a dark tomb. It was for certain darkness had won, the disciples dreams were dashed. They had lost everything. Darkness had won or so it seemed, but three days later on Easter Sunday morning it began to Dawn. And remember the angel appeared in the Bible, says his appearance was as lightning and his garments were as white as snow. And the light of God reached into that dark empty tomb and raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. And he is now forever conquered sin and death and darkness. Darkness ultimately always wins the light overpowers the darkness.
Finally, how has Jesus Christ like light? Light offers us direction. It offers us direction. Imagine you're the pilot of a jumbo jetliner. You're charged with the safety of hundreds of passengers seated behind you. You're trying to land your aircraft, weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds in the middle of the night in the middle of a driving rainstorm. You can't land that plane anywhere. There's only one place you can land with guaranteed safety. And it is that narrow strip of concrete we call the runway. How in the world can a pilot in the darkness find the runway in a rainstorm, the lights, the beacons lead him to that place of safety.
Jesus is that beacon for us and the darkness of this world and the universe he says, do you want to land safely with God? Do you want to know him forever and be in a relationship with him forever. Follow me, "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father, but by me". Jesus is that light that offers us direction to God himself. You know, that's what God says to each of us. He says, it doesn't matter where you are, how far you have wandered away. I'm looking for you. I'm waiting for you. I'm longing for your return home. And Jesus is that light that shows us the way home. What does Christmas mean? It means above else, whatever you've done, wherever you are, how ever long you've been away from God, God has left the light on just for you. And that light to lead you safely home is Jesus Christ.