Tony Evans — The Perspective of Christmas
Tony: Hello, friends. This is Tony and Lois Evans, and we are here to wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed new year.
Lois Evans: And at this time of the year, we're thankful for you and for your writing in and just encouraging us how the ministry is blessing you and your family and your friends. It's really an encouragement for us, so we appreciate the fact that you're partnering with us and praying for us. And so, this time of the year I wanna join Tony in wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Tony: Well, you know these are troubling times we're living in, but the Virgin birth changes everything, because God has become a man and he has lived the perfect life, provided substitutionary atonement, and now he rules as King of kings and Lord of lords. And so, there is help and hope in spite of circumstances, so with that you can plan on having a very merry Christmas and a potent, powerful, blessed new year.
It's all about dealing with the sin question. You miss that, you miss the reason for the holiday in the first place. There are different viewpoints, different reactions and actions regarding Christmas. We want you to understand what they are so you can choose the best one and not be operating with a faulty frame of reference as you look at this holiday, keeping it from becoming all it was meant to be. And so, our desire and our design through this series is to give you something not only that can bless you, but to help you in ministering to your children on Christmas day, talking to friends about the reason for the holiday, or even being a witness to nonbelievers about why they're celebrating this special, special day. Well, we hope that this perspective that we are getting ready to go through now will color your perspective as you enter into the Christmas holidays. God bless you as we go and discover the right perspective about Christmas.
Well, I hope you're enjoying this series on the meaning of Christmas as much as I am. It was exciting just to be reminded myself in preparation about why this holiday is so special, why it's so critical, why it's so misunderstood, and why it needs to be much more deeply appreciated by those of us who celebrate it, by those who do not understand it so we can help clarify what this holiday is all about. Talking about perspective, today I wanna look at some different perspectives of different people who are involved with Christmas.
You know, we're big in our house during Christmas on wrapping gifts. I really have never understood gift-wrapping, because you make it pretty to make it ugly again. I mean, you go in and you're tearing the paper, tearing it all apart, and it just economically challenges me to buy paper and wrap to tear it up. But in addition to the paper that's torn up, we have some other gift wrappings at our house that sit outside. When you walk up to our front door, there are these beautiful well-wrapped gift boxes as you enter the home. Now, the problem with those gift boxes is that they are empty, okay? There's nothing inside, although it looks pretty.
That's a lot of what Christmas is for a lot of folks. It's well-wrapped emptiness. Many people find Christmas to be a depressing time: the loneliness, the loss of a loved one, family breakdown, or families have to be disseminated. And so, they do other things to gift it up, even though they may be hollow on the inside. And when you do not understand the true meaning of Christmas, you can make it pretty, but it's hollow inside because its true meaning is missing.
When there was the first Christmas, we see a number of people involved in this occasion. Of course we know Joseph and Mary were involved. Joseph being a righteous man that did not put his wife-to-be on display given her pregnancy that he had absolutely nothing to do with, which I'm sure it took a lot of faith on his part, okay? "How can this thing be"? Mary asking, but I'm sure he had some questions, too, before the angel clarified how exactly this took place.
But we're introduced in chapter 2 of Matthew to some other personalities. The first personality whose perspective I wanna give you, and we'll come back to this first one again, but it says, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi," we call them the wise men, "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.'" Here we have a group of magi. We don't know how many they were. I know tradition has it as three simply because they gave three gifts, so that's why you typically see three. But you can have multiple people bringing the same gift, so we don't know how many they were, but one thing is clear: they came to worship him from a long way away. Their perspective was Jesus was worth the worship, and Jesus was worth the inconvenience to get to worship.
These men, when they came to worship Jesus, took a extremely long time to get there to him, because when they arrived to Jesus, he's a child, not a baby in a manger. So, they see his star, his star. Not merely a star, his star. You might call it, to use Old Testament terminology, shekinah glory, a unique divine presence in the sky. That means that they looked at the prophecies concerning Jesus as being the revelation of God and decided this child was worthy of worship. But by the time they arrive there, he's a child in a house, not a baby in a manger. It says later on in chapter 2, "When they reached the house and saw the child," which means that if they initiated their movement to Jesus when they saw the star of his birth, but then arrived 'til he was a child, and the Greek word there means "toddler," that means this could have been a 1- or 2-year journey by horse or caravan coming from the Oriental East to the Middle East.
There aren't flying planes, they aren't traveling at supersonic speed, but they decided that this child was worth this journey. Now, it's hard to get some folks to drive 20 minutes today. They'll go to a party but not have time for worship service because they don't have the right perspective on Christmas. They will spend a lot of time enjoying the celebrations, maybe, maybe a minute or two reflecting on the real reason for the holiday. Not these wise men, not these men who took this journey, because they decided, "This child is worth my worship".
So, the question you have to ask is does Christmas invoke worship in your life, or is it just another holiday where Jesus' name is thrown around? These wise men sought him, and because they sought him after they found him, it says God revealed himself to them, because chapter 2 says they were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, and the magi left for their own country another way. Guess what they got because they had a divine focus on Christmas? They got divine guidance. They got a warning and a new direction. People in life need guidance. They need to know how to make decisions, how to move the right way. The magi, the wise men, found guidance in their worship of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
Now, Christmas precedes the New Year. The New Year is assumed to be new beginnings. It's a time for New Year's resolutions. It's a time when people are planning, how they're going to flow for the next 12 months, so it's a great time to hear from God on divine guidance, but they got divine guidance in their worship, not in their opening their Christmas gifts, not in their parties, not in their celebrations. It was in their worship of Jesus Christ the Son where they got guidance from the living and true God. So, as you approach this Christmas, if you need to hear from God and you need direction for your life, maybe you ought to spend little less time at the party and a little bit more time in the worship, so that as you approach the new year, you can get a Word from God about the direction of your life, about warnings, where you shouldn't go, situations you shouldn't be in because God guides you another way.
They got guidance because they had worship. Wise men still seek him during Christmas. Why? Because God is there when Jesus is being glorified and when Jesus is being worshiped. So, this first group, the wise men, went through great inconvenience to get to where Jesus was, and they got to hear from heaven because of it. Now, we have another person who shows up, whose perspective is important for Christmas. It says, "When Herod the king," chapter 2, verse 3 says, "heard this, he was troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him". When Herod the king heard this, what exactly did he hear? He heard what the magi were looking for. "Where is the King of the Jews that we might worship him"?
And when Herod got shook up, it says all of Jerusalem got shook up with him. Why? 'Cause if you make Herod mad, you're in trouble, and Herod was shook up. He was destabilized. What was it about what the magi were looking for that messed up Herod? It was that the magi were looking for another king, and Herod was the king, and Herod's perspective is, "We don't have room for two kings. I'm the king here. So, when you come looking for this other king you're talking about, we have issues. And if I have an issue, y'all over who I'm ruling, y'all have an issue, too. Because I'm upset, you better be upset, 'cause you're in trouble 'cause I'm in trouble, 'cause we got these folks looking for another king".
Jesus Christ has always had problems with people who don't want his rule in their life and in their world. We want a Savior we can rule over, not a Savior who rules over us. Herod was upset because there were gonna be too many kings in Jerusalem. He would be the king of the Jews, and he would be worshiped as a king and as the living and true God. So, the second person we have here is a person who brought trouble to the rule of man by bringing the rule of God. So here is the question you gotta ask from this lesson of Herod. We've already looked at the wise men. He's worthy of worship at Christmas, 'cause this was during the time of his birth, even if it's inconveniencing me. But does he have the right to be King over your life? Does he have the right for you to submit your rulership to his authority? Does he have final say-so in your life, or do you wanna keep him at bay because you don't want his rule, his decision-making power? And watch this. Are other people negatively affected because you do not allow him lordship?
I'd like to suggest to you that a lot of other folk are in trouble because we're in trouble with Jesus being King. When a man says, "Jesus can't be king over my life," his family may be in trouble. His kids could be in trouble. The order in his home could be in trouble. When a society says, "We don't want Jesus and his principles ruling here," that nation could be in trouble. In fact, you can have churches that are in trouble because the pastor won't even let Jesus rule in the house of God. This is true in the Old Testament. They carried on their worship without the rulership of the living God, and so there was disorder. The Bible says when there was no true God that there was disharmony in the culture. So, the unraveling of lives, families, churches, even the whole of society could be simply because we don't want this king ruling over our lives, and that trouble brings trouble for us.
So, we see the wise men, "Worthy of worship". We see Herod, "We don't have room here for another king. I wanna be ruler of my own life, captain of my own ship, master of my own fate, so we'll carry on the celebration". Notice what Herod's statement was. He says, "'Gather together all the chief priests and the scribes.' He inquired of them where Messiah would be born". He wanted to know where Messiah would be born, and he wanted the magi to tell him. He said, "When you have found him," in verse 8, "report it to me, so I too may come and worship him".
Now, he had the right words. We would call it talking smack. He was talking noise. He used the words of Christmas without the worship of Christmas. He had the wrapping, but there was an emptiness hollow inside, 'cause he didn't mean it. He was utilizing it without meaning it. That's what happens today. We have the language of Christmas, the songs of Christmas, the celebration of Christmas, the programs of Christmas, the activity of Christmas, and it's well-wrapped without the meaning of Christmas because people have the wrong perspective about Christmas, because they don't want Jesus to rule. They wanna keep him in a manger. They wanna keep him cute and pretty.
They don't wanna deal with why Christmas exists, but there's a third group. It says he calls the scribes and the Pharisees, or the chief priests, and he says, "I want you to get this information. Where is this Jesus to be born? Where is this King to be born"? So, he calls the religious leadership, and the religious leadership tells him what had been written, verse 6, "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, you're by no means the least of the leaders of Judah; but out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel". Interesting. He calls the religious leaders, and the religious leaders quote Scripture. That means they know their Bible. So, the one who didn't want Jesus to be king calls the religious leaders and says, "Tell me where he is to be born". And they give him impeccable information, but we have something missing here.
While they knew the Bible, they never made the trip. While they knew the Word, they never went a few miles down the street, 'cause Bethlehem is right down the street. They had studied the Scripture but didn't do what the wise men did: go to worship the Lord. Which means you can have religion attached to Christmas without relationship attached to Christmas. You can know the Bible and not know the Lord. You can sing the songs and not know the Savior. You can celebrate the occasion without experiencing the relationship.
Jesus spoke of such a mindset in Saint John, the fourth gospel, and he says this in chapter 5. He tells them that they have the Word and they study the Scriptures, but they did not know the Lord. He tells them that "you search the Scriptures," verse 39, "because you think in them you have eternal life; it is in these who testify of me, but you're unwilling to come to me". You know the Scriptures but you don't come to me. The religious leaders knew the Scriptures, but they didn't go to Jerusalem. If the Scriptures don't lead you to Jesus, then you've got a well-wrapped holiday, 'cause you're reading the Bible, you're quoting the verses, but you're not drawn to the Savior.
This Christmas season will be full of religious activities. Jesus will get a little play. He'll get a little quote about him, talk about him, mention him, recognize him, throw out his name, but we will be living in the midst of a well-wrapped culture who won't come to him. If what you read about him doesn't draw you to him, you don't experience him. So, as you interact with yourself and others during this holiday season, you don't wanna be like Herod: reject his rule. You don't wanna be like the religious leaders: read his Word, know his Word, be able to quote his Word. You wanna be like the wise men, who didn't have all the biblical information, 'cause they were searching, "Where is he"? So, they didn't have all the acts of Jesus, and they didn't have all the theology, they didn't have all that, but they were looking for him, and the Bible says, "If you look for me, you'll find me when you search for me with all of your heart". So, don't let religion keep you from the Savior because you read the Bible, know the verses, and sing the song make you think you've understood the holiday. The meaning of Christmas is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. You leave that out, and you miss Christmas.