2016 Christmas Eve Sermon

Andy Woods

SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH

2016 Christmas Eve Sermon, Luke 2:7

December 24, 2016,

Happy Christmas Eve!   Merry Christmas Eve to everybody; I’m looking forward to saying Merry Christmas tomorrow and we invite you to join us to worship the Lord here on Christmas morning.  I’m sort of excited that Christmas fell this year on Sunday and we’re going to be meeting tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.  Note that, not 11:00 a.m.  If you show up at 11:00 a.m. you’ll think you missed the rapture or something.  But we’re going to be looking at Christmas through the lens of the Old Testament tomorrow.

But for this evening let me just share a few thoughts with you from the famous story in the Gospel of Luke, if you have a copy of your Bible with you, I don’t know if you can see with the lights down but don’t worry, I’ll read it.  You can open your Bibles to Luke 2:7, and it says this:  “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

That, to me, is sort of a staggering verse because here the King of the Universe is born into our world and there really was no place for Him in an ordinary inn so He had to be laid there in a manger.  And you know, we’ve seen the manger scene so many times on Christmas cards and things like that, that we have a tendency to glamorize the manger but the fact of the matter is the manger is really not a place of pride or boastfulness; it’s a place of great humility.  And this is where Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and our Creator was born.

How was He born in a manger?  Well, the Bible says very simply “there was no room for Him in the inn.”   [Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”]

How was there no room for Jesus in the in?  Why did He have to be born in a manger?  Well, probably some very good excuses were given, the inn was full, people were too busy to really pay attention to this man, Jesus Christ, their schedules were packed, they were involved in commerce, they were involved in religious activity and the world 2,000 years ago was really just too busy for Jesus.  And consequently Jesus now has to be born in a manger rather than given a proper place in the inn.

And I started to kind of think about that Luke 2:7 and I started to see that really as sort of a microcosm, if you will, of humanity’s reaction to Jesus, because the fact of the matter is, although this story historically occurred 2,000 years ago would you not agree with me that the world really hasn’t changed that much since then?  The world today, by and large, is just too busy for Jesus.

Look, for example, how we celebrate Christmas.  Most of us would acknowledge that our culture once understood that we celebrate Christmas December 25th because we’re acknowledging the birth of Jesus Christ and yet look at what our culture has done to Jesus Christ.  We have pushed Him out of almost everything, we have pushed Him out of the schools, pushed Him out of government, in some cases we’ve even pushed Him out of the church.

And look also at the commercials related to Christmas. What are they glamorizing in these commercials?  They don’t really glamorize Jesus, the Savior of the world.  Christmas has sort of turned into family time, family reunions, emphasis on family.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to have strong family bonds and a good family nucleus but family reunions and eating and feasting and these kind of things are really not the original purpose of the holiday.  It was rather there to push or to promote this man, Jesus Christ.  And even in the school system today we don’t call Christmas “Christmas” any longer, they have more of a generic expression; they use the expression winter holidays.

And sort of the way we celebrate Christmas today is… if I can use this analogy, it’s like having a birthday party for somebody and you get a whole bunch of presents and you get a whole bunch of party favors and you get ready to celebrate but you never really invite the person whose birthday it is to the celebration.  We’re just having this big celebration and we’ve lost sight of whose birthday it is we’re supposed to be celebrating.

And of course on of the tragedies in my lifetime is seeing this expression, people in the department stores that work behind the counters, they no longer say Merry Christmas, they say what?  Happy holidays, you know… I always just say Merry Christmas right back to them, and then when I say it back to them they’re like relieved that they can say Merry Christmas and reciprocate and not be offended.  By the way, the derivation of “holidays” is holy days, so that’s religious too.  So maybe we should get rid of the phrase “holidays” altogether.  And we’re living in this culture where it’s kind of spirituality is in, there’s a lot of “God-talk.”  But what I don’t’ see is a lot of “J” talk, Jesus.  And in fact, you know as well as I do that if you want to destroy a conversation stop talking about the “G” word and start talking about the “J” word and watch the conversation suddenly stop.  It’s not about God, He’s obviously central to the whole thing but the holiday is about God the Son, Jesus Christ.

So just as there was really no room for Jesus in the inn two thousand years ago the world really hasn’t changed much in the last two thousand years.  There’s really no room for Jesus in American culture.  There’s really no room for Jesus in our world.  And many of us, if we looked at our hearts would have to acknowledge that we are so caught up with our own schedules, our own plans, our own busyness that we really have a tendency to push Jesus out of our hearts altogether.

That’s what I mean when I say Luke 2:7 is kind of a microcosm of humanity’s reaction to the Son of God.  And as you begin to track this theme through the Bible what you’ll discover is this is actually the major theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Man, humanity, in his or her sinfulness, has the tendency to push Jesus out.  If you go back to the book of Genesis, chapter 3, this is how human history began after the fall of man.

Genesis 3:8-10 says this: “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [9] Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ [10] He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’”  Right there at the dawn of human history man is not embracing God; in fact, man is running from God, pushing God out, no room for Jesus in the inn.

And you would think that when the Lord comes back a second time, and by the way, do you all know He’s coming back a second time?  His Second Advent is going to be just as real as the event we’re celebrating here, His First Advent.  And  yet when He comes back a second time what is going to be the reaction of people towards Jesus?  It’s the exact same reaction.  Revelation 19:11 talks about the return of Christ and it’s very clear it’s talking about Jesus because John says, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”   Revelation 19:16 clearly identifies the rider on the white horse as Jesus because He’s got a title written on Him, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  [Revelation 19:16, “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”]

He’s not just one of many kings, He is the quintessential King, the ultimate King.  And what is going to be the reaction of the people on the earth at that time?  Revelation 19:19, shockingly, says this: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth” that would be every major king on planet earth at that time, “I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.”

Jesus Christ comes into the world the first time, there’s no room for Jesus in the inn.  Jesus comes back to the world the second time and this time the world is actually going out and fighting the return of Christ.  It’s amazing, isn’t it, the capacity of the human heart to push God out of their thinking and out of their lives.

Now I’m a pastor of a local church and so I’m always thinking about well, what’s the state of the church?  I mean surely the church of Jesus Christ would have a place for Christ in His own church, wouldn’t that be true?  Yet we read these frightening words in the book of Revelation, chapter 3 and verse 20, concerning the church at Laodicea, and this is what it says: Jesus is speaking, “’Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

And this verse is commonly misunderstood as an invitation for salvation but when  you study this verse in its context what you’ll discover is this is not a salvation verse; this is not Jesus outside the heart of the unbeliever knocking on the heart of the unbeliever asking for admittance.  This is actually Jesus outside the doors of His own church and the church is having church, money apparently is coming in because Laodicea was a very prosperous church, attendance was up, all of the signs on the external, on the outside, were there but when you actually look at what’s happening you see Jesus outside the door of His own church, knocking on the door of His own church, wanting admittance.  It’s speaking of the church in the  last says that has whose lives have become so full and so crowded that the church itself didn’t even have room for Jesus Christ.  In fact, the words Laodicea are interesting to me, it’s a compound word, it comes from two Greek words, Lao meaning people, and dikeo, meaning to rule, and Laodicea literally means the people ruling.

We’re having Christianity without Christ; no room for Christ in the inn, no room for Christ when He comes back, no room for Christ (apparently) even in His own church.  And, you know, we’re getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ here at Sugar Land Bible Church tomorrow morning and I’ve been sort of depressed at reading some of the e-mails: well, you’re going to keep the message short, aren’t you?  I mean, we’ve got lunch plans, we’ve got gifts, we’ve got this, we’ve got that.  And the answer is we will not be keeping the message short, we’re going to be dealing aggressively with the First Coming of Jesus Christ from the Old Testament.

And isn’t it interesting that an athletic event can come on Christmas; I’ve watched basketball games, sometimes the NBA has games on Christmas day and people can sit there for two and a half hours glued to a television set and watch an  entire basketball game and yet coming and sitting and listening to the teaching of the Word of God for an hour is (in many cases) too much of an encumbrance.  And I notice the Denzel Washington movies coming out tomorrow, on Christmas day, people will be packed in the movie theaters giving unencumbered attention to a two hour movie.  And yet on Christmas day we can watch a movie, we can watch an athletic event but we just can’t have time in our schedule for worshipping Christ the way He deserves to be worshipped.

So you see, this issue of “no room for Jesus in the inn,” it’s a microcosm of a problem that really relates to our human hearts.  Why are we this way?  Why is it that we push God away all of the time?  It really has to do with our original condition, our sinful condition in the First Adam.   This is what John’s Gospel says in John 3:19-21, it says this: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  [20] For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. [20] But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

That is an amazing Scripture to me because Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, shows up on planet earth to save us.  And you would think the reaction of the human race would be to stand up and applaud—yea, Jesus is here!  And yet John tells us that that’s not the reaction at all, people have a tendency to hate the Light.  He does mention a remnant that embraces the Light, but by and large the people of the world are not interested in the Light, the Light is actually something that bothers them because the closer they get to the Light the more they can see their own sinfulness by way of comparison and exposure, and so the Light is sort of a disturbance.

And so we, by nature, Romans 3:11 puts it this way, “THERE IS NO ONE WHO UNDER­STANDS, THERE IS NO ONE WHO SEEKS GOD;”  Our natural capacity as fallen human beings is not to embrace God, not to embrace Christ, but rather to push Jesus out.  It’s a story that begins in Eden, it’s a story that continues right on through to the Second Advent of Christ; it’s a story taking place in the church of Jesus Christ today.  And this is exactly what was happening with the birth of Jesus Christ—no room for Christ in the inn… push Him out!

You say well, this is a very negative message.  Why are you being so negative on Christmas.  Because I want to challenge  you as I’m getting ready to conclude here, I want to challenge you with this, that it doesn’t have to be this way.  John says “as many as received Him,” he doesn’t say everyone will receive Him but he does hint at a remnant of people that by and large do want to embrace Jesus Christ and let Him reign the fullest He wants to reign in our personal lives, no  longer making excuses, no longer saying we’re too busy, no longer annoyed that God interrupts our plans but just letting Jesus Christ have that reign and authority that He wants to have in our lives.   [John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”]

And you know, for the unbeliever it’s possible you could be here today and have never entered into a relationship with the God that made you.  And if that’s your condition, and a lot of people show up at churches because it’s kind of the religious thing to do, but as I’ve said before, sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in McDonalds makes you a hamburger.  God has no grandchildren.  I can’t live off the faith of my parents or my grandparents.  I’ve got to have my own personal faith in Christ; I’ve got to have my own walk with Him.

And so perhaps you’re here today and you’ve never trusted in Christ as your Savior, never reached a place in your life where you acknowledge that your own path isn’t working and you trust exclusively in the promises of Him.  If that’s your condition then our invitation to you tonight and our invitation to you basically every time this church opens its doors is to trust in Christ.  We emphasize over and over again that there is but one step to God and God outlines that condition very clearly, which is to believe.  Believe means to trust, it means to rely upon, it means to have confidence in and it’s the only act on the part of sinful human beings that God will accept as a basis for entering into a relationship with Him.  You can’t earn your way into this nor can you buy your way into this; nor will  all of those New Year’s resolutions that you’re making, and by March you will have broken three-quarters of them anyway, New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to get you in the door.  It is receiving by faith a gift.

You know, speaking from personal experience, it’s easier to give a gift than to receive a gift because when you receive a gift it requires some humility.  And God is only going to accept people on the basis of them receiving what He has done.  What has He done?  He’s died on a cross for them two thousand years ago, He’s bridged the gap between God and man as only He could bridge, He’s resurrected from the dead in order to validate who He claimed to be and He leaves humanity with a simple message is to trust in what I’ve done.  “Without faith” the Bible says, Hebrews 11:6, “It is impossible to please God.”  So if you’re here today and you’re unclear about eternity,  you’re unclear about a relationship with the Lord our exhortation to you is the best you know how, even right there where you’re seated to, in the privacy of your own heart and mind to trust, no longer in yourself,  your denomination, your religiosity, your own best efforts, but to trust exclusively in the promises of Jesus Christ.  And once that happens you become a born child of God.  If it’s something you’re unclear on I’d love to talk to you after the service is over.

But the message isn’t over yet because I want to just talk for a minute to the believers.  I just said a few words to the unbeliever, what about the believer?  What about the believer whose life is so filled with their own way of doing things that God, through Jesus Christ, has never really had the opportunity to reign in your life the way He wants to?  The believer who, just like “no room in the inn,” really has a very limited place for Jesus.  The book of James, chapter 4 and verse 5 says this:  “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?”  Now this is Christ’s half-brother speaking here, James.  And James says when you trust Christ the Holy Spirit comes into you, we call that the new birth, regeneration, but the spirit which is inside of you envies you intensely.   And so many times as Christians, and I know this from personal experience, we give God kind of the corner room in the house somewhere.  God, you can have the attic, God, you can have the closet but the living room, that belongs to me.  And what is God saying to that kind of believer today?  The spirit that’s already within you envies  you intensely; he wants everything; he wants those parts of our lives that we in our own human depravity have closed off to Him.

And so this message, there’s no room for Christ in the inn, that doesn’t just speak to the unbeliever that needs to get saved.  This speaks to the believer who needs to start walking by faith, moment by moment and yielding to God moment by moment, and giving up those areas in our lives to Him where we hold onto so tightly.  And there have been many areas like this in my life where the Lord has dealt with me and is dealing with me, and what I’ve discovered is this: over the long run God doesn’t take something away without replacing it with something better.  God wants to bless you more than  you want to be blessed.  God wants to use you more than you want to be used.  But many times we settle for second best because we’re holding so tightly to our own scripts, our own way of doing things.

Jesus, in the parable of the sower talked about the seed going forth, which is the Word of God, and He talked about it landing on soils, four kinds of soil; soil represents the condition of the human heart.  It’s a fantastic parable to study.  Let me just read to you about one of those soils.

Matthew 13:7, it says, “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”  And then Jesus gives the interpretation down in verse 22 of Matthew 13 and he says,  “The one on whom the seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the Word, but the worry of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful.”  My under-standing of that particular soil is these are saved people because the fruit came up, at least a little bit.  But when that seed hit that soil it was nearly choked by what?  “the deceitfulness of wealth,” materialism, the worries of the world and maybe you’re here today on Christmas Eve, you’ve known Christ for decades but “the deceitfulness of wealth” and the “worry of the world” are so powerful in your mind that the Word of God, which has already been planted in you, really is not having the full reign that it wants to have.

See, the believers are very good, just like the unbelievers, at pushing God out.  When we do that?    1 Thessalonians 5:19 says that we quench, it says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Another translation says, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”  [International Standard Version]  The Spirit wants to just light a fire in your life; He wants to bless you beyond what you are capable of even thinking you could be blessed.  He wants to use you beyond ways that you even think you’re capable of being used.  He wants to walk with you in intimacy and He wants to know  you in ways that  you never thought possible.

And yet the Spirit’s fire so many times is curtailed in our lives because of our own selfishness, our own stubbornness, our own crowdedness, our own planning, our own schedule, our own ideas of how things ought to work.

So our challenge for the unbeliever is to trust Christ and be saved but our challenge for the believer is this: we’ve got a new year coming up, don’t we, 2017?  You know, I don’t know if the Lord’s going to come back this year; I hope He does.  But if the Lord tarries we’re going to be sitting at this exact same place with a year passed and my question for you is will you be able to look back on the year 2017 and see it as a turning point in your life?  Seeing it really as a year where you just got serious with the Lord?  Now I’m not going to push my way around anymore Lord, I’m going to depend on You, I’m going to walk with You, I don’t know how it’s all going to work but I trust Your will, I trust Your plan.  This is the year I’m really going to give you “room in the in” that You deserve, the “in” being you and the condition of your heart.

So as we get ready to conclude let this be something you’re thinking about between you and the Lord as we move into our candle lighting part of the service, thinking about 2017 as being different; thinking about this motif throughout the Scripture of no room for Christ in the inn.  And saying you know, in the year 2017 that’s not going to be me; there’s going to be room for Christ, not just in the attic, not just in the closet, but He’s going to reign over the whole house.  And watch what the Lord does in the year 2017.  I know this much about God, He’s a gentleman; He’s not going to push His way in any more, He’ll convict you but He’s not going to override your will any more than Jesus and his family broke down the indoors and pushed their way in, I mean they were crowded out.  Any more than the Jesus standing outside the door of Laodicea pushed His way in; He was just knocking.  He’s doing that with you, He’s doing that with me, He’s doing that with all of us, He’s knocking and he’s saying I want to reign, I want to rule, I want to have authority, I want to do things in and through you that you never thought possible.

So a great time of reflection and thinking as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Just by way of explanation you guys probably know the drill, we’re going to start… they actually gave me a lighter, they’re very brave up here, so I’ll light the candles there on the first row and then we just kind of move around and you, as a good Christian, light someone else’s candle and then we’ll have folks at the back beginning to light the candles.  And probably once the candles get lit I think we’re going to be singing Silent Night as we glorify our Lord Jesus Christ and then Gabe will conclude us with a closing prayer.  So let’s go ahead now and light the candles.