Introduction: As we go through the music of today and days gone by, we find that the ‘Heart’ is referred to over and over again. To take a few examples of songs that came out during different stages of my life, we find titles like ‘Heart of Gold’, ‘A Good Heart’, ‘My Heart Will go on Loving You’, and ‘Your Cheating Heart’. (I guess these titles show how old I am!). That’s because the heart is at the center of all life.
One of the meanings given by the Cambridge Dictionary for the word ‘Heart’ goes like this: “The central or most important part” (of a matter). That’s how we come to the term “Let’s get to the heart of the matter”. Another description of the term “the heart of the matter” by The Free Dictionary goes like this: “The most important, basic or fundamental essence or elements of an issue….or matter at hand. That brings me to the main thought in this sermon.
Proposition: Let’s ensure we get to ‘The Heart of Christmas’ this year.
In this sermon, I would like to share 3 important characteristics (there are more), that I consider to be at the heart of Christmas.
1)The Heart of Christmas – Giving
“For God so loved the world that He GAVE His one and only Son…” (John 3:16)
Illustration: Three chained prisoners were brought before a medical missionary at a leper colony. Horrified at the sight of the chains eating into their wounded flesh, the missionary ordered that the chains be removed, overriding the protests of the guards. He thereafter lovingly treated their wounds.
A few days later, the missionary had to travel on an overnight trip. Although concerned about the safety of his wife and child, after prayer, he started his journey. The following morning, when his wife opened the house windows, she was surprised to find the three men on her porch. Hearing that her husband was away, they had spent the entire night, guarding the family! (Adapted from a Devotional for Men).
Christmas is a season for giving, whether it is in the form of gifts, money, time or even love, as exemplified by the Missionary and also the Magi in Matthew 2:11. We generally treasure the gifts we receive at Christmas time because they are special. At the same time we are encouraged to be givers, knowing that Jesus said’ “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Like the missionary who gave of his love and received an unexpected reward, when we give, it is amazing how God blesses us back in return, as I have often experienced!
Let’s remember that on the first Christmas morn, God gave us His very best! John says, “This is how God showed His love for us: He sent His one and only Son…that we might live through Him” (1 John 4: 9). Because God gave, millions have encountered His love, His salvation and His blessings throughout history.
Let’s ask Jesus for a new heart of generosity this year as we spread the love and goodness of God lavishly! The only blessing some people may receive during Christmas, could well be from you!! Maybe you can pray that the Lord will direct you to a family or a child that you can bless with a large heart of generosity this Christmas. No gift we give however can ever outdo the greatest gift given by God in the form of His Son! (For further reading you could click this link.)
2) The Heart of Christmas – Family
“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)
A vital part of our Christmas celebrations is the time spent with family, reminiscing of days gone by and sharing memories of God’s goodness to one another. It’s also such a pleasant sight to see families walking into church on Christmas day because a family is truly blessed when it belongs to God’s family. The Christmas season is so special that some family members travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be home.
From 1995 to 2003, I served at a church in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka that was roughly 72 miles (112 kilometres) away from my hometown city of Colombo. Every year, I would find great blessing in being a part of the seasonal services, Christmas fellowships and other programs in Kandy. On Christmas Day itself, we normally conducted two well attended services which would end around 12 noon.
As soon as the services and the wishing were over however, I would rush to my place of stay, pick up a few clothes and rush back to the central bus stand in Kandy to come home for Christmas. It was a 3+ hour journey to Colombo but I didn’t mind it as I looked forward to being with my family on Christmas Day. That evening with my family on Christmas Day was a highlight of the Season for me!
We see a beautiful family portrait on the night that Jesus was born. Luke 2:16 says that when the shepherds came to Bethlehem, “They… found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger”. I’m sure there was much prayer and praise rising up in the manger! Verse 19 shows that Mary was building a storehouse of precious memories in her heart. (The same thought is also seen in Luke 2:51). She would need to relive and be strengthened by those memories, many times over, in the days ahead!
Mary and Joseph clearly built a strong, godly family (see Luke 2:22, 39, 41) although at times, some family members couldn’t grasp the Mission that Jesus was a part of. I strongly feel that much of the Lord’s Parable illustrations were crafted when journeying with or learning from His parents. His brother James too, later became an influential church leader.
This year, can we build some precious Christmas memories with our family? Can we strengthen and encourage one another? Can we pray together for God’s will to be perfected in each life? Can we heal a strained relationship? God loves families and we need to treasure all the precious memories He gives us! We could also befriend someone who has no family to celebrate with at Christmas time. Let’s pray for our family to receive special grace this Christmas that will unfold many beautiful moments.
3) The Heart of Christmas – Humility
“He (Jesus) humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8)
Illustration: A wealthy couple visited some colleges facing financial struggles with the intention of supporting one of them. During this endeavor, they went to a particular college on a holiday and spoke to the caretaker who was painting the school walls. Upon inquiring whether they could meet the Principal, the man said that they could do so later in the afternoon, showing them the Principal’s office. The couple came back later as directed, and when entering the Principal’s office, they were shocked to realize that the Principal was the same person who had been painting the walls earlier. Impressed by the Principal’s humility, they willingly invested their money in the college.
At the heart of the Christmas message, is humility. It speaks of how the mighty Son of God, took on a human form, and came down to earth in extremely humbling circumstances. He was born in a manger; not a palace. His parents were possibly peasants, not the rich of society. The message of His birth was announced to humble shepherds and not to those in the seats of power. His birth and His very life, showed a level of humility never seen before.
The Bible compares arrogance to the sin of idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23) and warns us repeatedly about pride. (Remember the song that said, ‘It’s hard to be humble, cause I’m perfect in every way’)? James says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (4:6), while Jesus promises, “whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
As we approach Christmas, let’s ask God to give us the same attitude of humility that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8). The Father in turn exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave Him the Name above every name (Philippians 2:9)!
In what area of your life do you need to display humility? Ask God to help you. Someone said,
‘Humility is something we lose the moment we think we have it’.
Good to think about that for a moment!
Closing: So, as I close this sermon on ‘The Heart of Christmas’, let me share the 3 main points once again. They are:
May the Lord help us to consider and take the necessary decisions in these 3 areas. God bless you!
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