Pastor Greg takes us on a journey through the significance of Christmas as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the presence of Jesus in our lives.
Merry Christmas. My daughter is very worried how the light and the cameras will do with this shirt. So hey, I don't know about you, but I've been waiting the entire service to find out the results of our poll from both campuses here and what it is. So let's just check it out and see where are we at. Who with the live tree versus fake tree? What do we got here? We got 75 percent for an artificial tree, 24 percent for a real tree. Oh my gosh, I actually probably thought 90 percent was going to be the artificial tree there. So, hey, I do want to do a poll in both campuses. So just want to invite you to raise your hand about this Quick thing how many of you open presents on Christmas Eve the night before? How many of us open them up there? Great, then, how many of us open them on Christmas day Should be other. These are all the people that are judging us Christmas Eve people saying we're not really true Christmas people. Quick question too how many of you have lights on your house outside? How many of you have lights on your house outside Then? How many of us are like we'll let other people do the work and just enjoy what they do. Yeah, that's me too, as we see that. Gosh, I remember Christmas as just something filled with traditions throughout our life. One of our great traditions was we would always go and cut down a live tree. As a kid we were a live tree family we would go and cut down a live tree with my godparents. We always went to the same two or three tree farms in the Sierra Nevada's of California to cut down the trees. Well, one year my mom said I think I've heard of this new place, I want to try this new one. We're like, okay, let's go. We went and it was an unusual year anyways. It wasn't cold, wasn't rainy. I think I went in shorts and had sunglasses on. We get there and it is this farm that didn't look anything like Christmas. The ground was red and I still remember we're walking towards trees and I'm just kind of a little bit grumpy and my mom finally looks and he goes great, what is wrong with you? I was like you know what's wrong with me? I feel like we're in Arizona cutting down a tree and this isn't even really Christmas. Whatever tree we get, it won't matter, because it just didn't feel the same. Do you know that Christmas is one of those nights because I'm sure you're experiencing it as well. It's one of those nights where we're filled with nostalgia, we're filled with family tradition. Imagine if your tradition always is you go to church and then you come home and mom's got the meatballs and the potatoes and all the turkey and the ham, and then you get home tonight and it's the little smokies and it's pizza and it's chicken. You'd be like what happened? This isn't Christmas anymore, but we just fill with this night. And it's this night, too, where I believe we aspire to something greater, because we really do know that, as people who know Jesus, that in the span of a few hours here we're going to celebrate love taking its height, where God's love for us goes to its fullness for us, where a king becomes a child to live amongst us. And so, first of all, I want to say this I'm glad you're here with us and know this he, jesus, is here with us right now. Jesus is here with us right now, and so I'm so glad we're together here. But I don't know about you, but here's one thing I do recognize, even as we think about how great Christmas is and how we want this night to just be filled with all the nostalgia of just a wonderful evening and great everything. The truth of the matter is, the birth of Jesus doesn't destroy distress, at least not yet it will. We're looking forward to that day, but right now we still have distress. As a matter of fact, jesus came into the world in the midst of distress in his people. They were under Roman occupation, they were waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to come and actually we know that when the Messiah did come, when Jesus came, there was great distress and we see this in Matthew 1, verse 16. And as you see the red words, I want you to read that with me at all campuses. When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. You see, the coming of Jesus. While we like to think that this night will be filled with perfection and peace and holiness and it is but the truth is we still have the distress of a world that is waiting for the return of this Jesus. We still have the hurts and the heartache because the truth of the matter is, we know while we wait, perfection alludes everything, even on Christmas. Perfection alludes everything, even on Christmas. Think about this for a second. As you think about Christmas, the reality is, when we look at our Christmas, we see that not everything is perfect. Right, grandma got run over by a reindeer so she's not here tonight. Right, we look at it. And Aunt Beth at the Christmas party? She's still a mess, right? While we want peace on earth, it's only Miss Universe that actually believes that's a reality, right? I mean, think about this for a second. What this Christmas, what distress still is a part of your life? Is it your job's just not what you want it to be and you're glad for a few days off? Is it that your marriage is in a rut and it's struggling? Is it that our kids just aren't where we want them to be, or there's friction or dysfunction in our own family? Is it that our finances and this whole month is about just trying to live up to other people's expectations and we dread the next month's credit card bill? Is it the reality that there won't be the gifts that our family really wants? Or maybe, just maybe You're an Ohio State fan and realize for the first time you don't belong in the college football playoffs. Yeah, amen to that, let's go. No, but seriously think about this for a minute. Each and every one of us has an empty desire that is a crinkle in our majestic night. Every one of us has that. I want you to think about that right now. What is it? What is it? What is it that is hurting? What is it that says, yeah, this isn't a perfect night? Because I think that's an important part for us to understand why Christmas matters so much, why it is important for us to know that he's here with us. Matter of fact, what I want you to do right now is whatever it is, whether it's that there's an empty chair or finances or something, whatever it is I just want you to right now, whisper that at both campuses. Just whisper what it is right now. Just say it. Just say it out loud. I want you now to actually just say it a little bit louder. Just say it so that it's not a whisper, but it's just a little audible. Just say it out loud right now. I want us now to actually just say it out loud, like we're telling me. You don't have to shout it, but just tell me and say it out loud, because I think this is an important part for us to understand that all of us are living with this crinkle in the midst of the majesty. There's no perfection in any of our lives. So say it now. What is it? You see, it's so important for us to understand that because even that first family with Jesus, mary, I think she saw the reality of Christmas from the very moment of the birth of Jesus. In Luke 2.19, it says this but Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. I can't help but think Mary thought back to this birth of Jesus, emmanuel, god with us, throughout her life, that she pondered these words and these things and she pondered the event that God is here with her In the midst of the pain and the hurts and the heartaches that her life went through, in the midst of her celebrations and her joys. I can't help, but she thought about what a joy it is to have her son, god himself with her. We know on that cross that her husband, joseph, had been dead. I can't help, but in the midst of the pain of her burying Joseph, that she would have thought back to Christmas that Jesus, god is with her, because this is a reminder for you and for me right now to know this Christmas is not confined to this fleeting moment. It is not these few hours that we gather together, it is not this one day or this one event. It is timeless and everlasting Christmas reality. That he is here with us right here and right now is the reminder for you and for me that he's here with us today. He's here with us tomorrow. He's here with us a month from now, two, six months from now, a year from now, a decade from now. He's here with us. There's only one way to the Father, but that's through Jesus. There's only one way to the Father and that's through Jesus. But there are many different ways to find Jesus, and we see that in the Christmas narrative that we see many different ways to find Jesus, and you and I found Jesus in many different ways, and it is only through Jesus that we then see and know the Father and have everlasting and eternal life with God Almighty Father, son and Holy Spirit. We see it in the story In Luke 2.15,. The shepherds said to one another let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about the shepherds found Jesus in their vocation. They knew and they said we've got to go, we've got to hear, we've been told about this, let's go find Jesus, the great shepherd. And then you have the Magi in Matthew 2.1 and 2. Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked where is the one who has been born, the King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. They found Jesus in their yearning and in desire and they're all waiting for something great to happen. They saw Jesus in creation and they said we've got to go Find what this is, who this is. They found Jesus and even the animals found Jesus. In Luke 2.13 and 14, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel praising God and saying glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace to those whom his favor rests. They found Jesus. Even the animals, all of creation finds the Lord, the savior of the world, and even the friends and family of Mary and Joseph find Jesus. Even before this night, in Luke 1, 41 and 42, when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and a loud voice she exclaimed Blessed are you amongst women and blessed is the child that you will bear. John, cousin of Jesus, left in the womb. Mary and Elizabeth exclaimed as they found Jesus in their family. You see, you will find Jesus too. You're going to find Jesus in your greatest triumphs. Maybe you already have, just like the couple at the wedding at Cana, found Jesus. You're going to find Jesus in wedding celebrations. You're going to find Jesus in championship celebrations with your kids and your family. You're going to find Jesus in your promotions. You're going to find Jesus in your high fives and your fist bumps with the king of all kings. You're going to celebrate on the mountaintop as you find Jesus where he meets you. You're also going to find Jesus, like all of God's people have, in your deepest valleys. He is here with you as the psalmist talk and lament, as it's called in the valley of the shadow of death. He is with you. You will find Jesus in the tears of your tragedies and you will find Jesus in your seemingly wanderings aimlessly about. You'll find Jesus. You'll even find Jesus in your holy wise, those times when you go why God. Why, god? The disciples found Jesus. We see in John 1619, when they asked and they said no Lord, you shouldn't die. And he said my resurrection will turn your grief into joy. You don't understand it always now, but joy comes in the morning and our God is the God who is here with us to turning our morning sadness into dancing. You will find Jesus. The truth is, and here's what matters for us tonight too God may not always come when you want him to, but he'll always be on time. Let me say that again God may not always come when you want him to, but he'll always be on time. Jesus will come when it's a perfect time for you to find him. Jesus will meet you where you're at, in your joys and in your sorrows and in your wanderings, because he'll let you know that he's here with you always. And while there's many ways to find Jesus, there's only one way he'll meet you, and that's with love. I want you to hear that tonight, that no matter where you are or what you've done, or where you've been, jesus came into this world to meet you with love. It was his purpose. He was sent into the world because God so loved the world he was willing to give up something, his only Son for you and for me. And he didn't send his Son into the world to condemn the world, to meet you with wrath, to tell you why you're wrong. He sent his Son into the world to save the world. Through him, he will meet you with love, and that's what Christmas is. Christmas is a beginning of the journey from the trough to the tomb, and all along the way, jesus finds sinners and saints like you and like me. Jesus is on a journey from the trough to the tomb, bringing along with us with him, us saying he is here with us and he's always been about this. He found Nick at night, nicodemus. He found the woman caught in scandal in adultery. He found the child in name whose mom was a widow and had indescribable pain because her only son died. He found the friend whose life came to an unexpected end, whose name was Lazarus. And he found you too. No matter who you are, where you've been or what you've done, jesus finds you with love, with arms wide open. Jesus is here with us and he's here with you, and he'll always be here with you. You see, the very presence of Jesus brings a deliverance for each and every one of us, through the very love of God. God loves you and if you ever wonder, how do I know? Because he came just for you. If you were the only person who needed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we still would have Christmas, we still would have this night and we still, a few short weeks later, would celebrate Easter of His death and resurrection, just for you, because that is His purpose and His plan and that is the love of God, and there is no one, not one person, who is outside the bonds of the width, of the depth and of the grasp of the love of Jesus Christ. His victory began tonight and is for eternity, for all time, for all people, through His great love. It's yours and that's what Christmas is all about. When I think back to that horrific tree-cutting experience in the Arizona, california mountain area, the truth of the matter is, christmas wasn't about where we cut down our tree. It was about being with my mom and my dad and our closest friends and family and our church. It was about being with Jesus. Tonight is a reminder that Christmas is the truth, that the light of life has ascended high above and deep within and is wide open for all to see, through you and through me, that he is here with us tonight, tomorrow and forever. And that's what Christmas is all about. If there's one thing to take away tonight, it's to understand this Christmas is about Jesus being here with you forever. Every day, from the mountaintops to the depths of the valley, on every step of the journey, he's here with you. And so tonight, know this Jesus is here with you, before you, to show you the way, behind you, to encourage you, beside you, to befriend you and within you, to give you peace. So tonight it is a silent night throughout the world, not because of fear, but because of awesome wonder at the magnitude of love and presence of God Almighty with you, tonight, tonight, that His light shines bright through all our lives, every day, every step, to everyone. Please pray with me, dear Jesus. We thank you that you came into the world and you are obedient to the Father. You lived a perfect life for us and your light removed all the darkness. And so we pray, o Lord, as we journey in each and every day of our lives, that we always know you are here with us and that brings a peace, that we can sing sweet melodies of silent night, holy night, because you are our light shining bright to the world, proclaiming that God is here with us every day, in every way, to everywhere. In the name of Jesus, all of God's people said Amen.