Mike Gerhardt, 12-23-18, we ended with this question last week: What if Jesus was never born? Ever been to Seneca Falls that where It’s a Wonderful Life was filmed, which stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey of the Bailey Building & Loan, barely survives Black Tuesday, October 1929 & later his uncle misplaces $8000. George goes ballistic. On a snowy night, he heads out in desperation, and considers suicide, wishing he'd never been born. An angel Clarence Oddbody stops George to show him what the world would be like had he never been born. The lesson is the impact one person can make. Jimmy Stewart is over the top emotionally. Poor Donna Reed had to respond to his crazed marriage proposal. Last week I asked: what if Jesus wasn't born? No manger. No shepherds, no angelic news. No wise men from the East. Someone reminded me of a T-shirt I once saw: Roses are reddish, violets are blueish, if it wasn't for Christmas, we'd all be Jewish. Jesus did make an impact on the world. There are about 3 billion Christians on the planet. Jesus' followers started the Red Cross & Salvation Army. Christians have held off the moral decay of nations. The first universities here were begun by Christians. Let’s look at three things we would never have known if Jesus had never been born.
We wouldn't know what God is like. John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. God came to our world and became one of us. Billy Graham: If I want to know what God is like I look at Jesus. Colossians 1:15: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. In Jesus’ day non-Jews believed in multiple gods and goddesses (Zeus, Aphrodite) who were simply more powerful versions of themselves, which meant they were prideful, deceitful, full of lust, vengeful. It’s a pretty sad situation if the god or goddess you worship is just as morally corrupt as you are. Years ago, the theology of Star Wars taught us to think of God as a force or energy. There are many books that teach belief in God is dangerous like Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Some think of God as a judgmental Father waiting for you to mess up, so he can get you. Or like Santa Claus who wants to grant your every wish if you’ve been a good boy or girl. Or like an old grandfather who loves everybody and doesn’t really care what we do. Because of Christmas, we don’t have to wonder what God is like. Jesus is God come in the flesh. We learn that God is Near. Jesus said John 14:9: Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. We know that God is not some distant deity living on the edge of the universe looking at us through a telescope like Bette Midler's song: God is watching us from a distance. Jesus was and is Immanuel, God is with us. Because of Jesus we know that God is here. God listens to us as we pray. Jesus is with us when we sleep, work, play, whether we are bad or good or even aware of God’s presence or not, God is near. Jesus told his disciples he would be with them always. Jesus said he would not only be present but would live within us by God the Holy Spirit. You can’t get any closer than that. We learn that God is Love. People think God is out to get them yet through Jesus we see God’s incredible love for us. The Son of God was willing to give up his throne in heaven to take on a human body, to be born a helpless infant, and to endure temptation, to face the evil and injustices of this world (Phil. 2:6-11). Why? Because of God’s incredible love. God did not have to come to us. He chose to because he knew there was no other way for us. Jesus demonstrated God’s unfailing love when he died as a sacrifice on behalf of every person. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. We learn that God is Faithful. God kept His promise to his people. God said he would save his people from their sin and create a kingdom which would never end. Jesus, a descendant of King David, delivers all who believe and transforms their lives. Jesus is a light to all people. Jesus helps us realize that God is near, full of unfailing love and faithfulness. We couldn't have an eternal personal relationship with God. I did not say private. So many say their religion is a private matter. We are to have a communal relationship with God AND his people. It is a union with Christ's Body the church. John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. We must be born again.Eph. 1:5: God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. God's eternal plan to send Jesus was to make us part of His forever family. God isn’t into the kind of religion the world produces. God wants relationship. You can go to church, be religious, pray, read the Bible but if you don’t have a relationship with God you’ve missed the whole point. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve messed up, you can find forgiveness and be rightly related to God in Jesus. God’s family isn’t like our earthly families, there is unconditional love. As John reminds us, we don’t automatically become a part of God’s family. 1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child (the One and Only Son of God) as well. We must receive God’s gift which he wrapped! Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloth and in human flesh. We must receive God’s gift. Many of us will be giving and receiving gifts, but as we know, a gift is useless unless we open it and receive it. We would not experience the light of life. John 1:4-5 In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana were said to be discovered when Tom Williams and Burt Pannell came upon a hole. They dropped in with ropes into the cavern. Some say they were stuck there in total darkness hoping that someone would hear their cries for help. They never gave up hope. They focused on the little pinhole of light and were rescued. A light shining in the darkness draws our attention. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness. The darkness of our world: its hatred, violence, poverty, brokenness, disease, death, anything which goes against God’s original plans for our world. Jesus came to bring hope. Jesus: in him was life, and the life was the light of all people, abundant life now and eternal life with God. Jesus brought us life. Abundant Life. John 10:10, Jesus: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. A life of love, joy, hope and peace. These are gifts that the world cannot give. This light cannot be extinguished by the darkness. Eternal Life. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Unlike George Bailey, I think Jesus knew the difference his life would make on us. That’s why he gave up heaven for the darkness of our world. If the first Christmas never happened would you be any different than you are today? Fortunately, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God came near, and showed his unfailing love and faithfulness so we can be his children and experience abundant and everlasting life. I invite you to pray with me to experience this life-changing truth.