Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we journey to Your manger, keep our eyes fixed on the prize! Cause us to see You lying there in humility, love, and forgiveness. Avert our gaze from the silliness of this world and thereby give us true, eternal riches—riches that even the wise men’s gifts can not match. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Matthew 3: 1-12
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Have you ever thought about how politically incorrect John the Baptizer actually was? If he came to America today, he’d be mocked, laughed at, and after his few, brief minutes of fame on the TV news, he’d probably be sued for getting in the way of the American version of the: “Christmas spirit!”
In our modern world, his first mistake would be his clothing.—He actually wore a leather belt and a camel’s hair tunic!—The society for the prevention of cruelty to camels would be on him in a flash. Then there was his diet.—Locusts, yuck. Wild honey would be o.k. But, he wouldn’t get the vegetarian seal of approval. Since John didn’t hype gift giving, the merchants wouldn’t be too thrilled with him, either. And his message of: “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” would label him a pureblood Scrooge! How about his giving of offense to the religious leadership of the time? The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious elite. One group was very conservative, the other ultra liberal. When he labels them a “brood of vipers” he offends both sides!—Not a good way to win friends and influence people. And finally, when John talks about hellfire for those who don’t listen to him, well, I can imagine someone accusing him of a hate crime! Yes, they don’t get more politically incorrect than John the Baptizer.
As Christians we lament the inroads that political correctness has exacted on Christ’s birthday. We moan and complain about the lack of nativity scenes, the attempts by the modern day Druids to replace Christmas with a celebration of the solstice, the lack of singing Christmas carols in school concerts, the use of “Happy Holidays” instead of: Merry Christmas. And then, after patting each other on the back for opposing such things, we go on buying more gifts, busily decorate our homes, and engage in the “fluff” of the season. The one, huge, problem we all face often goes unanswered, however. That is, we often fail to actually take John’s words to heart, heed them, and put them into practice. We fail to use this time of Advent to properly prepare our hearts to meet the Savior. Why is that? Why is repentance a dirty word during the Christmas season? I suppose it’s because we feel it subtracts from our Christmas joy, isn’t it? And yet, John would say, in fact the entire Bible would say, that true repentance actually makes Christmas joy complete. For only via repentance does God’s Christmas gift of a Savior come alive! Only via repentance do we begin to understand its meaning and true worth. And so, today I ask you this question:
WILL YOUR CHRISTMAS BE POLITICALLY CORRECT, OR SPIRITUALLY CORRECT?
It would be very interesting to do a poll of our nation as to exactly how people view Christmas. But instead of supplying multiple choice answers, I’d like to do a “fill in the blank” poll. The first question would be: “What’s the most important thing about Christmas to you?” I can well imagine the answers.—Family time, no work to worry about, getting gifts, and let’s not forget: giving of oneself. “Going to church and worshiping the Son of God” would probably be rather far down on the list. My second question would be: “Why don’t you go to church on Christmas?” I’m sure answers to that question would include: “I’m too busy. It subtracts from family time.” Or, if they respondents are honest, “I just don’t feel the need.” And then my follow-up question to that would be: “Why don’t you feel the need?” Ah, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter! I can already hear the answers, since I’ve heard them before. “It’s all just a quaint story. I’m a pretty good person. I even volunteered in the local soup kitchen and gave to Toys for Tots! I really don’t feel a need for a Savior.”
Contrast all that with what we see in our text: “People went out to John from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan river. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”
The Greek word that Matthew uses here for “sins” literally means: “missing the mark.”—Kind of like shooting an arrow at a bull’s eye and totally missing the whole target. These people were sick and tired of wishy-washy platitudes about life. They knew that the politically correct “don’t worry, just be happy in my own little world” view of life left them empty inside. Down deep they wanted something more. They wanted to be free from their inner demons. They knew their attempts at human correctness were tainted by false motives and they felt guilty over it. They knew that a perfect God demands perfection from His people, and they didn’t have it. So, they flocked to John. They embraced his baptism of repentance. They embraced his call to get ready for the Messiah, by straightening out the crookedness of their own hearts.
Christmas trees are very popular, aren’t they? We even set them up at Rockefeller Center and the White House. They have become a symbol for the season that even the non-believer embraces. But, did you know that Dr. Luther originated the Christmas tree? He was the first one who brought the tree into the home and decorated it. Why?—Just because he wanted his kids to be happy about something? No! It originated as a visual aid to remind us of Christ’s birth and His death. Recall when Jesus said, while on the way to the cross: “For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Yes, our living Lord is that green tree. And He willingly hung on a dry, dead tree, to overcome sin and death for us! Loving sin more than Christ, or a failure to repent, kills the green tree and dries it out. And then comes death and fire. Or as John says: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree (person) that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
A politically correct Christmas is both bankrupt and empty of true meaning. That’s revealed in the fact that after all the preparations have been made, the dinner finished, and the gifts all opened, Dec. 26th comes and people say: “Is that all there is?” Lasting delight, lasting joy, lasting happiness can only be had if you engage in a spiritually correct Christmas! For the truths of the Spirit, born of heart-felt, honest repentance live on forever! Yes, when you confess your sins and seek to produce fruits which show it, the Holy Spirit will bestow such fruits upon all faith-filled believers. And those fruits include: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”—Those are the ultimate decorations with which to adorn His tree! The Baby in the manger won all those gifts for you. He gives them to you through faith. They never go out of style. And they sustain you over the following 12 months and even over your lifetime.
So, don’t be politically correct this Christmas, be spiritually correct! Be honest with yourself and with God. Throw aside all the guilt you feel over missing the His mark, and be filled with gifts that keep on giving unto life everlasting. Yes, look into the manger and behold God’s Son, God’s gift of perfect love to you! Amen