Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we prepare to walk to the manger keep us focused on the right stuff! Keep our minds occupied with avoiding open sin, with our obvious and not-so-obvious blessings, and above all with Your forgiveness which creates a humble heart. For only then will we be ready and able to meet You with undivided attention. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Romans 13: 11-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What makes a sermon a sermon? Better yet, what makes a good sermon? Do pastors just get up every week and tell stories with moral endings? Some do. But is that a sermon? No. Sermons are a compilation of God’s direct truth for our lives put into a format which is actually dictated by many Biblical examples. Usually pastors employ a theme which distills the text down to its chief thought and application to the lives of his hearers. Underneath that umbrella he will have sections in it that apply God’s Law to the congregation. These Law sections are designed to get people to recognize that they are sinners who have violated God’s perfect standards and in order to be saved, they need to sorrow over such sin and seek Godly forgiveness via a humbled heart. I’ve often said: “The Gospel, the good news of forgiveness, falls on deaf ears unless and until those ears realize they need forgiveness.” Likewise, the pastor must weave into his sermon the direct application of such forgiveness. He will recount and apply to hurting hearts the healing balm of how Christ has removed all guilt from our lives by dying for it all on the cross and then how Christ confirmed the validity of His sacrifice by rising from our grave. Finally, the caring preacher will also inspire, motivate, and try to arm his hearers for another week of battle between the forces of darkness and light.
In our lesson, St. Paul does all of the above. So, let’s sit back and permit this master preacher to move our hearts as we prepare to meet Christ in the manger. Thus, our theme for this day is:
FOCUS ON THE RIGHT STUFF!
Thanksgiving and black Friday have come and gone. Coming home from a new baby call last Friday the airwaves were full of talk about whether or not it will be a “good Christmas.” By that, they didn’t mean a day filled with talk of angels, shepherds, and most of all, the birth of God’s Son. No, they wanted everyone to buy a lot of stuff in order to stimulate the economy. In short, most folks focused on the wrong stuff. And via peer pressure, Christians are influenced to do likewise. Don’t fall for that trap! Instead, focus on the right stuff this pre-holiday season! After all, the very word: holiday, means: holy day. So, treat it for what it really is: the day made holy by the Savior’s birth.
In order for us to do so, to keep our focus on the right stuff, just before our lesson Paul recaps the 10 commandments and then says: “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” In other words, God’s undeserved love for us in Christ has fulfilled the 10 commandments for us. In pure love God’s Son came and gave everything He had to us. He even gave up His life for us on the cross and rose from our very graves. That is your proof that God has forgiven you every single misdeed in life. That is your inspiration to live up to His legacy of love to you by trying to put it into daily practice. By focusing on this “right stuff” you will! Yes, your attempts at a pure life will be halting and imperfect. Yes, your good deeds of Christmas giving will sometimes have mixed motives. But the rightness of Jesus’ life and death will overshadow all that and fix it. How? Well, by pleading His mercy on a daily basis, His love fixes everything! That’s the meaning behind Paul’s words: “Love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Paul now expands on the “how to” of all this right stuff. “Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Presently, America is focused on the wrong stuff. Buying goodies with borrowed money that people cannot pay back is considered one’s civic duty. Being run ragged by the externals of the season—trees, decorating, entertaining, gifts—we’re told that such is the essence of having a Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, history repeats itself. Mary and Joseph were relegated to the stable because there was no room in the inn. Today, Jesus is again relegated to a stable because most have no room in their hearts because the externals have crowded Him out. So, we need to wake from our spiritual lethargy and get ready for all the right stuff that He brings!
I heard that the 2nd most dangerous night for drunks driving is the night before Thanksgiving–the most dangerous being New Year’s Eve. Lest you think this is a modern phenomenon, listen to Paul’s words: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not is dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
Doesn’t this sound exactly like our modern world, especially during the “holiday season?” If you don’t have the warm glow of Christ’s love in your heart, naturally you will seek to replace it with something else. This is the nature of our non-Christian society. They’ve written Jesus out of the equation with banning of nativity scenes, with changing carols into politically correct pablum, and with making Christ’s birthday as generic as possible through that throw line: happy holidays. Advent prayer time, Advent family time of recounting even the smallest blessings of life, Advent church worship traditions have mostly gone by the boards. Today the mall is the center of attention, not God’s Church. Jealousy and dissension spark fights in the mall, cause tension in the home, and generally lead to ungrateful hearts. Booze and its lowering of sexual inhibitions are the momentary solace people turn to instead of the lasting comfort of having God’s Son uplift them.
Some of you will recall that old cartoon character: Elmer Fudd. He’s the clueless fellow that always tried to get rid of Bugs Bunny and always seemed to trip over his own feet. This holy day season, don’t be an Elmer Fudd. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced into thinking that the modern human definition of Christmas is the right stuff. It isn’t! Instead, zero in on the manger. Zero in on allowing that Baby Jesus to reform the attitude of your heart. Zero in on the timeless truth He brings—that humility uplifts, restores, and remolds searching souls. Yes, Focus on the Right Stuff! Amen