December 24, 2019
Merry Christmas you all. I’m so glad you’re here.
Go to any major sporting event and one of the things you can count on, before the game even begins, is the singing of our national anthem.
And for the most part, whether the singing itself is good or bad or just perfectly mediocre, very rarely does any one of them stand out and stay in our memory for any length of time.
But yet, there was one, some 15 years ago, that has stayed with me to this day. And not because it was really good. No, this one went terribly, terribly wrong.
13 year old Natalie Gilbert walked out onto the stage before a playoff basketball game, before a national TV audience, in front of 20,000 fans. And for the first few lines she’s doing great.
But then, the worst happens. It’s every singer’s greatest nightmare. She forgets the words!
And even worse, maybe feeling the gravity of the moment, she can’t recover. She freezes. She tries to hide behind her microphone. And for a split second, you can even see her look around, this look a desperation, this look of “Somebody, help me!” What lasted 15 seconds must have felt like hours.
And yet, just then, the head coach from one of the teams comes over, a middle aged black man walks over to this young white girl and putting his arms around her he starts singing the next part song, encouraging her to sing with him. And it’s not as if he was hoping for this opportunity - based on the look on this man’s face, it’s as if he’s trying to sing for the first time in his life.
They continue singing together, eventually encouraging the entire crowd to join in with them, and when the song ends, the crowd cheers and the man gives this girl a hug and walks off. Let the game begin.
Just beautiful. It is, without question, my favorite National Anthem of all time.
And friends, here’s why I find that moment so powerful and more importantly, why I share it with you tonight, and that is, to me that story is what the Christmas story is all about.
Each and every Christmas, Christians around the world retell the story of how long ago God came down in the person of Jesus Christ.
The story of Christmas is a story about a God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
Christmas is about God coming down. Christmas is about love coming to the rescue.
At Christmas, we remember the unthinkable, the unimaginable. That time when God became human. When He became like one of us.
And he did so, not because we’re amazing. Not because he was in need of a much needed vacation or because he got bored and didn’t have anything better to do.
No, he came down because he knew we needed help. Friends, that’s why he came.
Now, my guess is, none of us have experienced what that 13-year-old girl experienced that day in front of 20,000 people.
But yet, that look of desperation she felt, that moment of “Somebody, help me!” That is something everyone, young and old, can relate to. That is something we all look at and think to ourselves, “Oh! Been there.”
Maybe you felt that way last Christmas or maybe you’re feeling that way as you walked in here earlier tonight. Maybe some of you have lost a loved one earlier this year and as you sit around the dinner table all you can think about are those who aren’t there. Maybe some of you are struggling with an addiction or recently received a discouraging diagnosis from your doctor. Maybe some of you lost your job this year or are going through a middle life crisis of sorts trying to figure out what your purpose is. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks or your relationship with your kids seems to get worse by the day.
Friends, whatever your “that” is, Jesus came for that. Jesus wants to bring healing to that. Jesus wants to bring you comfort through him even in that. Jesus walks over, wraps his arms around you even in that.
So, if you are feeling hopeless, depressed, tired or lonely, I’ve got good news, Christmas is for you. If you are feeling like a failure, overwhelmed, discouraged or rejected, I’ve got good news, Christmas is for you.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying all this to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, or to give you the sweet sentimentality of a Hallmark Card. In fact, this is one of the deeply humbling aspects of Christmas – that you and I needed help from the outside.
Instead, I’m telling you all this, that Christmas is for those who are struggling and in need because it’s part of the heartbeat of the Christmas story itself.
You see, one of the most remarkable things about the birth of Jesus is just how incredibly unremarkable it is.
I mean, you would think that the Son of God would be born in a palace, or in a hospital with fine linens and that Mary would be given an epidural with plenty of time to spare. But no, he was born in a stable, in a barn, next to all the gross and smelly animals.
You would think that the Son of God would be born in a royal and prestigious family, or maybe, let’s say, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. But no, he was born into poverty, born in Bethlehem, in a one stoplight kind of town, to Mary and Joseph, a couple lowly teenagers.
You would think that the Son of God would be born into instant fame, that parades would be thrown for him with everyone cheering in the streets shouting his name. But no, he was born facing immediate opposition, his parents on the run in the middle of the night, being chased because of the oppressive and tyrannical King Herod.
The Son of God, Jesus himself came as baby. A needy, helpless baby, born into humble beginnings. All of which tells us something about those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
And that is, it’s not just for those who have it all figured out, rather it’s for those who know they so often don’t.
That it’s not just for strong and powerful, no it’s for those feeling tired and weak too.
That it’s not just for the rich and famous, no it’s for the poor and forgotten as well.
Friends, are you struggling and in need? Well, I’ve got good news for you, Christmas is for you.
Are you struggling financially and wishing you could put more Christmas presents under the tree? Friends, take heart, at Christmas we remember that though he was rich, Jesus for our sake became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich in Him.
Are you feeling alone, abandoned or distant from your family? Friends, take heart, for Jesus was a refugee from his earliest days, ridiculed in his own hometown, let down by his closest friends, he was cast out, so that you can be brought in and have fellowship with him.
Do you see what we’re getting at here?
Christmas is for parents who still have presents to wrap at 7:30 on Christmas Eve.
Christmas is for those whose New Year’s Resolutions will barely make it out of the first week of January.
Christmas is for those take their hurt and pain and try and fix it by using something that will only hurt them even more.
Christmas is for those who are so very tired of always cooking a meal for one.
Christmas is for those who forget the lyrics to an unforgettable song.
And if I am even remotely close to describing what you are experiencing these days, then friends, I’ve got good news, Christmas is for you.
No other religion makes this bold and audacious claim, that God himself became human and that’s because no other God loves like this. A love that came to rescue, where God himself came down dwelt among us. It’s a story where the coach takes the field, where the director writes himself into the play and steps on to the stage, all for you.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
So, for those of you who don’t know Jesus, I would encourage you to give him a shot. Maybe talk to someone who does, or read the gospel of Luke which tells the story of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, or simply pray that God would make himself real to you.
To all of you, let me encourage you, take your need, take your sin, take the messiness of your life, and take it to Jesus. Call on Him. After all, he’s reaching out to you.
Merry Christmas you all. I’m so glad you’re here. After all, Christmas is for you.