The Challenge of Christmas
The word “challenge” has been defined as God’s call for a response from mankind. God uses four things to challenge us:
The challenge of the Scriptures: Hebrews 4:12 states, “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” All of us know the piercing challenge of God’s truth when it is proclaim.
The challenge of the Spirit: The function of the Holy Spirit is to convict men and women of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
The challenge of the saints: Christian people are to witness for Christ and to challenge a sinful world with the fact of Jesus is the Son of God.
The challenge of the seasons: It is a means which God has used throughout the centuries. No thoughtful person can think through the calendar year without thinking of Christmas (the birth of Jesus) and Easter (the death of Jesus).
Our base Scripture comes from the Gospel of Luke 2:11, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In considering the challenge of Christmas, we will consider the circumstances, the crime, and the claims of Christmas.
I. The Circumstances of Christmas – Luke 2:11
I. The Circumstances of Christmas – Luke 2:11
We cannot think of the circumstances that surround the birth of Jesus without seeing the element of the supernatural or miraculous. Sit back for just a moment and think of these three miracles of God during Jesus’ birth.
1) The Miracle of God’s Performance
If we accept the Bible to be the Word of God, we are obliged to believe in the supernatural birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The process of birth was natural, but the conception was divine. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was fully human and fully divine.
We can go back as far as Genesis 3:15 when God mentions the “seed of the woman.” That seed is Jesus and He has arrived. In Luke 1:35, he records this magnificent mystery, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
What a challenge this is to our hearts! No one can afford to ignore a person who was born into the world in this unique way.
2) The Miracle of God’s Providence (Wisdom)
Have you ever considered the timing of the circumstances that surrounded the birth of Christ? The whole event speaks of a supernatural overruling of Providence. According to historians, this was the very first census of its kind (Luke 2:1-3), and little did Caesar Augustus know that he was being used to bringing about the birth of Jesus at just the right time and in just the right place.
Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, but in spite of Mary’s condition the census required a journey to their ancestral home in Bethlehem. In addition to this unusual course of events, the whole world had been prepared for the coming of Jesus the Christ.
In no other generation could His birth have been more timely. Shakespeare said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men,…” and we might add that in the tide of God’s affairs, this was the right moment for the coming of Christ into human history.
3) The Miracle of God’s Prophecy
Out of the 333 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, a good number were fulfilled at His birth. It is one of the greatest proofs that the Bible is the Word of God.
When the Wise Men came to the palace of Herod, asking for the newborn king, the scribes emphatically declared that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
III. The Claims of Christmas
III. The Claims of Christmas
This angelic announcement spells out God’s claim upon every life. The names and titles of our Lord were very carefully chosen in order that we might understand from the very beginning that Jesus Christ came into the world to claim a people for His name. We see that Christ’s coming into the world has made these three claims:
1) A Saving Claim Upon Your Life
When the angel appeared to Joseph to announce the coming birth of Christ, he said in Matthew 1:21, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This is mankind’s greatest need. There is a sense in which he has everything but a Savior. Prophets, priests, and lawgivers had preceded the coming of Jesus Christ, but there was still no final solution for sin.
What mankind needs is not just a message, a way of worship, or even a standard of living. We need a Savior. If a person is drowning, they need more than a voice that attracts someone’s attention, or gives them instructions on swimming techniques. They needs a Savior.
The story is told of Daniel Webster when he was in the prime of his manhood. He was dining with a company of literary men in Boston. During the dinner the conversation turned upon the subject of Christianity. Mr. Webster frankly stated his belief in the divinity of Christ and his dependence upon the atonement of the Savior. One said to him, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Christ could be both God and man?” Mr. Webster promptly replied, “No, sir, I cannot comprehend it. If I could comprehend him, he would be no greater than myself.”
2) A Spiritual Claim Upon Your Life
The title Christ means “the anointed one.” It is a term which marks Him as the Prophet, Priest, and King upon whom the Holy Spirit came without measure. This only points up the fact that God’s claim upon our lives is essentially a spiritual one.
In other words, we are more than body and soul. We are spiritual beings; and until we are quickened to life from spiritual death, we are totally unqualified to stand in God’s presence
John 4:24 states, “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Are you alive to God? Have you responded to the spiritual challenge of Jesus Christ?
3) A Sovereign Claim Upon Your Life
This world will never be put right until the Lord Jesus Christ reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What is true of the world generally is equally true of the individual personally. Your life will never know peace, purpose, or power until Christ reigns with unchallenged sovereignty in your life.
He was born to be Lord. That is why Luke 2:11 says, “born to you this day … the Lord.” He died that He might be the Lord; He rose again that He might be Lord, for the Bible says in Romans 14:9, “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that he might be Lord both the dead and the living.”
In other words, the full purpose of the First Coming is that God might reign in the hearts of mankind through His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you given Him unconditional surrender? Is He Lord of your spirit, of your soul, and of your body?
II. The Crime of Christmas – Luke 2:7
II. The Crime of Christmas – Luke 2:7
In Luke 2:7, we see a great crime is about to take place, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
When Joseph and Mary arrived at the wayside inn and requested accommodation for the night, they were told there was no room. The innkeeper’s refusal to take in these weary travelers has been the crime of Christmas throughout the centuries. His attitude and action symbolize the following three sins.
1) The Sin of Woeful Ignorance
Let us take a look at the last part of Luke 2:7, “there was no room for them in the inn.” The innkeeper is without excuse for his ignorance concerning this tremendous event. The same God who rewarded the anticipation of the shepherds (v. 8-20), the investigation of the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12), and the expectation of Simeon (v. 25-35) and Anna (v. 36-38), could have satisfied this innkeeper of long ago.
Why did this happen? Human nature characteristically deteriorates into woeful ignorance concerning God and His dealings with men. We live in an age when the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can be heard or read through every known means of communication, and yet there is an appalling ignorance of what God has done through Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.
No one has an excuse to be ignorant of the tremendous event that took place that first Christmas night. Everywhere we are reminded that Jesus Christ was born to be the Savior of the world.
John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He did not say he is a way, or a truth, or a life. No, He is the way, which means Jesus is the only way to heaven. There is not other way, contrary to what you have ever heard or been told.
When people get caught up in this type of thinking, they are living by the law of Moses. Below are some things the law cannot do:
Enable you to do good
Set you free
Reconcile you to God
Redeem you from the curse
Cleanses you of all unrighteousness
Get you in right standing with God (Righteousness)
Save you from the wrath of God
I can go on and one, but as you can see, the only thing the law will make you is sin conscious and that you are desperate and in dire need of a Savior. This is where grace comes in. Only the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ can give all in my list and a whole lot more.
2) The Sin of Willful Indifference
There was no excuse for this man to be indifferent to the needs of these weary travelers. Mary “who was with child,” in Luke 2:5, a woman in her condition not only called for tenderness and consideration, but announced one of the greatest miracles in human life, the birth of a child.
But the innkeeper was willfully indifferent to all this. How typical this is of men and women in our day and generation! In Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Not to receive Christ is to despise every other gift that comes through Christ. This is the sin of willful indifference.
3) The Sin of Worldly Involvement
Undoubtedly, this innkeeper refused Joseph and Mary because he was too busy. The census of Caesar Augustus was a good thing in its way, he told himself, for it filled his house with guests and his pockets with money.
To have welcomed this couple would have meant turning out two of his other guests, and he was not about to do that! Probably he refused these travelers because they wore poor and shabby clothes. If Joseph and Mary had been able to hold up a bag of gold, he would have quickly found room in the inn.
How true this is today! Men and women are far too busy with worldly involvement. They know very well that if Christ comes into their lives certain other things will have to go out. What is even more tragic, if Christ possesses them they will have to follow Him who was lowly, despised and rejected, and whose symbol is always a cross. So, what was true then is still true today. John 1:11 illustrates this for us, “He came to His own, and His own did not received him.”
Allow me to also illustrate with the story of two women who were enjoying an elaborate lunch in a downtown restaurant. When asked the occasion, one said, “We are celebrating the baby’s birthday.” “But where is the baby?” said the inquirer, for there was no child to be seen. The mother replied, “Oh, you didn’t think I’d bring him, did you? Why, he doesn’t know anything about it.”
Many of us celebrate the birthday of our Savior and forget to invite Him! In our rush of observing Christmas with giving, eating, exchanging of gifts, and other things, do we really stop to meditate upon the Christ Child who should be the center of it all?
Let me ask you today, “can it be said of you?” Room for pleasure, room for business. But for Christ the Crucified, not a place that He can enter, in the heart for which He died?
Here, then, is the supreme challenge of Christmas. Not only the circumstances that we have considered, and the awful crime, which is perpetrated year by year, but these claims of Jesus Christ upon your life.
What is your response to the challenge of Christmas?