The Christmas Difference
Scripture: (Luke 2:13&14 KJV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
There once lived a man who was born in 1624 by the name of Johannes Scheffler. Although he lived so long ago and very few remember his name the difference he made touches the heart of so many lives today. It wasn't until he joined a monastery and changed his name to Angelus Silesius that his poetry began to be put to music. Many of the hymns we sing today stem from this quiet man of God's pen. I came across him as I heard the words that inspired today's message. The words of a poem put to music. The words that talk of the birth of our savior. We can not even begin to comprehend the extent of the impact that that first Christmas day had upon this world. Look at the impact Christ had upon our arts. Look at all the paintings and sculptures. Look at all the literature and music. Not to mention the expansion of education and technology. The difference that Christmas makes far out reaches even our understanding of it.
There are two pieces of writing that I want to use from Angelus Silesius. Each for a different point that I hope to make in the time we have together today. The first thing that needs to be discussed is the problem of those Christmas blues. For far too many people this wonderful Holiday season is everything but wonderful. I have asked many people throughout the week about why they thought that so many of us suffer from depression at this time of the year. Some think that it is all the anxiety and pressure to make the day special. Some thought it was the idea of some people never being satisfied with what they get for Christmas. They tell me that a lot of people feel left out or even cheated by Christmas. My heart goes out to anyone who can not find the true Christmas spirit. My heart goes out to all those who suffer from anxiety and depression especially at this time of the year. My heart goes out to you as you seek today to discover the true meaning of Christmas and find the difference that is makes in your life.
I think that that may be the first key to overcoming the pressure of the season. It might just be we have been looking for the wrong things. We just watched the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas and I am reminded of what the Grinch said just before his heart began to grow. He realized that Christmas wasn't about the gifts and the presents. And he thought for a second and said, Maybe it is something more. And it is. But let me get back to the writings of Angelus Silesius. Listen to the words of this poem and think of the depths of the truth found within it.
God, whose love and joy are present everywhere,
Can't come visit you unless you aren't there.
Maybe Jesus Himself explained it a little better.
(John 12:24-28 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
Now I do not know what happened in your life to make this such a hard time of the year. I am sure some of us have every reason to spend this time of the year in sorrow But I just want you to know you do not have to. Some of you may have lost a loved one. I pray that you can be encouraged in the knowledge that they are with the LORD. Some of you may have lost a job and your financial outlook is not as bright as it was in the past. I hope you can put your trust in the LORD and know that He will provide your every need according to His riches in glory. We all need to come to the realization that God is exceedingly abundantly able to do more then we could even think to ask for. Some of you may not even know why you are depressed at this time of the year. I know this, that as you allow Christ to increase in your life your heart, like the Grinch's, will grow, and your anxiety and depression will decrease as the love, joy, peace and all the fruit of the Spirit begins to be produced within you.
That is how the principle of giving works. If you can get your heart and mind off the things that you want long enough to discover the things that someone important to you wants then you will receive more joy in giving then in receiving. But then you have to be careful because you do not want to end up giving something to someone so that they know how much you sacrificed to give it to them so that you are not giving to give, but to let someone else know that you are giving. OK, That made no sense. It is kind of like the paying of tithes. I was asked earlier this week what tithes meant. I apologize for not giving more teaching on this subject because it is so important but basically it is the ten percent of our income that we give back to God. Tithe then means tenth. But what I am talking about is what Jesus called not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing.
(Mat 6:1-4 KJV) Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
I have taken so much time on this and feel as if I should spend more because the enemy is binding too many people at this time when we should be singing in exaltation. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety or any type of Christmas blues I want you to write me. E-mail me, phone me, get in touch with me any way you can so I can pray with you and for you. God has got a breakthrough just waiting for you as you look onto Christmas day and discover the great difference it makes. I mean just think about it. America was discovered and settled by and for the cause of Christ. Granted greedy men came in after and tried to take advantage of the goodness of God's people. Look at our education system in the United States. Most every institute of higher education was built on the foundation of the Word of God. As the Pilgrims came to this great land they determined in their hearts to build schools to teach their children to read the Word of God. The first book ever printed was the Bible. Everything we are. Everything we have the potential to become is possible because that first Christmas makes all the difference. History was split right down the middle and as a small baby was born in an inconsequential little town to an unknown mother, God Himself took on human flesh. We look at the manger scenes and see the soft, humble beginnings, yet the host of angels were rejoicing for they knew that at last, at long last, there could truly be peace on earth, good will toward men.
And that takes us back to Angelus Silesius. I wanted you to see if even just a glimpse the difference that that first Christmas made. But do you know what? All the technology and education and medical advances, all the exploration and scientific research that comes out of the Christian faith does not make even the smallest amount of difference unless you first allow that first Christmas to make a difference in you. I do not care if you are Catholic, or Orthodox or Lutheran or Baptist. I do not care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. I do not care if you are young or old or black or yellow or white or green for that matter. Silesius put it this way:
Through Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, If He is not born in thee thy soul is all forlorn
Stop for a minute and experience the renewal of life.-------- It is not about the letter of the law. It is about the new birth. -------It is not about the rules and regulations it is about the character of God giving birth within your heart.------- It is not about you! But it is up to you.------ God has made the way. God has opened the door. The choice is yours. Make a full commitment today to let Christ be birthed within your heart of hearts. Place Him at the center of your being. Wrap your life around Him and give Him the opportunity to make a difference in and through you today and onto ages of ages to come. Say yes to Christ today and never again be the same.