But the celebrations aren't the message. The message of Christmas begins with this:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
But by observing the western church, one might think that those verses read like this: "You see, when we were God-fearing and holy, Christ died for the worthy ones...He demonstrated His love for us by rewarding our righteous living by dying for us." But no, He had pity for us in our weakness, while we were STILL sinning. He knew that no attempts at righteous living could take away those sins. He knew that the sacrifices in the temple could not take away those sins. Yet in His love and mercy, he came as a helpless babe to a world that could not save itself and demonstrated his love by dying for the UNGODLY.
In fact, His motivation for this act is spelled out by the apostle John:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16, 17)
As I reflect on the evangelical response to the War on Christmas and to the godlessness of our nation, I am greatly saddened. It was to the very same conditions of an oppressive government, a culture of hedonism, and a religious climate of many false gods that Jesus came. Yet He came not to condemn, but to invite. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Are we like the heavenly host, who that night pointed to the remedy for sin rather than berating the sinful? Are we like the bright star that shone gladly over the manger, pointing the way to the only One that could make us righteous? Are we inviting the sinners to come taste and see this great wonder?
Did you notice that the angels did not appear at the temple to make their announcement? No one from the temple was invited to witness that miracle. Wouldn't you think that would be their first stop? But there were very few in the temple even looking for the Messiah, and they would not have been happy to see him in a manger among the common things of the earth.
Dear beloved brothers and sisters, will you be the heralds of good news this season? You see, the darker the night, the brighter the candle appears. In our darkened world, you can point to the remedy or you can call out the sin, but the message of Christmas is reconciliation - bought by the blood of Christ, not our own righteousness.
When you call out "Merry Christmas!" will it be a blessing or a curse? Will it be an invitation or a condemnation? When you're done with your celebrations and waving the flags of your causes, will the people in your world know that Christ died so that they could have life? Consider what James, the half-brother of Jesus had to say about our greeting: