December 25, 2019
“A World Without Christmas”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
A blessed Christmas to you! This is the time of joy. This is the day to realize the great salvation of our God. This is the day to wake up and be overwhelmed by the love of Christ for us. The joy of this season is seen in so many ways: Christmas cards and carols; cookies and candy; laughter and lights; handshakes and hugs.
But what would our world be without Christmas? About 350 years ago Christmas was actually outlawed in one country. It seems that over three centuries ago Christ began to be crowded out of Christmas in Great Britain. The annual celebration sank to the level of a rowdy and depraved holiday. The true meaning of the season was lost in rioting and drunkenness. It was a time of the year when many decent people feared for their safety. In a desperate attempt to restore civil order the English Parliament, in 1644, outlawed Christmas. Strict laws made it illegal to commemorate the season in any way whatsoever. In actuality, they lived in a world without Christmas.
What would our world be like without Christmas? There was once a striking Christmas card that was published with the title, “If Christ had not come”. The card represented a clergyman falling into a short sleep on Christmas morning (but not during the sermon), and dreaming of a world into which Jesus had never come.
In his dream he found himself looking through his home, but there were no stockings in the chimney corner, no Christmas bells or wreath of holly, no tree or gifts. There was no Christ to comfort, gladden or save. There were no churches, no books about a Savior who had come.
As his dream continued, the doorbell rang and a young man asked the preacher to visit his dying mother. He went with the youth and when he reached the home he sought for a word of hope and promise in his Bible but could find none. Three days later he stood by the coffin and conducted the funeral service. There was no message of consolation, no words of a glorious resurrection, no open door to Heaven, only “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”. He realized that Christ had not come, he burst into tears and utter despair.
Suddenly, though, he awoke and he knew that he was having but a bad, bad dream.
What would our world be without Christmas? It would be severely handicapped. It would be incomplete. Look at what Christmas has done in our society. Hospitals, schools, orphanages, social service agencies, and rest homes all have their impetus from the Christ who said when we care for the sick, the poor, the hurting we are caring for Him.
What would your world be without Christmas? Hopeless. Dark. Dreary. There would be no forgiveness of sins. There would be no “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men”. There would be no strength in life or victory in death.
But the news of news, the fact of the season is that Christmas came. In Galatians 4, Paul tells us: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons”. He was born. He came. We live in a world with Christmas.
Living in a world with Christmas tells us that God has a heart of love toward us. She was eighteen and he was nineteen when they met. They fell in love, and one year later they were married. Some six years and three children later, she decided, while standing before the kitchen sink with a pile of dirty dishes and a pail of dirty diapers on the floor, that she just couldn’t stand it any more. She took off her apron and just walked out the door. Sometimes she would call home to check on the children, and on those occasions he would tell her how much he loved her, and he would ask her to come home. But each time she refused.
After a while he hired a private detective to find his wife. The report said she was living in a second-class hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. He packed up his bags, placed the children under the care of a neighbor, and took a bus to Des Moines. He found the hotel and made his way to her room. When he knocked on the door, his hand trembled because he didn’t know what kind of reception he would receive. His wife opened the door, stood for a moment looking at him in shocked silence, and then fell apart in his arms.
Later, at home when the children were in bed, he asked her a question that had long troubled him, “Why wouldn’t you tell me where you were when I called? You knew that I loved you. Why didn’t you come home?” She replied, “Before your love was just words. Now I know how much you love me because you came”.
How do we know the heart of God to us? How do we know that His heart is mercy, kindness and compassion? Because He came. I John 4 says, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His One and Only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” (I John. 4:9) We live in a world with Christmas. We live in a world where God has said, “I love you”! Christmas tells us of God’s love.
A world with Christmas is a world of hope. Someone has said that when God wants something done in this world He has a baby born. This is especially true in the birth of Jesus Christ. God wanted to bring hope to our lives. He wanted to give to us His presence and His understanding. The words from Matthew, “and they will call Him Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us'”, gives us hope and courage.
There is a psychiatrist in New York City, Dr. John Rosen, who is very well known for his work among schizophrenics. These are the folks with some of the most severe of mental illnesses. They do not live in reality at all times. Normally doctors remain separate and aloof from their patients. But not Dr. Rosen. He moves into the ward with them, he places his bed next to their beds. He lives the life they must live. If they don’t talk, he doesn’t talk either. He is patient. He loves them. His being there and being with them communicates something they haven’t experienced in years – somebody cares and understands. But then he does something else. He puts his arms around them and hugs them. He holds these unattractive, sick people and loves them back to life.
God did this for us through Jesus in Bethlehem. He moved into the ward with us. He placed his bed among our beds. He touched us and hugged us and loved us. And those He touches He restores to hope.
A world without Christmas is a dreadful thought. It would leave us without love, without hope. But Christmas has come. Galatians 4 says:”But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls us, ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir”.
A world with Christmas, a world with Christ is a world with forgiveness. This baby born in the manger would be the sacrifice dying on the cross. Immanuel, God with us, would become Immanuel, God for us, on the cross of Calvary. He has cleared the way to the throne of God. He has brought us peace through His blood shed on the tree. Christmas tells us that God is for us. It shouts that now we can cry out, ‘Father’, and He says, “Yes, my son or daughter”. We are heirs of the kingdom of God. We have forgiveness and a full life.
Philip Brooks, in a classic Christmas card tells us that we live in a world with Christmas. He writes, “All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as powerfully as that one solitary life”.
A world without Christmas? Banish the thought. We live in a world with Christmas. We live in a world with Christ. We find the evidence in our world. We find the evidence in our hearts. Amen!!
(This sermon originally was preached at Ascension on Christmas Day in 2011)