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Christmas Sermons—Are Churches Preaching an Irrelevant Message?

by on ; last featured December 14, 2017
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If you think that the average “Christmas message” doesn’t move non-believers, you’re not alone. The goal of this article is to help pastors and churches reach more.

It’s that time of year! During this season over the years, I have heard several Christmas sermons on the birth of Jesus. Now, in our Western culture that is rapidly losing its once-Christian worldview, Christians and Christian leaders need to use this time, more than ever, to challenge non-Christians. But will they give the vital message people need to hear at this time of history?

I was thrilled to bring a friend who has struggled with the Christian faith his entire life to church this Christmas season. Just before we arrived, he asked me a question that has been troubling him. I was fascinated that he didn’t ask about Jesus and the manger or about the shepherds and angels who proclaimed the birth of Jesus on earth—instead, he asked, “Why do many Christians use organ transplants to prolong their life or try to prolong the lives of their children when they’re born with problems when God has deemed it was their time to die?” He continued, “Why wouldn’t a Christian accept their death that comes from God? Shouldn’t they just accept it if they are true Christians and want to go to heaven instead of trying to survive on this earth?”

Now, why would he ask questions like that? The answer is that the culture is increasingly losing the true meaning of Christmas because the education system and the media continue to indoctrinate people to reject the Bible as absolute truth. Instead, the Christian faith and the Bible is attacked and ridiculed and condemned as a “book of stories” because so-called science has supposedly proved it cannot be true—particularly in its history in Genesis.

I’m sure my friend wasn’t expecting an answer. After all, such questions have been leveled at Christians for years. (Sadly, many Christians don’t know how to answer such questions because they, like him, have not believed the true history of the world from Genesis—which explains the origin and meaning of death.)

Now, I was sure the Christmas sermon we were about to hear would be from a pastor who assumed people believed the Bible. I thought he would remind them of the babe in a manger and why Jesus came to earth. I realized that my friend needed answers, so he would know that he could trust the Bible before he even heard the sermon. I was pleased he had asked me what was on his heart and something that was obviously stopping him from considering the Christian faith.

My friend had viewed death, suffering, and dying as something God must be responsible for. He did not understand that death was an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), an intrusion due to sin. Death wasn’t something that God made and declared “very good” in Genesis 1:31, but a result of sin. I explained that God created a perfect world, and because the first man Adam sinned, death entered the world as the punishment for sin. I had to explain that the earth was not millions of years old as he had been indoctrinated to believe, and thus death, disease, and bloodshed were not at work millions of years before man’s existence.

I continued: When man sinned, God as a righteous and holy Creator had to judge sin with death. He also withdrew some of his sustaining power to cause man to experience a taste of what happens without God. Thus God is permitting things like disease and suffering to happen, but he isn’t the one to blame for this—man is. Then it was like a light bulb came on in my friend’s head. With this new view of God, the Bible started to make sense to him.

Sadly, there are many people within the church who accept the supposed millions of years, instead of the truth as given in Genesis. Because of this, they don’t have valid answers for people like my friend, but instead they would ignore his questions and repeat the isolated account of the babe in the manger in the hope my friend would start believing this seemingly irrelevant message. (See “The “god” of an Old Earth.”)

Many people struggle with accepting the truth of Jesus and the Bible because they have the wrong view of history. They, like my friend, have been indoctrinated to reject the Bible as a true account of history and the meaning of life. This is a major stumbling block for so many people to believe God’s Word and be saved.

Knowing that many non-Christians view God like this and also knowing that they only set foot in church about once a year, I’m praying that Christian leaders and pastors will take advantage of this opportunity and address these issues (i.e., the relevant issues for where the culture is today) while preaching Christmas sermons. This could make such a difference in the lives of many who have a faulty view of God, and thus challenge them concerning the truths of the Bible.

Foundation of Christmas

In one Christmas sermon that I already heard, the minister said, “Let’s turn in the Bible to the foundation of Christmas.” Then he said to go to Luke chapter 2. I immediately thought to myself, “That’s not the foundation of Christmas. That was the first Christmas.”

The foundation of Christmas goes back much further. It starts in the first book of the Bible—Genesis. The initial reference to the birth of Jesus is in Genesis 3:15.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

The prediction of the Virgin Birth of Jesus (the Seed of a woman) came immediately after Adam and Eve sinned. Though they were sentenced to die, God in his mercy gave a promise of redemption through the one who would be born of a virgin—Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

Ultimately, the foundation of Christ’s birth goes back to Genesis.

In fact, many references to Jesus Christ’s birth have their foundation in Genesis, such as Jesus being a descendant of Isaac (Genesis 28:13–14). Ultimately, the foundation of Christ’s birth goes back to Genesis. This is where Christmas sermons should start—particularly in a culture that has been brainwashed to believe this part of the Bible cannot possibly be true. Why would these people listen to a sermon about Bethlehem, the stable, the shepherds, and the Wise men if they already think the Book this all comes from cannot be trusted.

Genesis is where we first learn about the bad news of Adam’s sin that allowed death to enter into the creation. In today’s culture, people continually preach the good news of Jesus but fail to teach the bad news in Genesis. This is why many don’t listen to the good news—because they fail to understand the bad news in Genesis.

We need to teach people to understand why they need Jesus before they’ll understand their need to receive Jesus. They need a proper foundation—they need to be taken back to Genesis and told that modern science has not disproved this historical document but that science actually confirms it. Then they need to be taught the foundational truths of Genesis that enable one to understand what the babe in a manger is all about. To understand more about Christmas and its foundation, please see the article “What Is Christmas?

Why Jesus Had to Be Born

Back in Genesis, the bad news is that Adam’s sin was punishable by death (Genesis 2:17). Romans 6:23 confirms that the wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve sinned, so something had to die to cover that sin. This is why God killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:21). Although we don’t know what animal was sacrificed, we have often pictured it as a lamb, foreshadowing the Gospel. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the final sacrifice on the Cross to cover people’s sins.

The Israelites followed this pattern by sacrificing an animal life as a sin offering to cover their sins of disobedience to God. But an animal can’t take away the sin of a man, as humans are not related to any other creature—man was made in the image of God.

But God is a God of grace. When someone rightly decrees punishment to someone for their crime, then, out of love, takes that punishment upon themselves—that’s grace and mercy. This is why our Creator, in the person of Jesus Christ, had to come into the world. He became a human (but remained God) so he could pay the ultimate penalty for our sin.

God sentenced mankind to death because of our sin. He showed his love for us by exercising grace and taking the punishment upon himself. Jesus, being God, came into the world just like any other person—by being born. Yet Jesus lived a perfect life so that he could be the final sacrifice to cover all people’s sin. This is why Jesus was born and why Jesus had to die. This is why Jesus is called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45)—he in effect became a “new Adam,” a “perfect Adam,” so he could die for the descendants of Adam and offer them a free gift of salvation.

The Bible says the greatest act of love is when one lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The God of the Bible displays this kind of love.

Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin?

Beside Genesis 3:15, Isaiah also predicted that a virgin would bear a child and that this would be a sign.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

These prophecies were manifested in Mary, a virgin. She delivered a baby boy who was called Immanuel—meaning “God with us.” For more on the virgin birth, please take some time to read “Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?

Of particular note, Joseph couldn’t be the father of Jesus! The genealogy of Joseph in Matthew 1:1–16 yields that Jeconiah (variation of Jehoiachin) was a direct ancestor of Joseph.

Why is this significant? Please read the curse given to Jehoiachin from Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord: “. . . Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30)

Jesus, sitting forever on the throne of David, could not have been Jehoiachin’s descendant since no descendant of Jeconiah, and thus no descendant of Joseph, could inherit the throne of David. Therefore, Mary had to be a virgin. Isaiah confirms that Jesus will reign on the throne of David.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:7)

Significance of the Wise Men

How many wise men were there? We simply don’t know; we just know there were more than one and that they brought three gifts. (See “We Three Kings” for more information.) The passage in Matthew 2:1–11 makes it clear that these Magi traveled from the east following a star that led them to Israel. (See “What Was the Christmas Star?”)

These wise men were searching for the Christ, the promised Messiah. From the account of the wise men, they were from the “east.” This is likely Persia but possibly the orient. The fact that men came from such a vast distance to honor the baby Jesus with gifts gives a powerful testimony to the history related in Genesis and the faith of these men.

How could men that far away have known about a promised Messiah? When people groups were scattered from the Tower of Babel, they went to all parts of the earth. Their descendants continued migrating until people were living on six continents (see “Flood Legends”). Also in the time of Solomon information about God was disseminated to many parts of the world.

The “east” was no exception. The Chinese, for instance, have records of the Genesis account and the message of Christ written in the symbols of their language. They even have records indicating that they were to sacrifice animals to the one true God who was the Creator and the one who rescued man during a huge flood. Please see “The Original ‘Unknown’ God of China.”

This confirms that people from the east knew much of the biblical account at some point after the Tower of Babel. While many lost this precious information in the east, we know that some still retained it—the wise men (perhaps even through Daniel’s influence in Persia). These men from Persia or beyond were no doubt wise. Unlike many of their contemporaries who had lost the history in the Bible, they knew that Jesus was coming. This confirmation of biblical history and trust in the Scriptures is a testimony to the accuracy of the biblical account of the Tower of Babel.

Many in today’s culture have also lost the true history in the Bible. They have accepted the history of “millions of years” and, just like the contemporaries of the wise men, have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Significance of Baby Jesus

The entrance of Jesus into the world was fascinating! Fulfilling prophecy, having gifts brought from afar (Psalm 72:10), having local shepherds honor him (Psalm 72:9), having a king attempt to assassinate Him (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16–18) and fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night (Matthew 2:13–15) were a few signs that hint at the importance of this child.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

God, the Son, left his sanctuary to be made lesser in the form of a human. He left behind heavenly perfection to live as one of us. This child restored the broken relationship, due to Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, between man and God.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

Jesus came to earth at a very significant point in earth history too. Let’s consider the past and get the big picture of this significance. Please see the diagram below:

chart

In Genesis when Adam and Eve were the only people on earth, 100 percent of the people believed and trusted in God. As time progressed people stopped believing and trusting in God.

In Genesis at the time of Noah, his family were the only people on earth that still believed and trusted in God. So the percentage was rather low considering the population had continued to grow.

After God sent the Flood, Noah and his family members were the only ones on earth, so the percentage was again nearly 100 percent of people believing and trusting in God.

As time progressed, God kept calling the Israelites back to himself. Ultimately, though, as the population of the earth regrew, the overall percentage began to drop. Just before the birth of Jesus, the bulk of the world’s people were not believing or trusting in God. The diagram above illustrates this general principle.

Even the Pharisees, Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus, were not trusting in God but following traditions and not what God was actually saying in the Bible—otherwise they would have been expecting the Messiah.

We do know at least the wise men, Mary, Joseph, Anna, Simeon, and the family of John the Baptist, who prepared many in Israel for Jesus, knew. This is still a very low percentage of people believing and trusting in God when Jesus was born. Jesus came when few believed and trusted in God.

When Jesus came to earth, it was a low point in history, so his timing was very significant. The mission was completed perfectly, and we now have the opportunity to return to God because of the free gift in Jesus Christ.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Should We Celebrate Christmas?

According to Archbishop Ussher, Christ was born around 4 BC. What day was Jesus born? We don’t know, nor does Scripture reveal this date. So the date selected as Christmas (December 25 by the Gregorian calendar) was probably not the date Jesus was born (see “The Origin of Christmas”). There are criticisms from skeptics and criticisms from Christians. Please take some time to read “The ‘Defense of Christmas’” for more on this subject. The issue though isn’t about the actual date but about taking time to remember Christ’s entrance into the world.

Some people have even suggested to me that Christmas is evil and we shouldn’t partake in it. What follows is my personal view, not an official AiG position, but I note the Bible says the following:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, (Psalm 24:1)

If we give thanks and honor God (Romans 14:5–6) on a day that is already his, then how can Christmas day be evil?

Some have reminded me that the day Christmas is celebrated was born out of a Roman pagan holiday. Then I remind them that we should honor and celebrate God on every day of the year. Why should we, as Christians, refuse to celebrate God on this day? We can serve God on any day and at any time. In fact the Bible encourages this:

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)

“Forever” includes the day we celebrate Christmas.

Some have reminded me of the decorated trees in Jeremiah 10:1–6. Then I remind them that it wasn’t the tree that was sin but the hearts of those who used them to honor false gods. If they had done it to honor God, the outcome would have been different.

If someone honors God with a decorated tree (as opposed to false gods), how can it be sinful?

Some have reminded me that Christ never told people to honor his birth with a holiday. I remind them that Christ never forbade it either. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not here to force anyone to celebrate Christmas. But there is no reason to forbid anyone from honoring God on this day by remembering the birth of Jesus.

Conclusion on Christmas Sermons

For Christian leaders, pastors, and anyone else honoring God in a special way during this holiday season, please remember that

  • Christmas should be a time when we remember that Jesus came to earth to save us from Adam’s sin.
  • Christmas should be a time when we recall that God voluntarily became lower than the angels to be born, live, suffer and die for us.
  • Christmas should be a time for us to remember that we as Christians have an obligation to leave the comforts of our everyday life to help those in need, just as Jesus did for all of us.

It is time for us to answer the questions that non-Christians are asking when they come to church this holiday season. Please visit our Answers section to be prepared.

Any Christmas discussion, whether in Christmas sermons or everyday conversation, needs to explain the bad news in Genesis as well as the good news in the Gospels so that unbelievers can understand and prayerfully enjoy the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Please take some time to read the Good News.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on December 14, 2017.

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