Sermon for Thursday, December 24th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Lord, most heavenly Father, it is in the name of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit in us that we come to you in prayer this day. You are most glorious, eternal, and full of wisdom. You have made us, blessed us with life, and liberty, and loved ones. And you have in your eternal plan saved us from our sin and given to us the promise of eternal life, which we are assured through faith that you fulfill in your time.
We confess that we have sinned, in word and in deed, in what we have done and in what we have left undone. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, nor loved you with our whole heart. We have not trusted in you but have sought our own paths. We have been selfish, gossipers, gluttons, lustful people. We have not displayed the meekness nor piety that you desire in us. We have been lazy in our prayers and in our Scripture reading and in our love for you. Forgive us, O Lord, for these our sins and for all sins not here mentioned. Forgive us for the sake of Jesus Christ and his atonement that covers our sins.
We thank you God for that knowledge that Christ has covered over our sins and that you see us as holy for his sake. We thank you that you love us, despite our many sins, and that that love is not lessened by our sins but is pure and total love that we scarcely deserve. We thank you Lord for bringing us through this year; at times difficult beyond any we’ve experienced. We thank you for blessing us despite difficulties. For adding new members to the church and new visitors and for growing us in knowledge of you through our yearly Bible reading plan, through our Bible study, prayer meetings, and worship services. We truly do come here to Worship you and thank you.
And so we ask that you keep our minds focused on you, and not things going on back home or across the world, nor let be distracted by the beauty of the poinsettias or the joy of seeing others here. But let us worship you and you alone. And, we pray, bless our nation, bless our schools, our governments, our first responders, our mothers, our fathers, our children, and all our families. We pray Lord that you work the Holy Spirit in the heart of all of those who do not know you; especially in our families and in our village. Revive Unionville and the surrounding areas. Make the talk of the town your blessings and your graces. Make this Christmas be merry for its true meaning. And give all true meaning in their lives through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, that we may glorify you and enjoy you forever. Amen.
[Psa 16:5-11 ESV] 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Our catechism starts off with a bang as it provides the answer to nothing less than “the meaning of life.”
Each December we enjoy the stories of Santa Claus, his elves, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and of course Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch. And while stories these make for entertaining diversions while on break from work, we do well to remember that they are not of the essence of Christmas. The true meaning is rather to be found in the Christ of whom Christmas is named.
I. The Meaning of Christmas
Christmas is about Christ. Specifically, it is a day of celebration of his birth. That is the true meaning.
But what does “mas” mean? (The other half of Christ-mas)
Christmas, like Michaelmas, and Candlemas are days of celebration that have been recognized in various places and times in Christian history as a “mass” or time to have holy communion. In the Presbyterian church, like most other Protestants we avoid using the term “mass” so as not to confuse our understanding of the nature and purpose of the sacrament with the view of the Roman Catholic church. The term “mass” however cannot be entirely shunned; only the Roman Catholic view of it. That is, we can still call Christmas Christmas!
And while we are not obligated to celebrate this particular day, we have the freedom to do so.
Paul tells us in Colossians that Christ has “forgiven us all our trespasses” and “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” And therefore we are to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.” If you abstain, do so for the Lord. If you celebrate, do so for the Lord.
That is, Paul says elsewhere:
[1Co 10:31 ESV] 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
“Pauls’ point is simple: true spirituality does not consist merely of keeping external rules, but of having an inner relationship with Jesus Christ.”
So we have Christ in Christmas, and we have “mas” in Christmas. And we know that it is a day of celebration of Jesus’ birth that we are not obligated to recognize, but are free to do so.
But why is THIS birth celebrated?
We do not celebrate the birth of Moses, or Abraham, or John the Baptist or anyone else. None of these people were God in the flesh, and none of them died for our sins. We celebrate the birth of Christ — his birth has meaning, it has significance — because it was Jesus Christ who was sent into this world to rescue us from sin; to deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us into His kingdom.
II. Meaning in General
But I don’t want to just stop here today, with the meaning of Christmas. I want to look at meaning in general.
In our world there is a crisis of meaning. Suicide is up. Nihilism is widespread. In places, the very idea of meaning is denounced. And in others, meaning is twisted and distorted such that people live their lives in support of some evil ideal, whether that be the supposed “right” of a mother to kill her child, or the supposed “right” to live in sinful relationships, or the sinful pursuit of wealth and power for one’s own glory. We certainly have a crisis of meaning.
And that eternal question is asked as if there is no answer: “What is the meaning of life.”
“Oh, if I only knew the meaning of life.” People wallow in this despair.
But we have the answer in the Bible.
There, not only do we find the true meaning of Christmas. We find the true meaning of life.
But many will reject the Biblical answer because they want the meaning of life to be something else.
Many contend that they meaning in life by living for others, especially for their children or grandchildren. But what meaning are your children then to live for? And their children? Does meaning simply cascade down the generations in an never-ending series of hand-offs? Where does it stop and rest? In what does meaning ultimately reside?
What is the true meaning of life?
Our catechism, in its very first statement, says this:
“The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
The chief end. The purpose. Our true meaning in life. What we are to do in this life, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
A. God’s Glory
And knowing God and who He is and His great power, we should not at all be surprised that we were crated to bring Him glory, to honor him through obeying him.
Revelation 4:11 says:
[Rev 4:11 ESV] 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Since none is greater than God, it makes perfect sense that our purpose is directed towards him.
B. Man’s Enjoyment
But note the second part of the catechism’s answer. “The chief end of man is to glory God AND enjoy Him forever.”
There is something “in it” for you. You were made to have a covenant relationship with the Lord. It is reciprocal in the sense that our glorifying God brings us greater enjoyment in Him. And our enjoyment of Him brings Him glory. While we are certainly to fear the Lord, we are also to Love the Lord.
This is the true meaning of our lives.
And thus all that we do should be oriented towards this purpose: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Our Scripture reading, from Psalm 16 says:
My heart is glad
My whole being rejoices
In your presence there is fullness of joy
At your right hand are pleasures forever.
In sum: we are to “enjoy him forever.”
We enjoy the Lord now because He gives us counsel and makes known to us the path of life.
We will enjoy the Lord forever because he does not abandon our souls to Sheol (or hell).
We indeed have a beautiful inheritance.
What then does it look like for us to live with this true meaning of life? What does it look like to live glorifying God and enjoying Him?
While Christians may have struggles with depression, we find motivation to get out of bed and to do good things because we have meaning. Every little thing in life is to be oriented towards glorifying God.
So I want to look then at three things we do, living for God’s glory.
1.Do all things in thankfulness.
We are to do all things in thankfulness, knowing that all things we have come from the Lord God.
Also, we live in thankfulness not obligation. Satisfaction has been made in Jesus Christ. We do not seek to appease God. We cannot appease God. But He is already satisfied in Jesus Christ. Thus we live in thankfulness, not under obligation or gloom or despair. The victory is won and those who have faith in Jesus Christ have the guarantee of eternal life. So we are to do all things in thankfulness.
2. Do all things with joy.
Then, we are to do all things with joy. When it is said we are to “enjoy Him forever” that does not start in heaven; it starts here and now. We are to enjoy the Lord now! Have joy in everything. Do all things with joy. From the great to the small. Have joy in singing God’s praises at church and have joy in shoveling snow. Have joy in good time and in bad. In success and in struggle. Do all things with joy.
3. Do all things with meaning.
And finally, do all things with meaning. We are not left without a purpose. God has created us for the greatest purpose of all – for His own glory. He made us as the pinnacle of creation; greater than all the animals and inanimate things. And sent His son to die for our sins; something He did not even do for the Angels who fell into sin.
It is important to teach your children the true meaning of Christmas.
But it is also important to teach the true meaning of life.
Everything else fades away, but the glory of God is forever. Wealth fails. Health fails. Amusements cease to amuse, and that which we abuse only shortens our lives. Let none of these things be the meaning of your life, but let God be front and center. Do all things with meaning. Do all things with purpose. Do all things for His glory. And in that you shall find great enjoyment. For nothing can compare with the excellencies of God.
This Christmas, let us embrace true meaning as we glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Amen.