- Adam Schell
Our Real Christmas Wish
Throughout this Christmas season at Melbourne Heights, we’ve been working our way through a series of sermons called “The Best Christmas Ever.” But this series hasn’t been about helping you buy the perfect Christmas gifts, or put up the best decorations, or come up with the ideal recipe for your Christmas cookies. In this series, we haven’t really talked about what you can do to make this the best Christmas ever.
And that’s because no matter how hard you try to make everything perfect this Christmas, it isn’t going to work. You’re going to strike out on some of the presents you buy. You might have more problems getting your Christmas lights to turn on than Clark Griswold. And you’re probably going to burn at least one batch of your Christmas cookies.
So rather than increasing the pressure that we can all feel this time of year – and giving you an unrealistic expectation that you could have the perfect Christmas – we’ve been talking about something else during this sermon series. Instead of trying to have the best Christmas ever, we want you to make the best of this Christmas.
Instead of trying to have the best Christmas ever, we want you to make the best of this Christmas.
And to help you make the best of this Christmas, we’re addressing some of the reasons why we all want to have the perfect Christmas. And we’re also talking about how you can set those reasons aside so that you can enjoy the Christmas you’re actually going to have.
Well, today we’re going to wrap up this series, but we’ve still got one more reason why so many of us want to have a perfect Christmas that we need to talk about today. And, believe it or not, the reason that we’re going to talk about today is actually the root of all the other reasons why we want to have the perfect Christmas.
So let’s rewind for just a minute and think about the other reasons why we want to have a perfect Christmas that we’ve talked about during this series. Like last week, last week we saw that one of the reasons why we want to have a perfect Christmas is because we don’t want people to complain and ruin everyone else’s holiday celebrations. Two weeks ago, we saw that we want to have a perfect Christmas to make up for all the times we haven’t been perfect. And during the first week of this series, we saw that we want to have a perfect Christmas because we think everyone is having a perfect Christmas besides us.
Now it may seem that those three reasons don’t have anything in common…but they actually do. Let’s take the first reason we talked about. We want to have a perfect Christmas because we think everyone else is having the perfect Christmas. Well, that’s not just true about Christmas. We also tend to think that other people are living perfect lives in general. We think they go on the perfect trips, they work at the perfect job…and most importantly, that they have perfect relationships. So we really want to have a perfect Christmas so that we can have perfect relationships with our family. And if we have a perfect relationship then we will be loved.
Now, how about the second reason we want to have a perfect Christmas? Why are we really trying to make up for times in the past when we haven’t been perfect? Well, we’re doing it to repair our relationships. So once again, we want to have a perfect Christmas so we can have perfect relationships. And if we have perfect relationships then we will be loved.
And what about the last reason? Why do we want to avoid complaints at Christmas? Well, it’s the same reason we want to avoid complaints throughout the year. When someone is complaining about something that we said or did, it feels like a personal attack against us. So if no one is complaining then they don’t have any reason to be upset with us. And if they aren’t upset with us then we will be loved.
So whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, the reason why so many of us work so hard to make every Christmas the best Christmas ever is because we just want to be loved.
We want to have the perfect Christmas because we want to be loved.
Now, I wish that I could stand up here today and tell you that if you bought everyone on your Christmas list the best gifts they’ve ever received that they would love you more…but I can’t. I wish I could tell you that if you put up the fanciest light display your neighborhood has ever seen that your neighbors would love you more…but I can’t. I wish that I could tell you that if you baked the perfect Christmas cookies that your kids would love you more…but I can’t.
Instead, what I can do is tell you that the entire Christmas story is meant to show you how God feels about you. But before we dig into that a little bit more, let me ask you: How do you think God feels about you?
Well, since we’re sitting in church, you’d think that would be a pretty easy question to answer. After all, many of us grew up hearing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” since before we could walk…and we’ve been able to recite, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” since before we could even read.
And then when you read through the Bible – which we believe is a written record where God reveals who he is to us – you see passages like Isaiah 43:4, where God tells us, “you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you,” and Jeremiah 31:3, where God says, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever”; there should be no question that God loves you.
But there’s a pretty good chance that wasn’t your first thought when I asked you, “How do you think God feels about you?”
There’s a pretty good chance that when you think about yourself, you think about all the ways you’ve failed in life, you think about all the wrong you’ve done, you think about all the ideals that you couldn’t live up to. So even when you hear that God loves you, you wonder if it’s really true.
And I know there’s a pretty good chance that you wonder if God can really love you, because there are times that I wonder if God really loves me, too. Now, I know that may sound a little strange to hear your pastor say since a lot of people like to think that their pastors are perfect…but we’re not.
So when I think about the fact that I was the pastor of this church when we had to make the decision to sell the only building our church had called home for sixty years…I wonder if God could love me. When I think about the handful of people who walked away while we had to be a portable church…I wonder if God could love me. Even as I look around this sanctuary right now and see fewer people worshiping with us than we saw before the pandemic…I wonder if God could love me.
And that’s because deep down inside there is a part of me that feels like a failure. So there is a part of me that wonders if God could love someone like me.
But what about you? What do you think? Deep down inside, how does God feel about you?
Ok, now that you’ve had a chance to think about that question for a second, I want you to listen to me. And I want you to listen to me because what I’m about to say is the most important thing you will ever hear me say. Do I have your attention?
Good, because here’s the most important thing you will ever hear me say: God loves you. Let me say it again. God loves you. I am completely serious. God loves you.
And that’s not just something I’m saying because I’m a preacher. It’s not just something I’m saying so you can go home feeling better about yourself. I’m saying it because it is true: God loves you.
God loves you.
And, like I said a little bit earlier in this sermon, the entire Christmas story is meant to show you that God loves you. So let’s take a look at the story of the first Christmas together. So if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Luke 2. But we’re going to skip past the part of the story where Jesus is born and see what happens next.
So Luke 2, we’ll start reading in verse 8. It says:
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.”
Luke 2:8-15 (Common English Bible)
Now it’s almost impossible to imagine the Christmas story without the shepherds. And it wouldn’t feel like Christmas if we didn’t see the figurines of a couple of young boys leading their sheep to the bedside of the Messiah in our nativity sets. But the truth is that the depictions of the shepherds we find in our nativity sets aren't exactly accurate.
It’s true that shepherding was once a noble profession for the people of Israel, a calling that was passed down from the fathers of their faith. Everyone from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob all the way down to Moses had been shepherds...but something happened to this once-proud profession while the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. Egypt was an agrarian culture that saw shepherding as a waste of good land that could be used to produce better foods instead. So shepherds were forced down the social ladder of the ancient world and forced into the far corners of every culture around.
And that's exactly where the shepherds found themselves that cold winter's night that was so deep. They found themselves laying out in the fields, keeping their sheep, far from the minds of practically everyone else in Israel. The reality is that the only time that most people were even aware of the existence of these shepherds was when the shepherds led their flocks onto someone else's land to graze. This dishonest streak in shepherds even caused the people of Israel to take a legal stance that forbids buying wool, milk, or a kid – as in a baby sheep or goat, not a child – from a shepherd on the assumption that it was stolen property.
So the shepherds were less than nobody. They were crooks and criminals living on the fringes of society, and they were treated like they were less than human. So the shepherds are the last people that we would expect God to love.
But in the story we just read, God sends a multitude of angels out to the shepherds. And the shepherds are the first people that God invites to meet his son. That’s right, the first people God invites to meet Jesus are shepherds. God doesn’t invite the rich or the powerful. God doesn’t invite kings or queens. God doesn’t invite priests or pastors. God doesn’t invite celebrities or social media influencers.
The first people God invites to meet his son are shepherds. The first people God invites to meet his son are crooks and criminals. The first people God invites to meet his son are outcasts and misfits. The first people that God invites to meet his son are imperfect people…just like us.
So on the night when Jesus was born, God shows us how he feels about us. God shows you how God feels about you. Because when God invited the shepherds to be the first ones to see his son, God showed us that we are loved. We are loved by the God who created the heavens and the earth. We are loved by the God who sent his son into this world. We are loved by the God who laid down his life on the cross for us. We are loved by God.
And that means that you are loved by God. You are loved by God. God doesn’t just love the rich and the powerful. God doesn’t just love kings and queens. God doesn’t just love priests and pastors. God loves you.
And that’s what Christmas is really all about. Christmas is a reminder that God loves you enough to come into this world and become one of us. God loves you enough to experience all the ups and downs, and joys and sorrows in this life so that God can really understand what it’s like to be you. God loves you enough to experience the worst that humanity has to offer – when Jesus was crucified on that cross – so that God could forgive you of anything and everything that separates you from him.
So as you sit down over the next few days and celebrate Christmas with your family and friends, realize that you don’t have to make this Christmas perfect to be loved. God already loves you. And when you realize that the story of Christmas shows how much God really loves you, well, then you might just find that this Christmas is the best Christmas ever.