With Thanksgiving now behind us, it’s now the most wonderful time of the year!
Christmas music everywhere, lights all aglow, girls falling for the wrong guy in so many Hallmark movies, snow soon on its way, and Santa preparing for his big night. This time of the year, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in the way that the world celebrates Christmas and to lose sight of the true reason for the season; Jesus!
In fact, it’s so easy for us to move on from Thanksgiving and forget to maintain an attitude of gratitude.
On Thursday, we’re thanking God for what we have and on Friday, we’re running people over with our carts to get stuff that we don’t need just because it’s a great price.
This morning, we’re going to go back to that day when Jesus was born. I believe that this morning, God desires for us to better understand what makes this season “Merry & Bright.”
We’ll go more in depth with this next week, but all of the circumstances in which Jesus was born (and even the circumstances by which He was born) were not very merry and bright.
Jesus, light of the world, was born into darkness. However, it was for this very reason that He came. He came to bring hope in the place of hopelessness, joy in the place of despair, praise in the place of heaviness, and of course, light into darkness.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Good news that will cause great joy for everyone! This is what the gospel is. The gospel is always good news that causes great joy to any willing to accept it. The gospel itself is unchanging, but changes everything! The gospel is able to enter any circumstance and bring hope and peace and courage because the gospel is all about Jesus.
The gospel makes everything Merry & Bright!
In this world where we don’t really know what or who we can trust, we have a great assurance in God and confidence in His word. His word came in the form of an angelic revelation to these shepherds, but when they fact checked it, every single word checked out. Everything that they heard and seen were exactly as they had been told and it resulted in great glory and praise to God.
The Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, Jesus had been born that very day in the city of David. He didn’t come the when anyone was expecting Him to nor how anyone expected Him to, but the long-awaited savior was here! God wrapped in flesh in complete humility; entrusted to first-time parents only engaged to be married.
This time of the year, we express our love for family and friends by giving them gifts. As Jesus, Himself, said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)” God has given us so, so much! Beyond life itself, He chose for us to be born here in this incredible nation and at this time in history. Even our worst day is far better than the best day of so many around the earth right now. We are incredibly blessed!
All of that aside, God chose to give to everyone one of the greatest gifts of all time; His only Son.
16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
God gave us the greatest gift of all time, His only Son. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn us of our sin, but to save us from the condemnation coming as a result of sin. Jesus came a few thousand years ago wrapped in our flesh in complete humility and lived a sinless life to make a way to save us from our sin.
Jesus came to show us how to live life to its fullest and then willingly gave up His life on the cross for us. He paid the debt that we owe as a result of our sin. He took on the curse that we might be blessed. Then, He rose again to life pioneering a way for us to be saved. His salvation is a free gift to anyone who would accept it. This gift is the reason for the season! This gift gives us a reason to be Merry & Bright!
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Jesus is coming again. The first time was to overcome sin and death and all of the weakness and temptation of our flesh. The next time, He is coming in might and power as the only One worthy to sit as judge to condemn all those who unfortunately reject His salvation. The next time, He comes to deliver us once and for all as we enter into the fullness of our salvation. He is returning to put an end to the corruption of sin and death and to restore us to eternal life where sin reigns no more!
For now, Jesus patiently waits. For now, we have the honor and privilege of sharing all about this free gift of salvation and telling others about it. Just like the shepherds out in the field, we get to be witnesses of who Jesus is and all that He has done for everyone. We get to offer this gift of salvation to others so that they also can be Merry & Bright no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in. Jesus said:
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive. We’ve received so, so much when we accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation. However, we’re not blessed to be blessed; we’re blessed to be a blessing.
Don’t hide your gift of salvation! Let your light shine. You don’t have to live a perfect life to shine the light of Christ. Some of the brightest acts of our lives can be moments when we are at our lowest and yet still choose to serve the needs of others.
A quote familiar to many of us from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” in Act 5, Scene 1 (or maybe more familiar from the 1971 movie “Willi Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”) says, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” In the original work, the full quoted conversation goes like this:
That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.
So doth the greater glory dim the less:
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Unto the king be by, and then his state
Empties itself, as doth an inland brook
When we receive Jesus’ gift of salvation, we also receive the Holy Spirit. We receive the present of God’s Presence. This Presence enables us to shine the glory of God through our lives.
When Moses would enter the presence of God and meet with Him, his face would literally radiate the glory of God in the form of a light. He wore a veil not only so that he would not scare others, but also to hide when the glory of God would fade from his countenance. (Exodus 34)
If Moses literally beamed out the glory of God in the form of radiant light just from physically being in the presence of God, how much more should we radiate the glory of God as we carry the Presence of God within us out into this dark world. How much more should our lives be Merry & Bright?
Though we might shine now a bit like Portia’s little candle throwing our beams of light down the halls of our lives, that light will fade away when the glory of King Jesus is present. In fact, when John sees into Heaven in Revelation, he says that there is no need for a sun because the glory of God gives it light and Jesus is the lamp through which the glory shines.
Throughout the Christmas season, and every season following, we have the incredible opportunity to be Merry & Bright. Our joy, the source of our strength, comes from the Holy Spirit and is not based on the things of this world. Our light comes from the very Presence and glory of God deposited within us.
Merry & Bright.
Let’s let our light shine into this dark world by being a blessing in any way that we can taking advantage of every opportunity that is provided. Let’s look for ways to serve the needs of others and to give them hope and courage. Like the shepherds on the day of Jesus’ birth, let’s tell others all about the salvation that is now available to them. Let’s look for ways to make the lives of others Merry & Bright!