“Christmas is for Telling” — John 1:6-8

I am going to tell you a story that never happened.

The mother of four young children was near death after being injured in an automobile accident.  Her wounds and broken bones took nearly three months to mend.  During this time, her children were not allowed to visit.  Their only contact with their mom was by telephone. Finally, the day came when the mother could return home. Her oldest daughter met her at the door with screams of delight, “Mommy, you’re home!” and with that her daughter jumped into her mom’s arms.  After smothering her mom with some wet kisses, the daughter announced that her siblings were in the back yard playing and off she skipped.  A minute passed. Two more minutes passed. Five more minutes passed.  No children stampeded through the door to embrace their mom.  The father went to the window and looked out at his children. All four were busy playing in the yard as though they didn’t know their mom was home.  The fact was that three of the four children didn’t know mom was home!  Their sister had joined them in play without one word of the good news. (Concordia Pulpit 1972, p. 17-18)

Now, as I said, this is a story that never happened because anyone who has such good news to tell; will tell it!  Good news is for telling!

Christmas is such good news.  The heartthrob of the season is the otherworldly message that God loved the sin-laden, troubled, dying world, so much that he entered it in order to bring it deliverance.  The message of Christmas is just too good to keep to ourselves!

And yet, isn’t that what we are prone to do?  Do we see ourselves in that daughter who didn’t tell her siblings the good news of their mother’s return? Are we guilty of “playing” … “working” … “studying” … maybe, even living with people, all the while keeping the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection a secret?   

John the Baptist told the good news! In the text, we’re told, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all people might believe.” (6)  A prophet, dressed in camel-hair clothing, eating grasshoppers and wild honey, and proclaiming a message of repentance doesn’t somehow fit on a Hallmark Christmas card.  And yet, John the Baptist belongs in the Christmas season as well! “The kingdom is at hand!” he proclaimed.  It is as those John proclaimed, “Joy to the world the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!”   John announced the arrival of the Son of God – the Light who brings light to every person.  John had good news to proclaim and he proclaimed it. 

Maureen Jais-Mick in her article, “Ready or Not: The Return of Christmas (The Cresset, Dec. 1995) writes, “Society never actually wanted the Incarnation [or John the Baptist]. ‘Emmanuel, God with us’ does not sell computer games or cologne. Society wanted the cute stuff – rustic stable, adoring shepherds, fluffy sheep, cows, donkeys, holy family, infant Jesus, gift-bearing kings, stars, angels, St. Nicholas, reindeer, fir trees, holly, and presents. … The marketplace will also retain some of the traditional hymnody, but in upbeat arrangements that remove them from the realm of traditional worship. Ancient chants are popular, too.  They sound religious and profound and – best of all – nobody understands Latin, so no shoppers are offended.” (Christianity Today, Dec 9, 1996, Vol. 40, No. 14, p. 50)

Jais-Mick may be overly cynical in her comments but our society does have an aversion to John the Baptist and to the Incarnation (God becoming a man) because both point to the sinfulness of humanity.  And, the sinfulness of humanity is a reality that people would just as soon forget. Isn’t Christmas “the season to be jolly”?  Why dampen this Christmas cheer with foreboding over people living in darkness … or people being broken hearted … or people captive in sin … or for calls to repentance?

But, Christmas is for telling!

The angel Gabriel announced the good news of Christmas. Gabriel said to the virgin, “Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and will give birth to a son. You are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:30-31)  And who can forget the first Christmas hymn sung by the angelic choir, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)   

Christmas is for telling!

The shepherds told everyone! Luke tells us that after the shepherds had beheld the Light of the world, “they spread the word concerning what they had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17)

Christmas is for telling! 

Simeon and Anna also told everyone. Simeon took the infant Jesus into his arms and prayed in the presence of people in the temple area, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people” and Anna, “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (2:30-31, 38)

Christmas is for telling!

So, what’s holding us back from telling the Good News?  General H. Norman Schwartzkopf said, “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” (Leadership, Spring 1997, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, p. 73)  I think Schwartzkopf overstated himself. We do not always know what the right thing to do is, but when it comes to proclaiming the Good News of Christmas it seems like a no brainer!  We know what the right thing to do is so, why don’t we do it?

Are we are preoccupied with the mundane activities of life?  Have we been so indoctrinated with the notion that a person’s faith is a “private” matter that we hesitant to start a discussion centred on Jesus?  Are we afraid of offending someone or being labelled a weirdo? Are we trying to avoid controversy with family or friends?

Christmas is for telling!

In the Old Testament lesson, the Messiah told us why he came.  The Messiah said that, “He came to preach Good News to the poor … to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to those enslaved by sin … to comfort those who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty (instead of ashes) … the oil of gladness (instead of mourning) … a garment of praise (instead of a spirit of despair).” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

In one Bill Keane’s Family Circus comic strips a little boy says, “Ah-choo!” and his mother says, “God bless you!” Again, he says, “Ah-choo!” and again his mother says, “God bless you!” This goes on again and again, a little louder each time.  After the fifth “Ah-choo!” his mother says, “You’re pushing it.”  To which, her son replies, “I was just trying to be really blessed.” (Pulpit Resources Vol. 9, Part 4, p. 12)

Well, God has blessed us in countless ways … and we don’t have to sneeze to receive those blessings! 

Time and again, the Lord has mended our broken heart. He sets us free from slavery to guilt over our sin.  The Lord shines in our lives with the light of his resurrection when our lives are darkened by the shadow of death.  The Lord pronounces us to be kings and queens as he tells us repeatedly that his eternal kingdom is our eternal kingdom too!  The Lord places hymns of praise on our lips countless times as we mediate on the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. 

We have knelled before a cow’s feeding trough and beheld the glory of God in the face of an infant.  We have stood before the cross and gazed upon the face of our dying Saviour. We have journeyed to the empty tomb and seen that it is empty because Jesus was raised from the dead!  And now, like John the Baptist, the angels, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and countless others through the centuries, we can tell the Christmas message.  

Christmas is for telling!  

Do you know someone who is enslaved to sin? Might you know someone who is shamed by ungodly choices they have made?  Do you know someone who is broken-hearted?  Someone who might be on the verge of despair? Do you think they might be waiting for you to tell them about the Christ Child? 

Christmas is for telling!

What might we do in order to share the Christmas message?  One of my favourite Christmas stories is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  Charlie asks, “Can anyone tell me the true meaning of Christmas?” Linus takes centre stage and then quotes the Nativity story from Luke 2 and concludes with the words, “That’s what Christmas is about Charlie Brown.” Telling the Christmas story can be that simple. We might read Luke 2 or Matthew 1-2 before we open gifts or dig into the Christmas dinner with our family and friends.  We might invite a co-worker or school mate to the Christmas Eve/Day service? We might invite neighbours to our home to sing Christmas carols and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.  We might give someone a CD of sacred Christmas carols.  We might host an international student for Christmas dinner.  We might post ideas about Christ or link to sites that tell the story of Jesus’ birth on our Facebook page or through Twitter. We can place ourselves in situations where we minister to the poor, the broken-hearted, the despairing.  There are all kinds of community organizations that can use our services – not only during the month of December but throughout the year. 

The Christmas message is for telling … 365 days a year!

Maurice Wright was a British farmer who bought a large painting from a neighbouring farmer for less than $4.00.  He hung the painting in his barn.  After collecting cobwebs for several years, the painting was noticed by the farmer’s tax accountant.  Wondering what the painting was worth, the tax accountant took a colour photo of the painting and sent it to Christies, the well-known London auction firm. It turned out that the painting was done by Thomas Daniell, a highly acclaimed 19th century artist.  The painting turned out to be an 1808 Daniell.  Art critics were aware of the painting’s existence, but it had become known as the “Lost Daniell,” the whereabouts a mystery for over a century.  Farmer Wright sold the painting at an auction for more than $90,000.00! Imagine finding something like that in your barn! (Pulpit Resources Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 23)

Well something of even greater value than the “Lost Daniell” was found in a “barn”.  The “treasure”?  It was none other than the infant child of Mary, the eternal Son of God, the Light of the world, the King of kings, the LORD of lords, the Saviour of the nations, your Saviour and mine.  This news is too good to be kept to oneself!  Christmas is for telling!  Please … tell someone this Christmas that the Saviour of the world has come! Invite them to “Come to the stable” and behold the glory of God.  Amen.

And now, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it. … The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Thess. 5:23-24, 28) Amen.

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