Do You Know What I Know? Mt. 1:16-23

“Do You Know What I Know”  Mt. 1:16-23; Jer. 9:23,24; Phil. 3:10    Preached at LMPC by Dr. Ben Sloan

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    Someone from a country where there are not many Christians could study Christmas from a far and still not know what Christmas is about.  Each year advertisers will push their meaning of the season; the government will say something that will try to appeal to all but falls flat; the media will portray different ideas as well that show what I call the shell of Christmas but not the heart- the kernel.  There are people right here- some are your neighbors who do not believe- who know the facts about what Christians believe, put up lights, have parties, but do not experience Christmas.  Experiencing Christmas is not just about going to office parties and eating with the relatives that you may or may not like.   It is not about stars, feasts, special ornaments and pajamas.  The world might tell you that you experience Christmas best when you get a new car or, Santa Baby gives you some new jewelry- but this is not quite it.  Experiencing Christmas is not just about the lights, the trees, the wreaths and greenery, the gifts or even the giving- though all of these things are closer to the meaning and point to the meaning.  Perhaps there are layers of experiencing Christmas.  Let me be very clear- I love the extras- the lights, the trees, the gift-giving and generosity, the family.  I encourage us to keep the shell of Christmas- but do not forget the kernel that the shell builds around.   Without the kernel of meaning- everything else become hollow and even sometimes empty.  I might say it is that way with life.  The kernel of life is the Creator- and the kernel of Christmas is that God has come out of love so we may know Him. 
     One layer of meaning of Christmas might be sadness.  There is a lot of sadness going around at Christmas.  We miss human love, human relationships, and grief.  If Christmas is about human love, then not experiencing human love around the table or being alone, or missing someone who has gone on to be with the Lord, is extra hard.  There is certainly a lot of sadness involved when that joy to the world came down that first Christmas.   Think about the government forcing you to take your loved one 90 miles on foot or donkey to a strange place.  Then when you get there- there is no room in the inn.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my child born in an unsanitary barn.  Even in his birth he was rejected.  Theologians call Christ’s incarnation- his Christmas birth as his humiliation.  It was not just humbling, it was humiliating for God to become man.  Many people think that alone is impossible- because it is too degrading.  Is it not sad to leave heaven to be born on earth- and then to be born in a stable- then to be rejected and crucified like a criminal?  The prince became a pauper, but then we killed him!  There is a sadness depicted in some songs.  I think of “the world treats me bad, treats you bad too.  Please sir forgive us Lord, we didn’t know it twas you.” That is some sad stuff. Yet to stop there is to miss the great rest of the story.  He was not just born to die- he was born to save the sons of earth- born to give them second birth.  Christmas and the cross mean little without the end of the story- the resurrection and heaven.  Jesus did not die in his humility and the stone was rolled over the grave and sealed and that is it.  Christ triumphed over the grave- He is the savior.  But that is not all either.  How does all this effect us now? 
      This is the message of Christmas- God cares enough about us to come down to lift us up.  Perhaps the meaning of Christmas is found in that we do not just know about God, or know of God, or even intellectually believe God is out there- but actually and really know Him.  Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father…I and the Father are one.”  Paul said “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God… the exact representation of his being.”  “He who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father.  If you really know me you will know my father as well” (John 14:9,7).  There are lots of people who guess about God, make up things about God, who speak or tell about God.  But God did one better than all of that He came down.   He was approachable.  No one ever came to Jesus with a fear that he would reject them. 
     The meaning of Christmas is that God knows you, loves you and it is possible to love God and know Him in return. 
      Have you ever felt like a number? If you have ever had a bill mix-up and the computer has things wrong?  The person you call is 10,000 miles away and doesn’t care- you are a number to them- You have an account.  You have a number- your social security number.  Try to argue with the IRS.    Prisoners are given a number and they are addressed as a number to de-personalize them.  The more we are efficient with numbers, the more we long for personal- loving knowledge.  Personal knowledge is the essence of faith in God.  Tim Keller points out everything else of the Christian faith is secondary.  The great prayers of the Bible are not for blessing or success or comfort but for personal knowledge.  Eph 1- I pray that you might know your hope;  Eph. 3- pray that you might know that God loves you.  All you need is a simple faith.  You can’t say I have a personal relationship with God but I don’t know anything about Him.  You can know the Bible without knowing God but you can’t know God without knowing what is said about Him in scripture.  Many times we want to know all about what God will do before we will try to know Him.  Christianity is not just a Philosophy it is a relationship.  Let me figure out how the idea of a good God can be reconciled with my suffering or the suffering of others far away;  Let me figure out about those who have never heard or those who believe in other things for salvation and then I will believe.   But if you do not want to believe- you can always find another excuse to not believe or figure something else out.  Nicodemus wants to have some questions answered- Jesus said you must be born again.  In marriage this happens.  Wife says, “Wait a minute- until I know you love me I will not make this decision about the car or about the house or about a credit card.”  Marriage is about a relationship.  Christianity doesn’t make sense without knowing the person.  Some of you are saying, “I can’t believe- I can’t figure out the miracles- the virgin birth or the resurrection- let me figure those out then I will consider believing.  I can’t believe yet.”  The problem is not that you can’t- it is that you won’t.  You won’t know Him.  You don’t have to figure God out- and know all the infinite aspects of God before you believe.  Do you remember the Woman at the Well?  She threw up all these philosophical and ethical smokescreens to Jesus:  You are a man and shouldn’t talk to me; You are a Jew and shouldn’t talk; You worship in Jerusalem we in Samaria;  We will never know until the Messiah comes.  His ultimate answer was “I know you- I know you don’t have a husband; and I am the Messiah come to you- I am THE answer to your greatest need.”  His answer was I know you and you can know me.   One of the great problems today is people are afraid of commitment and true love.  They say, “I have to live with someone a few years before I commit to them in marriage- what if it is the wrong one?”   They are letting fear control them more than love.  They believe they have to figure it all out- that is an illusion.  I want to know when you figure the person out- I’ve been married 36 years and my wife still surprises me- a lot.  But for people living together often as soon as the girl gets pregnant- everything changes- all the rational stuff goes out the window and wedding plans are made.  In the mean time people are using one another in an effort to figure things out.  If you are walking down the railroad track and the train is coming- you don’t sit there on the tracks and say, “Let me figure out how big this train is, how fast it is going, how much it is carrying before I get off the track” No, you get off the track because while you are trying to figure things out the train is coming.  Life is happening while we are making decisions.  Don’t wait to figure out the life God has given you before your life is used up and the hourglass is out of sand.  Do not worship your own mind- that is pride.  Learn to trust in the One who has come.    Begin to experience the abundant life of peace, hope, and joy in Christ.                                        
     God never promises to help each one of us figure everything out.  God doesn’t promise to teach a philosophy class for us.  He doesn’t say, “Let me answer every question for you so that you may believe.”  At some point you have to have faith and trust that God’s answers are better than yours.  There are plenty of reasons to believe- it is not anti-intellectual, but you have to be willing to believe the evidence.  There are some who do not believe that the world is round or that humans went to the moon.  It is not that the evidence isn’t there- it is that they choose not believe.  God wants us to love Him with our mind as well as our heart soul and strength- but that doesn’t mean we have figured it all out.                                               
      God didn’t just give us an intellectual answer to His existence, He gave us a personal answer.  He came down.  He is the Word made flesh.  He did not want us to just know about Him- He wanted and wants us to personally know Him.  This is what Christmas is about.  
     You know Japan has about 1% of professing Christians in it.  But it celebrates Christmas.  They put up lights in October.  They have gift giving, they send Christmas cards, teachers, doctors, and those who have helped get reciprocity gifts.  They have Santa- calling him “Santa San” in the shops.  KFC is big in Japan and they have convinced the Japanese that the standard Christmas dinner is chicken and everyone eats a special Christmas cake.  The Japanese celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve.  Knowing Jesus is not necessary, you see to celebrate the shallow part of Christmas.  The deep message of Christmas is that God comes out of love to make Himself known.  You can know God and your Christmas will be deeper, more meaningful, more hopeful.  Christmas is not knowing about how to party, or even knowing about the coming of Christ.  Christmas is really about knowing and loving God because He has made Himself known in Jesus and shows His love for us. 
        C.S. Lewis said, If you don’t want your heart to be broken then don’t give it to any one.  Your heart will become unbreakable impenetrable, cold as a stone.  Do not steel your heart to Christ.  Choose to know Jesus. This knowing and loving the one who came to know and love you is the kernel of it all.