Home > theology > Christmas Eve Thoughts on the Purpose of Christmas

Christmas Eve Thoughts on the Purpose of Christmas

Here’s another note, I know I’ve been posting a lot recently, but oh well.

I just got done watching a televised broadcast of a preacher’s sermon on the “Purpose of Christmas.” I had a few thoughts about it as I watched and I wanted to share them here. My “purpose” in sharing these things is not to tear anyone down, but rather to show people things that were not communicated in the sermon, things that they may be unaware of or may not consider otherwise.

The Purpose of Christmas, according to the sermon, is threefold:
1. Celebration of Christ’s birth
2. Salvation for all
3. Reconciliation with God and others

1.
a. “God is not mad at you, He’s mad about you.”
b. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Baptist, Jewish, God loves you.”
c. “Jesus came to save, not to condemn”
These are all quotes for reasons we have to celebrate Christ’s birth.

a. Apparently that tv show that always used to play on channel 12 at 10 o’clock “Mad About You” is an analogy for what God is like. God is played by Paul Reisner and we are played by Helen Hunt, or maybe its the other way around, I’m not sure. Really, according to the preacher, history is a non-stop romantic comedy about God continually pursuing the people he’s mad about while the world continually rejects Him. As the preacher said “God says ‘There’s never been a day that I didn’t love you and I just want you to love me back.”

What are we to make of the following verses (from the New Testament only, not even considering the Old Testament):
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the WRATH of God REMAINS on him.” John 3:36

“For the WRATH of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works… There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,” Romans 2:5-6,9

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.�? Romans 12:19

“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:4-5

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:1-3

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:6

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?�? Rev. 6:15-17

“So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” Rev. 14:19-20

I will stop here, though there is plenty more scripture to quote from. Is God a nagging admirer, longing for your love (the preacher also said that the reason God created the world is so that He could love us – the Bible teaches that it was to display his glory)? Or is God a righteous judge sitting on His throne?

b. The preacher here is getting very confusing for anyone who does not already have a clear understanding of scripture. For anyone who has never heard the true Gospel before, it would sound to them like the preacher is teaching pluralism. He did not say that it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, yellow, red, male, female, young, old (meaning Jesus came to save all types of people), he said that God doesn’t care if you worship another god (practice another religion). I hope I don’t have to quote scripture for you to know that is unbiblical.

c. Jesus did not come to condemn comes from John 3:17. The preacher said that he himself is not here to condemn anyone because neither was Jesus. Let’s look a little deeper at John 3:
v16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. v17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe IS CONDEMNED ALREADY, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment (YES THERE IS A JUDGMENT): the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”

If I did not know anything about Christianity, and the first thing I heard was the preacher speaking tonight on my tv, what would I know? I would know that God loves me and doesn’t want to condemn me. But is this what the Bible teaches, and is this what people need to know?

v17 clearly says that Jesus was not sent to condemn… but does that mean that none of us are condemned? No, v18 clearly says that we are all condemned already, before Jesus was sent. God can judge us from above, He need not enter the world to find us guilty of breaking his law (law? what is that? no – it’s not negative feelings). However, Jesus did need to enter the world to save us from damnation (Rom. 3:21-26, 5:6-11), for only through Him are we saved, but by ourselves we are condemned.

2.
The second purpose of Christmas, according to the preacher, is salvation.
I. We are saved from sin
The preacher defined sin as our past, our guilt, and our fear. He also said that sin is saying you know better than God what will make you happy and that this attitude separates us from God and is the source of all our problems. He said that we are saved from our “negative emotions” because God did not intend for us to have “negative emotions.” And Jesus wants to save you from your addictions too.

This is simply self-help psychology for people who aren’t happy. If you have negative emotions, just ask Jesus into your heart and you won’t have any negative emotions anymore. Yes, many of these problems are a result of sin, but “negative emotions” are not sin.

As quoted extensively above, we are under the wrath of God for breaking His LAW (Rom. 1). Namely, the Ten Commandments:

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.�?

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.�? Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.�?
Exodus 20:1-20

The preacher never, ever mentioned anything about a law or about anyone being guilty of disobeying a law. The closest he came was to say that Christ saves us from guilt, but he was merely talking about guilt as a negative emotion.

The Biblical PURPOSE of CHRIST: “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” Galatians 3:13

“God put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forebearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans 3:25

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

In the words of John Piper: “If God were not just, there would be no demand for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to suffer and die. But God is both just and loving. Therefore his love is willing to meet the demands of his justice.”
this taken from his book “The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die” which you can get for $0.01 on amazon http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Jesus-Christ-Fifty-Reasons/dp/1581346085/sr=8-1/qid=1167033285/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-8614554-4828458?ie=UTF8&s=books if you really want to know the purpose of Christmas.

3.
The purpose of Christmas is reconciliation so that we can be
a. at peace with God
b. have peace in God
c. have peace with eachother

The preacher said that going our own way puts us at war with God. This is true, though not fully explained. The solution, however, is to have faith in Christ, by choosing Him and accepting His open invitation and to start following God’s way and His purpose for our life.

But this began to raise a question in my mind, one that I’m sure plenty of people watching had:
Why do I need Christ to do that? I can see that it would be good to start finding God’s purpose for my life, that way I can quit drinking and I can get rid of these negative emotions, but I don’t really understand who Christ is or what part He plays in all of this. I thought this message was about the purpose of Christ, but it seems to be all about me feeling better, after all, that’s why God created the world.

This ultimately is the most unfortunate part of the sermon. The preacher was given a global audience, the potential to speak to millions of people, and proclaim the Gospel. After listening for 30 minutes, I understand that God loves me and that I can be happy if I find His purpose for me, but I don’t understand who Jesus is or why He came to the world… I thought that was the intention of the sermon “The Purpose of Christmas.”

several of my posts are copied over from facebook. below are the comments posted there:

Jonny C. (Orange County, CA) wrote
at 10:12am on December 25th, 2006

Hey Brandon…Fox News carried that message on XM radio…so Jana and I listened to it from Alamo to Lund up 93 last night. If it wasn’t so tragic…it would be funny. Without going into any great depth…because you know I can…I was nearly driving off the road screaming at the radio when RW was explaining the 3 fold purposes of Christmas and left out the Angel’s proclamation…”Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace AMONG THOSE whom He is pleased.” He focused on and perverted the peace that Christ came to bring and completely ignored the signifigance of the incarnation…”Glory to God in the highest.” It was like listening to Oprah, Dr. Phil and Stewart Smalley all rolled up together. Moral Theraputic Deism.

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Erin Poulson wrote
at 12:34pm on December 25th, 2006

Yeah…I heard that Rick Warren was going to have a global audience to speak on the purpose of Christmas….and at first I thought: sweet! Somebody will be able to bring the gospel to lots of people! And then I remembered it was Rick Warren. And now I know some of what he said. Bummer. Maybe something about few people being gifted like the great preachers are/were, but it’s mostly just disappointing. Jon should go on next year. 🙂

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Brandon Adams wrote
at 2:09pm on December 25th, 2006

Christmas 2007 vodcast from the mug!

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Joy Buchanan wrote
at 3:28pm on December 25th, 2006

I think it’s funny how people talk about the Purpose of Christmas. Christmas is a cultural tradition that I think has a lot of worth for our society. It’s not a religious sacrement like communion or babtism that has a biblical backing and can be debated about.
We don’t have sermons about the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day or other minor Christian-based holidays. Hmm, that might stir up negative emotions.

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Brandon Adams wrote
at 6:18pm on December 25th, 2006

I’m not sure if I’m hearing you correctly, but if you’re saying that we shouldn’t debate the purpose of Christmas then I would have to say I don’t agree.

Christmas “is an annual holiday that marks the traditional birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth.” If a preacher is going to preach a sermon about the birth of Jesus, then the Bible speaks to this and we can and should examine whether or not the sermon is biblical.

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Spencer S. Hanley (no network) wrote
at 10:28pm on December 25th, 2006

Amen, Brandon. Too often, preachers avoid preaching of God’s wrath and his justice against rebelious man. Too often they fail to explain sin the way you have by using the Law of God. It is so sad that Jesus has been reduced to: “Please come so I can make you happy!”. Coming to Jesus does make a person full of joy, but only as a bi-product, not a prime-product. The Glory of God is the prime-product.

I thank God for you!

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Joy Buchanan wrote
at 1:09pm on December 26th, 2006

We can discuss whether a sermon on the birth of Jesus is biblical. There is a point to discussing the purpose of the event which Christmas marks, and I don’t mean that there is no reason to discuss what Christmas means to us today. I’m questioning whether the holiday of Christmas can have an objective defined purpose like that preacher seemed to be saying, i’m especially questioning whether Christmas exists for the purpose of univeral salvation (point #2).

I didn’t hear the sermon, so maybe he explains it like Christmas being a means to raise awareness of Jesus and thereby lead people to salvation. I realize this has nothing to do with the point of your note 🙂

Speaking of the glory of God as the chief end of man and the universe, I just read part of a book by John Piper called Let the Nations Be Glad and the first chapter is this great inspiring examination of worship as both the fuel and goal of evangelism. You’d like it.

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Jonny C. (Orange County, CA) wrote
at 11:21pm on December 26th, 2006

“Let the Nations be Glad” is one of the best Piper books that I’ve read…His reoccurring theme of “Missions exist in the Church because worship doesn’t” is almost prophetic. I’m so challenged by the depth of meaning in that statement and I believe that the only appropriate response to that truth…and to question #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.)…is humble repentance. We in America have made Christianity to be something other than what biblical Christianity truly is. We’ve forgotton our first love and have reduced our faith to an ethics cult or, worse, mythology.

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Brandon Adams wrote
at 9:37pm on December 28th, 2006

I see what you’re saying now Joy…
The focus of the sermon was the birth of Christ as the purpose for Christmas, and thus the rest flows from there. I would say yes, Christmas does have an objectively defined purpose. Wikipedia says “Christmas is an annual holiday that marks the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Christmas combines the celebration of Jesus’ birth with various other traditions and customs, many of which were influenced by ancient winter festivals such as Yule and Saturnalia.”

Though other traditions are mixed with and added to Christmas, the purpose of Christmas remains, or should remain, a celebration of the birth of Christ. If people no longer wish to celebrate Christmas as such, then they can call their family time something else, like “The Holidays”, but they should not be calling it CHRISTmas if they’re not willing to accept that it is a celebration of CHRIST.

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Brandon Adams wrote
at 9:43pm on December 28th, 2006

I would question #2 as well, but yes he was trying to refer to Christ, not the holiday, as salvation for the world (all tongues, tribes, and nations)… though he certainly did not make his case clear.

I’ve added “Let the Nations be Glad” to my wishlist and to my gift list for others involved in missionary work, based on other works from Piper that I have read.

Jon – having not read the book… Is Piper saying that Christians who seek to worship God fully are unable to and thus they seek to worship him through missions work abroad?

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Jonny C. (Orange County, CA) wrote
at 12:37am on January 6th, 2007

No…Piper is saying that the fullest expression of worship is the planting of new churches so that people can hear, experience and respond to the gospel in their cultural context and in their own language. Missions is not something to be done by a “team”…but as the natural response to the gospel of grace…making others glad in Christ Jesus forever. Only the Church can do this work in the world. Digging wells and feeding the poor are good acts (if the glory of God is our motivation), however, planting churches is the great worldwide missionary enterprise. This requires an emphasis on theology and doctrine, without which we cannot hope to establish and equip indiginous planters to engage in the missiological work of redemption in the culture.

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Joy Buchanan wrote
at 5:49am on January 6th, 2007

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. ” – Let the Nations Be Glad

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Brandon Adams wrote
at 9:46am on January 6th, 2007

Ah, got it, thanks.

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