Greeting: I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. A Savior is born for you. He is Christ the Lord.
Text: 20) “Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. 21) Declare what is to be, present it – let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior, there is none but me. 22) Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other. 23) By myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. 23) They will say of me, “in the Lord alone are righteousness and strength. All who have raged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame. 25) But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.
Intro: In the past few weeks, you have probably been the giver and/or the receiver of a number of Christmas-related invitations. At this time of year people are extending invitations to others for such things as parties, meals, concerts, performances, shopping trips. Hopefully they have been enjoyable and not too hectic. This morning, on the first Sunday after Christmas, we have the benefit of considering another invitation. It’s an invitation that God makes Himself. And it is an invitation that includes you and, in fact, everyone in the world. It is an invitation to come, not to a Christmas observance or tradition, but in fact, to come to Christmas itself.
Today God invites the world to Christmas. Now, when we say the words, “God invites the world to Christmas,” we realize that we are saying quite a bit: First of all there is no more impressive host. It’s God, who can say of Himself: “I am the Lord, and there is no God apart from Me. I am God and there is no other.” Secondly, this is very extensive guest list. The world, whose population at this time is roughly 6,870,000,000 is an extremely large amount of people. When you and I plan a Christmas event our guest list may be 10 – 30 people because that’s all we can handle. God is far more ambitious. Finally, we get to the word Christmas. God does not invite to an event surrounding Christmas or about Christmas. He invites people to Christmas itself. We will spend the rest of the sermon considering just what that means. But for now understand God invites us the very heart of something that is worthwhile and wonderful.
1. Turn From Baseless Beliefs That Can Only Fail You
God’s invitation to Christmas begins with the powerful assertion that our coming to Christmas must take precedence over everything else in our lives. It means that we have to cancel other plans and commitments we may have made that would interfere with our coming to Christmas. It means that we have to give up associations or involvements that we may have become attached to because they conflict with His wishes. Notice what God says through the prophet Isaiah: “Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives of the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. All who have raged against the Lord will be put to shame.” In a pointed and powerful way, God is saying: “I want you to come to Christmas, but in order for you to enjoy what I have prepared for you, you must turn away from false spiritual beliefs and empty religious practices that will fail you and leave you facing eternal shame and punishment.”
This a strong statement. And, if it weren’t God who was making it, we might even say that it was too strong. Who of us would tell a person: “I want you to come to my party. It will be really great. If you have made any previous commitments to others that would interfere with your coming to my party, I insist that you break them?” We wouldn’t do that. But this is precisely what God says. His Christmas is based on what is true, good and right for our souls. We can’t be giving our hearts or spending our time on things that are false, bad and wrong for our souls.
So God wants everyone to come to His Christmas. But for anyone to come, he/she must give up baseless spiritual beliefs that will ultimately fail him/her. What are these beliefs that Isaiah describes as “carrying idols of wood and praying to gods that cannot save?”
A non-Christian religion such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormonism is an acceptable, saving religion
You can get to heaven as long as you try to live a good life and are sincere.
There are many paths to heaven. Jesus may be the way for some, but there are other paths for others.
God is so loving that He will save everyone in the end anyway regardless of what they have done or believe.
All that matters is this life. When you’re dead, you’re dead. I don’t worry about an afterlife.
There is no absolute truth. It’s all relative. One person’s belief or guess is as good as another’s.
All of those are baseless beliefs. Things that people think, say and subscribe to, but things that have no true foundation. They are beliefs that are empty and powerless. They are not things that can stave off God’s judgment on our imperfect lives or His punishment on our many sins. God sincerely invites us to come to enjoy His worthwhile and wonderful Christmas, but in order to do this a person has to see the emptiness and harmfulness of following the false teachings of false gods and turn from them. If a person will, he/she can come to Christmas. If a person won’t, then he/she will be denied the worth and wonder God offers in His Christmas.
2. Turn To My Worthy Son Who Will Deliver You
God’s invitation to Christmas continues with a passionate, loving appeal to turn to Him in faith to receive the great deliverance He brings us. Listen to that appeal in Isaiah’s words: “There is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. In the Lord, all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”
At the heart of God’s invitation to Christmas is a spiritual turning – a turning away from empty beliefs in false gods and groundless philosophies and religions – and a turning toward a Savior in reliant faith. At the center of God’s Christmas is Christ, the Son of God who came as the righteous Substitute for a world of unrighteous creatures, who came as the Savior for a world of lost, endangered souls. God has worthwhile and wonderful blessings to give – forgiveness, eternal life, comfort in loss, joy in trials, peace in tumult, strength to obey, desire to want what is right. All these are found in Jesus Christ.
To come to Christmas is to come to God as He comes to us in Christ. To come to Christmas is to think about Christ correctly and to value Him highly. It means treasuring the miracle of the Virgin Birth and the Incarnation. God has become a human being while remaining God. Jesus is a Jewish boy whose mother is Mary and He is the eternal God in unbreakable union with the Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus came into the world because the Holy Spirit worked a miracle in Mary, allowing her to conceive with no human father involved and yet give birth to a sinless Child who was also God.
To come to Christmas properly means regarding Jesus rightly in terms of who He is for us. He is holy and righteous – we are, by nature and choice, evil and sinful. He is spiritually rich and has everything – we are spiritual poor and have nothing. He is humble and self-giving – we are proud and self-serving. He is strong and steadfast – we are weak and fickle. He is our Redeemer – we are enslaved by our sin. He is our Savior – we are in spiritual peril. He is the only Savior that exists – we are privileged that God gives Him to us. Believing these things, we come to Christmas and enjoy its endless comforts.
As we think about God’s invitation, we realize it’s possible to pass through the Christmas season without really coming to Christmas. God’s invitation goes out, but many people don’t seem to get it. They think they’ve been to Christmas because they exchanged presents, had nice social gatherings and were in a festive spirit. But they are still holding on to the baseless beliefs that will only fail them and they haven’t truly taken to heart the worthy Son of God who will deliver from sin and death. Let’s be sure that we come to Christmas as God intends. Then let’s help the others who still need to come. God’s Christmas is so wonderful and so worthwhile! God doesn’t and we don’t want anyone to miss it. Amen.