Twenty-five years ago I was to give a Christmas message to a group of business and professional men. They were well-educated and financially successful leaders in their community. I decided these men should have something a bit more heavy than a Christian moral, like getting along with your neighbor. So I chose to speak on the Incarnation.
This is a basic doctrine in the Christian faith teaching that God came to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and was the God-man.
After my presentation, the men were free to ask questions. I wondered if they would be too uncomfortable to become involved in the subject. They had come from different churches, and some, I believe, had no faith at all. But one man was troubled about what he had heard and asked if I would spend a few minutes with him. So the two of us met around a cup of coffee.
He told me that it was very difficult for him to believe that Jesus was the God-man. He admitted that, while his name was on a church record, he seldom attended worship service. However, it would not have made much difference because he belonged to the Unitarian Church, which did not teach Jesus was God. What bothered him the most was that he had never heard any of his friends Ð who were members of conservative churches like Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic Ð ever refer to Christ as the God-man. In fact, they didn’t talk to him about salvation, life after death, or Christ as Savior and Lord who had died for the sins of the world.
After an hour-long conversation, he said, “Well, I have a lot to take home with me. What you have presented tonight puts a whole new light on the Christian message. Maybe there is a lot more to the Christian faith than I have been led to believe.”
He had heard a voice that night that caught his attention. I offered to meet with him again, but he never called me.
The Advent Season is a marvelous time to help people understand why Jesus came to this earth. The truth Ð that Jesus is God who has come to be our Savior Ð is completely foreign to many people in our communities. They would not question his birth or that he made a real impression on this world as a great religious leader. Yet, when we begin to talk about the incarnation, they do not know what you are talking about.
So let’s take a look at one of the great Advent preachers, John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Jesus and had come to preach a message of repentance. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Repent, . . .” “Prepare the way for the Lord, . . .” He who comes after me must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
John did not have an appealing appearance. He lived in a cave near the Dead Sea. The Bible tells us that his clothes were made of camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was wild honey and locusts.
The people did not go out from Jerusalem and all Judea to see a man wearing beautiful robes, but to hear his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).
The prophets had been silent for many years, and the people were hungry to receive a word from God. Now they were hearing his voice, but it was a hard voice. Listen, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, ÔYou brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ÔWe have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire'” (vs. 7-12).
It was a message that not only criticized, but also challenged. The Advent message faces us up to our sin to remind us how much we need this Savior. Yet it also challenges us to receive him as the incarnate God who wants to be a part of our lives.
While the verses quoted above are difficult to understand, we can learn much from John’s preaching. His words confront us with questions to contemplate. One of them is:
Have we quieted the voice of God to blend our amended Christianity with the culture of our day in order to make it more acceptable in our society?
If we have, the voice of God is not being heard clearly in our churches, and little is happening of a spiritual nature in our society even though the church is abounding in activity. Our good works, done to show love for God and man, without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, gives no assurance of salvation.
Another Advent question that needs our consideration is:
Can a doubting church be God’s voice in an unbelieving world?
If we are not sure of our message, then how can we expect the world to be serious about what we are saying?
When John pointed his audience to Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Will our Advent and Christmas services point people to Jesus as the One who has come from God to walk with us and die for our sins? Remember, the man mentioned at the opening of this sermon did not have the slightest understanding of what the incarnation was.
Will your Christmas center around a family relationship only, or will it also include a spiritual relationship with Christ in our midst? The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts for that great message of the incarnation when Christ became flesh to be our Savior and Lord. It is a message of encouragement and hope. Share it with others.