Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, December 23, 2015
Airports are great places to observe humanity. In the arrival area you see expectant faces, people holding signs, children craning their necks, parents waiting to hug sons or daughters or grandchildren who they haven’t seen in too long.
But ride the escalator and walk a few feet to the departure area, where travelers are heading
into the security check, and you’ll see a different side. Mothers hug children goodbye, heading off to college or work, or back home – wherever home is for them now. Family members crane their necks for one last look, then leave the airport with a lost look on their faces. We love comings…we endure goings.
Christmas is a season of travel – this week tens of millions will travel to visit loved ones, or look forward to loved ones traveling to visit them. In a couple of days my son Joseph will fly from Florida, and arrive at the San Antonio airport. He hasn’t been gone that long, but I’m still looking forward to his arrival. Having children home for Christmas is nice. On the way home we may stop for a meal together – to hear about his experiences, to tell jokes, to share the finniest You Tube videos we’ve seen. You know what I’m talking about; it’s fun driving to the airport to pick someone up.
But as sure as he comes, a week or ten days later, he’ll leave again. That trip to the airport won’t be as fun. I know he had to go, and it’s a good thing…but it’s hard. As children head to college, or to work, or get married and move away, something tugs at you when they go…and you look forward to the reunion when they come home.
All of my older children have left home – some for college, some for jobs in other states, and it never gets easier. I’m happy that they’re learning to face life’s challenges on their own, growing spiritually, becoming independent. But the memories of when they were young still come back – and it’s always good when they come back home, too.
Christmas is a celebration of a going and a coming. From heaven’s point of view, of course, this was a going. God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son had co-existed in eternal tri-unity. Our time-trapped brains can’t comprehend eternity – timelessness. Not only were they together, they existed in perfection, absolute holiness. There were myriads of angels there, too, created to share God’s glory.
What happened next is not totally clear, but we’re given clues in the Bible. One angel, Lucifer, rebelled, and in his pride tried to overthrow God. He was cast out of heaven, and became Satan. When God created the earth, Satan was there, and thought to himself, ‘What better way for me to gain victory over God than to destroy His creation on earth?’
In the Garden of Eden, that’s what happened. Satan deceived Adam and Eve, and lured them into rebellion against God. All creation, and the whole human race, was stained with sin.
The results of sin were catastrophic. God’s holiness cannot look on sin! Just as Satan had been cast out of heaven, so now any communion between God and men was gone. And as a result of sin, every person ever born would die. You might say that mankind was ‘lost in space,’ with no way home to God.
If you’ve see the movie The Martian, you’ll remember that Matt Damon’s character – astronaut Mark Watney, was alone, stranded on Mars, with no way to contact earth. You think he had it bad? He was just 140 million miles from earth! Because of sin, we were stuck in a dead-end universe, unable to reach a holy God who is outside of space and time!
This is where God’s plan began. The real problem, of course, was sin. Like a cancer that infected every person, it had to be eradicated, or we would never be reunited with our Creator.
The only way to take care of the problem of sin was for someone who didn’t have any sin to die for the sins of the people on earth. Enter God the Son, who accepted the task of becoming the ‘rescuer’ for a lost planet.
But in order for that to happen, He had to leave heaven. It may seem trite, but let me ask you: Do you remember your child’s first day at kindergarten – watching them walk away from you into school? Maybe you remember them leaving for college – wondering what would happen to them…how would they change? I don’t really know what it was like when God the Son left heaven for earth, but it was a ‘going’… Was it a tearful ‘good-bye’? I don’t know…
You would’ve thought that coming all that way to earth would’ve been cause for celebration on earth…but we didn’t know. Remember, sin had strained our relationship with God. All His attempts to communicate with us got garbled by Satan. God sent messages about His Son coming through prophets, but we were confused and misinterpreted them. Satan was blinding our eyes, keeping us in the dark – deceiving us the way he deceived Adam and Eve, making us think our own way was as good as it gets – keeping us from thinking about out Creator.
So the greatest rescue mission ever attempted touched down in a cattle stable in the little town of Bethlehem. No one in town cared. To give this infant King from heaven a bit of a welcome, angels startled shepherds outside town and announced his birth.
That was how it started, and, well…you know how it finished. After teaching and healing and raising the dead and doing good, God’s Son, Jesus, was condemned to die. He who knew no sin became sin for us. And when He died, the payment for sin for every person was complete. He had fulfilled His mission.
On the third day after his death, God raised Jesus from the dead. Soon, it would be time for Him to return home. Of course, returning to heaven would mean leaving the earth. For weeks Jesus met with His small band of followers, encouraging them, instructing them, and then, at the ‘interstellar ascension port of the Mt. of Olives,’ He ascended back into heaven.
What a sight it was in heaven – like a victorious warrior returning from battle! He had rescued the lives of all those imprisoned in sin, and now he was back home! Scripture gives us some glimpses of what it was like – and by all indications it was bigger than anything we’ve ever seen here on earth!
But back here on earth, it wasn’t a happy time. Jesus, God’s Son, the Savior of the world, had just left. His band of followers stood looking up into the sky. Was this the end? Was that the end of the story?
Suddenly, two heavenly messengers appeared beside them, and spoke: Why do you stand looking up into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way as you have seen Him go into heaven.
When would it happen? No date or time was given. As they poured over things Jesus had told them, they found clues… but then, one of the last things He told them was that it wasn’t for them to know the exact time!
Instead, He gave them a task to do: Go everywhere in the world, and tell anyone who would listen that the Savior, who came from heaven once, was coming again to take home with Him all who believed in Him.
That day could be today. It could be on Christmas. Or it might be a day years from now. All I know it that I’m looking forward to it. And ‘if I should die before I wake, I know the Lord my soul will take,’ and I will be at home with Him. because I believe in Jesus as My Savior.
An old hymn has these lyrics: I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory; to tell the old, old story, Of Jesus and His love.
It’s the story I’ve just told to you. It’s the Christmas story… without any Santas, reindeer, elves, Christmas trees, lights, or presents. Because the real Christmas story is so much greater than that. And if there is a real Christmas present, it’s the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Have you ever realized that you are a sinner, and that you’re in need of a Savior? Did you ever know that the God who made you, loves you and sent His own Son to die for you? Well, now you do.
The only question is, What will you do about it? Right now, you can believe in Jesus as your Savior, receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Others of you sitting here believed in Jesus years ago, but over the years, you haven’t given much thought to the real meaning of Christmas – you’ve forgotten about the ‘old, old story, of Jesus and His love.
This Christmas, remember it again. Tell God you love Him for His gift of Love. Tell Jesus you love Him for coming the first time to die for your sins…and for coming again, maybe today, to take all who believe in Him to heaven.
A lot of people dream of a white Christmas. Others think of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But for me, I think, Joy to the world, the Lord has come…and He’s coming again!