Santa Claus Goes to Church

Santa Claus Goes to Church

1 John 1

Dr. Jim Denison

Nicholas of Myra was born around AD 270 in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. He became bishop of Myra, was exiled and imprisoned by Emperor Diocletian, released by Constantine the Great, and died in Myra around AD 350. In 987 he was named the patron saint of Russia. In the year 1087 his remains were purchased by Italian merchants and moved to the city of Bari in Italy, where they are still preserved to this day in the church of San Nicola.

Nicholas has been one of history’s most venerated saints. By 1400 more than 500 songs and hymns had been written in his honor. When Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti on December 6 of 1492, he named the port St. Nicholas. By 1500 more than 700 churches in Britain were dedicated to him.

Why was he so beloved? Because he spent his life helping the poor and underprivileged. He was the first to initiate programs for mentally challenged children. He loved children and often visited their homes at night, disguised in a red and white hooded robe, leaving gifts of money, clothing or food at their windows or fireplaces.

The Dutch especially appreciated his story. They spelled his name “Sint Nikolass,” which in America became “Sinterklass,” or “Santa Claus.”

We know of St. Nicholas today because of Dr. Clement Clark Moore, a theology and classics professor at Union Seminary in New York. In 1822 he wrote a poem for his children entitled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It began with these words:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In the hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The illustrator Thomas Nast put Dr. Moore’s figure to art, creating the figure we know today as Santa Claus. And so yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

As with Santa Claus, so with Christmas. Today we have trees and toys and tinsel, cards and gifts and parties. Christmas is a holiday. But it was once a holy day. There is reality behind the story. Today I want to remind you of that real, historical stuff, and show you why it matters so much to your life and mine.

Is Christmas real?

John begins, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (v. 1). This is how he takes his readers back nearly a hundred years, to the first Christmas.

The babe born that day was “from the beginning.” John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Jesus was creating the world: “for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:16). He was holding it together: “He was before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). The Christ of Christmas existed long before he was born.

Then this Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer came to the earth he made. He chose his parents, a teenage girl and her peasant husband. He chose his town of birth, a tiny country village. He chose his place of birth, a dank, musty, dark cave behind a stable. He chose his crib, a stone feed trough; and his baby clothes, rough blankets. He chose his first worshippers, lowly field hands.

And John knows it is true, because he has seen it all himself: he has “heard” him teach, from the Sermon on the Mount to his ascension; he has “seen with our eyes” his miracles and physical ministry; his “hands touched” his resurrected life. This eyewitness testifies that it is all true.

And he’s not the only one. In addition to the biblical witness, Roman historians Tacitus, Seutonius, and Mara bar Serapion document his existence; Jewish historian Josephus gives us many details of his life; and Roman administrator Pliny the Younger describes the fact that the first Christians knew him to be real and worshipped him as God. It’s all true.

Long before there was a St. Nicholas, there was the Christ he worshipped. Long before there was a wooden manger in nativity scenes, there was a cave. I’ve been inside it, and even sang Christmas carols there. We know beyond any shadow of historical doubt that this is all true. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Christ of Christmas.

Why does Christmas matter?

Now let’s ask our other question: why does it matter? Why does the fact that a baby was born in a feed trough in ancient Bethlehem matter? For these reasons.

First, life is found at Christmas.

The text continues: “this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us (vs. 1b-2). Life, significance, eternal purpose “appeared” at Christmas. It came to us with the baby born at Bethlehem, and with him alone.

My dear friend Oscar Dellet explained this better than I can. In his message at the contemporary service last weekend, our Cuban brother and my fellow pastor spoke from John 10:10: “I have come that they might have life.” He made the point this way: everything you see around you exists. The platform exists; the chairs exist; our bodies exist. But they do not have life. Life is found only in Jesus Christ. Everything else is just existence.

He went on: there is a God-sized hole in every human soul. That hole can be filled only with the life which Jesus gives. We can put everything that exists in that hole—cars, houses, clothes, status, money—but it won’t fill it. It can’t. Only Jesus can. Only he can give us life, significance, meaning and eternal purpose. We can have life only in him.

If there were no Christmas, there could be no life. We would live and die, and spend eternity separated from God and life. Our lives can have life only because of him. If you’re looking for more to life than you’ve found; if you want your days to matter and your life to count; if there’s a hole in your soul, a gnawing realization that this cannot be all there is; then I offer you this advice: come to the manger with me today.

Now John turns from the philosophical to the practical: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us” (v. 3). Later he says, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (v. 7). Life is found in Christ. Now we learn that loneliness is healed in Christ. That we have “fellowship” with each other and with God in Christ, and in Christ alone.

Loneliness is one of the great problems of Christmas. Some of you are facing Christmas without someone you love. Some of you are alone. Some of you are far from home. Some of you are going through trauma and pain in your family, or your work, or your finances, or your health. So many of us feel alone, and the Christmas season only makes things worse.

But the baby of Bethlehem came to make you right with God, with yourself, and with others. If you will follow him, we will join you. We are your family, your sisters and brothers. We have one Father, and we will spend eternity together. We will pray with you and for you, and walk with you, and live this life with you. Because of the Christ of Christmas, we have a Father and a family, and fellowship with him and with each other.

Are you lonely and alone today? If you are, I offer you this advice: come to the manger with me today.

But there’s more relevance to Christmas: “We write this to make our joy complete.” Joy is well-being which transcends circumstances. And it is made “complete” in the One John speaks of, the Christ of Christmas. Joy is found at Christmas, and there alone.

It can be hard to have joy at Christmas, can’t it? How many trees will you put up this year? We have done three: one for my mother and two at our home. We bought a live tree again this year, and are vacuuming needles daily. It took an hour just to get the boxes down from the attic. I truly envy a friend of mine in Atlanta: years ago he bought an artificial tree, glued it together, glued ornaments on it, put wheels on its base, and every year pushes it out from its closet and plugs it in.

Have you bought all your presents? Do you even know what you’re getting? Have you gotten your cards done? We’re receiving cards already—that’s just wrong. It ought to be illegal, this early. Is your family coming? Are you going? Are you happy about that? How’s your joy so far this season?

The night of Jesus’ birth, the angel said: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). In the babe of Bethlehem there is “great joy.” Do you feel a well-being which transcends your circumstances today? If you don’t, you can. Here’s my advice: come to the manger with me today.

Let’s finish: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (v. 9). We have discovered that life, and fellowship, and joy are found in Christ alone. We can have them only because he came to earth for us, only because Christmas is real.

Now we learn that forgiveness is ours in him as well, and in him alone. If we will go to him, confess our failures and mistakes to him, and ask his forgiveness, he will give it. The babe of Bethlehem is the only One who can do this. And only because of Christmas.


These are the gifts of Christmas, from the Christ to us. In him, and in him alone, we have life, fellowship, joy, and forgiveness. We have all our soul really needs. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Christmas. And it matters more than anything else in all the world.

Have you received these gifts of grace yet? You cannot earn or deserve them. But you can receive them, in faith. They are grace to you. God’s grace to you.

God has even more grace for you. Why not come for it, right now?

The Tyranny of the Urgent

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Mark 1:35-39

Dr. Jim Denison

The Dallas Morning News recently carried a story on the growth of the Christmas lights installation profession in our city. This business has quadrupled in six years, with costs ranging from $100 to $7,500 per home. Why do people now pay to put Christmas lights on their homes? The number one reason: it saves them time. We understand the appeal, don’t we?

We are working on average 20% more hours per week than we were in 1973. But the quality of our lives is not improving; in fact, it is suffering.

Recent studies report that 60% of successful professionals suffer from chronic stress and depression. 48% of top corporate executives report that their lives are empty and meaningless.

For the past 25 years the American Index of Social Health has tracked the well-being of Americans. While the gross domestic product has risen continually for the past 25 years, the social health index is 52% lower than it was in 1973. We have more, but enjoy life far less.

Recently I reread a little booklet entitled The Tyranny of the Urgent, by Charles Hummel. Its central point is simple: there is a great distinction between the urgent and the important. The urgent demands our time, but usually wastes it; the important redeems it, gives it eternal significance. Doing urgent things takes from us our energy, peace, and joy; doing important things gives us fulfillment, significance, peace, joy.

How much time do you spend doing the urgent? How much time do you spend doing something important? You and I can trade the urgent for the important in this new year. I’ve brought proof today.

Choose a model

Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes, or sandals, actually. You begin your Sabbath day by preaching and leading worship in the Jewish synagogue in Capernaum, your ministry base in Galilee. This is the first of the day’s three services, beginning at 9 a.m. And the people hang onto your every word; never have they heard such authority before. The One who inspired the word by his Spirit, now teaching it to his people.

Then you cast a demon out of a man sitting right there in the synagogue, amazing everyone present. Not a boring morning at church, wouldn’t you agree?

From the synagogue service you go to Peter and Andrew’s home for lunch. Taking the preacher out to lunch apparently has very old roots. But there’s a problem—Peter’s mother-in-law, the one who was going to cook the meal, is in bed with fever. And so you take her hand and heal her.

You spend the afternoon at her home, teaching your disciples. Then comes the sunset, when the Jewish Sabbath ends. But your reputation has spread far and wide, so “the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door” (Mark 1:32-33). And so you end your day by healing the sick and driving out demons from across the entire community.

What will you do tomorrow? Jesus preached in church, healed a demoniac, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, taught his disciples, and healed the sick and demon-possessed from across the entire town. Just one day in the life of our Lord. And yet he went through this day with remarkable calm, peace, and purpose.

Imagine that your purpose in life is literally to save the world, to bring eternal salvation to all of humanity. Can you feel the stress, the unbelievable pressure of it all? And yet the One who was given this life purpose went through that life with the greatest peace, joy, and fulfillment of any man who has ever lived. He was never hurried, hassled, or burned out. He experienced serenity in the midst of life’s greatest stress.

He will teach us how, if we want him to. If you want him to.

Years ago someone gave me some excellent leadership advice: choose the best mentor you can find. Get a model, an example, someone whose life you can emulate. Choose a mentor, well.

Athletes know they cannot improve unless they compete against people better than themselves. Business professionals know they must hire “tens,” because “tens” hire “eights,” “eights” hire “sixes” and “sixes” hire “fours.” Teddy Roosevelt said the secret to his success was that he surrounded himself with men better than himself.

Choose the best mentor you can find. I nominate Jesus.

Define your purpose

With him as your model, you can escape the urgent for the important. But you must do what he did. First and most important, you must define your life purpose, your reason for being.

You see, life is best lived on purpose.

Aristotle defined excellence as “expressing your highest talent to its fullest measure.” What is your “highest talent”?

Winston Churchill, standing before the House of Commons in June of 1941, said, “I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler; and my life is much simplified thereby.” What is your “one purpose”?

The psychologist Maslow concluded, after many years as a therapist, that an artist must paint, a poet must write, a musician must make music, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What did God make you to do?

Will Rogers was more plain but no less profound: “If you want to be successful, know what you are doing, love what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.” Do you “know what you are doing”?

Jesus did. “Very early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (v. 35). In Mark’s original Greek it is clear that Jesus got up around 3 a.m. to do this. He “left the house and went off to a solitary place”—the Greek shows that he purposefully, deliberately found a place where he could be alone with his Father. And he spent the entire morning in prayer.

Why? This was the very beginning of his public ministry. Already our Lord has defeated Satan in the wilderness, called his first disciples, preached to the crowds, taught the people, healed and exorcized demons, and drawn gigantic crowds from all over Galilee. Now what? What is next? Where should his work go?

Would he stay in Capernaum and build a megachurch for the crowds who would come to him? Would he stay there and wait for the people to come to him?

No. After his morning alone with his Father he knows his ministry purpose, more clearly than ever before: “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (v. 38). He would go to the people, and not wait for them to find him. This is why he has come.

And so this is what he did: “He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons” (v. 39). He found his “true north,” his purpose in life, and he never left it.

Have you found yours? Have you defined a life purpose which will lead you out of the urgent and into the important? Could I recommend Jesus’ life purpose to you?

He does: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he claims (Matthew 28:18). If he has all authority, we have none.

And his life purpose for us is clear: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is a follower, someone who obeys another as his or her master. We are in business, as a church and as Christians, to “make disciples.” This is what we were created by God to do. This is our purpose in life. We are to invest our lives in helping people follow Jesus. God’s word is just that simple.

I know you’d like to hear something more exciting, something more cutting-edge and glamorous. But Jesus made you, and he knows your heart and soul. He knows what purpose will give your life its greatest significance, peace, and joy. And he wants you to spend your life helping people follow him.

He promises in turn that you will discover the “abundant life” he has for you (John 10:10). You will find your life filled with meaning, significance, importance. You’ll trade the urgent for the important.

Meet with your Father

Now, I know what you must be thinking. You have a job to do, and a heavy schedule to meet. I said just a few minutes ago that the typical American is working 20% more hours per week than he used to. You have a family to raise, or school and activities to accomplish, and more demands than you know what to do with. Am I asking you to add something else to your life? Is Jesus?

Yes, and no.

Jesus says that we exist to help people follow him. What does this life purpose mean for your life, in the most practical ways possible? What are you to do about this? In many ways you’re where Jesus was in Capernaum—people and priorities crowding in from all sides, and you wonder what you’re supposed to do next. What does it all mean for you, today?

For the next number of weeks, we’ll look for ways to deal with this issue. We’ll discuss our most common problems and pressures in light of the model and life purpose of Jesus. Our series, entitled “Living On Purpose,” will deal with everything from time pressures to finances to spirituality and self esteem. I’m going to show you how Jesus will help us trade the urgent for the important, every day.

But you can start right now. You can do exactly what Jesus did. In fact, you must.

Facing the pressures of enormous time and people problems, Jesus got alone with his Father. He got up well before sunrise, and made a time and a place where he could be in solitude with his God. He spoke with his Father about his life, his purpose, his future. And then he knew what he was to do next, and how to do it.

I do not know what you are to do next to help people follow Jesus, to define and fulfill your life’s purpose. But your Father does. And he is waiting to help you, to speak with you, to guide you. However, every conversation requires two people. You must get alone with him, and listen to him. You must make time in your life and your soul for him. Only then can he lead you in the direction he created you to go.

So your Father is asking a very simple thing of you today, as you begin a new year. This is so simple that I’ve struggled with making it the practical point of the entire message, but I feel I must, that this is God’s will and word for every one of us.

God simply wants you to make half an hour to be alone with him, every morning this week. Half an hour to talk about your life’s direction in this new year, to think about your purpose and priorities, to know what steps you are to take next in helping people follow Jesus. Half an hour for a week, 3.5 hours out of your life, invested for the sake of a year spent well and a life lived well. Not much to ask, is it?

Will you give this to him?


God simply wants you to want to fulfill his purpose for your life. Start there, with him. And that will be enough.

There is a prayer I urge you to take with you and pray each morning as you begin your half-hour with your Father. It is by Thomas Merton, and means much to me. It is available at the doors for you to take home with you. Let’s close our study today with its words:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


The Untold Story of Christmas

The Untold Story of Christmas

Luke 2.8-14

Dr. Jim Denison

Over the years that I have been a preacher, I have presented many messages as monologues. I have been Joseph, Mary’s husband; a shepherd at Christmas; I’ve been the thief on the cross; Samuel of the Old Testament; the innkeeper in Bethlehem; even a Wise Man. But I’ve never strained the borders of incredulity more than today, for this day I wish to speak to you as an angel. Not a fallen angel (more appropriate type casting, many would say), but one of God’s heavenly host.

I’d like us to view Christmas through the eyes of an angel who first announced the birth of the Messiah. I want us to see this event, its history, and its significance as one of those heavenly messengers might have seen it all. Let’s listen to his story, and see what it says to ours.

The ministry of angels

Good morning. My name is Malkiah. I am one of God’s angels, sent today as his messenger to you. I can see that you are surprised. Don’t be. This is what we angels do, more often than you might imagine. I’m sure you’ve met some of my colleagues before—you just didn’t know it at the time. But more of that in a moment.

For those of you who are not familiar with angels, perhaps a little introduction is in order.

“Angel” means “messenger,” for this is our ministry. The Holy God created us to worship him and to lead others to worship him. To proclaim his love, justice, and grace to his creation, across all time and eternity.

We are much more common than you might think—we’re mentioned 108 times in your Old Testament, and 165 in your New Testament. David wrote in your Psalm 68 that we number “tens of thousands” (v. 17); John’s Revelation numbered us as 10,000 times 10,000; our Creator said that we are as many as the stars in his heavens (Job 38:7).

We were present at the creation of the universe (Job 38:7). We talked with Abraham, and delivered Lot and his family from Sodom (Genesis 18-19); we appeared to Jacob (Genesis 28:12); we called Moses to deliver the Jews from Egypt (Exodux 3:2,10) and led Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 14:19; 23:20). We led judges such as Gideon and Manoah, protected Daniel from the lions, and appeared often to the prophets.

In your New Testament we freed the apostles from prison (Acts 5:19), directed Philip to Samaria (8:26) and Cornelius to Peter (10:1-7), delivered Peter from prison (12:5-11), and encouraged Paul at sea (27:23-25). We are present all through John’s Revelation, in worship and proclamation.

And most important of all, we worked with the Lord Jesus all through his ministry on earth. We announced his birth to Mary, and led Joseph to make her his wife and raise Jesus as his son. We led Joseph to save Mary from Herod, and to settle in Galilee.

We ministered to the Lord in his temptations by the enemy, and protected and empowered him all through his ministry. We strengthened him in Gethsemane. We rolled away the stone at his resurrection, and announced his return to life. We were present at his ascension back to the Father, and promised his Second Coming to your planet.

And we will come back with him when he returns (Matthew 25:31); we will gather together his people and judge all mankind (Matthew 13:41-42); we will defeat Satan once and for all (Revelation 12:7-9); and we will spend eternity in the worship of Jehovah God.

The grace of angels

All through eternity, our purpose has been one of grace. We exist to help you do what you cannot do without us. To guide you, guard you, empower you, lead you to God and to the abundant life he wants for you. God created us to bring you his grace.

And the single greatest mistake I have watched you humans make all through your history is to reject that grace. To live your lives as though there were no God; to be independent, self-reliant, self-determined. To do life in your own way, and expect God to bless it. To choose works, while God chooses grace.

It was so in the beginning, with Adam and Eve. They knew God’s will, but chose to ignore it. They chose their own power, their own ambitions, their own desires. They chose to become their own gods, rejecting the grace of their Creator. And our God had to send us to drive them from Eden and bar their way to the tree of life. Even this was an act of grace—to keep them from living forever in their fallen state. They chose works, but God chose grace.

Abraham chose to sire a son by Hagar rather than waiting on God’s grace through Sarah. We were sent to offer grace to Hagar, comforting her and saving the life of her son Ishmael. To this day there is conflict in that region of the world between the two sons of Abraham. All because they chose works, while God chose grace.

In your New Testament the Sadducees arrested the apostles for preaching the truth, making themselves to be their judges and gods, choosing the works of legalism. We freed those preachers and sent them back into the temple courts to preach the grace of God (Acts 5:17-21). The religious leaders chose works, while God chose grace.

Still later King Herod jailed Peter, intending to execute that servant of God to please the religious authorities. But we freed Peter to preach his message of forgiveness and grace to the world, and brought just condemnation upon the King who refused the grace of God (Acts 12:1-19, 23). The king chose works, while God chose grace.

The grace of Christmas

But we never brought the message of God’s grace more powerfully to earth than on that night 2006 years ago in Bethlehem. Our Lord had been planning since the creation of the world for this great day.

We watched in amazement as he announced in the Garden of Eden that the “woman’s seed” would destroy Satan (Genesis 3:15); as he predicted that the Savior would be born from Abraham through the lines of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, and David; as he promised that the virgin would bear a son (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Our excitement grew as we watched him prepare the world through the Roman Empire: a universal language for the gospel, universal roads and peace for the first missionaries, a universal hunger for truth and salvation.

Then the day finally came when he summoned us and sent us to tell the world that his Son had come. To whom would we go? The High Priest and his court? The religious leaders and spiritual authorities? The Caesar? The king? No—to shepherds. Unbelievably, to shepherds.

Understand our shock.

The Jewish rabbis listed several despised occupations, and shepherds were at the top of their list of sinners. They led their flocks for months on end without supervision, giving them both temptation and opportunity to steal from their masters and graze on lands which were not theirs. Ancient people could not buy wool, milk, or lambs from shepherds, for they were assumed to be stolen. Shepherds could not testify in court as witnesses, for they were assumed to be liars. They could not worship in the Temple or synagogue, for they were spiritually unclean.

Imagine that you read in today’s newspaper that a group of thieves had broken into your houses and cars last night, stolen from you, gotten together to count up all they had taken, and suddenly one of us appeared to them and said, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy!” How shocked would you be?

We were that surprised, and more.

But this was the Father’s will. And so we traveled from heaven to earth, from the throne room of glory to the camp of despised field hands. We revealed to them the glory of the Lord. No wonder they “feared a great fear,” as Luke’s Greek says (2:9).

But I announced to them a “great joy” to replace their great fear: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” “Great joy,” “mega joy,” for “all the people.” No matter their sins, their failures, their mistakes and problems. No matter how far they have been from God—God now comes near to them. Great joy for all people, including you here today.

For at Christmas “a Savior has been born to you” (v. 10). Not just born—born “to you.” For you. He has come for you.

And with him comes “peace to men on whom his favor rests” (v. 14). To all who will receive this grace, his favor rests today. And with it, his peace.

Grace to you

Now I have come to bring you the same offer of grace I extended to those shepherds on that first Christmas night. If Jesus would come for shepherds, he has come for you. If he would forgive their sins and receive their worship, he will forgive your sins and receive your worship today. But you must do what those shepherds did. You must leave your flocks, your possessions and abilities, your self-sufficiency, and go to Bethlehem. You must leave behind your works, and choose his grace.

We angels see Christians today trapped by a kind of dualism: working as hard as you can to get ahead in this fallen, materialistic world, all the while trying to follow Jesus as well.

We watch you live your lives: 40 to 80 hour work weeks, congested time schedules, running your children to more events and practices and parties than you ever dreamed of when you were their ages; trying to make more money so you can have more success and happiness.

All the while, you want to follow Jesus as best you can. For most of you, this means a few minutes in the morning and an hour or two at church. Truth be told, some of you want God to bless you, to meet your needs, to help you out, more than you want to be with him because you love him. A kind of spiritual resource to help you be successful, happy, and fulfilled.

Getting ahead with your jobs, with your economic security, with your children’s lives and success, and Jesus, too. Choosing your works instead of his grace.

Do you have a friendship with Jesus? Did you know that he wants to be your friend? that he loves you as you are, and accepts you as you are, right now?

Jesus knows your worst sin and shame. He knows the stories you’ve hidden from everyone but yourself. He knows your every failure and mistake—and he loves you anyway. He likes you anyway. Think of it—the God of the universe likes you. He will forgive every sin you’ll confess to him, every sin of which you’ll repent. He loves you and likes you. Christmas proves it.

If Jesus would choose peasants for parents, and a feed trough for a crib, and sheep herders for worshippers, he chooses you to be his friend and follower. He chooses you because he loves you.

Would you leave behind your flocks and herds and come to Christmas? Would you base your self-esteem, your personal worth on his grace, not your works? Would you work hard out of gratitude for God’s love, not to earn it? Would you put your family’s spiritual health ahead of their material wealth? Would you spend time every day with Jesus because you love him, not to earn his favor and blessing? Would you accept the fact that God has forgiven every sin you’ve confessed to him? Would you accept the new life, the fresh start, the “great joy” he offers you today?


I have come today to announce what I first told the shepherds: you are loved. God is real, and he loves you. He proved his love at Christmas, when he came for shepherds and every other sinner as well. He has come for you, now. Would you come to him?

Your Father has sent me with this message for you: You are his beloved, on whom his favor rests. He has called you by name from the very beginning. You are his, and he is yours. He molded and crafted you in your mother’s womb, and formed you in the hollow of his hand. He shelters you in the shadow of his embrace. He looks upon you with infinite love, and cares for you with a compassion greater than even a mother’s intimate love. He has numbered every hair on your head, with joy.

Wherever you go, he goes; when you rest, he keeps watch. He will give you food to satisfy all your hunger, and drink to quench all your thirst. He will not hide his face from you, for you are his beloved, in whom he is well pleased (adapted from Henri Nouwen’s poem, I Am the Beloved).

Will you live by his grace? Will you make every day your Christmas day?