Rediscover the Essence of Christmas: A Season Beyond Merriment

3rd Sunday in Advent - 12/17/2023 | Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11 ESV

Tis the Season to be Joyful: The True Meaning of Christmas

The countdown to Christmas begins.

The 2023 holiday season is upon us, and the excitement of Christmas Day is palpable. Festive decorations adorn homes. The air is full of joyous exchanges of "Happy Holidays!" Even merchants join the merriment, humming to classic tunes while their cash registers ring with the season's cheer. 

Children eagerly await the magic beneath the Christmas tree, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Truly, 'tis the season to be jolly!

The Humble Origins of Christmas

Despite the holiday revelry, let us pause and contemplate. Is all of the external joy synonymous with the true essence of Christmas? Should this season only evoke temporary merriment, or does it hold a more profound significance for us to rediscover and reflect on?

The first Christmas reveals vastly different circumstances compared to our extravagant celebrations today. No twinkling lights adorn the scene, no toasts to good times, and certainly no chorus of "fa la la la."

The setting was far from jolly - Mary and Joseph sought refuge in a modest makeshift barn, where Mary gave birth under less-than-ideal circumstances. Uninvited guests, including humble shepherds, bore witness to the event. From a worldly standpoint, there seemed little cause for joy.

Yet, even without the customary festive trappings, the celestial hosts heralded tidings of great joy! This joy emanated from the infant in the manger - God's gift of eternal joy, wrapped in human form and swaddled in clothes.

In Him resides the gift that bestows joy even while suffering and sorrow. Each day is a season of genuine joy!

Isaiah's Prophecy Fulfilled: The Servant of the Lord

Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold of this "season to be joyful." This season would be ushered in by the Servant of the Lord God Almighty. This anointed Servant, infused with the Spirit of God, had a specific mission: to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and comfort those in mourning.

Isaiah's prophecy spans beyond the sixth century B.C., reaching the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. It extends through the New Testament age to the present day and anticipates Jesus' Second Advent on Judgment Day.

Rediscover the True Christmas Spirit

After Jesus' baptism, as the Spirit of God descended upon Him, one of His initial acts was to stand in the Nazareth synagogue and recite Isaiah's prophecy. He declared, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!" (Luke 4:18).

Jesus, God's anointed, came to announce the season of joy in Him. He arrived to establish peace between sinful humanity and a holy God, heal wounds, die, bring life to the dying, and offer forgiveness to those facing God's judgment.

A Different Kind of Christmas

Isaiah's prophecy, akin to a joyous greeting card for the world, contrasts with the Christmas celebrations of today. The contemporary focus often gravitates toward the joy of affluence, trouble-free living, and fulfillment. It appears tied to the quantity and quality of presents, the grandeur of the feast, picturesque snowy scenes, a flawless Christmas tree, and a life without troubles.

Yet, this is Christmas without Jesus. Such a Christmas is incomplete without Christ.

The Authentic Joy in Christmas

If the sources of our Christmas happiness revolve around temporary merriment, Isaiah's message might seem detached. His words specifically resonate with the poor, the brokenhearted, those in deep sorrow, and those feeling hopeless.

Jesus, the Son of God, entered such challenging circumstances to rescue humanity. Born in a humble stable, He aspired to elevate people to heavenly realms. Through a virgin birth, He embraced shame to deliver us from sin. In the obscurity of a cave, He emerged to usher us into the eternal light of salvation.

A Season of Grace and Comfort

In this unique age, we find ourselves in the "time of the Lord's favor." Positioned between Jesus' initial redemption in Bethlehem and His impending judgment on those who reject Him—the day of God's vengeance—we have the golden opportunity to rejoice. Despite societal challenges and warnings about the potential threats of AI, we live in a time of grace.

Our fortune lies in the assurance of forgiveness from God, even as we await His Judgment Day. The One who came in human form guarantees, through His cross and open tomb, that His return will bring deliverance, not condemnation.

Joy for Everyone

The happiness we derive stems from the fact that the Lord's favor, as Isaiah proclaimed, is for the poor. These include individuals lacking in goodness, a category encompassing us all. Daily, we confront our shortcomings in the eyes of God's law, revealing our unrighteousness and unworthiness of His grace.

The good news brought by the Child born in Bethlehem is that through His cross, God's forgiveness and life extend even to the spiritually poor. As Jesus stated in His Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will inherit the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

Regardless of worldly possessions, the treasures of heaven are attainable. Whether rich or poor, none possess the honor and goodness necessary to enter heaven independently.

Yet, through God's immense grace, eternal riches of His glory are already reserved for those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. How can we not be joyful when the entire Kingdom of Heaven is ours?

Comfort for the Brokenhearted

Christmas is not merely a time for personal celebration. Christmas holds an opportunity to extend comfort and support to those in need. In this season of joy, let us remember those brokenhearted, in sorrow, and feeling hopeless.

As Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, we, too, can follow in His footsteps, bringing hope, love, and compassion to those who are hurting. As we immerse ourselves in holiday festivities, let's not lose sight of the genuine meaning of Christmas.

It is a time to rejoice in the gift of God's love and redemption through Jesus Christ. May this Christmas be a season of authentic joy, surpassing temporary merriment, and drawing us closer to the heart of the One who bestows everlasting joy. In Jesus we sing, "Joy to the World, The Lord has come!" Amen!

More 2023 Advent Sermons

John the Baptist's Message

Significance of the LORD’s Advent