There is absolutely no getting around it, Christmas is about a baby. And not just any baby, but one little baby that came into the world and that changed everything. He reoriented, He redirected, He literally redefined all of history on earth.
The God of the universe intervened on the planet that He made, for the people that He loves, and in ways that are just hard to fathom, He decided He would be as vulnerable and as helpless and as humble as a little baby. The Spirit of God, in the womb of Mary – fully man, fully God – without confusion.
Now, for two thousand years, we celebrate this event called “Christmas,” and it goes something like this. You’ll notice on the front of your notes. An angel tells Mary about the baby. Mary couldn’t comprehend having the baby, for obvious reasons. Joseph’s problem with Mary was the baby. He knows it’s not his and that story she is telling him makes no sense.
And the angel tells Joseph, “You may not be the dad, but you are to raise the baby.” A manger becomes the birthplace for the baby. Angels and shepherds come and worship the baby. Wise men, scholars project, probably were two years in following the star to find the baby.
And in a fallen world, when the baby and His rule threatened, Herod tried to kill the baby. Now, I have spoken on Christmas a lot of times and one year you think, Let’s talk about it through Mary’s eyes. And next year, How about through Joseph’s eyes? And I wonder, let’s see, the Wise Men’s eyes or the angels’ eyes. Because you all know the story.
But this year, I’d like to redirect our focus, rather from just the story, which you know, I’d like us to move to the next level and ask ourselves the profound questions the story raises, like, In a little baby like this, why did He come? In a little baby like this, who is He really?
Some thought He was just a teacher, some thought a prophet. What does the Scripture say? What does God say?
And finally, what did that baby want when He grew up, became a man, and lived a perfect life?
What I want to talk about is Christmas from heaven’s perspective. And there are three questions, at least, that come to my mind that demand an answer. And question number one is: So, why? Okay God created the world. Why did He come?
If you turn in your Bible to the book of Colossians, it’s a very small book toward the back. And in this little book, written by the apostle Paul, in about A.D. 61, he’s in his first imprisonment and the town is a little town about a hundred miles off the trade route from Ephesus.
It’s an affluent town. It has a deposit of minerals. It’s near bigger towns called Laodicea or Areopolis. And at the time, it was a very key city. The church was planted by someone named Epaphras and Epaphras has come back to Paul in prison and given a report about this little church, this Gentile church. And it’s growing and it’s flourishing and it’s exciting and it’s multi-cultural, because there are Jew and Gentile and on this trade route and they have these minerals and great pasturelands.
In fact, they had such a quality of wool that they would dye it a special color and it became known as Colossian wool. It reminded me a lot of the Silicon Valley, it’s where things happen. It’s multi-cultural. They had resources. They had a lot of ideas, a lot of backgrounds, a lot of religions.
And the apostle Paul is going to write, because a problem arose. This early church, some false teachers came. And these false teachers had an interesting mix. They were Jewish in origin and so they were demanding and if you read the whole book, they demand that people keep the Law, which no one can keep. and all these religious festivals and holidays and external religious activities.
But there was also a mixture of Greek philosophy, the beginning of what is called, “Gnosticism.” It’s just the Greek word for, “knowing,” – “gnōsis.” And Gnostics believed that the spirit is pure but everything material is evil.
And so, in other words, God couldn’t create the earth, because the earth, in its matter, is evil and God is spirit. And so you had these emanations or series or stages of angels to get between Him and this evil matter.
And, heaven forbid, there is no way that God could come in the flesh, because if flesh is evil... And so they were telling people they needed to keep all these new rules, that Jesus wasn’t God, that God didn’t directly create the earth, that you need to worship angels.
And then there was this sense of elitism, this sophistication of the higher knowledge. And so the apostle Paul is going to write to this new church in this multi-cultural, affluent area, with all these religions and false teachers.
And embedded in the first chapter, he is going to tell us why Jesus came as a little baby, why He would grow up and why, in fact, Jesus left heaven.
Notice the introduction is the first couple of verses. And it just outline, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus,” and then he tells them, “By the will of God, and Timothy our brother.” And then he addresses them, “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossi, grace and peace to you from God our Father.”
And then he gives us the first reason why Jesus left heaven. Jesus left heaven to give us a hope that will never disappoint. He left heaven to give you and me and them and all people a hope that would never disappoint.
It’s embedded in a little prayer of thanksgiving. Follow along, verse 3. He says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,” well, here’s the reason, “because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the Word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world, this gospel is producing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you, since the day you heard it, and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant who is a fellow minister of Christ on our behalf, who also told us about your love in the Spirit.”
Now, the apostle Paul, I love him. I love what he has to say. It is inspired by God. But he uses the longest sentences in the world, right? And, in fact, in the New Testament Greek, the grammar has to be supplied.
So if you try and outline his grammar, he is just, “So that, for that.” And so what I try and do is I rewrite the text. And after I have studied the grammar, I have put it for you.
So, basically, it goes like this. He gives thanks to the Father for two reasons: Their faith in Christ and their love for other believers. And so it’s very positive. He is praying, he is thankful, he has gotten a report from Epaphras.
This faith and love, literally, spring out of, it’s a very interesting word, it’s a tiny little Greek word but it has to do with the idea of agency. It’s the idea of something that comes or causes something to happen.
And he says, “This faith that you have, this new relationship with Christ, and this new love, the way you treat one another, actually, it is rooted,” or it sprang up, or it came to be, “because of this hope that you have.”
And then he describes the hope as something that is sure, it’s laid up for them in heaven. And he says that you learned about it when you received the gospel of grace.
Now, when we use the word, hope, we don’t use it the way the Bible uses it. It’s not wrong or it’s not bad but we use hope like, “I hope I get married someday.” Or, “I hope I get a better job.” Or, “I hope we can have children one day.” Or, “I hope someday we could own our own home.” Or, “I hope that the 49ers win.”
In other words, hope is almost a desire of the heart or even wishful thinking. “I hope it doesn’t rain.”
The Bible never uses the word hope that way. In Scripture, the word hope is that which is absolutely certain, unchangeable, definite, and true about a future event. And so what he is saying is, “I have heard about this newfound faith and relationship with the Father through Christ and your love that you have for one another that is growing and increasing. And it is rooted in the hope,” and then he says, “This hope can’t change and it’s protected.”
It is actually stored up for you! It’s laid up, literally, for you in heaven. Why? Because that’s where Christ is.
And their hope is because they have heard the gospel. The hope is that Christ is going to return. No matter what you are going through, no matter how hard it is or how difficult or what people are teaching, I want to remind you that Christ is going to return.
And I want to remind you, also, that before He left, He told His disciples then and now, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if it weren’t so, I wouldn’t say it. Let not your heart be troubled. Do you believe in God? Believe also in Me.”
And the rooting of the gospel, this amazing pronouncement and message was: There is a hope that will never disappoint. We are not made just for a time. It’s time but inside of all eternity, Christ in heaven will return, heaven is real, and you learned that – how? By the gospel.
Now, sometimes the word gospel, again, some of these words we get used over the centuries and so gospel is like, “Hey! Well that is the gospel truth.” Or, “That’s Southern Gospel music.”
There are all kinds of ways we use gospel. The gospel, the literal meaning of gospel is, literally, good news. By the way, it’s not even an appeal. It’s a declaration. It’s an announcement.
A gospel would be, even before it was used in Scripture, if a king had a victory over another country, he would send envoys throughout his kingdom and they would give a gospel or a good news or a declaration, “That group has been defeated; our king has won!” Euaggelion. “Good tidings,” or, “news.”
And the apostle Paul says, “This good news is, first of all, it’s true, contrary to these false teachers. It went all around the world.” He says it is consistently bearing fruit. In other words, lives are changing, love is growing, needs are met, joy and peace are replacing conflict and bondage and addictions.
He says that, “It came through your brother who shared this message.” And the message, clearly, of the gospel that is the very power of God is that God came in the form of a little baby – fully man, fully God. He grew up and lived an absolutely sinless, perfect life. He revealed what the Father is like: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father – full of truth and grace.”
And then He taught. And then He healed. And He fed. And He fulfilled seven hundred Old Testament prophecies. And then, for no crime that He committed, He would hang upon a cross and die. And He didn’t die for His sins, He died as a sacrificial substitute for you, for me, and to atone or, literally, the word means to cover, or pay for, the sins of all people of all time.
And then to prove that it was true, He would rise from the dead after three days, having defeated sin, death, and Satan. And then He would walk around in a resurrected body, where you could actually see the holes, touch His side.
Five hundred eye witnesses for forty days. And then, in broad daylight, would ascend up to heaven and the good news is the free gift of the forgiveness of sins and a new life and the assurance of heaven is for whosoever would believe and trust in Him. That is the gospel. And he says it is rooted in a hope.
When I was in China, I met a young guy that I really, really liked. And we had all these leaders and he was thirty-one years old from Montana and his name was Levi. And we sat on a bus together and he said, “So why are you here?” I said, “I don’t know!” He said, “Well, if you don’t know, I sure don’t know. Here are all these leaders. I’m thirty-one years old!”
And I said, “Well, Levi, tell me a little bit about your life.” He said, “Well, I got to be involved in a church. It was pretty neat. And I just thought God wanted to help people in Montana someday, some way. So when I was twenty-three, I just started a little Bible study.”
I said, “Well, what happened?” He says, “Well, we have five sites all over Montana and five radio places and it’s just taken off. It’s crazy, man!” He was thirty-one. Had his skinny jeans on and everything.
And he just had this, I don’t say this about many men, he just had this sweet spirit. And a little bit later, I said, “We are going to have to take the train later. I’d love to get some time with you.” He said, “Oh, that would be great.” And so we sit and talk and I said, “Tell me a little bit about your life.”
And I don’t know why I said this. I said, “What is the biggest challenge that you’re facing?” And he got real quiet.
He said, “Last year, it was just a few days before Christmas,” and then he pulled out his phone and he showed me a picture of a little four or five year old girl. And he said, “That’s my daughter. And she had asthma but had medicine and under control and she never had a really terrible episode. And last year, a few days before Christmas, she had this outrageous asthma attack. And we called 911 and the EMTs came. But before they got there, she stopped breathing. And I gave her mouth-to-mouth and I did CPR. And I did it, and did it, and did it, and did it. And I went to the hospital and my little girl died in my arms.”
And I said, “Well, how are you doing?” He said, “I am living on the sheer reality of the hope that is laid up for me. My little girl is in heaven.” And he said, “That whole group, I have only been there eight years, but from twenty-three to thirty-one, that group, they have been our family. And we did Christmas Eve together and then we did Christmas. And they got around us and they prayed for us and they have loved us and we took some time away.”
But he said, “What I can tell you is anything and everything can let you down, but I live daily,” and he showed me this picture, “Jesus said that He is coming back and Jesus said there is a heaven, that is real. And that hope is what I am hanging my life on. And I have some really bad days, but I always go back to, What lens am I looking at life through? Is it just now through a little time? Or is it through eternity?”
And I want you to know this: That little baby, filled with the incarnate God, He left heaven so you could have a hope that would never disappoint you. Because I’ll tell you what, you put your hope in money, it’ll disappoint you. You put your hope in fame, it’ll disappoint you. You can put your hope in good things like your kids or your marriage and you know what? As wonderful as they are, they will disappoint you.
You could put your hope in your skills or your dreams and they will disappoint you. You can put your hope in a church or pastors and they will disappoint you.
As sitting before you right now, just saying, I could make the most sincere commitments and I really want to keep them, I just don’t have the power to. I let my own wife down, I let my kids down, I want to do what’s right, I find myself not doing what is right all the time.
Can anyone relate to that? Well, if that is true, if you put your hope in something or someone other than the Savior of the world, a day is going to come and I hope it’s not as tragic as Levi, but you’ll just ask yourself, Where is the hope in life?
See, everyone puts their hope in something. And it’s not what you say your hope is in. What we do is we open up your schedule, and we open up your brain and we see what you think, and then we follow the money trail. And when we see your time, and we open up your brain, and we follow the money trail, there is a big “equal” sign. Those things tell you where your hope is.
I really have an easy time memorizing certain things, but there are certain things I just have a mental block. The words of songs I can never remember. I was reviewing a song that we sing every year about this time. People have been singing about the hope of this little baby since 1865, by the writer, a pastor called Phillips Brooks when he visited Palestine.
See if this doesn’t ring a bell and maybe you will sing it differently this year. “Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by; Yet in thy darkness shineth the everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight.”
Jesus left heaven to give you a hope that would never, ever disappoint you. As you celebrate Christmas this year, get that on the forefront of your mind, in your heart, in your thinking.