If it was up to us, Christmas would have never happened. That’s right; the very first Christmas would never have happened if it depended upon people like you and me.
Hundreds of years before Joseph and Marry made the difficult journey to Bethlehem, God sent his prophet Isaiah to talk with king Ahaz. At that time, the king of Judah was facing an all-out attack from the neighboring kingdom of Israel. All looked hopeless for the people of Judah. Isaiah 7:2 reports that “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of the people shook as trees of the forest shock before the wind.” The people were scared, really sacred.
In the midst of their despair, Ahaz and his people got some really good news! Isaiah shows up and tells them that God will defend them! Ahaz is saved! Then, God sends Isaiah back to Ahaz and says, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be as deep as Sheol or a high as heaven (vs.11). In short God says, test me. Let me do something amazing so that you know that I am God and can deliver you. Ask me for a star from heaven and it is yours! Ask me to give you a pet dinosaur to ride on, it is yours. Ask me for thousands of pounds of gold it is yours. Ask for anything!”
And what does Ahaz do? He says, “Nope, I’m good.” “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (v12). In short, Ahaz does not want a savior. Sure, he is scared. But he does not want God to deliver him. He does not want God to get glory. He wants to handle things on his own. We know from 2 Kings, that Ahaz regularly worshiped idols. He even sacrificed one of his sons to an false god. Ahaz worshiped little pieces of stone instead of the God of the universe. The king did not want anything from God, especially salvation. He wanted to live life his own way, fiercely independent and free from the judgment of God. The king did not want a baby in a manger if it meant that he had to worship the baby who would one day die on the cross. Ahaz was did not want Christmas!
We must not follow in Ahaz idolatrous footsteps. We must not try to find deliverance this holiday season through sappy movies, rich food, or video games. We should not depend on our own modern day idols so that we do not have to trust God. When we put our trust in the idols of this world, we see no reason to ask God to prove himself. We stop expecting God to change our spouse; we stop asking God to save our son; and, we stop thinking that God can provide us with a new job. We may excuse our sin by saying that we don’t want to bother God with our problems. But such a statement is not an expression of faith. It is an Ahaz type of expression that says, “God can’t do anything; why bother him.” If we embrace this old king’s mindset, we will not find joy. We will become complacent, bitter, and disenchanted with life. We become like the Grinch hating all the glorious noise that points to God’s greatness. We must not assume that our failures to find happiness mean that God is powerless to act. We must not think that God is too weak to work and then busily set about to fix things. We must not call for Christmas to be cancelled.
But thankfully, Christmas was not up to Ahaz. God knew Ahaz needed more than a star or dinosaur. He knew that Ahaz needed a savior. He knew that Ahaz could not even ask God for the right sign. And so God gave the sign that Ahaz should have asked for.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (vs.14).
God gave Ahaz and all of us a sign far greater than a pet dinosaur. Jesus shrunk himself down to our size. He came and lived a perfect life and died for us. He came to save us not just from our enemies at work or from cancer or from poverty. He came to save us from our sin. He came to give us eternal life. God gave us a sign that could not be surpassed. God gave us the amazing gift of Christmas. He gave us the gift of salvation. As the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
Nothing greater can be said: God become a child…His poverty in the manager is his might. In the might of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humankind, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead.
For this very reason Christmas is worth celebrating. Jesus came. God did for us what we could never have dreamed of. Yes, Christmas may be full of disappointment this year. Our problems may cause our knees to shake with fear. But we have hope. We can turn off the T.V, we can close the refrigerator, and we put down the controller. If we are Christians, God has saved us. We should recall that the son of God has come. Jesus has done something far greater than solve family issues. He has saved the lost. And if God can save us and if God can save millions of people, he will do more than we could ever imagine. He will work. He will do the miraculous again and again. And even when we don’t know what to ask for, God asks for us! He will do for all of his children what he did for Ahaz. He will give them the signs and the encouragement that they need when they need it. Christmas is all about hope. Christmas is all about trusting God because he know our needs and gives us everything via Jesus. Friends if there ever was a time to trust God, it is at Christmas.
Ahaz could not cancel Christmas. It was not up to him. No amount of doubt or sin can cancel God’s plan or overcome his mercy! We cannot ruin the holiday. The message and power of Christmas is not dependent on you or me! It is up to God! It is worth celebrating! Merry Christmas!