Every year, the lights, sounds, and smells of Christmas convince millions of nice people sitting on the crumbling fence that marks the divide between the secular and the spiritual hop back into church for an hour or two. The sentimental Christmas carols sung in a lowly lit sanctuary on December 24 and 25 fill a special place in many a heart.
This is no new phenomenon. The famed pastor, John Calvin, noted that December 25, 1515 had brought out, “more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon (Micah 302).” Over the centuries, these holiday services provide the mostly moral and nominally religious souls with a sense of the grandeur of God and the potential of humanity that makes gift giving, family meals, and trips to grandma’s house all that more pleasant.
For the record, allow me to assert that I am glad to have anyone at any service for any reason. If you want to attend church, I want you to visit my church family regardless of where you come from or where you were or what you want. The salvation comes through hearing. Come hear the gospel!
Who is Christmas For?
But Christmas is ultimately not about these good little girls and boys who are willing to check off the church box every so often. It is about the souls that have been kicked out of moralistic circles because they drank too much, were sexually deviant, or asked too many questions. For a time, they attempted to heed the morality of their parents and tow the Sunday school line. But at the end of the day, they could not cut it. Existential crises came. Tragedy struck. Sin prevailed. The love of their family, friends, and church evaporated, pointing them to exile. Today, these souls would be more likely to spend Christmas Eve at the bar than at the church.
Baby Jesus came for these people. In the gospel that bears his name, Matthew highlights Jesus’s connection to Abraham, David, and the deportation or exile (Matt 1:1-17). Matthew constructed his genealogy to reveal both Jesus’s historical ancestors as well as his purpose which is this: Jesus came to shower the blessings of Abraham through the Messiah’s kingly power so that exiles can know redemption. Notice Jesus did not come for the moral and those who feel comfortable attending church twice a year. He did not associate with Pharisees. He came from exiles.
The Exile Who Saves Exiles
The baby in the manger who is the God of the universe is also the heir of losers who turned all of God’s blessings into crumpled messes. His lineage contained liars, adulterers, prostitutes, and those who had committed incest. He came from a people that deserved exile so that he could redeem them from that very exile. In chapter 9 of his book, Matthew 9:12-13 declares, “But when he [Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is why dirty shepherds and gentile astrologers who would have been deemed unworthy of polite Jewish society because they lacked manners or came from the wrong side of the tracks were the first to worship baby Jesus. The descendent of outcasts, came to redeem the outcasts. To borrow from the T.V. Christmas specials Jesus is a type of Rudolph, a misfit, who can save the other misfits stuck on the Island of Misfit Toys.
Friend if you have been truly bad this year committing sins that you wish to keep hidden forever, I encourage you to come to Christ. For in addition to being the son of exiles, Jesus is also the son of David. He is the great king of the universe who controlled the waves, healed the sick, and cast out demons. But he did more than that. He went and died and rose again so that all those souls who have been rejected by society because of their sin could be restored to the love of God. He offers to take the inhabitants of the island of misfit toys to eternal glory if they will repent and believe upon him.
Some who muddle about the island discount the offer of salvation because they believe they are broken beyond repair. They think that years of family history, mental illness, and vile sins cannot be easily reversed. While Jesus empathize with their pain, he knows nothing of these souls’ despair. The God who defeated demons can more than conquer the skeletons in our closets. The physician came to save the sick. And he promises to walk with the sick on their road to spiritual health, however long it takes.
And the Church?
As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations, may those of us in the church faithfully seek out those who feel exiled from society, the church, and “good” people. Though they may not know it yet, Christmas is their holiday.
Next, let’s lovingly remind those good girls and boys who have popping into church once or twice a year since the days of Calvin that they too are misfit, sinners in need of redemption. As the Psalmist said, “There is none righteous, no not one.” Not even the moral person who casually attends church can achieve the righteousness of God. Even the best of us needs the saving grace of God. Church, when we gather to sing those quintessential Christmas carols, let’s make a point to share gospel once again.
As the angels noted so long ago, the good news of great joy is for all people! Jesus Christ was born to save sinners! The exile redeems the misfit souls! Come and Worship Christ the new born king!