Baby Jesus: An Exile Who Redeems Misfit Toys

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.

What About?

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!

Tips For Reviving Your CHRISTmas Spirit

tips-for-reviving-your-christmas-spiritAre you feeling a little down this Christmas? Can you relate with Charlies Brown? You like sending Christmas cards, getting presents, and decorating Christmas tree, but you still feel like something is missing. You still feel a touch incomplete. You found yourself down this holiday season and would agree with Linus, that of all the Charlie Browns in the eorld, you are the Charlie Browniest.

When we feel down, our hearts and the kind voices of others try to revive our Christmas spirit by usually pointing to three things.

First, we seek to find joy in rest. We rejoice in the fact that we have a few days or hours off from work. Life slows down, and for a few hours the rat race is on hold. If nothing else, we can rejoice in the ability to sleep in.

Second, we can seek to find joy in relationships. Every Hallmark Christmas movie proclaims that Christmas is worthy celebrating because the holiday helps men and women discover who they are and who they are meant to be with. Parents reunite with their kids, kids rediscover their parents, and of course somebody gets an engagement ring before the credits roll.

And lastly, we seek to find Joy in the worldly peace of the Christmas. As we dance to Christmas songs, and greet strangers with a smile, our chest begins to warm with feelings of hope. We once again notice that our fellow human beings are not so bad after all. Since people can be nice at Christmas, we dream of people helping old ladies all year round. We can find joy in celebrating the universal goodness of humanity.

And while all these theories sound promising, none of them will revive our Christmas’ spirt. None of them will fill that hole in our hearts.

gettyimages-112799183-1510597982Our morning to sleep-in can be quickly disrupted by a sick child. Even worse, our coworker may have a sick child and call us to take her shift. The relationships can as easily produce hurt as joy. Family members just as quickly snub our Christmas dinner invite as come to our home. Couples just as easily get divorced as get engaged over the Christmas weekend. And just as soon as we convince ourselves of the goodness of humanity, someone hits our parked car and takes off without leaving a note. Terrorists attempt to blow up subways and happy shoppers. And, therapist’s offices become overrun with request for counseling. Christmas spirit does nothing to change the sad, troubled, and difficult state of mankind. The promises of rest, relationships, and world peace fail to give us lasting and substantial hope.

To revive our hearts, we need to remember Paul’s word in 1 Timothy 1:15:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

To find hope for the first time or to revive our failing hearts, we need to renew our focus on the work of Christ. And we must not focus purely on Christ the baby as a symbol of peace and hope. He is that. But he is much more. He is our savior. He came into the world to save sinners. As the angels tell the shepherds in Luke 2, the message of Christmas is glorious because our savior has come. Jesus is God become flesh. He has come to live the perfect life that we have attempted to live. He came to die for our sins on the cross. And he came to rise from the grave and to gain victory over death. He came to supply meaning when there was no meaning. He came to fill the hole in our hearts this Christmas. He is the answer to our Charlie Browniness. He is our hope. Linus reminds Charlie Brown of this truth. And we will only find hope amidst all the commercialization, broken relationships, and empty mail boxes of Christmas if we worship Christ as our savior.

To have access to Jesus’ power, we must realize that we are sinners. Paul says that Jesus came to save sinner, “of whom I am the foremost.” Paul boldly and loudly declares to the world that he is the chief of sinners. He proclaims that he is horribly wicked,beyond help and beyond saving. No person, religion, or self-help program can fix Paul and get him back into a right relationship with God. He is the chief of sinners.

To have hope, we must first realize that we are hopeless. Before we will see our need for Jesus and before we can understand why the angel’s message to the shepherds was good news, we must understand that we are horribly wicked people. We must understand that our little lies, our little outburst of anger, and our little mean comments are huge in the eyes of God.  We must see that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one, are perfect, glorious, and holy. And we must grasp that we are not holy. We must understand that we are not a little wicked, but desperately wicked and beyond repair when compared to the God of the universe. As John Calvin said, “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”

Often, we fall into misery and despair at Christmas because we minimize our sin problem. We tend to look around at the world and assume that we are not that bad or that broken. We think that moving to a new house will make us happy. We believe a new job or school will fix our social problems. We think a raise will wipe away the emptiness inside. We think a few drinks or few illegals drugs will empower us to handle the stresses of bills, work, school, and relationships. We think that we are not so bad off. We pine away for money, degrees, new friends, nicer clothes, bigger homes, and happier experiences. And yet all the while, our problems never go away. Sure, we feel less stressed when drunk and on drugs, but now our budget is a wreck and credit cards bills are mounting. We secure a new job, but now we neglect our family. We strive for money and fail to get it and not feel more depressed and hopeless.  By failing to realize that we cannot fix our heart and change our lifestyle, we doom ourselves to failure.

To fill the void in our heart this Christmas, we must realize that we are the chiefs of sinners. We must realize that we cannot fix ourselves. When we gaze on the perfection and power of the baby Jesus, we should come away convinced of our utter worthlessness.

Thankfully as Paul already noted, our story does not end with our sin. Jesus came to save the chief of sinners. Jesus came to save messed up wrecks like you and me. Jesus came, lived, died on the cross, and rose again because he knew people like you and me would lie, steal, commit fornication, get drunk, and get angry. He came to save sinners. Those words represent the hope of Christmas!

If you find a gaping hole in your Christmas spirit this year, I encourage you to reflect on Paul’s words. Remember that Christ came to save sinners.  Remember that life truly is bad, hard, difficult and anything but the storybook life pictured on T.V because the world is full of people like you and me. And then remember we have great hope because God has saved us from our sin and sorrow. Yes, the life of the Christian is still hard. Yes, the times are difficult. But those who love Christ have a new heart, not just one two size bigger. We have a new heart and the Holy Spirit.. Life will be good and joyful because God is with us. The emptiness in our stomach is not the final judgment on our life. God has saved us. We have great hope even if we have nothing under the tree.

And if you have never experienced the saving power of Christ, if you are still busily running around trying to fix things, I encourage you to stop. Look to Jesus who saves. Admit that your are beyond help and then repent and believe. Trust Jesus to save you.

Jesus has come to save sinners. No person has to be the Charlie Browniest person this Christmas!