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Annual Christmas Service 2023

Hymn #201……………………………….. O Come, All Ye Faithful

What is Christmas all about? Most of us are familiar with the story: Jesus was born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. The angels announced his birth to the shepherds who then came to see him. The wise men came later with extravagant gifts for the newborn king. When we think of the story, it makes us smile as we think about a baby with his mother, a star in the sky, and a peaceful night with snow on the ground. But if that is all we get from the birth of Jesus, we would miss something very important—the reason why He came.

In today’s Annual Christmas Service, we would like to share with you the reason why Jesus came. Our program will be divided into three sections. We will be looking at three events that explain why Jesus came (the Promise), who He is (the Savior), and what He accomplished (the Price). During each section, we will have a Christmas carol, a Christmas reading, a passage from the Bible, and a short message from the pastor. As we begin, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts to hear the message He has for us.

  1. The Promise (Gen. 3:15)

    Hymn #229………………………………..O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    Reading 1 – “The First Christmas Verse Is in Genesis” by Greg L.

    “The real Christmas story goes way back, before Mary and Joseph, before Bethlehem, before the shepherds, before the wise men, before Caesar Augustus, and before the innkeeper. … We have to go back to the very beginning. This story of redemption starts in a garden and begins with a tree. It isn’t one of those trees you buy at a lot, nor is it an artificial tree. The tree I’m talking about was in the Garden of Eden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here were Adam and Eve in paradise, literally surrounded by [everything they could ever need or want. God had provided everything for them.] And best of all, there was no sin or the guilt and shame that follows it.

    There was only one restriction in this garden: It was forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve could eat anything they wanted except the fruit from this tree. [God knew that it would only cause them pain and sorrow.] Yet there is something about human beings that is drawn to the forbidden. We are attracted to the thing we are not supposed to look at. We’ll say, ‘I’ll just take a look. I’ll never engage. I would never participate.’ Famous last words. The next thing you know, Adam and Eve were eating the forbidden fruit, and sin entered the world. Their eyes were closed to heaven and opened to earth. And suddenly they were out of fellowship with God. That brings us to the first Christmas verse, the first mention of Christ in the Bible.”1

    Scripture

    Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

    Message

    Despite God’s goodness to Adam and Eve, they chose to believe Satan instead of God. And if you were to read the rest of the chapter, you would see that there were consequences that resulted from their sin. The biggest result of their sin was death. But there were other consequences which still affect us today. However, God, who is rich in mercy, made a promise that would bring future relief to the human race.

    The verse we read earlier is part of the curse on the serpent. If you look closely at the verse, this was not a curse on snakes. It was a curse on Satan who had possessed the snake and spoken through it. God promised something very interesting here. He promised that there would be enmity (hatred) between Satan and the woman and between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed. Who was this seed of the woman? This promise was referring to the One who would be born of a virgin many years later. Though Satan would bruise His heal, Jesus would bruise or crush his head.

    Though spoken in cryptic language, this early promise was God’s way of saying that Satan would be beaten in the future. Despite all of his best attempts to destroy the human race, to turn them away from God, to ruin their lives, there would come a day when the promised Seed (Jesus) would be born and defeat the terrible serpent, Satan. That was God’s promise many years before it took place.

  2. The Savior (Matt. 1:18-25)

    Hymn #198………………………………..Born to Die

    Reading 2 – “Christmas Savior – the One and Only Remedy for Sin” by John R.

    “The message of the Christmas Savior is a message we should trumpet all year long not just on December 25th. He is the one and only remedy to man’s sin. It is a certainty that there is no reason for Christmas without Jesus but there would have been no need for [Jesus] if there had not been any sin. … Sin is still the problem for men on Earth. Some call it ‘a challenge,’ ‘my problem,’ ‘my issue,’ but I take issue with that and call it sin. Why? Because if you can call it sin, there is an answer for sin, and His name is Jesus, Savior. Sin is the thief of joy, confidence, health, family, wealth, and self-respect. Sin will still ruin any relationship. Sin at work, you can lose your job. Sin at the store and you can go to jail. Sin at home and it can cost you your family or marriage. Sin at school and it can cost you your education. The Good News is that Jesus the Savior was born to … die and save all mankind from their sins.”2

    Scripture

    Matthew 1:18-25 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”

    Message

    Many years passed after God’s promise was made. And the promised Seed finally came into the world. According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary were betrothed to be married. But something awkward took place. Joseph found out that his future wife was pregnant. I am sure that Mary told him that the baby was conceived by a miracle of God’s Holy Spirit. An angel had promised this in Luke 1. But this must have been too much for Joseph to believe. He was a kind man and didn’t want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone, but this was certainly not a good thing in his mind.

    While he was sleeping, one night, an angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel told him not to be afraid of taking Mary as his wife because the baby was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. He also told him that the baby would be a son, his name would be Jesus, and that He would save His people from their sins. This announcement was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that a virgin would have a son and call Him Immanuel, which means God with us. When Joseph awakened from his sleep, he showed his faith in God’s message by marrying Mary right away. And he did not have relations with her until after Jesus was born.

    Did you notice something about Jesus’ birth? Not only was his birth miraculous but there was a purpose for His birth. He came to save His people from their sins. What exactly does this mean? If we are honest, we have to admit that Adam and Eve were not the only people who ever sinned against God. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). And our sin comes with many consequences. Because of our sin, our lives are filled with pain and suffering. Because of our sin, we don’t have a good relationship with God. Because of our sin, we will all one day die. Because of our sin, we will one day face God’s judgment. This is why Jesus came. He came to save His people from their sins. But that goal was only accomplished by a great price.

  3. The Price (2 Cor. 5:18-21)

    Hymn #199………………………………..Hark the Herald Angels Sing

    Reading – “The Lamb in the Manger” by Stephen B.

    “When I think of Jesus being born in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem, my imaginary scene usually has a couple of lambs softly bleating in the background. Of course, we’re not sure any animals were present, but my … nativity set … has a few sheep so I’m sure they were there! However, we know there was truly a lamb present in that manger—the baby Jesus. A small, gentle lamb is not usually the chosen animal to picture someone who would change the world—maybe a powerful lion or an aggressive bear—surely not a lamb. But John the Baptist, seeing Jesus, declared, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ For the prophet John, a lamb described perfectly the role of Christ as Savior. … So John announced publicly and triumphantly Jesus Christ would ‘take away the sin of the world.’ He would take away John’s sin, He would take away the sin of many in Israel, He would take away your sin and my sin, and in fact He would take away the sin of anyone in the world who [repents of their sin and] places their faith in the finished work of Christ [on the cross].”3

    Scripture

    2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

    Message

    Did you notice the words of the song we just sang? The first verse says,

    “Hark! The herald-angels sing
    Glory to the newborn king
    Peace on earth and mercy mild
    God and sinners reconciled.”

    This song echoes what our Scripture passage says. We need to be reconciled to God. Our sin is what keeps us away from Him. Our sin is what has alienated us from God. Our sin is what has kept us from having a relationship with God. But what have we done to be reconciled to God. The answer is nothing. We have continued in our sinful living and lived as if God doesn’t matter. If God let us continue in our sin and head toward judgment, would it be His fault? I don’t think so. But God, whom we have sinned against, chose to do something so that we could be reconciled to Him.

    Our Scripture passage says two things:

    First, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” Even though we were the problem, God provided the solution. God’s plan was to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus. Despite our sinfulness and disinterest in God, He wanted us to be reconciled to Himself. He knew that we were undeserving sinners and still He loves us and provided a way for our relationship with Him to be made right.

    Second, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We like to think of baby Jesus in the manger, but there came a day when He went to the cross. When he allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross, He bled and died to pay the price for our sins. Although He never sinned, Jesus allowed Himself to be punished for our sins. And this accomplished something we could never do. He took our sins so that we could have his right standing with God through Him.

    God has done everything we need through the death of Jesus on the cross. Now He calls on you to be reconciled to Him. This can only happen when you turn from your sin and place your faith in Jesus. Will you repent of your sins and believe Him today?

Conclusion

Hymn #208…………………………………………….Ring the Bells

The message of Christmas is deeper than most people recognize. But now that you know what God intended, does it make more sense? I hope that you understand what God has done for you through Jesus. The birth of Jesus fulfilled the Promise God made at the beginning. The birth of Jesus provided the Savior from our sins. The birth of Jesus led to the Price being paid so that we could be reconciled to God. Let us remember what God has done and thank Him for it.

Footnotes

1 Laurie
2 Rasicci
3 Bramer

Bibliography

Bramer, Stephen, “The Lamb in the Manger”, as viewed at https://christmas.dts.edu/the-lamb-in-the-manger-2 on 12/16/2023.

Laurie, Greg, “The First Christmas Verse Is in Genesis”, as viewed at https://harvest.org/resources/gregs-blog/post/the-first-christmas-verse-is-in-genesis/ on 12/16/2023.

Rasicci, John, “Christmas Savior – the One and Only Remedy for Sin”, as viewed at https://johnrasicci.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/christmas-savior-the-one-and-only-remedy-for-sin-2 on 12/16/2023.