There are two words I want you to think about this evening. The first is “Violate” and the second is “interrupt.” To violate something is to break or fail to comply with a rule or formal agreement. To interrupt means to stop the continuous progress of an activity or process. Those are the two words that come to mind when I think of 2020. Those are the two words that come to mind when I think ethnic tension in our country, those are the two words that come to mind when I am reminded of the presidential election, and those are the two words that haunt me when I think of our global pandemic. I am hoping that 2021 will be different.
For some of you, a pandemic, crazy politics, or the potential of another recession is the least of your concerns right now. For some of you, when you hear the words “violate” or “interrupt”, you think of a divorce, a disease, or maybe even a death. Whatever it is that has violated or interrupted your life that you did not welcome or want, I hope that you will leave here encouraged.
There is hope even today, and this Christmas is certainly a reminder that the words “violate” and “interrupt” are not always negative. On the first Christmas, God violated time and space! On the first Christmas the greatest news to grace the ears of men interrupted the darkness of sin: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11).
Before the announcement to the shepherds that the Christ child was born, generations leading up to that first Christmas longed and hoped for a deliverer who would right the wrongs of our world and bring the kind of peace that only God could bring. They longed for the ancient promise of long ago delivered by the prophet Isaiah:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6–7)
Jesus is the Son Who was Given
The birth of the Christ child announced to the shepherds was the birth of the son who the prophets said would be given. He is the sign who was conceived while his mother remained a virgin (Isa. 7:14). His birth took place in Bethlehem just as the prophet Micah foretold: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
On the first Christmas, Immanuel violated the darkness of our world to be with us. Tim Keller said of the Christmas story: “Christmas is an invitation by God: Look what I’ve done to come near to you. Now draw near to Me. I don’t want to be a concept; I want to be a friend.”
The Son was Given to Take Away the Sin of the World.
We learn from the Bible not only why we were born and why we are here, but that all of us were born with a problem called sin. We are the reason why our world is in the mess that it is. We are the reason for most of the suffering in our world. We are told from the pages of Holy Scripture: “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). In another place, the Bible states what we know to be true: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jer. 17:9).
For Immanuel to be born of a virgin, to dwell with us, to be like us, and yet to live without sin a life that we could not live, God had to put on a robe of flesh for the first time in human history, and so Jesus was born. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he cried out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Jesus was born to die for lost sinners like ourselves. He lived the perfect life for the purpose of being the perfect sacrifice to take upon himself our sin so to make it possible that we be reconciled to the God we have sinned against. After being born, Jesus did not recoil from his purpose on earth, nor did he shrink back from doing and being what we needed. Jesus said of himself: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
The Son was Given to Show Us a Better Way
When the angels announced the birth of Jesus, they told the shepherds that Christ the Lord was born. Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but his title as Messiah. The other title given to Jesus is “Lord”, which means sovereign one. Jesus was born to show us a better way to live by following him. Hours before he would be crucified, he told his disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd who leads his sheep to life and thriving. What that means is that we were made to know God and to be known by God. Everything about us was designed to thrive in and through a relationship with God, a purpose that sin has disrupted and violated. Jesus said that all who claim to be a source of thriving and life outside of him is a liar and a thief that only seeks to kill and destroy. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The message of Christmas is that Jesus is the better way.
The Son was Given to Provide a Righteousness We Do Not Have
The message of Christmas is that the reason why God violated time and space in the person of his Son, is because there was nothing we could do to save ourselves. The message of the Bible and verdict of our own experience is that we are all guilty of breaking at least one of God’s commandments. We have all said something unkind, we wanted the next bigger and better thing, we have harbored anger and resentment, and because we have broken at least one of God’s commandments, we are told from the Bible that we are guilty of breaking all of it (Jas. 2:10).
There is no righteousness in us, so God sent his Son to be the righteousness we need. This is why Jesus said; “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). This is the reason Jesus was born to die, he was born to die by becoming our sin, so that yours could be forgiven: “For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
The Son was Given to be a Friend of Sinners
The promise of Christmas is that in Jesus, you are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse your presence no matter how clean or unclean, attractive or revolting, how faithful or fickle you presently are. Jesus was known as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), and he continues to welcome sinners into friendship with him.
Those who the pious religious leaders of Jesus’ day could not stand were drawn to Jesus, and Jesus never turned them away! What the pious religious leaders saw in tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and the like was enough for them to be disgusted; they thought that they saw the worst parts in such people, but the reality is that only God sees the worst parts in a person. The message of Christmas is that Jesus sees your worst parts, and still invites you into a friendship with him that has no limits. From the first cries in a manger to his triumphant shout, “It is finished” on the Cross, the message of Christmas is the appeal of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Listen, I know some of you feel that whatever peace you thought you had was violated and disrupted this year. I also know that you are hoping for something different and better in 2021. The message of Christmas is that the Prince of Peace violated the sin and darkness of our world to disrupt what you thought, or think, would bring happiness for the purpose of providing the solution to your sin. Providing a better way, one that leads to life and thriving, a righteousness that God requires and that you cannot generate, and a friend who will never leave you or forsake you.
In the midst of the darkness of your life and 2020, Jesus is the light of the world, and he promises the following gift to you: “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Won’t you receive him this Christmas by faith as savior and lord you desperately need today.