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Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem And Find The Christ of Christmas, Dec. 24, 2023

Luke 2:1-7. The Taj Mahal, or Crown of the Palace is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs in the world; it finished in 1643.  

          The colorful legends which surround the building of the Taj Mahal are fascinating.  But, there is one legend that haunts and disturbs.

          Shah-Jahan, the powerful Mogul emperor, was in grief.  His favorite wife had died.  He loved her deeply and he was devastated by her loss.  He decided to honor her in a significant way.  He would construct an incredible temple, the likes of which the world had never seen.  The temple would serve as her tomb... and would be a memorial tribute to her...

          and the dramatic symbol of his love for her.

          Her coffin was placed in the center of a large parcel of land and construction of the temple began around it.  No expense would be spared.  He wanted to make her final resting place magnificent and breath-taking.

          But as the weeks turned into months, the Shah's grief was eclipsed by his passion for the building project.

          He no longer missed her.  He hardly thought of her at all anymore.  He no longer mourned her absence. 

         

          He was now totally consumed with the details of the building project.  He was completely obsessed with the construction of the temple.  It's all he thought about.  It was on his mind night and day... the building of this magnificent Temple.

          Then, one day while hurriedly walking from one side of the construction site to the other, he accidentally bumped his leg against a wooden box.  The prince was irritated.  Impatiently, he brushed the dust off his leg and ordered the workers to throw the box out immediately.  What was that box doing here in the middle of the building anyway?  Get it out of here right now!  [pause]

          You may have already guessed.  The box held the remains of his beloved wife.  The Shah threw out her coffin.  

          He FORGOT she was there.

          The one the temple was built for was cast out.  The one who inspired the whole project in the first place was now forgotten.  The one the Temple was intended to honor was harshly pushed aside, absentmindedly thrown away, blatantly ignored... but, the temple was erected anyway.  Isn't that amazing?

          Could someone build a temple and forget why?  Could someone sculpt a tribute and forget the hero?  

          This dramatic ancient legend is a painfully relevant parable for the way some people celebrate Christmas today... and the point is clear.  Sometimes we get so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the one we are honoring.

          Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all...

          "No Room... in the Inn."  There is a real sadness in those words, "No room for you here."  That was the beginning of the Master's life.  That was the very first thing the world said to Jesus Christ... and that experience would plague him the remainder of his days on this earth... and, indeed, even to this present moment –

          “No Room!  We're just too crowded!  Sorry... We're full up.  

          No vacancy.  Try again some other time.  No room for you here right now; maybe later.  So, if you'll please excuse me, I've got a million and one things to see about!  It's too bad, but there's just no room!" Sadly, like Shah Jahan, we get so busy with the details of the project that we forget the one the project honors. 

          Harry Emerson Fosdick once put it like this: "The crucial difficulty of Christ's life which denied him the service he longed to render, closed to him the hearts he longed to change and brought him at last to Calvary... was something so simple, so familiar, so little recognized as a tragic evil - so universal among us all, that one almost hesitates to name it - Inhospitality.  No Room!"

          Let's be honest now.  Isn't this our problem?  Yours and mine?  We get so busy, so tired, so preoccupied with the incessant demands on our crowded lives... that we shut out the very birth of the Master we so long to know.  The poet put it like this: "O little Inn of Bethlehem, How like we are to you.  Our lives are crowded to the brim.  With this and that to do.  We're not unfriendly to the King, We mean well without a doubt; We have no hostile feeling,

          We merely crowd Him out."

          See if you can find yourself... or someone you know somewhere between the lines.

          #I. FIRST OF ALL... WON'T YOU LET HIM INTO YOUR HEART?

          Won't you let your heart become a manger where the Christ-child can be born afresh in you?  There is an old story about the little boy who was asked why he was a Christian.  

          He answered: "I don't know for sure, but I think it runs in our family!!"  That's a cute story, isn't it?  But, we need to remember: We can ride on the coattails of our Christian family for just so long... and then each one of us individually, has to make his or her own personal decision for Jesus Christ.

          The family can help us here and it's great when it does, but each of us at some point has to make that personal decision to receive Christ into our heart.  

          And many of you made that commitment so long ago, and most of you know that We need to recommit our lives to Jesus each and every morning!!

          Somewhere along the way, we have to make our own decision... our own commitment... our own acceptance of Christ as our own personal Savior and Lord.

          Have YOU made that decision yet?  Have you invited Him into your life?  Have you made room in your heart yet for Christ?  Won't you let Him come in?

          Some folks are living with broken hearts; if you or your loved one will give all the pieces to Jesus, He can help restore our hearts.

          It's amazing to see how many people today chase after happiness and fulfillment... and spend so much time, effort, energy and money... looking in all the wrong places. 

          Many of you have heard me say, I was looking for love in all the wrong places…, you, too?

          One right place to look is here in Luke chapter 2 where we find these incredible words: "Be not afraid; for behold I bring YOU good news of a great joy which will come to all people for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." 

          That's the first thought... won't you let Him into your heart?

          II. SECOND, WON'T YOU LET HIM INTO YOUR ATTITUDES?

          The real key in whatever we do is our attitude.  It's really not so much what we do as how we do it and why.  Attitudes, motivations... that's what Jesus talked about most... and that's what he was interested in.

          For example, think about the innkeeper.  If, on the one hand, he said to Mary and Joseph, "Get out of here.  I'm full up and don't want to be bothered with the likes of you!!"  That's one thing.  But, on the other hand, if he said to Mary and Joseph, "Look, my friends, all my rooms here in the hotel are taken, but I see that you need help... and I know a place, a quiet, private place"... that's a different story,... and the difference is in the attitude.

          Attitude... it's the key to life.  Change your attitudes and you change your life.  It's not just what you do, but how you do it and why.  The attitude with which you do it... that's what counts!

          One of the most beloved legends of Christmas is "The Little Drummer Boy."  He played with all the love in his heart... and as he played, according to the legend, ... the Christ-child smiled showing that at Christmas the gift of love is the best gift of all.

          You see, it was not so much what the drummer boy did... as how and why he did it.  The real key was not his drum playing... I'm sure there were better drummers - it was his attitude.  That attitude of love... that's what made the Christ-child smile.  

          It still does.

          Through the years, I have noticed that broadly speaking we can divide the people of the world into two groups - those who are spiritually healthy and those who are spiritually ill.  Those who are spiritually hurting go through life screaming: "For God's sake, love me, love me!"  While those who are spiritually healthy go through life saying: "For God's sake, let me love others!"

                    Many of us go back and forth to each group.

                    Dr. Thomas Malone, a psychiatrist in Atlanta, puts it like this:

          "In my practice at the Atlanta Psychiatric Clinic, people sometimes ask me what psychiatry is all about.  

          “To me, the answer is increasingly clear.  Almost every emotional problem can be summed up in one particular bit of behavior: It's a person walking around, screaming, 'For God's sake love me!'             Love me, that's all I want or need!!  

          It's all in the attitudes.  In part, conversion means moving from "Please love me" to "Please let me love you."  Jesus taught us that a long time ago.  This is the good news of Christmas: We are loved by GOD... so now we can be loving.

          First, won't you let Jesus into your heart?  And, second, won't you let the Christ into your attitudes?

          III. THIRD AND FINALLY...

          WON'T YOU LET JESUS INTO YOUR CHRISTMAS?

          Strange that we have to say that, but we do.  Do you remember the old television show from the 1960's called, "I've Got a Secret"?  Gary Moore was the host.  People would come on with unusual secrets and a panel of celebrities would ask them questions... and then try to guess their secret.)

          There was a particular program that is something of a parable for the way we sometimes celebrate Christmas.  A group of people in Ohio decided to give a man a surprise birthday party.  They got together and organized the party in great detail.  

         

          They set up several committees to take care of the arrangements for food and entertainment and decorations... and all the rest.

          There was a great hustle and bustle of excitement and busyness…..The friends were all gathered and excited.  The lights and sound were set to perfection.

          Then suddenly, they realized something.  Everything had been taken care of in splendid fashion... except one thing.  They had quite simply forgotten the single most important thing... they had forgotten to invite the guest of honor... so they had the party without him.

          The man's secret was that he had not been invited to his own birthday party.  There's a message there somewhere!  Won't you let JESUS INTO YOUR CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION?  

          This year, as never before, won't you let Him into your heart, into your attitudes and into your Christmas? 

          Maybe before opening your presents, you might stop and pray, asking GOD to receive your thanksgiving and praise for sending his son Jesus 2000 years ago; and finish by saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

          Please pray with me…Dear GOD, please help us open our Hearts, Attitudes, and Christmas to you; and please GOD help us open our Hearts, Attitudes and Christmas to our neighbors!!

          IN JESUS’ NAME we pray.  Amen.

         

          Let’s sing to GOD’S glory, “Silent Night Holy Night” #164

         

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