Christmas Eve 2019

Christmas Eve 2019

Pastor Jerry Gillis - December 24, 2019

Sermon Transcript

Well, Merry Christmas to everyone. Those who are watching here at the Crosspoint Campus, Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to those that our Cheektowaga Campus, at our Niagara Falls Campus, at our Lockport Campus. To those who are watching online who may be sick and not able to get out today because we know there's a lot of that going around, Merry Christmas to you all. I think it's fair to say that Christmas calls us home. There's just something about that, right? I remember when I first got married, we moved from Georgia to Florida where I was going to be serving on a church staff there and Edie and I had been married all of six or eight months. We didn't know anybody down there and we moved down there to be a part of this church that we were a part of, that we loved being a part of. But I remember, we got down there in the Summertime, and when it came to Christmas time, we had some responsibilities for the church on Christmas Eve, and this was the first time that Edie or I had not been with our families on Christmas Eve.

It simply hadn't happened before in us. I could not tell you how badly I wanted to be home. It was almost like there was this crater inside of my heart that was lunging me to get home. I almost felt so compelled that I thought I could probably jog the 550 miles from South Florida to get to Atlanta to be able to see family during Christmas. And I remember finally, after doing all the Christmas Eve services and then going to sleep at night and then waking up on Christmas day and finally being able to catch a flight on Christmas day to get me back to Atlanta, that plane could not go fast enough. If it would've gone Mach 20 with my hair on fire, it would not have been fast enough because all I wanted to do was be home. Christmas calls us home. It's like we have this homing instinct in our lives almost where we can identify with the swallows of Capistrano.

I don't know if you've heard of them, but they leave and go to Argentina for the Wintertime and then every single year at exactly the same time, they all make the 6,000 mile flight to get to San Juan Capistrano, California at exactly the same time. And they don't have gear, they don't have technology, what they have is they have this homing instinct that gets them where they're trying to go. We all have it, even when we're really little. We know that it develops in us when we're small, right? If you watch any child that gets hurt or a child that's scared or a child that's lost, where do they want to go? Home. This is something that's kind of bred into us, and that instinct that we have in our lives, this homing instinct, it doesn't leave us even when we get older. Truthfully, it doesn't leave us.

Some of you are here today, whatever campus you may be on, you're actually in town from out of town because Christmas called you home. You realized you wanted to be here. You live out of town or you live out of country and you're able to be here and you're here because Christmas called you home. Now I realize that home sometimes changes, that the place that we were in, when we come back to it, maybe it feels a little different, maybe it looks a little bit different. It's why Thomas Wolf, when he wrote this book in 1940 he called it, You Can Never Go Home Again. What he was saying was this, is that when we visit places from our past, we know that they're not exactly going to be the same way, so that when we get there it's like we can never go back to the same home that we left because it's just not the same.

And I realize that for some people. But do you know our homing instinct is so strong that it still compels us to get there even if some things have changed, even if it doesn't look exactly the same? Home. I think that's why we have resonated with a song for 75 plus years in American culture, I'll Be Home For Christmas. We have resonated with that song. And do you know the reason that that song resonates is because of what it calls out in us? This idea of Christmas calling us home. Now, the song itself was written in October of 1943. As you can imagine, knowing your history, we were in a time of world war. It was World War Two during that time. And the writers of the song, I'll Be Home For Christmas, actually had soldiers and sailors in mind when they were writing this song that being Crosby would end up cutting and putting out in October of 1943. The song itself, even though it feels nice when you listen to it, it's actually pretty melancholy.

It's actually touched with sadness when you really listen to the lyrics. Think about it. "I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams." You hear the sadness in that? Do you hear the melancholy in that? "I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams." There's a story that happened about 11 weeks after the release of this particular song into American culture and it was a story of what happened on the battleship USS North Carolina. Now, this was a battleship that was out in the South Pacific and this happened only 11 weeks after the release of the song I'll Be Home For Christmas. This battleship, the USS North Carolina, was out in the South Pacific doing its patrols and now it was moving upon time for Christmas. Christmas Eve, they were not quite on mission, but Christmas day, they fully had a mission and they were all separated from their families. There were about 2000 sailors that were on this ship.

Imagine that. 2000 in this case, almost all men, 2000 men who were separated from their families across an entire world it seemed like as they were out there on the South Pacific. There was a chaplain on that vessel. His name was Chaplain Everett Wuebbens and the chaplain decided, "I know that everybody's thinking about home, everybody's focusing on home and so I want to do something special for all of the sailors." And so what he did is he put together a little show just so they could have some entertainment while they were on the battleship because they were going to be on a mission on Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve, they had a little bit of a break and so he wanted to do a show. So there was comedy skits and there was dancing and all kinds of other fun stuff for those that were there on the crew.

And then all of the sudden, something interesting happened. They heard the flapping of a filmstrip trying to catch on to a reel. They started to smell the heating of a bulb in a lamp that was firing up a projector. And they didn't realize that all the sudden they were about to receive a big surprise that they didn't see coming. You see, just a few months earlier, the chaplain had actually collected $5 from each of the sailors because he told them, "What I'm going to do with that is I'm going to contact Macy's department store in New York City," which by the way, the ship that they were on was actually laid and was shipped from the Naval ship yard in New York City in Brooklyn. And so, many of them were from that area, and the chaplain said, "I'm going to contact Macy's in New York City and I'm going to send them all of this money and I'm going to send them the addresses of your family so that you can actually have some presence available for your families when you're gone on Christmas Day."

A really sweet gesture by the chaplain, I think. So they all collected that money back in August and he sent it out to Macy's and he got in touch with them and he said, "Would you be willing to do this for all of these sailors?" And they said, "We would gladly do it. We will find gifts, we will package them, and we will send them to their loved ones, to their wives and to their children." Really sweet. But Macy's actually went a step further. Macy's not only did all of those things, but Macy's had the addresses of all of those families and what they did is they contacted all of those families, particularly those that were near to New York, which was a lot of them. And what they ended up doing is inviting any of the families that wanted to come, to come to Macy's, where they could stand in front of a ...

To come. To come to Macy's where they could stand in front of a reel to reel projector and be filmed saying, "Merry Christmas," to their sailors that were half a world away.

I mean, you can imagine what that felt like on that Christmas Eve night, when those sailors had a bunch of fun with skits and a bunch of fun dances. But when that film strip started to move around those reels, and then all of the sudden, here's what they start seeing, their wives, their kids saying, "Merry Christmas" to them. Could you imagine that surprise?

Because ladies and gentlemen, all of these sailors, Christmas was calling them home, but they couldn't get home. So in this instance, at least a little bit of home came to them. You see the sailors on the USS North Carolina, and others through time, Christmas called them home, but they couldn't get home so home came to them. I can't think of a better way to describe the true Christmas story than that. Home came to us.

See, there's a longing in our hearts. It's a longing that we can't quite put our finger on. It's a longing for what we think and what we decide is home, but it's bigger than that. It's a longing for things that are bigger than just places and people that we know.

It's a longing that is bigger and more transcendent in our souls, almost as if... Like CS Lewis said, "We were made for another world that we're longing for." Our hearts, they have a homing instinct. They cry out for contentment and fulfillment and meaning, and we try feeding those hearts. We try feeding our souls with all kinds of things to satisfy that hunger and satisfy that longing.

Maybe we feed it entertainment or we feed our souls distraction, or we feed ourselves success, or we feed ourselves experiences, and money and pleasure and relationships. But what we end up getting at the end of the day, even if some of those things are good, we still end up coming back hungry and empty and frustrated. Why? Why do we keep finding ourselves in that place? Here's why, because our hearts are only home when they're found in God. That's the only place that we can really call home.

You see, we've been made to reflect the image of the God who made us, but that image has been marred. It's been stained. It's been smudged by all kinds of things that are standing in opposition to God's will and God's way. It's something that the Bible actually refers to called sin.

Listen to this. Do you know what sin does? I'll tell you. What sin does is takes our hearts farther and farther away from home. That is why we find ourselves feeling like we're lost. Every time our hearts are far from home in God, we can't help but feel lost like we're walking around in spiritual darkness, but Christmas. Christmas brings us really, really good news. That good news is this, is that in Jesus there is life and there is light.

Listen to how John's gospel describes this in the very beginning. John chapter one, beginning in verse one it says this, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made without him. Nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind, and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

Do you know what John's story, where he sets up the idea of Christmas? Do you know what it reminds us of that we often forget? What we often forget is this, is that Bethlehem may have been the human birthplace of Jesus, but Jesus has existed from eternity past. You see, not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, John tells us Jesus was God.

Not only was he God, but everything was made through him. Every star, every galaxy, every sun, every moon. Jesus is the agent of creation. And kids, hey, all of my kids in the room, all of my kids at every campus, Jesus made every turtle and zebra and elephant too. Jesus not only made all of those things, he made every body, every human being. He is the life and the light of all things that have been created.

You know what, this makes perfect sense, doesn't it? That unless our hearts are found in Jesus that they won't be at home. Because what they will have done is they will have chosen a poor substitute for the maker of our hearts, the place where only our hearts can actually find their home. You see our hearts when they're left alone, they wander. They're lost. They ramble around in darkness.

Only when we find our hearts in Jesus can we be fulfilled and be satisfied. That's the beauty of the message of Christmas, ladies and gentlemen. It's this. We, our souls, our persons, we longed for somewhere that we could not find. We longed for a place that we could not find ourselves getting to, but home came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

This word that was from the beginning, this word that was with God. This word that was God, this word that made everything that is, did not stand off at a distance, but came. Listen to how John describes it a few verses later in verse 14. "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son who came from the father full of grace and truth."

You see, ladies and gentlemen, in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, Jesus put on flesh and he made his dwelling with us. Here's why, because he was on a rescue mission for a whole bunch of people who were lost.

The God of the universe wrapped himself in the frail skin of a baby so he could rescue the frail souls of humanity. This is what God has done. The word, the agent of creation, the word who spoke everything into existence, the word that was from the beginning. Now lay in a manger of hay not even being able to speak a word. Why did he do this? He did it to show us the way home. That's why he did this. You and I were lost and could not help ourselves.

But to show us the way home, he had to do something. He had to break the curse of everything that stood against getting us home. Sin that wants to take us far, far away from God. He had to break the curse of it, and he did. He did by living sinlessly and going to a cross to die in the place of sinful people so that he could satisfy the justice of a Holy God.

In so dying, he also resurrected from the dead, giving evidence to the world that his sacrifice for the sins of humanity was sufficient and that now by faith in him, we can be reconciled to God and we can find our souls at home. His power of his death and his resurrection breaks the curse of sin in our lives and brings us home. Listen, folks, he came for us and he still comes for us. That's the great news of Christmas. I don't know where your soul is today.

I don't know where your soul is today. I don't know where your heart may be. For some of you, it may feel like your soul is at sea, just drifting. For some of you, it may feel like your heart is at war and you don't even know exactly why. For some of you, it may feel like you have been stumbling around in darkness. Well to you, I want to bring good news. To you, I want you to listen very carefully. When you see the baby in the manger, I want you to remember what that says. It says to us, here comes God. Here comes heaven. Here comes home.

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