How to Prepare Your Heart for the Glory of Christmas
Sunday, December 21, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. Sermon #: 1769
Pastor Don Horban
I begin with the assumption it takes more than being converted to be prepared properly for the glory of Christmas. We all cool in passion as we grow accustomed to Christmas carols, Christmas dinners, Christmas sermons, and Christmas gatherings in beautifully lit sanctuaries.
I don’t mean we don’t appreciate the Christ of Christmas and what He has done in redeeming our lives. I simply mean the awe and wonder tends to thin out a bit after the accumulation of years of Christmases. A crude illustration would be the way I still appreciate my car as a means of transportation. I am grateful I don’t have to walk everywhere I go. I value my car in the sense that I would miss it if I didn’t have it. But I don’t get the emotional buzz I used to get when it still had that new car smell. I know that illustration breaks down in all sorts of places, but it still helps make my point. We all need “Christmas refreshing.”And the kind of refreshing we need isn’t more activities.
The Bible is big on the subject of reminding. I’ve often been called back to the Apostle Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:13 - “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder....” Strikingly, he says the very same thing just two chapters later in the very same letter - 2 Peter 3:1 - “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder....” So Peter proves the conviction he has about the importance of reminding by reminding us again about reminding.
This relates very much to my theme in this message. It relates to how we can prepare our hearts for Christmas glory. Peter tells us what he is doing in his letter and then he tells us why he is doing it. What he is doing is reminding them what they already know. And why he is doing this is to stir them up. He uses that verb - “stir,” or “stirring” twice.
That’s it. We can be stirred up in things we already know by reminders. Truth we would never dream of denying can come to life all over again. The power and color of long held truths can breathe again. Preparation for Christmas glory comes through fresh, enlivened, warmed-up recollections. That’s what stirring up does.
Think of stirring up something in the fridge or on the stove that’s been sitting for a while. Everything that has settled on the bottom gets incorporated into the sauce or soup or dressing. It’s not that there was anything missing in the dish. It hadn’t gone bad. It’s just that some of it had become disassociated - out of touch - with what should be the essence and flavor of the whole dish.
Peter wants to take things these saints knew once but had allowed to settle into unflavored portions of their lives. He wants the taste of these truths to come to life again. He wants them to re-enjoy these wonders - to get the most out of them.
And now we’re ready to begin preparing our hearts for Christmas glory on a Biblical footing. But there’s a catch. Bringing Christmas truth to life isn’t quite as simple as stirring a pot of soup. There are things that keep Christmas truth on the bottom of the pot. There are actual hindrances to savoring the riches of Christ, at Christmas and all the other days of the year as well. We’re going to study three Scriptural steps for preparing the heart to receive Christ for all He is and can be this advent - and all year round.
1) TO EMBRACE THE GLORY OF CHRIST OUR HEARTS MUST BE CONTINUALLY DISENCHANTED WITH THE ADMIRATION OF THE CULTURE IN WHICH WE LIVE
John 5:43-44 - “I have come (that’s advent - the word means “coming”) in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.  How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
For better or worse, church Christmas productions have come a long way since I was a kid. My brother attends a large church in Vancouver where the whole stage become an ice-rink with falling snow. The church I came from in Saskatoon hires a full slate of professional musicians. The people all pay $15-20 just to see their church’s Christmas music.
It used to be very different. Ever since I was kid I saw Christmas plays and pageants where Joseph and Mary were turned away from the Inn off on the corner of the platform by a rough looking innkeeper usually wearing what appeared to be some kind of bath robe or house coat. Poor Jesus. No room left.
And, of course, the point needing emphasis was and is correct. There was no room left for Jesus. It was a simple reality that because of the busy-ness of the Roman decreed assessment Bethlehem was packed with mandatory visitors. All of the available rooms were taken by someone else.
The point being in order for there to have been room for Jesus and His parents someone else would have to be moved out. And so it has always been for our Lord. Since the birth of the One who stands knocking, looking for room at the doors of hearts for the entire church age, there is no room for Jesus until someone else moves out.
So the quaint Christmas account proves deeply prophetic. And that’s exactly the point of the Apostle John’s recording of Jesus’ “no room” words in John 5:44 - “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
Note the “glory” phrases - “....you receive glory from one another....” You “do not seek the glory that comes from the only true God....” Our series is “Christmas Glory In A Selfie World.” There’s only room for one kind of glory in any heart. There’s the kind of glory Jesus came into this world at Christmas to bring. We call this “advent.” It is filled with grace and truth and eternal, death-conquering life. And there’s the kind of glory our hearts tend toward more naturally, but which rules out the Christmas glory that “comes from the only God” (5:44). We can’t have both glories. Each one excludes and destroys the other.
Boiled down to its simplest essence the “glory we receive from one another” is the acceptance of our social setting. None of us is naturally free of this. We long to be liked. Even the radical who relishes his anti-establishment conscience loves to be seen for his radicalness. Radicals blog and use Facebook and Twitter. Watch the protestors. Even radicals love to unite.
Jesus said our love of esteemed self-image snuffs out the glory that God wants to flood into our hearts. He said we would rather be praised by our peers than by our Creator. And that, Jesus said, is the most unglorious thing about us. It is our biggest mistake. It is what makes our lives small and dull. It is what smothers our taste for eternal, weighty, joy-deepening glory.
I need to wrap up this first point. The lesson here is just as the advent of God the Son splits history into before and after it needs to make such a division in our lives. What we hungered for before the birth of the living Christ in our hearts has been eclipsed by the greater goal of bringing glory to our Lord. We are on a totally different treasure hunt.
And our text from the Apostle Peter says we need to constantly have this reminder stirred up in our hearts because this world, as Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1-2, constantly presses our hungers into conformity to its own.
2) TO EMBRACE THE GLORY OF CHRIST OUR HEARTS MUST BE CONTINUALLY DISENCHANTED WITH THE SATISFACTION AND SECURITY MATERIAL POSSESSIONS PROMISE OUR SOULS
1 Timothy 6:9-10 - “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
“It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” I understand Paul to be saying there were Christians who never took seriously the danger of allowing an inward craving to go unchallenged. They were in the faith but wandered away from it. Probably without seeing it happen.
Notice, they didn’t reject the faith in some official manner. They just wandered away like a small child wanders from his mother in a grocery store.
And now Paul writes to this young pastor at Ephesus and encourages him to deal with the great dangers Christians will face in his church. He wants Timothy’s ministry to be on target and genuinely compassionate - “Tell your congregation about the stubborn life in the craving for wealth! Help them be constantly looking out for this in their prayer times and in their devotions. Preach on it when they come together. They won’t always like hearing about it but you will keep them from “wandering away from the faith” and “piercing themselves with many pangs.”
How ironic that the most common North American manner of celebrating the birth of Jesus has become the spending of money. The very craving Paul said would pull people away from the Messiah and Savior of mankind is how we celebrate His advent into this world.
I know we all love Jesus. And I know how fun it can be to buy presents. I’m playing Scrooge this morning. I have no delight in being a kill-joy. On the contrary, I want to help promote and protect our deepest possible joy. I’m calling us all to remember God the Son came into this world to establish a kingdom filled with such inward joy and glory that a holy dissatisfaction with material things settles deeply in all our hearts. He is the bread from heaven that satisfies. And where Christmas glory is tasted He is the bread that creates discontentment with any substitute.
3) THE GREATEST GLORY OF CHRISTMAS IS THE CERTAINTY OF RESURRECTION LIFE THROUGH GOD THE SON
Luke 2:25-32 - “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,  he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,  ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’”
Let my wrap up by telling you how I had totally misread Simeon’s words and the difference a proper understanding makes. And the difference is wrapped up neatly in that single old word, “consolation.” Old Simeon was waiting for the “consolation of Israel (25) because he was a Jewish prophet. But his prophetic words assure us that this great “consolation” wasn’t just for Israel - “....a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel”(Luke 2:32).
First, here’s how I misread Simeon’s words. When Simeon said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation”, I took him to be saying he was really, really happy to finally see the Christ. He wanted to hang around until he had seen the advent of this baby before he died. Finally he made it.
And there may be some of that happiness in Simeon’s words. But there was something much deeper. I saw something rich and telling in the way Simeon linked the holding of that baby - God the Son - and Simeon’s heart-filled words about being able to “depart in peace.” Holding that baby changed the way Simeon felt about leaving this world. That baby changed the way Simeon died.
We know from the rest of Simeon’s words he knew about the coming death of Mary’s baby - Luke 2:34-35 - “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’”
You get the feeling Simeon understood this baby was the center of everything important God was doing in this world - for Jew and Gentile. Everyone’s heart came to light around the person of Jesus Christ. That was the one factor that mattered.
Simeon saw God’s offer of true, authentic consolation in the advent of Christ. Here was hope that death couldn’t snatch away. The one hope death couldn’t snuff out. You can’t be truly consoled in this uncertain world without Christ.
Christmas is more deeply glorious than any amount of decorating can portray. Here’s how to capture it and keep it all year long. First, treasure pleasing Christ more than you treasure pleasing anyone else. Second, so fill your mind with His glory that you become continually disenchanted with the accumulation of wealth. And third, never settle for earthly security that can’t outlast the grave when Christ offers eternal consolation to those who follow Him.