December 18, 2011
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
– Luke 2:11
Christmas is when we gather with friends and family to reflect on and celebrate a moment in time. And it is a season when we do all we can to capture memories, imagination and hope.
In this special Christmas message, Ed Young shows us that the true power in capturing Christmas isn’t just about a single moment in time or memories with loved ones. Capturing Christmas is all about discovering the promise and power of a relationship with the living Savior, Jesus Christ.
Intro: Is it me, or do people take crazy photographs these days? I mean, everywhere you turn, somebody is snapping a picture. We’ve got to be the most photographed culture in the history of the world. I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s Instagram. There’s Facebook. How about the pictures people post on Facebook? What’s up with that?
Everybody is taking pictures. And through technology, a lot of us carry around hundreds and hundreds of pictures right where we are. We just click on a certain icon, we scroll through all of these pictures. I love pictures. Pictures are where it’s at.
You’ve heard it said before, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I agree. I love looking at pictures. But one of my big frustrations when I look at pictures is to have an incomplete photo album. I like to go over to people’s houses and say, “Hey, can I look at your pictures?” And people gladly say, “Here’s a photo album! Here’s our wedding photos.”
I like to look at pictures. It’s almost as if when I look at pictures, I enter their world. I’m always thinking, “What was going on during that time? What were they thinking about? What would have happened if you could have gone up to them and said, ‘Hey, guess what will happen to you a year from now or five years from now?’”
I love looking at pictures. Pictures are cool. We love to capture pictures. And this is the Christmas season, as we know, and man, we love pictures. Especially Christmas cards! It’s the season for Christmas cards!
I’ve collected Christmas cards for a long time. Anybody sending out Christmas cards? Lift your hand. Everybody, oh yeah. Christmas cards are cool. They’re fun, they’re powerful. They’re also weird! I’ve categorized these cards in certain groups.
Like, the first category is the Christmas brag letter cards. Have you checked those out? And I’m all for telling about different members of the family and what they’ve done. But some of these things I read, and I’m thinking, “Wow…I’ve not done jack! My kids have no talent! We’re nothing!” I’ve often wondered why we send the Christmas humblebrags out.
People write these letters out, bragging and bragging and bragging. And then at the end they’ll write, “We’re humbled. Thank you, God.” Like if you throw God in it’s ok to brag. It’s hilarious. It’s funny. Humblebrag cards. “I’m humbled that we’re so famous and so incredible!” You know? I like that. Christmas brag letters.
Also, the wife/supermodel card. That’s another group. You’ve seen those. The wife/supermodel card. Notice this. Every Christmas card you see, the woman looks like a supermodel. I repeat, go home and look at the ones you’ve received already. Over the next several weeks, I’m telling you, the woman looks like a supermodel.
You ask, “Ed, why?”
I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t matter if the man is staring off into space and the kids have their eyes closed. The woman is the one who picks the card out. And she’s going to pick that photo where she is looking good, jack! I mean, she’s got it goin’ on! You know what I’m saying? It’s so true, man.
Then there are some weird cards out there. The pets only card. Now, Lisa and I love animals, but just a cat with a little costume on? Merry Christmas? A couple of dogs. That’s a little strange. Slightly eccentric.
Then the kids only cards. You ever see those? Now, I like the kids only card, but I want to ask myself, “Alright, they had to have parents to bring the kids into the world. Why just the kids?” I don’t know. Kids only. It’s really strange.
I love Christmas cards. Christmas cards are really, though, unrealistic. They capture a brief moment in time that’s not really the essence of a family. It’s not. We put on our best clothes and wear them for about an hour, then take them back to the store where we bought them. We’re standing on each other’s feet. Maybe mom and dad got into an argument before the picture, yet we’re all in matching outfits and smiling. Perfectly situated from tall to short, and everything is great. The color, the lighting. Wow! It’s unrealistic.
Illus: Most of you will be getting our Christmas card in the next couple of days. [Picture up on side screens.] I want you to check that card out. You might be saying, “That looks pretty good.”
But you notice several things. Number one, “Ed, where are your socks?” I forgot my socks. That’s what happened. And then somebody told me, “Ed, that’s kind of a fashion statement. Just don’t wear socks.” So I said ok. I didn’t realize that half my ankle would be showing, but there it is.
To the far right, one of our twins, you can tell if you look really, relally close; she had her wisdom teeth out a couple days earlier. Her jaws were huge! They airbrushed most of them out.
Of course, there’s Lisa and LeeBeth in the back. You might be saying, “Look at those skyscrapers! How did you do that in downtown Dallas?” Literally, we were on one of the little side streets and we stopped traffic for about five minutes. Some friends of mine who were with me took the photos. But to make everything right with the perfect symmetry, we did bring in some other buildings from other parts of Dallas to put them strategically there. You know? So, let’s just keep it real. That’s not really, exactly the way it was!
It was hot. I’m talking triple degree hot that day! We were sweating. It’s just not a realistic image of our family. It’s a quick moment in time, but it doesn’t really say the essence of who we are.
Isn’t’ that funny how we’ll look at a picture, I do this; I’ll look at a picture of somebody and I’ll base a whole life story about that one picture. You’ve got the paparazzi following around all these people. Then they’ll take a couple of shots of them in Monaco or wherever. And you base, don’t you (we all do) a theology about them just on one photo, one image. It’s unrealistic. I mean, it’s cool to do that. It’s great to put our best foot forward and to match and all that. But it’s not really real. It’s not really the real deal.
You can look at a picture and you can come up with your own story line. But until you know the essence of the person; until you know them up close and personal, you don’t really understand the whole situation. I do, though, like pictures. And we like to capture pictures during Christmas.
Christmas is a time of the capture, though. The word “capture” means to gain control of something. It means to possess something. It means to confine something by space and time.
If I capture something. So we capture photographs. It’s the process of using light to place images on sensitized surfaces. That’s what it means to take a photograph of someone. And Christmas is a time that we do that. And we capture a lot of things.
Have you ever thought about being captured by Christmas? We are. We wear things we don’t want to wear. We’re captured. We eat things we don’t want to eat. We’re captured. We travel to places we don’t want to go. We’re captured. Finally, we just wave the white flag and say, “I’m captured! I’m captured by Christmas. I’m just going to go with it.”
We’re captured. Everybody is capturing stuff. We take pictures and we capture the whole ordeal.
T.S. What if I asked you, during this Christmas season, to show me your pictures of God? What if I asked you to just show us your photo albums, if we could scroll through your images of Christmas? What kind of pictures would you have? What kind of pictures are we carrying around when it comes to Christmas?
Because the Scriptures say in Colossians 1:15, “He (being Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
I think that all of us here have the picture of Jesus in the manger. We have a picture of Jesus in the crib. I think all of us here would say, “Ok, I’ve got it Ed. I understand it. I’ve got this picture; I’ve got this image. I’m carrying around a picture of Jesus in the manger. He’s in the crib. I’ve got that down cold. I’ve got it!”
Now, others here might have that picture. We’ve got Jesus in the crib. But also, we go, “Ok, I’ve got another photo! I’ve got a picture of Jesus on the cross. He died on the cross for the sins of the world.”
Almost every single person knows that. And we have that image as we scroll through the photo albums in our minds. “Ok, I’ve got a picture of Jesus on the cross. And I’ve got a picture of Jesus in the crib.”
That’s why most people come to church on Christmas and Easter. We just follow those two photographs we have. I call people who come to church on Christmas and Easter, “Chreasters”. That was funny, wasn’t it? And that’s fine to come to church biannually.
But, I would argue that you cannot know the Lord; you cannot know the essence of who he is based on just a few pictures. You can’t judge Jesus based on just the crib and the cross. It’s easy to do that, because we say, “Ok, Jesus is in the manger. I’ve got him defined and confined in a little space. I’ve got him there. And that’s what’s so cool about this other picture I’ve got of Jesus on the cross. Because he is on the cross. He died on the cross. Nails in his hands and his feet. He’s on the cross.”
As we study, though, and think about the life of Jesus, we know that Jesus crawled out of the manger and became a man. He lived this perfect life, died this sacrificial death. Everybody though, “Ok, death has captured him.” He rose again.
So I can’t really talk about Christmas until I talk about the crib; until I talk about the cross, and also the implications of it. I can’t really talk about it in a deep way, in a real way unless I know Jesus. I can know about him. A lot of us know about him. But my question would be, “Do you know him?”
What would happen if we could complete, not perfectly, but if we could complete this photo album of Christ? What would happen in our lives? That’s the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about the divine capture. Christmas is about the divine capture.
Ladies, I know you love romance. I would bet you cash money, every lady here is attracted to romance. You like to watch the Lifetime movies and read the novels and hear stories about how people met. Just between services we were talking to someone and they were telling us how they met. And every woman there was just leaning in to the conversation, “Oh, really?! That’s how you met? Oh, that’s awesome! And you called her? And you did that for her? Oh! Ohhh!”
Why do women like romance? Guys, I’ll tell you. Lisa and I have written a book on intimacy. We just finished the audio portion this week. And this book on intimacy is called, ”Sexperiment”. A lot of it talks about romance.
Here’s why, guys, women love romance. Are you ready for this? It’s about the chase, the capture and the surrender. I’ll say it again. It’s about the chase, the capture and the surrender. It’s that process. Women just love it. They go crazy over it.
Guys, we’re into the chase and capture and surrender too. Think about guy movies. All those planes are chasing each other, those cars are chasing each other, he’s chasing him! Chase, chase, chase! And then the capture. And then one surrenders. Yeah! We like the same thing, just in a different way.
Our God is the God of the capture. I think he’s given us this desire for the capture. He’s all about the capture. But here’s the cool thing about it. We have a freedom of choice. Isn’t that crazy? God has given us this awesome gift. We can choose to respond or not.
Christmas commences with the crib, it culminates us with the cross, and it captivates us with the crown. That’s Christmas. It commences with the crib, it culminates with the cross, and it captivates us with the crown.
So it’s great, it’s cool, man to have a picture of the crib and the cross. What, though, are you doing with the crown? Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:10-11 that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
Here’s what’s so stunning about that Scripture. Everybody, the Bible says, one day will bow the knee before Jesus and call him Lord. Everybody will. Everybody. “But, Ed, how about that hell-raising, cocaine-snorting jerk of a person? How about that girl who’s this or that, who just turns her back on God?”
The Bible says, everybody. I’ll say it again. Everybody will confess and bow the knee before Jesus. Now, for some, that will be too late. So the question is, when do you crown him as king of your life? Do you crown him as king of your life now? Do I do that now, when I have a choice? Or do I wait until it’s too late?
Illus: Back in the day, I used to love to go to Burger King. I don’t eat at Burger King very much now, because for the most part, if you eat there a lot, it’ll put some weight on you! I went to Burger King, though, yeah for the food. But also I went—I’m just being honest here, keeping it real—for the crown. That’s just me.
But see, I have a crown problem because I have a bucket head. Get a tight shot on my head. I have a humongous head. How many people in here have giant heads? Lift your hands. Ok, yeah.
When I used to get the crown, the crown would never fit. I can’t tell you how many crowns my head has ripped. My mother would make this extension in the back and staple it up. It’s sad. But I loved the crown! I loved it. I just felt like royalty with the crown, even though it would sit on the top of my head like that. I loved it. It was all about the crown, the crown. “I want the crown, mom, let’s go to Burger King!”
In the crib, Jesus, what? He captured our humanity. We serve a sympathetic Savior, not someone who is a detached deity. People say, “Well, I’m depressed. No one understands. No one understands. No one understands. I’ve even gone to this counselor, he doesn’t understand. I’ve talked to my friend; she doesn’t understand.”
But add two words: Like Jesus.
“I’ve been betrayed. Someone’s knifed me in the back. I’ve been betrayed. They’ve messed me around. You don’t understand. I totally, totally, gave my life to this person. They messed me around. No one understands.”
“I’ve lost a loved one. No one understands the pain. They don’t understand the emptiness. They don’t understand. They don’t understand.”
We serve a sympathetic Savior. Someone who captured our humanity; fully God and fully man. He’s someone who has been there on a level, a degree that we will never, ever hit. That’s Jesus. He’s captured our humanity.
Think about the cross. He captured our calamity. “Calamity? What are you talking about?” I’m talking about our sins, our moral turnovers, our foul-ups. Jesus captured that. He captured that. He gained possession of it. Something that we don’t deserve.
In Proverbs 5:22-23, “An evil man is captured by his own sins. They are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control. He will be lost because of his great foolishness.”
We’re roped up, we’re tied up, we’re ensnared because of our sin. What did Jesus do? On the cross, he captured your sin and shame, my sin and shame. There’s no shame in Christ’s game. The sinless Savior, dying a sacrificial death.
How about the crown? With the crown, he captured our royalty. We’re made to live like royalty. And so many of us are just trying to get that crown, aren’t we? “I want that crown! I want that crown! I want that crown!”
And we think that when we put that crown on our heads that it’ll fit. But it doesn’t fit. And a lot of us have gone through crown after crown after crown after crown after crown.
Jesus is waiting, because he’s chased us down. He’s captured us with his compassion and love and mercy and grace. And he waits for us; this is going to sound very, very weird. He waits for us; this is very counter-cultural. He waits for us; this is highly radical. He waits for us to surrender.
“Wait a minute, Ed. So you’re telling me the Bible says when I surrender to this divine capture; when I crown Jesus as king of my life, that’s it? That’s Christmas?”
That’s what the Bible says. The moment I make that decision and say, “Jesus, I bow before you. I surrender my all to you.” When we surrender, check this out, then we’re free! When we surrender—again, I told you it’s paradoxical—that’s when we’re free.
John 8:36, “So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
“Oh, man, I’m just going to do what I’m want to do!”
A lot of us become the defender, we’re not into surrender. So we just say, “I’ll just chase this. I’ll chase my every want, my every whim. I’ll do what I want to do,” and in that search from freedom outside of God we end up being enslaved to the very thing we’re chasing.
What are you chasing? I don’t care. Whatever you’re chasing, away from God, it will enslave you and ensnare you; it’ll tie you up. But all you have to do—it’s your choice and mine—is crown Jesus King of king and Lord of lords, and discover your royalty.
That’s what it means to capture Christmas. So again, it’s cool to have a picture of the crib. Jesus in the crib. It’s cool to have a picture of the cross. He’s on the cross. But he got out of the crib and got off the cross and he rose again. It’s about the crown. And you can bow the knee to him, surrender to him and crown him king of your life. And once you do that, your photo album will begin to have picture after picture after picture as you grow with him and discover your destiny that he has mapped out for your life.
That’s capturing Christmas. Christmas is about the capture. And we’re captured to capture.