X-MAS FILES SERMON SERIES
THE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF GOD
DECEMBER 24, 1996
Most of us have been concentrating on one thing over the last couple of weeks; shopping. We’ve shopped from malls to magazines, from outlet stores to online, all in an attempt to find the perfect gift. And if the truth were known, most of us in the Christmas Eve service are stressed out, wigged out, freaked out because we have been on this shopping safari. I think we would all agree that we have shopped until we have dropped.
Have you read about the hottest presents and gifts this year? Nintendo 64, red-fleeced jackets with a zipper, and also Baby Gap ski caps. Those are big this year. However, the number one gift in the world today has to be the Tickle Me Elmo doll. Store clerks have been trampled at Walmart. People have paid thousands of dollars for these furry creatures. And people have also stood in line hour after hour just to pick up one of these Sesame Street lookalike dolls.
Months ago, my dear mother read somewhere that the Tickle Me Elmo dolls were going to be hot this year so she bought a couple for our twin daughters, Laurie and Landra, who are two years of age. She wrapped them up and shipped them from Houston to Dallas. We had them hidden in a nice little closet. On Thanksgiving Day our twins, I call them affectionately the twin towers, sneaked in the closet, found the dolls wrapped up, unwrapped them and began to play with them. They threw them back and forth, back and forth. We had no idea that they were valuable until about a week and a half later. Lisa was watching television and found out that many were selling for big bucks.
So I want to show you these dolls. They are really cute. Two Tickle Me Elmo dolls. Check this out. (Squeaky laughter – small voice saying That tickles.) Let me announce. These are for sale. We will start the bidding at $5,000 because I can be bought. I’m just kidding. The twins would kill me if I got rid of their Tickle Me Elmo dolls.
It has always intrigues me, though, how we will go to any extremes in order to find the ultimate gift, won’t we. Especially for our children, we will shop and shop and shop. I believe this desire we have to shop during the Christmas holidays, is a microcosm of a greater shopping need that most of us are engaged in 365 days a year. Some of the men are saying this. “Wait a minute, Ed. I don’t like to shop. I am allergic to malls. I am not shopping 365 days a year. Come on. I don’t shop ‘til I drop.”
Just hold on to that line of thinking because I am going to challenge you and show you that you do. We all like to shop. And beneath this shopping desire is a desire to shop for a Savior. You see, our loving, transcendent God wants us to open our lives to Him. We matter so much to God that He sent Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life and to die on the cross for all of our sins. God did that because we matter so much to Him. And instead of saying, “God, I want to live life your way. I want to come into a relationship with You.” Instead of responding to God’s love, what do you think autonomous men and women do? We white knuckle our carts. We thumb our noses at God. We say, “God, I don’t need a personal shopper. I can determine my own destiny and we begin to shop down the aisles of life for meaning, purpose, happiness, a clear conscience and we think we can find that.
The first aisle that we shop down is an aisle called position. Have you ever shopped down that aisle? I have. We have got to get the corner office. We have got to get the promotions and the parties and the perks. We have got to get a number of degrees. And we pile them into this cart and amazingly we look at the cart and still see a crater in the cart. The cart is empty. There is something missing. And we go up and down the aisle of position searching for something.
When I was nineteen years of age, as many of you know, I played college basketball at Florida State University. For the most part, I rode the bench. However, during my sophomore year against Auburn University before 18,000 people, my coach gave me the starting nod. I knew as I was sitting on the bench waiting for my name to be called over the loud speaker that this was it. This was the position I had been waiting for, sacrificed for, lifted weights for. And here it was. “Starting at guard, number 12 from Houston, TX – Ed Young.” And I stood out there. It was just like that. I was standing on the court and I said, “You know what. Here I am in short pants and a tank top spending all my time putting a leather ball through a steel ring. There is more to life than this. Whoopdedo.” I didn’t play hardly the rest of the year, but I did start one game. Anyway. Position.
Then we get tired of going and trying to find position. Oh, we say, aisle two. And we try to fill our carts with possessions. We are still white knuckling the cart, we are still telling God to keep His distance from us. We accumulate things. And things are fine. However, it becomes our number one agenda to have a new car, a new wardrobe, a new house. And we collect and get more and more and more. We pile our carts full of things and we think we will be satisfied and filled. Yet, again we look into the cart with shock and amazement on our faces because there is still a huge crater in our carts. Down deep we are shopping for a Savior. Yet, we don’t really want one because we are doing the independent thing.
Well, surely there is another aisle, aisle three. That is the aisle of adventure. And we will smash into other people’s carts now and then, damage people, have problems with guilt and pain, but we are so busy shopping down aisle three, the aisle of adventure that we don’t really have the time to stop and contemplate things. Adventure. You know what I am talking about, don’t you? We move from fun fix to fun fix, game to game, hobby to hobby and we think we will reach some nirvana and that when we reach it we will be satisfied. We pile of carts full, but the crater is still there.
We begin to get frustrated but decide we will try aisle four. Aisle four is relationships. Oh, boy. Love is in the air. Every sight and every sound. So we begin to date and then we mate. Then we have children. It is great and fine and wonderful. Yet, we are still empty. We have all these relationships in our lives but there is still a crater in the cart. And now and then during the Christmas season we will go to a service like this and we will push our cart dangerously close to baby Jesus. We will look at baby Jesus but we don’t want to slow down too much because we will realize how empty we are. We look and think about Him and now and then some of us will pick up the Christ child. There is always room for a baby in the cart. We put the Christ child in the cart. We love having baby Jesus in the cart because He is harmless that way. He is just a baby. And we can push Him around and still have the white knuckle grip. We can say, “Jesus you are so sweet, so kind, so nice.” We don’t want Jesus to grow up because then we are going to have to come to terms with the sin in our lives. We might have to realize some relationship is not right. We might have to come clean in a certain area. We will have to start telling the truth to others.
We are all dressed up in our Christmas Eve attire. Everyone here looks great. Most of us match, in fact. If our wives dressed us, we do. In a real sense, if we could see the real you, some of you are exhausted. The rubber on your cart is burned off. You still have that white knuckle grip on the cart of your life and life has knocked you down to one knee. You are hammered. You are stresses. You are guild-ridden. You are depressed. You are empty. You have gone through a marriage or two, a job or two, a house or two. And you are wondering on the Christmas Eve if there is something else out there. You are shopping for a Savior.
I am going to challenge you to do something if you are in this position. I am going to challenge you to do what the Wise Men did years ago. The Wise Men were shopping. They were prosperous, brilliant, people well versed in the natural sciences. The Bible says they shopped and shopped and shopped until as Matthew 2:11 says, “they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshipped him.” They shopped until they dropped.
The Bible also says in Philippians 2:10-11, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth.” So I ask you, there is not a better time in the world to put down the other knee and release your white knuckle grip on the cart. When you do that and allow Jesus to push your cart, that is when you have true position. You are adopted into the family of God. The word adoption in the Jewish culture is a strong word. You see, back in Jesus’ day, you could disown a biological child. But if you adopted a child, you could not disown them. We have a change to be adopted into the family of God. Talk about position and influence.
How about possessions? Once we come to know Christ and bow the knee to Him, we have true possessions. We can tap into His reservoir of strength when the rogue winds blow and the difficult days hit. Talk about adventure. There is nothing like living on the rugged edge of adventure following the Lord. Excitement. Thrills, minute by minute. Knowing you are living at the center of God’s purpose and plan for your life. And relationships. Jesus is the author of relationships. He created the desire for the opposite sex. He instituted marriage. He gave us the gift of sexuality, the gift of communication, the gift of community. Look at the benefits of following Him. How long will you shop on the aisles of life?
Now some autonomous men and women are saying, “Oh, I hear you. And I will think about this maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.” My five-year-old son, EJ, in anticipation of Christmas has asked me this question for the last five straight days. “Daddy, is today tomorrow?” I ask you the same question. I believe that God has asked me that question right now. Is today tomorrow? God wants today to be tomorrow. There is not a better time to have a new birth, a spiritual birthday in your life than on Christmas. But bowing the knee is up to you. I can’t do it for you. You have got to do it.
Dr. Richard Selzer wrote an account of an operation he performed in a classic book entitled MORTAL LESSONS. Let me paraphrase what he said about this operation. He said he was standing beside a hospital bed looking at a beautiful young woman post operative. I had removed a tumor from the left side of her face and I had to take out a nerve. I saw that her beautiful mouth would be palsied and drawn up for the rest of her life. I watched her young husband look at her. I saw her look at me and ask, “Doctor, will I always look like this?” I looked back at her with tears in my eyes and said, “Yes, you will.” Then I noticed her husband as he looked at the curve of her flesh and he smiled and said, “Honey, I think your mouth is cute.” Dr. Selzer said I knew I was in the presence of the divine and I hung my head. I saw in the light the husband reach down and lean over and right before he kissed the lips of his bride, he accommodated his mouth to hers. Dr. Selzer said, “That’s Christmas. God, Himself, accommodating to you and me by sending Jesus Christ to be on our level.” You see, we serve a sympathetic Savior, someone who has been there, tempted, tested, tried.
So what is it going to be for you this Christmas? What is it going to be? God knows that through all of our lives we have done a lot of shopping. He wants you to do some dropping.