Fourth Sunday in Advent December 24, 2000
55, 91, 92, 70
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.”
Dear Fellow Christians, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
It’s here again. Every year at this time the mad rush begins. Across the nation the fervent hunt for the perfect Christmas is in full swing. If you had been to Wal-Mart at 6:00 AM the day after Thanksgiving you would have seen it. Hundreds of people stormed the doors and by 6:03 a.m. Some items were already being sold out. Television sets, computers, and VCR’s were being hauled out of the store by the dozens. Did these people find it? Did they find their perfect Christmas?
Elsewhere travel agents are busy booking flights as people by the thousands are getting set to migrate back to their hometowns. Many are looking to recapture the magic of Christmas past—a Christmas complete with snow and mistletoe. Will these people find it? Will they find their perfect Christmas?
On the television the holiday special barrage is going strong. Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Jimmy Stewart and His Wonderful Life, along with a whole host of new programs, are all there to give us a warm fuzzy feeling—that special holiday glow. Millions will be glued to their TV sets once again this year, all longing to find that perfect Christmas.
At the post office scads of letters addressed to Santa Claus are coming in from children all over the world. They’ve made their list and are crossing their fingers hoping Santa is going to come through for them. But when Christmas morning arrives and if they get everything they ask for, will they have found it? Will they have found their perfect Christmas?
Many of us have searched long and hard for a tree to decorate in our homes. Along with our trees other decorations have been carefully placed throughout the house. Cookies have been baked. Cards have been sent out. Packages have been wrapped. Will these special trimmings in themselves do it for us? Will they unlock the key to a perfect Christmas?
Christmas is like one big desperate dive toward happiness. It’s as if every year at this time a sad, lost and lonely world tries to pull itself up out of it misery, in hopes that, maybe, just maybe, this year they will find it.
Yet Christmas comes and Christmas goes and nothing much really changes. Guilt still festers away at the human heart. People think and behave as selfishly as ever. Cutting words and hateful deeds are repeated day after day. People keep walking all over each other to get to the top. Marriages continue to fall apart. Children are still neglected, or are gunned down at school by other children. Nations never stop going to war against each other. And even people who are blessed with peaceful and prosperous lives find themselves wondering: “Is this all there is?”
Jesus once said: “Man cannot live by bread alone.” The TVs, new cars, and fancy homes can never satisfy the inner soul. And deep down man realizes he has an emptiness that can’t be filled by any amount of money or any number of material things. As a result in the last decades we have seen an explosion in the number of cults. We have seen hopeless millions turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb themselves to the deeper questions of life. We have seen thousands of others give up on the quest for fulfillment altogether and take their own lives.
The sad thing is no one knows what they are looking for. No one knows where to look for the perfect Christmas. No one, by their own power, can find that which alone can fill the void within.
Several years ago at Wind Cave National Park a group of young people belonging to the National Outdoor Leadership program were being trained in cave exploration. The assignment for the day was to find the leader who had hidden himself in the cave. A girl named Rachel was searching with a team of four when she thought she heard a noise down a narrow crack which the group had just passed. Two of the team members waited on top while her and another member crawled down into the narrow space. When they reached the room below the two got in an argument about how to get back to the rest of their team. Rachel wanted to crawl back through the narrow way, while the boy she was with knew an easier and shorter way to get back. The two separated and Rachel never found her way back to the team. Somehow she became disorientated. Her pack had been lost in the narrow passage and so she was left with only one flashlight and a little water. At that point she should have stayed put. If she had she would have been found within a very short time. But instead she began to walk. Soon her flashlight went out, then her canteen went dry. But still, now down on her hands and knees, she kept moving. Finally after 34 hours she was located and rescued. Later when investigators began to piece together what had happened, it was discovered that the rescue team was only minutes behind her through for most of the 34 hours. It was only because she would not stop that it took so long to find her. She was literally running away from her rescuers.
The sad reality is that not only can’t mankind find his way out the dark, he is running away from the only one who can bring light and a way out of the hopelessness. As we look around at the mad frenzy that has become Christmas, do we not see a world running away from God. Man’s stubborn sinful nature has blinded him to the truth that God is right behind, longing to rescue him, and to quiet his fears forevermore.
Only the God of the Bible can fill the void. God alone can give true meaning and joy to our Christmas celebration. God has sent His Son. Christ is the Light to bring the sinner out of darkness and hopelessness. The peace of His blood-bought forgiveness is the only thing that can give real meaning for our lives today, and certain hope for an eternal tomorrow. In Christ the search is over!
We were lost, but now are found. Our sins once threatened to condemn us to an endless despair in the awful abyss of hell. But Jesus found us when we sought Him not. Through His powerful Word he has put a stop to our aimless wanderings. He has led us to confess our helplessness to rescue ourselves—our complete inability to fill the emptiness of our souls. He has caused us to stop running, to be still, as He embraces us with the arms of everlasting and unconditional love.
And yet Jesus’ question long ago to the two disciples in our text who followed after Him, still demands our attention. “What are you seeking?” Jesus’ question challenged the disciples to understand that the search was over. In Him they had found everything they would ever need.
But do we always live our lives fully realizing the search is over? If so, why is it that we are often so consumed by worry? In Christ all the great issues of life have been settled. Sin has been paid full. Death has been abolished. God is in perfect control of our lives. Fear and despair agitate our hearts only because of our lack of faith.
Or if the search is over why do we spend so little time with the one who has rescued us? God teaches us that the closer we are to His Word the more settled and happy we will be. And yet we foolishly let Satan deceive us into believing that spending our times on other things will bring us more happiness.
Or instead of laying our sins on Jesus, at times we excuse, rationalize and come up with all sorts of silly ways to atone for our sins. We run from God and allow ourselves to be plagued by a guilty heart. In our pride we hesitate to admit that without Christ we are nothing but damned lost sinners. And that He alone holds the cure for what ails us.
“What are you seeking?” Jesus says to us. Why so restless? Why so faithless? Why in such a hurry to find something you will never find? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29).
Once again this year, let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass. There, and only there, we will find our perfect Christmas. Here, and only here, do we see an end to the dark emptiness of our lives. The search is over … “Oh, come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel,” AMEN!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.