(Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program)

A few years ago I was in the check out line of the store and I noticed a lady with her daughter who was about 12 years old or so.  The daughter kept repeating the same thing. “Mom, may I have this?” She kept asking for things and the mother repeatedly said no.  And then the mother yelled very loudly and many of us around could hear it. “No. Christmas is coming.”  And then she used the name of Jesus as a swear word following that statement.

Sadly, the woman appeared to have no idea that the first part of the word Christmas is Christ. And she used the name of Jesus to swear. No matter what she could buy, she would not be ready for Christmas or celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ without a life change of her own.
The question is often given: Are you ready for Christmas? It has been a common expression for the past several months. You may have had people ask you this very question and they are probably thinking of material things or asking you about material things such as the purchase of presents, the right present or just enough, too much, too many, not enough, decorations. Sometimes special foods are made, special treats that are especially good such as my daughter Clara’s sugar cookies. I love those. Then thee is house cleaning and readiness for company and all the things that are done.

Many of these things are fun and healthy for us to enjoy with family and loved ones, but what does the readiness for Christmas really mean?

The word Christmas is a combination of two words holding the meaning of the ‘mass’ or ‘festival’ of Christ.

The exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ is not known. Some of the dates guessed in the early centuries ranged from December 25th to January sixth. And I think that is where the 12 days of Christmas came from. But we have settled down in using December 25th as the day, hopefully, when most of us can recognize the fact that Jesus Christ was born, not so much to establish his birth date, but to acknowledge his existence.
I think that we can agree that the first Christmas was a day when Christ was born and not actually worry about when.  Jesus Christ is to be celebrated daily. Regardless of the date, the question is at hand. Are we read to celebrate the birth of the Savior who came into the world as the only one for our salvation?  None of this has anything to do with legends or myths or traditions, but rather the factual birth that Jesus Christ was born as the Old Testament predicted and as is recorded in the New Testament.

So many today want to eliminate the word Christmas from that celebration completely. They want to not have Christ in the celebration.  So I use it more than ever just because I want to and because I believe in Jesus Christ.

There were clearly some folks described in the Bible who were not ready for Christmas at the time when Jesus was born. For example, the Roman government had no regard for the birth of any Jewish baby, especially the one who would be King. There was no exception made for women who were with child when everyone had to go back to their home town to be enrolled such as when Jesus was born at Bethlehem and the trip that they had to make. The Romans would count any who would be king to be the enemy of their government as was shown at the time when Herod the king, after the visit of the wise men, worked to destroy the young child Jesus.

On the night of Jesus’ birth there was an inn keeper who found no place for the Savior to be born in the protection of the inn. He probably didn’t even know that this would be the Messiah. He had no idea at the time. But he had no room. He was not ready for Jesus Christ at all. And there were patrons in the inn who did not know to give up their comfort and space to allow Mary to give birth to the Savior in the comfort of the indoors. They had no idea what was going on and perhaps they were not ready for Christmas at all, not ready for Jesus Christ to be born.

The fact is that most everyone else in the world had no comprehension that the Savior, the King of the Jews, the high priest had come into the world although some Jewish people knew that the Messiah was promised. However, there were some who were ready and immediately became ready for the first Christmas as we see in the book of Luke.

Listen to this passage about the shepherds in Luke two beginning with verse eight.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.   Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising Godand saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Even though they probably had no thought ahead of time,  the shepherds who were in the fields that night were ready in their hearts to celebrate the birth of Christ as soon as they found out about him.  Perhaps they knew the Messiah was promised.  They were out there doing their job and raising sheep that would have been some of the unblemished animals that would be used for sacrifice.  The announcement by the angel came to them with all the glory that God chose to share along with the message to not be afraid.  This was probably bright and astonishing and just hard to comprehend and the message was: Do not be afraid. But I suspect I would have been afraid anyway. When the announcement was made, the excitement grew with a great company of angels celebrating the birth of the one and only Savior, the one who would care for sinful mankind and forgive sins.

The shepherds showed immediate readiness for Christ. They decided to go to Bethlehem and find this baby in a manger. Why? They were ready and they were willing. And when they found that newborn I am sure they worshipped him. They told others and there was amazement in the ears of the hearers. They celebrated Christmas by glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen. Their readiness for Christmas had everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with stuff, nothing to do with presents or anything else.  They were still poor shepherds after that night.  They had seen the Lord’s salvation and what a privilege it was to be chosen to do this.

Now there are two more examples that I would like to share about people who were ready for Christmas.  This did not happen on the day of Jesus’ birth, but about 40 days later at the temple, also recorded in the book of Luke. It was the practice of Hebrews that the first born male of people and animals both belonged to God.  They were consecrated or holy to God. First born animals, not people, were used as sacrifices. And there was a price of five shekels to redeem any non Levite firstborn boy child. The ceremony consisted of a formal presentation to the priest along with the two benedictions.

The ceremony could be done before any priest and did not have to be done at Jerusalem at the temple.  And there is no mention of a price being paid in this case, no price paid as there was with Samuel but Samuel was going to serve and Jesus was going to serve as well.

It was no accident that they chose to go to the temple. It was no accident that on that occasion at the temple Simeon was there at that very time. Simeon was ready for Christmas. He was a righteous man, a just man, a devout man. God’s Holy Spirit was resting upon him and he was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  Simeon was looking forward to the promised Savior to be called.  He was looking for the comfort, the consolation, the mediator, the intercessor, the helper, the Messiah. He had been promised that he would not die until he saw this Jesus.

He took Jesus in his arms and he praised God and said some important things. His life’s purpose had been fulfilled and he could die with promise that he knew had happened. He called Jesus, “Your salvation, the salvation gift to all men.”

He announced that this salvation would be to all people. Now this is important. A light for the revelation to the Gentiles, a glory to God’s people Israel. This was to all people, wasn’t it?  This was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. Simeon was more ready for Christmas than he was for anything else in his life. His life was devoted and focused to seeing Jesus.

The third example of readiness to see Jesus appears in Luke also just after the description of Simeon. And this was the prophetess Anna. She was then 84 years old and spent most of her life in the women’s court of the temple. Her life was dedicated to praying and fasting. She was looking for the Messiah. She was on duty just as a fireman waits at the fire house for something to happen. When she saw Jesus she recognized him by the power of the Holy Spirit. She gave thanks to God and spoke to those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. This would be in the person of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. And it is rather harsh to think about because in the term ‘redemption’ she knew that the only one who could pay the costly price for our forgiveness would be this baby when he grew up as the Savior. She was ready to see Jesus. She was looking forward to him with her life’s purpose. She was truly ready for Christmas.

So how does a Christian get ready for Christmas? So much is involved with Christmas and the giving and receiving so we have a suggestion for getting ready and receiving.

In the book of James chapter four verse seven it says:  Submit yourselves to God. This is our giving.  Another word to submit is present. Another way to say that word, spelled exactly the same way is present.  We are to give ourselves to God not that he needs us, but that we need to do this for our blessing to be complete.

In 2 Corinthians chapter eight, verses one through five, Paul spoke of the Macedonian churches who were giving generously because they had first given themselves to the Lord.  This takes the self out of life and also out of Christmas. It sets our priorities as Jesus is quoted as saying in chapter 20 of Acts.  “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The Bible shares many examples of people who did this. Forgiving of themselves, from the widow’s mite to those who had more to share.  James and Paul both spoke of putting Jesus first in our lives. And with Jesus first we couldn’t be any more ready for Christmas.

The book of Psalms says this in chapter 37 verse four. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

If we give ourselves to God, we will be delighting ourselves in the Lord. Let me say that again. If we give ourselves to God, we will be delighting ourselves in the Lord. In return, we are going to get what we want for Christmas, for  life itself. The fact of the matter is there will be a change in what we want. The things of this world will grow less important.  Our desires will be more inclined to be in his will.  God will give us what we need and that will be what we want.  God’s gift is to us. God has given us Jesus.

In Romans chapter six verse 23 it tells us: The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And in Acts 2:28 we are told about the gift of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit that we are given because we are Christians makes our life complete, giving us more than we could ever want. The opportunity is offered today to give yourself to God and receive his great blessings in return.   The request is that you will be ready for Christmas as a result. You will be ready to meet Jesus.

Please seek out a Bible believing congregation today.  Our Church of Christ and other people prayed that you will seek Jesus Christ and become a Christian. How important it is and then you will be ready for Christmas.

Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ who so willingly gave his  life that we would have life in his name. Thank you for that great Christmas gift. And help us to be ready for Christmas every day by celebrating Jesus Christ, the only one who could take away our sins. Bless each of our listeners and meet their needs, especially their need for Jesus in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

-Wayne Hobbs is a  retired educator who lives in Sellersburg, IN and worships with the Sellersburg Church of Christ