The True Christmas Story
The True Christmas Story
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to Matthew 2 and it’s part of the well known record of Jesus’ birth. Matthew 2:7, “Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.’ When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
That’s the Christmas story we all know. That’s the story that we all depend on and then we believe that Jesus lived his life and set an example for us to follow and many of us think well that’s all we’ve to do just to follow his example and that’s the reason for his existence. Those of us who are a little more knowledgeable than that know yes but there is a change that has to be wrought in us so that we can live like him and that change is what he wrought on Calvary. So we know a little more but basically we’re much the same as the rest of the world in regards to Jesus.
We think yes he came and was born as a little human being and he lived the 33 years and then he went up to be with his Father and we now are down here and it’s up to us now to live the kind of life that he has guided us to live and where we fail then his death will help to cover that. Basically that’s our attitude. We think that is the story of Jesus being a human being and he came here so that he could understand us and so that he could help us to be like him. Of course it’s nothing like the truth at all.
We end up being like the rest of mankind. In fact virtually atheists in that we live pretty much as if all right somewhere back there God did make man but my mom made me and that’s what I am. I’m a little Minnesotan, I’m a little Irishman and that’s what we are and we have a short time here and then we will go to be in heaven. When we talk about faith we’re not unlike the little boy who answered you remember the man who asked him, “What is faith?” He answered, “Believing what you know isn’t true.”
Often we are more like that with our faith. We think of faith as something that lifts us into a realm that we aren’t really in and that’s where we get the idea that faith is an imaginary thing. That’s why we say we have trouble with faith because we are trying to imagine we’re in someplace that we aren’t really. Of course it goes back to really what we think about Jesus and his coming to earth. I think you know that it was new to most of us the idea of Jesus, really it’s a basic doctrine of Christianity but of course it’s one that isn’t spoken too often, but it was new to us that the idea of Jesus was pre-existent.
I suspect that many of us still have trouble with that. That Jesus actually existed before he existed. He existed before he came to earth as a baby. We tend to see the whole story like that. God is back here and then somewhere along this timeline Jesus and then some time along this timeline
Jesus comes to earth. Then some time along this timeline each of us is born and we see it as a sequential timeline and we’re at a certain point in that timeline.
Of course it’s absolutely wrong, it’s utterly and completely wrong. I think even those of us who started to read Barth really thought boy he’s stretching a little and yet whether we were Catholics or not we were influenced by old Paul. Paul you know was a bit of a scholar, the Pope. Of course he was very clear Barth was the greatest theologian since Aquinas. And of course as you read about Barth you hear people saying he’s the Einstein of theology. He sees time as it really is or as it really isn’t.
So some of us have begun to glimpse that our normal interpretation of the Christmas story is far from reality and of course I’ll show you the real Christmas story and it’s Colossians if you want to look at it. Of course it turns the whole thing upside down. Colossians 1:15 and it’s talking about Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.” I mean what does it mean; “The first-born of all creation?” Of course it refers to the fact that, we can’t talk about God’s beginning but whatever God began, a second after he began he conceived his son. That’s why we call them co-eternal, the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit.
You might say a millisecond after God begot his son in himself, his own son, he was his first-born. He was his only son and he was the first-born of anything that God made or created. He was the first-born and in that millisecond you have to face the fact that God does not think sequentially. He is not bound by time; he has in fact made time as a concession to you and me. Time is actually a slow motion replay, it’s a slow motion, the normal speed is what Einstein started to talk about when he pointed out that time and space are relative and that time goes faster the further you get away from the earth.
In fact in a millisecond God conceived his son and conceived him as divine and as a human being. That’s why it talks about in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God because Jesus, the Word, is God speaking himself forth expressing himself, coming out of himself. That’s what the word is. And God began to come out of himself that is to posit himself outside himself when he begot his own son. And in his own son he conceived in a millisecond, “milli” in a millisecond, because God sees everything at once.
He conceived his own son, he conceived us in his own son, and he conceived the whole world in his own son, all the stars, all the planets. That’s what it says, you look at Colossians. Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” And all that happened in that millisecond.
The quantum physicists are catching up though some people here will question me on the quantum physicists but it seems to me they are catching up. Hawking even says there was a singularity – there was a singularity that is to say that everything came from one big bang. There was one moment when it all started; this of course was the singularity which they may eventually catch on to it.
One needs to see that what that Colossians passage tells us is that God sees everything in one millisecond. And he saw and conceived all of us inside his son which is why Ephesians 2:10 says, for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that he has prepared beforehand back in this millisecond, that we should walk in that. Of course this is Christmas.
This is the real Christmas. What we’re celebrating now is the outward manifestation years later of what God did in his son, he conceived each one of us. All things were made in him and through him and we ourselves were created in Christ for good works that God had planned the rest of this timeline to work out.
So we were part of Christ right back there. The truth is we’ve always been in Christ and of course it makes sense of bearing our sins. We have great trouble even those of us who are enthusiastic Hebreists and like to show the relationship of Christ’s bearing our sins to the goat and the sheep and all the sacrificial system. Yet we sense we’re still just having at it in trying to explain how Christ bears our sins, but how real it is that he bore our sins if you concede that we were all made inside him and there isn’t a thing that we have done that he has not filled and that he has not filled within himself.
So God conceived us all in his son Jesus at the very beginning and then you say how did this world come about? God allowed us to be born as separate creatures not only as part of his son but also as separate creatures so that we would see what life would be like if we weren’t part of him. Can you see it? Here’s the disaster, that’s the only life that we know! That’s the only life that we know, that’s how we interpret the Christmas story. This that we’re having here is just time slowed up. God’s slowed up the millisecond and slowed it up so that we would be able to see. He replayed what he saw would happen when he gave us free will in his son and that his son would have to bear those things in himself and God through him would reconcile our lives to his and then that would all be played out in time. What we are seeing now is the first part of that replay and we’re seeing life as it would have been had we not been made part of Christ.
You’re right the unbelievable thing is that we human beings think that this is the way it’s meant to be. This is the way it’s meant to be and that’s why we have trouble when we leave this service. We get back to real life. We live as little Colleen Donahue, as little Ernest O’Neill, as little Marty Poehler. Of course we’re not atheists like the real atheists but yeah we’re kind of self made, we’re certainly self existent, I mean we’re obviously separate beings from everybody else and we have our own little dynamos inside that keep us breathing.
So we live as if we are not part of Christ. We live as if we are on our own, we do. That’s why our minds operate that way, that’s why we find ourselves being anxious or worried. It’s not because we’re falling from a height, it’s because we live in that unreality. We hear this stuff that I’m saying and we say well it does sound good and some kind of way I’m sure you can get into it, but I’m not in it now. You are in it now! You are and your attitude is what the dear Savior has to bear. That’s it! He bears it every second and every move we make we make as separate individuals.
Look, well I have a different jacket on than Dan and of course I’m separate and I am my own guy. It’s a lie. I’m not my own guy. Actually the Bible says and I’ll try to talk about it Sunday, the Bible says you are a limb of Christ. You see how we’ve turned it all around? We say what a nice metaphor. What a nice simile. I’m a limb, ah, I’m really Trish Overby, but it’s nice to think I’m also a limb of God. NO, you’re not Trish Overby; you were never Trish Overby, that’s what God allowed you to see as the life would be without him. That’s life as it was not meant to be. That is what God is playing out for us all. He’s playing out life as it was not meant to be but we’ve all kind of settled it down and we’ve got used to it. Oh this is life and maybe, maybe some time we’ll kind of rise to a higher life.
No, this isn’t the life that was meant to be. You are in the higher life. All you have to do is
start accepting that. That’s what faith is. Faith is not believing what isn’t true; faith is believing what is true. But for to many of us real life has really been living in a lie, in something that isn’t real. You know it because you know how we get back into the day and it’s not meant we’re not to enjoy, we’re meant to enjoy these things but we’re meant to enjoy them from where we really live. We really live in Jesus’ heart. Jesus is humanity. He is the first-born of all creation and all of us were made in him and so we share what he is in his Father. And that’s where we are.
When you really accept that and you really begin to think that way, your whole way of thought changes and your whole confidence changes and there’s a whole certainty comes into your life, because you’ve got it the right way around. What we have here is a replay of what life would be like if we weren’t in Christ. Stop thinking that that is your life, that that is God’s will for you. Begin to see that that is not God’s will. It is not his will that I would go across to that room over there and start thinking immediately, “Well now what am I, Ernest O’Neill going to do?” I live yet not I but Christ lives within me, that’s what he said. And God allowed him to say it that way so that we would catch it. Oh that’s what we do.
We excuse it by saying, “Oh we’re just speaking conventionally. I live oh we’re just speaking conventionally. I mean you can’t always say well I live in Christ or Christ lives me. But that’s what God through Paul was getting over to us when he gets him to say that. “I live, yet, yet, yet not I, no wait a minute, I don’t mean that, yet not I, but Christ lives within me.” Our Father is lovingly trying to bring over to us, “That’s the way you think and that’s not right.”
So what I’m saying is Christmas Day is our birth. Christmas Day is our birth. That’s not Jesus just becoming the man from Nazareth, that’s not it at all. That’s a picture here in time of what happened in eternity in reality. That Christ became humanity and we are part of him and this is our birthday and you are actually in him this very minute you are in him. Let us pray.