It was a cold December afternoon. All day long two men, a pastor named Jerry and a layman named Jim, had been delivering Christmas boxes. Many of the families who would receive these boxes would get nothing else for Christmas that year. The pickup truck had been loaded when the two men started out on their journey but now, only one box remained.
The address on the card meant a drive of several miles beyond the city limit. “What do you think?” Jim asked. He was the driver and it was his truck. Pastor Jerry knew what Jim was thinking. Why drive way out in the country when we could give this last box to someone close by and be home in thirty minutes? It was a tempting thought. Pastor Jerry had a Christmas Eve Service scheduled for 8 p.m. and he could use the time to prepare.
Jim, however, answered his own question, “Well, let’s give it a try. If we can’t find the place, we can always come back and give the box to someone else.”
A cold rain was pouring down by the time they reached the address on the card. The old white framed house stood on a hillside overlooking the valley. The two men slipped and slid, huffed and puffed as they carried the box up the hill. They climbed the high steps to the porch, set the box down and slid it across the floor. They straightened up just in time to glimpse the face of a small boy at the window. He had been watching them coming up the hill. Now, he announced their arrival with shouts of excitement, “They’re here, Grandma, they’re here!”
The door opened and an older woman greeted them. “I told you, they would come,” a child’s voice said from behind her. The little boy rushed to the box and began pulling at the goodies inside.
The woman told them that her grandson had come to live with her after his parents had divorced and gone their separate ways. She said, “Oh, I am so glad you are here. He was up early this morning looking for you. He sat by that window all day. I wasn’t sure you would come and I tried to prepare him in case of a disappointment. But he just said, ‘Don’t worry, Grandma, I know they will come.’”
I’d like to suggest that that little boy is speaking for all of us. Tonight, Christians all over the world are gathering in homes and churches to hear the story one more time – to hear the story that in Jesus Christ God comes to us just as we knew that He would.
You see, the prophet Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, had promised it hundreds of years before, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And I am here to tell you that Jesus HAS come, just as He promised – just as we knew he would.
Listen. There is a story of a man in Wales who tried for 42 years to win the affection of a certain woman. Finally, in 1985, on his forty-third attempt, she said, “Yes.” By then they were 74 years old.
Every week for more than 40 years, this rather shy man slipped a weekly love letter under his neighbor’s door. After writing 2,184 love letters without ever getting a response, this persistent old man finally summoned up enough courage to present himself in person. He knocked on the door of the reluctant lady and asked for her hand. To his delight and surprise, she accepted.
There is something about a personal visit that makes a difference. And I am here to tell you that more than 2,000 years ago God made a personal visit to this planet. 2,000 years ago – in a place called Bethlehem.
And you know the story. You love to hear the story. Of Mary and Joseph and angels and shepherds. Of Jesus born in Bethlehem – and placed in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Oh yeah. You know the story. And quite frankly – I never get tired of telling it!
But why? Why do we tell the story? Year after year – why do we tell THIS story? Glad you asked. Let me tell you why.
Jesus came into the world because the world was in a mess. In fact, the world has always been in a mess. Just listen to the evening news. Read the front section of the Buffalo News. The world is in a mess.
Now, God could have given up on us – God could have given up on this world long ago. But God’s love for us – God’s love for you and me – is so strong that He just couldn’t – He wouldn’t do that. So rather than walking away – rather than turning His back on us – God decided to do something about this mess.
So God made a personal visit, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ right? A personal visit always makes a difference. So… the story doesn’t end in Bethlehem. AND the story doesn’t end here tonight. IF you know the story, then you know that this baby born in Bethlehem grew into a man. And for three years – through his teaching, and preaching, and healing – he showed us why God cares so much about us.
But not everyone – and not everything was pleasant. Although Jesus attracted men and women who would become his disciples – he also made enemies. And they had Jesus crucified – nailed to a cross. But the story doesn’t end there either. And if you also know the rest of that story – if you know the Easter story – then you also know that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Now that’s the Good News story in a nutshell. And we call it the Good News story – because through the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – God made a way for us to be reconciled to God. Because of our own sinfulness – because of our sin – we were separated from God. That’s what sin does.
So we have this need to be reconciled to God. And therefore what we need is a Savior. And that’s why God paid us a visit to us – showed up in person – in the person of Jesus Christ – who became the Savior from sin that we so desperately need.
And as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” But you know what? The story doesn’t end there either.
Let’s go back to the Bethlehem story, I’ve gotta tell ya, that I’ve always been intrigued by that “no room in the inn” part of the story. That no room in the inn part of the story makes me want to ask a question – my question to you tonight is this. Have YOU made room for Jesus? In your heart? In your life? In your home? In your story?
Maybe you’ve been too busy getting ready for Christmas to think about this question. Or maybe you’re skeptical about this whole Jesus thing – about God making a personal visit in the person of Jesus Christ. Maybe you don’t believe this stuff – or maybe you just don’t care.
If that’s the case – just let me say – that I for one find it hard to believe that anybody could have made this stuff up. Listen! You’re going to put your faith in something. You’re either going to put your faith in your belief that the story that we tell tonight is true – OR you’re going to put your faith in the belief that the story isn’t true. Either way requires faith that what you believe is true.
So looking at this story – and then following the story to the end – I can only conclude that nobody could have made this stuff up. Especially the part about Jesus and him risen from the dead. In fact – I think it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a believer. And as I’ve told you many times before, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist!
Well, that’s the story. And why do we tell the story? We tell the story because His story can change your story. So – how will you finish the story? Because the story isn’t finished until you finish it. This story isn’t complete – until you welcome this Christ into your heart and into your life and into your home and into your story. Is there room this night in your world for the Christ child, or is there still no room in the inn?