Rev. Canon J.John: “Don’t miss Christmas. I love the season. It’s great. But the danger is that we get caught up in the wrapping paper and we miss the gift. The gift of Christmas is Christ. He is the gift.”
John Fuller: We have Christmas cheer to share with you today on Focus on the Family with your host Focus president Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I love the Christmas season and all that it represents. But I think most of us find it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping and parties, school events, and all those other obligations that can rob us of the true meaning of Christmas which is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
So, here’s our Christmas gift to you! We’re featuring a new message from British evangelist and author, J.John. Sit back, relax, and enjoy these reflections on the true meaning of the holiday season.
John: Here now is J.John speaking at an event sponsored by Hillsong Church in London, England, on today’s Focus on the Family.
J.John: Good evening.
Audience: Good evening.
J.John: Isn’t the Christmas season a great season of the year? I love Christmas. Some of the things that we say, some of the things that we do just are – just – I just so enjoy.
Did you know that a man goes through three stages in his life? Stage one, he believes in Santa Claus. Stage two, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. Stage three, he is Santa Claus.
J.John: It is such a fun season. And during this season, obviously different people have different expectations and different perspectives.
There was a little boy who wanted a bicycle for his birthday. So, he got down on his knees, he prayed for a bike. His birthday arrived, no bike.
But then he thought, “Ah, but Christmas is only a couple of weeks away, I’ll have a second chance.” Got down on his knees, began to pray for a bike for Christmas. And then he thought, “No, I prayed for a bike for my birthday and I didn’t get one.” So, he got up, and he started to walk around the house.
And then he saw a statue of Mary. And then he had an idea – took the statue down, wrapped in a blanket, put it in a drawer and said, “Jesus, if you want to see your mom again, get me a bike.”
J.John: I don’t know whether your expectations are in the realm of the miraculous. One of the things I really enjoy about the season of Christmas are infant school Nativity plays.
I’ve got three sons. And over the years I’ve been to many nativity plays. And – and they’re great.
There was one infant school where the highlight of the year was the annual Christmas production. And there was one little boy who was desperate to play the part of Joseph. The day arrived when the teacher announced all the roles, but this little boy was not chosen to play Joseph. But he was chosen to play the innkeeper. But he didn’t want to be the innkeeper. He wanted to be Joseph.
The day arrived when the school presented their annual Christmas production to the entire school, all the families, relatives, friends. Then you get to that point where Mary and Joseph arrive at the innkeeper’s door, knock on the door. (SFX KNOCKING) Door opens, innkeeper comes out. Joseph says, “Can my wife, Mary, and I – can we come in for the evening?” And the innkeeper said, “She can come in, but you can’t.” (LAUGHTER) “I wanted to be Joseph.”
There are many different versions of Christmas. And because there are so many different versions of Christmas it’s really good just to take some time out and stop [pause] and say, “Let’s go back to the original script.” What did the original script actually say?
The only true historical reason for celebrating Christmas is as the birthday of Jesus Christ. But nobody celebrates the birthday of a dead person. You only celebrate the birthday of someone who is alive. It is because Christians believe and know that Jesus Christ is alive that there can be a true celebration of His birthday.
When we go back to the original script, we learn that there were a group of people known as the wise men. Have you ever wondered what would have happened had they been wise women? I’ll tell you. If they were wise women, they would have asked for directions and arrived there on time.
Audience: Applause and Laughter
J.John: I don’t know if you know, but the wise men actually arrived quite late. When the wise women arrived, they would’ve brought a casserole. (LAUGHTER) They would’ve cleaned out the stable. They would have helped with the delivery. And they would have brought far more practical presents.
But the original script says, “They were wise men.”
Now, that’s got nothing to do with academia. It’s not about intelligence. It’s about understanding. They understood. And when they arrived to where Christ was, they bowed down, worshiped him and gave him gifts.
There was one infant school Christmas production, and the wise men came on. And the first wise man walks on; he says, (snarky) “Here’s some gold,” and off he walked. And the second kid comes along, he says, “He’s some myrrh.” And off he went. And then the third kid came along, and he forgot his one line.
Now, if you’ve ever been in this situation as a parent, it is so painful. It is – it’s like you’re willing them to remember their line. Oh, it’s so painful. And everyone’s going (unintelligible). And then eventually the kid remembered it, “Oh, Frank sent this.” (LAUGHTER)
Gold, frankincense, myrrh. Now, why would you give – why would you give a child those gifts? Well, it’s symbolism. And behind the symbolism are profound truths, hence the fact that this group of people are called wise.
Gold in the Bible is a symbol of kingship. They had understood that Christ was The King. Not just ‘a’ king but The King. And in the words of the original script, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. In other words, the King of the entire universe, the entire cosmos. By giving gold, they are acknowledging His Kingship.
By bowing down and worshipping Him, they’re saying, “We want to come under Your sovereign reign and rule.”
Frankincense in the Bible is a symbol of prayer. It’s a symbol of communication. They understood that the King had come to communicate with people. They were acknowledging that, and they were reciprocating. They were saying, “Well, we want to communicate with You.”
Myrrh in the Bible is a symbol of burial. It’s a symbol of death. They’d understood that the King had come into the world in order to give His life for us. For us to really appreciate and understand the relevance of these symbols, we’ve got to step back and diagnose the world into which Jesus was born.
Do you agree with the following statement? There are problems in the world today. Do you agree with that?
J.John: Yeah. I can’t – I wouldn’t believe that anyone would disagree with that. There are problems in the world today personally, socially, globally. There are problems at every level.
Now, there are many people – no doubt many people here – who are doing what they can to alleviate the symptoms. The big question is, what causes the symptoms? You see, if you’re only trying to alleviate the symptoms, you’re always going to have the symptoms. But if you’re going to deal with the root cause, that’s going to deal with the symptoms. What is the root cause of everything that’s wrong in the world today? The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. That is what is at the heart of everything that’s wrong in the world today. It is our hearts. If you go back to the original script, the word to describe that heart condition is sin. That’s the word for it. It’s because we’ve all got sinful hearts that our relationships are polluted, that they’re affected. Our communities are, society is, the world is because of the human heart.
Let me illustrate this for you in a slightly different way. Just imagine you passed out of this life [clap!] now. This is only an illustration.
You woke up in a theater like this one but sitting there on your own. In front of you is a huge screen. All of a sudden, the doors open. An angel flies in, comes up to you and says, “Welcome to the theater of judgment. Relax.”
J.John: “Watch the screen.” Now, there on the screen, you see your life. Everything you ever did here on Earth, everything you ever said here on Earth, and everything you ever thought, you see it on the screen.
As you’re recovering, the angel comes back and says, “Relax. There’s going to be a second showing. All the people that were featured in the film of your life are all waiting outside. And we’re just going to let them into the theater to see the film of your life a second time.” How would you feel if your life were judged on that basis? That is exactly how God judges us. In an [click] instant. We’re judged by everything we have thought, said, done.
I don’t know about you. Personally, I would not want a private viewing, let alone a public viewing, of my life. I honestly do not need convincing.
That I have thought, said, and done things that I shouldn’t have. But the other thing that the film reveals to us is this – not only the sins of commission, the things we’ve done; it also reveals to us the sins of omission. In other words, the things that we didn’t do that we could have done, but we didn’t. The things we didn’t say. We could have stood up for the voiceless but didn’t want to. We could have been kind.
John: You’re listening to British evangelist J.John on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And this reminder that we have a CD of this program, with extra content. And we’re making that available, for your generous gift of any amount to this ministry when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate and request the CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
J.John: Christmas is a season for us to think, is there something I can do to live simply so that others can simply live?
You see, we’re not only judged by the sins of commission. We’re also judged by the sins of omission. But the thing is this, everything on that film has consequences. Now, a lot of people don’t believe that. There are people who think, “Well, you can do what you want and it doesn’t matter.” It does matter.
All that stuff on the film has the effect of disconnecting us from God. And that’s why some people say, “Where is God?” But God didn’t leave us. We left God. God didn’t separate himself from us. We separated ourselves from God. God never rejected us. We rejected God.
And the thing is all that stuff on the film works a bit like an overdraft in a bank account. If you’ve got an overdraft and I have an overdraft, you can’t help me and I can’t help you. The only one who can help us is someone in credit. Jesus Christ was the only one in credit. And that is why Jesus came into this world – to do something about your overdraft and my overdraft.
If our greatest need was information, then God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need was money, then God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need was pleasure, then God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness.
That’s why God sent us a Savior. Jesus Christ came into this world in order to rescue us from this dilemma that we’re all in – being disconnected from God, having an overdraft. You see, the wise men understood this. Myrrh: “You have come to die. That’s why you’ve come.”
See, one of – one of the things about the Christmas season is that we can get so preoccupied with the baby Jesus that we miss it. We miss the point. Yes, the invisible God did make himself visible in Jesus. Yes, God did become a man. But sometimes we leave Him as a baby.
To really understand the significance of His birth, you’ve got to move on and look at his life. And you’ve got to move from the cradle to the cross.
On the cross, in the words of the original script, Jesus Christ purchased, for us, forgiveness. It was as if He was cashing a check signed with His own blood, saying, “Here is the check to clear your overdraft.” You see, that is why becoming a Christian is so cathartic, therapeutic, liberating, illuminating. Because it totally liberates us from the past.
Forgiveness from the past. He wants to come into our lives by his Holy Spirit and give us new life today. And he wants to give us a hope for the future. This is the gift of Christmas. The gift of Christmas is Christ. He is the gift.
Don’t miss Christmas. Don’t miss it. Is it possible to miss it? It is possible. Many people missed the first Christmas. Did you know that the religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, missed Christmas? That astonishes me. How could they miss it?
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are what are called messianic prophecies. There are, in fact, 322 of them. These tell you about the Messiah, the King, the Savior coming to Earth. They tell you how he’s going to be born, where he’s going to be born, how he’s going to grow up, what he’s going to say, how he’s going to say it, what he’s going to do, how he’s going to die. You’ve even got details like the number of coins that will be used to betray him.
Do you know what the mathematical compound probability is of 322 prophecies being fulfilled in one man at one moment in time is? One over 84 with 100 zeros. In other words, it doesn’t happen every day.
This is a rare occurrence!
The Sadducees and the Pharisees, the religious leaders, not only knew the Old Testament – listen to this. They not only knew it, they not only knew the 322 messianic prophecies, they had memorized them. And yet they couldn’t be bothered to walk 5 miles. That’s all they had to do, walk 5 miles, check it out. I would have walked 50 miles to check it out.
Do you know something? You can be very religious and not know the truth.
You can be very religious and not know the truth. You can even teach religion and not know the truth. And there are many religious people who haven’t yet encountered the transforming truth of who Jesus is. The religious leaders missed Christmas. King Herod missed Christmas. The innkeeper missed Christmas. I mean, wouldn’t that have been a great signature to get in the guestbook? Mary, the mother of Jesus, Joseph, Jesus’ stepdad. I mean, wow, that would have been a great signature to have, wouldn’t it? But they were so preoccupied with their business. And many people who are preoccupied miss the most important truth of all.
In 1974, I was a student in London. I was an agnostic. I didn’t believe in God. I wasn’t interested in God. And then I met a Christian called Andy Economides, and he started to talk to me about Jesus. He gave me a Bible. He told me to read the original script.
And as I started reading it, there were lots of questions, and we would talk and dialogue. And we started approaching Christmas. He said to me, “Do you send out Christmas cards?” I said, “I do, actually,” you know, feeling quite proud of myself. You know, “I do.”
And he said, “Well, make sure they’re blank.” I said, “What you mean?” He says, “Well, you’re an agnostic. You don’t believe Jesus is – is the Christ. You don’t believe He’s God. You don’t believe all these things, do you?” I said, “No.” He says, “Well, you don’t want to be a hypocrite, so make sure they’re all blank.” That really irritated me.
But amidst the irritation, I thought, “He’s right. He’s right.”
But as I read more, as I talked more, as I dialogued more, I was captivated. I was captivated. This is the most amazing gift we’re being offered. And I started to believe. But it took me a while from believing to receiving – took me a little while. But on the 9th of February 1975, I received the gift. And when I received the gift, it was the most incredible, transforming, illuminating experience that I’ve ever had. The light came on. The light came on.
Don’t miss Christmas. I love the season. I love everything that’s part of the season. It’s great. But the danger is that we get caught up in the wrappings and the wrapping paper and we miss the gift. The gift of Christmas is Christ. He is the gift.
I want to pray one of my favorite Christmas prayers, as I conclude.
May God grant you the light of Christmas which is faith. The warmth of Christmas which is love. The radiance of Christmas which is purity. The righteousness of Christmas which is justice. The belief of Christmas which is truth. The ‘all’ of Christmas which is Christ. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may God grant you all these things. Not just at Christmas, but also throughout the New Year and all the years to come.
I hope you’ve been inspired this evening. I hope you’ve enjoyed the evening, and I really pray and wish you all a Merry Christmas. Thank you very much.
John: What a touching way to end this episode of Focus on the Family, featuring British evangelist J.John. And we’re going to be putting a copy of that prayer for you up on our website.
Jim: That’s a great idea, John. Let’s do it.
And let me just quickly add, especially to those of you who are parents – make an effort to communicate this message from J.John, in words and deeds, to your children. Keep your Christmas focused on Christ. Don’t allow your Christmas to be hijacked by that busyness, greediness, and gluttony that our culture is known for.
Remember, Jesus could have been born in a palace, but He chose to be born in a stable. He was coming as our Savior and King, but He was humble. That’s a good reminder as we celebrate His birth. And we’ll post some of those articles about how your family can keep Christ in Christmas, at our website.
And as we come to the end of the year, I hope that, looking back, you can see that Focus on the Family has had a positive impact on your family.
And if that’s the case, can I ask you to make a generous donation to the work that we’re doing here? It’s very important that we hear from you today. Friends like you are the fuel for this ministry and you help us, help others.
And right now, generous friends of this ministry have offered to double your donation, dollar for dollar, making now an excellent time to give. A gift of $50 becomes $100, and so on.
And when you make a donation of any amount we’d like to send you a CD of this message from J.John as our way of saying thank you for partnering with us, as we help families thrive in Christ.
John: This really is a critical time of year for us to be hearing from you, so please. Call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can donate online and request the CD of this presentation at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Well, have a great weekend, and be sure to join us again on Monday as we share one of the most popular programs from this past year featuring Pastor Ted Cunningham. He’s got encouragement for every marriage, even if you’re not a ‘perfect match’!
Pastor Ted Cunningham: Here’s the bottom line. You will never find compatibility. You’ll never discover it. There’s not an algorithm in the world that can put you with someone compatible. Compatibility is something you choose. It’s something you create.