Christmas Eve at Venture Online 2020

Christmas Reminds Us That Jesus Is The Light Of The World.

Tim Lundy
Dec 24, 2020    52m
In a year of darkness and fear, this timely message of hope at Christmas reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. The question is, will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and allow his light both in you and to shine through you. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy: 00:01 Merry Christmas. I hope you're having a great Christmas Eve. My name's Tim Lundy, and on behalf of Venture Church, I want to welcome you and thank you for joining us for this service. Now this is 2020, so this is not the Christmas Eve that any of us had pictured. In fact, at Christmas time, we often kind of get an ideal picture and hope that it lives up to that. And this year, all of us are having to change our expectations.

Tim Lundy: 00:29 You know, I was thinking about how much we idealize Christmas, and we especially do it with that first Christmas. Now this week, I started looking at some of the famous paintings of the nativity, the first Christmas. And if you want to talk about an idealized picture, I encourage you pull some of them up. Now I love that scene, it’s just not reality. I mean, if you look it, there's that first couple, Mary and Joseph and Jesus, and Mary is looking like perfectly put together, even though she just had a baby, in a barn, without an epidural. I'm going to have to tell you that's not reality. And Joseph is cool and calm and collected, and as a dad, especially when you have your first child, none of us look like that. And then there's Jesus, a newborn baby, and in all the pictures, he's kind of sitting up, his head's up, his eyes are open, he has this glow about him. And like the Christmas Carol, no crying he makes. Again, it's a nice picture, it's not a reality.

Tim Lundy: 01:34 All around them, if you look at the picture, the whole scene, that's assembled, we have the shepherds. We all know who they are, they're the guys with the crooks and they have the bathrobes on. And then you always have the wise men, they're the ones wearing the turbans, and there's always three of them, even though we don't know how many there were, and they're holding their presents. And I noticed in all of them, this is how wise man always hold presents, they kind of put their hands forward like this, it must be the official wise men pose. Even the animals in the picture are perfect. There's some sheep that apparently the shepherds decided to bring with them, for the pictures, a cow, and a donkey, and they're usually hanging out as buddies. In a lot of the pictures that I saw, they're literally over the manger, chewing their food, right over the baby. Even the camel's photo bombing, there's camels that are in it. I don't know if you've ever been around a camel, they're not nice, they're kind of smelly. But in this picture, everybody's perfect. I mean, can't even get my kids to take a perfect Christmas picture, much less, get a scene together with all these characters. Now I'm not picking on it, I'm certainly not picking on the story. The reality is we've created this idealized image of that night, it was the perfect night.

Tim Lundy: 02:57 But in real life, in real time, it was less than perfect. In fact, when the Bible describes that night, that time when Jesus came, it says he was a light coming into the land, but he's coming into a land of people who are in darkness. The Bible says it was a dark time for these people, it was a dark time for the nation. I mean, if you look at Mary and Joseph, I would go so far as to say it was a dark time in their life. Things had been hard for them. I mean, rewind the tape about nine months earlier, this young couple, teenagers, Mary was probably around 14 years old, and they're so excited because they're going to get married. They're both this godly, good, young couple, everybody loved them. They were the toast of the town, because in a small town like Nazareth, a wedding is one of the few things you get to celebrate. But then God shows up, and he's chosen something for them that no one else had ever experienced. In fact, no one else since that time have ever gone through what they went through. God chose them to have his son, and even they know it's impossible. When the angel tells Mary, she says, how can this be? I've never been with a ma, I've never had those kinds of relations. And the angel says, it's going to be a miracle, it's not impossible with God. And Joseph, when he hears it, I mean he doesn't believe it until the angel tells him.

Tim Lundy: 04:36 Here's the thing about it guys, when God does something unique that he's never done in history, and he never does again, it's hard for people to believe it. It's hard for many of you, you read the story and you go, I can't believe in a virgin birth. I get it, I understand your skepticism, it is a unique miracle. And it was hard for the people in their town to believe, so this young couple goes from being the toast of the town, to the talk of the town, where everybody whispered about them, where they suddenly have a bad reputation. And people that you counted on, the people that you thought were going to be there for you, suddenly pull back from you.

Tim Lundy: 05:20 It was a dark time in the world, because the emperor of the world, Caesar, Augustus, decided he wanted to do a census. He wanted everyone counted in the empire, basically so he could raise taxes. And like any good government official, they came up with a way to do it, to make it harder for everybody. And so what they decided is we're not going to just count you where you live, no, you have to go back to the homeland of your father, his family. So for Joseph, that meant he and Mary had to travel from Nazareth all the way down to Bethlehem, about 90 miles away. I mean, think how hard that is, we're struggling right now with the stay at home order. This is a leave your home order, they literally had to go to a different town, they don't have a job, they don't have place to stay, they don't know how they're going to survive. The government care, just do it, we said it.

Tim Lundy: 06:15 And then you want to talk about darkness. Can you imagine emotionally what it felt like when you pull into Bethlehem, and you're the last to get there, because you have to travel slower with your pregnant wife. And then even though all of Joseph's family, they were all the same family, they'd have to go to the same place. They'd all be in Bethlehem, even though they're all there, nobody invites you in, nobody has a place for you. And finally, out of the kindness of an innkeeper, they're able to stay in a stable, the place where you keep animals. And I know we picture this nice, cute rustic wooden structure, that's what we always see. Actually, a stable in that time, it was a cave, a cave with animals in it, a dark, dank, smelly cave. And here this young family, this young dad and young mom, they welcome into the world their first child.

Tim Lundy: 07:23 See, we have this idealized picture, but it was a dark night, it was a hard night, and it came after a hard time. And I know a lot of you can relate to that, it's been a hard year for a lot of people. This pandemic has taken a toll, it's taken a toll on our country, and taking a toll on our world, it's taken a toll economically. A lot of you are going through a hard time financially. It's taken a toll on our families, our kids. It's taken a toll emotionally, a lot of people are struggling. And yet, that's why we come back to Christmas, because as dark as that story was, despite all the details I told you, we never see that as a sad story, do we? No, it's actually a story of hope, it's a story of hope because in the darkness, God's moving, literally, God came.

Tim Lundy: 08:27 I love how John describes it in John 1, he describes when Jesus came, "In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome a it." Do you hear what he's saying there? Jesus came as the light of the world, and when he brings light into the world, it doesn't matter how dark it is, light always overcomes. You know, when we think about a picture of Christmas, that's why I think the candle for me this year is the perfect picture of the Christmas we need. It's the perfect picture of what Jesus brought it into the world, that in our darkness, he brings light. And it doesn't matter how dark it is, darkness can never conquer the light.

Tim Lundy: 09:22 You know, years ago I went caving as a teenager, and went with a guide, and we went several hours deep into the earth through these different caves. And I remember at one point, the guide had us all sit in a circle in this one little room down under the earth, and he had everybody turn off their light. And as all the lights went off and the darkness settled on us, it was so dark, you couldn't see your hand right in front of your face, and you could almost feel the darkness on you. And then he took out a candle and he lit it, just one little candle, but I can't tell you what that meant that in the dark, suddenly there was light. And it didn't matter how deep we were, it didn't matter how dark it was, it could not overcome the light. That's what Christmas teaches us, Jesus came into the world and it didn't matter how dark it is, it's a story of hope because he's the light.

Tim Lundy: 10:27 And I love how John continues, he said, he didn't just come into the world, he literally, God came to the world and he took on flesh, God became one of us. All those years they'd been crying out, God be with us. They had no clue, God would not only be with us, he'd be one of us, he'd experience everything we did experience. He do for us, what we could never do. And as a result of that, he brought the light of hope that he said, I'll never leave you or forsake, you'll never be alone again. He brought the light of truth, that we can understand who God is and what it means to have a relationship with him. He brought the light of grace, that we can experience forgiveness. He brought the light of purpose. Now I love this part, that not only do we experience light in him, but that we get to be the light because Christ is in us. He looks at us and he says, now you're the light of the world, now you get to with others.

Tim Lundy: 11:33 It's one of the things I love about being a pastor, is I get to see people do this, I get to see people be the light. And during this last year, I've seen it in so many different ways. You know, I was a part of that COVID relief committee, every week we get together and we hear the stories of what people are going through and how they've been impacted, and it often moves us to tears, because you see how devastating it's been. But I cannot tell you how encouraging it is, as every week because of this church, because you've given literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, we're able to provide the light and hope in homes that need it. I've seen a lot of you be light in your own home. You bring the light of forgiveness, you've forgiven spouses, you've forgiven children, you've forgiven people that frankly don't deserve it. But because you've experienced grace, because you experienced the light, you share that light. I've seen the light of hope of people struggling with illness, some in our church family who've had COVID, some who are dealing with cancer, and have watched you and I've heard you, that instead of allowing your illness turned to you darkness, you've been a voice of light all this time. See, that's what Jesus brings, because he came and was one of us, because he paid for us, because he did for us what we could not do. He invites us, he says, step into the light, receive the forgiveness of what I have accomplished, and not only experience it, but become it.

Tim Lundy: 13:28 I would encourage you, I hope this candle is a picture of light and hope for you this year. And as we finish, I'll just close with one final word from Jesus, when it comes to the light. It's interesting, as much as we long for the light, as much as we love the light, a lot of times we're afraid of it as well. One night Jesus was talking to a man, a religious man. And because the man was so religious, he was struggling really accepting what Jesus said. He thought he had done enough on his own, and Jesus was really cutting to the core of it. And then he looked at him and made a promise, and actually this promise is the most famous verse in all the Bible. Jesus looked at the man and he said, "God so loved the world that he sent his son." He's talking about himself, he sent the light, that whosoever believe in him will not perish." If you believe in Jesus, you don't die, at least not eternally, "But you'll have everlasting life." It's a great verse, but Jesus didn't stop there actually. He goes on, he said, I didn't come into the world to condemn the world, to judge the world, I came to save it." I came to share the light.

Tim Lundy: 14:50 But then he said, you want to know what judgment really is? It's the fact that the light came into the world, but some people chose darkness instead of light because they did not want their deeds exposed, and so they chose to live in the dark. Man, that's a sober warning, and I think it's really true. Because when you talk about the light and the fact that the light dispels the darkness, it's not just the darkness out there, it also exposes the darkness in here. It exposes the things I've done, and the people I've hurt. It exposes the fact that I don't even live up to my own standards, much less God's. And if you're honest with yourself, that's true of you too. See, that's the beauty of what Jesus offers. He says, yeah, the light will expose, but I didn't come to judge what I see, I came to forgive it, I came to do something about it. That's why he died on the cross, that's why he rose from the dead. And he says, I offer that light to anyone, but you have to believe it and you have to receive it.

Tim Lundy: 16:10 You know, years ago in Russia, Czar Nicholas the First was the leader of the country. And a friend of his came and said, will you please give a job to my son? He can't find work. Nicholas appointed him the paymaster in the army, and he was stationed in the barrack there, he had a little office and he would pay the soldiers their regular pay. The problem was the man had a gambling addiction, and he started to take the pay and he would slowly gamble some on the side, and he was losing more and more, and the debt was growing more and more. But instead of adding it up and actually even looking at it, he just kept hoping the next bet will pay it off. Finally, one day the auditors came and they said, tomorrow we're doing a full audit. And as that young man sat in the office that night, and he added up the debt for the first time, it was devastating. At the bottom of the ledger he wrote these words, such a great debt, who can pay? And he finally determined his only course of action was suicide, he'd shamed his father, he'd lost all this money. He wrote out a confession letter, he had his gun there and he put his head down just to cry, and as he was crying he fell asleep. That night Czar Nicholas was walking around the barracks, he often liked to do that, he liked to be among his soldiers, he liked to check in on them. And he saw a light on in one of the barracks offices, and he went in and saw the young man asleep there. And he picked up the letter and he read the confession, and he looked at the ledger and those words, such a great debt who can pay? And he made a decision and reached down and wrote one word, and then he left. A short time later, the young man woke up, realized he had fallen asleep, knew what he had to do. He grabbed the gun, but then he looked at the ledger and he saw the one word there. And suddenly this chill came over because he realized Nicholas had been there, and Nicholas knew what he had done. But then he realized what was promised, see below that line, such a great debt who can pay? Nicholas had written one word, his name, Nicholas. And he made a promise, I'll pay it. The young man wrestled for a moment with doubt. Was this a trick? Would he really pay? Can I believe this? And then he made a step of faith, he chose to believe, and he put the gun away and he went to bed. And the next morning, the money, the full amount, was there of all that he owed. I love that story because it saved that young man's life, and as it went on, it changed his life as well.

Tim Lundy: 19:31 I love that story because it reminds me of what Jesus did for me, I had a debt I couldn't pay, such a great debt, who can pay? But God loved me so much he sent his son among us. He sees me, he knows everything I've done, and still he chose to pay. And because he did, it changes everything, takes all my darkness and it brings light. I hope that's true for you. I hope as we finish out and we light this candle, this is a symbol of what Christ has brought to our world. This is a symbol for me, of what Christ has brought to my life. He brought light, because I took him at his word and I believed him. And I pray that that would be true for you today, that maybe there is darkness in your life, maybe there's things you're ashamed of, maybe there's things you don't want anybody to know, and you're scared to death to bring it into the light. But here's the good news, he wants you to it into the light, not to judge it. Remember what he said, I didn't come into the world to condemn it, but to save it, to forgive it, to forgive you. Why don't you tell him that today? Why don't you tell him you believe him, that you want to take his gift. That you're tired of darkness, and you want to live in light.

Tim Lundy: 21:14 Before we light this as a symbol of our faith, can you take a moment and pray with me? Lord, I thank you for Jesus, thank you for the light that he has brought into my life, I can't imagine making it through this year without him. Lord, I pray for anybody here, maybe they've never experienced that, maybe they've never received it. I pray, would you give them the faith and the courage to believe right now that you didn't come to judge him, you didn't come to condemn them, you came to save them? And the light that you bring overcomes the darkness, and will always overcome it. We pray these things in Christ' name. Amen.

Tim Lundy: 21:56 Hey, let's take a moment, I hope you have your candle, let's light together recognizing that Jesus is the light of the world.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032