Christmas Eve 2017

2017 Messages

In this Christmas Eve service, Todd shares why Christmas can seem crazy, believing in this Jesus. However, through all the fulfilled prophecies and the universal need for a Savior, we find the veracity of Christmas. Jesus fully met that need that we all have, whether a pharisee or a shepherd. Christmas is a time of great awe because we have seen God come.

Todd WagnerDec 24, 2017Matthew 2:1-4; Matthew 2:12-15; Matthew 2:16-18; Luke 18:9-14; Exodus 34:6-7
Matthew 2:1-4

In This Series (36)
Join The Journey: A Tour of Romans
Blake HolmesDec 31, 2017Romans 3:21-31; Romans 10:9-10; Romans 12:1-2
Christmas Eve 2017
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2017Matthew 2:1-4; Matthew 2:12-15; Matthew 2:16-18; Luke 18:9-14; Exodus 34:6-7
Contentment, Longing and Christmas
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2017Exodus 20:2-4; Isaiah 9:1-7; Luke 4:18-2; Genesis 3:17-18
An Update on the Mission in Fort Worth
Tyler BriggsNov 19, 2017Fort Worth
Evening with the Elders
Beau Fournet, Dean Macfarlan, Todd WagnerNov 12, 2017
An Evening with Eric Metaxas
Todd Wagner, Eric MetaxasOct 18, 2017
What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes
Todd WagnerOct 1, 2017Isaiah 1:1-17; Isaiah 1:1-16; Micah 6:8; Proverbs 19:17
Worship Together: You Are the Church
Harrison RossSep 3, 20171 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; Matthew 28:19
Worship Together: The Future of the Church in the Hands of Parents
Wes ButlerSep 3, 2017Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Worship Together: Remember. Consider. Imitate
David PenuelSep 3, 2017Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:7
Worship Together: Influencing the Next Generation by Preparing Ourselves and Investing in Our Children
Jason Bradshaw, Patrick BlockerSep 3, 2017
Do Good People Go To Heaven?
David MarvinAug 6, 2017Romans 3:10-12; Romans 3:19-20; Luke 23:39-43; Romans 3:21-26
Step Up in Faithfulness, Discover and Invest Your Talents for Christ
Jeff WardJul 30, 2017Matthew 25:14-30; Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Peter 4:10-11
Regretful Hearts v. Repentant Hearts
Jeff ParkerJul 30, 20172 Samuel 12:1-13; Psalms 51; 2 Corinthians 7:10
Leadership Matters…and Other Seminal Truths
Todd WagnerJul 23, 2017Matthew 5:14; 1 Timothy 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:24; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 3:3-5; Hebrews 5:1-2
The Future and Hope of Your Life and Our City
Todd WagnerJul 9, 20172 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 29:11; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9-17, 3:8-16; Genesis 3; Jeremiah 29:1-11
Keeping Short Accounts
Adam TarnowJul 2, 2017Matthew 5:21-26; Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 7:3-5; Matthew 5:25-26; Proverbs 19:11
Soldiers, Athletes & Farmers: A Biblical Look at the Spiritual Life
Blake HolmesJun 25, 20172 Timothy 2:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 2:6; 2 Timothy 2:7
Why Your First Impression of Your Father Matters
Todd WagnerJun 18, 2017Revelation 3:20; Ephesians 4:26-27; James 1:19-20; Psalms 101:1; Psalms 1:1-2; Psalms 2; Psalms 3:3; Psalms 4:8; Habakkuk 1:1-5; Psalms 40:1-3
Extraordinary Parenting
Jonathan PokludaMay 28, 2017Proverbs 4:23; Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Baptism Sunday
Todd WagnerMay 21, 2017
Why Every Week is a Pastors' Conference
Todd Wagner, Blake Holmes, John McGeeMay 7, 2017Ephesians 4:12; Psalms 90:12
The End of the Search
Tyler BriggsApr 30, 2017Fort WorthRomans 5:6-11; Romans 5:6-8; Romans 5:9-10; Romans 5:11
The Christian in Culture
Derek MathewsApr 30, 2017Plano
4 Dead-Ends to Spiritual Growth
Blake HolmesApr 30, 2017Colossians 2:6-23; Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 2:8-15; Colossians 2:16-17; Colossians 2:18-19; Colossians 2:20-22
A Spectacle of Glory: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada
Todd Wagner, Joni Eareckson TadaApr 23, 2017
Easter: “It is True”
Todd WagnerApr 16, 2017Romans 3:23, 6:23; Romans 6:17-18
Good Friday 2017
John Elmore, Wes ButlerApr 14, 2017
Fort Worth Raise The Mark
Gary Stroope, Beau Fournet, Tyler BriggsFeb 26, 2017Fort Worth
Seeing God as a Perfect Father
Adam TarnowFeb 19, 2017Matthew 6:9-15; John 10:11-13; Matthew 6:9; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 6:9-13; 1 John 3:1
Who You Are, Eternally
Jonathan PokludaFeb 5, 2017Philippians 3:17-19; Philippians 3:20-21; Philippians 3:4-8; Philippians 3:8-11; Philippians 3:15-16; Philippians 3:12-14
Freedom from Following
Jonathan PokludaJan 29, 2017John 10:1-15; John 10; John 10:10; 1 Timothy 6:9; Galatians 1:10; John 10:11-13
Four Traits Christ’s Disciples Share
Jeff ParkerJan 29, 20172 Kings 1:15; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 6:13-14; Luke 5:27-28
Inquiring of The Lord
Jonathan PokludaJan 22, 2017Joshua 9; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Fort Worth's Opportunity... A Day We Can't Wait to See
Todd WagnerJan 22, 2017Fort WorthExodus 25:1; 35:5,20-21; 36:4-7
Psalms 1
Blake HolmesJan 1, 2017Psalms 1:1-6; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 1:3; Psalms 1:4; Luke 24:44; Matthew 7:13-20; Psalms 1:5-6

In This Series (39)

Curious? Do you wonder what they're looking at? I am. I remember watching that for the first time, not knowing exactly where it was headed, and I was just overwhelmed with the sense of awe that was in the eyes of all of the people who were in those very compressed hours of footage. We cut it from what we had. I wanted to look at what they were looking at. I wanted to see what they were seeing.

I wanted to have that sense of wonder, that sense of mystery before me that I was getting to take in and absorb. As I watched that, I couldn't believe when I found out what they were beholding. I have a likeness of it right here behind me. Don't you want to see it? Don't you want to see what was causing all that wonder? Aren't you curious what moved people to study something so intently, to be emotionally so moved? I know I was, and it's right here.

What's amazing to me is that even though I have access to it, even though I look on it, even though I'm aware of it, even though I celebrate it, I don't often enough get moved, because I've lost some of the wonder, some of the mystery, some of the magic of what it is they were beholding. This is what they were looking at. They were staring at something they couldn't believe had actually turned into the Savior of the world.

Let me take away some of the mystery. What they were looking at in 1958 was sold for about $40. Almost 50 years later, that less-than-$50 investment sold for just under $10,000 in 2005. It was not long after that that it was acquired in 2013. This time it wasn't sold for under $10,000. Somebody got $80 million for it. Yeah, $80 million. In fact, it was flipped in 2013 from $80 million to $137 million within days.

Then, if you've been paying attention to the news, in November of 2017, about 30 days ago, Christie's auctioned off what those people were studying for $450 million. It's the most priceless work of art anybody has ever seen. It's oil on walnut. It is the last recovered known Da Vinci. It is titled Salvator Mundi. It means Savior of the world. Now this isn't the painting they were looking at, but it's another one.

It's the wonder of the majesty and the miracle of this God who was born onto the earth in the form of humankind who grew up to be much more than just a normal child, the crazy wonder of who that child was who was not just God but that God was about to become Salvator mundi. That's Latin for Savior of the world. Here is the actual painting. It has been restored and was recently sold for $450 million. In fact, it was sold to an anonymous bidder.

People were trying to speculate who bought it. Somebody said, "I think it was a billionaire." I'm like, "Way to go. Great insight." People speculated that it was actually Leonardo DiCaprio, since he's a fan of his namesake, but he's only worth about half of that. (Poor Leonardo.) Some speculated it was Jeff Bezos, because you all went crazy on Black Friday. He's worth $95 billion. We just found out that painting has been unveiled in the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. It was bought by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for half a billion dollars.

Isn't it amazing that the most priceless painting in the history of the world is a painting of Jesus? Isn't it amazing that the most read book in the history of the world, the most translated book, the book that has influenced more cultures, more individuals, and transformed more civilizations than any other is the book that anticipates the Savior of the world from beginning to end? Isn't it interesting that most of us just take this day for granted?

Let's just be honest about what today is. Today is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's not the birth of Jesus. We know that probably Jesus was born in either March or April. Maybe early May, but most likely March or April is the most natural date that almost every scholar believes that Jesus was actually born. The reason we celebrate Christmas this time of year is that individuals who knew Jesus was the Savior of the world were trying to move people away from pagan worship.

The god of Saturn was worshiped on December 25. Saturn worship was a time of great frivolity and often immorality, where they worshiped the sun, because it was on winter solstice that the sun died, and they needed to have it be born again to bring back life and productivity to the earth. Christians just moved the idea of sun worship to the greatest gift, the Son of God, to be the day they would celebrate the coming of the King.

Have you lost the idea…? Do you even think it's crazy? Let's just be honest. The Christmas idea is a little bit crazy. Years ago, I would mess around with sports a little bit to enough success that I was asked to go and play with a bunch of other guys from our country to go down and get some other guys ready for, potentially, their Olympic trials. We played the Jamaican national team in a three-game set a number of years in a row, where we would play in their national court and help them prepare for the Olympic trials, trying to qualify for the Olympic games.

Then we would take that, do clinics around the nation, and often also speak at halftime at those games in order to encourage folks with the story that ultimately motivated us. I can remember one night it was my turn to speak at halftime. It sounds maybe a little more glamorous than it was. The national court in Jamaica at the time was outdoors. It was nationally televised, but we were playing outside.

Because we were outside, they were probably a little bit more free, although I don't think it really would have mattered, because they moved us inside their convention center some nights when it rained. I remember sitting there speaking to a bunch of Jamaicans, some Rastafarians. Rastafarians, as you know, have a fondness for, shall we say, the hooch, weed, those funny-shaped cigarettes that would move them to a state of relaxation.

So I'm sitting there speaking, smelling dope clearly wafting over the national court, and I was telling them this story about a God who loves them. I was telling them this story about a Savior who was God himself, who clothed himself in humanity, who was born of a virgin 2,000 years ago, and what he grew to and what he did was the solution to every single significant issue they were facing.

I could almost see those guys smoking that weed and turning to each other like, "I want what that guy is smoking. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard." It is crazy. Have you thought about the craziness of Christmas, the story of a little child who was God? This was a radical idea. Never before in the history of humankind had anybody even presented the image of God that would be compassionate and gracious.

Every other god in every pagan culture and every worldview was a god that was impetuous, often jealous of humans, a god that needed to be bribed, a god that needed to be appeased, a god that needed to be feared or in some way managed because you really couldn't trust him, but if they were there, if there was some reason beyond us that we were here… Nobody thought there wasn't a reason; they just didn't know what that reason was. They were certain those gods had to be, ultimately, constantly served.

Then into the darkness came a great light. There came the fulfillment in a way that even surprised those who were stewards of the predictions of this great gift of mercy. There came this child who was not going to be just a deliverer for a nation against political oppressors, but there came this child who was going to be a means that all men and every nation would be delivered from that which kept them captive.

They were going to be set free to no longer be a slave to a way that seemed right to men but now were going to see the kindness and goodness of God, that they might be attentive to his ways and walk with him, that they might be forgiven their sins, and death would lose its victory and sin would lose its sting.

The wonder of that, the wonder of the depiction of a sixteenth-century renaissance-dressed Jesus by a master craftsman… When people look at that, I think they're moved by more than that being one of 20 Da Vincis in the world. I think they're moved by Da Vinci's effort to show that this was no mere man; this was God in the flesh, and he controlled in his left hand the cosmos. The world was in his hands, and he came to save it.

You might think that's crazy. You might think it's crazy to believe that ever happened. What I want to share with you is it's okay to question the Christmas event, but it's not okay to be lost in quick dismissal as a scoffer. What I want to encourage you to do is go back and consider. Why do you think civilizations have been changed by this story? Why do you think secular historians acknowledge the birth?

Why do you think those who are venerated and never questioned as to whether or not they lived, individuals such as Muhammad, would say the greatest one who was ever born is Jesus? Why do you think God in his kindness pivoted the existence of all humankind on this individual's entry into the world? Have you noticed? We can call it BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) and get away from BC and AD (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord), but you have to deal with the thing that happened that wasn't so common that we pivoted off of it.

What happened is that somebody was born who claimed to not just be a man and who, unlike every other religious leader the world has ever known, claimed to be able to lay his life down and take it back up again. Nowhere do you find in Buddhism anything that suggests their great leader did anything but die. Nowhere will you find in Islam the idea that there was anything but death associated with Muhammad.

Nowhere will you see a resurrection event except within Christendom, and you don't just find spiritual, biblical, Spirit-filled historians who noted it; you find a long list of individuals who were not followers of this Jesus who acknowledged his presence, the disturbance he caused, and the fact that the world was turned upside down by his followers and the claim of a resurrection event. I would tell you you're crazy not to consider the veracity of Christmas and the story.

I would tell you there are over 300 prophecies that predicted he would come. It was 500 years of silence that any prophet had spoken. Many people, even those who hoped God would one day bring this great Deliverer, had lost hope, and then out of nowhere, into the darkness there came a great light. You need to know this about the prophecies. If you just take eight of those prophecies and try and figure out the likelihood that they would be fulfilled in any one individual, you would be hard-pressed to find any one individual they meet other than Jesus.

In fact, Victory Publishing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has for decades offered thousands of dollars to anybody who can match those eight prophecies, of the hundreds, to any person in human history other than Jesus Christ, and there are a lot of skeptics, a lot of scoffers, a lot of people who want cash. Nobody has collected the money. Jesus doesn't just meet eight of the prophecies.

By the way, statisticians and mathematicians who have studied the likelihood and probability that a random occurrence would occur that one human would meet all of these characteristics of just eight of the prophecies is overwhelmingly staggering. It's 1 over 10 to the 17th fraction of a possibility that could happen. That's 1 to the one hundred quadrillionth. What is 1 to the one hundred quadrillionth? It's the likelihood of me taking a silver dollar, painting it red, grabbing a bunch of other silver dollars…

"How many silver dollars, Todd?" Well, 100 quadrillion silver dollars is enough silver dollars to cover the state of Texas in silver dollars two feet deep. Imagine me taking one silver dollar, painting it red, mixing it up in a big cauldron, spreading it out over the state of Texas, taking y'all down there to hang out by the Silos in Waco, and just telling you guys to start walking as far as you want, as short as you want, until you were ready to stop, and when you were ready to stop to just dig down and grab any random silver dollar wherever you were.

The likelihood that you would pull up the one red silver dollar is the likelihood that just eight of these prophecies would have been fulfilled in one person by random order. I would tell you you're not doing your work if you don't consider the clarion revelation that there was somebody who fulfilled something God said was going to happen. One of the things God has done in order to show that he is God is he tells you what's coming in the future. He says that. "Who can do that? Nobody but me."

Over 25 percent of the Bible, up to 33 percent of it by some standards, is prophetic in nature. All of them have been fulfilled. There's not a single prophecy that has ever been violated, and there have been hundreds that have been fulfilled in one man. Some might say, "Well, Todd, Jesus clearly must have…" He was a learned man. He even says in John 5:39, "All these things in the Scriptures are going to be fulfilled in me."

You might say he just studied at the feet of the rabbis and determined he was going to make sure the Scriptures testified of him, because he was going to go ahead and fulfill them. You might look at Jesus' Day-Timer (if those things even exist still), and you would see on there by Holy Week, "Tomorrow: Grab donkey and enter Holy City in order to fulfill the prophecy from the book of Zechariah."

You might see a week later, "Get beaten up, betrayed by friends. Get crucified. In the crucifixion, figure out who's going to pierce me, make sure my bones aren't broken, and even though most people who are crucified are left to rot on a cross as a public display, somehow convince others while I'm dead to pull me down off of a cross and give me a dignified burial."

We haven't even dealt with the fact that there's this event called the resurrection. Do your homework. Don't call Christmas crazy without being absolutely convinced that it's crazy. In fact, even if you thought Jesus was going to try and fulfill some of these things, Matthew 2 gives you four different things he couldn't have controlled. Let's read it together. Matthew 2 starts this way: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…"

I didn't even go there yet. In Matthew, chapter 1, Matthew captures this idea that there is a fulfillment of prophecy that happened so people would know "This is the guy." It starts in Matthew 1 with him observing that his mother was, oh yeah, by the way, inexplicably yet a virgin. Even as Isaiah 7:14, as all the Jewish rabbis translate and understand the verse, it's not just a young woman; it's a young woman who was a virgin.

This Messiah, this Anointed One, this gift from God, in order that he might identify with man and be born of a woman but that he might not have a sin nature, would come from God and, though he is completely identified with us, would not be subject to the sin which enslaves all of us who come from a sinful mother and father, in order that he might be for us a sacrifice acceptable to God.

"…in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'" I don't want to blow up your little Christmas manger scene, but the wise men had not exactly made it on the night of his birth. The shepherds showed up, and the shepherds were gone.

Then years later the magi showed up, because they were probably following not an astronomical event but what's called the shekinah glory of God, which is the revealed glory of God that had left the earth 500 years earlier. It was in the book of Ezekiel. Ichabod. The Spirit of God had left, and now the glory of God had returned, and there was a light that guided people to him, specifically folks who were looking for this hope. We know the light moved, and it moved these wise men right into the presence of Herod the king in Jerusalem.

"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled…" As were all the Jewish scholars, because they wanted to know where this Messiah was. "Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: " And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel."'"

Jesus couldn't just decide he was going to fulfill all of the prophecies. There are a number of prophecies, three or four right here in Matthew 2, that you can't just choose to fulfill. He had to be born in Bethlehem. Check. Secondly, if you go down a little farther, you'll see that Herod had a plan to get the magi to lead him to this new coming king who threatened his kingship. Verse 12 says these men were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod when they found the Christ child, so they left and went by another way.

"Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'""You're going to be exiled." "So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Hosea 11:1] : 'Out of Egypt I called My Son.'"

When you're a kid, you can't exactly choose the fact that your mother is going to be a virgin. It's not easy to determine where you're going to be born, and you can't really determine when you're a kid that your mom and dad are going to flee a madman. Not only that, but it says in verse 16, "Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi."

This was to fulfill what was spoken of through the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31, verse 15, which says, "A voice was heard in Ramah…" "What's Ramah?" you ask. Ramah is a little district within Bethlehem. There was great mourning in Bethlehem. Why? Because Rachel… "Who's Rachel?" you would ask. Rachel is the mother of Jacob. Jacob is the father of Israel. All of the Jewish women were mourning. Why? She couldn't be comforted because all of her male children under 2 were no more.

It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, they would escape to Egypt to avoid a genocide, and then at the appropriate time, the end of Matthew 2, he would be summoned back and would return to Nazareth. How could a kid be born in Bethlehem who was from Nazareth, an offshoot, up there in a despised region? Answer: the sovereignty of God wanted to make it very clear "This is the one."

I'm fine if you guys want to tell me that Christmas is crazy. I'm just telling you, go find somebody else who fulfilled all of these, and not just those four that a man can't choose to fulfill. Those are things that have to happen, and then all of the other things Jesus did again and again, where he said, "This happened that you might know that I am he, and the final sign is going to be I'm going to lay my life down and take it back up."

If Jesus was just a deluded leader he wouldn't have made that bet, because he knows that three days after he's dead the ruse is up. I think you're crazy not to believe in Christmas. I think you're crazy not to be more overwhelmed with it than those people were, some oil on canvas, slapped on there by some guy who could never make a plane fly. This is the Son of God come to man. You're not crazy if you believe in Christmas. I think you're crazy, I think you're suppressing the truth in historical revelation and righteousness through your unrighteousness.

Christmas is a time of great awe because we have seen God come. You're not just crazy if you deny Christmas; I think you're crazy if you don't think a Savior needed to be born. This is not unusual for a lot of people. Sometimes when you say to folks, "Okay, let's just deal with the God event. Let's just acknowledge there's something that interrupted common eras. Something very uncommon happened. God interrupted. God manifested in a way we've never seen before…"

You ask people how they're going to reconcile to that God, and you're going to find some people who will say, "I don't know." If I ask folks, "Hey, are you sure when you die that you're going to be reconciled to God," they go, "I think so," and I say, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you that you might be accepted into God's presence?" They'll try and be humble. They'll say, "I don't know. I'm a 7. I may be a 7-1/2."

What they're really saying when they say that is, "I think I'm going to be better than other people. I think I'm going to be somebody who ultimately… I'm not a Dahmer. I'm not a Hitler. I'm not an adulterer. I'm not an abortionist. I'm not a person who wants to redefine marriage. I'm not somebody who runs off my own little identity issues. I'm basically somebody who's philanthropic. I go through rituals. I've been basically a good guy my whole life. I don't struggle with the big things."

They try and maintain some sense of humility. They go, "I think I'm a 7 or an 8." I'm going to just tell you something. That's arrogant. Somebody might ask me, "Todd, how certain are you you're going to be in heaven?" I say, "I'm a 10." They go, "Wait a minute. I thought 7 was arrogant. You're a 10?" Yes. I'm a 10 because I have responded to what Jesus said would be the means through which I could be certain that I would be reconciled and restored to God.

It has nothing to do with me. I have nothing except my acknowledgement that I need a Savior. I'm not putting together a résumé. I'm not going to talk about Scripture I know. I'm not going to talk about a life I've lived. I'm going to talk about my rebellion, my corrupt heart. I'm going to talk about my failure to live in the wonder of his love. I'm going to talk about the fact that even though I know God is good I often still go my own way.

I'm going to talk about my desperate need for somebody who would be for me what I could never be, which is somebody who would live in a way that a holy God would find acceptable in his sight. I think you're crazy if you think you don't need Christmas. Jesus didn't come for the self-righteous; he came for the sinner.

Jesus told a story in Luke 18:9. He told a parable to some people who trusted in themselves and thought they were righteous, who viewed others with contempt. This is what he says: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." Let me tell you about tax collectors. Tax collectors were some of the most hated people in all the land. Tax collectors, dung sweepers, and shepherds were the most hated people in Israel.

We'll talk about some of the others in just a moment, but tax collectors were individuals who basically were betraying their nation. They aligned themselves with Rome to be instruments that would go and collect payment to continue the Roman oppression on them, and they often took more than they needed to. They stole, and they were hated because they betrayed their people, and they were corrupt and self-interested. So it says there was this Pharisee, a person who was consumed with keeping the law, and a tax collector.

"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, [homosexuals,] unjust, adulterers, or even [that tax collector over there] . I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. [I'm faithful attending synagogues.] ' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

You are crazy if you think you don't need a Savior. Jesus when he spoke said, "You want to know who's blessed? Blessed are the poor in spirit, folks who know they have nothing. On a scale from 1 to 10, left to themselves, they're a zero. Blessed are those who mourn over their sinful state; they will be comforted." Jesus, in talking about the Pharisees, said, "You see these guys? They study my law. They invent other laws, and they keep those laws."

He says in Matthew 5:20, "I tell you that unless a man is more righteous than a Pharisee, he will not enter the kingdom of heaven." A little bit later in Matthew 5:48 he says, "Here's the standard. You want to know what you have to be? You have to be perfect. Therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." I don't know about you, but I know I'm out at that point, especially when Jesus' brother James says in James 2, "If any man keeps the whole law yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all."

We're all law breakers, and when law breakers try and show up and appease a holy God with less than perfection… I don't care what you rate yourself. You are not righteous enough. You are crazy if you don't think you need a Savior. Maybe you don't think of yourself as self-righteous. Maybe you have the other problem. Maybe you think of yourself like a dung sweeper. Maybe you think of yourself like a tax collector.

Maybe you're an abortionist. Maybe you've committed an abortion. Maybe you know you're not like a murderer; maybe you know you're a murderer. Maybe you're not like those crazy homosexuals; maybe you are a homosexual. Maybe you struggle with your sexual identity. Maybe you've committed immorality. Maybe you've been unfaithful to your wife.

Do you know that the word shepherd was synonymous with the word sinner in ancient Israel? Do you know that shepherds were people who had no social status? They were like dung sweepers. They could not serve in any judicial office. In fact, if you were a shepherd your testimony could never be admitted into any kind of legal proceedings. You were the least of these. You were outcast. You were not thought well of. You were dirty.

You were only worthy to guard the animals and maybe protect them from the wolves, and if you got eaten by one so we could have a lamb a little later, that's just fine with us. You were told in the Mishnah, which is the written record of the oral traditional law the Pharisees would give, that if you walked by a shepherd and found him stuck in a pit you weren't obligated to get him out. Shepherds were individuals who were despised.

I want to tell you this last thing. You are crazy if you think the King would never love you, because the story of Christmas says…I don't care who you are or what your circumstance, what your decision, where you've been, what you've done, what's been done to you, and what you think about God. If you'll just start to look at what God thinks about you and see his love expressed at Christmas, if you'll stand back and just for a second meditate that that baby is God, that the persons he sent the very first birth announcement to were the shepherds… That's who God came after.

The religious leaders were conspicuously absent on the mailing list, because who God went after were those who knew they had nothing. They were stuck in a world filled with sin and error, and they were pining. The very first ones that God wanted to know that things were turning… "I don't care what you've done. I don't care how you've become an outcast. I don't care how you've been rejected. I love you, and I'm coming to make provision for you," and the angels sang.

The angels long to look into this. How is God going to show himself holy and yet still be loving to these cretins who have rebelled against him? They sang, "Unto you this day in the city of David has been born to you a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Peace on earth, good will to men," and he told the shepherds first. If you're here and you think it's crazy that you can be loved, you're not paying attention to Christmas. God came for you.

In fact, early on, as Jesus entered into his public ministry, he was around some people, and they asked, "Why do you hang out with folks we all know are dung sweepers, shepherds, and tax collectors?" He said, "Because I'm a physician. I didn't come for the healthy but for the sick. Your problem is even though you're sick you think you're healthy. You're crazy enough to think you don't need me."

If you're here tonight and you're thinking, "Todd, you just don't know me. You don't know my story. You don't know what I've done," I'm telling you that you don't know Jesus and you don't know Christmas and you don't know what he has done. He loves you. When God was revealing himself to Moses, this is how he did it in Exodus 34. He said, "Do you want to know who I am? The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth."

He keeps lovingkindness, the Scripture says, for thousands. He removes transgression and sin, and yet by no means will he let the guilty go unpunished. He's a God full of justice and wrath. That's why he poured out the wrath on the Son of God who was the Lamb of God who came to take away your sins. I'm telling you, guys, Christmas is full of wonder, and Jesus loves you. He's the visible image of the invisible God.

If you think people should stand back in awe at the Savior of the world done with oil on canvas by a master, you should understand that the Master has come and has been human form on a cross for you and see the beauty of his love. Love has come down, and you're crazy if you think God doesn't love you. That's what Christmas screams.

I want you to understand that the last thing we are is a bunch of people who are trying to be good enough long enough so God will love us. No. We're people who know we are loved by God and, therefore, he is trying to show us his goodness. That's what Christmas is. That's the story of his love come down. That's why we sing, and you're crazy if you don't believe it.

Father, I thank you that we can come. I thank you that we can marvel at the wonders of your love. I pray that we would be overwhelmed with the goodness and the fullness of all you've done. I pray that we would not move quickly past this majestic thing you have created, not oil fading on canvas but love imprinted in history, and I pray, Lord, that we would be moved that when we were your enemies, when we were proud and weak, you came down to demonstrate your love.

You didn't just go to those who thought they were good enough to receive it; you went to the least of these. You came to those who understood that they had a need. You sang to shepherds first. So would you minister to our shepherd hearts? Would you penetrate through our thick, pharisaical, self-righteous hearts? Would you bust through our suppression of truth in unrighteousness, and would you show us the wonder of Christmas? May we never get over the wonder of your love. Amen.


I've seen that a lot, and every time it blows me away. Here's the thing. When you're in Bethlehem and you're a shepherd, you're not just a shepherd; you're specifically raising, seven miles from Jerusalem, seven miles from the temple, sheep that were used in the sacrificial system of the day. In Bethlehem you raised sheep that you took to rabbis, who would look at your sheep and determine if it was an unblemished lamb that would be worthy to be taken to the money changers to be sold for a higher price than just normal sheep.

"I told you not to come back here until you found an unblemished lamb." That shepherd found one. He knew the prophecies had been fulfilled. He knew the angels couldn't wait to sing. Something crazy had happened. The love of God had come. To demonstrate his love, before he established his rule of righteousness he wanted to make men righteous, because his perfect Son who knew no sin would become sin on their behalf, that they might become the righteousness of God in him. You are crazy if you just whisk by this and move on. This is wonder.

Friends, long lay the world in sin and error pining, and what we do here is we hang out and celebrate that love has come. We use this day to really stop at the wonder of the holy night, that we ought to be silent before the love of God, but we are people who are not trying to be good so God can love us; we are people God loves, so his kindness is making us good as we're attentive to his ways, and who wouldn't be attentive to a God who gives himself for us?

Who wouldn't be attentive if something happened on a night that could only be explained as holy? If you think people ought to stare at a painting of this figure, you ought to bow before the truth of him. I don't know if you've heard anything I've said tonight, but I hope you listen to these most precious words that describe the miracle of the unblemished Lamb that came to be a sacrifice for men. Stand with me and sing it or just listen and be overwhelmed with the wonder of this holy night.


That song is Christmas. The truth of it is anyway. I'm telling you you're crazy if you don't believe it. I'm telling you you're crazy if you think you don't need a Savior. I'm telling you you're crazy if you don't think the Savior loves you. That's the story of Christmas. There is no circumstance that is hopeless, and there is no person who's without hope. I pray if you've never understood that that you would come, you would let us explain that to you, you would beg the person who brought you, "Tell me how I can personally appropriate that gift for me."

Take that little perforated section and check the box that says, "I want to know how to have a relationship with God through this Jesus." Join us. We're not people trying to do anything but respond to the love we have been offered. I'm just going to tell you, it is crazy that you don't tell everybody you meet about Christmas. In fact, if you were a shepherd and you didn't believe the angels knew what they were talking about, you didn't run and tell anybody.

The word angel means messenger. There are two different kinds of messengers in the Bible. There are created spirit beings and there are people filled with the Spirit who sing about Christmas. I'm going to tell you, if it's not your normal practice to sing about what God has done, interrupting what is very common with uncommon love, then I'm not sure you know the story, or you might know about it but you don't know it, because when you know it you can't help but tell people about God's crazy love.

So come if you don't know. Let us tell you how you can personally respond and have a living relationship with a living God. If you know it, you'd better go sing, because it's crazy if you don't, because love has come. I pray you'd go in peace.

Merry Christmas. Have a great time worshiping him. We'll see you.