Christmas and Easter
  Myth Buster: God sent everyone a gift at Christmas. Did you receive yours?  
Introduction: Do you ever wonder where Christmas and Easter fit into the whole scheme of Christianity? If you have read the overall skeleton you will have seen that Jesus – God the Son - came to this world to make a way for mankind to be re-united with God and to offer himself as a sacrifice on our behalf.  

Christmas is the time when the coming and the birth of Christ is celebrated. Oh, I know it probably wasn’t at this actual time and Yuletide is a pagan mass and all that, but that misses the point.

Jesus – God the Son - came to live with us, not as a conquering warrior with slashing fiery sword but as an innocent little baby, born in a dirty little cowshed, not a grand palace, and in very real danger from a very jealous despotic king. Please forget the smiley faced cows and fluffy little angels that cover our Christmas cards. This was a smelly old place that no one else in a very crowded town wanted to go anywhere near. God the Son chose this amazing non-entrance into a world where he was under threat from day one. It’s certainly not the way we would choose him to have done it. Only a few lowly shepherds were told about it and rushed to see for themselves. And of course the wise men (not necessarily three), followed the star in the East (astronomers are currently finding evidence to support this) and found Jesus giving the three gifts that all had significant meaning. There were other miraculous happenings of course: the virgin birth – so designed so God was the father; Elizabeth’s baby jumping in the womb; Zechariah’s silence and angels appearing; but overall, although supernatural, the whole event was extremely low key. This is called the nativity and BBC1 showed a new version of it recently. It was brilliant. 

Easter - once again the date and time when celebrated is unimportant - is where Jesus fulfils his heavenly destiny on earth. Having lived a perfect life and told us in no uncertain terms that we should follow his example, Jesus allowed himself to be killed by us. And the way of death was crucifixion, widely regarded as one of the most brutal ways to die. Jesus came to earth to die on our behalf and didn’t take any easy way out. The story as told in the four gospels (see The Holy Bible) is a tale of love, commitment, sacrifice, betrayal, denial, brutality and the result was salvation for those who choose to accept it. Jesus took the punishment that was rightfully ours and died. The Bible teaches that all Jesus had to do was call out to God and he would have been rescued from this fate, but such was his love and commitment to us, he refused to take this option. Why do we hate him?

Amazingly, it wasn’t the cross that killed Jesus. It was the weight of the sin and guilt and shame of the whole world that killed him. To explain this, I don’t know if you have ever felt really bad about something you have done, but all across the world there are people tormented by guilt for crimes they have committed. Jesus, not used to any kind of sin or shame, was killed by the awfulness of everyone else’s guilt as it was all put upon him. Everyone’s, past, present and future! Including yours and mine! And as he died he cried out “It is finished”. This was not the end. This meant Jesus had accomplished what his heavenly Father had asked him to do. Then the temple veil was torn in two from top to bottom.

Of course the story didn’t finish there. Jesus was buried in a tomb, but 3 days later rose up from the dead. Satan has tried ever since to promote the idea that Jesus didn’t rise up again, or that his disciples stole his body. But out of all the main religious figures that have lived on earth, Jesus’ tomb is the only empty one.

After Jesus’ resurrection he met his disciples before being taken back into heaven. Can you imagine the amazing celebration they had when he came home? The Bible teaches that when we go to Heaven, that welcome is available for us too.

(Did you realise that in Heaven, Jesus will be the only one there with wounds in his body?)

The result: A way back to God. Forgiveness for sin was now available to all who chose to accept it and the power of sin, namely death, had been defeated, once and for all. Satan knew he had lost and now his only hope is to confuse and fool as many people as he can, wreaking his evil, destruction and chaos, until God calls time on the proceedings. 

And that will be when Jesus Christ will come again. Not unannounced like before, but with lightning flashes and trumpet blast. He will come as Jesus Christ the Lord Almighty and the Bible says no one will be left in any doubt at all about his return. For every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And if you do it with rejoicing, then yours will be the Kingdom of Heaven for ever and ever and ever.
  Just a thought: More than three million 2011 school diaries with no reference to Christmas or Easter have been issued by the EU Commission. But the diaries make reference to Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Chinese festivities, as well as Europe Day. Someone doesn’t want Jesus to be recognised, do they?