How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Witness!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Witness'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Witness'!

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CHAPTER 11

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Witness'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

INTRODUCTION: If you want to celebrate Christmas authentically, follow the example of the shepherds. The shepherds were motivated to witness (v. 17). They were overcome with a sense of wonder and amazement, and they evoked a sense of wonder in the lives of those to whom they witnessed (v. 18), and they were moved upon to worship and to praise God "for all things they had heard and seen" (v. 20)

I. Mandate For Witnessing

II. Motivation For Witnessing

III. Message In Witnessing

IV. Movement Of Witnessing

CONCLUSION: Pray that you, as a believer, will have such a real and personal encounter with Jesus (during your devotional times) that when you share your testimony with unbelievers, they will be amazed and astonished! To awaken a sense of amazement in the lives of sinners will oftentimes result in a personal quest for spiritual reality, that in turn can lead them to the feet of the Saviour!

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CHAPTER 11

SUBJECT: "HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? 'WITNESS'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

INTRODUCTION: How should we celebrate Christmas? There are doubtless many ways that unbelievers celebrate Christmas. I recently heard one of my friends, a former teacher in a public school, who ten years ago left public education. I sensed frustration in his voice as he shared with some of us men in the Church. He said that even 10 years ago the public school, where he was teaching, had become so secularized that the principal would not allow there to be a 'Christmas Program', only a so-called 'Winter Program'!

There are cases of secular humanism sticking up its 'ugly head' to deny the manger scene from the lawns of public buildings in America, and prohibit every child from naming the name of Jesus in the songs they sing during the month of December in public schools!

Don't take me the wrong way! There is nothing wrong in a Christian family having a Christmas tree or in a Christian family singing 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'. What is wrong is for Christians to become so engrossed in buying gifts for others that they forget that Christmas is a time set aside to celebrate God's greatest gift to mankind – the gift of the Saviour to our sinful world!

"The Angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:10-14)

How should we celebrate Christmas? If you want to celebrate Christmas authentically, follow the example of the shepherds. The shepherds were motivated to witness ( v. 17). They were overcome with a sense of wonder and amazement, and they evoked a sense of wonder and amazement in the lives of those to whom they witnessed (v. 18), and they were moved upon to worship and praise God "for all the things they had heard and seen" (v.20).

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I. Mandate For Witnessing

The mandate for witnessing is given to all. Everyone is called to witness. A non-witnessing Christian is a contradiction in terms. Every Christian is 'born to reproduce'. Even those who feel inadequate or untrained or unworthy are called to witness. Never forget, the shepherds were the most unlikely group of people to witness. "That God used them to spread this heavenly message must have stunned them. Shepherds were a despised class in first-century Palestine. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law, which meant a lot to religious people. Shepherds were also considered unreliable and were not even allowed to give testimony in the law courts. But the angels came to shepherds with the great message that Christ the Lord – the Saviour of the world – had been born in the town of David. And despite what others thought of them, the shepherds knew that lost people needed to hear that great message. It is the same today. Jesus is the world's Saviour. And people are still lost without Him." (Montgomery Boice)

Don't belittle yourself, or feel you are incapable or unworthy. God wants to use you! You can make a difference in someone else's life! You may be the best Christian that someone knows!

Lay persons who witness to other lay persons are the most effective witnesses! The vast majority of persons who come to Church and eventually to Christ, come as a result of a friend's witness and invitation. It is not great ability that God is looking for; it is great availability. A person with a simple testimony and a sincere faith and a great love for people is the kind of person that God is looking for. Not great intellect, or formal theological education, or persuasive oratorical skills. Everyone can be a witness for Jesus – the high and the low, the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor. If God can use shepherds, He can use anyone to 'spread abroad His message'! Every Christian is called to witness!

II. Motivation For Witnessing

The true motivation for witnessing comes from one's firsthand encounter with God! Just like the shepherds, we must hear from God. They heard the angels' voices and they saw the glory of God for themselves. It was not secondhand. It was firsthand!

What motivates a person to tell another person about Jesus? Nothing less than a firsthand experience of Jesus!

There is a little song that says, "I was there when it happened, and I ought to know." No guessing, no mere hoping, or wishful thinking, or illusions of the mind, or speculations! No, none of these! These shepherds heard with their own ears and they saw with their own eyes! When a person, like the shepherds, personally experiences the presence of God and personally feels the tug of God on his heart, and personally hears the voice of God and the heavenly music of the angels, he can never be the same

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again! What he was seen, he can never unsee! His new experience forever puts him on a higher plane of reality, and he cannot keep his newfound message to himself!

Why are some professing Christians close-mouthed about Jesus, paralyzed by fear in the presence of sinners? Could their lack of motivation be due to the fact that many would-be witnesses have only a dead body of orthodox beliefs rather than a living encounter with Christ, to share with others?

If we are not spreading the Word of God to others, it is probably because we have not personally heard the voice of God!

It is easy to tell others about a new discovery or a new promotion or a new gift or a new experience. Spontaneity in witnessing is the result of natural excitement which is experienced because we have seen Jesus!

If you are having a hard time being motivated to witness, it might be good to evaluate the quality of your personal devotional life. He who has a vital devotional life with God is the same one who has a winsome and compelling witness to men. We can only touch others after we have first been touched by God! When God whispers into our spiritual ears the wonders of his love, then we desire to shout with our physical lips the glories of his message!

How can one be quiet after he has seen the glory of heaven revealed to him by God's holy angels and by God's Holy Spirit? If you merely witness out of a sense of 'oughtness' or guilt or legal requirement, you will soon lose your motivation, and your effectiveness will be greatly reduced. It is easy to witness to others when you have something compelling and exciting to share!

III. Message In Witnessing

What is the message or content of effective witnessing? It is rather simple, yet profound in its results! It is the message of "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2: 14) When the shepherds spread the word to others, they did not focus on the beauty of the angels (the messengers), nor did they focus their attention on a description of the nighttime surroundings (the context and the immediate circumstances in which the message was revealed to them). Neither did the shepherds focus on their personal feelings of fright as a result of seeing the angelic host (i.e., their personal emotions that came as a result of their own spiritual encounter and experience). Rather, they "spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (v. 7)

It is important to focus only on Jesus when we are witnessing to others. There may be special persons whom God used to lead you to Christ – like an evangelist or a pastor or a friend or a relative. But it is not the messenger that we focus on in our witness to another, even if that messenger (as in the case of the shepherds) happens to be most unusual -like a miraculous encounter with angels! If God used a great miracle – like a

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physical healing of your body – 'to catch your attention' and to bring the message of salvation to you, that is wonderful! But when you witness to another person, never focus on the 'messenger' (be it a person or a miraculous event) that God used to bring you to Christ. Rather, focus on Christ!

When you witness to another, never focus on the specific circumstances that accompanied your spiritual encounter with God. The shepherds did not spend time describing the beautiful hilltop topography – the location where they received their revelation from heaven! It is true that a certain altar of prayer or a certain room or a certain Church or a certain stadium may be a sacred place to you, for it was in that locality that you met Christ. Perhaps you found Christ in a special Church, with a special pastor who served in a special denomination. Fine and good that you mention these circumstances in your witness, but for you to focus on the circumstances and situations that accompanied your conversion or your unique spiritual experience, is about as ridiculous as the shepherds focusing on the topography of the hilltop where they happened to receive their spiritual revelation!

The shepherds did not focus on the host of angels; neither did they focus on their immediate surroundings and make a memorial out of the specific hilltop where God revealed his message on that memorable night.

The content of our witness should never focus on the messenger whom God used to reveal Himself to us. N either should the content of our witness focus on the specific circumstances or location or context of our personal conversion. And, further, the content of our witness should never focus on our own personal experience – i.e., our own emotional responses at the time of our encounter with the supernatural realm. The shepherds did not make a 'big deal' over the angelic host (as wonderful as this was), nor did they make a 'big deal' over the location where this unique experience took place (the hilltop outside of Bethlehem), nor did they talk about their own personal experience at the time of the miraculous encounter (i.e., their response of fear and awe). These things – the messenger, the location of the spiritual encounter, the personal emotional response from the encounter – are all significant, but they are all secondary.

What is primary in one's witness? Testimony regarding the person and the work of Jesus Christ! The Good News of Jesus Christ is the focal point of authentic witness: "A Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:11, Luke 2:14)

If you speak to sinners about your own experience rather than about the person and the work of Jesus Christ, you will focus the attention of others on you instead of on Christ. Never minimize your own personal religious experience, but never make your own experience 'normative'. The important thing is for people to turn their lives over to Jesus. If your unique experience is elevated, others who are seeking God may think they must have an experience which is identical to your experience (emotional responses, etc.) if their experience with God is to be authentic. Give Christ to people, and reinforce your testimony regarding Christ with your own personal

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experience (the messenger that God used in your life, the location and context of your conversion, the feelings you had at the time of your encounter with God), but never focus on yourself when you are seeking to witness. Focus on Christ – His mission as Saviour, His call to repentance and faith, His power to forgive sins and to transform lives. You are leading people to Christ, not to you! You are seeking to give them Christ, not your own personal experience of Christ! Focus, therefore, on Christ!

IV. Movement Of Witnessing

The 'movement' of witnessing is described in the following words: "When they (the shepherds) had seen him (the Christ child), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

It was most natural for the shepherds to leave the Bethlehem manger and to spread the word far and wide regarding this new-born baby – the Saviour of the world!

When you have received news that your wife is to have a baby, or that you are getting a long-awaited-for job, or that you have been awarded with a sizeable college scholarship, or that you have been promoted to a coveted position of prominence, or that you have been granted a large financial gift in the settlement of an estate, how do you respond? Usually, if not always, with great gladness and excitement! You can hardly wait to tell a friend about your new gift or your new promotion, etc.! It is natural, and almost inevitable, for you to share good news with someone else.

So, it was with the shepherds! They had heard from heaven! They had seen God's holy angels! Most importantly, they had seen and adored the newborn child at Bethlehem! Their lives were filled with wonder and their hearts were overflowing with joy. How could they keep such good news to themselves? It was easy to "spread the Word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

What is witnessing? Witnessing is both a Noun and a Verb. It is first a Noun before it is a Verb. I witness by what I am before I witness by what I say. The shepherds first became witnesses of the event (Noun), and then they went forth and told what they had experienced firsthand (Verb).

We are a witness first by personally experiencing an encounter with God, and then we do witnessing by telling others about the Christ who has personally touched our lives. Using our lips, we desire to introduce others to the Christ who wants to change their lives as well.

The whole movement in witnessing is a movement that is outward, not inward; forward-moving, not backward-looking; extroverted, not introverted; aggressive, not passive; experiential, not theoretical; concrete, not abstract; contagious, not drab; persuasive, not coercive; universal, not exclusive.

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In terms of witnessing, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and make disciples. "He said "Go out into the highways and byways and compel men to come into the kingdom of God." It is Christians who are commanded to go to sinners, not sinners who are commanded to come to the Church. It is great when sinners come to our Churches to become converted to Christ, but Church was never intended to be the primary place where sinners are converted; it is in the 'highways and byways' of life (i.e., in the home, office, factory, school, and neighborhood) where people are to be reached for Christ. "When they (the shepherds) had seen him (Christ), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

What had been told them regarding this Bethlehem Babe? That he is the Saviour, that he is Christ the Lord (i.e., that he is the Messiah who is in charge of all of life), that he is the One through whom God is glorified and sinners are reconciled (v. 14). Jesus is the Messiah (the Anointed One of God), the One who can save from sin, the One who can rule the hearts and lives of people, the One who can speak peace to troubled hearts and who can reconcile alienated souls to God!

How can we spread such Good News to those around us, far and wide? First, by being radiant persons in our very being, because we have seen and have heard the Lord in a vital and real way ourselves (like the shepherds whose very countenances must have been changed after they heard the angels announce the "good news of great joy that will be for all people!") (v. 10) Second, by taking the initiative to share Christ verbally with those who are in the "circle of our own influence" (v. 17). Third, by the action of good works. Jesus, said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Be a witness for Jesus – by your changed personality, by your clear words, and by your good deeds!

When you fall in love with Jesus, your love for Jesus and your excitement about the saving message of Jesus, will compel you to 'spread the word' to others (v. 17). Because of your transformed character, your personal testimony, and your compassionate deeds, there will be many who will surrender their lives also to Christ the Lord, the Babe of Bethlehem, who transformed the lives and the words of those first shepherds long ago!

What is witnessing? Someone said that witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results with God. Your job, as a believer, is simply to witness, i.e., to tell others what you know about Jesus as a result of a firsthand contact with Him. After the shepherds actually saw the Christ Child and after they earlier had heard from God regarding the identity and mission of this special child through angel messengers on the lighted hillside, they could never be the same! Their lives were transformed, and transformed persons are strongly motivated to share

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their authentic Christian witness with their non-Christian friends. Not hearsay, not second-hand reports, not theological speculations! Firsthand experience, filled with the vitality of one who has personally seen Jesus!

CONCLUSION: What results can one anticipate in the lives of those who listen to such an authentic witness? Perhaps conversion, but at least amazement, in the lives of those who take time to hear the testimony of genuine believers. "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (v. 18)

Amazement leads to further inquiry, which can eventually lead to personal conversion to Christ.

Pray that you, as a believer, will have such a real and personal encounter with Jesus (during your devotional times) that when you share your testimony with unbelievers, they will be amazed and astonished! To awaken a sense of amazement in the lives of sinners will oftentimes result in a personal quest for spiritual reality, that in turn can lead them to the feet of the Saviour!

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CHAPTER 11

Questions

  1. In light of the secularistic and materialistic trends in our American society, how do you believe an earnest Christian should properly observe Christmas, in terms of 'customs' and 'traditions'? Is it possible for equally sincere believers to differ in their viewpoints and practices, in their celebration of Christmas? Why or why not?

  2. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Everyone is called to witness. A non-witnessing Christian is a contradiction in terms. Every Christian is 'born to reproduce'."

  3. When you personally feel inadequate or ungifted in witnessing for Christ, why could a study of the shepherds' witnessing to Christ's birth be a great encouragement and motivation to you?

  4. Give your personal reaction or response to the following statement: "You may be the best Christian that someone knows."

  5. Check those statements which describe the essential qualities that a person must possess, in order to be an effective and Christ-honoring witness:

    1. ___ Ordination as a Christian minister.

    2. ___ Special theological education.

    3. ___ Youthfulness in actions and appearance.

    4. ___ Articulation in speech.

    5. ___ Outgoing personality.

    6. ___ Cleverness in presentation of Gospel Message.

    7. ___ Memorization of several Bible Verses which explain the 'Plan of Salvation.'

    8. ___ Forceful and Persuasive in verbal declaration of truth.

    9. ___ Handsome or beautiful in physical appearance.

    10. ___ Experience as a Christian for at least ten years.

    11. ___ A simple, personal testimony of God's transforming power in your life.

    12. ___ A sincere faith in God's promises as recorded in God's Word (Bible).

    13. ___ A great love for lost (unsaved) people.

    14. ___ A deep desire to help fulfill Christ's 'Great Commission'.

    15. ___ An understanding of the Biblical teaching regarding the meaning of 'Repentance' and 'Saving Faith'.

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    16. ___ A courage that enables one to 'risk rejection' from the unsaved persons with whom you desire to share God's plan of salvation.

    17. ___ Availability to God for Him to use you as His 'mouthpiece' to declare the universal love of God to sinners who feel helpless and hopeless and loved.

    18. ___ Special training in the arts of oratory and persuasive speech.

    19. ___ Fearlessness and great bravery in order to meet and to witness to strangers.

    20. ___ Sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who often gives special guidance in witnessing, as He did with Philip (Acts 8:26-40).

    21. ___ A vision for the lost, a compassion for the lost, a burden which compels you to share the 'Good News' of forgiveness and transformation.

    22. ___ An argumentative approach which supports a dogmatic declaration of truth that does not allow the seeking sinner to ask any questions or to offer any challenges or disagreements.

    23. ___ A gentle spirit, a listening ear, a tender heart, are understanding mind, an unobtrusive mannerism all of which prepare you to build a love relationship with the sinner as a person, rather than treating him as a 'case' or an abstract 'soul' which needs rescued from hell.

    24. ___ A humble and teachable spirit, which allows discussion and which invites extended inquiry into the 'claims of Christ' and into the meaning of the 'Christian life' from sincere and intelligent persons who need time and thought before making a personal commitment to Christ.

    25. ___ Special training in the Apologetics of Christianity, to provide much 'ammunition' for debate with non-believers.

    26. ___ An ability to give a clear, Biblical answer to questions which non-believers ask regarding God, Man, Sin, and Jesus Christ.

    27. ___ Empowerment from the Holy Spirit in order that you may be bold and loving in your witness to non-Christians.

    28. ___ Possession of the gift of evangelism.

    29. ___ Willingness to speak in behalf of the person and power of Jesus Christ, in spite of personal feelings of inadequacy and feelings of fear of people.

    30. ___ A sense of respect for the eternal value of a never-dying soul who desperately needs Christ as Saviour and who will not go to heaven unless he is born again.

    31. ___ A prayerful attitude which allows the Holy Spirit to guide you to those sinners who have been prepared by God to receive the message of salvation.

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  6. What motivates a person to tell another person about Jesus?

  7. Why are some professing Christians close-mouthed about Jesus, paralyzed by fear in the presence of sinners who desperately need someone to introduce them to Jesus Christ?

  8. Tell to what degree you agree with the following statement: "Spontaneity in witnessing is the result of natural excitement which is experienced because we have seen Jesus."

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "He who has a vital devotional life with God is the same one who has a winsome and compelling witness to men."

  10. Put a check by those statements which describe what should be the "Focus" of your witness to a non-Christian person.

    • ___ The messenger whom God used to lead you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    • ___ The specific circumstances and location and context in which you personally accepted Christ as your own Saviour.

    • ___ Your own emotional responses which you experienced at the time of your own personal encounter with the supernatural realm.

    • ___ Testimony regarding the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

  11. Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If your own unique spiritual experience is elevated when you witness to non-Christian, others who are seeking God may think they must have your own identical experience (emotional responses, etc.) if their experience with God is to be authentic."

  12. Tell if you believe the following statements are Biblically-supportable:" "When you witness to unsaved people, do not focus on yourself if, but instead, always focus on Christ – His mission as Saviour, His call to repentance and faith, His power to forgive sins and to transform lives. You are leading people to Christ, not to you! You are seeking to give them Christ, not your own personal experience of Christ. Focus, therefore, on Christ! Talk about Him, not about yourself!"

  13. Why was it so easy and 'natural' for the shepherds to witness to others about the Babe of Bethlehem?

  14. Tell what is meant by the statement: "Witnessing is first a Noun before it is a Verb."

  15. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The whole movement in witnessing is a movement that is outward, not inward; forward-moving; not backward-looking; extroverted, not introverted; aggressive, not passive, experiential,

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    not theoretical; practical, not academic; concrete, not abstract; contagious, not drab; persuasive, not coercive; universal, not exclusive."

  16. Does the Bible command Christians to GO to sinners, or sinners to GO to Christians and to the Christian Church? (Note Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:23) Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The Church was never intended to be the primary place where sinners are converted."

  17. Do you believe that all three of the following are indispensable if a believer is to be an effective witness for Christ: (a) Transformed personality, (b) Verbal communication of the saving message, (c) Performance of compassionate and Christlike good deeds?

  18. Do you believe the following definition of witnessing properly reflects Biblical examples of witnessing? – "Witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ, in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results with God."

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