The following is adapted from a message titled “The Christmas Seed,” delivered on November 30, 2014, at The River Church. You can listen to it here.
What is your favorite thing about Christmas? Is it trimming the tree? Is it the decorations? Perhaps what really gets you into the Christmas spirit is the holiday music. Do you look forward to the parties and special moments with family? Or, do you enjoy the smells of the season? The pine scent, the baked goods, the turkey and the ham?
I have met few people who don’t like Christmas. It seems like everyone I know enjoys getting into the holiday spirit. Yet, I wonder if we really understand the true holiday spirit. In the midst of all the wonderful traditions do we miss out on what’s really important about Christmas? Can we as followers of Jesus offer something more lasting during this time of year?
In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus told the story of the sower. The sower sowed seeds that fell on the path, on rocky ground, on thorns, and on good soil. The seed took root among the rocks, thorns and in good soil. But only in the good soil did it grow and bear fruit.
Jesus compared the story of the sower with our “sowing” of the word. We can think of the word as the Good News of Jesus that is planted in a person’s heart so that they grow and are transformed by it. During Christmas we share the Good News of Jesus through the story of his birth. In the Incarnation, God gave his Son to sinners like us so we could experience the peace and joy all year round.
However, there are some people at Christmas who are like the path. They don’t want to have anything to do with the story of Jesus’ birth. They may be the ones offended when you wish them a “Merry Christmas.” They may be the ones who oppose images of the Nativity. Their hearts are hard to the Good News. Our response can and should be to pray for them. We should continue to sow Christmas seeds hoping that a seed may just implant itself in a crack in their heart and grow to break up the hardness.
There are other people at Christmas who are like the rocky soil. They are eager to hear and accept the story of Jesus’ birth, but often times there are things going on their lives that make it hard for them to grow. Holidays can be difficult for people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, terminal illness, unemployment or bad family experiences.
A friend of mine just lost her sister in a tragic and senseless act of violence. What can we offer people like my friend? We can offer them the Incarnation. The story of Christmas is that God became a man and experienced every kind of difficulty that we face, even death. He didn’t leave us hanging. He knows what we’re going through and he will carry us through it. We can sow these Christmas seeds of peace and joy that are only found in receiving the gift of the Son.
There are some people at Christmas who are like thorny soil. They accept the story of Jesus’ birth but they are too preoccupied with the holiday rush. They are attracted by the holiday advertising blitz. They are willing to accumulate debt in order to make the season bright. They are run ragged pursuing temporary joy that ends when they have to go back to the mundane of the rest of the year.
Have you seen some of the holiday commercials on TV recently? One depicts a man doing Santa a series of favors so that he’ll get the one thing that will really make his Christmas special: a new car. What can we offer people who are distracted by the cares of the holiday season? We can offer them the greatest gift that has ever been given. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16) This little baby, God in a manger. When we receive Jesus we receive the greatest gift. The holidays will come and go. The feelings of peace, joy and love for all mankind will fade come January. But the gift of Jesus provides us with “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Can you believe the Good News?! God became a man! That little baby changed everything. The entire course of history hinges on the true Christmas story. The world has never been the same. And the people around us will never be the same when they receive the Christmas Seed. Sow it widely, my friends. Go tell it on the mountain! Jesus Christ is born!