You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page for this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.Celebrating Christmas II

2 Cor. 8:9 (ESV)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

We are considering, as we approach Christmas, how we can celebrate Christmas all year long, without the homicidal schedule, the overspending, the over eating … . It’s good to celebrate but if we lived like that all year we’d all be dead before the third Christmas rolled around. The birth of the Christ into the world for the salvation of a vast numberless multitude is something that we ought to have as a celebratory event all year long. And it should never be separated from His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and intercession and return. So what we are doing is looking at some texts that make references to the birth of Christ, which are not normally considered Christmas passages, and seeing what we learn from them so that we can also learn how to celebrate Christmas all year long. Last week we were in Philippians 2:5-8 and our conclusion was that we celebrate Christmas all year long by imitating the humility of Christ. “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus…” Where do we see the humility of Jesus? Philippians 2:7. When did that happen? When He was born. It happened in Bethlehem. It happened at the first Christmas.

Today we go on to another Christmas text – II Corinthians 8:9.

I Introduction

A recent article in Christianity Today gives some startling statistics regarding the giving patterns of evangelical Christians in the United States and no doubt the stats are equally as concerning in Canada. People who attend church at least twice per month earn 2.5 trillion dollars and give very little to their churches and other charities. One of the interesting stats is that the people who earn less actually give more, not only in percentages but in actual dollars. If those maintaining that their faith is important to them gave 10% of their income from the U.S. alone over 85 billion dollars more would be made available to churches, missions and ministries.

But what does all this have to do with Christmas and how we celebrate it? Well, let’s have a look.

The whole of II Corinthians 8 & 9 is Paul encouraging the Corinthians to fulfil a promise they had made to send money to the needy Christians in the Jerusalem church. When it talks about giving in II Corinthians 8 it is talking about money.
In chapter 8 Paul encourages them to give by reminding them of the generosity of the Macedonian churches – 8:1-8, and then by reminding them of the work of Christ – 8:9, and then various other arguments ( 8:12, 13, 14f; 9:3, 4, 6f, 8, 10, 12, 13 – and then it ends by Paul bringing their thoughts back to what He said in 8:9 – 9:15.) Our focus this morning is on verse 9, mostly.

II Verse 9 is the Christmas verse of the text.

1) He became poor – this is exactly the same thing that we saw last week in Phil. 2:7. Jesus was poor. He was poor in many ways. He was born into a poor family – poor economically, excelling in true humble spirituality (poverty of spirit that means they were extremely rich spiritually). Jesus was poor socially … .

But those types of poverty are not what verse 9 is talking about. It is talking about the poverty of being human, just as Phil. 2:7 does as we saw last week. “He became poor” means “He became a real human being …”. Do not fall into the mistake of thinking that this is talking about economic poverty here. It is not. It is talking about Jesus becoming human. Not a poor human or a sick human or a sinful human – just human. The very fact that the eternal Son of God, who made the world and holds the world together, who deserved and received the worship of all the hosts of heaven comes to earth as a human being – is becoming poor … .

The giving of gifts at Christmas time is said to go all the way back to the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to Jesus by the wise men. I hope not. I hope the giving of gifts at Christmas time is not the mere imitating of very expensive, very affordable gifts brought by very rich people to Jesus. And the reason I hope that is because the gifts of Christmas are not meant to take our thoughts to the wise men. They are meant to take our thoughts back further than that. Gifts at Christmas time go to the manger. Gifts at Christmas time are not about what we give to Jesus. Gifts at Christmas time are about what Jesus gave to us.

Verse 9 – “made Himself poor”. Here is how we celebrate Christmas all year long. When we see in our
mind’s eye this Christmas, baby Jesus in the manger; when we see creches and concerts and Christmas cards and movies and … and … , remember this – He made Himself poor so you could be rich through His poverty. And what that should cause you to do is be generous to the needy, especially those of the household of faith. That baby is the Creator of the universe and He is in that manger to make you rich. And if you are a real follower of Jesus Christ that will be enough.

2) Verse 8 –
a) I am not commanding you. He tells them that pointing out the earnestness of the Macedonian Christians should be incentive for them to give. But that is not the only reason he does not command them. There is another. I am not commanding you – Why not!?? He doesn’t need to. Jesus became poor
for you – enough said. That fact alone will move the real Christian heart to do what it should.

Dear ones: could this be involved in Jesus’ comment on the night He was betrayed that the world will know that we are His disciples because we love one another? He says “I am going to win you to myself and when I do you are going to love me and you will love all other believers in Me and that love will show in compassion and care and a willingness to sacrifice for one another”. So, the Corinthians have neglected to come through with their promised gift. What to do? Remind them of what Jesus did for them. Dear ones, this is simply basic Christianity. This is not rocket science. This is Christianity 101. And the Christian community has come to a point where when someone gives sacrificially and selflessly … they make the news. (See the other article in CT).

Really, truly celebrating Christmas is just a matter of being a believer in Christ and being a believer in Christ means being generous. Generosity is not a gift we offer God. It is the response of the heart that has come to realize what has happened in bringing him to faith. It is the inevitable response of the heart.

“…Christian liberality springs from a heart conscious of the infinite generosity of God in giving
His Son to redeem mankind” [Tasker on II Corinthians.] If this quote is true then our liberality/generosity is a measure of how conscious we are of what God, in Christ, has done for us.

b) The motivation here is not the plight of the Jerusalem Christians. A true believer in Jesus Christ does not need to see the bloated bellies and hollow faces of the starving masses of other parts of the world. All he needs to see is the eternal Son of God lying in a manger on a mission to die for sinners. Why is it dear ones? Why is it that so many believers need to be coaxed and pushed and encouraged and embarrassed, in order to give to the needy, especially the needy who are brothers and sisters?

Stinginess is a product of ignorance of or diminishing of the work of Christ. Dear one – do
you know what your problem is if you do not have a generous heart? It is not lack of money. It is not the debt load. It is Jesus doing too small a thing in your estimation.

c) Now then dear ones you must understand – I am not saying that a proper appreciation of Christ’s coming into the world will mean giving a lot of money. I am saying that a proper appreciation of it will make you generous. Most of you in this room do not have a lot of money. But that does not mean you cannot have a generous heart. In fact, for those who have very little money, too much debt, … … one of the heartaches of life is the inability to give more to those in need. Coming home from work and my mother says to me “I wish I had $10,000 … so I could get Joey a decent place to live”. Joey was a homeless man who my parents allowed to sleep in their garage. Generosity has nothing to do with how much money you have.

d) Paul also does not say here that they should be generous to the Jerusalem church because of what the saints in Jerusalem have done for them (although Paul does speak in other places about the debt that Gentile Christians owe the Jewish believers.) Their being generous to the saints in Jerusalem is not a returning of a kindness. We hear this all the time … “Why should I be nice to him? What did he ever do for me?” “Not the point” Paul says. “The question is “What did Jesus do for you?” Paul is urging them to be kind to the Jerusalem saints because Jesus has been good to them. Dear one – you may consider not being generous to others when Jesus stops being generous to you. And when will that be? As long as Jesus shows generosity to you, as long as He showers you with good, as long as He is kind and understanding, as long as He covers you with His blood, as long as He intercedes for you before the Father as your great High Priest, as long as He counts you as sinlessly perfect and does not count your sins against you – that is how long you should show love to others in a tangible way.

III Verse 9 – You know
This is not new to you.
(1)They know that
(1)Jesus did not have to come to earth.
(2)He was immensely rich.
(3)angels bow before Him
(4)He deserves the worship of all that exists. All things bow down to
(5)He was not forced to come. He came willingly, out of love for
mankind, in compassion, unforced, uncalled for, undeserved.
(6)He died, rose, ascended … .
This is not new to the Corinthian Christians. Paul is not now reminding them of stuff that he forgot to tell them in his previous letters to them. Not at all. What he is doing is applying it. “This is how it should show in your behaviour in relation to the poor Christians of Jerusalem.”

IV the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
Ah dear ones, it is not commandments that will motivate us to celebrate Christmas all year long by showing liberality. Not at all. It is grace. Look at verse 1 of this chapter. See Titus 2:11-13 (ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, [12] training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, [13] waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

This what we see in Romans 6:1ff, Col. 3:1, 12..

The very fact that Jesus came to the earth is an act of grace
This is not something we deserve. This is pure grace.
That though He was rich
Ah dear ones. Have you been a recipient of the grace of God? Have you really come to grips with the fact that salvation is by grace alone? Have you really known that all your righteousness is filthy rags? Have you really seen that salvation is not by works – because you had no works to offer? How often do even Christian people talk like their works of charity are a badge of honour that shows just how wonderful they are? How often do believers point to themselves as proof that they are better than those outside of the fold? How often do we treat the lost with disdain because deep down we really believe that we were never that bad? (Remember Ephesians 2:3 objects of wrath – just like the rest).

As long as we allow such thoughts to take root in our hearts and minds we will never celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be celebrated. We will never respond to free undeserved, unsolicited, unwanted, mercy that was lavished upon us – in the way that we should. Dear one – if you are going to celebrate Christmas the way you should you need to get into your Bible and on your knees and read of the grace of God in Christ and you need to earnestly plead with God that He will bring you to now His grace more and more. Dear ones, if we are going to prove out our faith and celebrate Christmas by having a generous spirit we must, we must, we must study and pray in and be broken by the incomprehensible grace of God.
3.So that you, through His poverty might become rich
1.It is and always will be that you cannot give more than you have been given to.
2.How should we celebrate the fact that Jesus made Himself poor for us? Give to others who have needs.

V Some Other Applications

2.Celebrating Christmas is a matter of responding to the grace of God in Christ. And it is
responding with generosity.
2.Eph. 4:28
1.You do not earn money for the sake of getting rich. We should not blow this out of
proportion. Consider verse 13-15. But it still needs to be said that the purpose of earning money is to provide your needs for food, clothing, shelter, some legitimate leisure and for the good of others.
3.Galatians 6:10
1.Start with the family of God.
4.Consider what Jesus did
5.An application to the church.
1.It is a striking notable thing that when Paul wants people to give he does two
things. He tells them about the generosity of the poor churches in Macedonia and he reminds them about Christ who made Himself poor so that we could be rich. This is striking because of its absence of what we would call practical instruction. Paul says nothing about organizing a fund raising campaign, or analysing the problem to see why it is that the people of the Corinthian church haven’t followed through yet on their promise to give. He does not suggest that the issue is one of poor leadership or poor organization or poor communication. He just says – look at them and look at Him. I started this message by referring to a study done in the U.S. that shows that evangelicals don’t give much to their churches or other charities. The authors of the study wanted to know why. This is what they came up with:
The writers of this study suggest that the reasons for such poor giving are:
1) cost of living for the essentials of life – 75% of household incomes now go to housing alone in the U.S. – what do we say to this in light of II Cor. 8:2?
2) Lack of trust in the churches they contribute to (the inevitable result of unbiblical church models.) – what do we say to this in light of the great problems that existed in the Corinthian church?
3)The example of the churches themselves. Churches largely spend money on themselves thereby teaching their people to spend on themselves. – The Apostle John knew what to say about this – I John 3:17 … .
4) They are not asked to give. Churches are afraid to talk about money. So – ask them. But ask them like Paul did.
5) A large number polled stated that they did not give because they could not give cheerfully and since God wants us to give cheerfully, it is better not to give at all. One man said “God requires it, but … he also tells us that he doesn’t want us to give if we don’t want to.” Colossians 3:5 might be another verse this man might consider looking at.

In the same magazine that all this depressing news about how churches do not give, there was this article as well … . The sad thing in this is that it is exceptional. The glad thing in this is that there is not a reason in the world why you cannot do the same thing with the issues that break your heart. Begin with the family of God and broaden it out from there.

3.Do you know Christ? See in this verse what it takes to get you into the Kingdom of God. If you
think that you can earn points with God so that He will look favourably upon you then you need to look at the manger and ask yourself this: “If this is what God had to do to bring sinners into a right relationship with Him then what makes me think I can earn that relationship with a few good deeds?”

Christmas is coming. Let’s really celebrate it with joy and fellowship and compassion to others. And when it is all over, let’s not lose the spirit that gives the real joy that Christmas is. He who was rich became poor so that we might be rich. How we need to have that grip our hearts in ever increasing measure. And how we need to demonstrate that it has been so gripped by living every day with a generous heart – no matter how much money we have.

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