"The Greatest Story Ever Told"        Pastor Don Baron
Sermons
"The Greatest Story Ever Told"

Note:   this is an overview of the Bible that was prepared for a group of
people, including children, who knew next to nothing about the Christian faith.   The
language is almost child-like (but I hope not childish), for truly profound things do
not require fancy vocabulary.     Don Baron

Why Christmas?    Have you ever thought about that?
All over the world people send Christmas cards and buy gifts for one another.    
The shops are crowded with people busy buying gifts…people buy loads of food at
the supermarkets.    
The streets are decorated; people hang lights outside their homes.   Every one
holds a party.   
There are Christmas parades with Santa Claus or Father Christmas.    
Everyone says "Merry Christmas."    Why?    Why Christmas?

Oh yes, there are pictures and crèches that show Mary and Joseph, and shepherds,
and 3 kings and, in the middle of the scene is a little baby.    
So one answer to the question, "Why Christmas?" is that we celebrate the birth of
that little boy, Jesus.    
But, so what?    That answer is too simple.    
So I ask again, "Why Christmas?"

Well, it IS about the birth of that baby.    
But to understand that baby and to understand the meaning of His birth, we must
tell the WHOLE story.    
So come with me, way back to the beginning of the story, will you?

START
In the beginning, there was only God.   
He is intelligent, wise, powerful.   
Above all this God is a God of love.   
He said, "I think I'll make a world, with stars and planets and comets.   
And He threw those huge things out into the space He had made.    
Then He chose one of those planets - the one we live on.    
He said, "On that planet, I am going to make something very special.   
I'm going to make two of them - I'll call one "man" and the other "woman."   
They will be special because they will be more like ME than anything else I've
made.    
Like me they can think, and plan, and make things.   
They can laugh.   
They can speak a language and be understood.    
ABOVE ALL, they can love.    
They can love one another.   
They can love Me, just like I love them.
So He made the man and woman whom we call Adam and Eve.    
He put them in a huge garden, so large that we would call it a national park, with
millions of animals and birds and rivers and trees.    
And God and Adam and Eve were good friends and loved one another and spent a
lot of time walking and talking together in that beautiful place.

But God wanted them to love Him freely, and not just because they had no choice.    
So He said to Adam and Eve, "Do you see that tree over there?   
If you love me, then, of all the millions of trees in Eden National Park, you will  not
eat the fruit from that tree.   
Then I will know that you freely choose to love & trust Me."
Adam and Eve thought that was cool, because life was so abundant there, with their
life so close to God, and with more than enough food to eat.   
Life was WONDERFUL and joyous in Eden.   

DETOUR
Then one day, a stranger walked into Eden National Park.   
He was once a powerful angel, but he had come to hate God and became God's
jealous enemy.   HE wanted to be god.    
And because he hated God, he hated the man and woman who were made to be so
much like God Himself.    
He found Eve near the tree that they weren't supposed to eat from and persuaded
Eve that God was keeping something very special from them by forbidding to eat
that fruit.   
Soon she felt that she really NEEDED to eat that fruit.   
And she did, and then she talked Adam into eating it too.

Next time God came looking for them to take a walk with Him, Adam and Eve
realized that they had changed.   
They didn't want to walk with Him any more.
Because they had violated His rule, they didn't feel comfortable around Him - it was
a feeing that we call "guilt."   
They didn't think of God as their friend anymore, and they tried to hide so He couldn't
find them.   
But you can't hide from God.   
God realized that something was wrong.  
He knew that they had chosen to love the fruit of that tree more than they loved Him.   
The separation that Adam and Eve caused was like a disease that would spread to
their children and their children's children, all the way down to us.   
We could call that sickness "I" disease, and it has spread to every one of us.    
We love "me, myself, and I" more than God, and we love ourselves more than we
love anyone else.   
We are always looking out for "me, myself and I' and thinking about "me, me, me."   
It's very easy for us to be selfish and very difficult for us to be unselfish.   
Our actions, our words, and even our thoughts - maybe especially our thoughts - are
"I"-centered.    
Even the word "sin" helps us remember this; what's the middle letter in the word
"sin"?    "I"!    
And the awful result of our sin-disease is that we cut ourselves off from God.    Since
life comes from God, and we are cut off from Him, we DIE.    
The results of sin is DEATH - cut off from God forever.

NEW START
God was hurt and disappointed that the people He loved had turned away from
Him.  
He could have just WIPED them out and washed them right out of His hands.   But
that's not what He did.   
No, God loved them so much that He decided to cure their sin-disease.    
He could have forced us to behave, like robots.   
That would have been easy.    
But, no, He wanted people who FREELY loved Him, not robots.   
And that would not be so easy.
To do it the loving way would take a long time.
To win them back to Himself, He would suffer a broken heart many, many times
over, but He would be patient.   

So He started to make a plan.    
He would start with one man.   
His name was Abraham, and he was the father of the nation of Israel.    
God said to Abraham,   
"Abraham, I love you just like I love all the wayward human race.   
But you and your descendants are going to be part of my special plan to love the
world back to Myself.    
Trust me, Abraham, and follow my instructions.    
And so God began to show Himself to the people of Israel, and to teach them about
Himself and His plan to rescue all the human race.

Hundreds of years later, the people of Israel had become slaves in Egypt, and it
was very hard.   
Their masters beat them, and they often went hungry.    
But God called a man named Moses to lead them out of Egypt to freedom.    Moses
told the king of Egypt that, unless he let God's people go free, the angel of death
would come and the oldest boy in every Egyptian home would die.   
But would the eldest son in each Jewish home also be killed?     
No, because God gave them a gift called the Passover.   
Each Israeli family was to kill a lamb and eat it, and put some blood of the lamb on
the doorway.   
When the angel of death came, he would see the blood on the doorway and he
would "pass over" that home.
A lamb would take the place of each oldest son.      
God was teaching them how one life can be given, or substituted, for another.   The
lambs died instead of the oldest sons.    
That was one way that God was teaching them about His plan to rescue all the
human race.

God also began to tell the people of Israel that, one day, He would send His one
and only Son who had been so close to Him from all eternity.   
God's Son would come and walk among them - just like God did with Adam and Eve
back in Eden National Park.   
He would show them how much God loves the world, because HE would do what
the Passover lambs had done, taking the place of every elder Israeli son back in
Egypt.   
HE would die in our place.  
HE would be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world!

JESUS
NOW we come to Christmas-time!    
The time had come when everything was ready for God to come and walk among
us.    
How would He come?     
Would He come with fireworks to make us say, "Wow"?    
Or with a mighty army of awesome angels to frighten us to death?    
Would He be born in a royal palace to grow up as a King to conquer the world?    
How could He come in a gentle way that would show us that He loves us and wants
to make up with us and bring us home to Himself?     
Well, you guessed it.    
God chose to cut Himself down to the size of a helpless baby - born, not in a royal
palace, but in a barn, to a poor woman, who named Him…Jesus.    
Can you think of a better way for God to come and love us?

Now I think we can begin to understand the "Why" of Christmas.    

But there is still some more that follows His birth.
When He had grown up, one day a man named John, who knew God well,
announced to everyone who would listen, "This man Jesus is the Lamb of God who
is taking away the sins of the world!"    
To show people that He was the Son of God, Jesus did many miracles.   One day a
sick man was brought to Him, and Jesus said to Him, '"Take courage, son, your
sins are forgiven."    
That surprised everybody, because, after all, who can forgive sins beside God?    
And then Jesus healed the man's sickness as well.   
You see, forgiveness is so important to us that Jesus puts forgiveness even ahead
of physical wellness.   
One day, Jesus' friend, Lazarus became deathly sick, and he soon died.   
He went to Lazarus' tomb and called, "Lazarus, come out!"   
And Lazarus did come out, alive and well!    
Jesus proved Himself to be the very Lord of Life.    
But He would have to first be the Lamb of God who carries away our sins before He
could forgive us and raise us from the dead.

Now Satan, God's enemy, stirred up the leaders, and Jesus was arrested and
beaten and a painful crown of thorns was pushed down on His head and then they
laid Him down on a cross where they hammered great nails into His hands and
feet.    
He hung on that cross for six hours, suffering untold pain.  
Even more terrible, while on the cross He was poisoned by all the sins of the
human race, including yours and mine.  
That's why He died.   
Just before He died, He cried out, "It is finished!"    
Everything necessary for you and God to become friends again was completed.   
Jesus took your place and mine.    Your lamb and mine had died instead of us.  
When you're sorry about your sins, and stop trusting in yourself, and put your trust in
Jesus, God the Father says to you, "Where are your sins?   
My Son already suffered for your sins, and they're gone!  
You are forgiven and clean.   
Welcome to my family!"

But that's not the end of the story either - not at all!    
Jesus died and was buried, and everyone THOUGHT that was the end.     
But on Sunday morning, 3 days later, Jesus was alive again!   
With their own eyes, over 500 people saw Him alive!   
He sent them out to tell the world, and to call everyone to repent and to put their trust
in Jesus.   

FINAL START     
And there's still more to come!
The Bible tells us that one day He will come again, this time not as a baby but as
the King of the universe.   
He will re-make His world to be without sin, and without death - a perfect world, full
of adventure with Jesus and with our loved ones who trusted Him.   
You and I, and all who put their trust in Him will enjoy the excitement, the peace, the
fullness of life, walking and talking with God as He originally planned it.   

And now you know God's story from beginning to end.   
And at the very center of that story is the coming of Jesus, Son of God, to save us.   
THAT'S what Christmas is all about.  
Amazing love - the Son of God, given for you.    
Do you want Him in your life?   
That's the only REAL way to celebrate Christmas.