Children’s Christmas Hour
December 22nd, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS HOUR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-22-74 7:30 p.m.
Now can you all hear? All of my children? After all, we are all children: some of us are older, some of us are younger, some of us are bigger, some of us are little; but we are all children at heart. We never actually quite grow up.
I was so glad that somebody thought to say that I might be a good storyteller, storyteller in a good way, you know, telling about the Lord Jesus because that is the sweetest story in all the world. Now I have been told before I came to the service this evening, I have been told that some of you have drawn pictures, and that one of you has drawn a picture of the little town of Bethlehem, is that right? Does one of you have a picture? Who has a picture of Bethlehem? Would you bring it to me? Is this your picture of Bethlehem? Oh dear, is this it? Yeah, oh, I got it the wrong way—this is the way it is. Stupid me, man. She’s got people in it, and houses, and windows, and oh my! You’re a city girl, because some of these houses are ten stories tall.
You know it is a remarkable thing: our Lord said “In the little town of Bethlehem” [Micah 5:2], He said that over seven hundred years before the Lord was born. And just think that God picked out a little town for the Savior in which to be born. And the little town has always children who know each other, and they grow up together. And I just wonder if there are other children here in this wonderful audience tonight in God’s house, who would like to come down here and be seated on the floor where you could see and hear real good. If you are a Primary or if you are a Junior, if you are, oh, six, seven and eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years old, you all come down here and be seated around, and we’ll just have the best time in the world. Wherever you are, up there in the balcony or over here in the, or over here from side to side, why, you all just come up. And if you will be seated on the floor, you can listen a lot better, be a whole lot better for you. Because you get tired being on your knees. If you be seated down there, it’d be so very much more interesting to you. Oh, that’s fine! If you are a Primary or if you are a Junior, we’d love to have you come.
Now, in that little town of Bethlehem the Lord God came into the world. And let me show you something: did you know that we think of a nation in terms of the great cities, and we think of the great churches in the great cities; but did you know that practically all of our preachers come out of little bitty towns? Did you know that practically all of our missionaries come out of little towns? Practically all of God’s servants come out of little towns. And so it was that Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1], a picture of which I have here in my hand. And we’re going to hear a song that has been written about a little town of Bethlehem.
There came to that little town a long time ago, a father and a mother: Joseph and Mary [Luke 2:4-5]. And I’m told that one of you has drawn a picture of Joseph and Mary. Is that right? Does one of you have a picture? You have? There it is. This is a picture of Joseph and Mary. Isn’t that beautiful? And they are kneeling down. What? I want the choir to see it. Yeah. I wanted the choir to see it. It is so reverent, Joseph and Mary kneeling down before the manger in Bethlehem. That’s a child’s conception of the devotion of Joseph and Mary.
And you know what that brings to my heart? We usually think of a nation in terms of its great people: it has a king, or a queen, or a president, or the head of a great corporation, or the chairman of the board. But actually the strength of a nation lies in the humble devout people who in the ordinary menial walks of life love God and serve our Lord. So it was that God said to a humble family in Nazareth that they would be the parents of this foretold, foreordained Child [Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:26-35]. And going to Bethlehem to register, in keeping with the law of the government of Rome, the day came when Mary became the mother of a precious little Baby [Luke 2:1-16]. Oh! what a wonderful night!
And did you know that when the Lord was born, there were animals: sheep, goats, cows, oxen, all around, a donkey there [Luke 2:16]. God made those animals, and we ought to be kind to them and good to them. They are a creation of our Lord. And I’m told that one of you has drawn a picture of the animals in the stable where Jesus was born. Oh, here they are. This is the picture of the stable and the animals where the Lord Jesus was born. And how fine—the star is shining over the stable, and there are the animals where Jesus was born.
Did you know, one of the most beautiful of all of the pictures of how it’s going to be in the millennium and in heaven is this: that “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid . . . and the lion will eat straw like an ox . . . They will not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain” [Isaiah 11:6-7, 9]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul by inspiration tells us that someday God is going to re-create all of this fallen world [Romans 8:19-23], and all of the animals will be at peace with one another and with us. They won’t fight, and they won’t scratch, and they won’t claw, and they won’t eat or destroy each other; but everything will be beautiful and peaceful and at rest. God loves the animal world. He loves us, and someday we’re going to live at peace with those animals, as the animals live at peace with us. And Gary and Christy are going to sing us a song about Jesus and that beautiful ultimate and final world of peace and kindness and goodness.
You know, the other day I was on a talk show, and somebody telephoned in on the radio and said, “Do you believe that there are people who live in other worlds, on some star, on some planet somewhere?” I know exactly what they meant by the question: they were talking about are there worlds like this world, people like us. And I answered on the radio, “No, I do not think so. I think the only world where we have people like us is this earth where we live.” But I didn’t have time to say something else. “Are there other beings in God’s creation?” There are. There are myriads of angels, and archangels, and cherubim, and seraphim, and they sing the praises of God forever, where God dwells. These are the angels of glory, and someday we’re going to see them.
There is one of you that has drawn a picture of the angels of heaven. Is that you, honey? Ah, look, look, look, she has filled the sky full of glorious angels. Isn’t that just beautiful? She’s got the star down here and the angels up above. Isn’t that all right? God says that there’s a first heaven where the birds fly, there’s a second heaven where the stars shine, and there’s a third heaven where the angels are and where the throne of God is [2 Corinthians 12:2]. And did you know that in preparation for the coming of Christ into the world, the angels were practicing a glorious song from the beginning of creation? And when the Lord was born, the whole sky was filled with the glory of God, and we listened to the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest” [Luke 2:13-14]. Imagine how it sounded with ten thousand times ten thousand angels singing it. When the announcement was made, the whole heavenly chorus burst into joy and glory.
Now, to whom was that announcement made? It was made to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night [Luke 2:8-9]. To the humble shepherds, God made know the coming of the Savior of the world, to them first [Luke 2:10-12]. Now I’m told that one of you has a picture of the shepherds, is that right? Do you have a picture of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? Dear, dear, look at that! Here are the shepherds here, and here is the angel making the announcement that in Bethlehem, the city of David, they would find the Savior born, and the angel said to the shepherds they could easily find the Child because the little Fellow was wrapped in swaddling clothes [Luke 2:12]. The mother was so poor she couldn’t buy a gown or a little dress for the Child; she just had to take rags and wrap Him around. The little Child, the shepherds would find, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger [Luke 2:12]. “And they came to Bethlehem with haste, and found it even as the angel had said: the little Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” [Luke 2:15-16]. And listen to this beautiful song of the shepherds as they found and worshiped the Child called Christ.
One of the marvelous, wonderful things about our great God is this: He loves all the peoples of the earth; not just these in Bethlehem, and not just those in Jerusalem, and not just those in Israel, but all the people of the world: the black people in Africa, the brown people in South America, the yellow people in Asia, all the people of the earth, including us and them. And so when the announcement was made that the Savior was born, far, far, far away in the East, God spoke to wise men in a star that the Savior was born in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10]. And they followed that star; and day after day after day they followed through all the trackless deserts, until finally they came to the place where the star stood over the little town of Bethlehem, and over the house where Jesus was growing up as a little boy [Matthew 2:10-11]. And these men were wise; they are called “wise men” because they were able to see in the wisdom of God that this little Child would be the Savior of the world. You see, you don’t stay a little child always. As the days and the years pass, you grow up; and someday you do God’s work and will in the earth. So it was with this little Child: this little Child was to grow up to be Christ our Savior, God with us [Matthew 1:21-23]. And the wise men were able to see it, and they bowed down and worshiped: and brought before the Child their gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh [Matthew 2:11]. And now we’re going to hear a song about those magi, those three kings, those wise men to whom God revealed that the Child was born, who lived so far away and who came to worship Jesus in Bethlehem.
What do you think those wise men looked like? Does one of you have a picture of what you think those wise men looked like? Ah, here they are. They are truly drawn like kings here: one dressed in red robes, one dressed in green robes, and one dressed in orange robes. All of them have crowns on their heads. The three wise men; and they are following the star to the Christ Child [Matthew 2:9]. How wise they were and how wise we are when we bow before the Lord Jesus [Matthew 2:11].
Now, when the shepherds came, they found the Lord in a manger, a little Baby sent from God down to us in this earth [Luke 2:8-16]. And I don’t know of a sweeter scene in the earth than a picture of Jesus in a manger, there in the stable with the oxen, and the donkey, and the goats, and the sheep, and the calves. Does one of you have a picture of Christ in the manger? Do you? Does one of you have a picture of Christ in the manger? Ah! there He is. There is the stable, there is the manger, and there in the center is the Christ Child. And how sweet the song that we sing; I suppose there’s not one that we can remember so far back as singing the song, “Away in a Manger.”
Do you know, I could so easily imagine that night, when Joseph and Mary came into the town of Bethlehem; they had travelled a long, long way, and she was so weary and tired and just about to become a mother. And Joseph went to the inn, to the hotel, and knocked at the door. And the hotel keeper came, and he said, “We’re looking for a place to stay for the night.” And the innkeeper said, “Caesar Augustus has made a decree that everyone is to go to the home of his forefathers and register, and the town is filled, and I have no place.” And Joseph says, “But my wife so desperately needs a place to spend the night. She’s just about to become a mother. Please, don’t you have some place?” And the innkeeper says, “I’m so sorry. There is no place at all. There is no room in the inn.”
And Joseph is beginning to turn away, and I can hear the wife of the innkeeper as she says, as she says, “Micah, Micah, come here, come here.” And the innkeeper turns to his wife, and she whispers in his ear, and says, “Micah, my husband, do you see that man’s wife? Do you see his wife? She’s just about to become a mother. Micah, surely there’s some place that we can have for them for the night.” And Micah the innkeeper replies, he says, “Oh Elizabeth, I don’t know what to say. We are crowded to the walls, every little old nook and corner is taken up with guests. I don’t know what to do.” And the innkeeper’s wife says, Elizabeth says to her husband Micah, she says, she says, “Micah, my husband, out in the stall where the sheep and the oxen are, there’s a manger. Could we not invite them? Could we not find room for them in the manger, in the stall? Could we not?” And Micah turns to Joseph and says, “There’s no room here in the inn, but in the stable, in the stall there is a manger, and fresh mown hay and you spend the night there.” And they went to that stable. And that night, in the stable, Jesus was born.
And as the Scriptures say, they wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, poor people, and they laid the little Child in a manger [Luke 2:12, 16]. That’s how God, that’s how God came into the world. Oh, what a beautiful and precious story!
Now I want all our boys and girls to do something. First, I want all of you to stand up together, all of our boys and girls to stand up together, all of us stand up together. Now in the presence of our blessed Lord, I want us to kneel on both of our knees; all of us kneel on both of our knees. And we’re going to bow before our Lord and pray.
Our Father God in heaven, with thanksgiving beyond what syllable or sentence or word could ever say do we praise Thy name for the gift of our Savior, Thy Son Christ Jesus. And our Father in heaven, as the wise men brought to Him gifts [Matthew 2:11] and as our minister of music has dedicated to the Christ Child a gift of song tonight, may each one of us find it in his and her heart to bring a gift to Christ: our hearts, our lives. May we invite Him to live in our homes. And may He be a part of every family to which we belong. In every circle may He be included. And our Savior, as these boys and girls grow up, may they know no other thing than to love Thee and serve Thee all the days of their lives: a joy to their fathers and mothers, and an honor to Thy blessed name. And for the answered prayer we shall thank Thee forever, in Christ our Lord, amen.
Now you children can go back to your seats. Go back to your fathers and mothers. And in just a moment we’re going to stand and sing an invitation hymn. If you can find your father and your mother . . . you all want to go back over here where you were? You want to come over here on this side where you were? All right.
Gary, our invitation hymn tonight is the one we sang just a moment ago, “Away in a Manger.” Something that all of us know, it is possibly the first Christmas song that we ever learn and ever sung; a beautiful, simple thing, just as God made it in the beginning. The worship of our Lord is always so plain and so simple. Sometimes the theologian makes it deep and recondite and hard; but he’s the one that does that. God made it plain and simple. The prophet said it would be so plain that a wayfaring man, though a foolish one, would not err therein [Isaiah 35:8]. Anybody can be saved, anybody. Anybody can love Jesus, anybody. Anybody could come to a stable and bow down and feel welcome. Anybody could be at home where Jesus was born. There’s nobody shut out, nobody. The arms of the Lord are as wide as the world is wide, and His love comes down even to us.
And this Christmas night service, to give your heart to the Savior [Romans 10:9-10], or to put your life with us in this dear church, while we sing this Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger,” would you come tonight? Make the decision now. And in the balcony round, you, or on this lower floor, you, as God shall speak, come. Angels will attend in the way, just as they did when Jesus came into the world [Luke 2:13-14]. God bless you as you answer with your life and as you come tonight, “Pastor, I’m taking the Lord as my Savior. I’m giving my heart to Him” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “I’m putting my life in the fellowship of this blessed church.” Do it now, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.