Twas the Day After Christmas
December 26th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
‘TWAS THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 2:40, 51
12-26-82 8:15 a.m.
It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the great numbers of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled ‘Twas the Day After Christmas. This is December 26, and the title of the message: ‘Twas the Day After Christmas. It is a message on religion in the letdown, after the high mountain experience is over, after the first enthusiasm is spent. It is taken out of the second chapter of the Book of Luke; Luke chapter 2. Luke chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2 describe the wonders of the birth of our Lord Jesus, and the end of it is in verse 40 and in verse 51 of the second chapter.
After all of the glory of the angels and the shepherds and the beauty of their angelic chorus, "They returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth" [Luke 2:39]. And for the twelve succeeding years, the Child is there in the daily humdrum of ordinary life. Then in verse 51 of this second chapter, following the unusual story of the Lad in the temple, when He was twelve years of age, now verse : "And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." And the following eighteen years He is in the drudgery of building ox yokes, tradition says. That is the following, according to the Scriptures, of the incomparably glorious announcement through the angels, through the prophetess Anna, through the aged, old, St. Simeon, the visit of the wise men, all of the other marvelous things that attend the Christ Child’s coming into the world: years and years and years of daily, ordinary, humdrum existence.
So it brought to my mind, the day after Christmas, the experience that all of us have in the Lord: after a marvelous conversion, or after some high, elevated plain, coming down to the ordinary drab assignments of our daily living. It is wonderful, it is glorious to stand at the very gate of heaven – such as Diane sang about a moment ago – it is incomparably precious to have a marvelous experience. And those experiences are possible; most of us have had them.
I’m living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky.
I’m drinking at a fountain that never shall run dry.
I’m feasting on the manna, what a bountiful supply,
For I am dwelling in Beulah land.
["Dwelling in Beulah Land"; C. Austin Miles]
That’s great, way up high, where God is, where the angels sing, the mountaintop experiences of life. But you don’t stay up there. There is no such thing as forever dwelling – in this life – on those great mountain peaks of spiritual experience. Nobody does it.
It is a parable of life: Elijah on Mt. Carmel and all Israel is gathered before him, and there are the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, Astarte. And Elijah, in one of the most dramatic events, epochs in spiritual history, in Scripture’s story, prays for the fire of God to come down from heaven; and the fire of the Lord falls. And no less does God wonderfully answer prayer after three and a half years of drought: the rain comes down from heaven. And Elijah, in ecstasy, in exuberance, runs before the chariot of Ahab, all the way from Carmel to Jezreel, about thirty miles. But there’s not anything that wears out the saints more than running before the chariot of Ahab [1 Kings 18:19-46]. There’s not anything that is more impossible than to reach toward those constant, high, victorious experiences that we have on a mountaintop. And the next thing we read about Elijah, he is running for his life, and the following thing, he is seated under a juniper tree, asking God to die [1 Kings 19:1-4]. Now, isn’t that human? And isn’t that the experience of life? One day way up there on Mt. Carmel, and the next day under a juniper tree asking God to take your life away; you don’t live up there all the time. You don’t hear the angels singing all the time. You don’t have those great, marvelous, high experiences every day; you just don’t.
I think it is no less a parable, the story of the three apostles on the top of Mt. Transfiguration. And the Lord, the deity of our Christ shines through; and there appears to Him Moses and Elijah; and in a glory of ecstasy, Simon Peter says, "Lord, Lord, let’s stay up here. This is marvelous! Let’s build three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Elijah, and one for Moses. And let’s just stay here" [Luke 9:27-33]. That’s great. I understand. It’s just marvelous to be up there with the transfigured Lord. But the following story is no less true: down at the foot of the mountain to which they descended, the disciples were confused because they were unable to cast out the demon in a demented boy [Luke 9:37-40]. You don’t stay up there; there’s a foot of the mountain. If there’s a height, there’s a foot; and if there’s somebody up there, there’s somebody down there also. And we don’t stay up there; we come back down here, all of us do.
I listened to the testimony of a very fine Christian. And to my amazement, his testimony was that he had a great experience with the Lord, moved by the Holy Ghost, marvelously converted, but that he had lost the feeling of that experience and wondered now whether he was saved or not. Any time we allow our religion to be defined by those ecstatic feelings; your religion is going to drag you to death. For all religion in its emotional response can be graphed. Sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down. Like a thermometer, there are degrees in it, up and down, up and down.
So it was with our wonderful Lord. When He came into this world, oh! the marvelous story of Christmas: angels, wise men, shepherds, everything the mind could imagine to make it dramatic, ecstatic – then, twelve long years, He is at Nazareth; and after that one superb incident in the temple [Luke 2:41-47], eighteen long years in drudgery, in common labor.
Well, what do you think about that? Are you persuaded in your mind that it was any less holy, or any less godly, or any less wonderful – the toil of the day and of the years, as He worked with His hands – than the marvelous stories of the angels singing and the wise men coming? It all depends upon our definition of the faith, and that’s why we’re preaching this morning. The message, to me, as I read the Bible, is this: that we are servants of God in the midst of our daily assignments just as much as we are in those ecstatic experiences that bring us to the very gates of glory. God is in it all. It was in the life of our Lord.
If you’ve ever been to Nazareth, they’ll show you the cave, a cave, a c-a-v-e, a cave in which our Savior grew up. And they’ll show you another cave in which He worked as a carpenter; just as lowly, just as common, just as ordinary as you could think for. Now that is the life of our Lord for thirty years. It is unbelievable: the contrast between the glory of our Savior and those years and years and years of common drudgery. When He appeared before the people of Nazareth, according to the [sixth] chapter of the Book of Mark, and He was there in the power of the Spirit and the grace of God upon Him, the people said – do you remember it? – "Is not this the carpenter?" [Mark 6:1-3]. Where did He get these marvelous words? And how is it these marvelous works characterize His present ministry? And I can imagine one of them saying, "I have a table made by Him, the carpenter." And another one saying, "I have a chair made by Him, the carpenter." And another one saying, "I live in a house made by Him, a carpenter." And another say, "I plow with a yoke made by Him, the carpenter. How is it that a carpenter could have the grace and might and the glory of God upon Him such as we see in this Man, Jesus?"
What was the matter was they thought that the labor of a carpenter’s hands is not as holy and as heavenly as the might and the glory when God reveals Himself in miraculous ways. But that’s what we think; that’s not what God thinks.
Did you ever hear me tell the story, the experience I had preaching in a pioneer Western state? I was there as a guest on a Sunday in another town, in another little village, way up in a resort center. And they had a little Baptist church there; just a little thing made out of wood. And with my host, I went to the church. And the preacher immediately learned that I was there. So he came to me, and he said, "This is an unusual thing for us, that you would be here in our service. Please, won’t you preach?"
I said, "No, I’ve come to worship the Lord with you."
Well, he said, "I don’t feel right preaching in your presence."
I said, "You’re God’s man for this place and this hour, and you’ll not have a more attentive or prayerful listener than I. You stand up there, and you preach the gospel."
Well, after it was over, he visited with me. And he said – now you listen to him as he talks to me – he says, "I want to apologize for my preaching." He said, "I’m an uneducated man. I have never been to school." He said, "I am a carpenter. I am a single man." He said, "I have a trailer," and he showed it to me; right back of the church was a trailer. He said, "I live in that trailer. I go to places out here in these pioneer states where they don’t have a church, and I park my trailer on a lot that I buy. Then," he says, "I build the church with my own hands. I’m a carpenter. I build it with my own hands. And I have built this church," a pretty little thing. "I built this church." And he says, "I visit the people, and I pray with them, and I win them to Jesus, and I baptize them, and I organize them into a church. Then, after the church is established, I encourage them to call another pastor. Then I go on to another place, and build another church with my own hands. But," and then he reiterated, "I want to apologize for preaching in your presence because I’m an unlearned man. I’ve never been to school, and I – and I apologize for the way that I preach."
I said to him, I said, "My brother, don’t ever apologize again, don’t. I couldn’t begin to build a church. I’d have no idea where to start, how to do. I couldn’t build a church; I’ve never done anything like that with my hands." And I said, "What you are doing is what my Lord did: He was a carpenter, and He built things with His hands; what you’re doing." And I said, "I don’t know of a sweeter or dearer ministry than what you are doing. I may have an assignment in another place, but this is no less God’s great assignment for you; and I rejoice in you, and the favor of God upon you."
One is as much acceptable in God’s sight as the other. It’s marvelous, some assignments; these humdrum assignments are no less marvelous. God is in them just as He is in the other. And the Lord was with Jesus when He made ox yokes or made chairs and tables and houses, when He worked with His hands; God was with Him just as much in the humdrum of His life as He was with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration or when He was raised from the dead.
Now I want to apply that – in the few moments that I have – I want to apply that in two areas of our lives: first, in the area of our faith and in looking to Jesus and especially in His coming again. To me, there is no doubt but that the apostles and the disciples and the first Christians believed that Jesus was coming in their lifetime. They were looking forward to the Savior’s return in their day and in their generation. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that at all. When the Lord said, "Behold, I come tachu," quickly, they thought that He meant He is coming right now, He will soon be back [Revelation 22:20]. I know that also from 2 Peter chapter 3 – in which I’ll be preaching in these first three months of the year, at night, delivering messages on Peter – "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? He is not coming back. Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" [2 Peter 3:3-4]. It is sometimes difficult to believe that we can wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and that our waiting is as much acceptable in the sight of the Lord as the great ecstatic experience of looking upon Jesus when He comes. But one is as acceptable in God’s sight as the other. We are to live in the experience of the days passing into the years, and the years now into the generations, and He hasn’t come; but we still are waiting, and believing, and trusting.
The great predecessor in this pulpit, George W. Truett, was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he was the president of the Baptist World Alliance, he was the great preacher! And people would come up to his mother, a little mountain woman, a North Carolinian mountain woman who wore a little bonnet, and say to her, "What a glorious son you have. What a marvelous preacher your son George is."
And that little mother, humble and sweet, would always reply, "But have you heard my son Jim?" He also was a preacher: Jim Truett, George’s brother." And some of the people who knew Jim Truett the best told me that in his latter years, when he retired, living in a home up there at Whitewright, Texas, that every morning he would get up at sunrise and go to the window facing the east and raise the shade. And as he watched the sun rise over the horizon, he would say, "Perhaps He will come today." We are never to lose our hope and our faith and our trust in the daily continuing of all of the common experiences of life. He will surely come.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve my Maker, and present
My true account,
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best,
They also serve who only stand and wait.
["When I Consider How My Light is Spent"; John Milton]
John Milton, the sonnet on his blindness.
It’s wonderful, the ecstasies of life, the great experiences of life, and it will be wonderful when Jesus comes again. O Lord! Think of the rapture, think of the seeing our Lord face to face, think of the glories God has prepared for those who love Him. O Lord, what marvelous things await us! But we are just as much in the love, and endearment, and grace, and mercy, and presence of God in the humdrum assignments of our daily lives as we shall be when we’re raptured and see our Lord face to face.
So, Lord, I pray that You will make us faithful. Jesus hasn’t come, and we have the ordinary, common life of believers who are waiting, and watching, and praying, and doing our common tasks. But those common tasks are just as precious and holy and acceptable in the sight of our Lord as will be our praising and singing in the glory of His presence. Lord, Sunday by Sunday, help me to be a good servant of Christ, a faithful preacher of the Word; and day by day, in my daily tasks, as my Savior was for thirty years out of the thirty-three years of His life, doing a humble thing like making a chair, or making a table, or building a house, all of it is acceptable to God. And we’re just as dear in the love and grace of our Lord when we are at our common tasks as we shall be someday when we’re singing His praises in the glory of His coming. Now Lord, I want to do good for You. And that’s been a new commitment of my heart and my life. It may be a very common assignment God’s given me: knocking at a door, poring over the Scriptures, preparing the sermon, visiting the sick, burying the dead – two of our sweetest members died yesterday, Christmas Day, two of them: one of my deacons died yesterday, Clarence Bateman, Clarence Bateman died yesterday, and a sweet, wonderful mother – so I have the assignment of burying two of my sweet members. Now Lord, I want to be a good workman. And all of us have these assignments day after day, sweet, sweet things to do for Jesus; and we’re going to be faithful. And I give myself to it; and we all going to give ourselves to those humble assignments, teaching a little class of children, being faithful in our giving, being faithful in our coming, being faithful in our serving the Lord; and it’s just as acceptable in the sight of God as these glorious experiences that we’re going to have when Jesus comes again.
Now we sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing our song, a family you: "Pastor, we have decided we’re going to put our hearts and lives and lot in this dear church, and we’re coming." Welcome. A couple you, welcome, or one somebody you, welcome. In the balcony round, there’s time and to spare; down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, this is God’s call for us today, and we’re coming." "I want to accept Jesus as my Savior. He has spoken to my heart, and I want to accept the Lord as my Savior." Or, "I want to be baptized, as God has commanded in His Book. I want to be baptized." Or, "I want to put my life and letter in this dear church." As the Holy Spirit shall open the door and lead the way, answer with your life. On the first note of the first stanza, and a thousand times welcome as you come; while we stand and while we sing, as we make our appeal, as we sing our song. ‘This is God’s day and God’s time for me, and I’m coming this day, this time."