JESUS BORN IN THE HEART AND HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-23-84 10:50 a.m.
As a background text for all of us who are worshipping Him here in this sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and for all of us who listen and prayerfully wait on the ministry of the Word, on radio and on television, the title of the sermon, Jesus Born in Our Hearts and in Our Homes. And the background text in Luke 2, verse 11, Luke 2, verse 11: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord;" Jesus, born in our hearts and in our homes.
The first two chapters of the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, recount the coming of our Lord into the world. Likewise, the first two chapters in the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, narrate the incarnation of our Savior into the human family of this earth. But if it is only an historical incident, then it is no more than such as you would read in the tremendous work of the Greek autobiographical genius Plutarch, writing the life, say, of Caesar, writing the life of Alexander – just another part of the historical incidents in human life.
The four Gospels present the crucifixion of our Lord and the resurrection of our Lord. But if it is no more than just that, an historical incident, then it is no more than what you would read in Greek literature concerning the lives of the marvelous Herculean heroes of the days that are past. But there is far more meaning for us in the Gospel records of our Savior than just a recounting of an historical incident. For example, the crucifixion of Jesus. It was a tragedy in human life. It was an historical event. But it is far more than that. In the death of Christ is the atoning grace and love of God poured out in crimson form. "This is My blood of the new testament, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. The cross of Christ is historical, but it is also experiential. It is the atonement for our iniquities.
Likewise, the resurrection of our Lord; it is an historical event. But it is far more than that. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:10, "For [if] we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more then, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" – by His life in heaven, His resurrected life. The author of the Book of Hebrews, in 7:25, said it like this: "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us." The resurrection of our Lord is far more than just an event in the gospel message. The resurrection of our Lord is our assurance. It is our earnest. It is our promise that we shall someday, in His grace and mediatorial intervention and intercessions, that we will be with Him in heaven.
No less so is the story of the nativity of Jesus meaningful to us today. It is not just an event described in Matthew and in Luke. It is not just an historical occurrence, recounted on the pages of a history book, but it is also experientially meaningful for us today. For the same Lord Christ that was born in Bethlehem can no less be born in our city, in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives, and in our work.
Now may I speak of that in several ways in our lives? First: the nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus into this world, forever magnifies and glorifies motherhood. Out of all of the things that memory could ever call to mind, or the review of any page in any tome of history, there is nothing that has caught the imagination of mankind more than the birth of Jesus, laid in the arms of a virgin mother. Just the mention of it brings back ten thousand precious memories in our own hearts. The very emotion of the word "mother" itself bears to us dearness, preciousness, love, care, a thousand wonderful memories.
And how much is that true of the birth of our Lord? From one side of this civilized world to the other, will you see marvelous paintings by the greatest geniuses of all time: the Madonna and the Child, the mother and her baby. It forever magnifies and glorifies womanhood, motherhood.
I have no grief against women entering any kind of public service or public life. One of the greatest women in the world today, I think, is Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of Great Britain. I had no repercussion in my own heart against a woman running for vice-president of the United States in this last month of November. I feel no particular prejudice against a woman being head of a corporation, or the head of a great business, or to be in the professions.
I’m just saying that out of all of the things that crown womanhood nothing is more glorious or meaningful or exalted than motherhood – that she be the mother of a child. And that is gloriously, marvelously presented to us in the birth of Jesus our Lord, God in the flesh, laid in the arms of a virgin girl, a beautiful mother.
Number two: Jesus born in our hearts and in our homes and in our lives – the birth of our Savior forever glorified childhood, the baby, the infant. I don’t mean by this comparison to sound ridiculous and far out, but I don’t know how more poignantly to illustrate the meaning of the coming of Christ into the world in the form of a child than to compare it with what kind of an incarnation would you think befits God’s presence in the earth.
Could He come and have been incarnated in a great ocean, in a vast sea? "This is the incarnation of God. This is the presence of God." Or could you imagine God being incarnate in a great mountain or in a vast mountain range? "This is God manifest." Or could you imagine God being incarnate in a glorious and brilliant star? "This is the manifestation of the great God and our Savior."
Now, I can think of a vast ocean as being a part of the created work of the Lord. I can easily think of a great mountain or a mountain range as being raised by His omnipotent hand. I can easily think of the starry universe as being flung into the infinitude of space by the word, the fiat, of Almighty God. But I could never ever, no matter how I tried, think of God being incarnate in either an ocean or a mountain or a star.
But contrariwise, I can easily think of God being like us, for we are made in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]. We are like Him, God’s Book says. And I can therefore easily think of God being one of us, being like us, talking our language, living our life, walking our way, breathing our air, living in this earth – God manifest in the flesh, like us, a child, a youth, a man; "God with us." And that beautiful incomparably meaningful, precious incarnation was when He came as a little child, born of a virgin mother.
May I point out – and if I can philosophize for just a moment – may I point out the exaltation of that, the uplift of that, the heavenliness of that, that God should come in human flesh, be our Savior, as one of us?
In the days when our Lord went to Egypt, when the holy family escaped from the hand of Herod into Egypt – let us go into a temple in Egypt, at the time that our Lord was there. Had you entered that temple in Egypt, you would have found an outer court, just the same as the temple in Jerusalem. And had you gone into the outer court, there you would have found an altar of sacrifice, just as in the temple of Jerusalem. And beyond, a brazen laver, just as in the temple in Jerusalem. And beyond the laver, you would have seen the naos, the temple itself, with a porch, just as in Jerusalem. And when you entered in, a holy place, just as the temple in Jerusalem. And you would have seen a veil in the holy place, just as in Jerusalem. And beyond the veil in this temple in Egypt, you would have entered into the sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies.
But you look at the difference: had you entered the temple in Egypt, where you pulled aside the veil and entered into the holy of holies, what would you have found? You would have seen there a holy sacred ibis, or a holy sacred crocodile, or a holy sacred serpent, or a holy sacred cow. That’s what you would have seen.
When you pull aside, when you draw aside, the veil in God’s temple, what would you see? You would have seen the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim and their angels overarching, looking down on the hilasterion, the propitiation, the place of the atoning blood. And underneath, you would have found the moral perfection of God, the tables of stone, the Ten Commandments – every piece and part of which is a type, and a prophecy of our Lord: His blood, His intercession, His atoning grace, His beautiful and perfect life – having kept the law of God for us, all of it, the Lord Jesus.
It’s a different world. And when I come into the temple of God, there do I see my marvelous Savior, high and lifted up – the Savior of my soul, and the friend and companion and encourager of my life. It’s a different world – Jesus, God incarnate in the flesh.
Bear me just one other illustration of that. I stood by the side of an Indian in New Delhi in India, and he was worshipping, bowing down, genuflecting, saying prayers, to the fiercest looking god that mind could imagine. The wave of the hair looked like serpents, and the vicious teeth like fangs, and the fingers like talons – an awesome, horrible looking god.
And when he got through with his genuflections and his prayers and whatever, I said to him, "Why do you worship a god like that? Why do you?"
And he answered to me, saying, "Look at him, how fierce he is, and how terrible he is. I’m afraid of him, and I seek to placate him and to worship him."
And I thought and I thought through the years since: think of the difference in worshipping and loving the lowly Lord Jesus: humble, and sweet, and dear, and kind, and forgiving, and helpful, putting His hands on the sick and they lived, putting His hands on blind eyes and they could see, preaching the gospel to the poor, and guiding us in the ways of joy and peace and blessedness.
My brother, my sister, the most elevating and uplifting and heavenly of all of the things that have ever been revealed to us, the dearest and the most precious is that God came down to be with us in human flesh, and was born as a little child, and lived to show us the way to heaven. There’s nothing like it in imagination, in poetry, in song, in literature, in life.
May I continue? The incarnation of our Lord forever glorified and dignified the family and labor – human labor, the labor of the hand. When you see the family, Joseph, older man, never mentioned again after the nativity. Apparently he died. The holy mother, the precious Child – and in the days of His Nazareth life, working as a carpenter. Isn’t that unusual, that out of thirty-three years that God manifest in the flesh lived in this world – out of thirty-three years, thirty of them, He lived at the carpenter’s trade, working with His hands? I am saying that dignifies and glorifies human labor. All of us, I think, ought to work, all of us. I have never been trained to work with my hands. I’m not gifted with a saw and a hammer and a chisel. I’m not gifted working with my hands, but I labor. I study hard. I pour my life into this church and into this ministry. I rejoice that God has given me health and strength and length of days in which to do it. I think all of us ought to work. God is pleased when we labor for Him. And it brings health to our hearts and to our souls, to our families, to our children, to our kinspeople, to our friends, to our lives, and to the whole world. He dignified the family in human labor.
And the incarnation of Christ brings to us Immanuel, "with us is God" [Matthew 1:23]. The world has many, I think, exciting and wonderful ways of celebrating Christmas. The merchants – dear me, what they do in their stores! And the city streets are lighted and decorated. And there is song, and there is music, and there is color everywhere. It is Christmas! The stores are jammed with people, getting ready for that glorious day.
Now, I hear many people inveigh against the commercialization of Christmas. I don’t mind it at all. I like it. Dear me, all of the color, and all of the song, and all of the decorations, and all of the trees, and all the stars, and all the salespeople, and all the advertisement, all of it going on – I don’t object to it at all. I’m telling you the truth: you can never take Christ out of Christmas. You can never do it. You will never be able to do it. And every time I see a tinsel star, or a tree, or an advertisement, or the salespeople, or the stores decorated, I say, "Hallelujah." That’s just Jesus. They’re just magnifying the Lord Jesus, whether they intend to or not, whether they plan to or not, whether they want to or not. They’re just magnifying the Lord Jesus. I think it’s just great, just great. That’s Christmas. That’s Christmas.
But to us, but to us, who love the Lord, it has an overtone in a far different world, in our hearts, in our lives – the coming of our Lord, Immanuel, God with us. And He said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews13:5]. Oh, what a preciousness to have our Lord with us!
I live, as you know, in a pastoral world – have ever since I was seventeen years of age. Fifty-seven years have I lived in that kind of a world. Nor could I say in human speech what it is to be able to say, "Jesus is here."
When I have a funeral service – when brother Ed Pool and I have funeral services – when we have a funeral service; O dear God, what it means to say this one that we’ve loved and lost for just a while is with the Lord Jesus! The gracious hands, nail-pierced, that opened for us the gates of grace, have now opened for him the gates of glory. And he has entered into that beautiful city where Jesus is King forever. Oh, what a comfort to be able to name His name and to deliver His message of hope!
May I make an aside to that? Dear people, I don’t know of anything that is more hopeless or dark than to try to conduct a memorial service, and the one who lies there in the casket is not a Christian. They haven’t been saved. What do you say? What hope do you have? How do you comfort? What promise do you bring? Oh, the Lord means everything to us. By and by, everything we have we leave behind in this world – nothing do we take with us. Our only hope is in Him.
Dear God, dear blessed Jesus, stand by us in the strength of our lives. Stand by us, Lord, in the day of our dying. And remember us, Lord, in the great infinite beyond, the forever and forever. That’s Jesus with us, what He means to us.
Not only is He everything to us in our tears, and in our sorrow, and in our age, and in our death, but He is no less preciously dear to us in the days of our joy and of our gladness. Yesterday, I had two weddings, right here, right here, two of them – one in the afternoon and one in the evening. And the same glorious meaningful Lord, asking God to bless the young people, and to preside as a witness over their exchange of covenant vows, and to make them one in Him, and to go before them in the unfolding years and to be a guest welcomed in their home. Oh dear people, to have the Lord with us, Immanuel, God with us, to have God with us is the most blessed of all of the imaginable gifts that heaven itself could bestow upon us.
Now, may I close? We can shut Him out of our lives, of our hearts, and of our homes. He never enters where He is not wanted. He never enters uninvited. "Jesus, there’s no room for You in my heart. And there’s no place for You in my house. And there’s no asking of Thee or counseling with Thee in my work." We can do that. We can shut Him out.
"And there was no place for them in the inn" [Luke 2:7]. We can close the door, but oh, how wonderful, and how beautiful, and how precious, and how meaningful, and how life-determining it is to say, "Lord Jesus, this is Your home too. And this heart is a place in which You can dwell with me. And these children are from Your gracious hands. You gave them to me. And this work that I try to do, Lord, bless the work under Your hands and mine." What an incomparably beautiful way to live, with the Lord God with us!
In Revelation 3:20 is a beautiful verse. Our Lord says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hear My voice, I will come in and abide with him, even break bread with him, and he with Me." Just invite Him in, and He will come.
Now, this is my imagination. I’m not saying anything like this actually happened. It’s just my imagination, trying to illustrate how Jesus will come anywhere, anywhere. He will come into the home of the lowliest, and He will come into the home of the mightiest – in a hovel or in a palace. He will come and stand in the study by the side of a great poet or philosopher. He will stand in the house of an unlettered man who can’t even read.
This is just my imagination now, trying to think how Jesus will come anywhere He is invited: when the holy family came to Bethlehem, the Bible says that there was no room for them in the inn. And I can well imagine the innkeeper saying to Joseph and with him, Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child – I can imagine the inn keeper saying to Joseph, "I’m so sorry. Every room in the house is taken. And they’re even lining the hallways. There’s no room at all."
And as Joseph turns away, his wife, his wife, his wife says, "Reuben, Reuben, come here."
And Reuben goes over to his wife, and she says, "Reuben, look at her. Look at her, that young woman with Joseph, look at her, great with child. Reuben, don’t you think, don’t you think you could go to the stable, and maybe where the oxen are bedded down, you could lead out one of the oxen? And where the oxen are bedded down, Reuben, don’t you think you could make a place for the man and his wife, so great with child?"
And Reuben says, "Dear, I’ll do it. I’ll do that." And Reuben goes to the stable with Joseph and the young, espoused virgin mother. And he leads out of the stall, out of the stable, one of the oxen. And where the ox was bedded down, there did he make a place for Joseph and the virgin mother, and there, there Jesus, the Son of God, was born! There!
I’m just trying to say that there’s not any house, and there’s not any home, and there’s not any place into which our Lord will not enter, if you will open the door, if we will invite Him in: "Lord, come in, and welcome, my house, such as it is, come and live with us. And my work, whatever I do, bless it Lord. And through the days that unfold, be my Wonderful Counselor, my Friend and Savior. And when I come to the end of the way, dear Lord, be my great Mediator, and Deliverer and stand by me in that ultimate and final hour. O Jesus, I give Thee my heart and my life."
Sweet people, I’m not pleading a far-out and unbelievable or unthinkable or unimaginable thing. I’m speaking of the greatest reality in human life – Jesus, our Lord, in our hearts and in our homes. And He is ours, the greatest gift from heaven, for the inviting and for the asking.
And that is our appeal to you today. "Pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m coming forward this precious hour; my whole family, we’re all coming, pastor, all of us. This is my wife and these are our children. We’re all coming today. This is Christmas Sunday, and this is a great time for us, and we’re on the way." In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, pastor." A couple, or just one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall make the appeal and open the door, answer with your life, do it now. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.