JESUS BORN IN HEART AND HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-13-92 10:50 a.m.
And once again, what a joy to have the throngs of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. You are now a worshiping part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas; and this is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus Born in Our Hearts and in Our Homes. As a background text, in Luke 2:11, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
We speak first of the historical Jesus. In Matthew chapter 1 and in Luke, out of which I have just read, chapter 2, is recorded the birth of our Savior. Then all four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all four of them describe the crucifixion of our Savior. Then all four of them describe the resurrection, triumphant, of our glorious Lord. This is the historical Jesus. And it is in keeping, and comparable, with the other magnificent biographies that you will read in ancient history.
Back yonder, a contemporary, a younger contemporary of the apostle Paul, and a contemporary of the apostle John, was an incomparably glorious Greek personality named Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives are truly one of the most magnificent efforts to be found in literature. He himself was an incomparably wonderful man. And he took the lives of those of his day and before, both ethereal and earthly, and pointed out in their lives great moral lessons. There has never been a writer more capable than Plutarch. Of a birth, he would describe, say, the miraculous birth of Hercules. Jesus had a miraculous birth. He would describe those days of crucifixion. For example, on the Appian Way toward Rome, upon an occasion the great highway was lined on both sides by those who were crucified. And he would describe a resurrection such as Osiris, Egyptian, who was raised from the dead, and became the lord and king of the netherworld. I’m just pointing out that in literature itself you will find every facet of the life of our Lord; but there is a colossal difference.
In the life and birth of our Savior Christ Jesus, we have God coming in human form and in human life. And in the crucifixion of our Savior, we are presented the atonement of our sins. "This is My blood of the new testament, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. And in the glorious resurrection of our Savior we have our ultimate and final assurance of salvation. As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:10, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of our Lord, how much more shall we be saved by His life." That refers to the life of our Lord in glory: His resurrected life; saved by His life in heaven. "For He is able to save to the uttermost them who come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" Hebrews 7:25. The resurrection of our Lord was not just a mythological tale, but it is the glorious, ultimate triumph of us who have found refuge in Him. He ever lives to make intercession for us.
And thus it is in the story beautiful of the Nativity, the incarnation of our Savior. It is God with us; it is God born in our midst [Matthew 1:23]; it is God in human flesh [John 1:14]. It is God our brother, and our companion in tribulation. It is Jesus born in our hearts and in our homes. It is our Savior born in our town, for Bethlehem is here. And that wonderful presence of our Lord in heart and in home brings to us an incomparable, indescribable, heavenly aura and presence and blessing. You look: forever does it sanctify motherhood. There has never been a scene in the earth that has inspired such glorious painting as that Madonna and her Child, the mother of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. I, for example, look at it I don’t know how many times every day: on the right of the steps leading to the second story of our parsonage are two pictures of the mother of Jesus and the holy family. That’s almost universal. It has sanctified motherhood. And there is no such thing as a Christian who does not find in his/her heart an abounding love and appreciation for sweet mother. That’s Christ in our home and in our hearts.
Not only sanctifying motherhood, but sanctifying and hallowing the birth of a child, a little child. How could God be incarnate? How could it be? If God came into this world, how would He come? Do you remember Elijah standing on Mount Sinai, on Mount Horeb? [1 Kings 19:8]. And a great storm passed by; God, the Book says, wasn’t in the storm [1 Kings 19:11]. And as Elijah stood there in the mouth of that cave a great earthquake shook the earth and rent the rocks; and God was not in the earthquake [1 Kings 19:11]. And as Elijah stood at the mouth of that cave there was a great fire that burned; and God was not in the fire [1 Kings 19:12]. Then a quiet, still, small human voice; and God was in the voice [1 Kings 19:12], talking our language, speaking to our hearts. The incarnation of God cannot be found in a star, or in the whole universe of creation; not found in a great river, not found in a high mountain, not found anywhere except in a little Baby; God incarnate in a little Child, precious and beautiful and dear [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:1-16].
And as an aside, may I avow that that is a part of the uplift and the glory of the Christian faith. I want you to go with me, for a moment, back yonder in that day. When you visited the temple in Jerusalem, there it was, with a court, with a portico, with a porch, entering into a holy place, and a veil, and beyond the veil the Holy of Holies; that’s what you would have seen in the temple in Jerusalem. Sweet people, you would have seen that all over the ancient world. Had you gone to Egypt, for example, there would have been a beautiful court, there would have been a portico; beyond the portico the holy place; a veil, and beyond the veil a sanctuary: just as you read in the Bible in Jerusalem. But sweet people, the difference – now you listen to this – the difference: had you visited that temple in Egypt, we walk through the courtyard, we mount the portico, we enter into the holy place, we come to the veil, and pulling aside the veil, we enter the holy of holies, and what would you have found? There in that most sacred place, in every ancient temple in Egypt, you would have found a sacred ibis, that crane-like bird that waded in the Nile River. There you would have found a sacred ibis. Or you would have found a sacred crocodile; or there you would have found a sacred cow. That is the height of the worship of ancient Egypt!
You come with me, and there in that temple in Jerusalem, a courtyard, we’re familiar with it; a portico, we’re familiar with it; a holy place, we’re familiar with it; a veil, we’re familiar with it, we’ve seen it before; and beyond the veil, what would you have found? There in that sacred place, in the holy temple of Jerusalem, you would have found the cherubim [Exodus 25:17-22]. Everywhere in the Bible they are figures and signs and symbols of the grace and mercy of God. You would have found the cherubim. And they’re looking down upon the blood of expiation [Exodus 37:9, Lev 16:14]: the blood of Jesus Christ.
Go with me just one other – not to belabor the point – go with me in the temple in Corinth, dedicated to Artemis, or, the Latin Venus. Go with me through the temple, and there you would have found in the most sacred of places courtesans, harlots, prostitutes; and they who worshiped the god Venus or Aphrodite, they worshiped by intercourse with prostitutes.
You go with me in the sacred temple of Jerusalem, and there beyond the veil are those Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:21], and the blood of expiation and forgiveness covering those Ten Commandments [Lev 16:14], that we might by holy and righteous and acceptable in the presence of God. Oh, people, I’m just trying to say in a stumbling way how God has sanctified our approach to Him in the incarnation of His Son, the little Baby, the Lord Jesus.
So, we might continue with, in the incarnation, in the birth of Christ, the dedication of the home and the family, and in the home and the family, the sacredness of human labor, of work. You know, it’s hard for me to realize that when God came down into this world, He lived the life of a carpenter; He worked with His hands [Mark 6:3]. And for thirty of thirty-three years of His pilgrimage in our midst, He was a carpenter. He worked with His hands: sanctifying and hallowing the labor of our lives.
And isn’t it a wonderful and glorious thing that His coming has brought to us an immortality and a world of sanctified blessing? [2 Timothy 1:10]. You know, it’s interesting to me how the secular world reacts to the birth of our Lord, to Christmas time. Dear me! Oh my! All of the sales that you read about in the papers, and all of the lights that are aglow in the cities, and all of the songs that are sung, and all of the color, and all of the drama, and all of the other things that go with Christmas; and all of my life have I heard people who think that is unthinkable, that is reprehensible, all of that stuff going on, those lights, and those songs, and those sales, and those merchandisings, all of that at Christmas time. Why, my friend, I think that’s the greatest thing in the world. No matter what, or how, or when, or anything, you can’t get away from the fact that Christmas honors the coming of Christ into the world. You can’t escape it.
Why, did you know, about yesterday, was it, or Friday, I read in the Dallas News some of these youngsters had put up a big sign: a picture of Jesus, and, "The Reason for the Season." Ah! And there was reaction against it, and they had to tear it down. Goodness alive! Doesn’t matter: the reason for the season is the Lord Jesus, and you can’t escape it, you can’t escape it. Christmas time honors the coming of God in human flesh, and it is universal, universal. I rejoice in every light, I rejoice in every sale, I rejoice in every advertisement, I rejoice in every song, I rejoice in it all. It magnifies the coming of Jesus into this world.
And oh, of course, to us, how deeply moving is the presence of our Lord in our midst: born in our hearts, and born into our homes. He says, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews 13:5]. And when the little baby comes, we dedicate the child to the Lord Jesus. That’s what it means to us. And when the youngster grows up, we pray for the blessings of the Lord on the child. That’s what it is loving the Lord Jesus. And in the strength of manhood and womanhood, we look to God for help in our lives, and pray for His blessings. And someday, in the hour of our death, we’re asking Him to be close by. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Born in our hearts and in our homes.
And now I make appeal. We can refuse the Lord Jesus. There was no place in the inn, and we can shut the door, we can turn aside [Luke 2:7]. Or, we can open the door and invite our Lord Jesus into our hearts and into our homes. "Behold," He said in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if anyone hears My voice and will open the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me." He will sit at your table. He will talk to you by the way. And He will be your sweetest Friend and fellow Pilgrim.
Of course, this is just my imagination, but I can think that when the holy family, Joseph and Mary, came to the innkeeper, and he refused entrance, "The inn is full, there’s no room, go on your way" [Luke 2:1-7]. I can just imagine his wife Martha addressing her husband, saying, "Matathias, wait a minute, wait a minute. Matathias, look at her, great with child. Look at her, Matathias. Matathias, somehow, some way make a place." And her husband says, "Martha, the only place that we have room at all is in the stable with the cows and the oxen and the sheep and the goats." And Martha says, "Matathias, let’s go out to the stable, let’s go out to the stable." And the two of them go out to the stable, and he pushes aside Bevo the cow, and she pushes aside the goats and the lambs, and they gather together the hay and the stubble, and they take the little manger and they place hay and stubble around. And they invite the holy family, "You come, and there’s room and to spare for you."
Well, I think about that. Does Jesus come into a lowly, humble cottage if He is invited? Does He only come into the palace, where the king lives? Or a mansion, where the rich live? Does He also come where the poor and the humble and the outcast are? Sweet people, that’s the gospel. He comes into any heart and into any house and into any home where He is invited, one of the most glorious facets of the Christian faith [Revelation 3:20].
Same thing about literacy. There are scholars, like Dr. Melick, who loves the Lord and invites Him into his heart and home. But I tell you, I have preached, since I was a boy, to people who were illiterate, couldn’t read and couldn’t write. And I preached to them all over this world. And the Lord Jesus is as much at home in that house of illiteracy as He is into the home and house of the great scholar. That’s our Lord: born into our hearts and into our homes.
I think one of the most effective paintings I ever looked upon in my life was a painting of the poorest of homes. Everything about it in that painting portrayed poverty. And in the middle of a poor, poor kitchen, in the middle of it was a table, a large table, made out of just rough wood, in the middle was a table. And at this head of the table sat a father, and at the foot of the table sat a mother. And around the table this side and that side sat the children. And the father has his head bowed at the table, and he’s praying, he’s saying a blessing. In his poverty and in his need he’s saying a blessing over what little they have to eat. And what moved me was, above them the artist had painted a picture of our loving Lord Jesus. He was standing there above that table, unseen and unknown to the poor family, our Lord was standing there with His hands outstretched in blessing. That’s Jesus, our Lord. That’s Jesus, our God. That’s Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, welcomed into the home of the poor, into the home of the rich, into the home of the scholarly, into the home of the illiterate. He is at home anywhere, anywhere. He is just dear, and we love Him and praise His wonderful name – born into our heart and into our home.
And that’s our appeal to you today. If you’ve listened on television or radio, to open your heart to the blessed Lord Jesus, call us, tell us. And if you don’t know how to accept Jesus as your Savior, it will be the sweetest privilege in the world to guide you into the kingdom of heaven; and I’ll walk with you in glory someday. And in the great throng of people in God’s sanctuary, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, coming down a stairway, coming down one of these aisles, "Pastor, God has spoken to my heart, and I’m answering with my life," a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.