Nativity scene at Sacred Heart Catholic Church...Tomorrow night on what we call Christmas Eve, millions of Americans will flock to churches of differing Christian denominations.  Many will flock there out of a sense of religious obligation—you know, getting the mundane responsibilities out of the way so we can be with family and watch football.

Many will fulfill part of their “annual obligation” as a self-professed Christian—you know head to church on Christmas and Easter so we can call ourselves “Christians”.   And for one day many will feel a sense of peace and content—until they head back to work and the trials and troubles of this world.

But at least for one day many will flock to our churches.  They will hear beautiful songs, see baby Jesus in the manger, and here stories of angels and three wise men.  But one thing they will probably not hear is the gospel.  They will be left with a mental image of a tiny baby being held in his mother’s arms—and they will feel good about life and the whole “Christmas thing”.

But while they will hear that this baby is the savior, most will not hear just what He came here to save us from, because the answer is just too harsh and condemning.  He came to save us from ourselves.  We are born as hopelessly lost sinners, haters of God in our sinful state and capable of nothing but evil in our hearts.  Because of our sin, we are destined for eternal damnation and separation from God.

He is the Son of God—God in the flesh.  He came here to be the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of man that would appease the righteous wrath of God against rebellious sinners.  He died a horrible death on a Roman cross after He was whipped within an inch of his life and spit upon, mocked and derived by religious people who were so blinded by their pride that they could not recognize the One God sent.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For our sake God made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.  Jesus Christ—that little baby in the manger—died on a cross so we sinful people might have eternal life.  All God asks is that we humble ourselves before Him and admit we are hopelessly lost sinners in need of a Savior.  He grants us the gift of repentance and we are born again with the Spirit of God.  He gives us His Spirit and grace to teach us to deny sin and lead a life holy and pleasing to God.  We receive the gift of eternal life—not by anything we have done—but because of what he would do on that cross.

And pastors let’s have the courage to tell those who come one more thing:  That tiny baby in the manger returns one day to judge the world.  And those who have not become born again believers bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be forever condemned for their pride and unbelief.  Many in attendance at our churches this Christmas celebration will receive the wrath of a just and holy God because of their unbelief and will suffer for eternity.

But I fear that message will just be seen as too harsh as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We will justify remaining silent by our human thought that we would not want to risk offending someone who just comes to church once a year.  Never mind that without receiving and believing the gospel message that man is destined for eternal damnation.  Just make sure we don’t offend any seekers.  Sadly we too often value the opinions of man over the truth of God—and in our love of man we sit back and do nothing while our friends, family and neighbors head to eternal damnation at the hands of a just and righteous God who cannot tolerate unrepentant sin.

So on Christmas we welcome condemned people to our church with a nice greeting and let them go on their way without hearing why Jesus came to earth in the first place.  God help us—and let us see the lost as you see them.  Let us love them so much that we will risk offending them with the truth.