The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Pastor Jim Neal
First Southern Baptist Church 

The Sights and Sounds of Christmas


December 13, 2018

Philippians 2:6 “who, though he was in the form of God,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,

being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in

human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient

to the point of death, even, death on a cross.

Christmas 2018…what will it hold for you? What will happen to move you closer to ‘The Savior,’ push you away from Him, or only cause you just to maintain your current position.

The truth of the matter is that this 4-week Christmas season is that one time in our twelve-month Calendar, that causes the entire world to pause and give thought to the God Sent Savior of the World. It Really doesn’t matter, if you are Jew or Gentile; Muslim or Hindu; Agnostic or Atheist, no one can escape the next four weeks without giving pause to the questions, “Is Jesus really the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the only way, the truth, and the life. Is this Jesus truly the only ‘door’ through which one must go to find eternal life?

For many the season will come to a climatic end by the ripping open of gifts to ooohs and aaahs of “just what I wanted” or “oh no its pj’s & underwear again”…I’m always amazed by the spouse who buys a Mercedes or Lexus for their significant other…as if the consumer watching isn’t thinking wonder what it will be like in 6 months when the newness wears off and the payment continue to pour in…UNFORTUNATELY THAT IS WHAT THE CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT TO MANY FAMILIES…

SO many families suffer tremendous “hang-overs” after the Season and it has nothing to do with booze, carousing and shenanigans, and everything to do with credit card bills that “hang-over” for months.

It is easy for many believers (assuming they do not fall prey to the commercialization) to become cynical, caustic and even a tad bit condemning toward those caught in the devil’s web of ‘Madison Avenue Christmas’…lest you begin to think that my middle name is Scourge, let me hasten to say I see nothing wrong with gift giving, Christmas parties and festivities…it is the making it the center most focal point of it all that borders on idol worship…

How can you and I guard against falling prey to current common thoughts of the Christmas season? Perhaps a unique way of insulating ourselves would be to view the Christmas Season through our God given senses (hear, see, smell, touch and taste) and remember a verse or two every time our senses are touched by the season…kind of making SENSE out of the Season

1. What we Smell… Oh, the marvelous smells of the Christmas…the cinnamon the nutmeg, the pumpkin and pecan pies and the marvelous smells of the Christmas sugar cookies that are baked during this season…We experience so much of life through our sense of smell…think with me of the smells of life that captivates your memories…

As we enter that first Century Stall, I think the first sense we would encounter would be the smells of the scene. Anyone who have ever entered a barn that houses many farm animals will attest that the smells one encounters would not be those that could be bottled and sold as cologne.

Let us use our sense of smell to stimulate our minds as to the extremely humble beginnings of Our Lord. And to be reminded that a short nine-months earlier this Babe of the Manger was in Heaven with its streets of Gold, Praising angelic beings and an otherwise perfect environment. Yet he willingly chose to empty himself of all of heavens splendor and enter human realm by way of a dank, dark, chilly, smelly small lean to of a Barn, with hay as a mattress and a small feeding manger as a bed, and farm animals as roommates.

Let it not be said of us as the Psalmists warned: “They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell…”

May this year as we waft in the sweet aromas of the season may we remember that our offerings and prayers as with those of old whether bulls, rams, first fruits were all called sweet aromas to the Lord… -AND-

That as Paul exhorts in Ephesians 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

2. What we See… As you peer into the manger scene this year, be it at a live nativity scene at some church or neighborhood, on a Christmas card or in a children’s play may we see the miracle of the incarnation…the little eyes of the babe just beginning to focus on the face of his beloved mother and be reminded that they were the same eyes that looked upon all of creation for which He was part and said “it was good”

• Psalm 66:5 tells us, “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”

• For with You (Jesus) is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” 36:9

This year as we consider those non-focusing eyes of the Babe let us draw strength from the truth that we are encouraged to see the works of God and realize just how awesome He is toward His children, and that He is our life and light that as we are able to focus and see His light we will allow that light to shine through us.

3. What we Taste…

• the Psalmist says “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psa. 34:8

Every time you taste a new tasty morsel or a familiar one during this season try to remember that we are instructed to taste of the Lord and know that He is GOOD…. we can TRUST Him

• The writer of Hebrews relates: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

In this verse the exhortation is to remember that the cuddly cooing babe in the manger was sent to come into this world to walk as we walk, to be tempted as we are tempted, to face heart ache, pain and hunger and thirst; but that ultimately His mission was to TASTE death for each and everyone of us; and that HE COMPLETED HIS TASK.

4. What we Touch… Entering that manger once again shall we consider those tender little hands so small, so soft, so weak and fragile…now without even enough strength to grasp his mother’s finger…was the hands that in the eons of times past reached down to take a handful of dirt and with His hands fashioned His highest creation MAN…

They are also the hands for whom Paul writes in Colossians 1:17 & 2:19, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” NLT

“… For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.”

Could it be that this is the year that we fully realize the power of the touch of Christ to change, heal, rearrange, mold and transform us completely…This year may we believe as the women with the flow of blood for more than a decade believed, “If only I may touch the hem of His garment, I shall be made well.” -or- as the blind man brought to Jesus who sought but a touch from the Masters hand…or could we come as the many children brought to Jesus and scripture records he touched them….WHAT DO YOU NEED A TOUCH FROM JESUS FOR TODAY, RIGHT NOW DURING THIS OUR CHRISTMAS SEASON 2018.

5. What we HEAR… Just like smell; there are so many sounds that take us back to another time, another place and another set of circumstances…There are songs that can draw us back to a different time and season of your lives and if you close your eyes we are there, aren’t you? (Just don’t open your eyes and look in the mirror)

As we one last time walk into that 1st Century manger scene we can hear the soft sounds of the babe as he coo’s and slumbers, we can hear the soft melodies of a young Jewish teen-age mother filled with awe, wonder and perhaps a little fear as she cradles the young boy child to her breast.

As we hear the soft cooing and swallow breathing of the peaceful child nursing at His mothers side… May we almost shudder to think that it was this voice that will have to be taught to say Momma and Daddy, taught to pray the Jewish prayers, and recite the Jewish Scriptures; this same voice was the voice that said in creation “Let there be” and there was…It was the same voice that spoke AND Instructed Moses from a burning bush on the Mountain of God, it was the same voice that asked the Apostle Paul “Saul, Saul why doest thou persecute me?” And yes, it would be the same voice that would say from a rugged old Cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” and would ask of his Father, “My God My God why hast thou forsaken Me” ...and would end his life exclaiming, IT IS FINISHED!!

This year as we sing the familiar Christmas carols like Away in the Manger, O Little town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and Joy to the World would you purpose in your heart along with me that these choruses and chords will be more than mere words to sing and familiar melodies to enjoy; but that the words will engulf your heart with meaning of the Christmas Story and even move you to shed a tear of the true Reason for the Season…

May this be the greatest Christmas season of your life remembering the “Sights and Sounds of Christmas.”


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