Rev. Kortering is a Protestant Reformed minister-on-loan to Singapore.
Christmas is a time for good news. The Christian gospel is the good news about the birth of Jesus. We are thankful to God for each one of you here tonight. We want to tell you about the “good tidings of great joy.” The story of Jesus is not an interesting legend that has been handed down for many centuries. There are many such stories in our Chinese tradition. We think of Kuan Yin, or the Goddess of Mercy, the Monkey King, or the Monk Tang Cheng, and the Pig Man.
The story of Jesus is different in that Jesus actually was born and lived on the earth. Almost 2,000 years ago a young virgin by the name of Mary went to the city of Bethlehem, in the Middle East, just south of Jerusalem. She was pregnant and about to deliver here son. Her husband was not even the father of her baby. Rather, God had come down upon her and conceived within her this son. When they came to the little village of Bethlehem there was no room in the hostel. So they stayed the night in the stall where the donkeys of the travelers were kept. It was during that very night that she gave birth to her son and called His name Jesus. Jesus actually was born and lived on the earth. He is both God and man.
Joseph and Mary were happy that God had given to them this son. They knew this son was special. The angel of God had told them that He would be the Savior of the world. This is the good news which makes us Christians so happy on Christmas.
There were shepherds taking care of their sheep just outside the little village of Bethlehem. These men were Christians and were praying for the birth of Jesus to take place. You see, God had promised to Christians for many years that this Savior, Jesus, would be born. God sent His angels to the shepherds to tell them that Jesus had finally been born.
When the shepherds first saw this angel of God, they were afraid. You must understand that an angel is not a fairy that floats around in the air. Neither is an angel a ghost with a long tongue hanging out of its mouth, roaming around the earth making trouble. Many of our older Chinese friends know about fairies and ghosts. When they think of them, they are afraid. Angels are different. They are wonderful creatures of God. God made them to be His messengers. They go back and forth between this earth and heaven, bringing messages and helping Christians even when we cannot see them. You ask, Why then were the shepherds afraid? The angel said, “Fear not.” The reason is that the shepherds knew that they were sinful men and that the angels were perfect, without sin. They were afraid the angels had come to punish them for their sins.
The very opposite was true. The angels had come to tell the shepherds that Jesus was born. The shepherds had no reason to be afraid. We do not have to be afraid of God’s angels either. As Christians we know that fairies and ghosts are not even real. True, there are evil spirits in this world, but the wonderful truth about Jesus is that He has control over all of them as well. We Christians are not afraid of any evil spirit. We thank God for this.
The good tidings mentioned by the angel is given in verse 11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Jesus is our Savior.
To save someone means to deliver that person from evil. Jesus came into this world to save us from great evil. What is that evil?
First, that without Jesus we believe a lie. Does not that make you tremble? Who wants to believe things which are not true? Bowing before the gods of Buddha and the many other Chinese gods is a falsehood. Buddha is no god, and the Kitchen god, the Monkey god, and the goddess of mercy are no gods. If we bum joss sticks to them, it is empty, it is no different than if we were to bow before an empty wall. Jesus came to save us from this deception. He came to lead us to the true God, Jehovah, the God of the Bible. He is the One who created heaven and earth. He is the One who gave us Jesus, His Son, as Savior. He is the only true God. He is alive right now and watches over us. Jesus shows to us this God, and we begin to know Him and love Him as our God and our Father in heaven. That is good news.
Secondly, Jesus saves us from our pride and selfishness. Without Jesus we think so much about our success and ability to do well. We become preoccupied with what people think of us. Our family traditions mean more to us than anything else. Our family name and honor are most important to us. You say, what is wrong with that? If we allow family and tradition to be more important to us than to listen to the good news of Jesus, it is like a chain around our necks. It binds us in our pride and unbelief. Jesus saves us from this. More important to Christians than face-saving, pride, family name is that we are part of the family of God. We are willing to give up that tradition and even suffer family conflict in order to be part of the church of Jesus Christ, the family of God. The church is much older than Chinese tradition, it goes back to the very beginning of history.
Thirdly, Jesus saves us from our love for money and material things. Without Jesus we are so concerned with auspicious days and auspicious colors. We think that they will bring “good luck.” We are willing to bow before the Chinese gods and burn joss sticks to the spirits of departed family members out of the fear that if we do not we will have bad luck, and if we do, it will bring good luck We are tempted to gamble to get more money than we have. We will work long hours and pursue more courses to get greater success. We want landed property, we like to drive expensive cars, and we want to enjoy long holidays so we can show off our wealth to others. This is evil in God’s eyes. Jesus as Savior delivers us from this evil. Material things are good only in that they meet our needs to serve God’s purpose for us in this world. It is more important for a Christian to take time to pray, to meditate, to enjoy Christian fellowship than to make more money.
By the good news of the gospel, God shows to us where we are wrong and points us to the way of forgiveness. Are you worshiping a false god? Are you more interested in your pride and family face than listening to God and embracing Jesus as Savior? Are money and material things more important to you than the salvation of your soul? Every Christian here has experienced the same thing. It is terrifying for us to think that what we used to do is wrong, we believed a lie, we were more interested in ourselves than in God. But there is hope. There is a way out. Because Jesus came into this world as both God and man, Jesus was able to take upon Himself the punishment of our sins on the cross. The good news of the gospel does not stop with Jesus’ birth, it continues in His entire ministry on earth, but especially with His death on a cruel cross. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God gave Jesus to die on the cross as a payment for our sins. When we come to God in sorrow, repenting of our sins, God will forgive us of all our past sins for the sake of Jesus, His Son.
There is one more thing we must remember about Jesus. He is alive right now. He is no more on earth, but He is alive in heaven. He is in the presence of God, the angels, and the saints. From heaven He looks down on us this very night. He is the One who comes to each of us tonight and calls us to turn from our sinful way and to believe in Him and in the true God. He gives us His power, the grace of God, and the presence of His Holy Spirit to give us strength to do His will. Every Christian rejoices in that we can turn from our sins, we can forsake our past sinful life, and change. The old Chinese saying, “Mountains can be moved, but a man’s disposition cannot be changed,” is wrong. The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that God is able to change our disposition. All of us Christians testify to that truth. We thank God for that.
The good tidings of Christmas, as the angel announced, “is for all people.” Christianity is not a western religion. It is not a new religion which came to Singapore in recent times. Christianity is the oldest religion in the world. Besides that, God intends it to be for all people. Yes, the shepherds were Jews who went to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. The gospel is for the British, for Americans, and for Australians, but also for Chinese, Indians, and Malays. The history of the nations of the world shows that Christianity has come to all these countries many years ago. What the angel said is true, it is for all kinds of people. The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that we do not even look on race, color of skin, language, or customs. When we are Christians we are one in faith and we become a wonderful family of God, the true human race saved by the grace of God.
This good news comes to you with earnestness tonight. We are glad you are here. Your family and friends have invited you to come with them tonight, just to share with you this good news.
In closing we ask you to consider this gospel very carefully. The Bible is God’s Word. If you would like to learn more about Jesus, we can furnish you with either a Chinese or an English Bible. We can give you some tracts in the different languages. We can speak with you from our hearts as well. Jesus calls all of us tonight to turn from our own false ideas of gods, pride, and material things. He calls us to confess that these things are sins in His sight and to forsake them and follow God’s way of salvation in Jesus Christ His Son and to lead a holy life of thanksgiving.
Father, we thank Thee for Jesus. Without Him we are lost in our own superstition, our pride and our love of money. Humble each one of us so that we may come to admit our sinful condition. Help us to know our need for the forgiveness of our sins in the blood of Jesus. Give us more and more the joy of living a Christian life. May Thy Holy Spirit work this in our hearts as we seek to serve Thee. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
* This article is the transcript of a Christmas (1994) message delivered by our minister-on-loan to a people of another culture.