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A Spurgeon Christmas Message

December 23, 2013 5 comments

I like to highlight Spurgeon Christmas sermons during the holiday, as with this “Spurgeon Merry Christmas” from last year, and also this post from Christmas 2010.  For this Christmas, the summary and excerpts from Spurgeon’s Christmas 1862 message, delivered December 21, 1862, “No Room for Christ in the Inn.” In Spurgeon’s textual sermon style, he went far beyond the text and account itself, to consider the other reasons (beyond the narrative account) why Christ “should be laid in the manger.”  He also considered other places in our world and daily life that have no room for Christ, as well as the modern-day equivalents of the “inn itself” that “had no room for Him,” in a message that shows the timelessness of human nature and describes a world so similar to the 21st century.

Christ Laid in the Manger brings out the following truths:

  1. To show forth His humiliation.  Would it have been fitting that the Man who was to die naked on the Cross should be robed in purple at His birth? Would it not have been inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb, should be born anywhere but in the most humble shed, and housed anywhere but in the most ignoble manner?
  2. He was declared to be the king of the poor.  He will be the poor man’s Friend, the people’s Monarch; according to the words of our shepherd-king, He shall judge the poor of the people; He shall save the children of the needy.
  3. By this event (being laid in a manger), He gave an invitation to the most humble to come to Him.  We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger!
  4. Showing that Christ is free to all who will come.  The inn of ancient times was not like our modern day hotels, but was free to all.  What was provided was a huge square block, arranged in rooms for the travelers, with lower stages for the beasts. The traveler was given a certain provision of water, and perhaps chopped straw for the cattle, and must make himself as comfortable as possible.  Christ was born in the stable of the inn.
  5. In the manger beasts were fed; to show that beast-like men may come to Him and live.
  6. Only His presence could glorify the manger; beasts fed there again after He left.

Other Places Besides the Inn That Have No Room For Christ

  •  The palaces of emperors, the halls of kings
  • The place of senators and forums of political discussion
  • What is called “good society”
  • On the Stock Exchange
  • The Schools of the Philosophers
  • The Jewish Temple and Synagogue

The Inn Itself Had No Room For Him: places that Spurgeon considered similar to the Inn — Public sentiment, general conversation, and the workplace.

I would give not a farthing for your religion, no, not even the turn of a rusty nail, unless you will sometimes win that title! If God’s Word is true, every atom of it, then we should act upon it! And whatever the Lord commands, we should diligently keep and obey, remembering that our Master tells us if we break one of the least of His Commandments, and teach men so, we shall be least in His Kingdom. We ought to be very jealous, very precise, very anxious, that even in the least significant of our Savior’s Laws, we may obey, having our eyes up to Him as the eyes of servants are to their mistresses.

But if you do this, you will find you are not tolerated, and you will get the cold shoulder in society. A zealous Christian will find as truly a cross to carry now-a-days, as in the days of Simon the Cyrenian! If you will hold your tongue; if you will leave sinners to perish; if you will never endeavor to propagate your faith; if you will silence all witnessing for the Truth of God; if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, “Ah, that is right! This is the religion we like!

But if you will believe, believe firmly, and if you let your belief actuate your life, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then at once you will find that there is no room for Christ even in the inn of public sentiment, where everything else is received! Be an infidel, and none will treat you contemptuously; but be a Christian, and many will despise you. “There was no room for Him in the inn.”

Another Spurgeon Merry Christmas

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Times of Feasting: The Merry Bell, the Sermon Bell, and the Funeral Bell

From my recent reading through the Spurgeon volumes, comes this very interesting Christmas sermon: #352, December 23, 1860. This is the most unusual text I’ve ever seen for a “Merry Christmas” message, and yet one that surely does fit with how people actually spend Christmas:  Job 1:4-5, about the feasting of Job’s sons and daughters, and Job’s praying for them.  The point of the message is that it is proper and fitting to celebrate good times, to enjoy feasts with one another.  Spurgeon noted other texts of scripture as well: the wedding feast of Cana in John 2 (and I also just listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s sermon on that text); Jesus’ overall reputation as one who came eating and drinking; and the Old Testament feast days appointed by God Himself.

S. Lewis Johnson (Exposition of John 2):

Our Lord approved festival times.  He came and participated in the joy of the wedding feast.  Some have pictured him as a pale Galilean and done great harm to Christianity because Christianity is not of that negative ascetic character.  So he approved festive times and, I think as Christians, we should approve festive times and participate.

And from Adolph Saphir, “The Divine Unity of Scripture”:

It was the idea of God to make His people happy before Him, so that under the law of Moses there were very few fast days, but a great number of feast days, in which the people were to rejoice before the Lord God in the beautiful harvest, and in all the bounties, with which He had surrounded them.

Spurgeon highlighted the merry bell, the sermon bell, and the funeral bell.

  • The Merry Bell of the festive text.  Good men of old have feasted, as well as Jesus Himself
  • The Sermon Bell: the context of the text, which is instructive.  Let your prayer be, “Hold me up, and I shall be safe.” Let your daily cry be, especially you young Christians, yes and you old Christians. too, “Lord, keep me! Keep my heart, I pray You, for out of it are the issues of my life.”
  • The Funeral Bell: That which follows the text, which is afflictive–  Between the table and the coffin there is but a step; between the feast and the funeral there may be but a day; and the very bell that rings the marriage peal tolls the funeral knell!

The Merry Bell includes the caution – “it may be” that my sons have sinned.  The feasting itself was not sin, though, and Job did not know of any sins, or he would have made the statement definite.  Still, “it may be,” and the remedy:  Job sent for his sons, as a father; he sanctified them as a preacher; he sacrificed for them as a priest.

The Funeral Bell relates to a selection from my readings today (in my 9 list Horner Style Genre Reading): Ecclesiastes 7:2 — ​​​​​​​It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 

Yet as Ecclesiastes also tells us, there is a time for everything, including the times for feasting and celebrating.  In closing, an excerpt from Spurgeon concerning the Christmas holiday:

In Cromwell’s days, the Puritans thought it an ungodly thing for men to keep Christmas. They, therefore, tried to put it down, and the common crier went through the street announcing that Christmas was henceforth no more to be kept, it being a Popish, if not a heathen ceremony! Now, you do not suppose that after the crier had made the proclamation, any living Englishman took any notice of it! At least I can scarcely imagine that any did, except to laugh at it; for it is idle thus to strain at gnats and stagger under a feather! Albeit that we do not keep the feast as Papists—nor even as a commemorative festival—yet there is a something in old associations that makes us like the day in which a man may shake off the cares of business, and disport himself with his little ones. God forbid I should be such a Puritan as to proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the laboring man! … Though I would not have as many saint’s days as there are in Roman Catholic countries—yet if we had but one or two more days in which the poor man’s household, and the rich man’s family might meet together—it might perhaps be better for us. However, I am quite certain that all the preaching in the world will not put Christmas down—you will meet next Tuesday, and you will feast, and you will rejoice, and each of you, as God has given you substance, will endeavor to make your household glad!

Christ Born, But Also Sent Into the World

December 18, 2012 2 comments

At this time of year we especially celebrate Christ’s birth, the incarnation. Great Christmas hymns often mention “glory to the newborn king,” “Christ is born”  and “the babe, the son of Mary.”  We remember too the infant narratives that indeed describe the human birth of the Christ child, as for instance:

  • Matthew 1:16:  of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
  • Matthew 2:1-4, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem”…”where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” and “where the Christ was to be born.”
  • Luke 1:35– therefore the child to be born
  • Luke 2:7–  she gave birth to her firstborn son
  • Luke 2:11–  For unto you is born this day

Yet beyond these references, it is interesting to note how elsewhere Christ is described, by Himself and others, in terms so very different from all other people.  For instance, we usually refer to a “mother and her child.” Matthew 2, in sharp contrast, several times mentions “the child and his mother.”

Another interesting thing, that I had never thought about before listening to S. Lewis Johnson (something he often mentioned):  only once did Christ refer to Himself as having been born.  It’s part of our everyday conversation for all of us to say “I was born in “ such and such a year, or “I was born in “ (fill-in-the-blank) city or state location.  Christ repeatedly referred to Himself as being sent, as having come into the world.  Only once did He say that He was born – in John 18:37, to a Gentile king, Pilate, who would not have understood Christ’s normal language.  Even then, immediately after saying He was born, Jesus quickly added “and for this purpose I have come into the world.”

Excerpts from S. Lewis Johnson on this interesting point:

This verse is very interesting …  This is the only instance in which the Lord Jesus says that he was born.  His characteristic expression is that he was sent into the world or simply that he came into the world.  And this is the only time that he said that he was born.  And strikingly, of course, he said it to a heathen man.  And then quickly modified it by saying, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.”  In other words, it was characteristic of him to say words that suggested his preexistence.  He was sent.  And he came.  This one time he was born.  And of course the reference is to his human nature.

and

Only once does the Lord Jesus ever say that he was born.  Did you know that?  Well it’s alright to say that, but only once does he ever say that he was born, and do you know, do you remember to whom he said, he was born?  He said it to a man who had no theological understanding at all.  He said it to Pontius Pilate.  He said, “For this cause was I born,” and then in order to not confuse people like me and like you who were such great theologians, he said, I have a word for you, for this cause was I born and for this purpose came I into the world.  That’s the only time he ever said he was born, and it was said to the Roman Curator, Pontius Pilate.

A Spurgeon Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2010 2 comments

From Charles Spurgeon, sermon #2392, delivered on December 24, 1854

Now, a happy Christmas to you all and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you! I shall say nothing, today, against festivities on this great birthday of Christ. I hold that, perhaps, it is not right to have the birthday celebrated, but we will never be among those who think it as much a duty to celebrate it the wrong way as others the right!  But we will, tomorrow, think of Christ’s birthday. We shall be obliged to do it, I am sure, however sturdily we may hold to our rough Puritanism. And so, “let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Do not feast as if you wished to keep the festival of Bacchus!  Do not live, tomorrow, as if you adored some heathen divinity. Feast, Christians, feast! You have a right to feast.  Go to the house of feasting tomorrow! Celebrate your Savior’s birth. Do not be ashamed to be glad—you have a right to be happy. Solomon says, “Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God now accepts your works. Let your garments be always white and let your head lack no ointment.”—

“Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.”

Remember that your Master ate butter and honey. Go your way, rejoice tomorrow, but, in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem—let Him have a place in your hearts, give Him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived Him—but think, most of all, of the Man born, the Child given! I finish by again saying—  “A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!”