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A CHANGE OF CELEBRATION

C. Tommy Wood

How many of you feel like youre ready for Christmas? Let me see
your hands. Totally ready! Not as many as I anticipated.
How are you showing it? Can you relate to this phrase? The older I get
the faster time flies. Can anybody relate to that? How about this: The
older I get the less I want to hear Tommy speak. Yeah.
When I was a child it seemed like Christmas took forever to get here. Christmas felt like the
leap year thing. Every four years. Even if I was really, really good it took forever. Now as an
adult it feels like I just got done with last years Christmas activities. The reality is I just got
done paying for last years Christmas activities!
Had I known then what I found out several years ago did you hear the news this week, that
the economists tell us were officially in a recession now. The news just came out this week.
And that they told us that we were actually in a recession last Christmas. How many heard
that news this week? If Id have known last Christmas we were in a recession, I wouldnt
have bought as many fruit cakes as I normally do.
Actually I should have seen it coming. Because last Christmas I bought a toaster and they
offered me a free bank. So I should have seen it coming.
Today were beginning a new Christmas series. As you pull out your notes youll see were
calling it The Purpose of Christmas. Were going to talk about it all month.
But before we get to the joys of January weve either got to survive Christmas or celebrate it.
I want you to think of those two feelings as they relate to you this morning. When it comes to
Christmas right now are you feeling like, Ive got to survive it. Or are you feeling like, Im
going to celebrate it. I want you to be honest with those feelings. Ive just got to survive it or
Im going to celebrate it.
Lets vote. How many of you feel like, Im going to celebrate it. A lot of you. How many of
you say Ive just got to get through it. Im just going to survive it. Youre not alone. Theres a
lot of you. Some of you are like, Thats not the Christian thing to do! But youre safe here.

Those of you who said survive tell me why. Give me one word descriptions. Why are you
feeling like, Ive just got to survive.
Money; the jungle out there; Christmas lights; parents; children there we go! Lets get
them all in; flying, the airlines. I hate travel around the holidays; in-laws; fattening food;
grumpy family member Im sorry. But its nice that youre sitting next to them and brought
him to church.
In all honesty, if youd asked me, just even a couple of weeks ago, I would have chosen the
word survive for me. Because when I think about the Christmas season for Tommy Wood,
its just a lot of tension. A lot of times it feels like, Ive just got to survive that month.
Theres tension at home. I am the only one of the Wood family that does not love everything
thats wrapped around Christmas. Doesnt love the celebrating and all the stuff thats put up
around the house. My thirteen year old grandson every day, starts counting how many lights
are up on houses on the way to his house. The number grows and theres more guilt in his
voice when he says it.
Then I realize, the only reason why, for serveral years, Im was the only one who doesnt love
it is Im the one who does the actual work for it. Im the one battling the black widows in the
attic. Im the one getting wrapped up in all those long green things whatever theyre called
that you wrap around everything. Im the one when he opens the box gets scared by the
creepy angels and the fat cherubs. Theres always something broken and its always my
fault.
Then theres the lights. You dont find out the lights are working until theyre up. I tried to put
up my lights several years ago and I gave up I got so frustrated. There was tension in my
home!
Theres tension in my schedule. How many of you would say theres just too much to do this
month? Too many parties, too many invitations. For me preparing for the new year theres
tension in my pace.
That doesnt even hit shopping yet. I hate Christmas shopping. I dont mind getting gifts for
people. I just hate crowds which sounds weird. Let me rephrase that. I love you. The only
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good thing about the recession is I might have a parking space this year. The crowds and the
people, all that stuff survive is the operative word.
You may be ready to celebrate it but let me just ask you this. Can you relate to any of those
tensions? Yeah.
I found for me, what snapped out of it for me, I found that I was so focused on the tensions
and survival and I wasnt focused on Jesus.
Just a couple of weeks ago, youre not going to believe me but this is actually true, what
snapped me out of it is, I bought a copy of the book The Purpose of Christmas. by JOHN
MAXWELL;( WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR) ...Key word: I bought. I bought it. I GAVE AWAY
THIS BOOK FOR YEARS --$10,000 WORTH AND I Worked side by side with him for six
years you think Id get a free copy? No! One sitting on my desk with a little note? No! I
bought it. Retail price.
But there was something (after I prayed about my bitterness) I sat down and I read it. It really
is a good book and it snapped me out of my funk. It was easy to read. It was well written. It
was what my I would call a one-sitter. I read in a place that you can imagine. would
categorize all his books by sittings. I'd say"! Good book. You ought to read this five sitter.
.
But I want to read you a paragraph out of this book. Ironically at most Christmas parties the
person whose birthday youre supposed to be celebrating is completely ignored. Hes never
even mentioned. Although Jesus is the reason for the season, hes often overlooked or
merely mentioned along with Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Clause, the Grinch, the
elves and a long list of celebrated fictional characters. Hes often overlooked.
That hit me. Thats why I move into survival mode during the Christmas season, is because I
often overlook or forget about Jesus. I would say the same would be true with you. If you
feel in the survival mode, chances are youre focusing on all the tensions and youre
overlooking Jesus. When you overlook Jesus you move to survive. When you focus on
Jesus you celebrate.
Really, thats the message of today. That the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate. I realize
that with a crowd this size there are people here you dont share that same purpose. You
dont have a relationship with God. Youre checking Jesus out. Were thrilled that youre

here. Youre investigating. Youre asking questions. Youre wondering. And my prayer for
you today is that you will understand why we celebrate Christmas.
But I also know there are many followers of Jesus Christ here. If I could help you focus on
Jesus this season would you be interested? Let me take that a step deeper. If I could help
you to remember to focus on Jesus not just this season but all the seasons, would that
interest you? Yeah. That Jesus is not just the reason for this season but hes the reason for
all seasons, January through December, three hundred sixty five days a year. Thats what I
want to go after. Not just how we celebrate him this month, but how do we always celebrate
him. I think I have a way to help.

Lets dig in. The birth narrative of Jesus is found in Luke 2.

encourage people during the Christmas season to read this over and over and over. When
you do you not only learn about what happened when Jesus was born but you see the first
people to celebrate him were not the kings, they were not the elite, they were the ordinary
shepherds.
It starts in verse 8 That night some shepherds were in the field outside the village
guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and
the radiance of the Lords glory surrounded them and they were terribly frightened, but
the angel reassured them, Dont be afraid, he said. I bring you good news of great joy
for everyone. The savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born tonight in
Bethlehem the city of David. This is how you will recognize him. You will find a baby
lying in a manger wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth. When the angels had returned to
heaven the shepherds said to each other, Come, lets go to Bethlehem. Lets see the
wonderful thing thats happened which the Lord has told us about. So they ran to the
village and they found Mary and Joseph and there was the baby lying in the manger.
Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to
them about this child. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks glorifying
and praising God.
You see, there was something about their encounter with Jesus that triggered
something within their soul that made them celebrate. It says when they went back
they told everyone. They were glorifying and praising God. There was something
there. There was this uncontrolled excitement.

I realize the text we just looked at is about the birth of Jesus but hidden in there
is really an appropriate response to Jesus. Its about celebration.
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What did they do? Just about hearing about Jesus, they ran! They told everyone. They
glorified and praised God.
Let me ask you a personal question. Can you remember back to the time when you first
encountered Jesus? Can you remember the excitement around that time? The thrill of being
a new believer and all of a sudden going, Wait! I am saved? Im forgiven? And theres this
new excitement. I see it all the time as I talk with new believers. People grab a Bible and
they actually start reading it. They read the stiff part in the front. You can tell theyre excited
because theyre telling you and theyre not pronouncing the names of the books right.
Tommy , I was reading in the Philippines Malachi, was he an Italian prophet? And Psalmie
and things like that. I read Job. There was nothing about employment but that dudes life
sucked! Theres all this enthusiasm. When they get kids theyre going to name them
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Theyre going to sleep in a manger. Were going to feed
them manna. Were going to have a camel whos a pet. Jesus was everything! Remember
that excitement?

So heres my million dollar question. What happened?

Why did the

good news stop being good? What happened in your life that the enthusiasm of being a
follower of Jesus fell away? Why isnt Jesus worthy of being celebrated three hundred sixty
five days of the year?
The answer is he is worthy. The problem isnt with his worthiness. The problem is with our
forgetfulness. If youre anything like me and I know you are, we forget. We just forget about
the wonder and the majesty. So the good news evolved into news. Sometimes, for some, old
news. Heard that, been there, done that.
The news of Gods word is informational. Its no longer transformational. We have so much
in life going on that we think and we worry about all this other stuff and we loose that focus
and we forget about Jesus.
Heres what I want you to write down in your notes because this is the essence of what I want
to go after. Really we are a people of forgetting. We are a people of forgetting and yet our
faith is strengthened by remembering.
I want to remember. I want to remember all that God has done for me. God wants me to
remember. As a matter of fact, one of these days I want to do a series just on that word

remember in the Bible. Its used hundreds of times where were told to remember. If you
are forgetful, youre not alone.
As a matter of fact theres a long legacy of forgetful followers. In the Old Testament, if you go
back to the Old Testament, book after book, chapter after chapter is filled with these God
followers who were so forgetful. God is providing for them, meeting their needs, loving on
them one day. The next day theyve turned their back on him and theyre worshipping idols.
They are forgetful people.
In a classic event that you may know about is when Moses goes up to the mountain to
receive the Ten Commandments. While hes up there (hes gone for some days) his
followers, and not just his followers his key leaders all of a sudden forget about God and
they start melting down their gold to make idols to worship. Exodus 32 Then the Lord said to
Moses, Quick! Go down the mountain! The people you brought from Egypt have defiled
themselves. They have already turned away. [circle already turned away. I think those
describe us.] from the way I commanded them to live. Theyve made an idol like a calf and
theyve worshipped and sacrificed to it. They are saying, These are your gods, O Israel, who
brought you out of Egypt. This type of situation is what comedies are made of. This would
be funny if it wasnt so true and tragic.
And not just Old Testament. Fast forward to the New Testament. In the New Testament you
have God in the flesh in Jesus. God, in flesh and blood walking around, surrounded by his
best friends the disciples, his closest followers. And they are forgetful all the time.
You may have heard of one time, Jesus fed five thousand people by providing a miracle with
just a couple of fish and five loaves of bread. Then a few days later theyre with another
crowd and Jesus says, Dont let these people go hungry. Feed them. And one of the
followers says, Where will we get the food? Really??? Youd think theyd go; A couple days
ago you did that little thing with bread and fish. Do it again! Do the water into wine. Youre
God. Youve proven youre God. Do it again. That was awesome. These people are
hungry, feed them. This time give them desert, Jesus. Ill pick up the left over Twizzlers and
itll be awesome!
Look what Jesus says when they said, Where will we get the food? Dont you remember the
five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of food that were left over? Dont you
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remember the four thousand I fed with seven loaves and the baskets of food left over? Dont
you remember? Dont you remember? Please dont forget. Remember that. Remember
this. Dont forget. I wish I could distance myself from the knuckleheads in the Bible. But I
cant. Because they remind me too much of myself. And unfortunately for you they remind
me of you as well. That were all right there, painfully forgetful.
I hate to stand before you and admit that. I hate to stand before you and admit that as far as
Ive walked in my journey with Jesus there are times I forget to celebrate his goodness. I
forget to worship him for all that hes done. I need to celebrate. Im not talking about you
right now, just me. I,CARL THOMAS WOOD, need to celebrate (that Ive got a sweet middle
name) and I need to celebrate. I need to celebrate that because of Jesus, Ive been saved.
Because of Jesus, I dont have to pay for my sins. Because of Jesus, I have Gods power in
me today. Because of Jesus, theres a place reserved for me in heaven. Because of Jesus, I
can keep growing while Im here and changing and I dont have to be the same.
Is there anybody here like me that just needs to be reminded?
You know how they reminded people in the Bible? The followers of God in the Old Testament
had tassels. Little tassels that they would wear on their clothing. So when Gods people
would get dressed they would see these tassels on their shoulder and these tassels
throughout the day would be a reminder of God and his provision and how to obey Gods
ways.
So even as theyre walking through the streets and they see people worshipping idols or other
things, they might see other followers of God with these tassels on their clothing and those
tassels were a reminder to them. Numbers 15 The tassels will remind you of the commands
of the Lord and that you are to obey his commands instead of following your own desires and
going your own ways as you are prone to do.
Even today you might see some orthodox Jews have these tassels on their prayer shawls.
But I checked tassels.com to see if I could get 100 tassels and I couldnt. So I came up with
another way that Im going to help you remember. Im going to help you to remember to
celebrate. Its a very easy way. Were going to make this all about you now.

How do you remember to celebrate? I have an idea. No matter where you are, whether
youre here in the worship center, I need you to have a coin in your hand. I need you to reach
in your pocket, into your purses, if you want to share with people in your row.
. And I only want you to take them if you need them. So ushers, only if people raise their
hand and need them. But I need everybody to have a coin. Raise your hand if you dont
have a coin. Maybe people next to you can hand you a coin. I want everybody touching one.
If you have some you can jingle them if you want. Hang on to them. I want people with coins
in their hands. I want everybody playing. Im going to point you out if I dont see you holding
a coin.
I know some of you are thinking, Wait a second! This is not how we normally do church. I
know. Its kind of like reverse offering here. You take something out of the offering. Who
doesnt have a coin? Somebody around them or the ushers, get them a coin. I want
everybody holding a coin.
For some of you youre holding your life savings right now after the 401K crash. I understand
that. Everybody get one.
How many by show of hands, youre typically a plastic person all the way? You rely on plastic
all the time. Theres some of you.
But theres coins everywhere. Theres coins on the ground. Theres coins in the bottom of
your car, under cushions. You can always have access to coins. When you go into
Starbucks they have tip jar reach in. Grab a coin. You can always get coins even if you rely
on plastic.
Were going to go very practical here. Im going to start with the penny.
When you see a penny heres what youre going to celebrate when you see a penny. When
you see a penny youre going to celebrate your past. But not just your past. Penny-past.
Remember that. Heres what I want you to write after that. Youre going to write My past is
forgiven. Youre not just going to celebrate your past. Youre going to celebrate that your
past has been forgiven. Because of Jesus we can celebrate the fact that he came to wipe
away our past.

Please listen very carefully. There is no past that Jesus cant forgive. Some of you need to
hear that. Because I keep hearing your story of guilt over the pain of the past and things like
that. I say, Have you asked for forgiveness? and you say yes. Then start living that way.
Theres no past that Jesus cant forgive.
I realize some of you have had some wild pasts. Ive heard your stories. I would watch that
on television. That would be a mini series. Youd make Jerry Springer look like the ANGELS
. I understand that youve done some bad things, have some wicked relationships. Maybe
some evil in your life, some disobedience, some selfishness, but hear it again: There is no
past that cannot be forgiven.
Thats why Jesus was born. Thats why we celebrate Christmas. So when you see a penny
remember: My past is forgiven.
Look what Jesus said in Mark

2 Its not the healthy who need a doctor.

Its the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Why did Jesus come? To save those of us who are sinners. He was born so that I could be
forgiven.

Romans 4 Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,


whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose sin
is no longer counted against them by the Lord. If you have been forgiven
your sins are no longer counted against you. If youre forgiven youre safe.
What am I safe from? Youre safe from spending eternity with Gods enemy which would be

Colossians 1 says this, For he has rescued us from the one


who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into
the kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom
with his blood and has forgiven all of our sins.
hell.

If youre here today and you have never taken advantage of Gods forgiveness and that free
gift of salvation, its free. It doesnt even cost a penny. Although you know it cost Jesus his
life but its free for you and its free for me. If youve never asked him to I want you to think
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about that. Because at the end of this message I want to give you the opportunity to just say
a simple prayer where you ask God to forgive you.

So when you see a penny you are to celebrate your past is


forgiven.

When you see a nickel Whos got a nickel in your hands?

N for nickel

reminds of us of Now.
Then just dont stick with now but I want you to write next to that: Gods Spirit is in me. N

Gods Spirit is in me.

ow

Thats why you can celebrate. You can celebrate

that when you said yes to God and you invited him into your life he, in however he does it,
invaded you with his Spirit. And Gods Spirit lives in your life right now. You dont have to go
through life alone.
Personally I believe most of the mess we get in in our lives is because we forget that Gods
Spirit resides in us. I think most of the mess, the counseling, the conversations Ive had.
People just forget that Gods Spirit is in them so they live these disobedient lives kind of
forgetting and thinking Gods this kind of distant God as opposed to Now; that his Spirit lives
within me.

Romans 8 says this When God lives and breathes in you as he


does, as surely as he did in Jesus, you are delivered from that
dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as
Christ.
Track with me for a minute. As Gods Spirit is in you, just as surely notice that! just as
surely as Gods Spirit was in Jesus.

John 3, John the Baptist describes the Spirit of God in Jesus. He


says When the Spirit of God was in Jesus it was without measure
and without limit. For Gods Spirit is upon him without measure or
limit. So if that same Spirit is in you now think about that. That its without limit. That its
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without measure. That I can celebrate that I can do all things through Christ who gives me
strength. That the God of the universe personally and powerfully fills you with his Spirit. That
is worthy of celebration.

So when you see a nickel remember Now. That Gods Spirit lives
in me now.
I got a text from a friend this morning. . She said, I found a nickel on the kitchen floor this
morning and I remembered that Gods Spirit is in me now. I needed that reminder this
morning.

The dime. How many of you have a dime in your


hands?
D Determined destiny.

You can remember that either way. Destiny

determined. But next to that I want you to write this I have a place in heaven.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, youve been forgiven of your sins, you have a personal
relationship with him, your destiny has been determined. Theres a place for you in heaven.
That is worthy of celebration.
Why do we celebrate? We celebrate because when my life ends here it doesnt end. That if
you are a follower of Jesus Christ death has no sting whatsoever.
Death just kicks the door open into eternity. Jesus said in John 5 I assure you, those who
listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. [you believe, you
belong] They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from
death into life.
My wife and I have talked about funeral BEFORE she pased. I want my funeral to be a
party. I really do. Ive been to too many and I want it to be a celebration. I want there to be
laughter. I want stories to be told. I dont want people to grieve. I want them to celebrate.
(Maybe a little bit of grieving) But really! I want it to be a party. Ive already picked out my

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favorite song that I want to be played Celebrate! I may be dead but disco isnt! Celebrate!
Taco Bell for everyone! It is going to be a party. You wont want to miss it.
Romans 5 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now Gods
wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you are a Christ follower youve got to celebrate that.
Celebrate!

So a Dime My destiny is determined.


The Nickel Now. Gods Spirit is within me.
Penny past. My past is forgiven.
If youve got a quarter, raise your hand. Next to quarter I want you
to write Spiritual Growth.
Some of you are thinking, Wheres the Q word? Youre throwing me off. How am I going to
celebrate if I cant remember the Q word? Youre going to remember this. Spiritual growth.
Then heres what we celebrate: I can continue to grow. I dont have to stay the same. I can
celebrate that I can continue to grow and spiritually develop.
Its not as easy to remember, this quarter, but heres how youre going to remember it. That
when Jesus told a story about a farmer, in this story, this farmer planted seed. And of the
seed only one quarter of that seed grew. Only one quarter. Think about this. Seventy-five
percent didnt grow. Only one quarter grew. You celebrate that growth.
Matthew 13 it says As he scattered the seed some of it fell on the road, and the birds ate it.
Some fell in the gravel and it sprouted quickly but it didnt put roots down, so the sun came up
and it withered away just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds. As it came up it was strangled
by the weeds. Some fell on good soil [circle good soil thats your heart.] and produced a
harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
What percent grew? Twenty-five percent. One quarter growth. How many can remember
that? Its a little tougher, I realize. Im stretching you. But that is worthy to celebrate. We
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dont have to be the same. I dont have to stay the same. Because of Gods Spirit working
within me, while Im alive here on planet earth, I can grow and I can change beyond my
wildest dreams.
Spiritual growth is a gift. It is a sacred privilege and its a reality for those of us who pursue
and are faithful in obedience to Gods ways. Theres a lot to celebrate, a lot about Jesus to
celebrate. Not just this month, not just one day. But three hundred sixty five days of the year.
Dream with me just for a second. What would your life look like if you were to go through life
with a daily attitude of celebration? That you had some trigger that every time you saw a
penny, whether it be on the ground or next to your sink or in an ashtray in your car, you just
celebrated. You said, Thank you, God, that my past is forgiven! Imagine what your life
would look like.
That when you saw that nickel youre reminded that Gods Spirit is in you now. And Gods
Spirit is without measure and without limit.
Or that dime. You saw a dime and youre going, My destiny is determined. Im alive right
now but Ive got a place waiting for me in heaven because of what Jesus did on the cross.
Or when you see the quarter you go, I can change. I can grow. Spiritual growth is a part
of my reality. I dont have to be the same.
What do you think your life would look like? I think your life would be a lot richer. I think your
faith could be a lot stronger. I think your struggles, I think theyd still be there but I think theyd
be a lot lighter. I think your perspective in life would be brighter. Your attitude would be
positive. Your purpose would be clearer. Your relationships would be deeper. Celebration
wouldnt be limited to a season. To a month. To a day. Every day could be like Christmas.
Were just dreaming, but what if? What if we became people who instead of being known for
being forgetful, we were remembered for having an unforgettable faith. An unforgettable
attitude of celebration. What if?
I gave you a little trigger, a little thing to remember. As I hold it in my hands and I make some
noise, its Jingle Bells. Its Emmanuel, God is with us. Lets celebrate.
Prayer:

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God, I pray for those of us in here who are approaching this season and most seasons,
were approaching it in survival mode. Thank you God, for all you do through us and offer
us through Jesus. What a gift! God, I pray that this coin illustration would be like tassels
for us to remember all that youve done and continue to do and to celebrate that. You
drive it deep into our minds so that we can remember to celebrate you daily.
If youre here today and youve never asked God to forgive your past, why dont you ask
him right now? You dont need a special prayer to memorize. Just in the quietness of
your heart you can say, God, forgive me. Just repeat after me in the silence of your
heart: God, I beg you to forgive me for all Ive done thats created a separation between
you and me. I confess to you that Ive done some things in my life that are wrong and I
want to change. I dont know why youd want to forgive me but I accept that free gift of
forgiveness. In turn, I offer you my life. I invite you into my life to save me. I invite your
Spirit to dwell within me and guide me. I thank you for saving me a place in eternity with
you and for allowing me the privilege to grow spiritually while Im here. I want to know you
more. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

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