Pastor Barry/ The Gathering: Relationship Not Romance (The Heart of Christmas #3) To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM
Springboard: That’s What Christmas Means To Me by Stevie Wonder (songwriters: Allen Story, Anna Gordy Gaye, George Gordy)
Romance Jeremiah 17:9-10, Matthew 6:33-34
Like the famous song by Stevie Wonder, That’s What Christmas Means To Me, romance is what Christmas means to many! That emotional excitement or attraction that a person feels for another is elevated with fire, snow and mistletoe! This kind of romance is a popular topic in our culture. Music, movies, plays, and books capitalize upon our human fascination with romantic love and its seemingly endless expressions.
The Song of Solomon is a book filled with romantic demonstrations of love between a bride and groom. Since God included this book in the canon of His inspired Word, we can safely say that romance is acceptable and even applauded by our Creator in the context of a pure and committed marriage relationship; however, romance for the sake of romance can be destructive. Most romances begin with the delightful sense of “falling in love,” which can be intoxicating. The act of “falling in love” produces a chemical deluge in the brain similar to that experienced with drug use. The brain is awash in adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin (the feel-good chemicals), which cause us to want to return to the source of that feeling. Because of our brain’s response, romance can become an addiction. Feasting on “emotional porn” ( the depiction of the emotionally sensational) such as romance novels, sexually themed TV shows and movies, pornography, and even “romantic” social media posts, sets us up for unrealistic expectations in our real-life relationships.
Researchers estimate that the human brain can only sustain that intense “in love” feeling for a maximum of two years. Ideally, a couple has worked on deepening their love and commitment during that time so that, when the intense feelings of being “in romantic love” taper off, a deeper love takes its place. However, for those “addicted” to romance, this tapering-off signals that it is time to find another person who will induce the same euphoria. Some people diagnosed with “relationship addiction” may, in fact, be addicted to the feelings produced by “falling in love.” Thus, they attempt to recreate that feeling over and over again.
Romance can be either negative or positive depending upon whether we let those emotions rule our lives. When we are pursuing our feelings, we can get into moral trouble. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The popular saying “follow your heart” is terrible advice. When we follow the passions of our hearts, we are easily led into deception, sin, and regret. Instead of pursuing romance, we should pursue a relationship with God. He alone knows what we really need to be satisfied and He promises to give those things to us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33-34).
Relationship 2 Timothy 2:22, Romans 8:5-8, Psalm 121:1-8
Oh that youth would pursue God with the same time and energy that they pursue romance. Just think of the troubles they could avoid! Even those who are no longer youthful should take the Apostle Paul’s advice to the young man Timothy; that is to pursue godliness over youthful lust (AKA Romantic feeling). The Apostle goes on to tell his church in Rome the importance of such a discipline. When a mind is set on what the flesh desires without the control of the Holy Spirit disaster is unavoidable (Romans 8:5-8)! This is why one should pursue a relationship with God before any other human relationship (friendship, lover, father, mother, sister, brother, employer, employee, etc.). God knows us better than we know ourselves. When we put our relationship with God first every other relationship will be better! His word will light our path through life:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105 We need the Lord in our lives more than we know. He is where our help comes from and God knows we need it (Psalm 121:1-8)!
What Christmas Means To Him John 3:16-18, 6:48-64, Hebrews 11:6, Psalm 32:5
The best way to find the heart of Christmas is to discover the heart of God (John 3:16). When all the glitter and twinkle is taken away from Christmas what remains is a feeding trough (a manger) in a stable. In that trough is the food that God provided for every one of us animals. (Biologically, humans are classified as animals: Mammals/ Homo sapiens). Yes, I said animals and that is not only a scientifically correct term but an accurate term when we look at the declining critical thinking and morality of our species today. What Christmas means to God is feeding time for any who would come and eat the spiritual food that He provided.
Christ is that food (John 6:48) and He referred to Himself as such. In fact He is also our drink (John 6:55) and without that food and drink we will die in our sin and be lost forever. We can eat all kinds of other food and drink all kinds of other drink, in all kinds of places but nothing else can ever sustain us. No other relationship, no other person can feed us like Jesus. Most people would cringe at the thought of being referred to as food and drink for another, but Jesus embraced it (as illustrated in communion: Luke 22:19-20). In fact it was His earthly mission to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
There is a requirement to eating at “the Lord’s table”. 1.) You must believe and receive Christ alone as your Lord (Master) and Savior (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 10:9-10). 2.) You must recognize that you are a beast without Christ and come humbly to Him in repentance and gratitude (Psalm 49:12, James 4:7-10, Psalm 32:5). Are you hungry… Come and eat!
No Romance Matthew 7:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Make no mistake about it; the Heart of Christmas is no romance. It is a relationship with God. The walk of faith with Christ is not just a “feel good experience”, although undoubtedly there will be such times. In fact Jesus called it a narrow path that few take (Matthew 7:13-14). He promised persecution on that path (John 15:20) and even death to the “old self” (Galatians 2:20). Yet His food (a relationship with Him) promises to make us new and give us a new purpose of bringing others into relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Yes, we eat and then bring others to the manger and this is the heart of Christmas!