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Back to the Start

God the Father sent his Son to show us his love.


Merry Christmas! One thing is for sure, Christmas is looking much different than of us expected this year. But I wonder if that’s actually a good thing?

Time magazine recently outlined all the ways the pandemic can be used as a much needed RESET for the entire world. A reset economically. A reset relationally, especially between races. A reset politically, we saw that in our election. A reset about how we work and where we choose to live. A reset educationally, distance learning is terrible! And a reset for the church. Online church was once viewed with suspicion and now it’s been the lifeblood for us.

I think a reset is needed for Christmas too. We need to get back to the start. Typically, Christmas is a huge deal. Homes are decorated, cards are sent, gifts are bought, parties are thrown, church services are attended, songs are sung, special Christmas programs are on TV, and people travel long distances to see family and friends. And those things are often the reason that Christmas brings added stress, anxiety, and depression. But we can’t do most of those things! Maybe that’s a good thing? What if we viewed Christmas as a much-needed moment for a reset? A time to get back to the start and refocus on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

I want to look at three reasons why getting back to the start of Christmas and hitting the reset button is a good thing for us.

Get Back to the Start of Christmas for Great Joy

When you look a little more deeply at the Christmas story, what you’ll find is a story of good news of great joy. Before Jesus was born, there were some shepherds out in a field late at night and suddenly a choir of angels surrounded them, and they were terrified. A man named Luke, writing about the event shortly after it happened described it this way, “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’” (Luke 2:10). The Christmas story is good news that will cause great joy.

Christmas Is Good News

The story of Christmas is the best news you’ll ever get in your life. There is nothing more important than for you to understand the implications of Christmas for your life. God could have chosen a thousand ways to communicate with us, but since he designed us, he knew the best way to communicate with us would be face-to-face. So, God didn’t send an angel, prophet, politician, or an ambassador to communicate to you, God came himself.

One of the titles for Jesus that we sing around Christmas is, Immanuel, which literally means “God with us.” The best way to know God is to know his Son, Jesus. If you want to know who God is and what he is like, then look to and explore the life of Jesus Christ.

Christmas Is Good News that Causes Great Joy

Is joy a word that describes your Christmas so far? For many of us, Christmas is more of a hassle than a source of happiness. It’s a source of stress, anxiety, and depression. Christmas for some is endured and not enjoyed. This is true especially in a pandemic. Most of the things we enjoy around Christmas have been taken away from us. My mom, who lives alone, whom we haven’t seen in a year canceled her plans to visit us. It’s the right decision but we’re all sad about it. You should know though that God never meant Christmas or your life, to be experienced this way. God wants to give you great joy that comes from believing the Good News.

But first, let’s look at the bad news. Since the Garden of Eden, humanity separated itself from a holy God. The Bible teaches that we are enslaved to three things: self, sin, and the Devil. If you are like me, you have habits you can’t break, thoughts you don’t want, emotions you don’t like, fears you can’t hide, regrets you can’t let go of, and you say and do things you wish you didn’t. We call that sin. Sin is basically saying no to God and his goodness. It’s saying, “I’ll do things my way.” And the not so funny thing about the word, sin, is the letter “I” is right in the middle. Whenever I place myself at the center of my life and do things my way, I often sin.

On top of that, Christians believe in someone called Satan or the Devil or the Father of Lies. The Devil tempts you in all kinds of ways too. His entire purpose is to destroy you and keep you separated from God. You may not believe that at all, but it doesn’t make it not true. The good news is God came to rescue you from yourself, from sin, and from Satan, and that causes great joy. Even though all your plans and our world has been turned upside down, you can still experience joy

There is a second reason why getting back to the start of Christmas and hitting the reset button is a good thing for us.

Get Back to the Start of Christmas by Experiencing God’s Love

At some point in everyone’s life we will eventually wrestle with the question, “Does God really love me?” or “Am I lovable?” You can believe in God, go to church regularly, and even have some understanding of his love, but that’s not enough. Getting back to the start at Christmas means understanding, deep down in your soul, that God loves you personally, right where you are at. When you truly experience the love of God for yourself, it’s life changing.

One of the reasons why we don’t experience God’s love is because it’s often tested by the problems and trials of life. Someone close to you gets in an accident, you lose your job, or your child walks away from the faith. It’s at those moments we’ll wrestle with God and wonder where this loving God was when all that happened. Our Enemy, the Devil, loves to add fuel to the fire by whispering lies in our ears. Lies like, “If God really loved you, he wouldn’t allow that to happen.”

There was a man named John who was very close to Jesus, in his writings, he points to the story of Christmas to tell us how to experience the love of God for ourselves.

(Read 1 John 4:9-10)

I want you to notice first that it was not our love for God that got our relationship with him started. We didn’t reach out to God in love first. No. God’s love came first. God sent Jesus to show us what real love is all about. Our love for God is a response to his love.

How do you know someone loves you? Is it because they tell you they love you? Absolutely not. Love is most clearly seen in actions and in truth. The only reason we know God is love is because of what he did in history. What did he do? John tells us several things God did to prove his love.

He Sent His One and Only Son into the World

No one denies that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived or died by crucifixion. People deny who Jesus claimed to be. Jesus was God’s plan to show the world his love. God has no other Son but Jesus. Jesus is completely unique. He’s 100% God and 100% man. There is no greater act of love God could have done other than sending Jesus to die. God’s gift was sent to die for you.

That’s the second thing John tells us God did to prove his love.

Jesus Was an ‘Atoning Sacrifice for Our Sins’

Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and died on a cross to pay for your sins so that you might live with God forever. The greatness of God’s love is seen in that God sent his Son to die for rebellious people who wanted nothing to do with him. That’s you and that’s me.

You may be thinking, Well, I’m a pretty good person. No, you are not. Your heart and my heart are deceitful and wicked. The Bible says it and history proves it. But God loves those who are unworthy of his love and deserve eternal judgment. This is real love.

If you have been wondering where God has been in this pandemic, he is right here. He’s never moved. He is waiting for you to respond with love to love. He’s waiting for anyone who throws themselves on the grace of God. He’s waiting for you to discover what it means to be loved by God.

What else does God need to do to get your attention? This Christmas, you can get back to the start, you can hit reset, and discover what it means to be loved by God. Christmas is all about the Almighty God coming into the world as a baby and then dying on a cross. God became breakable and fragile. God became someone we could hurt. Why? Because of love. God wants you, this Christmas, to experience his love.

I have a family that loves sugar. If we let him, my youngest son would eat candy all day. One of the struggles in my house is to cut off the sugar for him, long before a meal. As you probably know, eating candy gives you a sugar buzz and then you don’t feel hungry. Candy and sugar, although wonderful, masks what your body really needs, like protein and nutrients.

The same can be true for our spiritual lives. Things like power, money, success, comfort, among other things, all act like spiritual candy. Christians can believe in God and know they are going to heaven, but we are sometimes dependent on spiritual candies and once God takes it away, we realize just how hungry we really are. God often takes away the candy of power, success, money, comfort, a relationship, or ease so that we are driven to a good meal. God in his love and mercy brings us to a place where we start to seek the feast our souls really crave. We begin to hunger for the spiritual nutrients we really need.

There is one more reason why we need to get back to the start and hit reset at Christmas.

Get Back to the Start of Christmas by Receiving Eternal Life

When you open your gifts will your life be any different? Will any of your gifts change your life? Probably not. But, when anyone receives God’s gift of eternal life, their life is never the same again.

The story of Christianity, unlike every other religion, is that God came to you. You don’t find God, God finds you. God sent his Son to earth to do what you could never do. Jesus came to save you from the penalty of sin and from yourself. Jesus wants to remove your guilt, bitterness, resentment, addictive habits, and fears. He wants to replace it with joy, love, and purpose. When you accept the gift of Jesus and place your life in his hands, your past is forgiven, your present is given purpose, and your future becomes even brighter.

But let me warn you, Jesus is not an addition to your already full life. Jesus must be placed at the center of your life if you are to experience him fully. Jesus is not only Savior, he’s Lord. That means he has complete control of your life. You now live for him.

(Read 1 John 5:11-12)

Christmas is all about God giving us the greatest gift of all, eternal life. Eternal life is life abundant. Life that is adventurous, full, and meaningful. Eternal life starts the moment you place your faith in Jesus. You get to experience that life now and forever. God’s gift to us all at Christmas is eternal life. John says, he who has the Son has life, because the Son is life.

On the final page of the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, some of the children who have been to Narnia lament that they once again must return to their homeland—the Shadow-Lands. But Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) has the best news of all for them. Aslan speaking to the children says:

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.” Lucy said, “We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.” “No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?” Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. “There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has ended; this is morning.”

And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.


For some of you, your story is only the beginning of the real story. Jesus is inviting you into his Great Story. And when your story folds into his Great Story, you’ll find what your heart longs for—joy, love, and eternal life. So, how do you get this gift from God? Just like all the gifts you will be given at Christmas, you receive it, you believe it is yours, and you say thank you. Church, let’s get back to the start and all experience God’s joy, love, and eternal life together!

Rob Hall is the Lead Pastor at New North Church, located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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