“So you're preaching Hosea for your Christmas message?”
As many pastors know, the Christmas message is probably one of the hardest messages to preach. You have to preach essentially on the same kinds of passages every year; furthermore, everybody has heard all kinds of Christmas message as well. Well, this month is my first month of preaching for Christmas. I've chosen to preach Hosea and Galatians 4:4-5 for my first two Christmas messages.
I have been long enough around Japanese people that Japanese people have entirely misunderstood the meaning of Christianity but also Christmas. Furthermore, the Japanese people see Christianity from an entirely different lens from a Western, Post-Christian context. Lastly, I wanted to bring Christmas to what generally Japanese care most about: rules and romance. Galatians 4:4-5 talks about Jesus Christ was born in order to fulfill all the 'rules' on on our behalf. While Hosea paints Jesus as the Bridegroom who came down to earth to save his unfaithful, cheating, and helpless Bride, the Church, from the shackles of sin, death, and Satan. Here's the intro to my Hosea message. If you're interested in the whole text, feel free to shoot me an email. Feel free to shoot me your thoughts/pushback on my approach :)
As you all know, we are entering the Christmas season. Today, the session asked me to do a Christmas sermon, but what I will do today is a “Pre-Christmas” Christmas message. A message that will give you more background and context to help you understand the meaning of Christmas.
Before I became a Christian, ever since I was a little child, I never really understood the significance of Christmas. Whenever we read and heard about Christmas every year, it felt like watching the same climactic scene of a certain movie without watching what came before it. Imagine watching the famous scene in Star Wars when Darth Vader says to Luke Skywalker “I am your father” over and over again, without watching the entire movie or Star Wars Trilogy. In the same way, without understanding the background of Christmas, it was difficult to feel the drama, the excitement, and joy of Christmas—actually… hearing the Christmas story again and again, made Christmas more mysterious, foreign, and confusing every time.
A few years ago, when I spent my second Christmas as a working man in a Japanese company, I remember my Japanese boss, who spent some time in the US and knew that I was a Christian, say to me, a little bit jokingly, “Let me apologize on behalf of the Japanese people for ruining your important holiday.” Of course, I asked why. Then he said, “I know Christmas is a day where your Savior comes down and saves sinners, but us Japanese people have turned Christmas into a romantic Valentine’s day. Where people who are not yet married go have a good time at their respective hotels and ignore the meaning of Christmas. We have defiled your Holy day with our sinful romantic relationships, so sorry.”
In one sense, I was thankful for my boss—understanding that the meaning of Christmas was totally lost on the Japanese people. However, in another sense, his comment made me start to think, “Is Christmas supposed to be a ‘clean’ holiday? Does Christmas have nothing with romance?”
This was when the story of Christmas and the ‘dirty love’ story of Hosea connected for me. What I want to show you today is that Christmas is the climactic end to this ‘dirty’ love story between God and his people. When you understand the love story that climaxes to Christmas, I think you feel the depth, power, and joy of the coming of Jesus Christ. And, as some of you know, the story of Hosea is no ordinary love story. It’s a story filled with sin, betrayal, and unthinkable sexual sin. But it is also a wonderful story about Jesus Christ rescuing his Bride from death and slavery.
Through the story of Hosea, we will see the meaning of Christmas in a deeper way. We will learn this: Because Jesus Christ pursued and rescued us, his sinful Bride, to the point of coming down to us, we look forward to the advent of our faithful Bridegroom who will return and spend all of eternity with him.