In the classic tale How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, the hard-hearted Grinch attempts to steal Christmas from Whoville. The Grinch couldn't stand the joyous celebrations, the laughter, and the love—and he went to extreme lengths to prevent them. Throughout history, there has been a real Grinch working behind the scenes to rob the world of the only true source of joy and love—Jesus Christ. Let's consider the cosmic battle between heaven and hell, and God's plan to wash away sin and provide everlasting life.
In this special series, Pastor Skip Heitzig offers a fresh look at the familiar story of Jesus' birth. As we consider Christmas from various vantage points, we receive a valuable reminder that He should be the center of not only our celebrations, but of our lives.
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Greek terms: Μέγα; mega-great
Publications referenced: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel); "Joy to the World" by Isaac Watts;
Cross References: Genesis 3:15; Genesis 6-7; Genesis 37:9-10; Exodus 1; Esther 3; Proverbs 4:23; Isaiah 9:6-7; Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 1:21; Matthew 2; Luke 4:29-30; John 10:17-18; Romans 10:9; Revelation 12:12
Every now and then you come up to a story that leaves an impression. Usually it's an impression that is left when you are a child. And one of those stories is the story I remember and some of you may remember as well called How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was written by Dr. Seuss. I think 1957 is when he wrote that. And there are several lines in that, that kind of tell the story, a story that I want to bring to you tonight from Revelation 12, as you heard Ryan give the reading.
It's a about a guy named the Grinch who hated Christmas and hated everything that everyone in Whoville loved. And part of the line goes like this, "And the more of the Grinch thought of what Christmas would bring, the more the Grinch thought, "I must stop the whole thing" like for year after year, I'd put up with it now. I must stop Christmas from coming, but how?"
Well, he decided that he would steal Christmas and what he did, his plan was to dress up like Santa Clause, invade Whoville and go in to every Who(ph) home, steal all of the presents, all of the ornaments, all of the decorations, even all of the trees and stockings and even the food that would be brought for the Christmas meal. And he dragged all of those up to his layer overlooking Whoville and waited with a sinister grin, thinking he could steal what was going on in people's hearts. Of course he was wrong.
There is in the Bible a Grinch if you will, who tried to steal Christmas. And maybe some of you are thinking, "Oh yes, that must be Herod the Great. The tried to steal Christmas with his diabolical plan to kill all the babies in Bethlehem two years and younger", or perhaps the scribes of Herod who fed him the information of where the messiah was to be born, but never went to look at and checked it out themselves.
Still others might think of the innkeeper who wouldn't allow Mary and Joseph in the end and had to bring them out to another place. But all of those are really merely ponds in the story. You see behind the scene is the ultimate Grinch, he is the director and producer of all other Grinches. The Bible identifies him as Satan or the devil and a host of other names. Ryan read to you in a more colorful translation, I'm going to read to you the passage in Revelation 12 in my version. "Now a great sign appeared in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a garland of 12 stars."
"Then being with the child she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven behold a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems of his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth, and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born. She bore a male child who was to rule all nations with the rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to his throne."
Now back to that story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As the Grinch takes all of the goods of Whoville up to his mountain and he looks down and he waits because he thinks that any moment on this Christmas morning, whales are going to come up from Whoville as people realize their Christmas has been stolen. And he waits and he waits, and much to his surprise rather than moans and groans and complaints comes a song of joy. And as Dr. Seuss tells the story, and he puzzled and he puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he'd never thought of before. "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "Doesn't come from a store." "Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more."
Soon the Grinch would discover that Christmas is something that happens in the heart and you can't take that away. And so the dragon, the devil anticipating to attack the very one who would bring eternal life, he puzzled then he puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Because he discovered the very one he was attacking was the one who would rule the earth.
Now in these five verses of Revelation Chapter 12 that I've been reading, some might think, that's an odd passage for Christmas. But actually it's quite well. There are just a few things I want you all to notice. Number one, those dominant players. In the story there are three that are named. There is the woman, there is the child that she bears and there is the dragon to attack the child. Those are the dominant players in the story. Now according to John, he calls them signs, great signs. The word in Greek, "mega". He sees a mega woman and a mega dragon this have big far reaching implications.
Now a sign in the Book of Revelation is simply a symbol that points to something else much like the Grinch when written by Dr. Seuss was pointing to all of those people who are trying to steal away the Christmas joy that was in the hearts of so many others around them. So John sees great signs happening with great significance. The first one that he sees is a woman, now I know it's Christmas and it's tempting to see the woman as perhaps Mary the one who would give birth to Jesus. But that's not what it is speaking about. It is speaking rather of the nation that would bring forth Mary the Jewish nation, the nation of Israel. How do we know this?
Because frequently in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is referred to as a woman, in some cases the wife of God. But to just sort of put a bow on it for you to really nail it down unmistakably. When you read about this sign of a woman with the sun and a moon and the 12 stars, it immediately takes Bible readers back to the Book of Genesis Chapter 37, when young Joseph had a dream and he told the dream to his brothers and his mom and his dad. He said, "Hey you guys, last night I had a dream. And in my dream the sun and the moon and the 11 starts all bowed down to me." His dad, Jacob knew exactly what that referred to and he said, "What? Do you think me and your mother and your brothers are going to bow down to you?"
You see, in that story, Jacob identifies the sun, the moon, and the stars, the 12 stars as the nation of Israel that was comprise by that family. So we have a picture of the nation of Israel about ready to give birth to the most significant child in history, the messiah. That's what that woman is. And that's what John sees in this passage. Now we would expect that in any passage about God's plan for humanity that Israel would be at the center because Israel was always at the center of God's redemptive history. You may recall that the angel said to Joseph, "You will call his name Jesus for he will save his people" that is the Jewish nation first and foremost and then the world. He will save his people from their sins.
Now, the next is the child. After the woman, he sees a child that is about to be born. And in this passage we have the incarnation, he is born. We have his ascension, he is caught up to the throne of God and we have his coronation. He rules the nations with the rod of iron. So here is a child being born form a nation that will one day rule the nations of the world and isn't that exactly how Isaiah the prophet predicted Jesus would come eventually? Isaiah Chapter 9, "Unto us a child is born. Unto us the son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders and his name will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace, everlasting father. Of the increase of his government and his peace, there will be no end upon the throne of David to order it an establishment from that time forth and forevermore." That was the prediction by the prophet Isaiah. A child will be born who will rule the world.
By the way, in the 1600s, a man by the name of Isaac Watts wrote a song. Now we sing it every Christmas although when he wrote the song he had no idea that it would be sung in Christmas because he didn't have Christmas in mind when he wrote it. It's called "Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king." Isaac Watts wrote that song not looking backward to Christmas but looking forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ when he would rule and reign the earth.
So, dominant players; a woman, a child that comes forth from this nation. The third player is the dragon. Now the dragon is there waiting for the child to be born. It says, "The dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born." We're talking about the ultimate Grinch. Why would the dragon -- why would Satan want to destroy the baby as soon as it was born? Well it's simple, because the devil hates God. The devil hates Jesus. The devil hates all that God loves and he certainly hates Christmas.
And so using the language from Dr. Seuss you could say if Satan and the more Satan thought of what Christmas would bring, the more Satan thought, "I must stop this whole thing." And that's what Verse 4 is about. Satan fell from heaven, we know the Bible tells us and he drew a third of the angels with him, as Ryan read the passage some moments ago. Here he's called the dragon, that's his personality. He is fierce, he is wicked, he is mean. In our passage he has seven heads that speaks of his incredible intelligence. His IQ is off the chart. He also has ten crowns or diadems that speak of his world authority as he goes out to temp people.
And it also answers the question how come I get so hassled especially since I want to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, why is it since I've given my life to Christ I get hassled? It's easy to see. If Satan hates everything God loves and wants to stop individuals from worshiping God, if you give your life to Christ, I don't think hell is going to give you a standing ovation. And that's what we see here. So the dominant players: the woman, the child, the dragon.
The next thing is the diabolical plot. And the diabolical plot as we discovered is Satan, the dragon ready to consume the child as soon as it was born. Why? Because that child will be his undoing. I refer you back to Genesis, the third chapter. I'll read it to you, Ryan read it moments ago. In Genisis 3 it says this, "God speaking to the serpent, God speaking to the devil, "From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel."
If I were to tell you, "Hey listen, after Christmas eve's service I'm going to meet you in the parking lot. I'm going to crush your skull." Well that wouldn't be good news, would it? It's never going to happen, first of all, I couldn't do it. Second, I wouldn't do it. But if you are reasonably sure that I had the capacity and I had a mean strict in me, if you believe that that promise were true, you would do everything in your power to keep me from crushing your skull.
So when God says to Satan, "There is someone coming, a child who will be born of the woman who is going to crush your skull," then Satan is going to do everything he can to put an end to it. As we read through the Bible, we discovered that throughout history long before the first Christmas ever happen Satan was trying to destroy the woman before the child could be born. Trying to destroy Israel before the child could be born. You could go all the way back to Adam and Eve who had a couple of children, and how Cain killed Abel in an attempt to destroy the seed that would bring the promised one.
You could move a little bit further on when Satan tried to place in the whole earth and make it so wicked before God that he would bring a universal judgment, destroying everyone and everything except for just a few people; eight of them on an ark. But God's promise was being fulfilled through those eight. And as populations grew, we see another attack and how pharaoh in Egypt wants to kill all of the male Hebrew children from a certain age on down. Follow through the biblical record to a guy by the name of Haman in the Persian court of the whereas who wants to kill every single Jew in the empire. An attempt to destroy the nation, the woman before the male child could be born.
And we follow that all the way through the Bible, this cosmic battle, this invisible war, up until the time when Herod the Great decides in Matthew Chapter 2 to kill all of the babies that are born in Bethlehem. But what happened? Well, the diabolical plot gets thwarted. Joseph takes Jesus and His mother Mary to Egypt for a couple of years and then Nazareth and gets them to safety. But that's not the end of it.
When Jesus is back in Nazareth, as an adult, they thrust Him out of the city to the Brow of the Hill and wanted to throw Him over a cliff. But He walked through the midst of them, unharmed, untouched, all on attempt to destroy him unsuccessfully. It takes us back to Revelation Chapter 12. We now have the Divine Plan and that is this: she bore a male child. The nation of Israel birthed the Messiah, who was to rule all the nations with the rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and to His throne. All of the attempts failed.
Now some of you might be thinking, "Yeah, but what about the cross"? When Jesus was stapled to that Roman cross and was hanging there bleeding to death, what was that all about? Well, probably, Satan thought, "I got Him. I've got Him where I want Him. I'm destroying His life. I'm going to crush Him now". Of course, Satan didn't read the fine print. The fine print goes like this: Jesus says, "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down and the fine print and to take it up again."
Yup, the resurrection was the shocker of shockers to this Dragon, who was trying to kill the Male Child and thwart the plan of God and the resurrection, Jesus coming back to life enabled Jesus to offer everlasting life to those who would believe in Him, and eventually come back to rule and reign over the world.
So Satan's plan back-fired. He was unable to stop Him. He was unable to stop the Messiah from being born, he was unable to stop the Messiah from finishing His redemptive plan, he was unable to stop Jesus from rising from the dead, he was unable to stop Jesus from being exalted into Heaven. And he will be unable to stop Jesus from coming back to rule and reign over the earth. So, what's that Grinch to do? If all of that work, that concerted effort to stop the plan of God and to stop the prophecies from being fulfilled doesn't work, what does he do?
Well, that's where you and I come in. Unable to stop that, he now turns his fierceness and his wrath to individuals: to keep individuals from coming into a right relationship with God. In the same passage that I'm reading from Revelation 12, just a few verses down, it says in Verse 12, "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, for Satan has now come down having great wrath because he knows that his time is short. Satan knows that he has a short time. Satan knows that his doom will one day be certain. But in the meantime, he wants to take down as many people as he can or to put it in Grinch's language, to steal Christmas from as many people's hearts as he possibly can to keep them from having a right relationship with God, because he so hates God that he wants to keep people from Him forever. That's his plot and plan now; having great wrath because he knows he has a short time left. Satan would love -- the Grinch would love to steal Christmas from the hearts of men and women.
What did the Grinch do in the movie, in the story, written by Dr. Seuss? What was the real problem going on inside of that Grinch? Well, I'll let the movie show you. Watch this.
(Video Playing: 00:19:39 to 00:20:12)
And then what happens next? Well it goes like this. And he puzzled, and he puzzled tells his puzzler was sore and then the Grinch thought of something he never thought of before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more. What happened next? Well and who will they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
It's always an issue of the heart. The Bible says, "Keep your heart with all diligence. For out of it proceed the issues of life". For the Bible says, "If you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead", if you trust Him and believe from the heart, from the real you, from the core of you, you will be saved. And that's what God's intention is: to give you the gift of everlasting life, to not make Christmas a celebration that is here one day and then stolen the next until next year comes, but it's something that you celebrate everyday. But it begins in the heart. And some of you need a heart transplant. You need God to take out the "old heart of stone", as the Bible calls it and put within you a soft heart. A heart touched by God.
That's what God wants to do. He wants to give you tonight the gift of everlasting life. Don't let the ultimate Grinch, the director and producer of all other Grinches, the Devil himself, steal away the truth that Christmas is all about. I'm going to give you an opportunity in just a moment to change your future. To change the future that the Devil has written for you, the script that he has written for you, and that is, live a life, die apart from a relationship with God, to a script that God wants to write for you, everlasting life in Heaven forever.
He'd love to give you that gift, but you'll have to receive it. And tonight, Christmas Eve, I can't think of a better time than now to receive the Savior, the One who came into this world, as a tiny baby, who would go to the cross as a bleeding, dying Savior, but will eventually come back as the King of kings and the Lord of lords to rule all the nations of the world. Will you let Him rule your heart tonight? Will you let Him rule your life today, and everyday afterwards?
You say, "Skip, I have a pretty ranked past. I have a pretty sordid past. I have done a lot of bad things. I'm only -- I can't really come to church because I'm such a bad person, I've had actually people tell me that. Well I haven't been around for a while because well I'm not worthy to come". Really? I want you to know that God will forgive you of your past God will wash away all your sins and freely give you everlasting life and welcome you into His family with open arms. But you have to receive it.
Let's pray together. Father in Heaven, we are thankful that the songs that we lift up in this place, the worship, the exuberance, the praise, the excitement. It all comes from hearts that have been changed, just like the Grinch had a small heart in the story. The Bible says that the heart of man is a hardened heart and needs to be softened and transplanted with new life that only Jesus Christ can give.
And we pray Lord that for some who are sitting here tonight, more than just attending church, or attending a Christmas service that they would come into a relationship with you. Some are here because their family asked them just to come to church once. "Just come with me Christmas Eve. That's what I want for Christmas." But for months or for years, you have been trying to get a hold of that life. You've been trying to deal with that person and bring them into a relationship with you and I pray that tonight you will win the battle for their soul.
As they voluntarily commit their lives to the Savior, who gave all for them, Father we pray that the Grinch, the Devil, the one the Bible calls a "real being", not a figment of human imagination but one who fell from the very courts of Heaven, and hates everything God loves will not steal Christ's Christmas from the hearts of those that You are desiring to give eternal life, to. Win the battle tonight, in Jesus Name, Amen.
Would you stand to your feet? As we sing this final song, a song that has been sung at Billy Graham meetings for years, "Just as I Am". I'm going to invite you to come, no matter where you are standing. You might have come and you are standing way in the back or in the middle of a row. If you would just say, "Excuse me", and find the nearest aisle, you'll part your row like parting the Red Sea. We'll accommodate you but we want you to get up from where you are, find the nearest aisle and come stand up in the front and allow me to lead you in a prayer to receive Jesus as your Savior for your sin. If you are in any of the overflow areas, there's going to be a pastor there, waving his arm. Don't stay there and don't leave suddenly, but you come into this auditorium. If you're in the family room or in the balcony, or in the foyer, we're going to direct you this way. But you come in the next few moments and allow me to lead you in a prayer. As we sing, you come. Stand right up here.
(Music playing: 00:26:15 - 00:27:46)
We're going to wait because no doubt, there are so many others who need to come up and actually for a long time, God has been messing around with your heart. He's been dealing with you and now you have an opportunity to do something about it. I know it's crowded with 5,000 -- 6,000 people right now in campus. It's tight, but just break through the ranks and we'll wait for you. Again, there's overflow areas all over this campus. But you just let yourself be known and we'll take you and bring you over.
If you are in the family room, and you want to bring your family with you or if you are in the balcony, just come down the stairs, or if you are in the foyer, t is a holy moment, this is a special moment. This is the most important moment of the evening. Because you see, if you don't find Christmas in your heart, with the relationship with Christ, you won't find it tomorrow under a tree. It all begins in here. Anyone else? Come quickly, come now. Don't hesitate.
We're going to sing the song one time through, "Just as I am." Come, just as you are.
(Music playing: 00:29:33 to 00:30:17)
Those of you who have come forward, I'd love to lead you now in a prayer to make Jesus the King of your life, not just the Savior of your soul but the King of your life. And so I'm going to pray out loud, I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. Repeat this prayer after me out loud, say it from your heart, mean it with everything that's in you.Let's pray: Lord, I give You my life. I know that I'm a sinner please forgive me. I believe that Jesus was born, that He died on the cross, that He shed His blood for my sin. And that He rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I turn to you, into Your grace, and Your mercy. I receive You as my Savior. Help me to live for You as Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.