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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2019

“At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made [near] by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13; p. 1251 Scofield).

Tonight at Christmas, I am speaking to a Gentile audience. It is true that there are a couple of Jews here, but most of you are Gentiles. The Apostle Paul, who wrote these words, was a Jew. But God called him to preach to the Gentiles. And that is what Paul is doing in this passage of Scripture.

There is the phrase that I want you to think about. It’s in verse 12. The Apostle says that these Gentiles were lost, “having no hope, and without God in the world.” My subject for these few minutes is this – If Christ had not been born in Bethlehem on that first Christmas then these words would describe you, if you are not “in Christ.” Does this describe you tonight? – “having no hope, and without God in the world.”

It was about this time of year. I had failed miserably. There I was, on the dark streets of Los Angeles, walking in darkness. I had already been licensed as a Baptist preacher. I had already been attending a Bible school. But I was failing, and I knew it. I was a complete failure, “having no hope, and without God in the world.” Oh, I told others about God, but God was not a real person in my life. Alone there in the darkness, I knew in my soul that I had no hope, and [was] without God in the world.

I had been reading a novel by Ernest Hemingway. I always liked his style of writing, although he was a lost soul like me. He took a gun and shot himself in the head a few months later. The dark loneliness in his heart was never satisfied. As I read his novel in my room I almost vomited with grief. I too was described as “having no hope, and without God in the world.” It was horrible beyond description for a 19 year old boy like me to feel such despair.

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I tried Christianity, but it didn’t seem to work. The people next door took me to a Baptist church. But it didn’t work for me. The other young people in that church seemed very happy. It was approaching Christmas, and their Christian parents had a Christmas tree for them at home. My parents were separated. I had no home. I had no Christmas tree, and no presents waiting for me, for I was living in my uncle’s house, and he was a raging alcoholic who didn’t want me in his home. So, I walked the streets of downtown Los Angeles, “having no hope, and without God in the world.”

If I went back to my mother’s house, I knew they would be drunk – and screaming! The drunken fights, the yelling and screaming, the loneliness and fear of my childhood left a permanent mark on my mind. I could be in a crowd of happy people, enjoying their company. When suddenly my mood changes, and I am plunged into existential angst and the pain of loneliness and deep depression. Later I was told that I had a mild case of bipolar disorder. Dr. Christopher Cagan once said, “Dr. Hymers did not grow up in a normal family. If he had he would have been more outgoing and social. But all the pain and rejection of his childhood made him into an introvert. Inside he is a sensitive person, very aware of his own weakness and failure.”

My father didn’t help matters. He was always yelling at me, “You’re a failure. You’ll never be anything but a failure. You’re a lazy failure.”

I had a good time acting in many plays as a teenager. But after the plays were over – I was alone and broken inside. That’s why I always walked at night. If I kept walking I could hold onto myself. Walking in the night kept me from falling apart. Walking in the night kept me from committing suicide. But the pain and mood swings helped me in a way. I knew within myself what most church kids don’t know – I knew I had no hope, and was without God in the world.

In my walk that night, I looked up and saw a church. The sign on it said, “The First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles.” I went there to church on Sunday. I wish I could tell you that it helped me. But it didn’t. It was just more “churchianity” – and that did not help me at all!

But I was still going to Bible College. I tried very hard to be a Christian, but I couldn’t be good enough. Something was missing. I wanted to be a missionary – but something was missing, and I knew it. What was missing? Jesus Christ was missing!

Then one morning at Biola University I started attending a series of chapel services. The speaker was Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge. He was a good speaker, but it all sounded like more “churchianity” to me. And then it happened!

Before Dr. Woodbridge spoke each morning we sang a hymn, written by Charles Wesley. The last few words of the refrain changed my life forever! Here are some of the words of that great hymn.

And can it be that I should gain
   An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
   For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above,
   So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
   And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
   For, O my God, it found out me.
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
(“And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

I was awakened by those words of the refrain.

Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Jesus was God! God in human flesh! And God in human flesh died for me on the Cross! I copied down some of the words – and sang them every afternoon. Jesus had bled on the Cross to cleanse a sinner like me from all sin. The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7; p. 1321).

Listen to our text again. “Having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13; p. 1251).

So that is the message of Christmas. All the rest of these holidays is just what I call “churchianity.” The drinking, the parties, the carols – nearly all of it was completely meaningless to a sinner like me. Why don’t they tell you about Jesus – God in human flesh, who “came into the world to save sinners”?

“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made [near] by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

If I had told you the usual stuff about the first Christmas, you would be asleep by now – as I was. I can’t bring myself to give you sleigh bells, and Christmas trees, and parties. I was saved by the Blood of Jesus that He shed on the Cross. To me, that is the only thing worth preaching about at Christmas time!

Please stand and sing the last song on the song sheet. It’s attached to the other hymns. It’s called “I Am Coming, Lord.”

I hear Thy welcome voice, That calls me, Lord, to Thee
   For cleansing in Thy precious blood That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in Thy blood That flowed on Calvary.

Though coming weak and vile, Thou dost my strength assure;
   Thou dost my vileness fully cleanse, Till spotless all and pure.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in Thy blood That flowed on Calvary.

‘Tis Jesus calls me on To perfect faith and love,
   To perfect hope, and peace, and trust, For earth and heaven above.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in Thy blood That flowed on Calvary.
(“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919;
       altered by Dr. Hymers).

You may be seated.

My sweet little wife is here tonight, with two of her cousins from Guatemala. I will close this Christmas sermon by telling you my wife’s story.

We were having a wedding at our church. Someone invited her to come. I always gave a short sermon before performing the weddings. I spoke on John 3:16 that night. Please turn to John 3:16 in your Bible. It’s on page 1117 in the Scofield Reference Bible.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

My darling wife, Ileana, trusted Jesus that night and was truly converted. She had no hope until she trusted Jesus and was saved by the Blood He shed for her on the Cross.

My sweet wife always had a mental belief in Jesus, as a Catholic. But that night she trusted Jesus. That is different. We have now been married over 37 years. She is the best pastor’s wife in the whole wide world. When she signs her name, she puts John 3:16 after her signature. That is her life verse. Over the last 37 years she has gone through a lot of pain and suffering as a Baptist preacher’s wife. But she never failed God. Not once! How could she fail Him, because His Son Jesus cleansed her from all sin, and gave her a living hope, because she trusted the dear Saviour in that wedding long ago! May you also do that. Jesus will save you! Jesus will save you now! Amen.

Please stand and sing hymn number 11, “Silent Night.”

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright,
    ‘Round yon Virgin mother and Child, Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight,
   Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Saviour is born, Christ the Saviour is born.

Silent night! Holy night! Son of God, Love’s pure light,
   Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night! Holy night! All is dark save the light,
   Yonder where they sweet vigils keep O’er the Babe who in silent sleep
Rests in heavenly peace, Rests in heavenly peace.
     (“Silent Night! Holy Night!”, by Joseph Mohr, 1792-1848).

God bless you! And Merry Christmas!