December 25th

Christmas 101 

30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
 Luke 1:30-35 NKJV

 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Glory in the Highest

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
       14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely
[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Luke 2:1-20 NKJV
 

On this special day I thought it fitting to write about the Christmas story.  With the celebration of various pagan traditions, the real meaning of Christmas is often obscured.  I was reminded of this just last night.  As my family and I jaunted around the mall for last minute holiday shopping, we passed by a little boy who had just finished telling Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  Before I could restrain her, my little daughter blurted out to the boy, “That Santa is just pretend - he's not real!"   To this the boy hotly retorted, “My daddy said that Santa is real and he lives at the North Pole and …," he continued to holler his case after us as we walked away to the next store.    I felt bad that we caused such a ruckus, but in a small way I was glad that my daughter was professing the truth.

Now I’m not militantly opposed to Santa.   The original Saint Nicholas was apparently a godly man who helped the poor and oppressed during the 4th century.  He lived in the town of Myra in what is now southern Turkey and was the Bishop of the local Catholic church.  If he were around today, I'll bet he would be shocked to see how the celebration of his legacy has been greatly embellished and how it has in many ways eclipsed the birthday of Jesus.

For my family, Christmas is primarily the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Jesus was the very incarnation of God’s word.  He was God’s expression to mankind; he was the emissary of God who came to bring peace between God and man.  Jesus experienced everything that we experience.  He was born into the world through flesh and blood and was like us in “all things” (Hebrews 2:17 NKJV).  He was well acquainted with the grief and sorrows of human life.  He suffered, was tempted, abused, mocked and wrongly accused.  He accepted the death penalty for crimes he did not commit.  Suffering an agonizing death, he became the blood sacrifice required for the payment of our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6,10-12).   

By placing our trust and belief in Jesus, we receive peace with God both now and for eternity.  In addition to this wonderful, eternal peace, we receive life in our mortal bodies that enables us to live as the persons God created us to be (Romans 8:11).  This life enables us to do things like love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, believe the unbelievable and resist the irresistible.   

I suspect that many people may believe in Jesus, yet fall short of employing the new life that is available to them.  This was true for me, as I lived as “carnal Christian” and backslid for many years after trusting in Jesus.  Activating the new life can be as simple as repenting from our sins, inviting God to refill us with his life via the Holy Spirit and then following up with a “daily walk” with Jesus.  This walk can be described as communing with Jesus and joining him in his work around us.  Our Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He lives today and desires to interact with us for the here and now.   

This Christmas, I encourage you to thank God for the amazing work of love that he did through Jesus.  If you haven’t fully partaken of that new life that is yours through Jesus, you can ask God to fill you afresh with that life.  I pray that you will experience the fullness of God’s joy and discover the wonderful person he has created you to be.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God, thank you for Christmas and all that it means.  As I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I reaffirm my belief that Jesus Christ is your Son.  I believe that he was resurrected from the dead and now lives with you in heaven.  I eagerly await his return and the full establishment of your kingdom on earth.  I recommit myself as a vessel for your purposes, Lord. Please forgive me for any sin that I’ve been practicing up till now; specifically :_________________(list).  I turn away from that sin.  I receive the cleansing of my conscience by the blood of Jesus.  Lord, please fill me afresh with your new life that enables me to live in righteousness.  Please help me to daily follow you, putting my evil desires to death and putting on the pure desires of the new self.   Thank you, Lord! I worship and praise you today!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”