A refocused Christmas:
Birth of John Baptist foretold ~ Luke 1:5-25
Annunciation of the birth of Jesus ~ Luke 1:26-38
Mary visits Elizabeth ~ Luke 1:39-56
Birth of John the Baptist ~ Luke 1:57-80
The two genealogies ~ Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38
Birth of Jesus Christ ~ Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-7
The watching shepherds ~ Luke 2:8-20
The circumcision ~ Matthew 2:21
Presentation in the temple ~ Matthew 2:22-38
The wise men from the East ~ Luke 2:1-12
Flight into Egypt, and return to Nazareth ~ Matthew 2:13-23, Luke 2:39
That was a short outline I found at BlueletterBible.org ~ here is the link to it:
Okay, so what I plan to do next, since I think (assume?) most of those who read my posts here have once again heard part of the Christmas story. I hope you paid attention to what you did hear, because I don’t have the time to recover it all this year. If you have not read it this year, I hope you will and encourage you to do so, as I have been doing. And Dad’s, I especially encourage you to refresh yourself on it and read it with your families.
Okay, I guess the first place to start is to re-state the obvious: at this time of year, you and I are doing one of two things, and celebrating one of 2 holidays:
Santa-mass (with all the trappings, thanks the Roman Catholic church in AD 313).
Like me, and my family, you are trying to just celebrate Christ, and Him alone.
So, I would like to review some fascinating aspects of this season and ask a few thought-provoking (maybe even life-changing) questions.
This is the most amazing story in all of history ~ God, somehow amazingly set down His power, authority, and direct, constant communication with the Father and the angels He created – to come down to Earth, as a king? No. As a baby. And more: as the son of a carpenter – one of the hardest jobs in Jewish culture, and not a very glamorous one at that. Joseph apparently died sometime early on, because he is mentioned one place, but not in another place, implying that when Jesus was ministering Joseph was no longer around. Jesus came, not to a palace or even a rich person’s home. No, He came to the poor. He didn’t promote Himself. He apparently didn’t have a handsome appearance, and He apparently also suffered pain and grief throughout His short 33 years here. He could have set it up so differently, but He didn’t. He chose the hardest life, at possibly the hardest time – on purpose. He never owned a home. He was pretty much always on the move. He was very popular – mostly because of what people could get from Him. His closest 12, that He handpicked Himself were constantly questioning Him, constantly double-checking Him, as though He was saying something that was possibly off-track somehow…
And yet, He chose all of these variables for Himself. Why? Because He loves us rebellious humans. He says about Himself that He would not snuff out a “smoldering wick” of faith (Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20). His testimony was flawless, yet He allowed others to question Him and judge Him and slander Him, without reply except on a few occasions.
But, the biggest ‘WOW!’ is that He chose all of this for Himself – on purpose. His testimony is what we should be studying, emulating, and wanting to do more, not less.
Santa is just like the rest of the holiday business – a distraction from Him. A distraction from pleasing Him. A distraction from learning how to follow Him, and how put to death the self-centered desires that are so much alive in us…
If the celebration is about Christ, then why is He not the only focus of our celebrations? Let’s change that.
It’s quite obviously with a brief study from history, Jewish festivals, and even a brief history of what is presented in the account of Jesus’ birth that it wasn’t on Dec. 25th), So, if giving gifts has nothing to do with Christ’s birth, then why do we do them? Maybe this verse will shed some light on that question:
“Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” ~ Luke 14:12-14
Gift-giving today has very little to do with earning rewards in Heaven as it does with getting a gift in return. It’s the same thinking done at most American holidays – ‘I’ll do something for you, as long as you do something in return, and we’ll call that love…’ But, it’s not. Genuine love, God’s love is self-sacrificing. He is not selfish – we are. And, we need to learn not to be, daily.
A bit of homework for you to do, if you like: if gifts are not the most important part of why you gather to celebrate Christmas, then consider this heart-check: politely refuse every single one of them at this time, explain why and ask the person to give it at a non-holiday time. That will check their heart, yours, and mine.
So, my time is gone for now. But, let me give you one last though, if I may – it’s a project of sorts.
Let’s do a project together this year. These next few weeks, let’s analyze ourselves. Let’s study ourselves to see what our honest heart-motivation is. Let’s study ourselves to see what all distracts us, especially this time of year from talking about our relationship with God (with those around us) – all the time. Let’s study ourselves to see what wakes us up in the morning of December 25th – is it eternal, or self-centered, earthly, and worldly?
I pray for each of you who join me in this!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for your love for us! Your selfless love is beyond words! And yet, though You love us selflessly, we so often love You back selfishly. Please, in the next 2 weeks, cause our hearts to do an accounting – a self-analysis. Do not let us sleep if we are honestly far from pleasing you, yet deceiving ourselves. Teach us, dear Father, teach us. So, that we might know you better, here, and be able to reach out to those around us with the truth from Your wonderful and Living Word. Teach us. Grow us this season ~ we pray, in Your precious Son’s name – the name of Yeshua, our Messiah, Savior, and Master, ~ Amen.