Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the spirit of joy and giving that permeates our lives. Bonnie and I start the season with our traditional selection of Christmas movies. Here in the Central Valley of California we don’t have a white Christmas, but we always watch the movie. It delights our hearts to see a “White Christmas” in Vermont. We are always exhilarated when Jim Bailey recognizes that he has a wonderful life, and we are warmed by the miracle that happens on 34th street. Even old Ebenezer Scrooge finally succumbs to the spirit of Christmas.
At our house decorating starts the weekend after Thanksgiving. The tree goes up, and merriment appears all over the house. In our sitting room the town of Bedford Falls appears. In every corner there are angels, candles and lots of holly. The outside also gets a trimming of lights and a special entryway setting that invites our guests to enjoy Christmas with us.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are always spent with our family. Our children and their children are at the center of our hearts. There is no greater way to celebrate than sharing love and good food with those most precious to us. Gifts are exchanged, and the twinkle in the young ones eyes imprints deep joy in our hearts.
Each year, our church family is invited to our home for an evening of gingerbread house building. We share soup and bread and a fun filled evening that results in many variations on the traditional gingerbread house. Our home is filled with laughter and joy throughout the evening. What a wonderful experience of celebration with our friends.
At the top of our outside entry decorations I have placed a sign. It reads: “Emmanuel, God with us.” The sign is a reminder that we are celebrating God’s advent, the arrival of the promised messiah. All the celebration, laughter, and joy that fill our hearts are in response to the God designed intervention He arranged for us because He loves us. He redeemed us and set us free from the reign of sin and death. The Apostle John records it this way:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).
All humans have this in common, sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). The question then is how do we deal with our sin? In Psalm 32 David wrestles with sin. He talks about the anguish of his hidden sin. The weight of guilt is heavy upon him. Have you ever experienced the torment of trying to keep a sin concealed?
David writes in Psalm 32:5, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Confession is David’s answer. It is amazingly freeing when we bring a hidden sin into the light and receive God’s forgiveness. We can trust God. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Concealed sin separates us from God; confessed sin restores us to God. The universal and eternally most important thing is to be restored to God. The significance of Christmas is that Jesus came to earth so we might be restored to God. God has made the way for us. Don’t miss out! Confess your sins and receive God’s great gift of forgiveness.
There is an undefeatable power in the universe. In fact he created the universe. His power is wrought of love and is so far above man’s power that he can send his son as a helpless infant to the earth, and accomplish his plan. Man and the demonic forces of evil could not stop him. An earthly king could not kill him. It goes like this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Christmas Story is a story of the greatest love and the greatest power. The baby in a manger, so gentle and mild, was a display of God’s wisdom and power that transcends our understanding.
If I was in charge of bringing Jesus to earth, I might amass a great army. I’d post a 24 hour guard and develop a secure safe house with all the latest technology. This is hilarious in comparison to the open manger. God didn’t need my help. He is all powerful. He didn’t have to come with all guns blazing. He came in love and tenderness.
The underlining truth is that God’s plan, for your life and mine, will be accomplished, and nothing can defeat his will. Sometimes I feel as vulnerable as a babe in a manger, but I’m really as safe as the infant Jesus was. I can trust God with everything. The Christmas story fills me with great confidence. It is a story of power displayed in love. I worship God because he is higher than me, and his ways are higher than my ways. I trust in his power; I trust in his love. I pray that the love and power of the Christmas Story will bring you peace and comfort this season.
When Jesus was explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (Matthew 13:18-23) he used this phrase, the deceitfulness of wealth, when speaking of those who represent the seeds falling among the thorns. In Matthew 13:22 Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful.” This phrase caught my attention as I read through the passage, and I thought it worth a more in-depth look.
I frequently like to refer to The Message to expand a passage. Here’s how verse 22 reads, “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.” (I love The Message.) The words deceitfulness and illusions both give indication of something that is not really there. We are lead to think there’s something there, but it is a deception. Here in America, I believe the deceitfulness of wealth hinders us from fully participating in God’s kingdom. Perhaps it is our greatest deception.
I remember, when my youngest daughter returned from a mission’s trip to Mexico, she was deeply impressed by how happy the people were in the village where she stayed. She said to me, “Dad they live in shacks and have nothing, yet they are always cheerful and happy.” It was a great experience for her. She had the opportunity to realize that possessions don’t bring happiness. It’s a deception.
As we celebrate this Christmas season let us not fall subject to the deception that it’s about getting more. We already have what we need, Jesus. We are celebrating God coming to earth, living among us, and giving his life for us. What else could we need? JOY TO THE WORLD! THE LORD HAS COME!
With the advent of Christmas we celebrate the greatest event that ever happened on the earth: God entering time and taking on human flesh. He spent time as one of us. He walked beside us, and with his eventual death and resurrection, brought new and eternal life for all who would receive him. This is worthy of celebration. No other event on earth has stirred the hearts of men to such joyous celebration. People all-over the earth celebrate this wondrous occasion.
Our joining in celebration helps us focus on something bigger than our individual lives; something more real than the temporal. Celebration sets a mood of happiness and oneness. I remember singing in a community choir. Yes, the usual human difficulties were present during rehearsals, but when the performance came we were a unit of celebration. Our hearts were lifted. We experienced a oneness of joy and delight.
God wants us to enter into the celebration. The angels celebrated that first night when Jesus was born, and we have ever since celebrated with them. Let us continue the celebration of Jesus’ birth and the wonder of God’s plan for our salvation begun that glorious night.
A promise has been fulfilled
A reclamation for all the earth
A virgin has brought forth child
A most miraculous birth
A prophesy from ancient times
A hope that’s now achieved
A salvation realized
A redemption for Adam’s seed.
God bless you, and have a Merry Christmas!