Category Archives: Christmas

The Christmas Story Revisited

Pastor Marshall shared the Christmas story yesterday from Luke 2, giving details that truly speak great significance into that beloved account. I share it in my own words here, hoping to inspire Christmas in you and yours.

Luke 2

Mary-Joseph02“1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

First point: Caesar thought he was in control of these events. He did not realize that truly it was God pulling the strings in order to bring about the fulfillment of events which long ago prophesied that the Christ would come out of Bethlehem, of the house of David. So God inspired events leading to the taking of the census.

And what were those events? Corrupt government and overspending that led to the need of increased taxation, leading to the new census so they could both collect taxes and know what the taxes would produce. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Could it be true for us now as for these back then that God is pulling strings for a purpose all His own?

Thus God led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus would be born there.

Then note the meaning of these events:

Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. The manger is believed to have been a feeding troth. Nativity 03The Bread of Life was laid in a manger inside a hill in the House of Bread. Jesus came forth from the House of Bread, heir to the house of David, king of Israel, destined to take the throne of David and rule for all eternity. Jesus, the Christ Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, calls to us, beckoning us to come and feast ourselves in Him, who feeds us with lasting life from the House of Bread and the Father’s table.

And the cave in a hillside? Belief in Jesus is an issue that must reach the very heart of our being. This is a story that must tuck itself within us, reaching the core of our being, if it is to feed our lives for all eternity.

“8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”

good_shepherd2A shepherd was considered a low life individual in their culture: They stunk of sheep and were not even allowed in the temple because their job required them to do things that made them “unclean” and, thus, unable to enter the temple without first going through ritual cleansing. These shepherds not only had responsibility for the care of the common cattle, but they were responsible for the care of the lambs used in the temple sacrifices. They were keepers of the sacrificial lambs and, I am sure, longed for the Messiah to come and remove their need of that job.

In this time of history the people of God had not heard from God in 400 years. But I can imagine that, despite the growing evil that is mimicked in our own day, the people who most often thought of the eternal would be the ones caring for the sacrificial lambs being readied to take away their sin. How true of God to go to the lowliest and give them the honor of being first to hear the good news and see the Lamb of God enter the scene. I wonder if they transferred their role as keepers and caregivers to the Lamb of God, helping Joseph and Mary to look out for Jesus as He grew. I know that if I were in their shoes, I can see myself wanting to be by Mary’s side as much as possible, helping with the care of the one the angels announced as the Lord’s Messiah, come in human flesh. As Mary did then, today we ponder these things and rejoice with the angels.

“13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“14 ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”

Pastor pointed out that the day before this day these angels were stationed around the throne of Heaven, worshiping the God of all HeraldingAngels04Creation. And now they continue their worship around the same God who has miraculously come in human form to show us the way of truth and pay the price that paved the way of our salvation. They rejoice as they see the plan and purpose of God birthed into the earth.

“15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”

Umm, yum, yum. Taste and see that the Lord is good. God sends the message of Good Tidings to our hearts, then feeds us in ways that give us firsthand experience as we go in search of Him. He promises that those who seek Him with whole heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:11-14, especially see the Amplified version). May we hear the good tidings, then go to see it for ourselves, finding Him faithful to make Himself known.

Mary034“17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

Like the shepherds, we have to respond to the message of the Christ, go to the House of Bread and eat of the Bread of Life receiving that life for ourselves so that we may then go and tell others of His work on our behalf. We are called to recognize the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And when we receive and believe Him we are sent out with responsibility for the care of His pastures.

Hear the Christmas story, beloved, and respond today. The Lamb of God and the Bread of Life call us to a feast where Living Water is the drink of choice, springing up in the recipient as an artesian well bringing life to those we touch in His Name. Rejoice, beloved, then go and tell the good news!

Christmas, or Not? The Controversy and Our Choice

nativity 02
Merry Christmas

This morning, as I awoke, my thoughts ran quickly to the controversial issue I have been mulling, and yes, fuming over for weeks now concerning Christmas as a Christian holiday and it being “stolen from us in our day and culture”. I am hearing that there are even people gearing up to fight to get it back. And until I started my research, I was leaning toward getting aboard the boat with them. But after just barely starting my research, God began to minister to my heart and lead me to adjust my understanding and perceptions. I am now leaning toward a thought that has hit my head several times of late; that thought being that we need to celebrate Christ in peace with those who celebrate their “holidays” or set another time as a time for our celebration of Christ. Why do I say that?

The very beginning of my research reveals what I have heard for years; that Christmas as a celebration started out of other traditions of the day. Quoting one article on History of Christmas website:

“Believe it or not, many of the traditions that we observe during the Christmas holiday season began way before the birth of Christ. Exchanging gifts, decorating trees, and the burning of the Yule log were all winter traditions that began before Christ was born, but were eventually incorporated into the holiday that became known as Christmas, and became part of Christmas history.” 1

According to this same article, “One theory about the evolution of the winter celebrations to the celebration of the birth of Jesus is that the Roman emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity, wanted to incorporate the pagan winter rituals together with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In this way, Constantine hoped to help both pagans and Christians celebrate together. Many believe that this is the reason for celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th. It is widely believed today that Jesus was not actually born on, or even close to, December 25th. Eventually, the Roman church became more successful in making the December celebration about the birth of Christ, replacing any celebrations that were in honor of pagan gods.” 1

Some interesting facts:

†   The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. 2

†   The first Nativity was created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1224 and was a living nativity, set up in an effort to explain the birth of Jesus. The Nativity is exclusive to the Christian faith and the celebration of Christ at Christmas in many parts of the world. 3

†   Decorated trees were used in celebrations long before Christ, as well as being seen as home décor for luck and other such beliefs. It is believed that Boniface, a Monk who came to Germany in the 7th/8th century, first introduced the use of the fir as a Christmas tree, its triangular shape being used to signify the Trinity. 4

†   The 12 Days of Christmas is believed to come from the Zagmuth in Mesopotamia, a festival in support of their chief god, Marduk, who was believed to battle the “monsters of chaos” at the beginning of winter. 1

†   The Council of Tours in 567 established the period of Advent as a time of fasting before Christmas. They also proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany a sacred, festive season. 5

I could go on, but you can read the articles linked below for more information. The fact is that the celebration of Christmas, meaning “Christ’s mass”, is highly linked with celebrations of other non-Christian cultures through adoption of timing, traditions, and symbols. Do we have a right to celebrate it with freedom and respectful consideration by those who choose not to? Yes. Is this season solely ours? No. There are too many other cultures with similar celebrations, some linked with other gods, who have had this same season for eons, long before our choosing it for our purpose of honoring and remembering the Christ.

So what’s the solution?

†   “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31.

†   Remember that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20.

†   And, lest we forget, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, INTENT ON ONE PURPOSE. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” ~ Philippians 2:1-8.

Our main purpose for still being here, the reason we continue to watch for Christ’s return, is because He still has a work for us to do in the earth. We are here to represent His interests, and His interests are for us to be an expression of His image in the earth, reaching out to those He died for with arms and attitudes of love. And we are to do so in likeness to Christ, who gave up His high position and all the rights that afforded Him to come here and suffer the loss of all He had for a time so that He might provide a way of saving grace for us. Thus, we are to lay down our lives, if need be, in order to win some. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-24)

The celebration of Christ is a heart issue. We cannot force it on others. They cannot truly take it from us. My decision today as I think on these things is this: When I say “Merry Christmas” and someone else responds with Happy Holidays, I will smile and thank them while lifting a prayer for their ultimate blessing. If someone complains about my nativity being visible to all in my front yard, I will do my best to respond to them with grace while standing my ground in celebrating my King. Hopefully as I do so, with respectful consideration for him while still standing firm for my Christ, that person will come to some understanding of my love of my God and will return the respect of my right of choice as I respect their God-given right to choose against Him. Remember, rejection of Christianity and its practices and peoples is not ultimately rejection of the person serving Christ, it is rejection of Christ Himself, and He will deal with that (Luke 10:16; Titus 1:16). Ours is to love Him and love others as He does: unconditionally and incorruptibly.

Are some things worth fighting for? Yes. Are we, as Christians to do so? We are called to “fight the good fight of faith”, so I would say we are to pick our battles well, make sure our heart and attitude in the fight line up with God’s will and way, then stand firm on Him.

We are called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in this world. To me, that means to understand the ways of evil and know what God has supplied us in the set-up of world government that can be used to fight the good fight within the legal bounds of His Law and the laws of man, but we must do so always with our role of ambassador in heart, being innocent of unrighteous motive and clear of attitudes that misrepresent Him, standing with His Law when man’s law is in contention with Him.

Christmas is the focus of the Christian in celebrating this Holiday season. But other belief systems coincide with our Christmas. Let them have theirs while we keep ours with respect and peace one to another, or change the date for ours and separate from the rest. It is our choice, people of Jehovah in Jesus, the Christ. What will we do?

References:

History Of Christmas on History of Christmas website: http://www.historyofchristmas.net/page1.html

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas; See also History of old Christmas day: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/old_christmas_day.htm

Nativity History: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/nativity.htm

Symbols of Christmas on The Holiday Spot.Com: http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/christmas_symbols.htm

History of Advent: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/trivia/advent.htm

Sites of interest:

History of Holidays: http://www.historyofholidays.com/

The History of Christmas: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/

The Holiday Spot: http://www.theholidayspot.com/