“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21
Christmas is a special time of the year as we pause to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or should I say that I hope that we are pausing to celebrate His birth? I realize it is hard to pause in the midst of the madness of the Christmas culture as we experience it here in the USA in 2015. Our culture dictates our behaviors more than we realize as we struggle to find a parking place at Wal-Mart or Target on Black Friday, as we look for the best deal on the perfect gift for our loved ones. Or maybe we find ourselves, as I frequently do; deciding to wait till the last moment and driving to the mall on Christmas Eve hoping that the stores don’t close too early.
Christmas is not about buying gifts, but don’t try to tell the major retailers this, as their entire year of profits is based upon how good they do over the holidays. I don’t like this word holidays because the devil is trying hard to eliminate Christ from Christmas. If you go to a store to buy a Christmas tree or Christmas lights, you will more than likely find holiday trees and holiday lights. People even use the term Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas on their holiday cards. All of my life I can remember people using the word X-mas and I have always been offended by the attempt to x-out Christ from Christmas. But in today’s culture this cause has been escalating to an absurd level of disrespect to our Lord.
Even our music is a strange mixture of songs about the birth of Jesus played next to “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You.” Christmas music is played everywhere as the retailers try to continually bombard our minds with ceaseless reminders that Christmas is coming soon. There is cultural pressure to decorate with lights, greenery, trees, tinsel, glitter and poinsettias. Take a drive at night and you will see some of everything from beautifully done light arrangements to blow-up Santa Clauses in people’s front lawns. Then there is the food; oh yes, the cakes, candy, fruit and more. Christmas has become a time of indulgent desires as we emphasize the lessor important aspect of Christmas and de-emphasize the very reason we celebrate Christmas, which is the birth of the King of the Universe and the Savior of mankind.
I have spent many years with a pious attitude toward Christmas because I didn’t participate in many of the traditions of Christmas that had their origin in ancient heathen practices. I have not done certain things at Christmas because of my understanding of Jeremiah 10:1-5. But now as I study different translations of the Bible I am beginning to understand that what I thought God’s Word was saying was one thing, but what God is really saying is something totally different. As I read the New Living Translation and then look up each word in my Strong’s Concordance, it becomes crystal clear to me that this is another area of my life where I have judged other people wrongly, as I have been so proud of myself that I didn’t do as those whom I thought were the less informed Christians.
You may go all out and get completely immersed in the modern day Christmas culture of the USA and shop until you drop, buy gifts until you go into debt, decorate until there is simply no more space for another light, listen to every Christmas song ever recorded for 30 days in a row and cook for your family like there is no tomorrow. Or you may shun the entire ordeal with no decorations, unthoughtful gifts, hope somebody invites you over for a meal and generally keep the attitude of Scrooge. Either way, I encourage you this year to pause, catch your breath, take a break and think about what Christmas is really all about.
Think of the miracle of the virgin birth. Think of the awesome humility of God to come down to this earth and live inside the womb of a woman for nine months, and then to be born in a manager in the midst of farm animals. As God became a man, there were no men to welcome the King to this earth, except a few simple shepherds to whom the angels proclaimed His birth. Later, a few wise men came to see Jesus as they followed the star, but the religious leaders didn’t even care enough to go and look for Him.
Why should we celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus Christ was born. God left heaven and came to the earth so that we could leave this earth and go to heaven. God in flesh came to live the life that we could never live; as He lived a perfect, sinless life. Then He went to the cross to die for our sins; as He died a substitutionary death in our place and took the judgment for our sins upon Himself. He paid the price for our sins.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for Hde shall save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21
This is the reason that we should pause and celebrate Christmas: Jesus came to this earth to rescue us, to save us, to deliver us, and to reconcile us back to God through Himself. He that knew no sin, became our sin, took all of our sins upon Himself, so that we could be made righteous.
My best advice is to spend the Christmas season with a grateful heart, thanking Jesus for coming to this earth to save us from our sins. Let's use the season to have a fresh new experience with His Grace. Let’s pray that we can see Jesus each day of the Christmas season in a new and glorious way. Let’s share His love with our family members and friends, and if we can afford it, let’s express our love to them with cards, food, gifts or time spent with the ones we love.
Another really good way to celebrate Christmas is to find someone in need and show them the love of Jesus Christ by doing something good for them. In fact, the congregation of Return Ministries donated $2,000 toward a project spear-headed by Pastor Moon of the Methodist Church. He has identified 54 children living in very impoverished conditions, and he and his congregation are preparing a nice Christmas basket complete with food, clothes and toys for each child.
Also, the soul winning team that has been working the streets of Portland for the past four months is putting together 100 boxes of assorted grocery items to give away to the needy in the Portland area during the week of Christmas. Jesus said clearly in His Word that when we give to the least of these, we give unto Him.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” — Matthew 25:34-36
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” — Matthew 25:40
Another Scripture in the Bible that has recently gripped my heart is here in the First Epistle of John.
“But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” — I John 3:17-18 (KJV)
It is even more clear in the New Living Translation of the Bible.
“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” — I John 3:17-18 (NLT)
God has put His supernatural love in my heart for the poor and needy recently, and this is the first time in my life that I have actually experienced His burden and His love for the poor. I have always thought that it was the role of the government to take care of the poor and that I was paying my share through taxes. I have also thought that Jesus was referring to the spiritually poor, instead of the naturally poor. But today my eyes are open and I understand that Jesus wants me personally to reach out to the lost, the poor, the needy, and not just with my words, but with my actions. To God be the glory!
Christmas is what you make of it, and I for one am choosing to make it a special occasion by experiencing the awesomeness of God’s grace and love and then sharing it with others.