When Jesus was born, it was nothing short of extraordinary. For one, he was conceived by a virgin girl. How does this happen? Furthermore, he was born in a stable and laid in a manger—a place that would have been dirty and filled with the stench of animal waste. To top it off, he was wrapped in swaddling cloths. That’s not exactly a fleece from Neiman Marcus. The whole story is an unbelievable reality that we should spend time rejoicing in. the reality of Christ’s birth.
Beyond the details of his birth, the way in which it was announced is stunning. It wasn’t a fancy postcard in the mail of Mary and Joseph and their baby positioned in Bethlehem for everyone to see. It was the greatest birth announcement in the history of mankind. In fact, it was more than a birth announcement—it was the announcement of hope.
The angel appeared in to a group of unlikely people, the shepherds who were in the fields keeping watch over their flocks. Shepherds were considered to be unclean and on the low end of the Jewish social class ranks. That’s just like God to announce the birth of the King of all kings to a group of shepherds.
The angel announced the birth of Jesus by saying:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10–12).
Savior: Jesus’ Saving Name
The angel referred to Jesus as Savior. Closely related to Jesus or Joshua from the OT—Jesus means, Jehovah Saves. This is only one of 3 times where Jesus is referred to as Savior. Therefore – this is a significant title for it shows His mission in coming to earth. In fact, this title of Savior falls in line with the prophecy of the prophet said in Isaiah 9:6 and what the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21.
Notice that the angel didn’t come to announce:
- Mohammad is a savior
- Buddha is a savior
- Joseph Smith is a savior
- Charles Taze Russell is a savior
- Mary Baker Eddy is a savior
- Confucius is a savior
- Ron Hubbard is a savior
Only Jesus can save sinners and this truth is abundantly clear in John 14:6 and Luke 19:10.
Christ: Jesus’ Special Name
Jesus is also called the Christ by the angel. Christ is not Jesus’ last name (surname). Christ is a title that means “anointed One of God.” All throughout the Jewish history, when the families would gather in their homes to celebrate Passover and the Day of Atonement—they would talk about how God saved his people from Egypt and how one day the Messiah would come.
Finally, the darkness was broken and the silence came to an end when Jesus was born. The long awaited Messiah had been born—although in an unlikely place (for animals). The promised Deliverer had come and this is certainly good news as the angel stated—not just for the Jew, but for all peoples.
Lord: Jesus’ Sovereign Name
The angel also pointed out that Jesus is Lord. This is points to his sovereignty. The fact that Jesus is Lord means he is Master—and points to his Kingly attributes. This was no ordinary baby in the manger—it was the Lord himself. Think of the fact that Isaiah’s enthroned Lord of hosts in Isaiah 6 was also the promised baby of Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6. That very One who was high and lifted up on his majestic throne nine months earlier was now clothed in human flesh in a stable for animals—and the angels were standing in awe!
When Jesus was born, the angel announced that he is Lord, which is to say he is:
- The Prophet greater than Moses
- The King greater than David
- The Priest greater than Melchizedek
Often when you walk into a Christian bookstore, you will find more pictures of angels and figurines of angelic beings than you will find books of theology about the deity of Jesus. That should shock us when we consider that the angels in the night sky on that evening when Christ was born were not announcing the greatness and splendor of the angels—they were amazed and announcing the greatness of their Lord.
As the angel made the announcement, soon a multitude of angels appeared and celebrated the birth of Jesus by saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14)!
Do you have a reason to celebrate on Christmas?
Do you have peace with God?
Only in Jesus can a person experience the peace of God, because only in Jesus can a person be brought to a place of peace with God. Jesus came to save sinners, and he will save his people from their sins resulting in reconciliation between the sinner and our sovereign God. Do you have peace with God? If not, call out to him today and cast yourself upon the mercy of God. Believe that Christ came to die for you, and through his brutal death your sins are washed away. Call out to him with confidence that he alone can save you, and this is verified by the resurrection on the third day—Jesus has defeated death itself and proves he is God! For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
The world around us is broken and filled with sin. We are surrounded by human depravity at every level (from childhood relationships to political leaders). Yet, we long for the day when God will make all things new and our broken world will be renewed, changed, and filled with the glory and splendor of God. In short, we await the second coming of Christ.
As we await the second coming of Christ, we celebrate his first coming. This was something the prophets wrote about and pointed to even as Isaiah did some 700 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah records one of the most eloquent prophecies of Jesus that is filled with hope. Read it and think of the already and not yet aspects of how Jesus fulfills (and will fulfill) this glorious verse of Scripture.
Isaiah 9:6 — For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The prophecy of a child to be born and a son given was not a reference to just any child. It was a reference to the most glorious birth that has ever occurred in human history. It’s a reference to Emmanuel. When God took upon himself human flesh and entered his very own creation, what a glorious hope. Isaiah longed for the day and yet that day has come and gone and we live on the other side of this prophecy. We celebrate the birth that has already occurred.
There is no doubt about our corrupt political system in America and while can see such depraved political strategies here, around the world in various other nations the corruption is far worse. Like Isaiah, we long for the sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords to rule visibly. Every part of Isaiah’s words in this single verse has already been fulfilled except this reference to the government being upon his shoulder.
In actuality, this has been partially fulfilled, but we long for the visible reign of Christ. Some believe that Jesus will rule in the future and the government will be upon his shoulder in the future, but in actuality, he is ruling now from heaven’s throne. In supremacy he sits on the throne and he is unchallenged and unflinching at all of the marching armies of this world. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” As Jesus rules now, we await his second coming where he will rule in our visible presence.
Because of sin, we have to navigate the broken road of human depravity on a daily basis. For that reason, we need good counsel. We seek the counsel of close friends, family members, parents, pastors, and fellow church members. However, there is none who can provide greater counsel than our Lord. We come to him in his Word, we seek him and look into the great wisdom of his teaching, and we follow him as we submit to his commands. Not one time has Jesus given bad counsel or provided for us failed promises. We can trust him and we should find hope in his words (words of comfort, hope, and truth).
The central truth of the gospel is that Jesus is more than a gifted rabbi. When you examine the cults around the world, often they want to attack the deity of Jesus. They want to relegate him to the level of a prophet or a good moral teacher, but that cannot be so if Jesus isn’t God while he made such lavish claims to be God (see John 8:58 and John 17). In John’s prologue, he writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).” The grand truth we celebrate at Christmas is that far greater than angels appearing to shepherds in a field was the reality that God had clothed himself in human flesh and was lying in a manger. He came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), and it was only possible if Jesus is very God of very God.
As “Everlasting Father” Jesus is not the Father. Isaiah is not suggesting that the Son is the Father in the sense of confusing the persons of the Trinity (which is a heretical position). He is using the tern “father” in perhaps two ways in this statement. First, Jesus can show compassion as a father shows compassion to his children (Ps. 103:13). Secondly, Jesus is the everlasting father of the universe and he upholds everything but he word of his power (Col. 1:15-20).
Finally, Isaiah speaks of Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” Only in Jesus can rebel sinners find peace with God (Rom. 5:10). Only in Christ can a world that is filled with sin, brokenness, murder, and violence find peace. It’s only in Christ that God’s children can navigate this broken world with peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). While we as believers live in a world of sin and experience the peace of God, we will one day live in a peaceful world. We long for that day to come. As we celebrate the first coming of Jesus we anticipate the second coming of Jesus. As John said, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Never assume assumptions are safe. If you spend most of your time building your positions and beliefs based on assumptions, you will be a very shallow and misguided person. If you’re a preacher, well, you will be a very shallow and misguided preacher. Consider how easily it is for the devil to get into the details of assumptions. Below are a few dangerous assumptions that seem to be popular in our day.
- Assuming everyone’s life is wonderful and that your friends are living the “dream life” simply by following their Instagram posts.
- Assuming you know people because you follow them on social media.
- Assuming you are real friends with people who you follow on social media.
- Assuming a person doesn’t like you because they never interact with you on social media.
Remember that nice picture of your friend’s family enjoying a great vacation doesn’t contain the noise and drama of the children fighting and the lengthy list of other real life challenges that we all face. Stop allowing the sin of the human heart to lead you to jealousy and anger based on a simple social media post. The above list are just a few assumptions that are popular in our digital world, but what about “real life” that involves real conversations, actions, and church relationships?
Stop Assuming the Worst About People
How many people do you know who consistently embrace the worst about others merely based on assumptions gathered by body language or gossip gathered about the person without ever asking one question to the person in question? It’s really easy to build positions about people and to formulate what you believe about a person based on assumptions rather than reality. This is not only dangerously toxic, it’s a sinful misrepresentation of the person in your family, local church, neighbor, or co-worker.
Within the local church, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with individuals who have built an entire library of opinions about another individual within their local church based completely on assumptions. When I push back and ask if they’ve gone to the person to verify the reality of the opinions, nearly every single time the person denies having every asked a single question to the person for verification. They would rather believe assumptions instead of reality. The devil laughs at such patterns because he can easily divide people who aren’t committed to truth.
When you hear something about another person, instead of believing the worst, why not strive to believe the positive? Is darkness really more attractive than light? Consider what damage can arise from basing your opinion of another person on negative assumptions instead of verified reality. Likewise, consider what the Bible teaches about striving to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. In his letter to the church at Ephesus (and surrounding cities), Paul penned pointed out the need for Christians to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The word translated maintain is “τηρέω” which means to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard. It can carry the idea of causing a state, condition, or activity to continue.
In short, the command is to strive for unity and it’s not an option for the Christian. The Christian is not called to create unity, but we are called to cultivate unity. The Christian is not called to manufacture unity, but we are called to maintain it. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – “Not to be in fellowship with those who are born again is to be guilty of schism, which is sinful.”  Rather than assuming the worst, why not fight for the unity of the Spirit within your local church?
Don’t Assume People Know the Gospel
Another danger among the Christian community is to assume that everyone understands and knows the gospel simply because they claim to be a follower of Jesus. This happens in the work of preaching (the heralding of the gospel) and it happens in general conversations in the community on a regular basis.
Consider how many times in preaching (you or your pastor) the gospel has been assumed. It’s often assumed that since people are in an evangelical church assembly on the Lord’s Day—they must understand what the gospel is and believe it. It would be wonderful to hear the gospel explained more clearly from the pulpit in the regular preaching of God’s Word. Preachers should state the gospel, and then explain it clearly. After explaining it, they should repeat what they explained and have already stated in order to be sure that people understand what they stated from the beginning. Assumptions are deadly when it comes to the gospel.
When having conversations at school or during break sessions at work—just because a friend claims to be a Christian don’t assume he or she is a Christian. It would be good to ask your friend to explain the gospel. What does a person mean when they claim to believe the gospel? Just yesterday, when I finished the Discovery class (membership class at our church) I informed each family that when we do their interview prior to membership, I will ask them to explain the gospel in 2-minutes and then explain how they have embraced (believed) the gospel personally. It would be a tragic mistake to assume that families who desire membership in our church know the gospel and believe it.
Assumptions lead to darkness and the devil always thrives in darkness rather than the light. It would be really good to stop assuming and start asking people to verify that what you assume to be true is actually…true.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, What is an Evangelical? (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), 90.
For centuries theologians have been writing and Christians have been debating the details of depravity. Augustine took his cue from Paul and Pelagius went in the opposite direction. Luther agreed with Augustine while Erasmus purported the aged idea that man was free.
Just how corrupt is the human heart? Do people have a free will to choose God or is man’s will in bondage to sin? That’s the question that has been the subject of debate for a very long time. However, when you take a step back from the debate and read Scripture, it seems clear—man is by default a slave to sin and dead to righteousness (Ps. 51:5). Therefore, God had to come to fallen man.
God Came in the Garden
When Adam and Eve fell, they hid from God in the Garden of Eden. It was God who came to man. As David makes it clear in Psalm 53, there is no one good, not even one. There is not one person who seeks after God. From the very beginning we see the pattern of God coming to man.
What did God do when He came to them after the fall? Rather than leaving them in the shame of their nakedness, God clothed them (Gen. 3:21). God has always sought broken sinners. This is God’s pattern. Sure, God rebuked and judged Adam and Eve, but there was provision made. God came with grace and treated them with mercy. From the moment of the first sin—man was not seeking God, but God was seeking man.
Emmanuel and Depravity
The prophets had written and promised that the Messiah would come to deliver His people. Israel was waiting on this kingly ruler to appear on the scene. In God’s time, God came. The second Person of the Triune God was born in the city of Bethlehem. Infinite God became a baby. God had come to his people. John Piper has defined Total Depravity as:
Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us salves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior. 
Not one single person would choose to seek after God if left to his own will. David longed for the coming salvation of Israel (Ps. 53:6). The prophet Isaiah pointed to the future hope of Israel (Is. 9:1-7). Jeremiah 23:1-6 promised the descendant of David who would rule his people righteously. As we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find Jesus coming to his own people, yet his own people did not receive him (John 1:9-11). Not only were they unable to seek God, but they were not even able to recognize him when he was there in their presence. They did not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Once again, it was not man who was seeking God, but God who came to man.
Our Hope in Jesus’ Return
Today as we celebrate Christmas, we look back at the coming of Jesus with great joy. As we consider the long awaited Messiah who came, was rejected, and ultimately paid for the sins of his people with his blood—it reminds us of the reason we sing “Peace on earth.”
Today, we stand in a different place than David in Psalm 53. We stand at a different place in history than Isaiah and Jeremiah. We have a far different vantage point than Micah or Moses. Today, we celebrate Jesus’ first coming while we await with anticipation his second coming. How will the lawless be judged? How will the brokenness of this world be restored? How will all of the wrongs be made right? It’s clear from the pages of Scripture, it will not be man going to God—but God coming to man. One day Jesus will come again and we wait patiently on his return.
When Jesus came the first time, he brought peace to his people. When Jesus comes the second time, only his people will experience peace. The rest of the world will be judged. From the very moment of Adam’s rebellion in the Garden to our present day—the need for God to come to us has not changed. With John the apostle, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
- John Piper, Five Points, (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2013), 15.
One of the most anti-Christmas things you can do as an American during the Christmas season is bypass Santa. It does save time at the local mall as we walk past the long line of families waiting for their opportunity to pay for the awkward Santa Claus photo with their children, but beyond that—it creates tension at times with close friends and family members. Why have we decided to say no to Santa?
Is Santa Sinful?
My wife and I both grew up in homes where Santa Claus was the normal talk of the home at Christmas time. We both took pictures with the real Santa who was validated by a real white beard in the local mall. While Santa was very much apart of our Christmas celebrations—we both were raised in the context of Christian homes where the gospel was emphasized. So, is the practice of Santa Claus sinful?
The answer to that question depends on several key factors. Is Jesus replaced by Santa in yearly Christmas festivities? Is the emphasis placed on materialism and selfish greed rather than the gift of God’s Son for the salvation of his people? Are God’s non-communicable attributes given to a mythological character who rides on a sleigh behind flying reindeer? Are you lying to children about Christmas and expecting them to believe you about the incarnation once they realize it’s all a friendly game? These questions must be addressed fully and the heart of each person must be carefully examined in order to determine if a family is sinning with Santa. Only God knows the heart and true motive of each person.
Santa Is Not God
The theology of God should never be attributed to the fictional character known as Santa. Consider the words to the popular song that every child knows—and learns to recite on a frequent basis as the days draw closer to December 25th.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
While God is not limited by time, geographic location, and while God knows all things at all times—that cannot be said of a mythological character known as Santa Claus. God is able to discern the thoughts of men (Luke 11:17), but no person possesses such abilities. Be careful not to confuse children by placing a jolly fictional character on the same level as the deity of Jesus.
Furthermore, the theology of Santa is quite troubling. The idea depicted by the fictional jolly man with a large white beard is that he encourages an empty works based pattern of life that says, “be good for goodness sake.” This is not the gospel and it certainly can confuse children unintentionally in the spirit of Christmas festivity.
The inconsistency of Santa is likewise troublesome. The most disobedient child who has been threatened with a bag of coal in the place of toys for Christmas suddenly receives a free pass by Santa—who like an aged old grandfather rewards such children with their entire wish list on Christmas morning. What does this say about Jesus—the righteous Judge?
Christmas Is About Something Greater than Santa
Last year, Christmas day fell on a Sunday. Sadly, many churches cancelled services because their members didn’t want the church services to conflict with their Christmas celebrations. That’s a sad picture into how professing Christians push Jesus off into the shadows in order to celebrate Christmas. What exactly are we celebrating if we have to cancel church in order to celebrate Christmas?
While my wife and I both have many good memories surrounding Christmas morning with gifts from Santa—we’ve decided to go a different route for our family. No, we’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses. We’re Christians who celebrate Christmas. We want our children to be thrilled with Jesus—not Santa. We want our children to look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior, so we’ve decided to forego the whole Santa game. While we do provide gifts, we have told our children they’re from us as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We gather together, eat cake (or cupcakes) and sing to Jesus. While it may be possible for Christians to engage in the Santa traditions without sinning—we’ve made a decision to bypass Santa for several key reasons.
We want to emphasize the birth of Jesus and place an intentional spotlight upon the celebration of the incarnation (Luke 2). The greatest miracle in the history of mankind is the moment when God took upon himself human flesh. God became a man and dwelt among his very creation (John 1:14). This is the kind of stuff that we find in story books and fictional movies—but even then no story or movie plot can compare to the story of God’s gospel.
The troubling statistics about teenagers who walk away from the faith should be troublesome to us. In 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention released statistics stating that 70-88% of their youth walk away from their faith after their freshman year in college. In 2006, Barna Research Group stated that “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years.” These numbers aren’t getting better and we must address the problem.
While I don’t believe the problem rests on the shoulders of Santa Claus alone, I do believe that inconsistency as Christian parents can be a chink in the armor that Satan uses to destroy the faith of children. Teaching children to engage in little white lies can be the seed of doubt used to question the reliability of the Bible and the story of God’s gospel. We want our children to believe us—always. So, that’s one reason we don’t do Santa in our home. We’ve made the hard decision from day one to tell our young children that Santa isn’t real (or at least the mythological figure known to live in the North Pole).
We want our children to look at the story of a jolly old man who visits us on a red sleigh behind Rudolph and a host of other flying reindeer and find no comparison to the story of the second Person of the Trinity leaving heaven’s throne to be born into poverty as he clothed himself in human flesh—entering the world through the womb of a virgin girl—in order to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). God was born that man no more may die—to borrow the words from the well known carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Jesus—the Creator—entered his very creation on a saving mission and today after completing his mission on the cross and being raised from the dead on the third day, he sits upon heaven’s throne as he upholds the entire universe by his power (Heb. 1:3). Santa cannot compare to Jesus.
Teach your children the truth about God. Build confidence in your children by allowing them to know that you will always tell them the truth. Make Christmas about God’s gift in Jesus rather than Santa’s big bag of goodies that will be broken and forgotten about before February.
Yesterday, we had the distinct privilege to gather with our church family on Christmas. As we gathered for worship, it wasn’t just any Lord’s Day, it was the day set aside on the calendar each year to remember the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I preached from John 1:1-18 and the focus of the sermon was the incarnation of Jesus.
Not only did the eternal Logos become a man, Christ also dwelt among His own people. What a unique truth to behold in John’s Gospel. In a masterful way, moved by the Spirit of God to communicate with precise doctrinal clarity, John the apostle connects the dots from the Tabernacle of the Old Testament to the incarnation of the New Testament. When we consider the fact that God became a man, taking upon Himself human flesh, He not only did that in reality, but He dwelt among His very own creation.
Just as it was profoundly wonderful for the radiant glory of God to descend upon the tent-temple of the Old Testament tabernacle, in a far greater weight of glory was the arrival of God in the flesh of Jesus. What a miracle to behold. Wayne Grudem writes:
It is by far the most amazing miracle in the whole Bible – far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join Himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe. 
The text explains that Jesus “dwelt” among us. The word translated dwelt comes from the Greek word σκηνόω, meaning, “To pitch a tent or to tabernacle.” When we pause to think about the fact that Jesus, the highest King of human history, was not born in a palace or behind the walls of a massive castle as royal babies typically are, but he instead was born in a stable for animals—it’s overwhelming. Jesus, the Son of the living God, became a man and lived among His very own creation in a cruel sin-cursed world.
This was the purpose of the incarnation, Emmanuel—God with us. As God, Jesus would minister in a way that no other human could possibly do. Jesus would come to seek and save the lost, and to fulfill what the angel spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21. Jesus was born to die. Through His death, God and sinners would be reconciled, as Charles Wesley so eloquently described it in his hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
God became a man, yet He didn’t cease to be God. He was God when He was conceived in Mary’s womb, He was God when they laid Him in the stable, He was God when He preached His first sermon, He was God when they nailed Him to the cross. He was man, yet God at the same time, and after being brutally killed on the cross, He was raised from the dead proving His divinity.
What is the incarnation? It’s when God became a man. Why did He become a man? He came to save His people from their sins. Have you been rescued from your sin? Have you been saved? God motivated Caesar Augustus to make a decree regarding the registration which forced Mary and Joseph to travel 90 miles to Bethlehem so that she would give birth to Jesus in that particular city in order to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Could it be that the same sovereign God has ordained that you come to understand what Christmas is all about this season, in order to save you from your sin?
Unlike the most holy place within the Tabernacle of the Old Testament that was sectioned off and unapproachable by every person, when God became a man He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Consider these words written by Charles Wesley:
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 563.