During this festive time of the year, you will often hear adults make the remark that “Christmas is really all about the kids.”
It’s really easy to get swept away in the traditions and festivities only to realize that there really isn’t much genuine celebration happening. This is true especially when it comes to financial stress in order to get the right present or the right number of presents for the children.
Are you a Christian? Why is the world dictating to you the rules of Christmas? Why are you so unhappy during this season of celebration? Could it be that Christmas isn’t really all about the kids after all?
Advent: The Coming of the King
The word advent means coming. Typically arranged during the four weeks prior to Christmas, Christians around the world remember the time when the people of God were living in true anticipation of the coming of their King. The four weeks of celebration is a reminder that God’s promises are true and that the long-awaited King of glory—prophesied by Isaiah (see Is. 7:14; 9:6) came just as it was foretold some 700 years before his birth! John writes with poetic excellence and gospel hope:
John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I recently read a story about a little seven year old boy who woke up his father early in December in a panic on a Saturday morning. He was worried that their family would not have any meaningful Christmas at all because their inflatable of Frosty the Snow Man was in the garage with a hole that needed to be patched. He said, “Dad, wake up, we have to get Frosty in fixed. It’s Christmas time.” For the little boy’s brief life, he had only been taught that at Christmas the family puts up a cheap inflatable in order to properly celebrate. How is the world changing the way you celebrate Christmas? Are you distracted so much that advent isn’t something you even put an emphasis upon?
Incarnation: God in Human Flesh
It may come as a shock to you, but atheists celebrate Christmas too. As you walk through shopping malls looking for that hot ticket item, people who reject God and claim to believe that there is no God at all will be standing in line with their children to get their annual picture with Santa, competing with you to find that special gift, and just enjoying the festive music and seasonal décor all throughout the shopping mall.
During the Christmas season, the world is caught up in myths that center on elves who never seem to sit still on shelves, flying reindeer, and a jolly old man who knows more than anyone else and will reward kids based on their morality—“so you better be good for goodness sake.”
Have you paused recently to quietly read Luke 2 and consider that God became a man? What story of an elf or a bearded man with a magical bag of presents could compete with the story of the incarnation?
When you pause and consider the reality that God, the Creator of the heavens, the Creator of the earth, the high Sovereign and exalted King of glory, entered a young woman’s womb and was born in the likeness of men is absolutely beyond anything the world has ever seen or heard. The miracle of the incarnation is the purpose of Christmas celebrations. Far superseding any super hero movie plot and far superior to any drama series on television, and far more amazing than any message you could read in any other book is the message of Jesus’ birth.
Salvation: The Real Gift of Christmas
What did you get your kids for Christmas last year? Do they even remember it? How long did they play with it? How long did it satisfy them? You know the drill, right? You spend lots of money and time to buy things that really never come close to satisfying the hearts of your kids.
Christmas is not all about the kids. In fact, it’s not all about the presents either. No gift lasts forever, right? Well, actually there is a gift that lasts forever and if we emphasized that gift at Christmas we would have true and meaningful celebrations with our families.
Jesus was born in order that he would become the sacrifice for our sin. He would be the sin offering to the Father—literally taking away our sin. Listen to what 1 Peter 2:24 says:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
The hymn writer Charles Wesley, in his famous Christmas carol, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” described the purpose of Jesus’ birth by writing:
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”
The real purpose behind the birth of Jesus was his saving mission that would culminate on the Roman cross where he would lay down his life for his people. As atheists stand in line to get their children’s annual picture with Santa, Wesley’s carol is played over the speakers and they mumble the words although they refuse to believe. They embrace Wesley’s song much like they do Santa—without any real belief—after all, it’s Christmas.
Certainly there is more to Christmas than a fruitcake and mystical stories that have no real meaning. This is why the church of Jesus Christ should take the lead in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. If you strip away Christmas trees, candy canes, festive lights, decorative wreaths, chocolate, mistletoe, gifts and gift exchanges, hot cider, eggnog, silver bells, jingle bells, festive music, Santa Claus, reindeer, shopping malls, and elves—Christians can still have a true and meaningful Christmas because Jesus’ birth is what we celebrate and his gift of salvation is one that endures with great satisfaction for all of eternity.
Christmas is not all about the kids—it’s all about Jesus, and your kids desperately need to know it. I’m not arguing that you should abandon all celebrations during the Christmas season. Not at all. I’m actually making the point that as a Christian your celebration should be far more meaningful and filled with satisfaction.
Matthew 1:21 – She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
During the advent season, when Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus, there’s one song that is often sung by churches, choirs, and soloists—telling the story of the incarnation of Jesus with brilliant words and stunning musical arrangement that often stands out among the other carols and Christmas hymns. Originally known by its French name, “Cantique de Noël” (meaning “song of Christmas”), the song “O Holy Night” remains a favorite song of the Christmas season.
Perhaps you never knew the story of this well known carol that was penned by a nominal Catholic and the music arranged by a reluctant Jew—for a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. You might not have known of the controversy the song created in France when the author left the Catholic Church resulting in it being banned before it eventually made its way to the United States. You also might not have known that this song was the very first song to be played across the radio airwaves in world history on December 24th 1906. Even with all of this history, perhaps you have overlooked something else in the song, namely a message nestled within the third stanza that deserves our attention.
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
It is no secret that today’s evangelical church, especially in America, is greatly divided over the social justice movement’s methods and message. Rather than promoting love and peace, the social justice movement breeds resentment, animosity, and division. Social justice by default flows out of a long history of postmodernism and with a functional goal of deconstruction—the movement itself demands reparations rather than forgiveness, penance rather than repentance, and social activism rather than unity in gospel transformation.
This beloved carol was introduced to America during a time of division over slavery. The third stanza spoke the truth with poetic power and moved the hearts of people. It was a needed message during a time of great division and darkness in our nation’s history. Indeed, in Jesus we learn what true love is—sovereign love, servant love, and saving love.
The devil is quite crafty and uses something as shallow as skin color to divide people from one another. This has been the case all throughout human history. Sadly, the world and the church are both tempted to find answers to brokenness through social justice rather than the gospel of Jesus. This leads to a hyper-focus on social activism, marches, tearing down statues of historic figures, burning historic flags, and demanding change that’s focused on the shallowness of skin color rather than the heart, the mind, and the actual abilities that people are gifted with.
Social justice, being a rather complex movement, is not only focused on ethnic division, but also on areas such as the roles and responsibilities of men and women in the home, the society, and the local church. Rather than celebrating the roles of both men and women as image bearers of God in this world and within the local church—social justice demands equality of roles and functions—something that God never intended. The social justice message creates bitterness rather than love, division rather than unity, and chaos rather than peace. Looking for freedom in a world of brokenness—advocates of social justice become slaves to ideas, methods, and ultimately doctrines that flow out of the pages of postmodernism rather than sacred Scripture. This is not the message of love nor will it lead people to peace.
Today, we are experiencing much chaos as the social justice train continues to roll through denominations, institutions, organizations, and local churches. We are witnessing a unique and trying time in our history where longtime friendships are being severed and denominations are being stressed to the point of implosion. It seems that there is no light at the end of this long tunnel.
As we consider our current place in human history and within the history of the church, we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ. The birth of Jesus was promised in the midst of chaos (Gen. 3:15). All throughout human history, God would often remind people of the coming of Christ in the midst of turmoil and chaos as was the case when the prophet Isaiah penned his promise of hope. When people needed hope—God pointed them to the birth of a King, but not just any king. The prophet writing 700 years before the birth of Jesus pointed the people to the one who would bring true justice and eternal peace.
Nestled in this famous carol is the promise of Isaiah 9:6. While we look back at the birth of Jesus, we must remember that as the prophet wrote Isaiah 9:6 long before Jesus’ birth, he didn’t stop in Bethlehem. He looked beyond, to a day in which Christ would usher in his visible Kingdom and upon his return would rule with perfect justice and ultimate peace. When Christ returns, all oppression shall cease. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord upon his return, and all forms of sinful oppression will be no more.
Only in Jesus will ethnic division among Jew and Gentile be settled. Only in Jesus will ethnic pride and divisive racism be swallowed up in victory. Our hope for a world without division, chaos, bitterness, pride, and confusion over our roles and responsibilities as men and women will only be realized fully when Christ returns and makes all things new.
Until then, we look back to Jesus’ birth with joyful hearts and long for the day of hope when our King shall descend in radiant splendor. Come Lord Jesus!
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.