Christmas

One of the most amazing things about Christmas is the wonder it creates. Every parent knows the joy of watching the eyes of children fill with excitement when they open their Christmas morning gifts. One of the most valuable aspects of the wonder Christmas creates is that it tunes the minds and hearts of children and adults alike to hear truth. The wonder of Christmas is a powerful ally to the ultimate truth about Christmas.

Yes, Jesus was born of a virgin. Yes, the events surrounding his birth were miraculous. Yes, Jesus’ birth fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. But Jesus’ birth anticipated far more than a magical night in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. Jesus was born to live a perfect life, die a substitutionary death on a Roman cross, and be raised from the dead providing eternal life to all who would believe in him.

When was the last time you paused to wonder at the glory of God’s entrance into the world? Wonder is a spiritual reality that reminds us how small we really are and how grand and glorious God is. For example, it is a wonder that we even exist. Eric Metaxas put it this way in his book Miracles, 

As of now, fifteen years into the twenty-first century, we know of so many conditions that are absolutely necessary for a planet to support life that not only is it extremely improbable that any other planets can support life, it’s extremely improbable that our planet should support life. To speak statistically and logically, life of any kind should not exist and we shouldn’t be here (37).

Metaxas proceeded to argue that even the size of our planet is uniquely designed for life. Were earth just a little bigger, gravity would increase causing toxic gasses rather than oxygen to hug the planet making it impossible to breath. Were the earth a little smaller, gravity would decrease making it virtually impossible for water to exist on the planet’s surface causing earth to be inhospitable to life (37). The size of the earth is just one of nearly 150 variables necessary for life to exist on a planet. Makes you wonder?

When we consider that we even exist, we should wonder. When we think that the God who created all humbled himself to be born as a baby, we should wonder. When we realize that Jesus died so that we could know the Creator-God personally, we should WONDER. Wonder stimulates humility and humility is the spiritual necessity for walking with God.

So before your Christmas holiday is over, pause, and WONDER at the God who loves you with an uncontainable glorious love.

Metaxas, Eric. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Charles Dickens made the ghosts of Christmas famous in his legendary character Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future showed and taught Scrooge how his miserly ways were destroying the Christmas spirit. No doubt many of us today are haunted by our own forms of selfishness and materialism. But in this post, I’m dealing with ghosts of a different nature—the ones that might haunt our attitudes, demeanors and relationships this Christmas season.

The ghost of life past—unforgiveness. Most of us have been hurt by others. Some of us have been hurt deeply. And in many cases the hurts of our past haunt our present. While we can never undo the experiences and hurts of our past, we can choose to forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is a divine expectation for followers of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is for us not for those who’ve wronged us. Too many people this Christmas season will suffer in bitterness because they won’t forgive others. I don’t want to appear insensitive. I’m grieved for those who have experienced betrayal, hate, abuse, neglect, or any number of other deeply disturbing pains. In fact, Jesus himself is deeply grieved over your pain. All too often our pains were perpetrated by family members whom we will face over the holidays. To exorcise this ghost, you must choose to forgive those who’ve wronged you. To forgive does not mean that you can forget or that you must trust the individual again. It simply means that you must choose not to hold bitterness, anger, or punishment against them in your own hand. As I noted above, to forgive is divine. You need the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive. And YOU need to forgive for YOURSELF. Christmas is about forgiveness—God was deeply wronged by our sin, and he sent his perfect Son to forgive us. I urge you. Please search your heart and forgive any bitterness that remains from your past.

The ghost of life present—busyness. Today’s Christmas season begins right after Halloween and drives us to shopping malls, internet deals, numerous parties, trips, and events. While many things require our attention, time, and attendance, they can often exhaust the joy out of our holiday. Why? Because we are so focused on getting things done, pleasing others, and finalizing tasks, we often fail to appreciate the simplicity of the real reason for the Christmas season. To exorcise this ghost, set aside a time to pause and celebrate the real reason for the season—Jesus. Learn to appreciate the simple quiet moments of the season—the beauty of a classic Christmas carol, the wonder on the face of a young child enamored with Christmas “twinklie” lights, or even the quiet moments you may off day during Christmas season. Make time to pause, to be thankful, and to celebrate Jesus, the Lord and Savior.

The ghost of life future—worry. Some of us (okay, probably all of us to some degree) get sidetracked by our concerns and worries. We worry about what decision we’re supposed to make, how we’re going to pay a bill (or pay for Christmas), or how we’re going to reconcile a relationship. We worry about these types of things and a lot more. Sometimes we attempt to veil our worry as a “concern,” but most often we are still being sinful by focusing on what is not ours to deal with. In Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus tells us not to be anxious—not to worry. In fact, most of what we worry about are things in the future that we have no control over. Being haunted by the ghost of life future shackles our faith and hampers our ability to focus on the God who loves us and will take care of us. To exorcise this ghost, we must replace our worries with the One who is called Wonderful. Trust must take the place of worry. Sounds a bit simple, right? Yes, it actually is simple. We trust when we begin to look at the Sovereign, Wonderful, Lord of all instead of our concerns and worries. The best way to focus on our Lord instead of our situations is to read his Word, spend time in prayer, and recount the many ways that he has already intervened in our lives.

There are certainly other ghosts that might haunt us this season. But at least in my own life unforgiveness, busyness, and worry have at times stolen my joy. These ghosts lead us to be miserly, selfish, grumpy, and generally unpleasant—picture Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch. To borrow from the Bible translation of my childhood (the King James translation) the Holy Ghost is the only One who can chase away the ghosts that haunt and strip our joy away. God have us the Holy Ghost so we could forgive, praise, and trust. May we experience a renewed relationship with God this Christmas and have an abundance of the joy he brings.

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While I genuinely love the Christmas season, I must confess that I get annoyed and frustrated by the commercialization of what is a genuinely spiritual event. I’m not the biggest fan of decorating my house or the Christmas tree. But don’t call me a Grinch. Personally, I like to think of myself firmly set in the middle between the two extremes – Ebenezer Scrooge and Clark Griswald. OK, since my wife Jean will read this, I lean a little more toward Mr. Scrooge. Jean, on the other hand, absolutely loves everything Christmas—decorating, making our own Christmas cards, seasonal smells, and post-Christmas sales. One of her favorite colors is even a bright Christmas red. And she especially loves to ride around with our 3 year old Will at night looking for “twinklies”—Christmas lights

Unfortunately, even decorating one’s house with lights has become commercialized. Popular movies poke fun at the ridiculous number of lights and exorbitant amount of money spent on lights and decorations during the season. Just a few days from now, ABC will air for the second Christmas, “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” highlighting the extremes of some decorators. But I believe that decorating one’s house and tree with lights is more than a mere nod at external beauty. Christmas lights hearken back to a biblical truth that will last for ages past the modern era of commercialized Christmas. We all know the story of the Christmas star. Many of our Christmas trees are topped with a star pointing to the story of the wise men who were guided to Christ’s abode by a star that had risen in the sky. But even deeper and truer still is the scriptural assertion concerning the light of the world. Numerous Christmas hymns shine through music and melody the truth about Jesus—the Light of the World.

In Isaiah 9:2, the prophet foretells: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” Further along in this same passage, Isaiah declared, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be named Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel, the apostle quotes this passage from Isaiah affirming that those dwelling in darkness have seen a great light—that light being Jesus himself. As the light of the world, a Christmas theme, Jesus illuminates this dark world in two very important ways. First, Jesus the light exposes the darkness and evil of our sins. Without exposing our sin, there is no hope of dealing with it. Second, and equally as important, Jesus the light reveals the glory of his Heavenly Father. So the light of the world both exposes our sinfulness and deficiency before God as he also reveals to us the glory of the Father and his purpose of salvation.

Fittingly, in the very next chapter of Matthew, Jesus declares that his followers are the light of the world. In other words, the illuminating responsibility to expose sin and reveal the Father’s glory has now become the responsibility of each believer. It’s like the song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.” My only complaint with this song is the phrase, this “little” light of mine. Our light is not little because it is not a light of our own making or from our own hearts. The light is that of the Christmas child who is Lord and Savior.

It is his light which has been reflected all the way from a feeding trough in a stable to a wooden cross, a borrowed tomb and even to the depths of hell itself—from the humble adoration of simple shepherds to the glorious songs of heavenly hosts in the choir rooms of heaven—from the mountainside as a traveling preacher ignited a flame in the hearts of his followers to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people across planet earth. No, our lights are not little, and we must not allow them to grow dim.