The Blessing of CHRISTmas
In CHRISTmas Memories we recognized both the ups and downs that CHRISTmas can bring. In CHRISTmas Stories we shared a unique perspective from the “least” of the CHRISTmas players, the Bethlehem shepherds, and the role they played as well as lessons we can learn from them.
In this post, I want to turn our focus directly to the choice that Jesus made which makes CHRISTmas a reality and in doing so gave us the model for our lives and relationships…that of humility and sacrificial love.
A ten-year old, who was becoming quite knowledgeable about the Bible because of her grandmother’s teaching, asked her grandmother: “Which Virgin was the mother of Jesus? The Virgin Mary or the King James Virgin?”
A small boy was writing a letter to God about the Christmas presents he badly wanted. “I’ve been good for six months now,” he wrote. But after a moment’s reflection he crossed out “six months” and wrote “three months.” After a pause that was crossed out and he put “two weeks.” There was another pause and that was crossed out too. He got up from the table and went over to the nativity scene that had the figures of Mary and Joseph. He picked up the figure of Mary, wrapped it gently in a cloth, and put it in a drawer in his room. He then went back to his writing and started again: “Dear God, if ever you want to see your mother again!”
Before we unpack The Blessing of CHRISTmas I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some things that you may or may not have previously contemplated with regard to the gifts of the Magi (Wise Men) and Herod’s killing of the boys under 2 years old in Bethlehem found in Matthew 2…
At about one to two years of age Jesus is visited by Magi or Wise Men (we assume there were three because three gifts are mentioned but The Bible does not indicate how many). They are overwhelmed and worship Him, presenting Him with the familiar gifts that some scholars say signify His roles as King (Gold), Priest (Frankincense) and The Sacrificial Lamb (Myrrh)…certainly something to think about. This is beautifully portrayed in the movie, The Nativity, albeit the Wise Men arrive while he’s still an infant in the cave, which is highly unlikely.
What God does next is incredible in protecting His Word that is now become flesh…The Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem and Herod (God’s providential protection of this Baby)…Joseph is warned in a dream to go to Egypt and then to return with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth after Herod’s death. Isn’t it amazing how God orchestrates things clearly and plainly and/or totally behind the scenes to fulfill His prophecies? God has always protected His Word just as He did His Word in the Flesh!
The reality of CHRISTmas…nothing else matters if this didn’t happen! John 1:1…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:14…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Rest of the CHRISTmas Story
This is what I call the “The Rest of the CHRISTmas story” in Scripture…Immanuel – God With Us found in John 1 and Philippians 2:3-8. Follow me…
5 Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What does CHRISTmas really mean…for God to take on human flesh in Christ? What is the lesson for us as His followers? Philippians 2:3-8 describes Jesus love and humility and calls us to have the same attitude which parallels the life that He calls us to as His disciples in Luke 14:25-35.
Jesus Example for us (Philippians 2:3-8)
– Humble Attitude (vv. 3-5)
– Emptied Himself (v. 6)
– Experienced all of humanity (v. 7)
– Gave His all for us (v. 8)
Jesus Calling of us (Luke 14:25-33)
– Christ before all (v. 26)
– Die to self (vv. 26)
– Count the Cost (vv. 27-32)
– Give up all for Him (v. 33)
Casting Crowns in their CHRISTmas song, God is With Us, say it this way, “You’re the Savior we’ve been praying for, In our humble hearts You will dwell, You are in us, You are for us, You are with us… Immanuel.”
Immanuel – God With Us…from the humble stable in Bethlehem to the humble heart of mankind! Have you received Him into your heart and life?
We must remember the beautiful story of CHRISTmas with all the incredible characters, events and scenes. However, we must be careful to remember the real purpose of that first CHRISTmas, the Blessing we were given and what it calls us to.
The Beauty of CHRISTmas in a Culture of Self
December Nativity scenes are still quite common (that’s a good thing) even in an age where they have become political fodder in public schools and government facilities. In the “commonness” we can easily forget how sharply these scenes call to our attention the self-absorbed culture we live in.
First of all, there’s the pure, common teenage virgin, leaning over the manger, who responded with a humble “yes” when divinely charged with bringing about the pivotal point in all of history! She said, “I am The Lord’s servant, may it be unto me as you have said” (Luke 1:38) knowing full well that the burden of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy would continue far beyond nine months to a lifetime. Her faithful obedience allowed your burdens and mine to be lifted for eternity.
Then there’s the man quietly standing beside her, remembered by all of history as good and noble because he put this young woman’s welfare above his own reputation. He raised God’s son, not his own flesh and blood, and he did so without hesitancy or complaint.
Of course, there’s the central figure…God as a Baby: Jesus Himself. As pointed out in “the rest of the CHRISTmas story” from Philippians 2 above, he emptied Himself of His Divine Glory, took on the form of a lowly human servant and, in doing so, bore all our sin and brokenness on the Cross. Check out Self-Giving in The Nativity for more and note the “beauty” in all that God does in contrast with our culture, to which I would add one thing displayed by Mary and Joseph…Which is more beautiful and fulfilling, the sacrifice, engagement and marriage that honors God’s love for us or our culture’s alternatives to relationships and sexuality?”
You see, without Immanuel nothing else matters. If He’s not Immanuel, then Lord, Shepherd, Friend, Brother, Savior…nothing else matters. God With Us…He not only came to us, He became us, to save us and offer us Eternity with Him!
Without CHRISTmas there is no Easter – no chance of salvation if Christ doesn’t put on flesh, doesn’t become human and give up His life as the perfect sacrifice and atonement for us.
Oh, He is forever King of kings and Lords of lords…but He could never have been our Savior/Lord had he not become a baby…become us…Immanuel!
That’s CHRISTmas…That’s the womb of a virgin, the manger, the swaddling cloths, the hay, manure, cows, sheep and maybe a dog or two…That’s God wrapped in our injured, dying, decaying flesh! Don’t miss this! Everything else you hear this season…Savior, Lord, Shepherd… everything – could only happen because He became IMMANUEL – GOD WITH US!!!
Enjoy all of it because He came to us and he became us! We have every reason, even in the struggles, stresses and trials to rejoice because of CHRISTmas!
Before this week’s Top 10, I saved one song that has become my all-time favorite. It’s included in this post because it so fully encompasses all that God shared with us in Immanuel at CHRISTmas. Listen to Welcome to our World (by Chris Rice).
Now, here’s a great “Top 10” for parents and grandparents to share with your children/grandchildren or share with children’s class at church… http://www.imom.com/10-great-christmas-stories.
Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!
Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Have you considered that God becoming flesh in the Christ Child at CHRISTmas had to happen or there would have been no sufficient sacrifice for us on Good Friday? How does the “Other” CHRISTmas story affect your perspective of CHRISTmas?
Love and Lordship…Action Item – In your quiet time think about the manger, the cross and the tomb and the fact that they are all empty? In your prayer time ask The Holy Spirit to draw you closer to Him as He reveals to you the significance that each are empty.