May the spirit of love which comes at Christmas fill our homes and our lives and linger there long after the tree is down and the lights are put away for another year. – Thomas S. Monson
A long time ago in a stable far, far away…
Multitudes of people around the world pause each December to observe Christmas as a religious and cultural celebration. Numerous popular customs associated with this annual holiday have evolved over hundreds of years. Today, the global Christmas season is a mixture of pagan, Christian, and secular themes.
For many, Christmas offers an opportunity for reflection on the important things in life – a time to become more interested in people and less absorbed in stuff. Christmas inspires the spirit of giving without concern for the getting. As a result, we often rediscover the happiness that comes from the joy we spark in others. And, just for a moment, the minutiae of everyday life is overshadowed by that which has true value.
For Christians, the celebration of Christmas also presents a wonderful time to stop and reflect on the extraordinary arrival of an exceptional child who was sent from another world by a Divine being who has declared himself to be the Almighty One. The Christian Christmas story can be summed up as follows:
The Creator of all things (God) desired to come into a corporal existence upon the earth. To accomplish this, the Almighty elected to take the form of a mortal (one of His own creation). God moved from a timeless dimension (eternity) into the realm of the temporal (time). He picked a young virgin girl called Mary to supernaturally impregnate. She was used as a vessel to deliver the incarnate God-man into this world. All of this was explained to her in a visitation which she received from an otherworldly envoy (commonly called an Angel) prior to the pregnancy. Thus, the Creator entered this world as the man-child called Jesus.
Christmas celebrates this supernaturally orchestrated birth. Jesus lived on the earth for about 30 years before embarking on His mission – to seek out and salvage His stranded creation which had gone astray. This is why He is called the Liberator (aka Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, Rescuer, etc.) To expunge these facts from the Christian celebration of Christmas is impossible, and yet, our contemporary secular festival has become nothing more than a distant cousin to the pagan celebrations (winter solstice, Saturnalia, etc.) from which many historians believe it was first derived.
Just ask a random sampling of today’s general populace to define Christmas; you will hear words like Santa Claus, Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Black Friday and the like. Descriptions of brightly decorated homes, holiday parties and of course the iconic Christmas tree also top the list of images that are used to paint the modern Christmas picture. But none of this imagery is to be found in the original Biblical narrative concerning the birth of the Christ child.
Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God. – Author Unknown
Angels and Shepherds, on the other hand, do have a prominent role in the Christian Christmas chronicle. Messengers from another world were sent to proclaim the arrival of the Liberator on earth. Picture if you will a group of sheep herders passing the night in an open field. Suddenly pandemonium breaks loose.
Here is the scene as described in the Biblical Book of Luke:
8-14 “There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger. And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!” – Luke 2:8-14 (Phillips)
In my mind, I see the shepherds relaxing by a warm crackling fire. The night was calm, and the sky was bright. But then, suddenly, an otherworldly entity (Angel) burst on the scene and shook up everything. In fact, the sky then filled with these strange visitors. When that happened, the shepherds freaked out. Wouldn’t you? They weren’t just unnerved; the Bible says they were, “terror-stricken!” I guess so. Notice what the Angelic being said to them, “Be not afraid.”
Talk about making a scene; the spectacle in the skies that night was not only remarkable, it also scared the living daylights out of those that witnessed the event. It was a good kind of fear, though. In the Older Testament of the Bible, King Solomon said, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” I think they all experienced the fear of God that night.
Oddly, nothing has changed really. The story of Christmas still frightens people today – but not for the same reason. These days, it is facing the reality of Jesus himself that alarms people. Just the mention of His name creates incredible anxiety in some individuals; outright disdain in others.
The Scriptures are very important to Christmas. For unto us a child was born, and we should be reminded of how Jesus’s amazing journey came to be. – Monica Johnson
Think about how the Newer Testament writer Matthew describes Jesus:
23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
Matthew shamelessly declares that Jesus is God in human form. He refers to him as Immanuel. This is perhaps the greatest title that Scripture ascribes to this supernatural God-man. After all, He didn’t simply arise as a mere self-proclaimed religious leader or declare Himself a great prophet that was a cut above the others. Neither did he come as a social reformer. Jesus came as Immanuel – God in human flesh. Isn’t that brilliant? Almighty God arrives from another dimension (the place we simply refer to as Heaven) to live on the earth as the son of man (inside of a being he engineered)!
And what about this foretelling statement from the prophet Isaiah as recorded in the Older Testament of the Bible:
6 “For to us a Child will be born. To us a Son will be given. And the rule of the nations will be on His shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Teacher, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
Listen, the nations of this world might tolerate a cute diminutive story about a sweet little baby in a straw-filled feeding-box, but they will hardly accept titles bestowed upon him like, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”
When as Christians we affirm these crowning designations ascribed to Jesus, we’re acknowledging that He is infinitely greater than anyone on the earth. It means we accept Him as the highest authority in life. This is why we are willing to place our absolute trust in Him. It is also why we are willing to obey His every word. And that is what alarms (and terrifies) this present world order about Jesus and His followers.
The fear of confronting the “real” Jesus is not a new phenomenon. When a group of distinguished foreigners (the Magi) from the East eventually found their way to Jerusalem looking for the young child Jesus they asked King Herod,
2 “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2 (NIV)
Do you know how King Herod and the religious people of that day reacted when queried by these visiting ancient astrologers?
3 “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.” – Matthew 2:3 (NIV).
Jesus is still disturbing people today. Let’s face it, He was no ordinary mortal. His arrival on the earth was both foretold and revealed to many in the times leading up to his extraordinary birth. He was Immanuel (God in the form of a man), and once here, it wasn’t possible to control Him! That’s why all the insults, accusations, and even death couldn’t stop Him. In fact, it was not until Jesus was ready to die that He allowed Himself to be taken and put to death. Listen to what he said,
18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 (NLB)
Immanuel appeared on earth to follow a Divine blueprint for the reclamation of humanity. His death was part of that plan. Here is how Jesus Himself described it,
23-24 “… I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:23-24
Death was not the end of Jesus; it was the birth of a new “kingdom” whose builder and maker is the Creator himself (God). That kingdom is here now and it is irrepressible! That is why the spirit of this world (antichrist) fears Him so! Go ahead, deny him if you like, and hate him if it makes you feel good, pretend he never existed; you cannot extinguish the penetrating light of his message. The Newer Testament writer John expressed it this way,
4-5 “In him (Jesus) appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” – John 1:4-5 (Phillips)
Remember those shepherds we talked about earlier? After the angelic messenger from another world came to them and announced the birth of Immanuel (God with us), they were scared and bewildered! So, what did those sheep herders do? Deny the reality of what they heard and saw? Run away and hide? Let their family and friends convince them that they had too much Manischewitz or Mogen David that night? Absolutely NOT!
Here’s what the New Testament writer Luke says they did,
15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”. – Luke 2:15 (NIV)
Incredibly enough the shepherds, in spite of being terrified and confused, searched for the truth! They went to find this “Savior” whose birth was revealed to them in their amazing visitation. Doubtful they understood that this innocent baby, born in obscurity, would one day grow up and traverse their cities and towns exposing them to the truth that would set them free!
God seeks to influence humanity. This is at the heart of the Christmas story. It is the story of light coming into the darkness, of a Savior to show us the way, of light overcoming the darkness, of God’s work to save the world. – Adam Hamilton
Today, when the Spirit of Jesus (in transcendent form) enters a human soul, His kingdom continues to expand, one disciple at a time. The Scriptures even predict that there will come a time when, “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” – (Habakkuk 2:14)
Before our liberator returned to the timeless dimension from which he came, He promised that in the form of a Divine Spirit, He would always be with us and that one day He would physically return again. The Newer Testament writer John recorded these words spoken to him by Jesus in a vision. They are found in the last section of the Bible known as The Book of Revelation,
20 “See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house…” – Revelation 3:20 (Phillips)
So what have we learned? The almighty Creator paid a visit to this tiny insignificant spec of a world in the vastness of a universe that he created in order to seek and to rescue a lost and stranded people. It was a salvage mission. A mission of mercy, motivated by perfect love. You know what? I’m really glad He salvaged me. He’d also like to reclaim you. Jesus is standing at the door of your life today. All you have to do is open up your heart and invite Him in. Hope you will.
Merry Christmas my friends.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656