Christmas

What is Christmas to you? Is it the tree glistening with lights and ornaments galore?  Is it the family dinners full of good tiding and cheer?  Or might it be the caroling and songs of good memories?  And we can’t forget the winter snow, and making a snowman!  (If we try hard enough, he might even come to life!)  Or perhaps Christmas is cruising the streets and awing at the houses lit up in a colorful dazzle of dancing flashes.  Or is Christmas Santa and his reindeer-pulled sleigh, milk and cookies beside the chimney, and the nicely wrapped gifts that he will put under the tree?  (If you've been good)!  Maybe it's that new television, or perhaps a hand knit scarf, or maybe even that new tech thing you've been eyeing all month.  And we mustn't fail to remember the romance of the season —mistletoe, chestnuts over the fire, snuggling up to that special someone with a warm cup of cocoa, or basking in the comfort of a warm home while it's cold outside.

Ah, but for those who like a little bit of religion on the side, Christmas must have the holy night with shining stars, a virgin Mary, a sleeping Child (but no crying He makes), harking angels, and a little cute drummer boy.  Christmas at church means that we hear a sweet story about baby Jesus being born in a sweet little manger (whatever that is), the angels singing beautifully to shepherd on a cold winter night, three wise men coming and giving gifts to baby Jesus, and celebration of a newborn King.

Of course, whatever Christmas is to you, it must be 'merry,' happy, gay, gleeful, and full of love and compassion, generosity and care, because that's the spirit of Christmas, is it not?  It's Christmas! — the most wonderful time of the year.

And if that's your definition, you make me want to puke.

The world has contorted Christmas into a glitzy, pagan, worthless, worldly season of truth-isms and wishful thinking.  "Peace, hope, love!" it cries.  "Joy, happiness, blessing!" it cries.  "Be merry, laugh, sing!" it cries.  But why is there peace?  Why should I have hope?  What do you love?  Why is there joy?  Why should I be happy?  What is a blessing?  Be merry about what?  Why should I laugh?  What am I to sing about?  The world has no satisfying answer.

You may have believed the lie and defined Christmas in whatever you wanted.  God defines Christmas, the story of the birth of Christ the Lord, much differently.

Matthew 1

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

The Definition of Christmas from Matthew 1

  1. It’s about a miracle: God the Holy Spirit caused Mary, a virgin, to be pregnant.
  2. It’s about shame: Mary will be called a whore for being pregnant before marriage.  Joseph will be mocked as if he had an unfaithful wife.  Jesus will be marked as a bastard who doesn't know His father (see the Jew's rip against Jesus in John 8:41).
  3. It’s about the incarnation: Jesus Christ, God eternal, came to dwell in the form of human flesh.
  4. It's about sacrificial love: Joseph desired to quietly and secretly send away Mary for what he thought was sin, instead of exposing her to open shame and stoning as an adulteress.
  5. It’s about courage: Joseph accepted his role as the stepfather of God Himself.
  6. It's about faith in God and marital trust: Joseph believed the angel and Mary against all evidences in human history and accepted the virgin birth as true.
  7. It's about adoption: Joseph loved and cared for the Child that was not his own.
  8. It’s about new life: Jesus was born into the world.
  9. It’s about salvation: “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
  10. It’s about sin: Jesus wouldn’t have been born in the flesh if we had not sinned.
  11. It’s fulfilled prophecy: God fulfilled His promise from more than 700 years ago to send a Son who shall be called Immanuel, or God with us (Isaiah 7:14).
  12. It’s about obedience: Joseph obeyed what the angel of the Lord commanded.
  13. It’s about self-control and sacrifice: To confirm that God, and not Joseph, was Jesus’ Father, Joseph and Mary did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born.

Luke 2

7 And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

The Definition of Christmas from Luke 2

  1. It’s about pain: Mary gave birth.
  2. It’s about parental joy: Joseph and Mary loved their firstborn son.
  3. It’s about poverty: Jesus was born in a barn where the animals lived, and was put into their feeding trough as His crib.
  4. It’s about humility: The covenant God of Israel, the Almighty, the Creator the heavens and earth, the only true God, purposefully planned that His Son be born to two poor teenage parents in the poorest of places in order to magnify His glory.
  5. It’s about fear: The shepherds were terribly frightened at the glory of the Lord.
  6. It’s good news of great joy: “...today... there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
  7. It’s about praising God: The angels sang out with all of heaven, “Glory to God in the highest,” praising God for His redemption plan.
  8. It’s about peace: The angels proclaimed peace on men with whom this God of glory is pleased.  (Note that the Bible says that they proclaim peace only for those with whom God is pleased, and not on all men.)
  9. It’s about excited curiosity: The shepherd went straight to Bethlehem in a hurry to see what the Lord has revealed.
  10. It’s to proclaim: The shepherds made what the angel had said known to all the people that could hear.
  11. It’s to treasure: Mary remembered and cherished that blessed day, no doubt marveling at the great things that were being said about her child.
  12. It’s about amplified praise: The shepherds went back to the fields, responding to this good news of great joy exactly as the angels did: glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and had heard and had been told.

Matthew 2

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;

For out of you shall come forth a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

The Definition of Christmas from Matthew 2

  1. It’s about devotion: Magi from the east traveled hundreds of miles to see this King of the Jews.
  2. It’s about worship: They came a long way, following a miraculous sign, to bow before the King.
  3. It’s troubling: Herod, the inferior king, didn’t like the challenge to the throne.  And Jerusalem, the city of David, troubled herself instead of recognizing that her King had come.
  4. It’s more fulfilled prophecy: Bethlehem, the least of cities, produced the Ruler of the nations, the Shepherd King of Israel, exactly as God promised some 700 years beforehand.
  5. It’s about lies: Herod lied to the magi with wicked intent.
  6. It’s about joy: The magi “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” as they realized the end of their journey was near, and the King of the Jews that they sought was close.
  7. It’s about the worship of Christ: The magi fell to the ground and worshipped God the Son as deity, giving Him their most precious gifts.  (Note that the Bible does not say there were only three magi.  Also note that the Bible says that by this time Jesus was a child, not an infant.)
  8. It’s about protection: God protected the magi and Joseph’s family by warning them to flee from Herod.
  9. It’s about wrath that leads to death: Herod killed all of the children two years in Bethlehem and all of the cities around it in an attempt to vanquish any king that would challenge his throne.

True Christmas

There is no tree in this true story of Christmas.  The only family is so poor that they couldn’t even fathom the luxurious dinner you’ll have for Christmas.  All songs sung are directed to the God of the armies of heaven in praise and glory.  There is no snow, or snowmen.  The only light is the one lighting up the sky proclaiming to the whole world that Christ the Savior has come.  Santa, reindeer, cookies, chimneys, and fancy gifts don’t exist in this real Christmas story.  The only gift is wrapped in dirty cloths by a loving mother and put into a filthy animal feeding trough that you would never put your foot in, let alone your child in, let alone the Son of God in.  We haven’t been good; we have sinned against God.  The gift of His Son that God gave costs infinitely more than your petty television.  And the only romantic love is between two cold, hungry, impoverished teens who have to run for their lives, bear undeserved shame, and raise God incarnate as their child.

But the world did get some things right.  Christmas is about peace, hope, and love.  It is about joy, happiness, blessing.  It should cause us to be merry, laugh, sing.  It should be make us full of love and compassion, generosity and care.

Christmas is about peace because Christ the Lord died a sacrificial, atoning, propitiatory death on the cross, causing us to “be saved from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9) and “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  Christmas is about hope because we who “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:3), “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12) now, by the grace of God, have “Christ Jesus, who isour hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).  Christmas is about love because “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Christmas is about joy because “there has been born for [us] a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  Christmas is about happiness because of Him who freed us from sin (Romans 8:2).  The greatest blessing is that, because of Him, we can stop living for ourselves and live to God (Galatians 2:19).

We should be merry because God, not to demonstrate our worth but to demonstrate His perfect patience and show His glory, “loved [us] and gave Himself up for [us]” (Galatians 2:20).  We should sing with “thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16) together, with one voice, with His saints.  We should be full of love because Jesus commands us to first “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) and second “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  We should be full of compassion because the God who loved us and redeemed us is “full of compassion” (James 5:11).  We should be full of generosity because our God gave us “His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) as our Savior.  We should be full of care for others because God “cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7).

I puke on your false definition of Christmas because it is an offense to God.  And shame on you if you call yourself a follower of Christ.  Jesus Christ came to earth to bear your wretchedness and sin, to be crushed for your iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), not to help you have good feelings about the holidays and yourself.  Jesus came to die for you and you’re content to make trite, cowardly statements like “Remember the reason for the season” instead of proclaiming Christ crucified as the only reason you can even breathe, by the grace of God.

If Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2 don’t scream to you, “It’s the gospel!” then you would do well to read the points of definition and apply them to the gospel.  Christmas is about shame and pain and sin, and the gospel is that Christ bore your shame, pain, and sin on the cross.  Christmas is about new life and the gospel is that Jesus died so that you would have new life.   Christmas is about adoption and the gospel is God adopting you as His child into His God.  Christmas is about praising God and worshipping Christ and the gospel should incite you to fall on your face praising and worshipping Christ.  Christmas is about obedience and the only proper response to the gospel is obedience to Christ.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).  But if you have loved any good thing above Christ, and enjoyed anything apart from Him, you make that good and perfect gift an idol and sin against the God.  Repent for forsaking your first love (Revelation 2:4) and believe in the gospel.

A Christmas Song

So come, all ye repentant.  Come, all ye faithful.  Come, O ye sinners saved.  Let us celebrate Christmas.  Let us give glory to God in the highest.  Come let us adore Him, our Savior.  At birth, He was Lord.  He is the eternal King.  He is our Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God.  He is God in flesh, begotten not created, the eternal One and the Almighty.  Through virgin birth and humble circumstance this Savior brought Himself into His own creation for the sake of man, destined for a brutal death.  In Him is all our hope and peace.  He is love.  Hark!  Listen!  Can you not hear the angels sing?  Let us join in the heavenly chorus!  Proclaim this gospel so that the nations will join in our joyful song.  He must receive glory in the highest!

I will not wish you a merry Christmas.  That term has come to be so injected with false meaning that people take it to mean everything, and therefore nothing.  But I will wish you this: have a Christ-exalting Christmas.  Have a Christ-exalting life.  May you glorify God all the more until He brings you home.

Keith Fong

Ephesians 2:1-10

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