Christmas and the New Year celebrations are finished for another year. Facebook has been flooded with pictures of family and friends. Those who dreaded the holidays because of the loss of a loved one, the increased levels of stress and anxiety, or just the thought of being alone for them, can breathe a sigh of relief that it is over. The clean up has commenced and is even completed for some people. Usually January 1 is the day I take down all the decoration and pack it up until after Thanksgiving.
It is somewhat bittersweet for people like me who love the family gatherings, the holiday decorations and lights, and the overall ambiance. From Thanksgiving to my annual New Year’s Eve party, I love it all! This year has been a little more difficult in getting everything finished since I had a bout of vertigo to deal with after Christmas. But at last I have gathered it into a somewhat manageable place in anticipation of getting my house back to normal.
Here is the thing about the mindset that Christmas is over. It’s not. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because it commemorates the occasion of Jesus Christ taking on human flesh and becoming like us. Scripture tells us plainly that Christ was human. He was tempted in all the ways we are tempted, and yet he lived a sinless life.
The thing that makes all of this significant is that not only did he walk here on earth among us, but he died for the forgiveness of our sins. His shed blood was the ultimate sacrifice that makes God’s grace a truly magnificent gift to us. His resurrection and ascension back into heaven, his original home, makes it possible for us to have just a glimpse of what is to come for us when we believe his word and acknowledge him as our Savior.
So one way to celebrate the joy and meaning of Christmas all year long is by remembering to read the Bible and find out what happened after that lowly birth. From Jesus stumping Jewish scholars at the age of 12, to living a sinless life, to gathering and teaching disciples, to his death and resurrection–all of Scripture tells the wonderful story of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.
So here is hoping you find a joyous year ahead that is full of learning and growing in your faith. And that your Christmas lasts all year long!
During this Christmas season we tend to focus on the story of Jesus’ birth as narrated in Matthew and Luke. However, I love to read the story of Jesus as told in John. John doesn’t start his writings with the birth of Jesus, but rather he shares Jesus, who was present as the Word since the beginning. This is so important that the first 18 verses of John focus on Jesus as the Word and the light.
John 1:1-18 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a] and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist,[c]7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became human[d] and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.[e] And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.[f]17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,[g] is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (NLT)
At Christmas time, it is easy to get caught up in the story of a child born of a virgin and placed in a manger because there was no room at the inn. In many ways the Christmas story is fascinating in its telling. It would actually make a good book, don’t you think? A virgin birth. A skeptical fiancée. A visit from an angel. A journey to Bethlehem. The visit of the wise men. The flight to Egypt. It has all the makings of a gripping story.
Jesus was with God in the beginning and he was the Word and the Word created everything. He was present as the Word of God in the very beginning of the creation of earth. He spoke the earth into being—everything was created through him. Jesus was and is and is to come—he is infinite. Something we have difficulty wrapping our heads around. He existed with God.
Colossians 1:15 – 17 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
In John 14:8-11 Jesus was interacting with the disciples and Philip, who had been with him since the beginning of his ministry said “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.”
Jesus was light andhis life brought light to everyone. His light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never extinguish it—no matter how it may seem at times. He came to a world that rejected him. Yet, he still loved us and his light still shines forth.
He brings salvation to a world that needs him desperately. We become children of God when we believe in Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord and Savior. He brings light to our darkened world. John 12:46 says, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” So no matter how dark things around us seem, we can count on the Lord to shine in the darkness.
Jesus became human. He left the glory of heaven, left the presence of God, left all of the angels and heavenly beings who worshiped him, to become human. He followed a plan that had been laid the minute sin entered the world. For thousands of years, he knew what his destiny was, and he did not balk. He shed his glory to become flesh. That is pretty amazing when you think about it. I am not so sure I would want to leave the glories of heaven to become a frail human. But Jesus says in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
This Christmas we need to remember not only the Christ child who was born of a virgin, but also the man who was God in the flesh. We not only need to celebrate his birth, but also his death and resurrection. Because he did all of this for each of us.
.Philippians 2:19 says, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
His name is exalted from the time of his birth when the angels celebrated, to the time of he shed his blood for our sins, to his resurrection. That is the true story of Christmas.
It was December of 1991 and I was one stressed out Mom that Christmas season. I had four children, ages 8, 7, 5, and a newborn infant. I remember needing to make a Target run and loading up all four kids in the car, getting them corralled to go in the store, and shopping for the items I needed. My stress must have been showing for sure! As we were shopping and I was telling my children for the umpteenth time that no they could not have a toy, a lady approached me in the aisle.
She was very kind and said, “I remember what it was like to have kids and try to go shopping.” She held out her hand and offered me a small box. Continue reading →
I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of my favorites. For many people the holidays are a joyous time to be around family and friends, however, for some individuals it is a time of stress and turmoil. For the perfectionist, unrealistic expectations of the perfect house, perfect gifts, and perfect entertainments can take a toll. For the lonely and those who have recently lost loved ones, the holidays can accentuate their very aloneness. For others, the thought of being with certain family members makes them cringe. The reasons for holiday stress are many and varied, but most of us experience it to some degree.
One of the hardest things I have learned is to Let Go of Unreasonable Expectations. Here are some expectations that contribute to stress during the holidays. Continue reading →