It’s New Year’s Eve, but I wanted to post one last message about Christmas. The holiday season can be hectic for many people. Some people are alone, far from family and friends. Others are ill. Everyone has something going on. Some people are experiencing loss. I lost three friends over the last few weeks. Two were killed in an accident and another died of illness.
It makes you think. When someone dies, anytime, you reflect a bit on your own life. When someone dies around Christmas, you start to think a little deeper.
For Christmas this year, I put together a message about Jesus with a slightly different perspective. I tried to deliver it to my small group, but I bungled it a bit due to not feeling very well. Either way, I think it’s important to look at the Christmas story with a fresh approach.
We’ve all heard the story about Joseph, Mary and the manger. This year, I decided to tell the story behind the story.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The gospel of John begins by establishing that Jesus—the Word—existed from the beginning, participated in our creation, and is the light of man. Verse nine goes on to tell us that the Word “became flesh and made his dwelling 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.” Two verses later, John reiterates that Jesus is the source of grace and truth.
Jesus—the Word—came to earth to make his dwelling among us. Scripture tells us that he was born of a virgin in a lowly manger. We are all familiar with the story. Sometimes, nativity displays are shown with a shack, or barn, or cave. The manger, in the true sense of the word, was the wooden box where the Christ child slept. The manger was a food trough for the animals. It’s where the sheep were fed.
You see, that’s what the Christ-child came here to do—feed his sheep. That was his mission. He came here to take on ALL of our burdens. He gave up his divine status and walked among us—fully God and fully man. He came here to pay for ALL of our sins. He came here to offer us the easiest gift to receive and the hardest one to accept—GRACE. He came here to be our spiritual food.
Philippians 2:5-8 reads: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Mankind had fallen—again. We were not with God but HE desired a relationship with us. Just imagine. Jesus decided to move in down there with the sinners and the lost. He decided to embrace humility and live as a human and show us the light. He had to endure being beaten to the edge of death and was murdered on a cross. He didn’t stop there. While dead, he descended into hell—sheol—and brought his truth to those who were imprisoned and brought them home. On the third day, he rose from the dead and went back to remind his disciples of their mission.
John 12:13 reads: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
Scripture tells us that no one can come to God unless he is drawn. The word used in scripture literally means “dragged.” Without Christ, we could not—would not—choose God. Jesus said he will drag EVERYONE to himself. That is why he came to us. We could not go to him.
In John 6, he says “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
You see, Jesus equated the eating and drinking with receiving and believing. We’ve all heard the traditional Christmas story about a child, away in a manger, on a silent night. We’ve studied about the three wise men—the magi—and why they were important. We celebrate Christmas each December to remember that Holy birth. We all know that part of the Christmas story, even though the world around us has turned Christmas into a secular shopping holiday.
We give presents to each other because of the Christmas gift we have been given—GRACE.
Jesus spent his first night on earth in a food trough and he spent his last night sharing a meal with his friends. He came to feed his sheep—to lift our burdens and pay for our sins.
As we prepare to put 2014 to rest and begin the New Year, let’s hold on to Christmas. No, not the commercial Christmas I wrote about in my last post, but the real Christmas. Put away the decorations, the trees, the sappy music (please), and the spending. If you want to keep Christmas all year, remember the gift you were given and remember the joy you feel in your heart when you do an act of genuine kindness for someone.
If you’ve never had that feeling, 2015 is a time to really celebrate the Christmas spirit. You are, after all, known by your fruits. Spend 2015 with the true spirit of Christmas. Start today.