Tag Archives: Merry Christmas

Our Daily Bread — The Heart Of Christmas

 

1 Timothy 1:12-17

The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. —1 Timothy 1:14

Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol was released on December 19, 1843, and has never been out of print. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy, sour, stingy man who says, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding!” Yet, one Christmas Eve, Scrooge is radically changed into a generous and happy man. With great humor and insight, Dickens’ book captures the universal longing for inner peace.

As a young man, the apostle Paul opposed Jesus and His followers with a vengeful spirit. He “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). But one day he encountered the risen Christ, and his life became a different story (9:1-16).

In a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul described that life-changing event by saying, even though he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man . . . the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).

Jesus was born into our world and gave His life so that we can be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him. This is the heart of Christmas! —David McCasland

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,

That hath made heaven and earth of naught,

And with His blood mankind hath bought. —English carol

A change in behavior begins with Jesus changing our heart.

Bible in a year: Jonah 1-4; Revelation 10

Insight

Though Paul’s words to Timothy in today’s reading are not one of the traditional biblical texts we read at Christmas, they definitely have application for this season. In verse 15 we read: “Christ Jesus came into the world.” This is a reference not only to Christ’s coming but also to His purpose for coming. Why was He born in human flesh? Paul answers that question by adding, “to save sinners.” Jesus’ coming was a mission of rescue for a race that desperately needed a Savior.

Greg Laurie – The Night that Forever Divided Time

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“The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

—Luke 2:11

Christmas has been hijacked. I am not just talking about the secularists who want to remove the phrase Merry Christmas and replace it with Happy Holidays. Christmas has been taken and effectively gutted. It’s as though our culture has taken the word Christmas, emptied it of its meaning, dragged it through the gutter, and handed it back, minus its power. The problem is not just with the secularizing of Christmas. Even well-meaning Christians have either romanticized it or made it so sentimental that perhaps they are missing the real story.

As we think about Christmas, we have a sentimental picture in our minds of the manger scene. There is the baby Jesus. There is Joseph. There is Mary. They all, of course, have their own halos. Then there are the shepherds looking on. The wise men are there too, usually in color-coordinated outfits.

The reality is that no one had halos. The wise men didn’t visit Jesus while He was lying in the manger. Matthew’s Gospel says they did not arrive until sometime later (as many as two years later). And the Bible doesn’t say there were three wise men; it says they brought three gifts.

Then there is the way we have romanticized Christmas with images of snowy countrysides and horse-drawn sleighs and frosty windows and red candles. Maybe we are missing its true message and its real beauty.

So let’s peel away the tradition. Let’s peel away the things that cause us not to see the birth of Jesus for what it really was. Learning this does not diminish its impact; it actually enhances its power. After all, this was the night that forever divided time, the night when God Himself came to this earth. It was the night when God stepped out of heaven and entered history.

 

 

Greg Laurie – The Man Who Tried to Stop Christmas

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A real war has been raging over Christmas. Many retailers have instructed their employees to no longer say, “Merry Christmas,” but to say, “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” instead. We see this trend being carried through to the public schools and other places. Some school districts in Florida and New Jersey have prohibited the singing of Christmas carols altogether. And in Texas of all places, a school confiscated one child’s gifts for classmates, which were pencils with the inscription, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” A Wisconsin elementary school actually changed the lyrics for “Silent Night” to a secularized version, “Cold in the Night.”

Attempts to create a politically correct version of Christmas are not only happening in the US, but abroad as well. Cardiff Cathedral, an Anglican Church in Wales, has made the hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” more gender-friendly by renaming it, “God Rest You Merry Persons.” (That just doesn’t have the same sound.) Some are even suggesting they take it a step further by substituting the words “higher power” for God in the lyrics. Now we are losing the whole point of the song.

Efforts to stop Christmas have been going on for a very long time. In fact, someone tried to stop the first Christmas, and he wasn’t a fictional character like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge. He is known as Herod the Great. Herod was born into a politically well-connected family, and at the age of 25, he was named the governor of Galilee—a very high-ranking position for such a young man. The Romans were hoping that Herod would somehow be able to control the Jews who lived in that area. And in 40 B.C., the Roman Senate gave Herod the title of “king of the Jews.” This was a title the Jews especially hated, because Herod was not a religious man. He was not a devout man. He had no regard for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or for the Jewish people. But he loved that title because it spoke of power.

And that was Herod’s problem. He was addicted to power. Power has been described as the ultimate human obsession, and that certainly was the case with King Herod. His craftiness knew no barriers, because he had a morbid distrust of anyone who would try to take his reign. He had his spies fan out and constantly look for any potential threats to his throne. Over the years, he killed many people whom he perceived as a threat, including his brother-in-law, mother-in-law, two of his own sons and even his wife. The ancient historian Josephus described Herod as barbaric. Another writer described him as the malevolent maniac.

By the time Jesus was born, Herod’s life was coming to an end. The so-called king of the Jews was slowly dying of a disease, and he was rapidly losing his mind. He had successfully fought off all attempts to take his power away when mysterious visitors from the east suddenly came blowing into town. They were strange men with strange questions. And right off the bat, they pushed Herod’s button when they said they were looking for the one who was born the king of the Jews. That was Herod’s title, but he certainly wasn’t born the king of the Jews. Yet that is who the wise men were looking for.

So Herod called in the members of the local clergy to assist him, scribes who had spent their lives in the study of Scripture. Immediately they pointed to the prophecy of Micah that predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But Herod wasn’t thinking about prophetic significance; he was thinking about the threat to his throne. He secretly called in the wise men and asked them to tell him exactly when the star appeared. Then he told them to search for the child and when they had found him, to report back so that he could go and worship also. But the Bible tells us that after the wise men found Jesus and worshipped him, God warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. So the wise men took a different way home. Herod was so angry these wise men had not reported back to him that he freaked out. All the worst instincts of a lifetime of cruelty came to the surface, and he ordered the cold-blooded murder of all males in Bethlehem and its districts under the age of two.

We find an interesting contrast of kings in this story. Both possessed immense power, but how they chose to use it revealed the hearts of two radically different men. Herod was a tyrant; Jesus was a servant. One was consumed with self-interest; the other was focused on pleasing God and serving others. One manipulated, slandered, deceived and coerced, while the other healed, touched, taught and loved. Herod tried to stop Christmas, and more to the point, he tried to stop Christ. But even with all of his wealth and power and influence, he came to ruin.

Like Herod, there are people today who oppose Christmas. They don’t want us to say, “Merry Christmas.” They don’t want us to say that Jesus is the reason for the season. They don’t want us to sing our Christmas carols. They don’t want us to post the Ten Commandments in our classrooms or have prayers in public places. They don’t want any freedom of expression in our culture. They want to impose their values—or lack of values—on us. There are people today who oppose everything about God or about Jesus Christ. And that is what Herod did. He was a man who fought against God and ended up destroying himself.

Of course, we can complain about people who are leaving Christ out of Christmas, but let’s not do that ourselves. We can forget to keep Christ in Christmas with all of our busyness at this time of year. The wise men had it right. They wanted to worship Jesus. And that is quite dramatic when you consider these men were like royalty themselves, yet willing to bow before the baby king. Their gifts were an expression of worship from the overflow of adoring and grateful hearts. And right worship is always—and must be—the only basis for right giving and right service. Christmas is all about Christ. It is not about Christmas presents; it is about His Christmas presence in our lives. Don’t forget Jesus at Christmas.

 

Greg Laurie – Christmas Is a Promise

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“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” —Matthew 4:16

For those who have lost a loved one, as my family has, Christmas can be really difficult, especially because it is so filled with memories. So many of those memories are triggered. And when you see other people having fun, it can actually bring a lot of sadness to you. It can even bring you to the point where you would just like to skip Christmas altogether. Have you ever wanted to cancel Christmas? I have.

I am not saying that we should cancel the celebration of the birth of Christ, of course. I am not saying that we should unstring our lights and put away our presents. But let’s cancel the version of Christmas that has no place for God. Let’s cancel the version of Christmas that says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Let’s cancel the version of Christmas that consists of endless hype and activities without any thought of Jesus.

Let’s get back to what Christmas truly is: a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I like Christmas, actually. I think that at its very best, Christmas is a promise. At its best, Christmas is spending time with family and friends, enjoying holiday meals, laughing together, exchanging gifts, and worshiping together. I think all of these are a glimpse of things to come—because Christmas is really a promise of heaven, a promise of something better.

You might look around and say, “I wish my loved one who is with the Lord could see this.” You are looking at twinkling lights, but don’t you think what they are seeing is better than what you are seeing? You may be experiencing temporary joys, but your loved one is in the presence of God, seeing the Lord in all of His glory. Now that is a Christmas worth celebrating.