The Christmas Story

(Joshua Elder) #1

Christmas is a time we celebrate the birth of Christ and the return of Jesus to make all things new. Sometimes during this holiday, we tend to re-write the Christmas story as a beautiful, peaceful time that the world quieted for a moment. We can include all the positive details of the story (angels trumpeting, shepherds and magi worshiping, “all is calm all is bright”), but forget the darker details (no room for the birth of a child, being placed in a bed where animals feed, Herod seeking the death of Christ and killing the children in Bethlehem) We do a disservice to the real story of Christmas as it reminds us that Jesus did not come into a bright world but a dark one, and that his light shines so brightly because all was not bright but dark. N.T. Wright put it this way:

“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream. It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred. It’s nostalgic, cozy and comforting. But real Christianity isn’t like that at all. Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children. But that misses the point completely. Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered…

Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it. Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism. Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of reality.”

As we approach this day of celebration let us remember what we are truly celebrating, that the darkness in this world, the reality of our lives being controlled by sin and death are not the end of the story, but that Jesus came to break the power of sin and death. The true Christmas story is a glorious story because with all the darkness around us, a light has shined, and it will not be overcome. Praise be to the Lord our Jesus Christ as we celebrate his coming!

Do you see this tendency to white wash the Christmas story?

What does that say about our understanding of the gospel?

(SeanO) #2

@Joshua_Elder You know, once when I was participating in a service project a guy in the place where we were working said to me, “You now, y’all live in Candy Land. The real world doesn’t work this way.”

I think sometimes people who do not know Jesus assume that only a naive person could ever believe that the world will ever be put right or that God cares about those who are neglected, marginalized and persecuted. But when we respond by emphasizing the glory of New Creation rather than Christ suffering with us it may give the impression of a ‘white washed’ world where bad things aren’t really that bad.

(Tim Ramey) #3

Amen to both of you brothers.

To consider that Christmas was that special occasion where the promised Savior appeared after mankind’s long wait made for a most sacred night. A night that would affect mankind for eternity.

Once, many years ago, I dreamed a very vivid and long dream but essentially, my body was lifted up to meet Jesus in the air. As I approached Him, I yelled “Maranatha” - repeatedly saying “Come Lord Jesus!” What hit me as I was crying that out was that the day that we have talked about for centuries - that day had come! So it must have been for those who for centuries had awaited their long awaited Messiah!

(Melvin Greene) #4

Christmas is odd that way, isn’t it? I mean, what we are celebrating is something truly fantastic and wonderful, yet is surrounded by pain and tragedy. Think of it. What we are actually celebrating is the reality that this infinite all powerful being, who created the entire universe, entered his own creation by way of a helpless baby born in such austere circumstances, but will result in the salvation of mankind. What a grand paradox this is!

So, I think because this is such a contrariety, we generally focus on the miraculous part, which is the birth of Jesus Christ, and gloss over the dark harsh reality of the pain and suffering that surrounds this event.

I believe the echos of this is still reverberating into the present time. For example, the number of suicides generally increase this time of year. I believe a large part of this is due to what we have made Christmas into, which for a lot of us, is a crazed frenzy of shopping and parties. Also, for those who had fond memories of Christmas past, we try to recapture the nostalgic feelings we had as children. But, like smoke, these feelings elude us and dissipate and we are left feeling empty and disappointed. Then, there are those who have bad memories of Christmas past, and each year Christmas is just a time that rekindles those bad memories. So, in reducing Christmas to nothing more than a winter holiday where we try to outdo each other with giving gifts and stuffing ourselves with ham, turkey and sweets; then Christmas is truly nothing more than the empty, fragile bauble in the skeletal fingers of Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, in Tim Burton’s movie, “The Nightmare before Christmas”.

To expound on @Sean_Oesch’s post, I’ve have similar experiences. I work with homeless men, in particular homeless veterans, and from Thanksgiving through Christmas the men become more depressed and angry, in-spite of our best attempts at making this time more festive with gifts and traditional meals. The only thing these holidays do is remind them that they are homeless and separated from family. We minister to them the love of Christ and what Christmas truly means, but it is a very difficult time of the year.

(Keldon Scott) #5

I agree that we forget the harshness, darkness, fallenness, and pain of a world without a Messiah, but we sing with joy, worship with praise and thanksgiving, and with positivity, hope, prayer, and generosity share the hope each and everyone has to experience the greatest gift of all.

(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Hi @Joshua_Elder, I always appreciate your devotional reflections!

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Oh Holy Night. The lyrics go:

1 O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope–the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

2 Led by the light! of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the Wise Men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend.
He knows our need - to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

3 Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

It came to mind this morning and really ties into your reflections on the admixture of glory and tragedy of Christmas. It speaks of sin, error, weariness, all our trials, our weakness, slavery, and oppression. Yet it is such a beautiful tune and so celebratory of the hope, power, and glory of Jesus - even as we remember him helpless in the lowly manger.

(Jimmy Sellers) #7

@CarsonWeitnauer this might be my favorite Christmas song ever for all the reasons that you have listed.:grinning:

(Tim Ramey) #8

One Christmas song that I love but don’t hear much is “Good Christian Men Rejoice.” Just think of that night - angels fill the sky and the humility of our Savior! Here are the words:

Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye hear of endless bliss
Joy! Joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this
He hath ope’d the heav’nly door
And man is blessed evermore
Christ was born for this
Christ was born for this

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save

We are to preach the good news: Jesus Christ was born to save!