Christmas: Winter Holiday or Divine Encounter

                                                                                                        Essentials for Christmas

When Nancy and I moved to Ukraine, we knew we were in for a lot of surprises as we learned the culture. But one of the surprises we did not expect was the believers’ questions about how to celebrate Christmas. Each time we would say, “We celebrate Christmas by…” they would respond. “We do that for New Year’s. So what special do you do for Christmas? You see, their culture had created a winter holiday that sounded to them almost identical to Christmas.

So how would you answer? What is the difference between Christmas and a winter holiday? For many people, there is none. Christmas, for them, is a time to spend with family, eat lots of food, enjoy the good life, and maybe get away from the routine to do something you especially wanted to do. In short, exactly what Ukrainians called a winter holiday. For many people – even Christians – that is Christmas. Our culture has influenced us to substitute a man-made festivity for a divinely orchestrated event.

A biblical Christmas does not require beautiful lights, gift exchanges, human relationships, or even vacation time. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of those, but they are not the key elements of Christmas. So what are the essential elements of a biblical Christmas?

The message of Christmas repeatedly occurs throughout the Old Testament, almost like dress rehearsals for the main event. And whenever it does, it seems to me that three significant themes always are involved:
     1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
     2. A reminder of God's Promise.
     3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

There are many narratives in Scripture where those three themes converge to create the spirit of Christmas. I want to mention three of them. I will only give you the outline, so you can enjoy filling in the blanks.

Event #1 – Mt Moriah (Gen 22)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #2 – The Choice of Ahaz (Isaiah 7-9)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #3 – Bethlehem (Luke 2; Matthew 2)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Come to think of it, those three themes are present in your happiest memories of Christmas.
     a. There was a need/want that seemed impossible.
     b. There was a promise – likely from an earthly parent – that "something good is going to happen"
     c. There was a faith – however child-like – that the problem could be solved.

If we deny or ignore the unsolvable human dilemma we are facing, we will never again have Christmas. If we find our satisfaction in anything other than God's Promise, we will never again have Christmas. If our faith is in our own resources rather than God's provisions, we will never again have Christmas.

The church at Laodicea illustrates the point. They admitted no personal/human dilemma. They said, "We are rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing." The result was spiritual disease rather than delight in the Promise.

The angel told Joseph, "His name shall be called Immanuel – God with us." The great human dilemma is that humanity is separated from God! God's promise from Eden on is that someday The Promise would come – the separation would end. The challenge for Joseph, and for us, is to believe that Jesus is that Promise. If we fail to join those three elements, all we have left is a winter holiday.

2022-11-22T17:21:41+00:00December 1st, 2022|Categories: Banner Editorial, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

God’s Revelation to Man (Christmas)

Focus Text: Luke 2:1-16

Central Truth: The virgin birth of Christ was God’s visible revelation of Himself to a sinful world.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to suggest some effective ways to spread the good news about Jesus’ birth.

Lesson Outline
1. The Decree of Caesar
2. The Birth of Jesus
3. The Announcement to Shepherds

2018-12-17T10:00:33+00:00December 17th, 2018|Categories: Weekly Lesson Summaries|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

The Love of God in Christmas

In "Doctrinal Discussion" Omar Lee writes:

Oh! love divine, how can we show our appreciation for it? It is only by taking what He freely gave us, which is salvation. Christmas is a great time to choose Jesus! His birth introduced a new factor into the human realm. Before this, we were all children of Adam and doomed to sin. Now Immanuel (God with us) or Jesus (Savior), the God-man gives us the realization of the hope of humanity for a Savior! His birth further assures humanity of one who understands us, having experienced trials as well as known them. His birth foreshadows our spiritual birth. He was born of a woman that we might be born of the Spirit. There can be, there must be, the supernatural in our spiritual birth. His birth is a guarantee of greater events for us! The first coming has been proven true! The second will come also. In the Christmas story we have authentication for all God had promised, and in His resurrection, we have the zeal that all that He has promised will come to pass.

Source: Studies in Romans: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 26.

2016-12-23T09:00:00+00:00December 23rd, 2016|Categories: Lesson Highlights|Tags: |0 Comments

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
And the government shall be upon his shoulder:
And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,
Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,
To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice
From henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

2015-12-25T09:00:17+00:00December 25th, 2015|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Lesson Highlight: "no room"

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)
In "Word Focus" William Sillings writes:

When Jesus was born, there was no room in the inn (kataluma — literally, lodging, inn, or guest house). The inn was likely an eastern khan which is like a series of open-ended rooms or stalls opening into a common courtyard where the animals were kept. There was no room in the khan, so it was in the common courtyard where Jesus was born. There was no privacy even at this event for this weary, wayworn family. The fact that there was no room in the inn is typical of what was to happen to Jesus all through His life. The room reserved for Him, says Barclay, was on a cross. “He sought an entry to the overcrowded hearts of men; He could not find it; and still His search — and His rejection — go on.”

Source: Miracles of Jesus: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 16.

2015-12-18T09:00:22+00:00December 18th, 2015|Categories: Lesson Highlights|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Lesson Highlight: "shepherds"

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:8)
In "God's Word for Today", David Fry writes:

The shepherds’ first reaction was fear but it ended with rejoicing. What happened between the moment of fear and their time of rejoicing was their obedience. Of course, one can hardly imagine disobeying such a magnificent manifestation of God’s will. It was not merely hearing the message from the angelic host that persuaded them to seek the Messiah, but also witnessing the great rejoicing of the angels. Soon they too would rejoice. It wasn’t what was happening in the heavens that caused the shepherds to rejoice, but what God was doing on earth, in a manger in Bethlehem. Unlike Mary who kept quiet, the shepherds loudly praised
God for His coming.
The grandeur of Luke 2 is that Caesar Augustus, emperor of one of the greatest empires in history, gave way to a baby in a manger and a moment around which all of history revolves. Caesar had his earthly glory, but Christ received heavenly glory. Ancient rulers sought to be viewed as divine by their subjects, yet the true God became man to be subject to human suffering. Human emperors sought power over humanity; God sought humility among men. The difference is love. The miracle of love is a God who has all power and superiority, yet humbles Himself to become one of us.

Source: Miracles of Jesus, Adult Teacher's Insights, page 18.

2015-12-16T09:00:39+00:00December 16th, 2015|Categories: Lesson Highlights|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Devotional: The Savior's Birth

Read Luke 2:1-7
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (v. 6).
The young mother was desperate. It was the day before Christmas, and she had no gifts for her small children. She had prayed for a miracle. She was discouraged and frustrated — a bit disappointed in God. However, God had seen her need and heard her prayer. That evening, church friends came bearing gifts and food for their Christmas dinner.
As we read the Christmas story, we bask in the wonder and awe of the season because He came to earth to save lost humanity. God worked faithfully to carry out all His plans — to the minute detail! Even having to travel at an inconvenient time, the delay in Bethlehem, staying in a stable, was all part of His plan. No doubt Joseph and Mary wondered, “Why, God? Why right NOW?”
It seems like when it rains, it pours. Troubles seem to multiply until we feel like we are drowning in our circumstances. God sees our needs. He sent His Son to come to our aid! Be encouraged — Jesus came to be the answer for all the troubles we face. God is faithful, he hears and answers our prayers — in His time. (Sue Colburn)

God kept His promise — and His Son, Jesus Christ, came to our world!

This devotional is the Thursday, December 17, 2015 entry of Opening the Word. Order your copy!

2015-12-15T09:00:06+00:00December 15th, 2015|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , , |0 Comments


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