Baby Jesus: An Exile Who Redeems Misfit Toys

Every year, the lights, sounds, and smells of Christmas convince millions of nice people sitting on the crumbling fence that marks the divide between the secular and the spiritual hop back into church for an hour or two. The sentimental Christmas carols sung in a lowly lit sanctuary on December 24 and 25 fill a special place in many a heart.

This is no new phenomenon. The famed pastor, John Calvin, noted that December 25, 1515 had brought out, “more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon (Micah 302).” Over the centuries, these holiday services provide the mostly moral and nominally religious souls with a sense of the grandeur of God and the potential of humanity that makes gift giving, family meals, and trips to grandma’s house all that more pleasant.

For the record, allow me to assert that I am glad to have anyone at any service for any reason. If you want to attend church, I want you to visit my church family regardless of where you come from or where you were or what you want. The salvation comes through hearing. Come hear the gospel!

Who is Christmas For?

But Christmas is ultimately not about these good little girls and boys who are willing to check off the church box every so often. It is about the souls that have been kicked out of moralistic circles because they drank too much, were sexually deviant, or asked too many questions. For a time, they attempted to heed the morality of their parents and tow the Sunday school line. But at the end of the day, they could not cut it. Existential crises came. Tragedy struck. Sin prevailed. The love of their family, friends, and church evaporated, pointing them to exile. Today, these souls would be more likely to spend Christmas Eve at the bar than at the church.

Baby Jesus came for these people. In the gospel that bears his name, Matthew highlights Jesus’s connection to Abraham, David, and the deportation or exile (Matt 1:1-17). Matthew constructed his genealogy to reveal both Jesus’s historical ancestors as well as his purpose which is this: Jesus came to shower the blessings of Abraham through the Messiah’s kingly power so that exiles can know redemption. Notice Jesus did not come for the moral and those who feel comfortable attending church twice a year. He did not associate with Pharisees. He came from exiles.

The Exile Who Saves Exiles

The baby in the manger who is the God of the universe is also the heir of losers who turned all of God’s blessings into crumpled messes. His lineage contained liars, adulterers, prostitutes, and those who had committed incest. He came from a people that deserved exile so that he could redeem them from that very exile. In chapter 9 of his book, Matthew 9:12-13 declares, “But when he [Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is why dirty shepherds and gentile astrologers who would have been deemed unworthy of polite Jewish society because they lacked manners or came from the wrong side of the tracks were the first to worship baby Jesus. The descendent of outcasts, came to redeem the outcasts. To borrow from the T.V. Christmas specials Jesus is a type of Rudolph, a misfit, who can save the other misfits stuck on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Friend if you have been truly bad this year committing sins that you wish to keep hidden forever, I encourage you to come to Christ. For in addition to being the son of exiles, Jesus is also the son of David. He is the great king of the universe who controlled the waves, healed the sick, and cast out demons. But he did more than that. He went and died and rose again so that all those souls who have been rejected by society because of their sin could be restored to the love of God. He offers to take the inhabitants of the island of misfit toys to eternal glory if they will repent and believe upon him.

What About?

Some who muddle about the island discount the offer of salvation because they believe they are broken beyond repair. They think that years of family history, mental illness, and vile sins cannot be easily reversed. While Jesus empathize with their pain, he knows nothing of these souls’ despair. The God who defeated demons can more than conquer the skeletons in our closets. The physician came to save the sick. And he promises to walk with the sick on their road to spiritual health, however long it takes.

And the Church?

As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations, may those of us in the church faithfully seek out those who feel exiled from society, the church, and “good” people. Though they may not know it yet, Christmas is their holiday.

Next, let’s lovingly remind those good girls and boys who have popping into church once or twice a year since the days of Calvin that they too are misfit, sinners in need of redemption. As the Psalmist said, “There is none righteous, no not one.” Not even the moral person who casually attends church can achieve the righteousness of God. Even the best of us needs the saving grace of God. Church, when we gather to sing those quintessential Christmas carols, let’s make a point to share gospel once again.

As the angels noted so long ago, the good news of great joy is for all people! Jesus Christ was born to save sinners! The exile redeems the misfit souls! Come and Worship Christ the new born king!

3 Helpful Advent Devotions

To keep Christ in Christmas, we need to do more than wear catchy slogans woven into tacky Christmas sweaters. We need to commit to reading the Scriptures, reflecting on the Biblical themes of expectation, fulfillment, peace, salvation, and redemption (to name a few) that comprise the Christmas story. I have found Advent devotionals to be useful tools. They have helped me and my little family to pause and reflect upon the glorious realites wrapped up with baby in the manger. If you are looking for a Christmas devotional that you or your family could use this December, I encourage you to grab 1 of the 3 titles below. If you currently don’t gather the kiddos or spouse for family worship, I encourage you to make use of this Christmas season. Grab a devotional and start a new tradition on December 1 built on the eternal truths of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we be faithful to make much of Jesus today and always!

Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

John Piper packs 25 meaningful devotions into this 63-page book. Each devotion extends across 2-3 pages, beginning with a Scripture passage and ending with helpful applications that challenge our hearts. I came into contact with this book shortly after its publication in 2013 and have repeatedly returned to the volume because Piper writes with a simplicity and potency that beautifully illuminates the purpose of Christmas. April and I have used this book for our family devotions on more than one occasion. I encourage you to grab a copy of the book here. It gets even better. If your Christmas Bank Account has run dry or if you simply want to preview the book before committing to it, you can download it for free here.

Joy Upon Joy: An Advent Devotional

This short 128-page book features 25 Advent readings taken from the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. In typical Spurgeon fashion, the devotionals feature a short verse or phrase and then two pages of Spurgeon’s commentary on the meaning of the words followed by a few lines for notes and personal reflections. Spurgeon has a unique way with words that draw out the deep truths of Christmas. If you love Spurgeon, reading sermons, or desire to see Christmas through a slightly different and yet profound perspective, I encourage you to grab a copy of this devotional here. If you can handle reading the occasional old English phrase out loud, this book can well serve your family worship time. If you wish to explore Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons in more depth, I encourage you to visit the Spurgeon Library Website at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary here. And then, search for “Christmas”

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas

In this 142-page volume, editor Nancy Guthrie gifts her readers 22 devotions taken from sermons that have helped Nancy reflect upon the richness of Jesus’s birth. She taps into a wide selection of authors, featuring the thoughts of Augustine, Martin Luther, J.C. Ryle, Alistair Begg, and many more. The chapters feature a Scripture reading, followed by 3-5 pages of reflection, encouragement, and admonishment. Nancy designed her book to serve as a short evangelical Anthology of Advent that provides readers with the space and theology to taste the glories of Christmas anew. Though the volume does not translate well into family worship settings with little kids, I have benefited with the depth of this book and have referenced during my sermon prep. I encourage you to grab a copy here.

Don’t Box Up Baby Jesus…Just Yet

blog boxing up baby JesusAs the last round of Christmas trees are marched to the curb in preparation for their impending doom, the ceramic baby Jesus perched atop the mantel is squeezed back into his Styrofoam sarcophaguses in preparation for his impending banishment to the top of self of basement closet. Until the Easter lilies return, most souls forget about the savior encased in his protective covering. The child whom the shepherds celebrated thousands of years ago seems to offer little hope to the souls tormented by pornography, credit card debt, bullying, and mental illness.

Indeed if Jesus transformed himself from a baby into a full grown man in the spawn of the months that separate Christmas from Easter, he would have little encouragement to offer to weary and worn souls. But Jesus did not skip through life in the span of four months. He lived with us.

Instead of returning Jesus to the basement of irrelevance, men and women should place the Christ child in center of their imagination and watch him mature into the man who went to the cross.

Because Jesus was fully human, he can fully sympathize with our predicament. Jesus did not suspend reality while on earth. He suffered under it, feeling the pain of circumcision, the discomfort of hunger, and the agony of the cross. He also knows the tempting power of lust, covetousness, and depression. He can speak to the suffering soul with authority for he experienced the predicaments of those he came to save from sin and sorrow. Jesus remains relevant to the human soul because he was fully human.

But Jesus is simply a human, pontificating about life as he bounced about the hillside of Palestine. He is also fully God. While Jesus came to live amongst the broken so that he could sympathize with humanity, he also came to deliver the men and women who suffered alongside of him. Jesus did not mature into a full-grown man in a matter of minutes because he wanted to live the life sinners were supposed to live. Galatians 4:4-5 states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Jesus did not get circumcised because he lacked affiliation with God. Jesus who created the universe in conjunction with God the father and God the Holy Spirit had his foreskin removed to fulfill the law for his children. The Son of God had to walk about this earth in perfect harmony with the law of God so that the Son of God could exchange his holiness for the sins of his children on the cross and thereby transfer children of darkness into the kingdom of his light. Jesus can redeem sinful men and women through his death, burial, and resurrection because he fulfilled the law for us.

The imagination fixed upon the growing Jesus will sustain the weary soul. When the couple believes their marriage has twisted into sins that Jesus could never address, they should recall that Jesus experienced all of our temptations and defeated them. When the woman is tempted to assume that her past sins are beyond fixing, she should look and see Jesus offering her his unstained past. When the man fears that his latest sin will remove him from paradise, he need only to remember that he carries not the faults of his life about his shoulders but the glory of Christ’s spotless life. And when the youth afflicted with unspeakable hardship doubts that God will see him or her through to the next day (much lest to the next year), he should meditate on the tears his savior shed before cross, recalling that the power of God over death. The imagination captivated by the story line of Jesus cannot help but concluded:

“15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16:

Baby Jesus offers relevant hope to the modern soul because he grew into a man, died on the cross, and rose again. Will you embrace this hope? Will you leave Jesus up in your soul this year?