The Story of Christmas, The Gospel of Jesus

Sharing the Christmas story with my church family has proved to be one of the highlights of the holiday season. I construct my narratives the around four-part gospel presentation (God, Man, Christ, Response) highlighted in Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel. I am excited to share one of those retellings of the Christmas story with you today.

The Script below was designed to be read aloud in a congregational setting. But I believe it will hold up quite well when you read in your comfy chair or at the kitchen table with your family. I hope this recounting of the Christmas story helps you rediscover the joy of knowing that the baby in the manager is Jesus, our Messiah who saves us from our sins.

Merry Christmas!

In the Beginning

The Christmas story is a political story. But it is not the story of elections, debates, and shady deals. Yes, King Ahaz gets a less than honorable mention, the Emperor Augustine makes a brief appearance, and the wicked King Herod sets the divine family on the run. But the Christmas story is not about these men and their governments.

As Jesus would one day tell the Governor of Judea, “My kingdom is not of this world.” 

According to the Bible, God’s kingdom transcends the limits of earthly space and time. God lays claim to the universe and everything it: physical and spiritual, visible and invisible…and even you and me. Psalm 89:11-12a declares that, “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have created them;” The triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) deserves to be worshiped for he created and sustains the universe. 

God also created the first humans, the first royal couple, Adam and Eve. God designed them to lead all humanity to love and goodness, placing them in the center of his beautiful world, the Garden of Eden. For a glorious season, the first couple lovingly nurtured the flowers that swayed in the summer breezes, the creatures that danced in the meadows, and the fish that splashed about the oceans. All was good, pure, and right. All was peaceful between God and man, between man and man, and between man and nature.

But, this glorious world would not last. Adam and Eve would fall from their thrones.

The Political Crisis that Necessitated Christmas

One day, Eve entered into a conversation with a wicked serpent, whom God had tossed out of heaven. This snake told Eve that God was a liar who would exploit the first royal couple.  

First Eve and then Adam believed the snake. They thought rebellion against God would enable humanity to reach heights of unimaginable new achievements. When the first man and women sunk their teeth into a piece of forbidden fruit, they kicked off the greatest revolution of all time.

But their rebellion did not go as planned. When Adam and Eve struck out on their own, they discovered that the snake had lied and not God.

God had kept nothing good back from them. God had only protected the human leaders from all that was evil, rotten, and deadly. And now as Adam and Eve looked about God’s once good world, they saw fear, misery, and death. The very essence of their souls and the very foundation of the world had been corrupted. Adam and Eve were naked before the Lord. Try as they might, they could not undo what they had done. The kingdom of light had been replaced with the kingdom of darkness. The peace was gone. They were rebels against God.

Sadly, the corruption did not end with the reign of Adam and Eve. The first king and queen bequeathed their legacy of deadly rebellion to all of their descendants.

Take King Ahaz for example.

Isaiah Chapter 5 reports that Ahaz’s once shook with fear because an army of sword clad Syrians stood outside his castle gates. But all was not lost. God decided to help Ahaz. God told Ahaz, “Do not fear” for you will prevail. To prove that his message was not a divine prank, God gave Ahaz one genie-like wish. The king could have asked for a star, a dinosaur, or a gold nugget that weighed a million pounds. The universe was his for the asking. But instead of taking God up on his offer, Ahaz said, “No thanks.” The king wanted nothing to do with God’s salvation. He wanted to keep the rebellion going.

Despite all our iPhones, electric cars, and 85-inch flat screen TVs, we modern men and women have not progress beyond the rebellion of Ahaz. We all have spoken angrily to a child, stolen a pen or pencil, and harbored some really bad thoughts about a neighbor, family member or an ex. We have all sinned like Adam and Eve and Ahaz, believing God to be a liar. And like our first parents and all the kings and queens of old, we too will die. Though we cannot shake our fear of death, we will not ask God for help.

But God is not deterred. Humans like you and me cannot keep God from being God. Though Ahaz did not want a sign, God still gave the king a sign, a sign that would be for all people. Isaiah 5:14 reports “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” God would once again walk peacefully among his people. The kingdom of heaven would be restored. The Prince of peace was coming! 

Baby Jesus: Defeats the Rebellion

On Christmas morning, God again dwelled with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. When the baby in the manger became a man, he set out to restore the kingdom of God. He overthrew sickness, rebuked the waves, and vanquished demons. He reminded the heirs of Adam and Eve of the glories of God, preaching peace, joy, and salvation. The serpent too reappeared, seeking to persuade Jesus to follow the first Adam into rebellion. But Jesus refused the offer. The kingdom of God was advancing. A new Adam, a new king had come. Seemingly just as he was about to ascend to the throne of Jerusalem, the Jewish and Roman rulers of the day intervened and crucified Jesus, preserving the political systems of the ancient world. His followers were bewildered by the cross. Perhaps the snake had not lied. Perhaps men and women truly could contend with God and defeat the kingdom of righteousness.

But Jesus had not been defeated. Three days after dying on the cross, Jesus stepped out of the tomb. When the women went to anoint Jesus dead body, the found not Jesus but an angel who declared, “He is not here, he is risen.”

Jesus burst through the serpent’s wall which had built with the slimy bricks of sin and death. The Scriptures reveal that the Wonderful Counselor had intended to die all along so that through his sacrifice he might liberate the descendants of Adam and Eve from the kingdom of darkness. Through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus had defeated the rebellion!

All the descendants who follow Jesus through the breach are welcomed back into the kingdom of light. Shepherds, prostitutes, prideful men, sex-crazed teenagers, and angry kids are all invited to repent and believe! When Jesus died, he suffered not for his own sins but for our sins. He satisfied the wrath of God with his righteous life, exchanging his holiness for our rebellion. As we step through the hole in the wall by faith, Jesus clothes us in his righteousness and fills our hearts with his spirit, providing us with the credentials and the power to once again walk with God forever. The Prince of Peace had come!

Come Worship the King

Because of the Baby in the manger, we no longer have to follow in the footsteps of our father, Adam. Though Adam brought death to all men and women, Jesus has brought eternal life to all. As the hymn says, “you will no longer need to fear the grave. Christ was born to save.” Those who repent of their sins and believe on the cross for salvation become sons and daughters of the Mighty God and will reign with Jesus in heaven. Those who believe will find the peace that Adam and Eve had lost through their rebellion.

The question we now face this Christmas season is this: “Do we have peace with God? Have we repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation? Is the baby in the manger, the Prince of Peace, my savior?”

If your answer is no, I encourage you to come and repent and believe before another Christmas comes and goes.  

If the baby in the manger is your savior, rejoice with great joy! No more let sin and darkness reign! You have been delivered from the rebellion. You no longer have to live in fear for Christ dwells with you, leading you to love, gentleness, kindness, mercy, and glory! Joy to the world, the savior Comes. Let earth receive her king.

Merry Christmas!

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?

The King Who Tried To Cancel Christmas

christmas-pickIf it was up to us, Christmas would have never happened. That’s right; the very first Christmas would never have happened if it depended upon people like you and me.

Hundreds of years before Joseph and Marry made the difficult journey to Bethlehem, God sent his prophet Isaiah to talk with king Ahaz. At that time, the king of Judah was facing an all-out attack from the neighboring kingdom of Israel. All looked hopeless for the people of Judah. Isaiah 7:2 reports that “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of the people shook as trees of the forest shock before the wind.” The people were scared, really sacred.

In the midst of their despair, Ahaz and his people got some really good news! Isaiah shows up and tells them that God will defend them! Ahaz is saved! Then, God sends Isaiah back to Ahaz and says, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be as deep as Sheol or a high as heaven (vs.11). In short God says, test me. Let me do something amazing so that you know that I am God and can deliver you. Ask me for a star from heaven and it is yours! Ask me to give you a pet dinosaur to ride on, it is yours. Ask me for thousands of pounds of gold it is yours. Ask for anything!”

And what does Ahaz do? He says, “Nope, I’m good.” “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (v12). In short, Ahaz does not want a savior. Sure, he is scared. But he does not want God to deliver him. He does not want God to get glory. He wants to handle things on his own. We know from 2 Kings, that Ahaz regularly worshiped idols. He even sacrificed one of his sons to an false god. Ahaz worshiped little pieces of stone instead of the God of the universe. The king did not want anything from God, especially salvation. He wanted to live life his own way, fiercely independent and free from the judgment of God. The king did not want a baby in a manger if it meant that he had to worship the baby who would one day die on the cross. Ahaz was did not want Christmas!

rjbdtfthi88-greg-weaverWe must not follow in Ahaz idolatrous footsteps. We must not try to find deliverance this holiday season through sappy movies, rich food, or video games. We should not depend on our own modern day idols so that we do not have to trust God.  When we put our trust in the idols of this world, we see no reason to ask God to prove himself. We stop expecting God to change our spouse; we stop asking God to save our son; and, we stop thinking that God can provide us with a new job. We may excuse our sin by saying that we don’t want to bother God with our problems. But such a statement is not an expression of faith. It is an Ahaz type of expression that says, “God can’t do anything; why bother him.” If we embrace this old king’s mindset, we will not find joy. We will become complacent, bitter, and disenchanted with life. We become like the Grinch hating all the glorious noise that points to God’s greatness. We must not assume that our failures to find happiness mean that God is powerless to act. We must not think that God is too weak to work and then busily set about to fix things. We must not call for Christmas to be cancelled.

But thankfully, Christmas was not up to Ahaz. God knew Ahaz needed more than a star or dinosaur. He knew that Ahaz needed a savior. He knew that Ahaz could not even ask God for the right sign. And so God gave the sign that Ahaz should have asked for.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (vs.14).

God gave Ahaz and all of us a sign far greater than a pet dinosaur. Jesus shrunk himself down to our size. He came and lived a perfect life and died for us. He came to save us not just from our enemies at work or from cancer or from poverty. He came to save us from our sin. He came to give us eternal life. God gave us a sign that could not be surpassed. God gave us the amazing gift of Christmas. He gave us the gift of salvation. As the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

Nothing greater can be said: God become a child…His poverty in the manager is his might. In the might of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humankind, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead.

For this very reason Christmas is worth celebrating. Jesus came. God did for us what we could never have dreamed of. Yes, Christmas may be full of disappointment this year. Our problems may cause our knees to shake with fear. But we have hope. We can turn off the T.V, we can close the refrigerator, and we put down the controller. If we are Christians, God has saved us. We should recall that the son of God has come. Jesus has done something far greater than solve family issues. He has saved the lost. And if God can save us and if God can save millions of people, he will do more than we could ever imagine. He will work. He will do the miraculous again and again. And even when we don’t know what to ask for, God asks for us! He will do for all of his children what he did for Ahaz. He will give them the signs and the encouragement that they need when they need it.  Christmas is all about hope. Christmas is all about trusting God because he know our needs and gives us everything via Jesus. Friends if there ever was a time to trust God, it is at Christmas.

Ahaz could not cancel Christmas. It was not up to him. No amount of doubt or sin can cancel God’s plan or overcome his mercy! We cannot ruin the holiday. The message and power of Christmas is not dependent on you or me! It is up to God! It is worth celebrating! Merry Christmas!