The Original Christmas Story is Still the Best

baby-4258530_1920Only baby Jesus explains why Christmas is good when people are not.

But biblical truth cannot restrain the imagination of pop culture. Books, movies, and songs seek to transform the divine message of Christmas into secular terms that all can embrace.

The Whos down in Whoville attribute the magic of Christmas to the power of community. Frosty the snowman ascribes the power of Christmas to the magic of the seasons. And, Fred Clause celebrates the holiday because there is no longer a naughty list

While these sentimental messages that connect with hearts, they fail to minds. The beauty of Christmas music can be destroyed by Kevin’s of the world whose sibling rivalries result in the school pianist being decked by an oversized Christmas tree. Many winters have come and gone since Karen meet Frosty. But no one else has seen Professor’s Hinkle’s hat. And for every misunderstood Fred, there are the water bandits,  Marv and Harry, who enjoy impersonating police officers, attacking kids, and stealing from charities.

Pop culture struggles to explain the magic of Christmas because the Christmas is ultimately not magical season. It is miraculous season.

Christians celebrate Christmas because a tiny baby was miraculously born. Luke 1:27-38 recounts how God told Mary that she would have a son. The verifiable virgin conceived a son prior to marriage and prior to sleeping with anyone. As Mary told the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? (Lk. 1:34b)” The short answer is God through the Holy Spirit according to his power. Though unexplainable, the virgin birth was scientifically and historically verifiable. Luke credits his story as being “an orderly” account derived from eyewitness testimony (Lk 1:1-4).

Mary supernaturally had a baby boy. And, the baby born to Mary was not any ordinary baby. Mary calls her baby, “Jesus” (Lk 1:32). The name means God saves. The miraculous baby comes for a miraculous mission. He comes to save all those not nasty people who throw snowballs at little whos, who lock Frosty in a greenhouse, and who enjoy terrorizing a little kid left home alone. More importantly, Jesus comes to save people like you and me who struggle with very unChristmasy things such as pornography, pride, and gossip. He comes to save.

And this baby about to be born to an insignificant girl engaged to an insignificant guy living in an insignificant town can save people because he is God. Jesus is not some good teacher lighting the path of kindness for humanity. He is God in human flesh. Luke says, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.” In plain English this means, Jesus is great for he is God. As opposed to John the Baptist who “will be great before the Lord.” Jesus is simply great because he is God. Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

We should be thankful, Jesus is divine. For if he were not divine, he could only save one of us. He could trade his life for another life. But because Jesus is God, he can pay for the sins of every man and woman who repents and believes. He has the power of God to bring all of us to him.

But the question remains how?

The angel’s next words answers this question. He tells Marty that Jesus will sit on the throne of David forever. Though God, Jesus is also fully man which means he can rightfully lay claim to the throne of his great (many times over) grandfather David.

But this raise a problem.  If Jesus can ascend to David’s throne, then he must also be mortal and capable of experiencing death as David had. Yet, the Luke 1:33 says “of his kingdom there will be no end.”

How does this work?

Jesus does die. Luke 23:46 recounts, “Then Jesus calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit!”’ and having this he breathed his last.”

But he does not stay dead. Three days later Jesus defeats death. The angels tell us, “He is not here, but he is risen” (Lk 24:7). Jesus conquers death. He does the impossible. All who repent and believe gain access to the impossible. They can access to heaven, to life with God, to unbroken joy and glory. For the power the raised Jesus from the dead is the same power the guides all repenters to heaven.   Colossians 2:11-14 sums up the joyousness of Christmas well stating,

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Christmas continues to be worth celebrating because it reminds us that God does miracles. The blessed virgin conceives. And then the God-man, Jesus conquers death, bringing countless numbers of sad and messed up people to the heaven. This is the miraculous joy of Christmas that transcends human imagination. This is why we can relishes the goodness of the day even when people are not good. Jesus saves!

Why are you celebrating Christmas this year?

Getting Back Up After Sin

stairs-blogSin stinks. And I think that the stench is even worse when we sin against our kids. Every time I sin against my toddler son or baby girl, I feel the weight of it twice over. So how do we find relief? What do we do when we mess up and dishonor God with our thoughts, words, and actions? We take a look at a very familiar Bible story found in Luke 1.

The Setting

In Luke chapter 1, we meet Zachariah and Elizabeth. They are both describes as being, “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).  But as with all good stories, Zacharias and Elizabeth face a large crisis. They have no children. And though many Americans view children as an imposition to their rightful exaltation of their selfish desires, the ancient Jews viewed kids as a blessing. They understood the Word of God. You were to want children. Because Zachariah and Elizabeth had no children, their lives were undoubtedly a conundrum to themselves and to those around them (Luke 1:25). They all had to be asking, “why would someone so godly not have kids?”

The Sin 

The answer, God even greater plans for them. Plans they could not even imagine. So God sent an angel to tell Zachariah that he was going to send the couple a son. And not just any son, he was going to send them a child with the spirit of Elijah who would turn many to the Lord (Luke 1:16-17).  And now we get to good part of the story. Zachariah says no. He tells an angel that he is too old to have a baby. He tells a supernatural being with a supernatural message that the supernatural cannot happen. He blows it; he sins. After a lifetime of following God, he doubts God’s goodness. He sins and becomes mute.

When we sin, we follow Zachariah’s pattern. We stop believing the promises of God. Sure we aren’t contradicting the word of an angel. Talk about an insane moment. But we can still relate.

If the truth be told, we are doing something far worse. We are doubting the love and wisdom of our risen savior. We are ignoring a lifetime with the savior, and once again trust in our flesh. And when we snap at our kid for interrupting our football game, for not doing the dishes, and for lying about her homework, we fail to trust God. We assume that God cannot work. We assume that happiness comes from us getting what when we want it. When it doesn’t  happen, we doubt God’s goodness and power. We sin. And as Zachariah, we suffer the consequences of our sin. We experience broken relationships. Momentary lapses come with real loss.

The Solution

So how do we get back on our feet? How do we recover? We do what Zachariah did. We start trusting in the Lord. We repent and remember that God is good. We remember that our obedience to God is not driven by others. It is driven by our love for God who first loved us. The solution for doubt is trust. And as we begin to renew our trust in God, obedience and joy will follow. When it came time to name John, Zachariah obeyed God. He named John, John even though all his friends wanted John to be Z. Jr. Zachariah obeyed (Luke 1:63).

The solution for all of us who have doubted God and made a mess of things is to trust and obey. Even if we have sinned against our kids who are too little to speak, we can find restoration through Christ if we will repent.

Have you sinned recently against your family? Repent, set your mind on Christ, and begin obeying!

Are you ready for joy to return to your home?