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?

Jesus’s Story Beats Every Other Christmas Story

Christmas-storyIf we got to write the Christmas story, I believe we would flip the story upside down. Instead of God coming to us, we would go to God. Walking through a divine portal brought into existence through some form of trauma we would arrive in heaven to sing songs and to hand Jesus some presents. Books such as Heaven is For Real, 90 Minutes in Heaven, and My Journey to Heaven are just some of the many stories the describe humanity reaching up to God. Yay us!

We think God and heaven are within our reach because our fallen hearts are quick to deny their fallenness. Most every fictional Christmas story from The Christmas Carol to The Grinch That Stole Christmas believes humanity can save itself. If we give Ghosts, Christmas songs, magical snow, and goodwill a chance, we can be confident that our hearts will grow the three sizes needed to crave the roast beast at Christmas.

But despite all our hopes, we haven’t been able to grow our hearts even one size…much less the fix world at large. We are still singing Stevie Wonder’s song wondering when if ever, “we’ll see a land With no hungry children, no empty hand.” Despite the promises of Christmas fiction which resonate with our belief that heaven is within our grasp, we never achieve the “Peace on Earth,” promised in all those Christmas stories  Boys are still playing with bombs, kids in Africa are still hungry, and our families are still dealing with depression.

Should we give up on the whole Christmas Spirit thing, then?

No! Christmas Spirit exists because God got the story right. God knows we cannot reach heaven. He knows we are frail sinners living in a broken an distraught world. He knows we need help. We have all lied, cheated, stolen, gotten angry, or spread some office gossip at some point. And he who commits one sin deserves death. “The wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23).” Because we are sinners infused with death and devoid holiness we cannot sneak into heaven. The magic portal is closed. We cannot live with our holy, loving and perfect God. We are fallen and he is not. If he allowed sinners into heaven, he would cease to be good, loving, and just.  For evil has no place with goodness. Drug dealers don’t belong in baby nurseries and sinners don’t belong in heaven. We need help!

It comes!

 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:9-11. 

That is the beauty of the Christmas story. Christ came down to live with us. And he came down to poor parent and slept in a dirty manager in a stinky barn. As Paul David Tripp rightly notes: “Most of us would be in a complete panic if we had to birth a baby in such conditions.” Yet, God chose a manager because he came to suffer for us. His whole life and death was offering to good to pay for our mistakes and errors. He came to live the lives that we are supposed to live. He suffered all the disappointments that we suffer. But he always responded with faith and love; we often respond with disbelief and anger

British novelist Dorothy Sayer captured the true meaning of Christmas when she wrote:

 He himself has gone through the whole human experience – from trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and a lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, death…He was born in poverty and…suffered infinite pain – all for us – and thought it worth his while.

Jesus died on the cross because he loved his children. He did not die for his sins. He died to pay for the sins of his of those who repent and believe. He died so that he could bring many sons to glory!

The Christmas story is worth celebrating precisely because we did not write it: we did not go up; Christ came down! Don’t you agree?