Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6)
I am certain that my title stirred my Christian brothers and sisters to protest, “It is too!” Well, hang on and allow me to explain.
I assume, wrongly perhaps, that most Christians understand that Jesus was not born on December 25, or any time in December. I have covered that in other articles,,, but that is not my purpose here. Regardless of the accuracy of the date, it is right that we, as Christians, take time to celebrate and give thanks to God for sending us His Son to “save His people from their sins.”
But let us face it. The majority of the world who celebrates this season see it as the season of giving (and getting). They may have a remote idea for the Reason for the season, but only as a matter fact and not necessarily the focal point. In fact, any reminder of Christ’s birth is seen as offensive. The mere greeting of “Merry Christmas” is socially unacceptable and the preferred greeting is “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings,” but most choose to leave Christ out of it.
I could give more examples of the rampant materialism that takes place at that this time, but why harp on the obvious? For all these reasons I say that Christmas is not Christian; it is largely a secular plunge into self-indulgence and avarice. However, Christians need not get sucked into the fray. Lay aside the world’s Xmas and focus on the true meaning of this special time of celebration. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
This time of year gives rise to one of my pet peeves, and that is the commercialization of Christmas. Often you can find in stores Christmas displays right alongside Halloween displays. The anticipated celebration of Jesus’ birth coexisting with what is arguably a celebration of demonic activity.
By now, all the Halloween decorations are down and you can get great deals on leftover Halloween candy. Christmas decorations dominate the scene now. Television commercials remind us that Christmas is just around the corner. The news media are raising public anxiety over the fear that all our Christmas presents will not arrive on time because they are all on container ships anchored off the California coast. That could very well happen, but so what?
In all the concern over Christmas it appears that everyone has forgotten all about Thanksgiving. What does this say about us as a society? It seems that we focus more on frivolity and materialism than we do on gratitude for the things we already have.
The Bible says much about giving thanks to God for the blessings we have. It also speaks much about frivolity and materialism. It calls these things idolatry. God takes a very dim view of idolatry. Of course, some may say, “Well Christmas is about Jesus.” Is it? Is Jesus the focal point of Christmas or is it more giving and receiving gifts? All the while, we forget to thank God for all the blessings He has already lavished on us.
Why not start celebrating the true gift of Christmas, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by first being thankful to God for all He has already given us and for His special gift of the Baby Jesus. So what if all the Christmas presents remain on container ships anchored off the California coast! The Bible says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis mine).
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)
The year 2020 has been a historic year to say the least. It started with my retirement at the end of December 2019 and quickly followed by minor knee surgery on my left knee just three days after. Being new to retirement, I found it challenging to find what to do with all my spare time. I filled some of my time with volunteering opportunities at church and at the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History. Of course, that occupied only part of my time. I also spent many hours, three to six hours a day, studying Scripture, something I enjoy the more I do it.
It was nice to have control of my own time and spend it at my own discretion. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed, not just for me, but for everyone on Earth. I will spare all the details. I am certain that anyone reading this had similar experiences with masks, social distancing, restrictions on large gatherings, church shut-downs, etc. The year 2020 has been, in many respects, the worst year in the threescore and ten years of my life. Personally, I believe that what we experienced this year, especially with the draconian governmental intrusion into our lives, portends to the seven-year Tribulation prophesied in Scripture and the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That, in turn, gives me hope that the Rapture of the Church can happen at any moment now. That gives me joy and hope in spite of all this stink going on in our nation and the world.
The year 2020 quickly comes to a close, and we now come to Christmas. But like the rest of 2020, Christmas this year is very strange. My church just opened back up at the beginning of December, but with so many restrictions that it does not even “feel” like church. Attendees must wait to be ushered into a socially distanced place, wear masks during the worship portion of the service, and then wait to be ushered out at the end of the service. Any “fellowshipping” must be done outside of the building and hugs and handshakes are strongly discouraged. We normally put on a Christmas program at this season with choir and orchestra, which usually packs out the sanctuary. This year, we had a socially-distanced ensemble and a guest singer. The music was nice, but it lacked the pizzazz of past Christmas programs. Of course, the audience was at one-third of normal due to all the restrictions, and I missed the “feeling” of the event. I normally sing in the choir, but we could not do that because of COVID-19.
Christmas Eve service will be even stranger. This year it will be “virtual.” Our pastor will bring a Christmas message and we will observe the Lord’s Supper “online.” I do not mean to criticize. I am only stating reality. I know our church staff is trying to make the best of a stinky situation, but for all their effort, it is still a very strange Christmas.
For many years I have bemoaned the inflated sentimentality attached to the season. (You can read my past articles on the topic.) In the first place, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was born in December. In the second place, the overt commercialization of the season detracts from any significance of its true meaning. And in third place, the sentimentality attached to it makes it more about us, and it does about Him.
Our tree is up, the nativity is on the mantle, and Christmas lights illuminate our front yard, and it still feels like a very strange Christmas. What is not strange or unchanged is God’s love and gift to us in taking “upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7) “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). When you think about it, that in itself is strange. However, it is God’s plan, and it is in effect regardless of circumstances. Maybe it’s good that this is such a strange Christmas after all.
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)
As 2020 winds down to a close, we can look back and say, “It was a terrible year!” For me, it started with a drastic change in life called retirement. And before I could really adjust to my new lifestyle, COVID-19 hit and changed life for all of us. Do I need to recount the chaotic events? In November, we voted in the 2020 Presidential Election, and the candidate who campaigned the least and attracted the smallest following miraculously won the election – supposedly. Now we face the real possibility of having a Socialist government for the first time in our nation’s history. President Trump alleges that the election was stolen, and much evidence exists indicating that he has reason to protest and contest the results. He has a great team of lawyers that are fighting to get the election overturned (I pray that they do), but time is running out. However, there is still hope.
I have said this before, and I am still convinced that whether Biden becomes our next President or President Trump wins his second term, we face troubled times ahead. But there is hope. At least, for the Christian there is hope. We only need to remember that our primary citizenship is in heaven with our Lord, and the intensity of the trouble we experience today should alert us that He will soon return to take us home to be with Him. The intensity of the trouble will increase, and the more it increases, the closer we are to His calling us home. There is always hope.
Long ago, as the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness hoping for their Promised Land, their enemies rose up to thwart their plans. One such enemy was Balak, the king of Moab, who hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam was not a “prophet of God,” but he knew God well enough to know that God would not allow him to speak against His people. No matter how Balaam tried, he could only speak the words God directed him to speak. In the end, Balaam pronounced a blessing on Israel, rather than a curse.
In that blessing, Balaam prophesied, “there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17, emphasis mine). On the face of it, the prophecy refers to a coming king of Israel that “shall smite the corners of Moab.” If we stop there, the prophecy leaves us in a lurch, but the Holy Spirit keeps no secrets from those who have “ears to hear.”
In his Gospel, Matthew tells us that “there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2, emphasis mine). Yes, the baby born in Bethlehem was the Star, but a real star – a celestial object – appeared out of Jacob (Israel) to announce His birth. It is because of that Star that we have our Blessed Hope.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)
“The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” It was a “holy” night – sacred, pure, consecrated. There was no night like it before, and there has been no night like it since.
It was a holy night because Jesus entered the world on that night. The birth itself was nothing special. Surely He was not the only baby born on that night. According to Luke’s account, Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some time before the birth. “While they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6). Surely in the small village of Bethlehem word of a young expectant mother got around quickly. Surely the town had at least one midwife to help with the birth, and the ladies of the town would be more than eager to help a young mother, “great with child,” deliver her firstborn. Just because there was no room for them in the inn, does not mean the couple was totally on their own. So, the birth was itself was unremarkable.
The miraculous conception nine months earlier is another matter. The Creator took the form of the “created” when the angel told Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The “Son of God” was God Himself growing inside the virgin’s womb for the normal human gestation time. At conception, He became Emmanuel, God with us.
But now, on this holy night, the incarnate God, entered the world He created. It was a very holy night indeed.