Christmas is Coming: Why We Celebrate

why-we-celebrate

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The purpose of Christmas really is to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 1:1-3

1 “Now many have undertaken to compile an account  of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 like the accounts  passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. 3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.”

Each year Christmas comes and goes faster than I can truly grasp the significance of the day we celebrate.  For months, stores are donning their Christmas garb and retailers making money off of the many things tantalizing us with the prescribed necessities to properly celebrate the event.  Yet inwardly I wonder if I am missing it completely.  There are cultural icons we attribute to America’s celebration of Christmas, and some of them are not all that bad, but do they trivialize the most important date in the world, when God came in the flesh and revealed Himself to man?  Our calendars and our homes reflect the importance of this day year after year, but may our hearts never grow numb to the thrill of what His birth meant.

Luke’s account begins with a unique prologue which is different from the other synoptic Gospels.  Luke was the only gentile to pen a book in the new testament, and he is writing to the Gentiles and someone specifically – Theophilus – so that he would believe and know that the birth and life of Christ were true.  I confess that I forget at times what the purpose of Christmas really is – to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.  That is the greatest gift I can truly ever give another soul.  It is this purpose that truly keeps the Christmas spirit alive – never growing weary of the amazing gift of God and sharing it in new ways to those who know God and some who maybe have not come to know Him yet.

So what about all of the traditions of Christmas?  I can get distracted by one tradition of Christmas in particular – the giving of gifts.  This tradition is of course embraced by me, since my love language is gift giving.  (Insert smile).  It is even considered a godly thing to do and more special when it is given thoughtfully and sacrificially.  Giving in such a manner reminds us of what Christ did when He lavishly gave His own life, leaving His comforts in Heaven and dwelling among men, instead.  It can also hinder my celebrating Christmas, though, if I become so stressed and hurried with all of the preparations.

Some might have a tree in their home, others like snowmen and stockings.  These have nothing to do with Christ, but they have come to be a part of what Christmas means in our culture.  There is no judgment in these things, but they can also serve to hinder our worship of the King, if that is what we are seeking to celebrate.  Ultimately, one man considers another day more special than another and the celebration of any holiday on this earth that is not mandated from Scripture is something that ought to be done in a way that honors God – thoughtfully.  There are not rules in Scripture governing do’s and dont’s of how to celebrate Christmas, but their are principles that govern each day we live.  Being cognizant of what we believe and why gives meaning to our lives.

Back to Luke.  It is not known for sure who this Theophilus is, but it is intriguing to me that his name literally means “friend or lover of God”. Luke wanted to make sure Theophilus knew the Gospel was trustworthy, and I wonder if it was he who called him a friend of God.  When a soul is saved, that soul cannot help but be compelled to share with others the amazing gift of salvation.  We must do so in the same vain as Luke did – share the story of Jesus and His impact on our lives like a friend would.  Luke knew the details well and was exact in his account, but He was driven by a passion that others might not miss this greatest gift of all.

Each of the four Gospels is a testimony of the events surrounding Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection – a witness of each of the author’s eyewitness of the life of Christ.  So we each have a testimony of how we, too, met Jesus.  What was it that first opened our eyes?  Do we tell our story passionately so others might know it to be true?  Personal testimony is far more convincing when that person experienced personally what they are telling you; they are not just talking about someone else.  Each testimony is unique to the individual, because each of us has our own relationship with God, and each story of our individual encounters with Christ need to be told.

This Christmas season, may we be ignited with a fresh passion to share Christ and what He accomplished in his birth, death and resurrection.  May we once again look with wonder on the god-man infant, cradled in a crude, rustic environment, prophesied from long ago.  As we look to the coming celebration of Christ’s initial coming, may we be equally stirred to look to His second coming and tell His story and share it with strangers, friends and families far and wide.  It is the greatest true story ever told.

Lord, we eagerly look to commemorate your coming to this earth as well as when You will come again.  Help us to remember what You did for each one of us and to never cease sharing your offering of Your life for our sins.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Merry Christmas from Seeing Deep!

Jesus is the gift

2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV)

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

On this Christmas Day after an extremely busy week, I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Last night culminated the end of a very hectic week, one that crowded out the finishing of the Twelve Days of Christmas countdown.  Nonetheless, as I reflected on this amazing gift of Christ, thinking upon twelve of the things I have been most grateful for that He has given to us has blessed me this Christmas season, and I pray it has you, too.

So, there are a few more gifts to unwrap in this Twelve Days of Christmas wrap up . . . I left off with Day 7 . . .

Day 8 – the Holy Spirit

 

John 4:16

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”

Often neglected in our places of worship is the Holy Spirit, indwelling all who have called on the Name of God and been saved.

There can be a lot of confusion about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and whether some have ceased and some continue, but in the fray of our confusion we miss the simplicity of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What a gift to have God come and fill us to overflowing!  He is our friend, our confidant, our Helper in time of need.  Holy and convicting us of sin and righteousness in our lives, He offers us a place of refuge within ourselves.

Lord, thank You for the deposit of Your Holy Spirit in our lives.  Thank You for never leaving us and for continuing to speak to us through Your Word and Your precious Holy Spirit.

Day 9 – Provision

Philippians 4:12, 19

” I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It hurts to be in a place of need.  So often we try to cover over that hurt or fill that longing with something that will “provide” temporary fulfillment, but El Roi, the God Who sees all, knows what we need before we even ask Him.

There is a sweet contentment that is learned when we recognize that the provision we are seeking might not be what we need, after all.  Fear is replaced with a simple trust in our God Who provides sovereignly what we need when we need it.

The times of hurt, of not being able to go to the doctor or fix a car or maybe even buy groceries – might make us feel like we are fogotten, but not so with God.  These times are instead gifts that cause us to look to our LORD to meet our every need through Jesus Christ.

At Christmas, we anticipate receiving and giving gifts.  Sometimes we can be disappointed, when we had hoped for something different.  Then God opens our eyes and instead of complaining over what we have not been given, we find a joy in Christ when we love and thank Him when we don’t get what we want.

Lord, You are sovereign – all knowing!  Thank You for every gift You have given us, that we often take for granted.  Thank You, too, for the gifts that You have not given to us, showing us our need of You.

Day 10 – Justice

Isaiah 30:18

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”

Job 16:19-20

“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.”

Being falsely accused and having to defend myself in court will remain one of the most horrific moments of my life, but even in those moments, when it seemed justice was no where to be found, I had an advocate in Heaven.  He saw me and every tear He counted.

Whether we win or not down here, we ultimately win if we are in Christ.  He is our ever-present help in time of need and for all eternity we will not receive the justice we deserved – the condemnation of our guilty souls.

Sweet liberty is ours in Jesus.  What a gift His justice is for those Who recognize the gift of salvation and receive it.

Lord, thank You for Your mercy, triumphing over our transgressions and making us Your own.  You are good and just all the time.

Day 11 – God’s promises – unopened gifts

 

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

“For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us–by me and Silvanus and Timothy–was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

When in times of trouble, these gifts from God – His precious promises – are all we need.  Promises from God are always kept, always remembered, always given to those who wait on Him.

Like unopened gifts waiting to be opened by His children, God’s promises stand firm and are ready to deliver at the right time.

Lord, thank You for the anchor in my soul that every one of Your precious promises has been.  Thank you that You did not leave us without hope; a hope that does not disappoint like the world’s empty substitutes.

Day 12 – Himself

John 4:10

“Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””

The greatest, most lavish gift ever given was God himself, in the flesh.  We could not behold His face for He is holy and we are not, so He came in our form so we could understand.

We could not have fellowship with him for our sin separated us.  So He laid down His life and took up our iniquities Himself.

We could not spend all of eternity with Him, so He paid our sin debt and covered over all of our sins so we could dwell with Him forever.

Oh God, forgive us when we get so busy we miss this gift of You every day in our lives.  You are our treasure, available at all times to us, not just at Christmas or on Sundays.  Help us to not neglect You, our greatest gift.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Five: Joy

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Proverbs 10:28

“The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”

James 1:2-4

2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

John 15:11

“I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

Joy can happen instantaneously and vanish just as quickly, but for those who are in Christ, there can be a lasting joy deeply embedded in our souls.

This gift of joy sometimes comes in surprising packages.  What we might think of as having no use in our lives ends up being a big blessing because of the greatness of God to utilize everything for our good and His glory.

What we often would not choose and have no delight in can instead be the very thing we need.  What a sovereign God, Who knows exactly what we need to have real joy in this life.

Sometimes life’s burdens can be so very hard to carry and the sin around us grieves our Spirit, trying to stifle out our joy.  It is in those moments that we reflect on what the trials surrounding us are achieving and choose to accept this gift of joy that Christ came to give us.

When the temporal burdens of this life threaten to steal our joy, the joy of the LORD is our strength and is the gift that keeps giving if we run to Him.  Our delight in Him is further ignited when we consider the joy we have in our glorious future with Christ.  Greater still is sharing that joy with others who desperately need to know that there is more than this world has to offer.

Lord, thank you that the gifts you give us for this life are eternal.  We have joy in You because of Who You are – the Great I AM – Lover of our soul and our joy.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Four: Love

Gift of Love

He loves me not, He loves me, He loves me not, He loves ME!  The exhilarating thrill of knowing we are loved is one of the greatest feelings we can experience.  Likewise, one of the most painful feelings in the world is when love is removed.

Christmas time is unique in that the greatest gift of love, expressed in the form of a baby was given to all mankind – no one was to be left out – as a radical expression of unconditional love.

Lost ones and lost loves are vivid reminders of our need for love at Christmastime.  We were made by God to relate and to love one another, and when that love is removed, our hearts ache.

We don’t by nature like change, nor when the constancy of one’s affection is removed, but in Christ, no matter what goes on around us, His love is always steadfast.

This gift of Love was wrapped in swaddling clothes, chose humble, harsh surroundings to get to YOU and me!

Lord, we can sometimes feel unloved, unwanted and forgotten.  Thank You that You never forget and never remove Your love from us.  Help us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Three: The Law

Gift of Gods law

 

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”

This Christmas, when we think about getting what we want, I am thankful that God in His wisdom does not always give us what we want.  Further, in His mercy, He did not give us what we really deserve – His judgment.

We are all rule breakers in one way or another, often rationalizing our weaknesses away, but God’s righteous standard is held.  He does not leave us in a state of deception, but opens our eyes through His perfect law found in His Word, revealing our sin and need for a Savior.

What a gift – absolute truth – steady, unchanging and Holy in a chaotic relevant world.  In a culture that demands its own way and makes laws to condone its sin, there still stands a righteous standard.

Many feel that this standard set by God steals our freedom and joy, but no greater freedom has anyone than the one who can see his sin that shackles him and can walk away from it.

Even though we could never fulfill God’s commandments perfectly, God in His sovereignty and mercy fulfilled it for us.  His law brought condemnation so we could see our need of Him.

As we visualize ourselves opening these gifts that You have given us, Lord, help us to see Your law at work in our lives and to submit ourselves to Your will in every area of our lives.

 

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.

Thoughtful Thursday: Merry Christmas from Seeing Deep!

Philippians 1:3

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by this during this Christmas countdown and this past half a year while I began to blog.  Your feedback and encouragement have been a tremendous gift.  Blogging has become an integral part of daily devotion time and it is always exciting to see what the LORD has in store when I come before Him in His Word. As we prepare for a new year, LORD willing, I welcome any requests if there is something that you would like me to blog about.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you all – words cannot express how thankful I am for God’s gift of His only son – and for you, too!

All for Jesus,

Denise Pass of Seeing Deep

Christmas Count “Up” Day 24: Jesus is coming! The Purpose of Traditions

Photo Credits goodjesuitbadjesuit.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
goodjesuitbadjesuit.blogspot.com

Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

1 Corinthians 11:2

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

It is the night before Christmas and I am deep in thought and wonder.  This entire month I have reflected on what Christ’s birth meant and what He accomplished by coming in the flesh.  The culmination of this reflection ends tomorrow when we celebrate Christ’s birth.  Yet I feel I have barely scratched the surface.  I do not want to let another Christmas pass me by without being completely overcome by what our God did.

Traditions vary widely and each one represents something deeper than what is on the surface.  Often we can follow and adhere to traditions not knowing why we do.  There is a certain comfort in doing things which we have done before, even if we have forgotten why.  The original intent behind traditions has often been long forgotten or the initial meaning can become trivialized, yet we tend to cling to what is familiar.

Celebrations of Christian holidays, in particular, can lose their significance when secular ideologies come in, often with tantalizing counterfeits replacing the former tradition.  Tonight I attended a Moravian Christmas service; honestly, I had not heard of the Moravian faith and was surprised that it is said to be the first protestant denomination, emanating from a hundred years before Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg.  I wondered as people anticipated each portion of the service, if the symbolism behind each aspect of the service was still known.  We can all have good feelings when a song is sung, or a candle is lit, but do we know the meaning behind the worship we are giving?

Although I am sure many of us have last minute items we must attend to, far greater than a perfectly planned Christmas, a superbly cooked meal, or a beautifully decorated home, is pausing to worship Jesus.  The repetition of a well-known poem can spark good cheer, but sometimes even better than tradition is a new verse penned.  In closing, here is a spur of the moment poem; may it cause us to worship God in Spirit and truth.

———

‘Twas the eve before Christmas and the world was unaware – That soon their God and Creator would be there.

Not as a King ruling from a throne, but ruling in our hearts as His home.

A crude welcome He received, but offered salvation for all who would believe.

His cooing pierced the air and filled his parents with wonder; the unfolding of God’s plan to put our sins asunder.

Miracle of miracles, God in the flesh came, to bear all our sins and take our shame.

The enemy of our souls sought to thwart His plan, but none could outsmart the Son of Man.

The world was blind and could not comprehend, this Promise of God that He did send –

Was the answer to our need, and God’s purpose as well; to restore us to Himself and keep us from Hell.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night – Your Savior has come, to bring you from darkness to light!

———

May you all sleep in peace and bask in the knowledge of God’s radical selfless love for you – He came for you and gave Himself to you.  No greater gift has been given – why not give Him ourselves, as well?

Lord, thank You so much for coming to earth that we might know You.  Help us to see how great this love is and to never cease to be in wonder and amazement at You.

Christmas Count “up” Day 14 – The Baby Highpriest

Hebrews 8:1-6

1 “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the design shown to you on the mountain.” 6 But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises.”

Hebrews 5:10

“And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 7:3

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time.

Psalm 110:4

4 The Lord makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it: “You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.” 

Yesterday I was thanking God that Christ is our mediator.  Today I reflect on the fact that He is not just a go-between – He is a high priest.  I love when something miraculous happens where there is no explanation.  There is a mystery surrounding this high priest who showed up out of nowhere, who was the high priest of God and to whom Abraham tithed to.  The fact that this name means “King of Righteousness” in Hebrew makes me smile.  Not only that, He is from Salem, which means peace.  Our Prince of peace made an appearance as high priest to the father of our faith, Abraham.  How amazing.  His next entrance as a priest would be as a baby.  Christ is our high priest who lives forever in the order of Melchizedek.

We do not just celebrate God coming in the flesh as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, and our King.  He is our high priest.  He is able to make atonement for all of our sins and He forever intercedes for His sheep.  Many times in our lives we will have people come in and out of our lives.  If we are blessed to have some with us for most of our journey here on earth, we are blessed indeed (unless they are a thorn in our flesh, ha!)  But Jesus as our high priest forever means He didn’t just leave us when He left this earth.  He remains our pastor, caring for our souls – for all eternity!

He is forever faithful in His duties as our priest and never forsakes His children.  I am completely overcome with this reality. Christ coming as our high priest means we are never rejected, never without His leadership in our lives.  Never abandoned, always with Him.  Always.

Thank you, sweet Jesus, for being our everything!  I worship You, my high priest!

Worshipful Wednesday: Christmas Countdown Day 10: Inheritors of the Promise

Psalm 130:7-8

7″O Israel, hope in the LORD, for the LORD exhibits loyal love, and is more than willing to deliver. 8 He will deliver Israel from all the consequences of their sins.”

Psalm 132: 11

11 “The LORD made a reliable promise to David; he will not go back on his word. He said, “I will place one of your descendants on your throne.”

You are the winner!  You have been promised from thousands of years ago an inheritance, and it will never perish or fade, and you have already received it!  What’s that?  Why aren’t you jumping up and down?  You know it already? Hmmm… sometimes a fresh reminder of what it is we have been given is needed.

I do not know why it is so very hard for us to understand just how awesome and amazing it is that we serve a living God Who makes promises, keeps them and fulfills them Himself!  Being a King, He could have ordered someone else to do it, certainly could have opted out of it, but He chose to make a promise that cost Him His life. We are rich beyond comparison today because of that sacrifice.

The plans were set in motion before we existed.  The babe grew and walked faithfully in perfection and saved us from eternal damnation, suffering, separation from God and loved us with an everlasting love.  Generation after generation longed for this day and we are living in the years that followed the greatest gift to earth.  What a promise!  This is what joy is – the soul cleansed of all guilt and now at peace with God.  Praise God that we will never spend all of our inheritance – it is forever with God.

Thank You, Lord, for adopting us as Your own and calling us beloved, despite our unworthiness!  Thank You for giving us an inheritance and a relationship with You!