Christmas Countdown: Why we Celebrate

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.

The Fruit of an Apt Reply

Luke 12:12, 17, 34, 37

12 Now they wanted to arrest him (but they feared the crowd), because they realized that he told this parable against them.  So they left him and went away17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him34 When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him37 If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

2 Timothy 4:2

Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

Proverbs 2:10

For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.

Our response when we hear truth, even when it hurts, shows the condition of our hearts.  We can choose to ignore it and run away, we can stand in amazement or listen with delight, or be humbled and silent.  I love the feeling I get when truth in God’s word pierces my soul – it is a cleansing, a revealing that sets me free.  It is not condemnation, but a sweet conviction or affirmation that heals my soul.

But what if no one had ever been willing to share truths with me that might hurt initially, but ultimately would liberate my soul?  I thank God for people who loved me enough to share a fitting word, whether it was for my edification or instructional, which bore fruit and brought glory to God.  We are called to follow Christ’s example and to speak the truth in love.  Of course Jesus is perfect and His answer will always be perfect, holy and fitting.  We can get off track and forget why we have to be prepared at all times to share God’s word.  Paying it forward, some call it – Scripture says that just as we have received, so we should give.  Not just material belongings, but the deep spiritual truths that we have been entrusted with.  It is not just a defense of the Gospel for knowledge sake, no, it is a fervent desire to share God’s love with another and set them free from the bondage of sin.

If I have this deposit from God contained in this clay vessel and forget the mission I am on, I can get puffed up with this knowledge which was given to change me to be more like Him and to serve and help heal others.  We desperately need truth – we need our eyes to be opened to the constant deceit satan is dispensing.  We do not need enablers who will flatter, nor do we need condescending judgmentalism.  We need to be prepared at all times and sensitive to God’s leading to share God’s message to one another.

The greatest commandment – to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength – propels us to fulfill the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Sometimes that love takes action by providing for a need, and other times by speaking an apt word to another soul loved by God.  May we be ready to do both.

Lord, help us too be led by You in our busy lives, to study Your word and share it with a dying world.