Christmas is here again, which means most of us will be gathered with friends and family for one or more days over the next week. Ironically for many Christians, we do not take advantage of this time to speak of the most important thing we could ever speak of – salvation through Jesus Christ. A variety of excuses plague our minds to not speak of Christ, and we oftentimes succumb to fear and keep silent when opportunities arise. But what better time to speak of the glories of Christ than the time when even the world acknowledges His incarnation, if even superficially?
Last Sunday, with tender, pastoral care, my pastor, Gary Hendrix ofGrace Reformed Baptist Church, exhorted our church family to “love enough to speak of Jesus”, especially this Christmas. If you have fallen victim to any number of excuses that have prevented you from sharing Christ…
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I like to highlight Spurgeon Christmas sermons during the holiday, as with this “Spurgeon Merry Christmas” from last year, and also this post from Christmas 2010. For this Christmas, the summary and excerpts from Spurgeon’s Christmas 1862 message, delivered December 21, 1862, “No Room for Christ in the Inn.” In Spurgeon’s textual sermon style, he went far beyond the text and account itself, to consider the other reasons (beyond the narrative account) why Christ “should be laid in the manger.” He also considered other places in our world and daily life that have no room for Christ, as well as the modern-day equivalents of the “inn itself” that “had no room for Him,” in a message that shows the timelessness of human nature and describes a world so similar to the 21st century.
Christ Laid in the Manger brings out the following truths:
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Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus:
This lesson emphasizes the humanity of Jesus so that we might fully appreciate what God did when His deity invaded our humanity.
The older we get, the more we understand that the real meaning of the holiday is not the giving of gifts (as exciting as that is), but the relationship we have with one another, and the privilege that the holiday provides for us to get together.
But as we enjoy the warmth and joy of our relationships with one another, if we think of it very deeply, we finally contemplate the truth that God so desired a relationship with us that He paid the incredibly supreme price to come and be one of us, so that we might know Him.
I. At His Birth
II. During His Childhood
III. In His Adulthood
In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” It is almost as if Paul were overcome by the thought of it.
At His Birth
The Apostle Paul bursts out in this epistle with the astonishing words: “Without controversy.” In other words, there won’t ever be any argument about this. No one can bring an argument against this. “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.”
Then he describes the mystery: “God was manifested in the flesh.” The only reason we don’t say that to one another more often is because we haven’t taken the time to comprehend the incredible truth that is involved in God becoming flesh.
In my reading, I have discovered that many of the great writers whom we admire have had moments like Paul had when he wrote 1 Timothy, moments when in the ordinary course of their writing it suddenly dawned on them, it suddenly hit them, it suddenly became part of their frontal lobe thinking, this truth that God has become a man.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “The coming of Jesus Christ into this world represents a truth more profound than any philosophy that the world has ever known. All of the great thinkers of the world together could never have produced anything even remotely approaching the wonder and profundity disclosed in the message of these words: He came. The words are wiser than all learning, and understood in their high spiritual context, they are more eloquent than all oratory, more lyric and moving than all music. They tell us that all of mankind, sitting in darkness, has been visited by the Light of the world.”
John the Apostle, writing in the New Testament, said it this way: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
And writing in a more formal way to the Galatians, Paul the Apostle said it in these words: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
Isaiah the Prophet said it would be like this. In the seventh chapter of his prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), which is quoted by Matthew in the narrative of the birth of Jesus, Isaiah said that His name would be called Immanuel, which, being translated, is “God with us.” God coming down to be one of us.
As we’ve asked ourselves before, is this the way we would have done it? Would this have been your master plan to rescue lost mankind? Would you have had your Redeemer delivered to a manger and wrapped in strips of swaddling cloth? Would you have had Him born in a stable built for cattle? Would you have had His first visitors the hated shepherds of the hillside? Have you ever heard of a royal story quite like that? Paul was right—great is the mystery of godliness! God was manifested in the flesh.
During His Childhood
I would be afraid of God were it not for the fact that He has come to show me that I don’t need to be. He has come as a man, to walk among men and reveal Himself to us, one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, but truly human. And that’s what we often forget. It is a mystery, this birth of our Savior, born in Bethlehem so many years ago. Isaiah the Prophet said, Jesus grew up “as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground,” and, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:2–3).
One writer has interpreted Isaiah’s words like this: “There was no splendor or appearance that we should be drawn to Him. He was just an ordinary baby.”
It’s true that if you and I had lived during the days of our Lord’s childhood, and if we had met Him on the street, we would not have nudged each other and said, “Why, there is the young Messiah!” We would not have known. It was not even known by those with whom He grew up.
Even his own brothers did not know that He was the Messiah. He was just an ordinary baby like you and like me. There was nothing that would have set Him apart from us, except the fact that if we were near Him and could have watched His life, you would have understood that He did not sin.
One thing that has captured my attention is that from the day Jesus was born until He was 12 years old, we have no record of Him speaking. Then, when Jesus was 12 years old, He lingered in Jerusalem at the temple after His parents had left to return to Nazareth. When they found Him and asked Him why this had happened, He spoke 17 words in the Jewish language to the effect that, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
In His Adulthood
Then in the New Testament we are given the record of His baptism at the age of 30. So all through His life, from the time He was born—with the exception of that time when He was 12—until He was 30 years of age, we have no word from Messiah. No word. Jesus lived His life in those early years in total obscurity. We have no word from His lips for three decades. And then we have His magnificent ministry that was lived out in just three years.
Jesus spent His whole life as we would know it experiencing humanity, living among the common people, going to work every day in his father Joseph’s carpenter shop, working alongside his brothers, learning to experience what it is like to be a human being. Not a human being with a halo, because that’s not normal human experience, but human life as our lives are.
In Luke 2, just as Luke is concluding this early period of the Lord’s life, he provides us with the only sketch of what was going on with Jesus during that time. In Luke 2:40 Luke says of Jesus in His early days, “[He] grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
Then, in Luke 2:52 he writes, “and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” That’s it. That’s all we have.
All kinds of legends have been invented about His childhood, but they don’t come from the Scriptures. The Scriptures are incredibly silent about those years.
This tells me that it was done on purpose, so that God could get through to us that Jesus Christ grew up as one among us—with little being said, little being written, but much being experienced in His life.
There are some things we can arrive at by conjecture. Secular historians tell us that Jesus’ father died when He was a very young boy. That is pretty well accepted. If so, then Jesus no doubt would have had to take more responsibility as the older brother in the family and in the family business. It would also mean that He knew what it meant to lose a parent. He experienced that. It would also mean that He grew up in a single parent home. He knew what that is like as well.
Think for a moment just what those days must have been like. Later, when He was rejected by His brothers, that must have hurt. He knew in His heart that one day He would close the door on that home and walk out into a life that would be chronicled for the rest of history to read about. But how could He say that to James so that it would come through? In fact, in the beginning James didn’t believe any of it.
As He got out into His ministry, we know that Jesus felt the pain of being betrayed by a very close friend. Three times, one of His closest friends said that he didn’t even know Him. He probably was slandered and lied about more than any human being who ever walked on this earth. Why did that all happen? Because He came to be one of us. He came to walk among us. He came to experience what we experience. Whatever your troubles or trials, Jesus understands all of it, because He has experienced it.
The Bible tells us He was tired, He was thirsty, He wept. Two places in the New Testament say that He was troubled in spirit. Have you ever been troubled in spirit? Jesus understands what that is like. He was hungry, He was often tired, and yes, He was even tempted.
All of that is to say that the ratio of 30 years of living and three years of ministry is so that when He spoke in those three years, He would speak with authority, He would speak as one who could be trusted, and He would speak as one who had lived life as we do. So when He says, “Don’t do that,” it is not because He is trying to keep us from enjoying a good time. As the Son of God He walked in the soot and dirt and sin and filth of the world, and He saw the pain and anguish of those who violated the holy law.
Hebrews 4:14 tells us, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We are to come boldly to Jesus Christ not just because He is God, but we can come boldly to Him because He is a friend who understands. He has been there before. He has walked through the thing you are walking through. Whatever pain you have felt, He has felt. In fact, one of the translations of the words “to speak boldly” is “to have free utterance.” Come before the Lord with free utterance.
Do you pray like that? Sometimes when I hear Christians praying, and especially when I know how badly they are hurting, I want to put my arm around them and say, “Would you just please tell the Lord what you feel?” He will understand. He is not someone who is removed from us as if a planet in a distant galaxy. He is the Lord who came down. He is the One who became one of us and walked among us and felt every emotion we feel. If you are hurting, He has hurt as you do. Therefore, what a friend He can be to you!
When you pray, you don’t have to couch all your prayers in the “thees and thous” of the King James Bible. You can come and tell Him what is in your heart.
Do you know Him like that? Have you cultivated a relationship with Jesus Christ that helps you to have free utterance when you pray?
That’s why Christmas is so special. It brings God down, not in a defamatory way, not in a defeating way, but to be one of us so that we can relate to Him. And just as human relationships at Christmas are special, so the relationship we have with Jesus Christ is special because of who He is, how He lived, and what He did.
1. Why do you think it was essential that the Son of God be incarnated as a Baby in Bethlehem?
Upon what portions of the Bible do you base your thoughts?
2. What stereotypes of Christmas (Christmas scenes, cards, nativity scenes) might we need to rethink if we understand that Jesus was, physically, just an “ordinary baby”?
3. What do you think Paul meant in Philippians 2:7 when he referred to Jesus “coming in the likeness of men”?
What point is he making?
Why do you think that “likeness” is important?
4. What physical trials can you think of that Jesus either endured according to the biblical record, or might have endured because of when and where He lived?
What mistreatment from other people?
5. In Matthew 26:48–49, why do you think Judas needed to provide Jesus’ captors with an indication of which Person He was?
How does this compare with the perception that Jesus always stood out in a crowd?
6. What comfort do you personally find in the fact that Jesus was a “common man”?
7. What do the following verses tell us of the benefits of Jesus’ coming in the likeness of man?
a. Hebrews 4:15–16
b. Hebrews 12:1–2
c. Hebrews 12:3–4
Did You Know?
Myths of Jesus performing miraculous or magical feats during His childhood are rampant, especially in the various Eastern religions. And often, Christians do not know how to answer such claims from outside the Bible.
It is essential to remember that through God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17), the Messiah was—by God’s unconditional contract—promised to Israel first (Romans 1:16), and then to the world through Israel. That is precisely why Jesus went first to the Jews, then after being rejected by the religious leaders, to the population of Israel at large, and to the Gentiles.
Because of that, it was essential that Jesus present Himself first to Israel, through the “signs” Israel required (John 2:18; 1 Corinthians 1:22). These signs were not simply magic tricks; they were local, immediate manifestations of acts that the Old Testament had already revealed only Messiah could do. And—very clearly stated in John 2:11—the very first of these was His miracle of turning purification water into “best wine” at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. That means none—exactly zero—miracles were done by Him as a child.
Donna Jeremiah’s Package Code
Four curious children can create a challenge for any mom at Christmastime, so I decided to avoid the constant struggle to hide presents and keep track of which child was shaking, smelling, or unsealing a package to determine what was inside.
I wanted to wrap the packages and put them under our tree in advance of Christmas morning, but keeping an ever-present watch over the activities around the tree was more than this mom could easily handle.
I decided to create a numbering system that would allow me to wrap the packages and affix a name tag, but instead of the name I would code each gift with a multiple digit number. I had to rotate the numbers; our children are clever and could soon figure out who had what number.
On Christmas morning we would distribute the gifts and the children would not have time to guess the contents. My system has proven effective and we still use it.
 Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 100–111). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.