Daily Archives: December 25, 2015

What is the meaning and significance of Christmas for Christians?

WINTERY KNIGHT

It’s the time of year when we explain what Christianity is about.

God exists

Basically, we know from a variety of scientific arguments that the universe was created and fine-tuned for life by an intelligent agent that existed causally prior to the beginning of the universe, because this agent brought the universe into being. Our purpose as humans is to enter into a two-way loving relationship with this Creator/Designer of the universe. This is the only way that we can ultimately be happy and fulfilled.

We avoid God

Now, when you look at human experience, none of us is interested in finding out about the character of this Creator/Designer, because we are afraid that if we find out too much about him then we will have our freedom to do as we please constrained by the demands of a relationship with an all-powerful, all-good being. Just knowing that such a…

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Riding the Roller Coaster of God

Unfathomable Grace

For nine months Mary had been on a spiritual, emotional, and physical roller coaster.

Her Emotions Had Been Up

She had received a visit from the angel Gabriel. This included the most precious of assurances; she was favored, loved, and found incredibly delightful to the Heavenly Father. Then came the first mind-blowing announcement: this young teenage virgin would have a son, and this son would be the Promised Jewish Messiah. Then, as if nothing more grand could be imagined, another spectacular announcement followed: the father of Mary’s child would not be Joseph. No, the father would be God Almighty. What blessed news! What a blessed woman she was.

Her Emotions Had Been Down

However, when reality set in, Mary realized the beautiful plan of God included much pain for her and her family. God’s plan would affect the relationship she had with her family, her fiancé, her church, and her community, and this was only the pain she could imagine…

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December 25, 2015 Christmas Collection (Merry Christmas from Truth2Freedom)

“The Nativity (also known as The Holy Night (or La Notte) or as Adoration of the Shepherds) is a painting finished around 1529–1530 by the Italian painter Antonio da Correggio. It is housed in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.” Wikipedia


Lee Strobel: The Birth of the Son of Man

The post Lee Strobel: The Birth of the Son of Man appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.


Christmas: Christ in you

The concerts are over and candle-light services are nearly complete. No more caroling, food drives, corporate holiday parties and the sound of Salvation army bells are quickly fading. The world will soon say goodbye to “the holidays” and will soon pivot its attention to New Year’s and Super Bowls.

The world may soon have Christmas almost in it’s rear view mirror, but for Christ’s church the wonder and joy of Christmas never ends. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin will conceive and bear a Son whose name will be Immanuel, God with us. He came to earth that day, and remains with us in every day. The Creator of the universe stepped aside from the full display of His majestic glory and dove headlong into His creation.

The day Christ was born slipped by, uncelebrated throughout the world. It was not for lack of Instagram, satellite communication or weak cell phone coverage. It was not because the postal service lost His birth announcement or a webpage failed to update. Christ entered time and space as planned. The seclusion from the abusive prying eyes of the world kept King Herod from carrying out yet another satanic attempt to assassinate the Savior.

Beyond the safety of our Savior, the world did not see the eternal significance of the first Christmas for the same reason that it cannot understand Christmas today. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Eyes that are blind to the truth can never see the glory of the Savior who was born.

The world cannot see Jesus, but the world can see Jesus in you.

Here are five windows through which those without hope are able to see Jesus in our lives:  

1 In the way we love. Jesus said, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The supernatural love of Christ flows between brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s more than a bond of unity holding our spiritual family together, it is an evangelistic love that draws unbelievers to the Savior as the source of our love.

2 In the way we endure. The target on our back grows with our godliness. The world watches as we endure trials and tragedies, problems and persecution all with joy (James 1:2). While some may ask about the source of that joy, others will react in anger. In those moments, we show them Jesus by enduring and cling to His words in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

3 In the way we forgive. Sin is inevitable. But because we are believers, forgiving others for sin should also be inevitable. The world is spring loaded for bitterness and revenge. The evangelistic shock of a forgiving heart is a clear demonstration of Christ at work in us. As Paul wrote, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

4 In the way we serve. The life of Christ make His attitude visible for all to see. He selflessly, humbly and relentlessly served others. From washing their feet to preparing their food, no task was beneath the dignity of our Savior (Philippians 2). When we follow His example of humble service, the world will see Jesus at work in our lives. Jesus said, “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

5 In the way we speak. Our words are the window to our soul (Luke 6:45). They are also the window to Christ’s work in us. Beyond the example of our lives, the gospel message we proclaim is the single most important way the world will see Jesus. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). In this context, every single Christian is “the preacher.” So,“sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

Celebrate Christmas, exalt our Savior, linger long over His word and in worship of Him. In doing so, we are “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Today, and every other day of the year, we live between the fulfilled promise of His birth and the anticipated promise of His return. The world may not now see Jesus, but they can and must see Jesus in you.

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The 12 Best Christmas Music Videos of 2015

I’m not recommending that these songs replace any of the songs in your favorite psalter hymnal. However, I’m in awe as I reflect on what God did in Bethlehem — when an army of angels interrupted the silent night to announce Christ’s birth to the shepherds. And I’m amazed at what our Heavenly Father continues to do to glorify His son — all throughout history. Truly, the King of Glory laughs from his eternal throne as Google and Facebook help spread the good news of Jesus birth during this happy season.

This week I searched all over the internet for the best new Christmas music videos, and selected 12 for this list. In order to make it onto the list, the video had to be published in recent months. Although other music videos from 2014 (or earlier) are amazing – they did not fit the criteria.  The list of videos below are my favorite (and not so favorite) new Christmas music videos from 2015. So, here they are  — like the 12 Days of Christmas — ranked from 12th to 1st, with the number one (#1) music video being my favorite new Christmas video of the year.

12 – Joy to the World – Pentatonix

This new rendition of Joy to the World, recorded in an empty church, will probably upset a few traditionalists (“They cut out all the good stuff! Why did they leave out verse 3 and why is his hair like that?”). However, with over 8.6 million views on YouTube in the past month, it’s clearly reaching a diverse crowd. “Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy…” Indeed, as the Gospel of Luke reminds us: …the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

One might expect that Pentatonix, the a capella group from Arlington, TX would be ranked number 1, however, this year’s new recording didn’t have the authentic energy and lyrical purity of earlier recordings like Little Drummer Boy (2013) , or Mary Did You Know (2014). The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

11 – The First Noel – Bethel Music

Another rendition of Noel, recorded at Bethel Church in Redding, California. Noel is derived from the French word noël or nael meaning Christmas season or Christmas carol, related to the Latin word natalis, meaning birth. The video is captioned with the familiar words: “The First Noel, the Angels did say; Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; In fields where they lay keeping their sheep…”

10 – A Christmas Alleluia

Chris Tomlin has four songs on the list – recorded live in a church full of people singing along. Alleluia, Christ the Savior of the world has come. This video also features the singing of Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan of All Sons and Daughters.

9 – Syrian Refugees – Peace on Earth

What list of Christmas songs for 2015 would be complete without this Casting Crowns rendition of Peace on Earth / I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day ? Set against the backdrop of bombs and barbwire in Syria — heart rending scenes with thousands of fleeing refugees — from the horrific civil war in Syria.

This Christmas carol is based on the 1863 American civil war poem by Longfellow. The lyrics describe the author’s despair, upon first hearing the Christmas bells: And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!” — Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

8 – Campfire Christmas – Rend Collective

The Rend Collective is described as a Northern Irish Christian experimental, folk-rock, worship band. The video provides over 28 minutes of their Campfire Christmas music, with a crackling fire to watch as you listen and sing along.

7 – Noel

Noel, Noel – Come and see what God has done. Noel, Noel – the story of amazing love, the light of the world… another great live recording from Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas album, featuring Lauren Daigle. A pure voice, loudly proclaiming the good news, with haunting piano and cello counter melodies.

6 – Adore

Adore is the title track from Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas album: Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. This song was written by Martin Chalk and Graham Kendrick.

5 – Christmas is All in the Heart

If you like acoustic guitar, and skillful picking – you might love this Nashville style Christmas song by by Steven Curtis Chapman that mentions Charlie Brown — and reminds us that Christmas-time consumerism will not satisfy.

4 – Oh Holy Night – Hometown

A surprising new rendition of the old favorite, Oh Holy Night, from the Irish boy band – Hometown.

3 – Born in Bethlehem

Born in Bethlehem – The distinctive manly voice of  Third Day‘s Mac Powell, medieval guitar melody, and basic wood-box beat  proclaim the greatest story ever told. It’s a new recording that captures the miracle of the incarnation — resonating with good news down through the ages.

2 – Mary Did You Know

Peter Hollens sings this a capella version of Mary Did You Know  along with 5 other versions of himself. (A ‘miracle’ of modern videography.) This unique video recording gathered over 4.3 million views on YouTube since it was released on Dec. 8, 2015; along with over 22 million views on Facebook since Dec. 13.

1 – He Shall Reign Forevermore

He Shall Reign Forevermore – This song by Chris Tomlin begins with a borrowed phrase: In the bleak mid-winter and describes the groaning of all creation — frozen in darkness —  waiting for the Messiah. Enthusiastic and joyful participation by everyone at the church on the night this was recorded increase the contagious crescendo building to the chorus … He shall reign forevermore, forevermore… 


Background – Why Am I Doing This?

I’m not recommending that these songs replace any of the songs in your favorite psalter hymnal. However, I’m in awe as I reflect on what God did in Bethlehem — when an army of angels interrupted the silent night to announce Christ’s birth to the shepherds. And I’m amazed at what our Heavenly Father continues to do to glorify His son — all throughout history.

Truly, the King of Glory laughs from his eternal throne as Google and Facebook help spread the good news of Jesus birth during this happy season.

Every year around Christmas time, I enjoy listening to (and singing along with) the many traditional Christmas songs.  Some of my happiest childhood Christmas memories are when my family would turn off all the lights in the house (except for the colorful Christmas tree lights) and start singing together. After sipping eggnog and eating some mints, we would grab a pillow, lay down on the floor, and watch the glittering light show on the ceiling – while singing many familiar Christmas carols.

Decades later, my family began hosting a Christmas musical (‘the Musicale’) in “the upper room” of our home a few days after Christmas. Each year the children would prepare and perform various songs on piano, guitar, or string quartet. Many of these can be found in the Vos family’s private video archives.  Ten years ago, in 2005, I wrote a new Christmas song, entitled Little Baby Boy – a ‘home music video’ – published on YouTube in 2012.  This song was inspired by my son Daniel’s translation of St. Augustine’s Christmas sermons, and recorded by Josh, my son-in-law, and subliminally influenced by Mark Lowry and Buddy Green’s Mary, Did You Know?

People have been gathering to sing Christmas carols for hundreds of years. Some enjoy singing the traditional melodies, while others enjoy creating new songs.

When locals gather to sing Christmas carols at the Blue Ball Inn pub in Worrall, England, you won’t hear “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” or “Deck the Halls.”

The melodies and words of their carols of choice have been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and are unique to this part of the world.

“They came about in the early-18th and mid-18th century, and this was a time when music in church was very plain and unadorned,” said Professor Ian Russell, a scholar who has studied Worrall’s carols extensively. While the religious establishment “wanted medieval carols, Latin carols … some sort of purity,” many worshippers had other ideas.

As a result, villagers with no formal training wrote their own music and gathered outside the church, in homes and pubs to celebrate with song. They include “Mistletoe Bough,” “Cranbrook,” and “Behold, the Grace Appears.”

“The music was extraordinary,” Russell added. “The people who were doing it were shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths. These were not pretty carols … oh no, these are full of guts, these are full of life and vigor.”


Almost – But Not Quite

Here’s a few more new music videos that almost made the list:


O, Come Let Us Ignore Him

Seasonal Saints

There’s an irony in religious Christmas celebrations. Holiday-only worshippers really do not love Christ. Rather, they prefer the opposite—avoiding Christ as much of the year as they possibly can. Thankfully, these celebrations and worship gatherings might introduce Christ to some who are seeking Him. But, for most who just want to be a little bit religious, this long-anticipated Christmas season brings out all kinds of hypocrisy.

A holiday-only worshipper thinks that a little bit of Jesus goes a long way, and Christmas (and/or Easter) is certainly enough to pay respects to the concept.

Christmas, if such easy-going folks were honest, is a little discomfiting precisely because of Jesus. But in that this is impossible, they will do their part to keep traditions alive.

Another Jesus

“If one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached . . . you bear this beautifully (2 Cor 11:4)” Another Jesus? In fact, “yes.” Some people can handle a little bit of Jesus with a certain amount of diffidence. But others must alter their Jesus to another of their own making.

“Another Jesus” might be a Jesus who remains in a manger, or a Jesus who indulges all humans in the world even those who reject Him, or One who does not proceed from the Father and is merely human. There are lots of Christs out there to choose from.  Such people try to re-invent Jesus rather than submit to the One who said hard things and who demands more than they want to give. They don’t want the One literally raised from the dead who will one day judge the world, and who offers a way of salvation that has to be “His way or no way.” Instead, they concoct a Jesus who is more compatible with the lusts and sophistry of their own hearts.

Remade in our own image, Jesus can be attractive. And it is this Jesus of the imagination that so many can and do celebrate over Christmastime.

“O Come, Let Us Ignore Him.”
If you are one who sings to the one you run from or worships the Jesus you created in your own image, you have some choices to make. Should you stop celebrating the incarnation of the One who you don’t love or ever intend to follow? Should you just get honest about it all and end the charade?

Better than all other possible “solutions,” following the Christ you sing about would be the best. It’s a huge change, I understand, but entirely possible. Find a pastor of a Bible-teaching church or seek out a friend who actually loves and follows Christ to talk to. Read an easy-to-understand version of the New Testament about Christ and ask real questions. Seek the truth. Find a church that is serious about Him, and listen to what is being said.

Perhaps you prefer the annual hypocrisy, but I hope you will consider, this year, singing to the authentic Jesus you will now love and believe and follow regardless of the season!


 

Christmas is About Mankind’s Only Hope

C.S. Lewis describes the Incarnation as follows:

“One may think of a diver first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through the increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay, and then back up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting until suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing he went down to recover. That dripping, precious thing is you and I, and Advent is when we celebrate his coming down to us.”

Bruce Thielemann uses the telescope on Mt. Palomar as an analogy for Christ’s coming in the flesh. That huge telescope (it takes an hour just to focus it on a particular point) draws the light of stars from across the galaxy and compresses it onto a single square-inch photographic plate. “But that is nothing compared to the way God focused himself in that baby.”

The Apostle Paul describes the reality of Christmas best of all:

“Although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

It is beyond human comprehension how the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, “emptied Himself” into human flesh and “dwelt among us,” but He did. This is the witness of Scripture, the confession of the Church, and the only hope for humankind.


Three Ways to Respond to Jesus This Christmas

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

There are three words in these verses that describe how people responded to the good news of the birth of the Savior. They are all good, and I hope that all of them will be true of you on this Christmas Day.

1. Wondering

All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  (Luke 2:18)

That’s a great place to begin. No doubt people were rushing through their relentless lives then as we are now. But here are the shepherds, and they say, “A Savior has been born.” And when people heard it they wondered.

The night that began with lost sinners fearing God ended with saved sinners praising God.

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The people stopped. They thought. They wondered, What if that were true? What if the God of heaven has come to earth? Could it be that God is actually reaching out in love and mercy towards me?  

These shepherds are saying that a Savior has been born. They say it has been announced from heaven. If what they are saying is true, it would be the greatest thing that has ever happened in our world.

If you are new to the church or new to Christianity, I hope you will start here today. “Here I am among people who say there is good news of great joy and they say it is for me! What if that is true?”

Wondering is where you begin. But don’t stop there. Some people spend their whole lives wondering, but they never make any progress. That’s why our next word is so important.

2. Treasuring

Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  (Luke 2:19)

Mary treasured up all these things. She stored up all that had been revealed to her about Jesus. I’ve tried to picture this scene of the shepherds bearing witness to Mary of what they had seen and heard and what it must have meant to her.

The shepherds would have said, “An angel appeared to us. We saw the glory of the Lord and we were absolutely terrified! But the angel said to us, ‘Fear not.’ He said, ‘Today a Savior is born; he is Christ the Lord.’”

Mary treasured up all these things. She took them into her heart. Literally, she “put them all together.” Mary added up what was said to her by Gabriel, and then what was said by Elizabeth and now by the shepherds:

  • The angel said of the child to be born, “He is the Son of God.”
  • Elizabeth, speaking by the Holy Spirit, called him “her Lord.”
  • The shepherds report that the one who is born to Mary is “the Savior.”

Mary puts these things together. She adds them up. She looks at the child in her arms: Son of God! Lord! Savior! One testimony is added to another, each one confirming and expanding what had been revealed before.

Mary treasured up these things, and she pondered them in her heart. She stored up all she had come to know about Jesus: He is the Son of God. He is the Lord. And he is the Savior. What would it mean for this child to be my Lord?  What would it mean for him to be my Savior?

That’s how faith is born and that is how it is nurtured. You trace out the implications of what has been made known about Jesus.

If I have a Savior, that means I have hope. It means I can have peace. It means that my sins and failings are not the end. There is forgiveness for me. There is recue for me. There is hope for me in Jesus Christ.

If I have a Lord, that means I am not my own. I am not free to fritter my life away doing my own thing. I can’t say, “These are my teenage years, I’m going to do my own thing.” God has a purpose for my life, and I am accountable to him to fulfill it! There is purpose for me in Jesus Christ.

3. Praising

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. (Luke 2:20)

They had seen the glory of God. They had heard the good news of a Savior. Now they are praising and glorifying God. The night that began with lost sinners fearing God ended with saved sinners praising God. That is a remarkable transformation, and why did it happen? Because the Savior was sent into the world.

What will be your response to the Savior Jesus Christ this Christmas Day? May it be full of wondering, treasuring, and praising him. Merry Christmas!

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Blue Christmas (What to Do When the Holidays Hurt)

‘Tis the season …

For many people, these are days of magic and wonder, a time when hope rises and peace falls and where miracles begin to feel commonplace. They are moments of joyous reunions and fierce embraces and boisterous laughter and crowded tables, all accompanied by waves of easy gratitude. Christmas is, for lots of folks, a time when Goodness has the run of the house in their hearts. To them, it is sweet and possible and glittering with promise.

But you are not one of those people, and that’s what makes this season so much more difficult to endure. Your days are not merry and bright, in a time when the rest of the world’s seem to be, and so the normal cavern between you and everyone around you feels wider than usual, the isolation more severe, the disconnect greater. You seem to find estrangement everywhere you look.

Christmas is here—and Christmas hurts.

Maybe it’s because of the chairs that will be empty or the calls that won’t come or the welcome you won’t receive. Maybe it’s the way the sentimental songs amplify your loneliness or the way the picture-perfect images of blissful homes prick your tender insides or the way your shrinking family gatherings highlight the attrition you’ve experienced. It might be the effect the shorter, colder, darker days have on your fragile emotional equilibrium. Whatever the reason, a heavy yuletide melancholy has taken hold and you don’t know how to snap out of it.

Welcome.

For many of us, depression, grief and sadness hover in the background on even the most ordinary of days and we get used to battling to keep them all at bay on a regular basis. But there’s nothing quite like the holiday season to ratchet up the pressure we feel, not only to have it all together, but to wrap it in lights and tinsel and broadcast it in a heavily filtered Instagram pic. We feel more compelled than ever to feel good, and more guilty than ever to admit that we don’t.

Christmas lulls us into a parade of false comparisons. We find ourselves looking at other people’s lives from afar and using them to measure our own from up close; whether the lights on our houses or the trees adorning our living rooms, or our bank accounts or marriages or bodies or careers or families. Viewing others in the soft, flattering glow that distance yields while seeing ourselves in the raking light of close proximity means we always come up short—we always feel lacking and less than.

If you happen to be hurting this holiday season …

Let it hurt. Make peace with your pain and allow it to come fully without alteration. Life is difficult and you aren’t OK, and you shouldn’t waste precious energy and time trying to pretend this isn’t so. Let grief and sadness do the necessary, invasive work in you that they need to do. There’s no defeat in feeling defeated right now.

Don’t hide it. Give people close to you the most authentic version of yourself you are able to give. Those deserving of you will not be pushed away by your woundedness or intimidated by your honesty. Allow people who love you to bear your burdens and sit in solidarity with you. Let them see you, not some sanitized, edited version you think they can handle.

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Christmas: Something Greater than the Temple is Here

See the Godhead veiled in flesh! See Jesus, our Immanuel, our “God-with-us.” Don’t let these lofty thoughts and considerations of God’s Word be solely an academic exercise that stimulates your intellect. The inseparable connection between God’s dwelling place and His glory is screaming at us that the point of the incarnation—the point of the birth of Jesus—the point of Christmas itself—is that we might behold His glory!

 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of theonly begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been considering Christmas according to John, as John gives us a fresh, theological look into the significance of Christmas in the opening of his Gospel. My goal has been to fight against the familiarity of Christmas and cause us to be properly affected by the glory of the incarnation as John presents it, particularly in John 1:14.

Two weeks ago, we looked at how Yahweh dwelt among His people in His tabernacle. Then, last Friday, we considered how the dwelling place of Yahweh is inseparable from His glory. We saw that first in the tabernacle, then in the temple, and finally in Jesus. And so John is proclaiming to his audience that in the same way that the glory which filled the tabernacle and temple were Yahweh’s own self-expression and the manifestation of His presence, so this Jesus is Yahweh’s own self-expression and the manifestation of His presence.

But then John goes beyond even that. “And we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” “Only begotten” (Gk. monogenēs) is better translated “unique,” or “One and Only.” And so when John says that this Eternal Word dwelt among us, the glory we saw wasn’t a cloud. It wasn’t a pillar of fire. It was the unique, one-and-only glory of the Father Himself. John presents Jesus, this Word-become-flesh, as the ultimate divine self-expression and the fulfillment of all the tabernacle and temple were. Now, it cannot be mistaken: the glory of thetabernacle and the temple was amazing. But in Jesus, something greater than the temple is here.

John 1:18 says that no one has seen God at any time. Paul tells us He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16). But Jesus, who is Himself God, has explained the unseen Father (John 1:18). Literally, “He has exegeted” Him. John is announcing that Jesus Christ is the exposition of God the Father. Even Jesus Himself said it to Philip: “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus! He is the image—the visible exhibition—of the invisible God (Col 1:15). He is the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3). And in 2 Corinthians 4:6, we are told that the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ!

This, dear friends, is what John wants us to see when we read verse 14.

  • Just as the glory of God appeared in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34–38), so now the fullest expression of God’s glory is in Jesus.
  • Just as everyone who sought God went to the tabernacle (Ex 33:7), so now everyone who seeks God must go to Jesus.
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place of condescension, where God met man (Ex 33:9), so now Jesus is where God condescends and meets man.
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where God’s people are consecrated for service (Ex 29:43), so now Jesus is where God’s people are consecrated and sanctified.
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where God spoke to His people (Ex 29:42, 33:9), so now in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus.
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where atonement for sin was made and God’s wrath was propitiated (Ex 29:42, 44), so now Jesus is where atonement is made and is where God’s anger is satisfied.
  • Just as the tabernacle was the place where Israel worshiped God (Ex 33:10), so now the “hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24) for they will worship Him in Jesus, and in Jesus alone.

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Five Reasons You Can Trust the Story of Christmas is True by J. Warner Wallace

In this Free Bible Insert J. Warner Wallace shares 5 reasons why you can trust the story of Christmas is true.  They are as follows:

1. The Supernatural Nature of the Virgin Conception Shouldn’t Disqualify It

2. The Claim of the Virgin Conception Appears Incredibly Early in Christian History

3. The Birth Narratives in Luke and Matthew are Not Late Additions

4. The Virgin Conception Was Not an Invention of Early Christians

5. The Virgin Conception Wasn’t Borrowed from Anther Source

He briefly unpacks each reason here.


How God Fulfilled His Own Promise at Christmas

Imagine nothing. It is almost impossible. But before the creation there was nothing, except God.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

In schools, we challenge our children’s creativity by giving them materials to work with: “See what you can do with this,” we say. But there were no materials for God to work with in shaping the universe. He created all that exists out of nothing, and he sustains the universe by his own power.

Take a fresh look at what God has created today. Look at the sky; it proclaims the work of God’s hands. Listen to the birds; they testify to God’s gentle care. Every snowflake bears witness to his majesty. Every sunrise speaks of his faithfulness.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3)

This majestic Creator made you. He chose to bring you into being. He has never made anyone quite like you before, and he will never make anyone quite like you again. His purpose in giving you life is that you should radiate a unique reflection of Jesus Christ forever.

Christ came so that you should be renewed in the image of your Creator (Col. 3:10)

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As you fill your mind with the vastness and beauty of creation, consider this: The One who made it and sustains it lay in a manger. God took our flesh, entered our world, and lived our life. The more you think about that, the more breathtaking it gets.

God came into the world to fulfill his own promise. At the creation he said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Christ came so that you should be renewed in the image of your Creator (Colossians 3:10). Think about that: The Savior came to you so that you would reflect the beauty of God’s holiness and live in the joy of his love as you reflect the full glory of his image forever.

That’s your future in Christ. So live today in anticipation of it.

This promise could only be fulfilled be Christ who is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). The world does not see Christ’s glory. But wise men came and knelt before Jesus in adoration. They saw his glory and worshipped, as we do today.

What’s your response to this statement? “The One who made the world and sustains it lay in a manger.”

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THIS IS CHRISTMAS

Absolute Truth from the Word of God

NATIVITY33“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding…

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