Christmas is real good news of great joy for all people
I think, no matter who you are, there has been misinformation on both sides of about everything the past year or two. Sometimes we see something on social media, Facebook, or whatever, and it grabs our attention and seems pretty possible. Then there’s other stuff like this…
There is no coast of Austria. Austria is a land-locked country. And there is no Whale Team 6, at least that I know of. This story, of course, is just made up to be funny.
But, there has been a lot of bad news and a lot of false news this year. But, thankfully, I have something much different for you.
I have some incredibly good news and it is not fake!
First, I want to show you that this is not false news. That’s really important. Then we’ll get into the really good news. Of course, if the news were fake then it couldn’t be good.
Real News (Luke 1:1-4; 2:1-3)
Luke, the one who wrote one of the accounts of Jesus’ life, had a fourfold approach to his task. First, we see he did an investigation. He interviewed eyewitnesses. Second, he went back to the beginning. He didn’t pick up halfway through. Third, we see that Luke was thorough. He did his homework and “investigated everything.” Fourth, we see it wasn’t done in a roughshod way. Luke “carefully investigated everything.” So, the main impact of what Luke writes is that “Christianity is true and is capable of confirmation by appeal to what happened.”[i]
In fact, one author has said, “Wherever it has been possible to check Luke’s statements, his impeccability as a historian has come to light.”[ii]
Also, the Gospel of Luke doesn’t start out like a fairytale story: “Once upon a time…” It starts out by showing us that it is a biography. Luke did his research in putting together the account about Jesus. It’s not fake news. It’s real news.
The story of Jesus—of His birth and life—is not in the same category as fiction but history. Luke reports true historical events. Or, that’s certainly what it claims to report.
So, the issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like what the Bible teaches but whether or not the Bible is true.[iii]
The story of Christmas does not have value because it is a cute story about a down-and-out couple having a child in an unexpected setting. No. The story of Christmas has value because it is a true story about the good news of rescue through Jesus.
It’s very interesting to me that Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1) was the first, and many say, the greatest Roman emperor. Actually, Augustus means, “Revered one” and some worshiped Caesar Augustus as divine. But, in his day, someone much greater was on the scene, someone truly divine. And it is actually because of this other person, this person that was a crucified Jewish carpenter, that I even know the name of Caesar Augustus.
Friends, this is good news! God has provided a Savior and we desperately need a Savior. We all fail, we all sin. As James says, “we all stumble in many ways.” Sometimes when we’re not even trying to. We don’t love others or God as we should.
The coming of Jesus the Messiah shows us that God keeps His promises. His promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), David (2 Sam. 7:16), Israel (Deut. 30:1, 5), and all people (Gen. 3:15). We see this truth highlighted a bunch throughout Luke chapters 1 and 2.
And that’s really good news. God kept His past promises. He said He would send a rescuer and He sent Jesus to rescue in ways that are mindboggling. And soon we’ll have perfect joy before Him. That promise too will come true.
Brothers and sisters, through the Messiah, we have light instead of darkness. Soon pervasive peace.
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,…
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ…
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,…
Brothers and sisters, we have good news even in this stinky year because Jesus came to bring good news of great joy…
for All Peoples
Who is this good news for? It is “for all the people” (Luke 2:10). “Regardless of nationality, age, wealth, fame, social position, sex, education, etc.”[iv]
Also, Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds. As a class of people shepherds had a bad reputation. They were often known for stealing. They were also considered unreliable and were not even allowed to give testimony in the court of law (Talmud, Sanhedrin, 25b).[v]
Jesus is the deliver, master, and anointed king. Yet, He is born among very common folk. He is not born with pomp in a palace. He’s born around stinky smells in a mere stable.
What an amazing irony that the most amazing event of history took place in a lowly manger. Yet, how fitting because God elevates the lowly, and He humbles the proud. We see this also through the angelic announcement. The King’s birth was not announced to other kings, though Herod hunted for news. No! The news, the amazing news, was given to shepherds. The announcement to the humble was a harbinger of things to come.
The Lord cares for all and identifies with ordinary people.
Respond to the News
Look at Luke 2:13-14: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.'”
The angels themselves are in awe of God! The angels can’t help but praise God! The fact that God became flesh and was born to a poor family in a mere manger was indescribably awesome to the angels. They had never seen the wonder of God’s love shown to such an extent. And they responded as we all should. They praised God! And they desired that others give Him His rightful praise too.
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic hosts proclaim:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the newborn King!'”
How will you respond?
Let’s look at how the shepherds responded in Luke 2:15-20:
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
The shepherds were in the middle of something, they were keeping watch over the sheep. Yet, we see they hurried off. We don’t even know what they did about the sheep. The shepherds’ main concern was to act. To respond. To see the Savior.
Yet, we should understand why. Is there more amazing news?!
That’s news to be told, at least, if we actually believe it.
Do you really believe it?
Do you really believe this is real news of great joy for all people?
Brothers and sisters, this news is real. Jesus did come. Jesus, who deserves to be magnified forever, was born in a manger. And the good news is He came as our Rescuer, our Savior. So, treasure up this truth in your heart and praise the Lord for the real good news we celebrate at Christmas.
On a day, a real day in history, in a city, in a real place, the Savior, came to take our sin away. The Messiah came to fulfill our hopes and keep His promise. The Lord came to defeat death and make us safe forevermore.
That’s why we have great joy. That’s why Christmas is such great news.
That’s why Christmas is real good news of great joy for all people.
[i] N. B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, 44.
[ii] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, 141.
[iii] See Keller who makes this point in The Reason for God p. 210.
[iv] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, 152.
[v] Leon Morris, Luke, 101.
*Photo by Tim Mossholder
Some “Christmas Songs” should be all the time Songs
Some “Christmas Songs” should be all the time Songs
We thankfully don’t limit songs that refer to the cross or the resurrection to Easter. So why do we limit songs about Christ’s advent and incarnation to the Christmas season?
Jesus’ coming and incarnation are not just relevant in December. Those profound truths are relevant in the summer too.
The word “Christmas” comes from what the day, December 25th, was set apart to do. It was set apart to be a “mass on Christ’s day.” That is, Christmas was a day designated to celebrate and contemplate Christ’s coming and why He came.
Christmas certainly has a worthy goal. Just as Easter (Resurrection Sunday!) is a special day set apart on the Lord’s day to especially celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We, however, can rightly remember Jesus’ resurrection every Sunday/Lord’s Day, indeed every day!
I am convinced certain “Christmas songs” should be more common throughout the year. Perhaps we should rename Christmas songs “Advent” or “Incarnation” songs. For that is what they’re about.
They are not about the hustle and bustle of the season. They have nothing really to do with red and green or Santa or reindeer or snow. But, Christ’s advent and incarnation have to do with everything because they affect everything.
We are amiss when we miss the relevance of Christ’s coming and incarnation in the spring, summer, and fall. Songs are partly meant to be sung to help us recall what we should never forget. They are a trumpet blast to our lousy memories.
So, some “Christmas songs” should be all the time songs.
Here are fives Advent/Incarnation songs we should sing year round:
1. “O Come O Come Emmanuel”
Here’s why we should sing this song all year long: the song is great lyrically and musically. The lyrics might be a little archaic at points but it’s worth putting in the work to understand.
“Thou Rod of Jesse” refers to Jesus the Promised One. He is the one that brings victory from Satan’s plots. So, we can and should rejoice because Emmanuel (which means God with us) has come.
2. “O Holy Night”
How could you not appreciate those lines? And I don’t think those lines are just powerful during the Christmas holiday.
3. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
4. “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”
5. “Joy to the World”
*Photo by David Beale
“When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25 NIV).
Joseph is a hero of the Christmas story. Generally, at this time of year, we hear about Mary, angels, donkeys, etc. But we rarely talk about a real hero of the birth of Christ. Without Joseph, Mary would have been an outcast and unwed mother. Baby Jesus would have been a victim of a jealous king’s rage. It is not recorded that Joseph says anything, but he does a lot. He does not sing a magnificent. He does not preach or prophesy. He just immediately does what he is told to do. No questions or objections. He just does it.
In Matthew chapter 1 we read that Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy. How he learns this news we are not told. From Jewish traditions, we learn that he would have had limited personal contact with Mary at this time of their engagement. So, he most likely would have learned from the village gossip machine. He did not want to embarrass Mary but probably in profound disappointment was going to divorce her.
Then he had a dream and heard an angel telling him the meaning of this pregnancy. This must have been quite a dream. Because Joseph did not hesitate, did not argue, did not ask for further clarification. He did not wait to see what else would happen. He did not put out a fleece. He did not ask for money. It says he woke up and “did” as the angel commanded. He just did it.
Joseph was a man of extraordinary self-discipline. He took Mary to his house and lived with her but did not have sexual relations with her. He was a man of inner strength. An example we desperately need in this day and age of promiscuity and weak men. He was not a man without normal sexual urges as Roman Catholic traditions have us believe. We read later that he and Mary had other children. In fact, we read in Matthew 13:56 there were 4 brothers and some sisters (all his sisters – plural) so this would make a minimum of 6 children besides Jesus (some traditions put the number at 10). After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had a normal husband/wife relationship, but not before Jesus was born. The text does not state why Joseph did this but evidently, he understood from the dream that he was to exercise this self-discipline. Joseph was a strong man, strong on the inside and strong on the outside.
Matthew 13 also states that Joseph was a carpenter. This was in the days before sawmills and power equipment. No chainsaws, no table saws, no electric planers, no square straight lumber from the store. Probably just an ax and a soot line. In those days if you made something of wood, you went to the woods with an ax and cut the tree down and hewed the object from a round log. I have lived with people that make boats, and boards from round logs with an ax from standing trees. I have gone with men that make lumber from round trees with just an ax. To hew with an ax all day long makes for tough men – rawhide tough men.
Then when the object has been “roughed out” in the woods, it has to be carried home – no trucks or tractors or forklifts. He put timbers on his shoulder and carried them home. I have known men and boys like this who carry their own weight for long distances – day after day. These are rawhide tough men and in my mind’s eye, I see Joseph as one of these men.
Christmas and Christian Mission
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’” (John 20:21).
We don’t often think of Christmas as connected to missions but it really is. Let me show you. First, “Christmas” is actually shorthand for “Christ’s mass.” The English word “Mass” comes from the Latin word missa, which means to be “sent.” So, Christmas reminds us that Christ was sent.
He was sent to accomplish something. And His mission was not just to be a cute little baby. Jesus’ mission was to bring salvation. That’s actually how He got His name.
Matthew clearly spells it out for us: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
The name Jesus is actually the Greek form of the name Joshua. And it means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”
Friends, the bad news is we have not loved and listened to Yahweh, the one true God, as we should. But, the good news is, Yahweh saves. He saves in unexpected and amazing ways.
He saves by sending Jesus, the Promised One, to be born in a mere manger. He saves by sending Him to die the death we deserved to die.
So, Jesus was sent on a mission. He accomplished that mission. And we see that we now are sent on mission. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
We are sent on a different mission but in the same way that Jesus was sent we too are sent. We too must carry out the mission. Christians join Christ in the Missio Dei, the “mission of God.” We are not the good news, but we tell the good news.
Christmas—Christ’s mission—should remind us of our mission. Thankfully, it is not our mission alone. Jesus did not leave us alone to accomplish the mission. He Himself is with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). And He Himself sent the Holy Spirit to be with us as our Helper.
 This Latin shows up in missions and in missionary.
 See John 20:22 and John 16:7-8.
Pervasive Peace through the Second Advent
In Christmas, we celebrate the advent or coming of Christ. The first coming enabled a way for peace to be realized. Humans can, through Christ, have renewed fellowship with God. Yet, as Jesus Himself said, in the world we will have trouble and tribulation.
So, if that’s the case, if in the world we will have difficulty and distress, then how can we have peace? This Sunday I get to preach on the “Pathway to Peace” from Isaiah chapter 11. I’m excited and thankful to be able to do that.
I, however, have too much material. So, I thought I’d share here, part of how that peace is possible.
First, Isaiah paints a beautiful and powerful picture of peace (see Isaiah 11:1-9). A little baby can play with a king cobra without fear (v. 8). How is this possible?
Isaiah 11:9 tells us: the knowledge of God is intimately experienced. And so: nothing will “harm nor destroy on all [the Lord’s] holy mountain.” Instead of harm, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The Messiah will make it so not only the knowledge of the LORD is pervasive but intimacy with the LORD is too. Knowledge in the Old Testament is not merely head knowledge, but it is experiential (When Adam “knew” Eve, Genesis 4:1, it was not mere cognitive knowing, it was experiential).
Also, we should ask, how is it that the waters cover the sea? The waters cover the sea by filling it to the fullness of capacity. God and His goodness will be experienced and known to maximum capacity! We will have the strength together with all the saints to comprehend and know “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and we will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19).
Look at what’s going to happen when Jesus reigns on earth!:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Of peace, there will be no end!
Justice and righteousness forevermore!
Of course, this is not yet a reality. First, Christ came as a Lamb to be slain. Next, He’s coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Revelation 5:5).
In that day, when perfect peace comes upon the earth, the LORD says, “my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Is. 65:22). The most precious moments that we experience on earth—whether that’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful sunset, or being lost in a song or prayer of praise—will be multiplied infinitely.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How ironic, how sad, that the Rejected One, is the One who brings renewal of the whole earth.
Fellow Christians, please share the message that is so needed in these days of distress. And pray for your neighbors, that they would have peace that surpasses understanding.
Please pray that the Rejected One, the one alone who brings perfect and pervasive peace, would no longer be rejected.
How to Keep Christ Central this Christmas Season
Christians often say, “He is the reason for the season,” which is true. Yet, it is easy in the “hustle and bustle” of the holidays for that not to ring true in our homes. So, here are some suggestions I have complied to help you keep Christ central this holiday season…
Give God a Gift
The notion of giving God a gift may sound funny since it is He that is the “giver of every good gift” (James 1:17 cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). Yet the Bible certainly gives us precedence for giving God gifts, from Abel offering gifts to God (Gen. 4:4) to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12 for us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices in light of all His goodness to us.
So, this holiday season give the LORD a gift. No, He does not need it. But He does deserve it and it is thoroughly biblical. When we give gifts to God it gets our mind on God (Matt. 6:21). Here are a few ideas: Fast. Fast one of the holiday feasts. Not for the purpose of limiting your caloric intake but because you want to focus and intentionally praise the one who is “the reason for the season.” You could also give a financial gift to your church or other good ministry. Use your creativity and give a gift that you believe God would appreciate.
Read the Christmas Story on Christmas Day
Reading the Christmas story on Christmas is a super good thing to do if the whole season is supposed to be about the coming of the Messiah Jesus. I would personally chose Luke 1:5-2:20. I would also suggest singing a hymn and offering a prayer of thanks too.
Set up a Nativity Scene in your Home
This is a helpful visual representation of what the holiday season is really all about. The One who created the world—the One who was in the beginning with God—the One who made all things and holds all things together—He became flesh and dwelt among us. When we see the nativity scene we can rejoice that God waded into this broken world to redeem it.
Christmas is about the Christ
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Do you know what a “honey do list” is? Have you every seen one of those? I still have flashbacks when I think of the list that Leah gave me when we bought our first house. Scary stuff, it’s like you can’t win. I mean, if you do them, well you have to do them so you don’t win, and if you don’t do them then you certainly don’t win…
What is a “honey do list”? It is a checklist of expectations. My wife, Leah, gave me a list and expected me to get everything done on that list. I am glad my wife is understanding, and the list wasn’t very long. That being said, there was stuff I had to get done within a few days of buying our house.
Well, today, in celebration of Christmas, we are looking at a “honey dew list” of sorts. We are talking about expectations, about what was on the Jewish “honey do list” for the Messiah. We see from Scripture and history that the “honey do list” was not as small and understanding as my wife’s. They had a huge list. Different people had different lists but any list would be a hard list to check off, actually all but impossible, in less of course God were to act in an amazing way. Read More…
Dustin Kensrue – This Is War
Thought provoking song and video.
“This Is War,” Allen Swoope and Dustin Kensrue:
“This is war like you ain’t seen.
This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.
This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born king;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing.
This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take it’s final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans;
The mystery of God as man.”
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!
to deep darkness the Light
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.”