Unwrap Christmas

This season we’re constantly on a quest for just the right present for those we love. Sometimes the search can lead us through the treacherous aisles of the department store, wrestling for linen or lace with lecherous, mauling mobs at the mall. It can lead us through the dense jungle of toy stores, while weird animals sing to us in weird voices and tones.

The first Christmas inspired an adventurous heart in people. Today, we find an explorers heart alive in a few men from the Orient in search for satisfaction, truth, and purpose. They were on the best quest, for they sought to pay homage to the King.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1–2, ESV)

When we come to Christmas, we have a great yearning for a quest fulfilled. There is beating in our soul the desire to taste the sweet nectar of peace saturated with purpose.  We want satisfaction!  And that is exactly what Christmas offers to all who pursue the King who is born in Bethlehem. I invite you to join me and others on this journey to seek the King, Jesus Christ.

When the wise men found Jesus, they found the treasure for which they searched. They found the treasure, for they found the King!  These men, who neither knew nor worshipped God, rejoiced with exceedingly great joy when they found the place of Christ’s birth.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11, ESV)

Here is the joy of Christmas unveiled. The Magi tasted transformation on the breeze of the Judean hills. They had searched for the King, and they had found Jesus who would change them forever.

Here is the joy of Christmas unwrapped for us today. Jesus Christ, the King, who has come to be the righteous ruler of His people, will transform our lives. He has come with good news to those in need. He has come to make whole those who have been shattered, to set free those who are in chains of sin’s guilt, to comfort those who mourn over their lost lives.

This season, we are on a quest for the treasure of Christmas. Jesus is the King who controls that treasure. We learn from the wise men that our search will be satisfied completely when we bow our lives in service to Him… when we receive the gift of life, joy, and forgiveness through His sacrifice on the cross for our sin…  when we give Him the gift of all that we are.

I pray that you and I might unwrap Christmas fully. I pray that we would worship Jesus Christ the King. And Jesus fills our hearts with joy, with purpose, with forgiveness, with life. Today, on your quest for the treasure, travel to the King of Christmas. Turn to Jesus and trust Him to fill your soul with the joy and the life we all crave.

The Good News of Joy

Humanity searches for a life that is better. We yearn to know the powerful life that is beyond our reach, longing for something that we can’t create ourselves.

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.” (Luke 2:10, ESV)

God invaded the ordinary night in Palestine with “good news.” When God’s messenger came to the shepherds, he announced the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior. In coming to the shepherds, God was speaking to everyday people. He spoke, not merely to family, but to those who were typical people living in the world. And God introduced joy to them and to the world on that starry night in the fields outside Bethlehem.

Like the shepherds, we can become wrapped in fear, but the resounding word from God for us is, “Do not be afraid.” God’s Rescuer is for us! This is God’s great message to humanity in the birth of Jesus Christ. No obstacle stands before the Savior who has come. He has conquered death itself, and if Jesus Christ can defeat our deepest fear of death, then, make no mistake, He can conquer our daily fears that rock our soul. The Savior has come! Fear fades in the face of our Victorious King Jesus!

The Lord is now with us! The angel declared that the baby born in Bethlehem was Savior, something that was readily accepted when thinking of the birth of the Messiah. But the angel also said that the baby is the Lord. God Himself has come, and the sky fills with the special choir of angels who attend the throne of God, and they begin to sing for joy over God’s work of grace.

So, join with the chorus of the heavenly host and sing praise to God. The song of Christmas is joy, for God’s good news of peace and pleasure overwhelm the dreary landscape of an ordinary life. Through Jesus, we have peace with God as His pleasure transforms our ordinary into the extraordinary.

God Pierces the Darkness

News coverage would be pretty slight over the birth of a child in the stable. The major news outlets wouldn’t even give it top billing. At best it would be a seasonal interest piece, sandwiched in between the overcrowded conditions in Bethlehem and the economic boom taking place because of the census. But what is missed many times on earth is celebrated in heaven! The angels break the news on the scene of human history to a group of shepherds out in the field. Christmas is the announcement of wonderful news.

The angel embarked upon a mission to announce the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. When the angel appeared, the light of God’s face peeled back the darkness of night with the blazing brilliance of His glory. In the midst of centuries of silence and the deep darkness of night, God revealed Himself to shepherds. The First Christmas unveils His glory for all to see in the face of the Christ-child.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. (Luke 2:8-9)

What is this glory? The glory of the Lord is His visible presence unveiled. When God unveils Himself, we see His glory: the power, the majesty, the holiness, the infinite love, and the immeasurable mercy of the Creator of the world.

The light of God’s face peels back the darkness of night with the blazing brilliance of His glory. In the deep darkness of night, God reveals Himself to us through Jesus Christ. He is the bright light of God’s glory that shines upon us living in the deep darkness of night. He opens our eyes to see the beauty, majesty, grace, and truth of God today. We see the light of salvation shining, for Jesus Christ the Savior has come to show us God.

God pierces the darkness of our lives with the in-breaking of His glory today. Jesus has come to erase the quarantine of our souls from heaven. Embrace His embrace of grace through faith and live in the light of God’s glorious joy.

The Whisper of Christmas (Part 4)

We hear the whisper of Christmas come to full bloom in the prophetic preaching of Isaiah. Under the maniacal chaos looming on the horizon, God whispered the coming of Christmas.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)

Isaiah heard God’s whisper of Christmas when he proclaimed that a great light would shine against the backdrop of darkness (Isaiah 9:2). Before Christ came, the world was covered in the deep darkness of hopeless living under the chilly veil of death’s shadows. The coming of Christ at Christmas would deliver the abundance of joy.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7, NKJV)

Jesus Christ, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Savior, was born and His coming offers victory to us and to the world! Because of Christ at Christmas, we have a “new song” of victory. God has moved in a miraculous way to set His favor on us.  So, sing and dance for the victory is ours. Jesus is born. God has come!

Jesus transforms our lives from the dreary image of a world in darkness to a lively dance of victory. The King of Christmas, Jesus Christ, brings joy to our hearts. He shines the glory of God’s favor and salvation on us.

Hear the whisper of Christmas in full bloom! Isaiah comes to the end of his life with words of hope for God’s people and for the world. These words come to us in Isaiah 61:1-3. No longer words of Isaiah proclaimed to the people, these are the very words of the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself, declaring His commitment to fulfill God’s promise of victorious grace. These words are Christ’s telling of the Christmas story.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NKJV; Luke 4:17-21)

As we listen to the Christmas story through the words of Jesus, I pray that God’s whisper might become the resounding shout of victory in our souls, for Jesus Christ has come to fulfill God’s ancient purpose of grace in our lives. He has come to set our lives right.  When Christ was born in Bethlehem, all creation resounded with the ringing cry of God’s glorious grace invading the evening in unprecedented ways.

The Whisper of Christmas (Part 3)

We hear the whisper of Christmas in the glorious praise offered from David’s pen. David stood before the congregation and announced the promise of God for His rule in the world through His Messiah. God whispered His grace into David’s soul, promising the Supreme King who would come to rule the earth and make it right. David announces the fulfillment of God’s reign through the King of kings.

I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” (Psalm 2:7, NKJV)

God calls out, “You are My son” and “I have begotten you.” Now, this is not merely a spiritual rule in the world. It is the promise of the future fulfillment of Christ’s rule as the king of the world when He will one day take His throne in Jerusalem. The King will come to the center of the world and rule the earth. During this reign, Satan will be bound (Rev 20:1-4) and any rebellion will be put down with His iron rod of righteousness (see, Matt 13:37-43).

The psalmist sang his praise and said, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation” (Ps 149:4). The Lord desires for His favor to fall upon this world in a way that humanity has never seen, so He sends Jesus to become flesh and bone so that all might see the glory of God unveiled this side of eternity.

God sent Jesus to bring beauty to the broken, to adorn them with the light of His salvation. He showers them with His glory and offers the beauty of victory to transform their broken world. The world had been waiting for this day of God’s great movement, the Day when God’s beautiful gift of love would be unveiled on his dark world.

Christmas means that we live in a world where the wintry chill of death’s shadow has been shattered with the warmth of God’s love. Trade in the wintry landscape of a lifeless, hopeless, loveless existence for the pleasure of God’s salvation. Trade in the shroud of death’s dark shadows for the splendor of Christ’s majestic light. Trade in the chains of the devil’s power for the celebration dance of Christ’s victory. Trade in the broken heart and battered soul for the healing embrace of God’s favor. Trade in the ashes for the beauty.  Trade in the lyrics of despair for the song of joy. Trade in the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise.

The Whisper of Christmas (Part 1)

The Christmas story celebrates the coming of Christ. The whisper of Christmas resounds throughout the history of humanity. We hear the promise of the wondrous movement of God’s grace in our world at Christmas through the host of prophets speaking with one voice since the very beginning of time. God has promised, and He fulfilled His promise with the birth of Jesus Christ.

We hear the whisper of Christmas at the beginning of humanity’s history. When Adam and Eve chose sin over intimacy with God, the curse of sin coursed through creation. God’s grace, however, was not undone. As He spoke to the serpent, He spoke of His grace that would come at Christmas.

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15, NKJV)

God promises the victory of grace through the Messiah to come (“her Seed”). Even though humanity had rebelled against Him, God’s glorious grace promised and purposed ultimate victory through the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The Messiah would crush the serpent, even though the serpent would strike at His heel. The crushing of the serpent is the victory of God’s grace through Christ. The striking of the Messiah’s heel is an allusion to the suffering of Christ on the Cross which purchased victory for believers.

Today, we celebrate the victory of God’s grace in our hearts in the birth of our Rescuer. Before Christ came, the world shivered under the cancerous, chaotic canopy of the devil’s power. We no longer live in the doldrums of darkness created by sin. In His grace, God shattered the shadows of sin with His life-giving light through Jesus. The bells of heaven resound in victorious song, for Jesus has come to crush sin’s venomous power with His triumphant sacrifice.

The Sign of the Manger

The sign of the manger declares that God has provided for us. The nativity of Bethlehem is the culmination of God’s eternal purpose. Even though we consider that silent night under the luminous star the beginning of the Christmas story, there is more to the plot of God’s grace than what we read from Luke’s pen.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7, NKJV)

Here is the in-breaking of the fulfillment of an ancient anticipation. Joy and peace have entered the scene of human history, and we can live in the rapture of the hope realized in our lives. Jesus has been born. Anticipation has become reality. Our Rescuer has come!

Surrounded by the wintry landscape of shadows and death, God sent Jesus on a mission to invade the darkness with light, to bring the glorious grace of God to set us free. We’re longing for the chains that clang around our soul to be shattered. Before Christ came, humanity knew only the power of a broken heart, the dreary landscape of a hopeless, loveless, lifeless existence, festering wounds of a soul unhealed, the captivity that binds us to the failures of our life, and the deathly march of mourning for the soul that longs for peace but never finds it. But everything changed when Jesus was born. We have a song of celebration because Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, God with us, the Savior of the world, has come to set the world right!

The sign of the manger unleashes a new song into the world. The lyrics are love and the tune is joy. God has come to town to set our lives right.