Christmas Is Over, Now What?

“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.” – Corrie Ten Boom.

It’s the day after Christmas and all through the house there are piles of junk, cast-off toys, and piles of unwanted gifts to be returned as soon as possible.  Perhaps you’re hoping to exchange the flannel shirt Uncle Pete gave you. The kids have already found that the cardboard boxes their toys came in are more interesting to play with than the items which the boxes originally contained.

You’ve already made the decision to put the tree out on the curb for pickup tomorrow and get ready for the new year. Maybe this year should be different. It is the time to pause and answer a question: “Is there any correlation between the focus of the Christmas holidays—and what drives and motivates your life after the Christmas decorations are gone and the poinsettias have wilted?

Yes, it is Jesus’ birthday, but it is also the beginning of the gospel story. We are not just celebrating the fact that Christ came as a baby. We are celebrating that He came and brought redemption to our world. In other words, He came to redeem everyone who believes in His name.

Here is how Paul answered that question in I Timothy 1:15: “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” Paul was thinking about the grace of God shown to him. He could not get over it. We too should be amazed. We too should not be able to get over it. We too should be in awe of God with us. We should be in constant astonishment at God’s grace and mercy that began for each of us on that first Christmas night.

Some people want to put Christmas behind them until next December.  But others bask in the reality of the meaning of Christmas, the Incarnation.  For them, Jesus is not a babe whose manger is getting pretty old and dusty.  He is the living Savior, the One who became flesh at Bethlehem, the One who wants to touch the lives of people today. He can be pushed aside by packing up the Christmas decorations. Moving on after Christmas should include the risen Lord who will someday return from heaven. May we enter the New Year with our eyes focused on the risen Savior.

Take the time and the step of remembring the Christmas story during the year. Try to understand what “God with us” and “unto you is born a Savior” really means all year long.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think about Christmas year-round?
  2. What would you suggest are a couple of practical ways to help refocus on the true meaning of Christmas during 2023? 

Many Prophecies. One Story.

“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3

The Bible tells us that long before the world began, God had planned that the crucifixion of Jesus would be the method and payment for sin – the only payment that would reconcile sinners to a holy and loving God. 1 Peter 1:19-20  says, “It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.”

God provided us with a roadmap throughout history. He spoke of things that mankind should watch for so that the Messiah would be recognized and believed. These signs or prophecies were given to us in the Old Testament. The Old Testament, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, contains over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled through His life, death, and resurrection. Only God could foreknow and accomplish all that was written about Jesus Christ.

For example, the Bible prophecies that the Messiah would come from the house of David: From Jeremiah 23:5-6 we know He is from the line of King David: “For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name:‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” Reaffirming that Jesus is from the line of King David, we have this prophecy from 2 Samuel 7:12-13, which was actually spoken by Samuel to King David: “For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever.”

Another Bible prophecy is that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus, as we read in Matthew 2:1-6.

A third prophecy is that the Messiah would be presented with gifts: The Old Testament declared that Gentiles from around the world would come to the Messiah, bearing gifts that actually included gold and frankincense (Psalm 72:10-15; Isaiah 60:1-6). When the Magi from the east visited Jesus, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor Him.

Could this be by chance? Could 300 predictions about one person who was to be born hundreds or thousands of years in the future just happen to come out right? Just think of it in mathematical terms: One person fulfilling eight prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies, yet all those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. You can find Jesus on every page of the Old Testament: agree or disagree and why?
  2. Genesis 49:10-12 prophesies a ruler from the line of Judah who will bring about a kingdom of prosperity. Isaiah 9:6 speaks of the birth of a child who will be named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2 refers to a ruler who will come from Bethlehem. What does that matter to believers today?

What We Can Learn About Worship From The Magi

“He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” – Matthew 2:4-6.

Scripture offers us many important journey stories. From Abraham being told to go to the land that God will show him. To the Israelites traveling through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. To Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem before the birth of their Son. And we have the Magi.

The Magi were on a journey to find and worship the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Fast forward thousands of years and ask yourself this question: Are you on the same journey to find and worship the Savior, who is Christ the Lord? So, what we can learn from these wise men, who traveled to find the newborn king?

Many lessons can be learned from the actions of the wise men. For example, they made it a priority to pursue the Lord. These men came from a great distance to encounter the Savior. They were committed to having a personal encounter with the newborn King. In the same way, shouldn’t we make it a priority to pursue the Lord and spend time in His presence? Secondly, they came to worship Him. Matthew 2:2 says, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” When they found Jesus, they bowed down. They were overjoyed. Because when they met Jesus, the search was over. They started as seekers, but when they found Him, they became worshippers. They have come all this way for one reason, and one reason only: To worship the newborn King of the Jews. They didn’t come with any kind of agenda. They weren’t looking for the answer to the meaning of life or trying to court favor with a king early in His life. They simply came to pay homage to Him, and to offer Him gifts. Fast forward several thousand years: do we come without any kind of agenda? Is our goal simply to worship Jesus? Do we offer Him gifts?   

They saw the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Their search was over. Their lives were changed forever. Will we respond like the Magi?  Seeking after God, humbling themselves, giving themselves, and obeying the Lord.  They were true worshippers.  That is the story of the gospel.  Jesus came to save sinners.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He came for tax collectors, prostitutes, rejects, and sinners.  Jesus came to save whoever would trust in Him.  He is the Savior of the world.

Bethlehem was not the end for the Magi.  It was the beginning for them.  May today mark a fresh beginning, a change, in our worship, our passionate pursuit of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Worship and joy are inseparable.  Will you worship Him?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does it surprise you the sacrifices the wise men made to see the child Jesus?
  2. What do you think motivated the wise men to journey so far from home and their refusal to be diverted from their mission?

The True Christmas Gift

“but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – Luke 2:10-14.

Despite man’s efforts to take Christ out of Christmas, He just won’t go away. Despite society’s best efforts to keep Him out, God intrudes. That first Christmas, there was no room for Him in the inn. The world never wants to make room for Christ at Christmas and in everyday life. Man killed Him and sealed the tomb with a huge stone to shut Him out of our lives once and for all. But God removed the stone to prove Jesus will not be shut up or shut out of His plans.

Christmas was never meant to be an event or a season. There are some things that could be changed when it comes to Christmas. For example, take out all the materialism. But we should never take the gift out of Christmas. After all, how can we take Christ, the true gift of Christmas, out of Christmas?

The question is why would people want to take Christ out of Christmas?  He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus, the one who saves us from our sins. What a gift. His resurrection gives us life after death. That’s a gift. His death on the cross offered forgiveness for sins and a fresh start with God. That’s a gift. His grace offers the assurance of a secure future with God. That’s a gift. These are gifts we don’t deserve, but God desires us to have them. And the One guaranteeing the gift is the One who created all things and defeated death by rising from it. Christ is The gift of Christmas that no other gift can surpass. Jesus brings joy to the world and hope to our lives in the message of Christmas.

Today we face the danger of turning our attention away from the Gift of Christmas. You should never want to take Christ out of Christmas. He is The gift of Christmas that no other gift can surpass. Worse than taking Christ out of Christmas is leaving Christ out of your life. The gifts Jesus Christ offers are the things we need the most.

Discussion Question:

  1. Christmas was never meant to be an event or a season, it was meant to be a gift. Agree or disagree and why?

Don’t Miss Christmas – Part 2, Religious Leaders

“He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” – Matthew 2:4-6.

The story of Christ’s birth is full of characters who effectively missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper was one and the religious leaders were another. Matthew 2:4-6 describes the scene. Herod gathers all the leading priests and teachers and asks them where the Messiah was to be born. They tell him Bethlehem, citing Micah 5:2 which says, ”But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”

The chief priests and scribes knew exactly where Christ was to be born. These were the theologians, the minds, the brains, the religious elite of Israel. The Jewish people had been looking for their Messiah/Deliverer for a very long time.  They were waiting eagerly to end the Roman occupation and oppression.  Yet the religious leaders could not make the effort to go to Bethlehem to see if this was truly the Messiah.

The fact is, out of the entire population of Jerusalem and Judea, only a few shepherds came to see the Messiah. And do you remember what they did? After encountering Him, they joyfully told everyone about their experience until everyone in the Judean countryside heard about the birth of the Messiah. But even then, there is no record that anyone else, including the religious leaders of the day, came to see Jesus.

They probably figured they didn’t need Him. They were self-righteous. And they were indifferent. They thought they had it all figured out. But they didn’t. And neither do we. How can we take God – the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and put Him in our box? Do we think we have God so figured out that He becomes predictable or worse familiar to us?

Like in marriages, familiarity leads to complacency and eventually we take each other for granted. Relationships with our spouses like with God are an adventure. We seek out new things to learn of the other. We do the same with God. He is knowable to a point, but He is still God.

The Christmas story centers around this truth from John 1:14 (MSG): “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” That is the real message of Christmas. May we, in this busyness we call Christmas, not miss out on our Savior as the religious leaders did.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it easy or tempting to miss Jesus during the Christmas season? Why or why not? 
  2. How does the familiarity of the Christmas story make it hard for us to be challenged by its message?
  3. What can we do this week to ensure we don’t miss Christmas?