Christmas is an awesome time of the year.
I didn't always think that way. Even before I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I got discontented with all the commercialism associated with Christmas. I remember as a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old teenager, I convinced my family to take all the money we would have spent on gifts for each other and to give that money to the missions program at church. That allowed our Christmas celebration to center on what was really important.
Then, when I had my miraculous encounter with the Lord on March 23, 1968, I fell in love with Him a thousand times more than I had ever experienced His love at Christmas. It was like every day was Christmas, many times over. Therefore, Christmas became just another day to me.
As I began to seek the Lord, I became aware of all the pagan practices incorporated into the Christmas season, and I became disillusioned with the whole thing. For the first sixteen years of my married life, we didn't have a Christmas tree or decorate for Christmas. We would have a birthday cake for Jesus and give gifts to our boys, but we made it clear that they came from the Lord, through us, and not from some fat man in a red suit.
Finally, when we moved into our present house fourteen years ago, my boys asked if we could have a Christmas tree. They said they knew the pagan origins of the custom, but they just thought it was pretty, and they wanted to look at it the way Martin Luther did - as a symbol of everlasting life. I gave in and we've enjoyed a Christmas tree ever since.
But as I've grow older, I've come to appreciate the positive side of Christmas much more. In a culture that has become increasingly secular, where it is politically incorrect to even mention the name of the Lord lest we offend someone, I think it's awesome that Christmas brings some of the greatest truths of the Gospel to light in public. Our roots as a Christian nation are showcased.
When else can you enter into stores and hear some of the greatest Christian songs ever written being played, like "Joy to the World"? That's awesome! You will see displays of the nativity scene in places that the only mention of the Lord at other seasons would be to take His name in vain.
People talk about loving one another as God loved us by sending His Son to the earth. We are reminded of values that are forgotten or at least diminished at other times of the year. And if it weren't for the Christmas holidays, family relationships would be worse than they are. This is the only time many families make an attempt to get along.
In the fight against the de-Christianizing of our nation, I think the Christmas celebration is a great victory. I take pleasure in seeing the wonderful truths of God's love for man displayed in public and having concerts in such places as the White House where Christ is being proclaimed in song.
It's a shame that some people only go to church at Christmas, but praise God, at least they go then. That's an opportunity. And Christmas opens up many opportunities to share our faith.
One complaint that I still have is that "the Christmas story" has become so familiar and has focused so narrowly on only the birth of the baby Jesus that some of the great truths present in that miraculous birth are not seen. Some of the greatest lessons in Scripture are hidden in the account of Christ's birth, and the average person is totally oblivious to them.
For that reason, I made a four-part album entitled, Lessons from the Christmas Story for Every Season. In this album, I share what I consider to be some of the most important things the Lord has ever shown me.
Did you realize that the virgin birth of Jesus was totally normal in every respect except one? Mary didn't become pregnant without contact with a seed. The laws of reproduction that God created weren't suspended. Everything was exactly like all the millions of other births except that God used the seed of His Word instead of the seed of a man to get Mary pregnant.
That's why John 1:14 says,
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
Jesus was literally God's Word becoming flesh. God used His Word as the sperm that conceived Jesus. This answers a lot of questions. Questions like: Why did the Lord wait four thousand years after the fall of man before He sent Jesus to the earth? Why did God have to become a man? The answers to these questions lie in the way God made creation, the authority He gave man, and the integrity of His Word.
When God created the heavens and the earth, He spoke them into existence. Hebrews 11:3 says,
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
So, God created everything by His Word. That's how He creates. When it came time to create the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), God had to speak Him into existence. However, He had given dominion over the earth to physical human beings. Since God is a Spirit (John 4:24), He couldn't just speak Christ into existence independent of man. He had turned the control or dominion of the earth over to man (Gen. 1:26-28). That's why God had to become a man. But, how could He work through sinful, corrupt man to create a Redeemer?
He spoke to the hearts of men who would listen to Him, and they, in turn, would use their God-given authority over the earth to speak out the prophecies that God had placed in their hearts. The problem was that men had become separated from God through their sin. No one man was in tune closely enough to God to speak everything that needed to be spoken. So, it took about four thousand years to complete the prophecies that had to be spoken to create the body for God to become flesh.
Then when Mary received the message of Gabriel, she humbled herself and said,
"Be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)
She received God's Word into her womb, and the conception of the Messiah took place.
Likewise, that's how 1 Peter 1:23 says we are born again,
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
God's Word is a spiritual seed that has to be planted in our hearts to conceive a miracle. The new birth doesn't just happen any more than babies just happen. Children have to be conceived, and so does salvation or any other miracle from God. We have to be born again by the incorruptible seed of God's Word (1 Pet. 1:23).
Once a seed is planted, there is a nurturing and maturing process. That's where prayer comes in. Prayer is like water and fertilizer or incubation to a seed. But if you water or fertilize barren ground, nothing will happen. There has to be the planting of a seed first.
Likewise, we have mistakenly tried to only pray our miracles into existence. Prayer is important, but you can't conceive through prayer. The seed of God's Word has to be sown. As Romans 10:14-17 says,
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We would consider a woman crazy who is trying to have a child without following the natural laws of reproduction. But in the spiritual realm, Christians try to give birth to miracles all the time without ever planting God's Word in their hearts. It just doesn't work that way.
And then there's the message of the angels that said,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)
This was not an announcement of an end of hostilities among men. History has proven that can't be what the angels were proclaiming. Instead, this was the proclamation that the war between God and man was over. That's not been understood or proclaimed by the church as a whole. Most people still think God is mad at them. That's not so. He's not mad, and He's not even in a bad mood. Jesus satisfied His wrath completely. He is just, and there will be punishment for those who refuse the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. But God is not angry because of our sins. That's been taken care of.
This Gospel of peace is one reason there is such a universal acceptance of the Christmas season, even among those who are not born again. Christmas is all about God's love and mercy, not His damnation. It's spotlighting God's unconditional love for us the way it should be done all year long. It's focusing on the good news of God's love and not the bad news of our failures. That's the Gospel of peace that the angels were singing about, and that should be our message too.
Then there's the story of the wise men. Did you know that the Scriptures never say there were three wise men, and there is no indication that they were kings? They also didn't visit Christ in the manger in Bethlehem, but in his house in Nazareth. And one of the best parts of the Christmas story is the way Mary let the Lord convince Joseph of the true nature of these events.
There are just a lot of things in the Christmas message that have been obscured by tradition. This four-part album will be a blessing to you or anyone you choose to share it with.