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Getting Ready for Christmas
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Christmas is right around the corner and already as a society we’ve endured a month of Black Friday, a time when we can get the best deals on our Christmas giving.
This got me thinking about how our society gets ready for Christmas.
Weekends will be filled with anxious shoppers trying to get everything on their Christmas list, that is until they reach their debt limit on their credit cards. They’ll go from store to store, from one Internet site after another all to find that special gift at the best possible price, and they’re not afraid of a little knock down drag out fight to get it.
So much for a season of peace, comfort, and joy! They’re right out the window!
And let’s not forget the decorations. Many do it up big time. They put up their Christmas lights, Santa and his reindeer on the roof, snowmen on their front lawns, and they substitute Jingle Bells for their front door chime.
And then there is the inside of the house as we put up our Christmas trees, wreaths, and hang up our Christmas Socking’s with care. With bows, balls, and bulbs we decorate just about every inch of our homes.
But before we can decorate anything we have to do a thorough cleaning so that we can make room to put up all these wonderful decorations, which means we’re not parking our cars in the garage.
And so, with a great deal of time and money we ready ourselves for Christmas.
But what about the baby Jesus in the manger part of Christmas? What about Him?
If it were up to the world they would outlaw the baby, they’d outlaw Jesus. They take Him and the manger scene down in the public square. They forbid any mention of Him. What they want is to take the day where we celebrate the birth of Jesus and make it no longer a holy day but a holiday and celebrate it as a cultic celebration known as “Winter Solstice.”
They’ve taken the name of Jesus or Christ completely out of the holiday and replaced it with the letter “X,” and they take the phrase “Merry Christmas,” and replaced it with the salutation, “Happy Holiday.”
What has happened to Christmas?
What has happened is that we get so caught up with the physical side of Christmas that we neglect the spiritual side. But no matter what society tries to do and turn Christmas into, Christmas always was and will be spiritual.
Christmas is about humanity’s relationship to God through the birth of Jesus Christ, who is both Savior and Lord, who came to reconcile us to God the Father.
So, the question becomes, “How do we prepare for the spiritual side of Christmas?”
Let me share with you some of the ways that I believe we should get ready for Christmas based on those who were there and what they did.
1. Focus on Christmas’s Purpose
Our society sees Christmas as a time to give and receive gifts. It’s where we can get a couple of days off work. And it’s a time where people get drunk and party, breaking just about every one of God’s Ten Commandments.
And as we can all guess, this is the furthest thing from what the real purpose of Christmas is all about.
The purpose is to remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Therefore, Christmas is to remember that Jesus left His heavenly estate and came down to earth as a baby for this very purpose, and that is to be one of us so that He could become that perfect sinless sacrifice for our sin so we can have an eternity in God’s presence.
Jesus was born to be the sacrificial Lamb of God.
This was initially promised through Abraham as he was about to offer his son, Isaac.
The Lord said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8 NKJV)
I really find the wording interesting and revealing. God would provide Himself as the lamb, that is, God would be the Lamb.
And so, Jesus came just as John the Baptist declared, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV)
Therefore, to focus on the purpose of Christmas is to focus on Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead who came to earth to provide Himself as that sacrificial Lamb in order to die for our sins so that we can have eternal life with Him in heaven.
Another way that we can prepare for Christmas is to follow the example of another who was intimately involved in the very first Christmas.
2. Prepare as Mary
After learning that she would be giving birth to the Messiah, Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, and through Mary’s song she reveals how she prepared herself.
First it was with joy.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47 NKJV)
Mary response to the news of this first Christmas is joy. Her focus was on God and what He was about to do, not upon her own selfish wants and desires, and this is what brings joy.
What the world is looking for, however, is happiness, not joy. They think that if they give enough presents and receive enough in return, they’ll be happy. They attend one party after another in the attempt to find happiness as well. They become happy because circumstances are positive, but when they are not, their happiness is gone.
But not so with joy. People can be filled with joy no matter what the circumstances may be, and that’s because joy is found not in what’s happening around us; rather it’s found in our relationship with God.
And so, we should prepare ourselves for Christmas, just as Mary did, with joy in our hearts for what God has done through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The second way Mary prepared for Christmas is through humility.
“For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48 NKJV)
Mary was humbled that God would consider her for such a task, and she rightly stated who she was, a humble maidservant.
Christmas should bring with it an air of humility when we realize just who we are, and that God would come down to where we live and die for us so that we could have a relationship with Him.
Even the shepherds, those who were on the lowest rung of the social ladder, as well as the Magi, Eastern noblemen and philosophers, bowed to a baby who lay not in the luxury of a palace, but in a feeding trough for animals in a cave used as a stable. It really doesn’t get any lower or any more humble than this.
And then Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, gave to us the attitude that we are to possess as believers, also known as the beatitudes. And what we see is that God blesses those who are poor, who mourn, and who are humble.
And the idea of God blessing those who are humble is brought about by the Apostle James who said we are to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10).
And finally, Mary prepared for that first Christmas through hope.
“For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49 NKJV)
Mary’s hope was in the Lord who was doing a great thing in her and through her.
Mary knew the promise that one would be born of the seed of Abraham and would come and save humanity. That hope was being brought into fruition through her and she prepared for the Child with a sense of hope.
The angel gave to the shepherds that same hope saying, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
We need to prepare for Christmas by remembering that the hope of the world, Jesus Christ, came and is extending that same hope to us as we prepare, not only for Christmas, but for His second coming.
Jesus promised that He would return. Therefore, one day Jesus will come and take His bride, the church, to live with Him forever.
If you think about it, it’s almost like a fairy tale; the Prince of Peace comes riding on a white horse to rescue His bride. But it’s not a fairy tale; rather, it’s a soon to be reality.
And so to prepare ourselves for Christmas, we first need to focus on the purpose of Christmas and then prepare ourselves as Mary did with joy, humility, and hope.
Now, the third way we should prepare for Christmas is to share its meaning.
3. Share the Real Meaning of Christmas
Our society may sing the songs, and watch a never-ending line up a Christmas shows, cartoons, and holiday specials, but they haven’t a clue as to what Christmas is all about. Christmas isn’t about Santa Claus, nor is it about Rudolf and his reindeer games.
The real meaning of Christmas is that Jesus left His heavenly estate and came down as a baby human being. It’s about how God became flesh like you and me so that He could take our place and die the death we deserve due to our sins.
And this is the story we need to share. We need to be like those shepherds on that first Christmas night, who not only went to see the baby Jesus, but also shared everything they had seen and heard.
When the angels left 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.” (Luke 2:15 NIV) So they hurried off and found the baby lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what they had been told about this Baby, and all who heard them were amazed at what they said.
“Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:17-18 NKJV)
We need to share with everyone the reason for the season. Now the story changes for Mary and the shepherds. It says that Mary pondered what she had heard in her heart, while the shepherds shared it, and it says they returned to their flocks glorifying and praising God (Luke 2:20).
Not only are we to be like Mary and ponder, that is, give careful thought to what we have heard, but we also need to be like the shepherds and get out there and share the good news of Jesus Christ, that the reason for the season we’re celebrating is that Jesus left His heavenly estate and came to this earth as a baby for the expressed purpose of being that perfect lamb sacrifice who took upon Himself the sins of the world by dying upon the cross so that we can have eternal life in heaven in His presence.
But the good news is more than that, it’s that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, because if He did not rise from the dead, then our faith in what He did upon the cross would be totally without worth.
But our witness of the real meaning of Christmas needs to be more than verbal, it also needs to be in the way we live our lives. We need to live our lives by what we say we believe, and if we believe that Jesus is God and that He came to save us, we need to live our lives in that truth.
And so, to prepare ourselves for this upcoming Christmas we need to focus on Christmas’s purpose, prepare our hearts like Mary with joy, humility, and hope, and then, like the shepherds, we need to share the meaning of Christmas to everyone we meet.
But there is one more way we need to prepare.
4. Be Filled With the Holy Spirit
Our society fills itself with inebriants for Christmas, but we need to fill ourselves up with the Holy Spirit. This was the Apostle Paul’s prescription.
He said, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)
To prepare for Christmas we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was there with Jesus from the very beginning, nine months to be exact.
The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NKJV)
And for this same birth to take place inside us, that is, Jesus becoming alive in our hearts, we need the same infilling, overshadowing presence.
After telling the crowd to have their lives filled with the fruit of repentance, they asked John the Baptist if he was the Messiah. But he told them no, but said that when the Messiah came, He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:1-11).
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11 NKJV)
As believers we need the Holy Spirit to come upon us so that Jesus Christ can be formed within us. I believe it’s far more important for Jesus to be formed in us before we ever lecture or preach of our society’s need to keep Christ in Christmas.
So, let’s be filled with the Holy Spirit this Christmas season so we can truly make a difference in our community and world for Christ.
This Christmas let’s not get caught up in the running, rushing, and wrangling, that we forget the reason for the season.
Christmas is not about sale tags and merchandise. Christmas is about receiving a miracle from God, the miracle of having Christ formed within us.
Christmas is also responding to this miracle by being filled with and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that like the wise men we can find Jesus, and then bow our lives in humility, and worship Him with joy.
And Christmas is about reporting to our family and friends this miracle of Christ being formed inside everyone who believes.
So, let’s get ready for Christmas the right way.
As I was looking over this message, the Lord began speaking to my heart like He did with last week’s message that there was something more to share that will hopefully take this to the next level in our lives. And it revolves around this word “overshadowed.”
When we think about a shadow, we generally think of something dark and sinister just lurking outside our sight, and it fills us with fear. The idea or the link between shadows and fear is seen in the statement made where a person is afraid of their own shadow.
We see such fear when people talk about death, and it’s seen in the Bible about how people view death as “The valley of the shadow of death.” But the Bible says that those who make the Lord their shepherd, and who place their trust and faith in Him, they no longer need to be afraid of death’s shadow.
But there is another shadow I’d like to share with you, and it’s being overshadowed by God, because when we’re overshadowed by God, we don’t have to be afraid of death or any worldly shadow.
And I’m talking about being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as Mary was overshadowed at the conception of Jesus.
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35 NKJV)
And what I’d like to bring forth is that the same power that conceived Jesus, the Son of God, within the womb of Mary, that it is the overshadowing power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and it is the same power that works inside every believer in Jesus Christ.
In this passage we see that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Light of the World, the Creator God Himself was not conceived after the manner of men, but rather by the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, whereby a virgin was able to conceive outside and beyond the laws of nature.
But it goes beyond that. Jesus was also empowered by the Holy Spirit throughout His life.
This overshadowing presence is seen in Jesus when He was a child. The Bible tells us that Jesus as a child grew and became strong; was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40)
And when Jesus began His ministry, we see this same overshadowing presence.
After His baptism, where it says that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, it says, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” (Luke 4:1 NKJV)
And again, here’s where I am going with all this. We see the same idea of overshadowing in what Jesus said to His disciples about being empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s Kingdom plans and purposes in their lives.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NKJV)
And so it was when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on that Feast of Pentecost overshadowing, filling, and empowering them.
And so, the same overshadowing power and presence that conceived Jesus in the womb and was with Him throughout His life here on earth, is the same overshadowing power and presence that’s available to all who believe.
And here’s the blessing as we prepare for Christmas. The overshadowing power and presence of the Holy Spirit is ours for the asking. It is a gift that the Father gives to His children when they ask for it.
Look at the promise.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 NKJV)
You are only one ask away from the overshadowing power and presence of the Holy Spirit. (Repeat)
And so, ask the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. He’s already given to us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, when we came to faith in Him as our Savior and Lord, but He also desires to give to us the gift of the Holy Spirit as well.
And so, Ask!
Wednesday Evening Bible Study