Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Christmas Special
Volume 7 No. 452 December 22, 2017
V. More Christmas Features

Why Christmas?

by Ron Edmondson

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
(Isaiah 59:2 NIV)

Why do we need Christmas? Have you ever thought about that question? Probably not! If the truth be known, you, like me, are just so busy "doing" Christmas, and enjoying it too, that you haven't stopped to consider the reason for the celebration.

Now, I am not talking about the "reason for the season." You have no doubt seen and heard that. People have been wearing pins with that on it for two weeks and you know that it is to celebrate the birth of a Savior, but why did He need to be born?

Here's why (and, please, don't miss this point this Christmas season): We need Christmas because without it we are going to Hell! Now you're thinking, "What does Hell have to do with Christmas?".

Without Christmas, without the baby in a manger, the virgin birth, the shepherds in the field at night, the presents wrapped, the bills to be paid, the parties to attend, the expanded waistline…. Okay… you get the idea… without all the neat things that make Christmas what Christmas is, we would be eternally lost. See, all of us are lost, without hope, because we all have sin in our life. We are born into sin and can do nothing to rid ourselves of the sin habit.

God is Holy, as you know, and so He cannot tolerate any sin. None! He will not hear us through our sin, and so, if we remain in our sin, we remain forever separated from God.

But then there is Christmas, Praise God! Jesus did come on that dark night some 2000 years ago! He came so that through Him we can be saved, completely forgiven of our sins, and enter the presence of a Holy God!

There is a Christmas! We need Christmas! Thank God for Christmas today!


How You Can Get to The Heart of Christmas

by Dr. Jack Graham

"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel."
- Matthew 1:21-23

As a kid, I used to love getting up on Christmas morning and rushing into the living room to get ready to hopefully receive all the gifts I had requested. But as I look back as an adult on those Christmases, something sticks out as much more important and much more treasured than just opening presents: opening the Word of God.

Every Christmas morning before any of those presents were opened, our family would spend some time opening God's Word, reading the story of that first Christmas, and praying and thanking God for the gift He had given us in His Son.

It's so easy in our day and age for Christmas to become more and more about what's under the tree. But let's never forget the real reason for the season: Jesus Christ. He's the one the prophecies of the Old Testament pointed towards, and the one who ushered in the covenant of the New Testament.

As you and your loved ones prepare to celebrate Christmas, I want to encourage you to take the step of reading God's Word together as a part of your celebration. Don't neglect the heart of the Christmas season. Put Christ first in your Christmas and you'll create memories that last forever!


Source: PowerPoint Devotional

Five Tips for PEACE-Full Christmas

by Sheryl Giesbrecht

"Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright."

Each night we heard my son tattling on his sister, "Mom, Sarah is taking too much time in the bathroom." Silent? Hardly. Calm? Nope.

"Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."

For the third time that week, we were late to soccer practice. And my husband, Paul, was the coach. That routine was far from restful.

"O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie..."

(Sigh.) So much to do, so little time - removed from tranquil.

Are these holiday lyrics descriptions of your family's Christmas season? During the Christmas rush, our homes are far from silent, calm, restful, still, or peaceful. The holiday momentum builds the day after Thanksgiving; the house is noisy, busy, hustling, bustling, and brimming over with activity and stress to the point of near exhaustion. We have so much to do before Christmas day arrives. There are lists to make, baking to prepare, cards to send, shopping to do, gifts to wrap, and events to plan.

Then there are Christmas church services, musicals, plays, concerts, recitals, office parties, family gatherings, and Christmas light tours. Don't forget traditions to revisit and memories to make.

Have you ever been tempted to run away at Christmastime? It would be nice to take a two-week trip, maybe to a deserted island, and be alone with your family - or maybe just alone! There is a solution! We can intentionally cut the Christmas chaos this year. The five steps to doing so spell the word PEACE.

P: Pray Ahead

Guess what? Christmas comes on the same date at the same time every year: December 25. Start praying for your holiday experience when you see the first hint of Christmas decorations in the stores. In July, I browsed Hobby Lobby for items to decorate my patio, I was shocked to see there were things for sale announcing not only the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but - oh yes - Christmas. Instead of asking, "Can you believe Christmas decorations are already for sale?" tell yourself, "I am so glad I'm reminded to begin to pray for our family's holiday season to glorify the Lord. Let Jesus be celebrated on His birthday."

Pray for God's peace to rule before, during, and after your holiday. Pray for peace to reside in your heart and mind, so it will infect and redirect the chaos around you.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
(Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it to the full."
(John 10:10, NIV)

E: Express Your Desire

After you've talked to God about your holiday hope for harmony, pick a night for a family meeting and share your thoughts with your loved ones. Ask each person to write down his or her favorite traditions, activities, and foods associated with the holiday. As you are gather the lists, mix them up and pass them out to a person other than the one who made the list. Give each person a few minutes to read aloud the list he or she received. There will be many repeated items on the lists. Have someone make a list of the most popular items in each category. Keep the most favorite traditions and activities on the to-do list, and let the others go. This will make simplifying Christmas much easier, and everyone will have a say.

Explain to your loved ones that as they simplify, it will help increase their peace and enjoyment during the holidays.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as member of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
(Colossians 3:15, NIV)

A: Accept a Few Invitations

Believe it or not, less is more. Take a minute to think about all of the events tied to the holiday season: Christmas parties, cookie decorating in your child's classroom, potlucks at work, secret Santa for the ladies' group, and Christmas plays and concerts. Unintentionally, we get ourselves and our families twisted and tangled in the Christmas tinsel of too much activity. Only one thing is important: focusing on Jesus.

How do you choose what to attend and how to spend your precious time? Share Advent with your family each morning at breakfast. I use a daily scripture Advent calendar I found on Pinterest to keep focused on Jesus, the reason for the season. When we choose to start the day focusing on Jesus, it is easier to say no when the invitations arrive.

That's right. It's okay to say, "No, we have other plans." Even if your "other plans" are to stay home with your family and finish frosting sugar cookies for tomorrow's class party. No guilt, no pressure - just honest self-control and wise time management. Your own children are going to learn a lot from you this year.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
(Galatians 5:22–23)

C: Create a Budget

Go back to your list of how you and your family plan to celebrate Christmas. Do you have a large immediate family? What about extended family? Figure out how much money you are able to spend on each person and make another list of items so your children can help with the shopping. You don't have to spend a lot of money on special gifts outside your immediate family. Pinterest is a great resource full of ideas for do-it-yourself crafts and creating memory ideas your children can make for relatives and friends. Mark your calendar and plan ahead for a Christmas gift-making craft day.

Have your children given you their Christmas lists? Also have them create a list of items they want to give at Christmas. If we don't teach our children how to share out of abundance, we will actually teach and reinforce selfishness. It helps to explain to them. "When we get new things, we must get rid of some old ones to make room." It's the principle of the most unbelieved beatitude in the Bible found in Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Can the giver be happier than the receiver? Although it goes against all of our human instincts, it is true. This is a very important kingdom principle best taught in life situations.

"John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.'"
(Luke 3:11 NIV)

E: Experience Jesus

Invite God's presence to take over your lists, plans, and desires. Ask Jesus to rule how you focus your time.

A wonderful tradition I started with my own children when they were young encouraged them daily during the twenty-four days before Christmas day. We had a couple of Nativity sets, and each morning when the kids were getting ready for school, I would hide the baby Jesus from each set. The challenge was that they could not search for the hidden baby Jesus until they were fully dressed, beds made, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, backpacks packed, and ready to load into the car to go to school. When they were completely ready to walk out the door, I would say, "OK, let's look for the baby Jesus." As Sarah would search for the small baby Jesus, I would say "hotter" or "colder," depending on where she was situated in relation to where I had hidden it until she discovered the hiding place. Next, Ben would get the chance to do the same thing with the baby Jesus from the other nativity. It was a great Christ-centered way to start each day.

Not only do I hang on to our family memories, but I taught my children how to develop their own special traditions for their family Christmas seasons.

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you."
(2 Thessalonians 3:16, NIV)

As you see, cutting Christmas chaos can be very simple. It takes planning and intention . . . and of course, lots of prayer. I will be praying you will experience a "calm and bright" holiday and you can "sleep in heavenly peace." May God bless your Christmas!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33, NIV)

About The Author:

Sheryl Giesbrecht's message is exchanging hurt for hope, one she shares with audiences as a radio personality, author and speaker. A dynamic teacher and motivating leader, Giesbrecht has endured many changes and challenges, moving her to a deep faith, trust and dependence on God. She is host of the nationally syndicated radio show, "Transformed through Truth," and a missionary with International Christian Ministries ( She is the author of Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down.

The Audacity of Christmas

by Mike Pohlman

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
–1 Corinthians 3:21-23

This Christmas millions of children (and adults) will find under their Christmas tree a Wii or Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. When the wrapping paper is ripped and the contents revealed shouts of joy will fill the room. (I'm planning on this as our kids open their Wii!) Each of these game consoles will bring countless hours of pleasure to the players. But as amazing as these machines are, they in no way compare to the audacity of God's gift given at Christmas.

Consider the staggering promise of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:21. He says, "all things are yours" by virtue of being in Christ. And what does Paul include in "all things"? Things like the world, life, death, the present and the future. Breathtaking. How can this be?

Galatians 4:4-7 shows how the Christian comes to inherit "all things."

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Christmas marks the "fullness of time" when God, in his sovereign freedom, "sent forth his Son." The One who dispenses times and seasons determined that it was time to send forth the Son who had existed with the Father from eternity. Indeed, the second person of the Trinity "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). He was "born of a woman, born under the law." Here we have the wonder of the Incarnation: God of very God assuming a human nature.

Why would the Son of God take on flesh and dwell among sinful mankind? Why would divinity take on humanity and "become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8)?

He did it to secure salvation. In other words, "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:5). Christ came into the world not only to free us from the tyranny of sin, death and the devil, but also to crown us with unimaginable glory.

It is true that at the Cross Christ "redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). But we have not been saved only in this "negative" sense. We have been adopted into God's family and given all the rights and privileges of legitimate heirs. Paul captures this beautifully in 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." And the riches that are ours in Christ are far greater than anything merely monetary. These riches are in fact "all things" for "all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:23). This is the audacity of Christmas and it is intended to redound "to the praise of [God's] glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

Intersecting Faith & Life:

This Christmas I want to think and live as one adopted. One way to do this is to let every gift given to a loved one serve as a pointer to the Gospel. And when we consider how excited we are for the new Wii or Xbox or Playstation with its temporal pleasures, let us remember the eternal weight of glory that awaits the heirs of the King.

Further Reading:

Disturbing Christmas, C.J. Mahaney
A Redemption Worthy of Our Worship, Peter Beck

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

The Incarnation

by Jim Burns

The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the father full of grace and truth.
--John 1:14

How do you package love? God used a stable and straw on the eve of Christ's birth. The incarnation means that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Paul put it this way, "He is the visible expression of the invisible God." I heard a story as a child that helped me understand this concept. It's about ants.

Once upon a time, there was a colony of ants that were busy doing whatever ants do with their lives. God wanted to tell the ants of His love for them and His eternal home prepared for them. What was the very best way for God to communicate to those ants? The only possible way to speak to the ants was to become an ant and speak their language. So He did, and they believed.

The only way for us to fully recognize God was for God to come to Earth in the form of a man to identify with the world. Jesus was fully God and fully man; He knows what you are going through because He lived on this earth and completely identified with humankind. Hebrews 2:17-18 helps us understand the incarnation of Jesus and how He relates to our life:

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.


1. John 1:14 tells us that "the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us." Who or what is the Word and why is this Scripture so important?

2. How does it make you feel to know that God loves you so much that He went out of His way to connect with you?


Galatians 4:4;
Philippians 2:7-8;
1 Timothy 3:16;
Hebrews 2:14


Life, Death, and Incarnation

by Jill Carattini

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is one of the world's largest maximum-security prisons, an eighteen-thousand acre habitat to people who have committed horrible and often violent crimes. It houses roughly five thousand inmates, more than half of which are serving life sentences. Death looms large at Angola; ninety-four percent of inmates who enter are expected to die while incarcerated. The fear of dying alone in prison, coupled with the reality that for many inmates their first encounter with death was committing murder, makes death itself a weighted subject, often locked up in anger, guilt, and dread.

For a growing number, however, the Angola Hospice volunteer program has drastically changed this. In 1998, equipped with a variety of staff trustees and inmate volunteers, the LSP hospice opened its doors to its first terminally ill inmate. Today it is recognized as one of the best programs of its kind. Giving inmate volunteers a role in the creation of the hospice and in the primary care during the dying process, inmates find themselves in the position to tangibly affect the lives of others by being present, by giving a hand, by offering dignity to the dying. Reckoning with death as a fate that awaits all of humanity as they care for dying friends and strangers, the men often gradually let go of hardened demeanors. As one man notes, “I've seen guys that used to run around Angola, and want to fight and drug up, actually cry and be heartbroken over the patient.”(1) Another describes being present in the lives of the dying and how much this takes from the living. “But it puts a lot in you,” he adds. A third inmate describes how caring for strangers on the brink of death has put an end to his lifelong anger and helped him to confront his guilt with honesty.

It may seem for some an odd story as a means of examining the Incarnation of Christ, but in some ways it is the only story to ever truly introduce the story of the Incarnation: broken, guilty souls longing for someone to be present. As martyred archbishop Oscar Romero once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate the story of Christmas, the story of God's coming among us. For the men at Angola who stare death in the eyes and realize the tender importance of presence, for the child whose mother left and whose father was never there, for the melancholic soul who laments the evils of a violent world, the Incarnation is the only story that touches every pain, every lost hope, every ounce of our guilt, every joy that ever matters. Where other creeds might fail, the confession of the Incarnation, in essence, is about coming poor and weary, guilty and famished to the very scene in history where God reached down and touched the world by stepping into it.

The Incarnation is hard to dismiss out of hand because it so radically comes near our needs. Into the world of living and dying the arrival of Christ as a child turns fears of isolation, weakness, and condemnation on their heads. C.S. Lewis describes the doctrine of the Incarnation as a story that gets under our skin unlike any other creed, religion, or theory. “[The Incarnation] digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”(2) Standing over the precipices of the things that matter most, nothing matters more than that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who draws near.

The great hope of the Incarnation is that God comes for us - presently. God is aware and Christ is present, having come in flesh, and it changes everything. “[I]f accepted,” writes Lewis, “[the Incarnation] illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die,…[and] covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.”(3) The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem puts flesh on humanity's worth and puts God in humanity's weakness. To the captive, there is no other freedom.


(1) Stephen Kiernan, Last Rights (New York: St Martin's Press, 2006), 274.
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 282.
(3) Ibid.

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2017 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

The Spirit of Christmas Is Generosity

By Rick Warren

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"
(John 3:16 NIV).

During this Christmas season, you'll hear one word more than any other. It's not "merry," "tree," "Santa," or even - unfortunately - "Jesus."

It's "gift." By the end of November - and sometimes even before then - we begin a frantic dash to find the right gift for everyone on our list. The word "gift" consumes us for a month.

Many people think that gift giving at Christmas was started by the Wise Men when they brought gifts to the baby Jesus. But it was God who started it all when he gave the first Christmas gift.

The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV). On the first Christmas, God gave the greatest gift of all - he gave his Son. He gave his Son to die on the cross so you can have a forgiven past, a purpose for living, and a home in Heaven. Jesus is the original Christmas gift.

We only give because God gave to us first.

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of generosity. In Acts 15:11, the Bible says, "We are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us" (The Message).

If it weren't for God's generosity, we would have nothing. The air we breathe is a gift of God's generosity. The blood coursing through our veins is a gift of God's generosity. The fact that our hearts are beating is a gift of God's generosity. Every good thing in your life - including your life itself - is a gift of God's generosity.

But God's greatest act of generosity came on the very first Christmas when he gave us Jesus.

Talk It Over

How do you respond to knowing that God gave the first Christmas gift?

What are some gifts from God not mentioned in the devotional today that you are grateful for?

What can you do this Christmas to better remember God's gifts to you?

Source: Daily Hope with Rick Warren
© 2017 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

How to Demonstrate God's Mercy at Christmas

by Eric Metaxas,

Friends, we're coming to the close of a dark year. We've witnessed the brutality and barbarism of ISIS overseas and watched violent clashes between police and protesters in the Heartland. All around we see death, anger, and despair. I'm sure you'll agree there is much about the human condition we wish weren't true.

Yet as we approach Christmas, we're reminded once again that the darkness gathering around us does not have the final word. John the Apostle opens his Gospel with timeless words of hope regarding the Word of God: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Earlier this month, in Tarrant, Alabama, the beautiful light of hope shined into one woman's family. Let me tell you their story.

As reported at, Helen Johnson stood in the store aisle in despair. She and her two daughters, a niece and two grandchildren, had not eaten for two days and now she was 50 cents short for the dozen eggs she was hoping to buy. Out of options and hope, Helen stuffed five of the eggs in her pocket and tried to walk out. Fortunately, as it turns out, they broke. "I'm not a good thief at all," she said.

When confronted by store employees, she admitted her crime and waited for police. Yet, when Officer William Stacy got there, the story didn't go as she expected. Instead of escorting her to the back of his squad car, Officer Stacy bought the dozen eggs for her and let her know the store was not pressing charges. When asked how she could repay him, Stacy told her not to shoplift again.

When I heard about this, I kept thinking about the touching scene in Les Miserables where Bishop Myriel presses the silver candlesticks into the criminal Jean Valjean's hands. Your life has been spared for God, he told him. Kindness, rather than retribution, and mercy instead of justice, is what makes these stories great.

But Helen Johnson's story did not end there. A man filmed the incident at the store and posted it online. The video went viral and offers of help began pouring in. Three days later, police officers were helping Mrs. Johnson sign up for a toy drive and the following day, officers returned with two truckloads of food. For a family with virtually nothing, a stocked pantry was unbelievable. "My heart is wide open right now," she said.

The small acts of kindness by the store's management and Officer Stacy sparked a wave of compassion and charity.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." This, as much as any other, is the message that gives us hope at Christmas.

Every year, we take time to wonder at the kindness of a God who would descend from eternal bliss to live in squalor among us. His acts of kindness, and above all the gift of his own life for us, continue to work their way through history, inspiring countless acts of mercy throughout every land and age. The stories of Jean Valjean and Helen Johnson inspire us because they are our story, too. We are all condemned before the Lord, but rather than mete out justice, He offers forgiveness and new life.

Most of us may never know what it's like to be 50 cents short of providing a meal for hungry children. But our Lord does: He came to serve the poor and the wretched, the "miserables" among us.

God's ongoing blessing to us, if we choose to receive it, is to share His works of mercy in the world. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," Jesus said, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And blessed are the rest of us, who've been given opportunities to serve them.

About The Author:

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

The Christmas Sermon I Need to Hear

by Dr. David Lose

I am going to share brief reflections on both the Luke text we often hear on Christmas Eve and the John text that is usually appointed for Christmas Day. Actually, though, it's not two reflections but rather one thing that struck me as present in both gospels. And, for what it's worth, it's the one thing I need to hear as we approach this Christmas, so I hope it is helpful to you as you lean toward preaching either the Christmas Eve or Day readings or, perchance, both.

I'll start with a confession: for some reason, the world seems a little darker this year. It might be the pall that seems to have hung over the national mood since the events in Ferguson and Staten Island. Or maybe it's the number of global "hotspots" there are in the Middle East, the Ukraine, and more. Or maybe is the number of deaths caused from Ebola and the fear that disease strikes into the hearts of folks so many thousands of miles away. Or maybe it's the bullying threats of the North Korean government hackers. Or maybe….

Well, you probably get the picture. The world just now seems rather dark, even hostile. And so I wonder what this Christmas will feel like when so much of the world seems to be in turmoil and the angel's cry of "peace on earth" seems like more of a wish than a blessing and we who gather to sing carols, light our candles, and hear the Christmas story seem so very small against the backdrop of this troubled world.

And that's when a part of Luke's nativity gospel stood out to me. Truth be told, I've heard it countless times, but this time is struck me differently: "In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria."

What strikes me is that the events Luke describes also seem incredibly small. I mean, what does Emperor Augustus or Governor Quirinius care about a pregnant teenager or wandering shepherds? Mary, Joseph, and the rest – these folks are so incredibly small compared to these rulers. And yet Luke declares that whether these rich and powerful leaders care or not – heck, whether they even notice or not – yet the events Luke describes in detail are going to change the whole world.

It's an audacious claim, when you think about it: that the birth of a baby to an unwed teen amid the squalor of a backwater town could possible matter. And yet there, in a nutshell, is the promise of the Gospel: that God regularly shows up where we least expect God to be and always for us.

So though this world be dark, it is not forsaken, and the headlines we read and worry about will have their day and then fade again against the backdrop of this story we've been telling now for nearly 2000 years. God loves this world! And God will not give up on it…or us. Moreover, God continues to come to love and bless this very world and invites us to do the same.

Well, if Luke reminds me that the Gospel has always been set amid world events as a promise that God works among the seemingly small and insignificant to change the world, John calls to mind a more realistic assessment of human life. Right near the end of his Prologue, John writes the following: "No one has ever seen God" To which I want to reply, "No kidding!"

So many of us struggle to see God amid the desolate headlines. So many more wonder where God is amid their own more private pain of ruptured relationships, lost loved ones, loneliness, illness, job loss, or depression. Or maybe it's just that we get caught up in the day-to-day routine of making ends meet that we have a hard time imagining that God could possibly make a difference in our world. Sure, maybe we believe in God in general, but sensing God's presence – let alone seeing God – in the nitty-gritty of our mundane lines seems a bit much.

But John doesn't stop with his stark assessment. He goes on: "It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known." Perhaps the problem isn't that it is impossible to see God, but rather that we are prone to look in all the wrong places. Rather than speculate about God's existence, John seems to say, we should instead look to Jesus. And when we do that, we encounter the God who became flesh, taking on our lot and our life that we might have hope.

Both of these passages seem to acknowledge that, when you get right down to it, the Gospel message of hope, grace, and peace seems rather improbable, even unlikely. I mean, that the Creator of the cosmos would even know we exist, let alone love and cherish us? It's almost too good to be true. But for just that reason this is the story I keep coming back to, hoping against hope – and, on my good days, actually believing – that it is the one true story we will encounter this week, year, and lifetime. That God so loved the world….

Well, you know how it goes. We all do. But for that very reason perhaps the challenge this week is to preach this story once again not as a cherished favorite but rather so that it seeps into the dark crannies of our soul, the places we wonder if it can possibly be true, those spaces where the world's darkness seems so much more prominent than the light. Because that's what this story was made for – to shine light in dark places, to bring hope to the discouraged, insight to the lost, and the promise of peace to all who long for it.

Blessed Christmas, Dear Partner. Thanks for your bold proclamation of the Good News.

Source: Partner in Preaching

The Real Reason You Need Christmas

by Eric McKiddie,

Time off work, a year-end bonus, receiving gifts on your wish list... none of those things are bad in themselves. But you can get all of those things without Christmas. So, they can't be the ultimate reason you need Christmas, right?

Maybe you're on the opposite side of the spectrum: you don't think you need Christmas at all. The decorating, awkward family gatherings, shopping, and traveling add so much stress. Or maybe Christmas makes you feel incredibly lonely. You'd love to sleep straight through Christmas and wake up just in time to ring in the New Year.

What both these mindsets have in common is that they each focus on things that are ancillary to the true significance of why Christmas happened and why we celebrate it.

Why do we really need Christmas? What does Christmas do for us, and how should Christmas affect us?

The answer, you may be surprised to know, does not lie first in the Christmas stories of the gospels. The reason we need Christmas goes back to when it was originally announced, in Genesis chapter 3.

Our Need for Christmas in Genesis 3

The third chapter of Genesis is the sad account of how the human race fell into sin. Adam and Eve, having been tempted by the serpent, desired to "be like God" (3:5), and therefore they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is interesting that, after the sevenfold refrain of "God saw that it was good" in Genesis chapter 1, that here "the woman saw that the tree was good" (3:6). She has taken the prerogative of the Creator and determined what the creation is good for. She, and Adam with her, has attempted to dethrone God and make herself like God.

The results are tragic. Adam and Eve, expecting illumination, immediately experience humiliation, seeing their nakedness. They fear God's presence, and throw each other under the bus to avoid his wrath. The serpent, Eve, and Adam are cursed. Death enters the world. They are forbidden from reentering God's paradise.

Despite the darkness that shrouded that day, one beam of hope shone through – and this is where we come back to the topic of Christmas.

God promised that a special child would be born, who would defeat the serpent: "I will put enmity between you [i.e., the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). God promises that someone among Eve's offspring will win the ultimate victory over the serpent.

The promise of this offspring is fulfilled in Jesus.

Are you a sinner? Then you need Christmas.

This quick exploration into Genesis 3 reveals the real reason we need Christmas. This holiday of holidays doesn't exist because we need vacations, presents, and extra church services. Christmas exists because we have sinned.

If Genesis chapter 3 didn't happen we wouldn't need Christmas. If we had a pure, true relationship with God, we wouldn't need Christmas. If mankind had trusted God to determine what is good and evil, we wouldn't need Christmas.

But because Genesis 3 did happen, and because rebellion against God happens in our hearts every day, we need Christmas desperately. Matthew, in his account of Christ's birth, wrote, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). We needed God to intervene in our lives, and that is exactly what God the Father did by sending God the Son to be born of a virgin by the power of God the Holy Spirit. This is what Christmas is all about.

Why This Changes the Way We Celebrate Christmas

Coming back to the purpose of Christmas makes celebrating the holiday a reminder of why Jesus came, not only that he came. This should change the way we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate being rescued from certain condemnation. We are amazed that God would extend his grace to rebels like us. We are again by mystified at Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

Focusing primarily on the stuff that comes along with Christmas—lights, songs, shopping, etc.—completely misses the point. Those things can be great when viewed in their proper, secondary place, but when they become our focus, they inappropriately determine our view of the Christmas season, whether that be positive or negative.

Let's be intentional in remembering why it is we need Christmas in the first place. Then we'll be truly merry over the fact that Jesus came to save us from our sins.

About The Author:

Eric McKiddie helps pastors grow as well-rounded ministers of the gospel at his blog, Pastoralized, and through sermon coaching.



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