Putting CHRIST In Christmas

Does it seem like many people substitute “Happy holidays” for “Merry Christmas”? Or that more and more people prefer spelling it “X-mas” instead of Christmas? 

This isn’t something new in our culture. Francis of Assisi dealt with this same situation in the 12th century. 

“Many people spell Christmas without Christ, the glory of a Holy Day being supplanted by the glitz of a holiday—a problem that reaches back to the days of St. Francis of Assisi. 

“Francis was born in 1182 in central Italy, son of a rich merchant. After a scanty education, he joined the army and was captured in war. He came to Christ shortly after his release, and soon he began traveling around the countryside, preaching the gospel. At a February 1209 Mass, Francis was gripped by words being read from Matthew 10: As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff … (NIV). 

“Francis felt that Christ Himself was speaking directly to him. He decided to obey those words as literally as possible, preaching the kingdom and possessing nothing. It is as though a 1,200-year bridge were crossed, putting Francis in the shoes of the original wayfaring apostles themselves. 

“He spent his remaining days making Christ real to everyone he met—a passion leading to history’s first living nativity scene. On December 24, 1223, Francis found a cave near Greccio, Italy, and brought in animals traditionally associated with the birth of Christ. (Francis loved animals and sometimes even preached to them.) He built the crib, arranged the hay, and finished the scene. Crowds gathered full of curiosity and wonder; and there on Christmas Eve Francis preached the wonder of God made man, born a naked infant and laid in the manger. ‘Behold your God,’ he said, ‘a poor and helpless Child, the ox and donkey beside Him. Your God is of your flesh.’ 

“Glitz gave way to glory that evening as the people of Greccio learned afresh how to spell the word Christmas.” —From On This Day 

This Advent season, let us remember that there is no Christmas without Christ! 

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophesy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

Living Nativity

We love presenting the message of Christ’s arrival in Bethlehem to our Cedar Springs community.

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Who Is Santa Claus?

What's In The BibleOnce as we were getting things setup around our manger for our annual living nativity, I was carrying a baby doll to the manger for our Mary to hold as the newborn Jesus. A young boy standing nearby innocently asked me, “Who is that?”

I asked him, “Who do you think it is?”

He paused for a moment, and then a smile lit up his face, “Is it baby Santa?!?”

I can understand his confusion! In America today our celebrations of St. Nicholas’ Day and Christ’s Mass have blurred together in a weird mishmash of names and ideas. Here is a wonderful video from Phil Vischer and his What’s In The Bible characters trying to sort this all out.

Living Nativity 2012

We were so honored to be able to present the story of the birth of Jesus in downtown Cedar Springs again this year. We had a nice introduction from Mayor Bob Truesdale, and a great crowd was on had to see this story come alive. I have way too many people to thank, so I hope I don’t leave anyone out…

  • Joe built the manger
  • Josh, Judy, Samantha, Crystal, Cherie, Jeff, Harrison & Rich were the actors
  • Cindy and her 4H kids were our little shepherds
  • Nancy brought out her horses
  • Claudia and Betsy conceived and designed all our costumes
  • The Cedar Springs Chamber of Commerce gave us room on their agenda to present this story
  • Brandon shot the video
  • God gave us absolutely beautiful weather so a big crowd could hear the story of our Savior being born as a baby because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son!

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The Christmas Story

Would you like to help us tell the Christmas story to Cedar Springs this year?

I’m excited that Calvary Assembly of God has been asked again this year to present our Living Nativity during Cedar Springs’ Christmas tree lighting event. This will take place on Saturday, December 1, at 5pm.

We are need of some helpers:

  • Workers to help us assemble the manger.
  • “Actors” in the play—you won’t have any lines to learn; you just need to wear the costume of a shepherd, an angel, etc.
  • Animal-lovers who will let us borrow their animals to help create our manger scene.

If you are available to help, please click here to email me.

I’m looking forward to sharing the real Christmas story with our city!

ICYMI

In case you missed it, here are a few things worth checking out…

An incredibly uplifting movie about believing great things for yourself and for others: The Butterfly Circus [a 20-minute short film].

A great interview with President George W. Bush on Focus On The Family. Part one is here, and part two is here http://only.

So glad this didn’t happen in our Living Nativity: Check out this YouTube clip [30-second video].

To get you ready for Christmas, a special price on the Kindle version of Lee Strobel’s excellent book The Case For Christmas: get the download here for ust $1.99.

What did you come across this week that we may have missed? Please share a link (or two) in the

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