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Keeping Christ in Christmas - A Devotion

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Luke 2:8-15 (NLT)
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 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.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Entering the smelly and over-packed of our youngest child’s elementary school, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of all the times that we have done this over the years. Sitting with our adult daughter and teenager with grandma in tow while watching my husband counting the songs on the program like he has done every other time, it is a bit nostalgic. She is our last one in elementary school and after almost twenty years of such events we are about to cross the finish line. As I look around at all the faces, I realize that I am not as young as I used to be watching parents struggle with rambunctious toddlers and quiet restless siblings. Yet I am not quite old enough to relate with the grandmas and grandpas who sit crowned in their glorious gray wearing colorful sweaters. As the children file in to make their debut, I cannot help but smile. Children are a symbol of hope. They are filled with innocence and joy simply enjoying life as they know it. It’s Christmas. With the great event only a week away, after shopping for loved ones, making preparations, I am well aware that it is coming but for just a few moments I revel in the moment. The children begin singing. One is dressed like Santa and a delightful snowman is wearing cowboy boots, but they sing of a newborn Savior and soon-coming King. This is not on the world’s agenda. It stands out immediately in a world that has pushed prayer out of schools to embrace all religions. The government dare to permit a nativity to be displayed now there are all kinds of nonsense in our state capital as people try to dismiss Christ from the celebration of His Birth. My husband and I smile at each other but one cannot help to wonder if there will be a write up in tomorrow’s paper or mad people in the superintendent’s office. Did they even notice the words of each song in the midst of such a colorful and festive display? As the holiday stress and mounting pressure to check everything off my long list melted away, I was brought into this moment on this very day to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas. The Savior – yes our Messiah came! Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth! The shepherds were afraid when the Heavens opened and the angels sang as the radiance of God’s Pleasure lit up the darkness. In that moment, in the same smelly and over-packed cafeteria – little ones sang praises to God in the highest and for just a moment lit up the darkness by putting Jesus back into the season.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

There are some people who abbreviate Christmas as X-mas. It is quite common and there are some who fear it is the world’s attempt to take Jesus out of the holiday season. Christmas is not only the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ but many pagan holidays all together. Just ask any child what it is all about and most will list things like gifts, Santa, cookies and winter break. But the abbreviation X-mas is not an attempt to separate Jesus from His Birth, but rather comes from the Greek letter X which means “Chi” and is commonly used as part of Christ’s name in early text. What man intends to use to separate our Savior from their tradition really is no separation at all. The arrival of Jesus Christ cannot be changed because we choose to ignore his birthday. I would like to ignore my own since I passed forty. It doesn’t make any sense to get in an uproar about taking Christ out of Christmas if we do not celebrate His Life every other day of the year. Many babies are celebrated at their birth. But there are many who become children, teenagers and adults who are not loved as they should be, neglected or even worse. We flock to children’s plays because we are drawn by their innocence and love of life. Children symbolize hope for the future that we have failed to accomplish will be carried on as we mold and shape these young individuals with love, affection and affirmation. But without Jesus there is no forever. Love is conditional. Joy is elusive. The world has no hope. God works in mysterious ways. “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) So as the world continually tries to separate themselves from God in fear, He is drawing them closer as they secretly give Him glory. God is desperate to reunite with His People. In pure devotion, He sent His One and Only Son to be sacrificed so that all mankind could be saved even those who attempt to leave Jesus Christ out of their tradition and customs. He loves you! He loves me! It is this passionate commitment that allows us to push away but God never let’s go! I can promise you this – I have two amazing sons who I love with all my heart and am very proud of. They are not perfect, but neither is their mother. I would not, could not ever give them as a sacrifice for you. They are my children now grown into adulthood. They are precious to me and even though I have more than one, I could never spare their life for another person. God sent His Only Son into the world that we might be saved. Whether we choose to embrace Him or push Him away, the fact remains – for us a child is born, to us a son is given!

Matthew 12:17-21 (NLT)
This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.”

If Jesus Christ is the “hope of all the world” then why are people afraid to worship Him. Why do we struggle to celebrate His Birthday? Why do people fear the One who brings hope and healing to the weak and dying? This would be considered a great humanitarian effort. We celebrate Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela for such efforts. But when it comes to a baby born in a manager who lived to die on a Cross for all mankind, we find it so offensive that we bar Him from classrooms and courtrooms calling out in the dark for hope to come. I have seen the common use of “X-mas” and even joined in outrage at its use until I studied its origin and found it all comes back to Jesus. Everything that we need to survive this life and live forever is found in the Hope of the World. Christmas is not a one-day or month-long celebration of a historical figure who made great contributions to better the world in which we live. He is the One who will rule and reign forever. Jesus conquered death and the grave so that you could step out confinement and live in real freedom that takes you from whatever you are facing by faith to experience confident hope that this too shall pass as His Plan and Purpose is fulfilled in our life. He is our Hope. The only we hope that people have to make it out of this world alive. Look at my Servant…we are afraid to look at Jesus Christ. The enemy has convinced us that He is a freedom-stealer rather than life-restorer. So rather than stepping into the Glory of God prepared and placed on this earth as a Gift to each of His Precious Children, we hold the bars to that which imprisons us tightly closed. Living in the filth and squalor of sin and darkness because we are afraid of the marvelous light. It is time to put Christ back in Christmas. No more happy holidays. But Merry Christmas, like you mean it. If we are afraid to utter His Name in salutation, then it holds no power in our life.

Psalm 42:4-5 (NLT)
My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Why do so many people experience depression during the holiday season? Because they have lost all hope. Maybe this year did not meet your expectations. Perhaps people have let you down. Is it possible that you have deferred hope for another day or looking for it from other sources? David writes of a sad heart. He then decides to put my hope in God. God has declared that the Name of His Son Jesus will be the Hope of the world…forever. You will change your mind about Christmas and every other day of the year when you begin to experience the confident hope derived from one’s faith in the Name of Jesus Christ. Could it be that God is using the celebration of this season whether tradition or not to stir up the world to see His Son? See even in the midst of controversy – the message goes out. We should be outraged every single day that Jesus cannot enter our schools or His Word inscribed on our courtrooms. Without Jesus Christ there is no hope because there is nothing credible in which to invest our faith. If you want to find the peace, joy and love that we all long for then it is definitely time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ now and forevermore. He is not just some baby born in unfortunate circumstances but a Powerful Being that set aside His Rightful Place to come into this world that we might recognize our need for a Savior – yet we still rebel. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus was born in a manager or palace – He still would have been rejected. His Profession did not give Him anymore influence and so it didn’t matter what He did for a living. He came to be our Hope. He is our Healer. Jesus restores those who seek Him as Lord and Savior. It doesn’t matter if your house is filled with tiny managers and a huge blow up nativity in the front yard. It is not important if you only say “Merry Christmas” refusing to ever part with Happy Holidays. If you do not have faith in Jesus Christ every single day of your life in addition to Christmas – you have no hope! Without hope, it is NOT going to be okay. Without faith, your life will always have limited potential no matter how perfect your tree or delectable your treats. Yes, Christmas is all about Jesus…but so is every other day of our life. Do you want be encouraged? Say His Name, “Jesus!” Get to know Him as Lord and Savior. The truth will keep you from being offended by the world’s attempts to keep Him out and love will overflow to continually try to open doors for others. Joy comes in worshiping the Lord every single day of our life and not on designated days or defined seasons.

Psalm 145:14-16 (NLT)
The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.

For over two years now, we have celebrated Christmas at the hospital where my son receives cancer treatment. His original treatment plan ended on December 23 and we raced home to celebrate. Thank you Lord for online shopping that year! Then the next year, we were back with our friends at the hospital. When I learned that we would be there this Christmas Eve, at first I was discouraged. Lord, not again. I am sick of seeing the holidays come and go in an infusion room. Where is our hope? Where is his healing? The Lord helps the fallen – it is in our weakness that He is able to use His Strength to our advantage. It is in our brokenness that we willingly surrender the load. Hope keeps my eyes on Jesus Christ. When what you hope for is the life of your son, trust me your eyes are focused completely on where it comes from? Christmas is no longer a celebration of a baby in a manager but a celebration of our Savior and Lord who took our sin, weaknesses and even disease nailing it to the Cross once and for all. Without hope, I would have succumbed to discouragement, depression and despair. But what I have found is that with Jesus I do not have to fear. Faith keeps me from falling. Hope is all that I need to be satisfied. His Name is Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether the world let’s Him in or tries to lock Him out. He lives inside of me. Everywhere I go, I take hope, joy, peace and love with me enough to satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing so if I keep Christ alive in me…every day is Christmas. I can celebrate life even in the face of certain death. So let’s keep Christ in Christmas. It begins with me. Stir Him up in me. Let me be a light in the darkness for the Light of the World rages like a wildfire on the inside of me so I can reflect to every man and woman that I encounter along the way! I have nothing to fear whether I meet Him at the manger or the Cross – Jesus is all that I need. So I will keep Christ in Christmas and His Hope alive in me. I will celebrate the Love of God demonstrated in His Gift of His Only Son, Jesus. I will go to the manger and bow my knee. I will stand at the foot of the Cross allowing His Love to pour over me. I will keep Christ in Christmas beginning with me!

I John 4:17-19 (NLT)
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

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