Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Without Christ

The following is a guest post on my blog by my good friend Det Bowers.

There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.[1]


Cultural Christians celebrate Christmas without Christ.  They have read the story of Christ’s birth and they understand the season. They appreciate the holiday from work or school and they welcome the good cheer.  Nevertheless, they have no personal relationship with Jesus. 

The season of Christ’s birth has become more of a “man-mas” than a “Christ-mas.”  Gold, frankincense, myrrh, busyness and stress have replaced the simplicity of a peasant’s womb, an unadorned manger, and God’s holy Son cloaked in humble humanity so that you might be draped in His gown of righteousness.  The God who resided in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day determined to tabernacle in the flesh of His people.

Jesus’ incarnation fulfilled Scripture and humanized godliness.  He is the Seed of the woman (Eve).  Jesus is the One descended from a particular nation (Jews), a particular tribe (Judah), a particular family (David), a particular mother (Virgin), and in a particular place (Bethlehem Ephrathah). 

While the world slumbers in its sleep, you approach Bethlehem deliberately, expectantly and humbly.  Bare cupboards and empty pockets cannot keep you from your Lord Christ.

WHEREAS, there was a night like no other, and a child like no other; and
WHEREAS, God did bespeak His desire to have you good gentlefolk attend to the tidings of His Son; and
NOW, THEREFORE, GOD SPEED you in your pursuit of the Holy of Holies. 

O come, let us adore Him … We’ll praise His name forever…

We’ll give Him all the glory … For He alone is worthy … Christ the Lord.[2]

Though Christians think of Christmas as a peaceful time, it was birthed in conflict.  Christmas began in Eden with God’s promise to Satan that One coming from Eve would be the devil’s demise.[3]  The record provided by the sacred chroniclers of Christmas’ foretelling and happening is an immense understatement. 

The God of all creation, moved by holy mercy that births unconditional compassion, sent Himself (Immanuel) to a people who refused to receive Him.[4]  Abraham rejoiced to see His day and he saw it and was glad – Moses esteemed Christ’s reproach as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt – Job knew that his Redeemer did live and at the last He would take His stand on the earth.[5]  Immanuel, whose former condition was glorious, came amidst the censure of your world.[6]   

The decree of the pagan King Augustus moved Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judea where the prophecy of the ages would be fulfilled.  The world that was taxed with death would now be blessed with the only One able to remove the death-tax.  God did what man could not do and He accomplished His desires in ways designed to confound man’s imaginings.

No birth has ever been more humble yet glorious.  Consider a new star, myriads of angels declaring their hosannas, and wise men attending Jesus’ early childhood.  Simeon’s gnarled and spotted hands held eternity’s rest and peace.  Anna offered thanksgivings to her God and spoke of Immanuel to all who were interested in being redeemed. 

The Church was not ready for Christ’s first advent.  Humanity will not be ready for His final advent.

What is Christmas for you?  Family parties, clusters of ceiling-hung mistletoe tempting you, caroling, gifts, hearths with blazing fires and feasting on the finest meats, the freshest breads and the plumiest puddings.  Perhaps remembrances of your first bicycle, your prettiest doll or your favorite baseball glove capture your mind, or laughing about weddings and crying about funerals. 

Christmas affects people in varied ways.  O. Henry’s wife sold her beautiful hair to buy her husband a watch fob, while he sold his watch to buy her an expensive comb.  Christmas is the season when giving affects the giver more than the receiver because he realizes that God gave what cannot be wrapped in green and red paper – God’s gift, Immanuel, was wrapped in swaddling clothes. 

Christ’s teaching has influenced more people than all the potentates, parliaments and presidents the world has known.  For you, Christmas is a day of hope when Christ reclaims the center of life, the schedules of men and hearts of the godly.  Mary declared, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”[7]  Your soul also magnifies your Lord.  Though you cannot improve God’s awesomeness, you do recognize, appreciate and practice His glory. 

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a promise was made to the people who walk in darkness that they would see a great light, and to those who live in a dark land that light would shine on them?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a promise was made to a burdened people that the yoke of their burden, the staff on their shoulders and the rod of their oppressors would be broken?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a Child was born?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a Son was given?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the government of your life rested on the shoulders of this Son who was given?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Child who was born was called Wonderful Counselor?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Son who was given was called Mighty God?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Child who was born was called Eternal Father?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Son who was given was called Prince of Peace?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, you were promised there would be no end to the increase of His government or of His peace?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, these promises and these occurrences were all accomplished for you?

When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,
born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons.[8]


During your life, you receive few glimpses into heaven.  God leaves much to your study of Scripture.  Nonetheless, earth was allowed to pierce the heavenly veil when “suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”[9]

Your Lord’s company of angels praised God and their praises have been shouted down to humanity throughout the ages.  This angelic doxology was paralleled nearly three decades later when Jerusalem’s multitudes praised this same Jesus singing, “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!”[10]

The praises to God offered in the earth’s hearing bear a unique blessing.  The multitude of the heavenly host announced that peace would be the commonwealth of those “with whom He is pleased.”  The question of the ages is: “Who pleases God?”

Most people search for a better job, a better spouse, better children, better friends, and the list continues.  Nevertheless, you will not.  Your desire is to please God so you daily pray for a God-shaped conformity to the image of Christ.  You desire a resemblance to Simeon, Anna, and Joseph of Arimathea.[11]  Christmas is your season for recapturing the Christlikeness you have forfeited amidst the press of life.

During this season of your life, may your Lord Christ bless you and keep you; make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.[12]


God, You are the Holy One of Israel.  You alone have made glorious Zebulun, Naphtali and Galilee of the Gentiles.  In Your Light I see light.

I confess I am a person who walks in darkness and I live in a dark land.  I have rejected the increase of Your government and of Your peace in my life.  I have mocked the throne of David with my feeble practice of Christianity and confess that the zeal of the Lord of hosts has not become my own. 

I live in a land knowing no scarceness except the scarceness of holiness.  Strangers to the commonwealth of heaven, those ungraced with Christ, have yoked their lives with ruin.  Cause Your goodness to pass before me in order for me to witness Your holy glory.  Make me an uncommon vessel – uncommon because Christ perfumes my walk.

Will You increase my gladness by bringing me into Your presence?  Break the yoke of my burdens – remove the staff from my shoulders – spare the rod that scourges my back – free me from my love for this present darkness.  Fragrance me now with trusting eyes that I may more fully harness and practice the Lordship of my Immanuel Savior, Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen. 

[1] Lk. 2:11
[2] Traditional; Wade’s Cantus Diversi, 1751.
[3] Gen. 3:15
[4] Jn. 1:11
[5] Jn. 8:56; Heb. 11:26; Job 19:25, respectively.
[6] II Cor. 8:9
[7] Lk. 1:46f.
[8] Gal. 4:4f.
[9] Lk. 2:13f.
[10] Mt. 21:9
[11] Lk. 2:25, 38; Mk. 15:43
[12] Nu. 6:24-26

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