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Opening Christmas

21-Dec-Opening-ChristmasSome Ideas on “Opening Christmas” to Yourself and Those You Love and Lead:

 
(These “spiritual ingredients” will need to be worked on to make them age appropriate for those with whom you are sharing them)
 

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Three “Ways of God” from the Christmas Story:

1. God operates in the fullness of time.

Scripture: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

Scripture does not fully explain why God waited until that exact moment for the birth of Christ.

What we do know is that this birth was foretold in the Old Testament (the birth and life of Jesus fulfilled over 300 Bible prophesies.)

From the time of the last book of the Jewish Scriptures until the birth of Christ there are 400 years, sometimes called the 400 silent years. While there was no Scripture being written, no prophesies being made, there were prophesies being fulfilled as God brought world events to the place of fulfilling prophesy.

 

Waiting is part of being a follower of Christ.

Some Examples:

Childless couple–Abraham and Sarah

I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. (Genesis 17:6 ESV)

From the time of the promise to its fulfillment–25 years

Moses:

His life divides into three 40 year periods:

   • 40 years in Pharaoh’s household

   • 40 years as a shepherd among the Midianites

   • 40 years leading his people out of Egypt and to the brink of the Promised Land

King David:

Later in Israel’s history–kings. King Saul fails God and Samuel is instructed to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. We do not have an exact age for David at this time–but by comparing other dates we know, David was a teenager–probably mid-teens.

Anointed–but still tending sheep!

[14] David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, [15] but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. (1 Samuel 17:14-15 ESV)

2 Samuel 5:4: David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.

He waited at least 15 years for what God promised to come to pass. He resisted the urge to accelerate the process–on two occasions he could have easily killed the reigning king himself. His waiting showed his faith.

David wrote this:

But I trust in you, O LORD;
       I say, “You are my God.”       
My times are in your hand;
      rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
       save me in your steadfast love!
(Psalm 31:14-16 ESV)

Some New Testament examples of waiting:

Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity before his three to four years public ministry.

The Apostle Paul, when he was converted on his way to Damascus, tells his story this way:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, [16] was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; [17] nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus [18] Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:15-18 )

Two Greek words translated “time” in English:

Chronos: We get the word chronograph, which can be used of a wristwatch or a clock, but is usually used of a stopwatch or other instrument that measures time in a very precise way.

Kairo: Sometimes used to designate linear time, but normally used as “due measure, due proportion,” when used of “time,” signified “a fixed or definite period, a season,” sometimes an opportune or seasonable “time,” e.g., Romans 5:6 , RV, “season;” Galatians 6:10 , “opportunity.”

Kairos: the appointed time in the purpose of God.

We live in chronos, God thinks of time as kairos: when the season is at hand, when the opportune time has come.

Don’t put a stopwatch on God. The One who lives in eternity does not think of time in the way that you or I do.

• Waiting on God is not a passive act. Through waiting we become more aware of God and of ourselves. This changes us.

• This is the slow work of transformation that cannot be sped up. It is slow, not because God does not love us, but because God has greater purposes in mind.

• It clarifies what is essential. What we truly want and truly need.

Christmas is certainly a time when kids will identify with the idea of waiting – our culture is all about instant, but Christmas is a time of counting down, of anticipation.

Make it personal: Share a time when you were “in a hurry,” but God was not. Looking back, how do you see God’s timing as the right timing—the fullness of time?

Help your children understand the ways of God include waiting for His “fullness of time.”

 

2. Doing the will of God is more important than looking good.

In the Christmas Story, the main characters were all favored by God. In each case, God asked them to obey a command, that would, at least for awhile, make them look less spiritual to those around them. Nevertheless, they obeyed, to the glory of God.

Three examples—Mary, Joseph, Jesus

• Mary

[30] And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [31] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” [34] And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” [35] And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. [36] And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. [37] For nothing will be impossible with God.” [38] And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:30-38 ESV)

Mary was sexually pure before marriage as she should be. Saying yes to God exposed her to ridicule as people would see the unmarried pregnant girl as spiritually and morally compromised. This was necessary in order that Jesus could be fully God and fully man (the Word became flesh [John 1:14]). God’s glory required a costly obedience.

Pick out the Scripture above where Mary pledges her obedience.

• Joseph

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

Scripture is clear—Mary and Joseph had not been intimate. What is also clear is this: Joseph was not believing this story about the Holy Spirit. Imagine the hurt to Joseph as his precious Mary came to him with this news. Imagine her hurt that he did not believe her. What did it take to change Joseph’s mind?

Here we have another case of Joseph’s reputation suffering in the short run in order that God’s will could be accomplished. I am sure most of those who knew Mary and Joseph looked at this baby as Joseph’s baby and looked at both Mary and Joseph as lawbreakers.

• Jesus

This is the only begotten Son of God, in the words of Scripture:

[6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 ESV)

Make it personal: Share a time when you sacrificed your own reputation/comfort in order to do the will of God. How did it turn out?

Help your children understand the ways of God include sacrificing our own reputation for God’s glory.

3. It is good news for everybody.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

Jesus’ first visitors were shepherds and wise men.

shepherd-and-and-magi-chart-1024x343

Some background on shepherds:

Reputation of shepherds:

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (2:8)

Tending flocks, with agriculture, formed the basis of the Palestine economy, and sheep raised on the hillsides around Bethlehem may well have been destined for temple sacrifices in

Jerusalem, only six miles to the north. Jeremias describes a shepherd’s life: “The dryness of the ground made it necessary for the flocks of sheep and cattle to move about during the rainless summer and to stay for months at a time in isolated areas, far from the owner’s home. Hence, herding sheep was an independent and responsible job; indeed, in view of the threat of wild beasts and robbers, it could even be dangerous. Sometimes the owner himself (Luke 15:6; John 10:12) or his sons did the job. But usually it was done by hired shepherds, who only too often did not justify the confidence reposed in them (John 10:12-13).”

Some of Israel’s great heroes were shepherds — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Both Psalm 23 and Jesus compare God’s care to that of a Good Shepherd. But in the First Century, it seems, shepherds — specifically, hireling shepherds — had a rather unsavory reputation. Jeremias cites Rabbinic sources to the effect that “most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.” Because they were often months at a time without supervision, they were often accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock. Consequently, the pious were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property. Shepherds were not allowed to fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses. A midrash on Psalm 23:2 reads, “There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.”  Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (25 BC – 45 AD), wrote about looking after sheep and goats, “Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious.”

Some background on maji:

Gentile “wise men” wise men (Gk. magoi, plural of magos) referred to priests and experts in mysteries in Persia and Babylon (cf. Septuagint of Dan. 1:20; 2:2, 10, 27; etc.), but by this time it applied to a wide range of people whose practices included astrology, dream interpretation, study of sacred writings, the pursuit of wisdom, and magic.

All people regardless of their background need Jesus. Note what the angel announced to the shepherds—a                                 , who is Christ the Lord. He is the Savior of the entire world.

Make it personal—Share your testimony of how you came to Christ. What obstacles did God overcome?

How should this truth change how we celebrate Christmas?

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