Christmas Reading: December 20

After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:17, 20 CSB)

God chose shepherds as the first people to hear the news about Jesus’ birth. That’s a beautiful thought on its own, and one we’ve talked about previously.

But what’s also interesting is how the shepherds respond to this news. Faith is not passive but active. God acts, then we react. And the shepherds’ reaction is worth imitating.

The shepherds see

After hearing about Jesus, they go and investigate. They look for themselves. This is important for us to do as well. The New Testament and its message about Jesus are worth our consideration. Can the Gospel accounts be trusted? Did the resurrection really happen? Is Jesus alive and calling me today? These are questions worth exploring. We need to see for ourselves.

The shepherds tell

After seeing Jesus, they tell others about Him. They realize that Jesus’ birth is good news for everyone, so they spread the word. We do this in all kinds of areas. When we see something great, we naturally tell others. The gospel is no different.

The shepherds worship

The text says they returned “glorying and praising God”. This can take many forms. We should worship in our words, by praying and thanking God continually. We should worship with singing. We should worship with our actions, living righteously and pursuing love and justice in the world.

To know Jesus, we’d be wise to learn from the shepherds.

Christmas Reading: December 19

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23 CSB)

Immanuel. One of the sweetest names to describe our God. It means “God is with us”.

Many times in my own life I’ve found comfort in this name. I’ve reminded myself when I’m nervous or when I’m stressed that “God is with me.”

But lately I’ve been thinking about how the name doesn’t mean “God is with me”. Certainly He is with me. In fact it’s better than that… He’s in me. We are united.

But the name means “God is with us”. Plural.

As much as there’s a personal dimension to my faith, there’s also a corporate dimension. WE is just as important as ME.

Jesus didn’t just die for MY sins. He died for OUR sins. Jesus didn’t just unite ME to Himself. He united ME to YOU and US to Himself.

We don’t enter a service on Sundays to close our eyes and imagine that “it’s just ME and GOD right now”. No. WE gather with others. WE come into His presence together. WE sing together. WE listen to God’s Word together. WE take the supper together.

When this begins to sink in, something changes. My faith can’t just be a private, personal thing anymore. It has to be connected to a community. It has to impact the way I live towards others. It makes ME concerned about WE.

My “closeness” with God, my “fellowship” with Him, is not primarily measured by how much I read my Bible, or how much I pray, or how “fed” I feel. It’s primarily measured by my love for the “US” God is with.

God is with US. So let’s… US be with US.

Christmas Reading: December 18

This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12 CSB)

God often used signs to confirm things for His people. The rainbow was a sign for Noah, circumcision was a sign for Abraham, Moses’ miracles were signs, Gideon had a fleece, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles did lots of other miraculous signs.

All of these signs were special. They were radical or miraculous.

The sign God gives the shepherds is underwhelming to say the least. Especially compared to some of the mind-blowing signs He’d done in the Old Testament. The greatest moment in history… the birth of God’s son… and this is the best God can come up with?

It’s the simplest of signs. There’s nothing spectacular about it. There’s nothing big, flashy, attention-grabbing. And yet, the significance is in its simplicity. Jesus, the glorious King, enters our world as a baby in a manger.

Eventually, Jesus will do the big and flashy. He’ll turn water into wine, walk on water, feed thousands, calm storms, heal the blind, command demons, raise the dead.

But He’s content to let His entry be normal. It’s so simple, you could miss it.

And aren’t so many of the beautiful, significant things in life like this?

  • Watching a baby smile and giggle…
  • The first snow of the season…
  • Sleeping in on Saturdays…
  • Eating your favorite dessert…
  • Sitting and talking with friends…
  • Going for a ride with your grandad…

At Christmas, God uniquely demonstrates that there’s glory in the small things. He’s the God of the “Wow!” and unbelievable, but not everything meaningful and glorious has to be big. He’s numbered the hairs on your head. He admires the flowers and birds.

Unless we understand this, then just like the rest of Bethlehem, we’ll miss the good things God is doing. We’ll wander through life looking forward to the big, disappointed with the routine and mundane.

But if we understand this, then like the shepherds, we’ll be able to rejoice at the glory in the simple things God is doing.

Christmas Reading: December 17

Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 CSB)

Christmas is when God sent His Son into the world. By “world”, of course we mean planet earth. But we mean more than that. Jesus was sent into our broken world. The place where darkness reigns. The place of evil, suffering, pain, and despair.

Jesus came into this world in order to save it. He is the Light that shines in the darkness.

And before Jesus ascended back to His Father, He made this interesting statement— As the Father sent me, I also send you.

Jesus, the true light, sends us to be light. He has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation. We are His ambassadors, as if He’s making His appeal through us.

This has huge implications.

We are to enter dark places. We are to overcome evil in the world with good. We are to shine light on injustice. We are to offer hope to the hurting. We are to live with integrity, compassion, and patience.

Christmas is not passive. For us to truly understand and embrace Christmas, we have to lace up our boots. We have to go. Jesus is sending us, just as He was sent.

Where is He sending you? Where can you be light?

Go.

Christmas Reading: December 16

Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. (1 Corinthians 9:19 CSB)

What’s amazing as you read Paul’s words here, is they could’ve just as easily been spoken by Jesus.

Paul understood that the story of Jesus should change the way we minister to people. When we shape what our ministries look like, we should always start by asking, “What does God’s ministry look like?”

God’s ministry is relatable. In order to care for His people, He identifies with them and walks where they’ve walked. He did this throughout the Old Testament, revealing Himself through various cultural means they would understand. The Bible itself is evidence of this, God speaking a language people can understand.

God’s ministry is most evident in the person of Jesus. God became one of us to save us. Though he was free and not anyone’s slave, he made himself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.

This has huge implications for how we do ministry. 

  • We should be passionate about Bible translation. We should strive to make the gospel accessible in as many languages as possible, because that’s what we see Jesus doing, the Word becoming a man.
  • We should teach and speak in ways people understand. “Church lingo” needs to be carefully thought about. Preachers/teachers need to avoid complicated jargon.
  • We should be present and active in our communities. We should go where people are. We should enter every nation, every culture, every coffee shop, every workout complex, every section of the library, not to condemn, but to make friends and serve.
  • We should be thinking about ways to share the gospel. If your “gospel presentation” is always the “four spiritual laws” or the “Romans road” or something like that, take more time to think about it. How does the gospel apply to these people uniquely? How can you meet them where they are with the gospel?
  • We should be aware of what people in our culture are feeling, and care about what they care about. Even if we eventually disagree with people, we should be empathetic, listen, and seek to understand.

At Christmas, we’re reminded that God relates to us in order to save us. We should look for ways to do the same.