Every year I hear the complaints about the “war on Christmas” and “let’s keep ‘Christ’ in Christmas.” But Xmas means Christmas. In the ancient world, when every word was written with a quill and ink, people would often abbreviate names by using the first letter of the name. It saved space and saved ink. In Greek, the name Christos (Christ) begins with a big ol’ X. Jesus Christ (Iesous Christos) looked like this:
So that’s one thing we don’t have to be upset about. There is no “war on Christmas.” Xmas is STILL Christmas. 🙂
And now we get to talk about the story!
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.
Our culture loves Christmas Jesus—Baby Jesus in the manger. A few years back the movie Talladega Nights even made fun of America’s obsession with Baby Jesus:
Over the top, yes, but it highlights the way our culture wants to keep Jesus. If he remains forever an infant then he is no threat to us. A baby doesn’t call us to change. A baby doesn’t require we serve. But the baby was not the point of Jesus’ arrival. God became human (what we call the incarnation) for a bigger purpose.
In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.
Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
The whole point of Baby Jesus is so that the man Jesus could be the Savior of the world—the one who puts us back in a right relationship with God. This is the news that the angels declare to the shepherds. What leaves the shepherds amazed and seeking Jesus is the coming of this Savior into the world.
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.
It’s not about the baby—it’s about why the baby is here.
Don’t get so focused on the birth that you lose sight of the big picture—that God loves you and cares about your standing before him.
We’re going to have some reflection and response time. We have two songs that connect thematically with what we’ve been talking about. Think about the message and focus on the words of the songs.
Our first song is a remix of the classic “Joy to the World.” It takes the original Christmas hymn and adds the chorus:
Joy, unspeakable joy!
An overflowing well no tongue can tell.
Joy, unspeakable joy!
Rises in my soul—
Never lets me go!
As you listen, think about the fact that God loved you so much he chose to enter human history—to become one of us.
Ask yourself, “Why is this incarnation a cause for joy? Is this joy something I can embrace?”
Our second song this morning deals with a similar theme. Like the old Christmas hymn calls:
“O come, let us adore him!”
This new song calls us to adore him but helps us remember that, while the baby is wonderful, the coming of Jesus is not about his birth. Ultimately it’s about what he brings to us. He brings us the possibility of a reconciled relationship with God. And we know that Jesus will return for the Church one day.
The song declares:
Eternity’s King is coming again
Though all of the earth will fade away His truth will remain!
Let us adore Him!
This is the story of the birth—not that he came, but that he came with a purpose—the cross—and is coming again for you and for me.
– When I think about Christmas do I only think about the birth or do I see the bigger picture?
– Does the incarnation fill me with hope and joy and cause me to worship?
– What does it mean in my life if I would “come and adore him”?
Making It Real
– Ask yourself what it means that God announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field instead of to a royal court. What does that say about how God relates to us?
– This week, set imitate God by serving someone else without pomp and circumstance. Don’t tell others, just find a way to do something for someone else without making a big deal about it.
– At the end of the week share your God moments with us here on the site or on our page at Facebook!
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.