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What Christmas Is Really About

(And why it’s so scary!)

December 21, 2011

Christmas - the time when we hear so much about how it brings out the best in people - it's time to give gifts - it's time to be nice to other people - all those things.

Scary stuff - isn't it?

And then there's the baby - Jesus - the true "reason for the season".
A little baby.
Very scary.

Don't laugh.
It's true.


When Jesus was first born -

Mt 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Mt 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

...

Mt 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Mt 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

...

Mt 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

This is fear -
the great King Herod was afraid -
someone willing to kill innocent babies -
all the boys two years and younger had to die -
because the king was afraid.

Some little baby was born -
and the king was afraid.
Obviously - he was scared.
And he was willing to kill to overcome his fear.

But - it didn't work -
The baby didn't die -

Mt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Mt 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The baby didn't die -
because God can take care of Himself.


So - why was Herod so afraid?

Because it was the beginning of the end.
His end -
the end of his reign -
or so he thought.
In reality - Jesus wasn't here to overthrow Herod -
He was here to overthrow Satan.


Fast forward now to many years later -
when the baby is now a man -
and He has just raised Lazarus from the dead -

Jn 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Here we have the Jewish leaders - doing something very similar to what Herod had tried to do earlier - kill Jesus.
They were also afraid -
afraid that they would lose their Jewish nation, because if there was too much trouble the Romans would crush them -
afraid that they would lose their power over the people - because Jesus was claiming to be God and turning the people away from them and all the rules that had put on top of God's commandments.

But again - it didn't work -
Jesus didn't die -

Jn 11:54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

Jesus didn't die -
because God can take care of Himself.


So - why were they so afraid?

Yes - again
it was the beginning of the end.
Their end -
the end of their reign -
or so they thought.
In reality - Jesus wasn't here to overthrow the Jewish leaders -
He was here to overthrow Satan.


Fast forward a few more years -
Jesus has been crucified -
He's dying on the cross -
some are celebrating - mocking Him -
they finally reached their objective.


Or did they?

Lk 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Lk 23:47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.


But still - He's dead,
isn't He?


Lk 24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.


So - it still didn't work.
Jesus is still alive.

Now - it's really the beginning of the end.
The beginning of the end of Satan's reign.

Up to the point where Jesus is born -
maybe Satan can convince himself that all this prophecy stuff is just nonsense -
fear tactics -
none of it's really going to happen.

But it does happen - Jesus is born.
And that's what we're celebrating with Christmas.

And that's cause for fear -
fear for those who don't want to believe.


After Jesus dies -
and after He rises again -
that would be what we now call Easter -
yet another cause for fear presents itself.
One more chance to say that it's all God making up stories goes by the wayside for Satan.
The end is nearer than ever.


By now - one would think Satan would pretty much know this isn't all just talk.
There has to be something to it.

Whether that's true or not - we don't know.
Maybe Satan does know and he just wants to take as many of us with him as possible - maybe he really doesn't believe it - who knows - certainly not us.


But the one thing that remains -
for us -
fear.

Fear -
for people like Herod and the Jewish leaders - who are in a position of power and don't want to lose it -
for people who believe what others tell them - who don't want to believe that Jesus is real -
for people who are under the control of Satan - who don't want to believe that Jesus is real -
fear of the unknown -
even if the unknown is better than the known.


And so we have all sorts of things to distract us from what Christmas is really about -

We have Christmas trees - and arguments over whether it's OK to put one up on public property because it might be promoting religion.

We have Santa Claus - who was recently in hot water when a group of firemen was told that they can't dress up like Santa and give presents at a school - because it would be a violation of the "separation of church and state". Seriously? Santa Claus is now part of the church? BTW - this was changed, so the fire department can dress up like Santa. Good grief.

These are just two examples - there are so many more.

But I bring them up to make a point -
to give us an idea from what Jesus Himself said - and from what we've seen God is capable of doing -

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the Word, He included the following statement -

Mt 10:11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Let me paraphrase this -

if the people you encounter are not deserving - let your peace stay with you.
if you are not welcome - just leave.
remain innocent and peaceful.
God can take care of Himself -
when the time comes, God will take care of things.


A little later in the same words that Jesus has for His disciples as they are about to go among the people, He also says -

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

And to paraphrase this segment -

don't worry about things that may kill you here on earth - worry about the things that will take your soul.
you are important - to the Father - remember that.


So - when we encounter things like fights over Santa Claus -
Christmas trees -
remember what's really important -
remember how we are told to respond -


Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.


as innocent as doves.


God can - and will - take care of Himself.


Christmas is a celebration of the beginning -
the beginning of the life of Jesus -
the beginning of God taking care of His own -
the beginning of Himself in human form - as Jesus.


Those who are afraid of this -
they don't need our anger -
they don't need our outbursts against them -
they need our example -
and they need our prayer.


I still have a problem with this sometimes.
I used to be really upset over some of these things -
Still am sometimes - but not as much as before.

Then this morning I'm walking the dogs -
the feeling like I should write this article -
like there's something in it to get out to people -
now I realize there's still some of this for me too.

Now at the end, I'm reminded of the ever popular arguments over whether it's OK to have nativity scenes on public property.
Let me ask that a little differently.
Is it necessary to have them on public property?
We are allowed to have them on church property.
We are allowed to have them on private property.
Is it really necessary to have them on public property?
Is it even worth fighting over -
or are we being caught up in yet another trap to keep us from the real meaning of Christmas?
<Note - this is from the point of view of people in the U.S. In some parts of the world, putting up a nativity scene even on private property could get one killed. That's a whole different story - and evidence of just how scared some people are.>

Is it an argument designed to keep us from being as innocent as doves?


This type of trap was laid for Jesus

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.


And there's a message here for us too.


be shrewd

be innocent


be Christ like

be Christian.