Thanksgiving is over and December is upon us; our attention now turns to Christmas. As Christians we are keenly aware that many in our culture will observe this holiday in a very secular manner, giving nary a thought to the incarnation unless there is a passing nod to a crèche. But do we ever question our own celebrations? There is good Biblical precedent for doing so! Moses instructs the fathers to answer their children when they ask about the Passover (Exodus 12:26-27), and Joshua says the same thing about the memorial stones (Joshua 4:6, 21). As you participate in your own unique family traditions, do you ever share with your children or grandchildren where and how and why you do what you do? We all need to be more able and eager to share with our children and everyone around the truth about why we celebrate Christmas! Tell others about “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done . . . that the next generation might know them, . . . so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:4-7). Here is the beginning of a Christmas Primer that you can feel free to add to and change as your share the blessing of Christmas.
A is for Advent
Advent comes from the Latin word for “arrival”. At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of God in the Flesh, the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Traditionally many churches take the four Sundays preceding December 25th to prepare hearts and minds and homes so that Christ is the center of our celebration.
This time to prepare is precious, but needs to be protected. Many of us feel ‘crazy busy’ at this time of year, but as one advent devotional paraphrased Mark 8:36, “What does it profit a person . . . if one gets all of the cards mailed and the shopping done and goes to all the parties and wraps everything in time for Christmas Day . . . and loses one’s soul?” (A Guide to Advent by Urban Skye Publishing).
So let me encourage you to participate in some kind of advent devotional time. Schedule it, and keep it. There are numerous resources available – check out the family advent devotional published by the PCA in the foyer, especially if you have children (or grandchildren). We will be looking at the nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke in our corporate worship, read them and meditate on them privately as well. Above all, pause and pray as the pressures of life increase for many this month. And as we celebrate the miracle of Christmas, the reality of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem long ago, remember that Jesus promised to come again! Are you ready for the second coming of Christ?
B is for Blessing
In the midst of acknowledging and celebrating many other blessings, be careful to exult in Christ above all else. God has given us so much, but everything else should pale in comparison with the greatest gift of all – His Son, our Savior. This advent season make sure that you know (in your heart as well as your mind) who Jesus is and why He came. And the answer to those questions is certainly not limited to the passages we typically read at Christmas time. The whole counsel of God, the entire Bible reveals God and His plan of salvation. Study the promises and the prophecies. Examine the narratives of God’s gracious dealings with and directing of His people, especially through Abraham and Moses and David. Pause between Malachi and Matthew and recognize the 400 years of silence before the angel spoke to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and sang to the shepherds. Delve into the Gospels and Epistles and soak up the fullness of grace and glory that Jesus brings. Check out Joel Beeke’s new book, Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation to be delighted with some answers to the question, “Why.”
And as you grow in your own understanding of God’s great blessing to you in Christ, be a blessing to those around you. Announce the truth of the Gospel and invite all those around you to share in the blessing of salvation. That doesn’t mean we berate folks! But it does mean that we are bold and pray for opportunities to show others the reality of God’s gift to us as we serve them.
C is for Celebrate
Christians have the best reason to be happy and joyful and share that joy with others this season. We who were sinners, enemies of God, have been saved! Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again so that we would be forgiven and given new life! Yes, this time of year can be very hard, very stressful, and sometimes painful; we ought not to minimize those things. But we can sing with the angels when we recognize that Jesus has promised to be with us (Emmanuel) even as He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him (see Mark 8:34). Whether you celebrate with many or few or even alone this year, I pray that your heart will rejoice over Jesus Christ your Savior.
Here is a December challenge for you: can you finish the alphabet for Christmas? Feel free to change it all up; maybe you would have said that A is for Announcement and B is for Baby and C is for Christmas! What about the rest of the letters? There are 26 total, can you figure out one a day? If you do, please share it with the rest of us!