Christmas Isn’t for Snobs

“God chose what is low and despised in the world…”

1 Corinthians 1:28

Through his insightful perspective on the Christmas narrative, Tim Keller provides a convicting reminder that salvation comes to the humble, rather than the haughty… 

Have you ever noticed how women-centric the incarnation and resurrection narratives are? Do you realize that women, not men, are at the very center of these stories?

For example, in the story of the resurrection, who was the only person in the world who knew that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead? Mary Magdelene, a former mental patient, is the one Jesus tells to take this news to the world. Everyone else in the whole world learns it from her. Women are the first people to see Jesus risen from the dead.

In the incarnation, the annunciation comes to a woman. God penetrates the world through the womb of a poor, unwed, Jewish, teenage girl. The first theological reflection group trying to wrap their minds around this to figure out what this means and what is going on is Mary and Elizabeth.

We know that in those days women had a very, very low status. They were marginalized and oppressed. For example, we know that a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. Why? Because of prejudice against women.

We say to ourselves, aren’t we glad we’re past all that? Yes, but here’s what we have to realize: God is deliberately working with people the world despises. The very first witnesses to his nativity and resurrection are people whom the world says you can’t trust, people the world looks down on.

Because we don’t look down on women today, we don’t look at this part of the story and realize what we’re being told. But here’s what we’re being told: Christmas is the end of snobbishness. Christmas is the end of thinking, Oh, that kind of person.

You don’t despise women, but you despise somebody. (Oh, yes you do!) You may not be a racist, but you certainly despise racists. You may not be a bigot, but you have certain people about which you think, They’re the reason for the problems in the world…

Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. It is telling you that people who are saved are not those who have arisen through their own ability to be what God wants them to be. Salvation comes to those who are willing to admit how weak they are.

[“The Gifts of Christmas,” in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus]

This Christmas, may we become more like our Savior who never believed He was too good to reach out to the greatest of sinners.

Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner

Rejoice! You Always Have a Reason

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:14

For sufferers, Christmas can be an especially challenging time of year. Words like joy, peace, and other common themes of the season feel entirely out of place to hearts weighed down with sorrow over earthly circumstances.

On the night of Christ’s birth, the angels proclaimed they were bringing good news of great joy, but we can easily lose sight of how good that news is when we consider the great suffering that still exists in this world. At times, we can easily relate to Longfellow’s sentiments:

“And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'”

Pastor Ray Ortlund reminds us that our reason for rejoicing is only found when we shift our focus from earthly pain to heavenly purposes… 

God will make sure that he is supremely glorified. “Glory to God in the highest” is the chorus of the angels broadcast into this world of enslavement to drugs and cynical lies and broken dreams and national disgrace. “Glory to God in the highest” proclaims that there is something higher than the height of our sin. God reigns supreme over all, and God will not allow evil to succeed here in his world. He will get himself glory out of this world. And so he should.

If God’s heart is attuned to love only what is best, then God loves his own glory above all else. He will share his glory with no one, and that is the most wonderful thing of all about God. He will not unGod himself. What if he did? Where would we be then? He steadily, faithfully guides history and our lives toward a God-glorifying conclusion.

Isn’t it interesting how in Christmas cards on public displays we often see the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men”? But how seldom we see the prior words, “Glory to God in the highest”! But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God’s glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified.

Would you or I have begun this announcement the way the angels did, with glory to God first? Obviously, the angels did not understand the importance of relevance and contextualization and meeting felt needs. They started with God, not with peace on earth! Why? Because the most relevant message to this sin-ruined world was, is, and always will be, “Glory to God in the highest.”

Our whole problem is our God-neglect. But the best news for sinners like you and me is that, whatever we might do, God is still God, God is glorious, and God’s glory is supreme over all other realities. And when his glorious kingdom is finally consummated, then there will be perfect peace on earth, good will toward men…

God has come to us in Christ to bring glory to himself in the highest as he grants us peace here in our lives. What can we do but rejoice? 

[Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, pp. 101-102]

Christmas reminds us that perfect peace is coming. What a promise!

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'”

Photo: Billy Alexander

The Message of the Magi’s Gifts

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshiped him.”

Matthew 2:10-11

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh–they are perhaps the most famous gifts ever given, yet not many of us know too much about them. In the following Q & A, John MacArthur explains the symbolism behind the trio of gifts presented to Jesus by the Magi…

In his sermon “The Christ of Christmas,” James Montgomery Boice offered the following points of application in light of the symbolism of the wise men’s gifts: 

There is a sense in which by faith we too may present our gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.

Begin with your myrrh. Myrrh is not only a symbol of Christ’s death but also of the spiritual death that should come to you for your sin. Lay it at Christ’s feet, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am less perfect than you are and am a sinner. I know that I should receive the consequence of my sin, which is to be barred from your presence forever. But you took my sin, dying in my place. I believe that. Now I ask you to accept me as your child forever.”

After you have done that, come with your incense, acknowledging that your life is as impure as the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is sinless. The Bible teaches that there is no good in man that is not mixed with evil. But it also teaches that Christ comes to live in the believer so that the good deeds produced in his or her life may become in their turn “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

Finally, come with your gold. Gold symbolizes royalty. So when you come with your gold you acknowledge the right of Christ to rule your life. You say, “I am your servant; you are my Master. Direct my life and lead me in it so that I might grow up spiritually to honor and to serve you accordingly.”

If you have come believing in all that the myrrh, incense, and gold signify, you have embarked on a path of great spiritual joy and blessing. For those are the gifts of faith. They are the only things we can offer to the one who by grace has given all things to us.

~Excerpt taken from Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie