John tells us in the opening chapter to his gospel that “Jesus came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Rejection! What a sad thought. Imagine coming home for Christmas and being rejected by your own family, your own countrymen. But John goes on to declare that “But to as many as receive him to them he gave the right to become sons of God.” He also states that the eternal Son of God became flesh and blood, just like you and me, and he dwelt among us. The literal meaning of this is that He tabernacled, or pitched His tent among us.
He took on flesh and blood, and came to live among us for a time. He came in poverty, humility, vulnerability, and he came with a purpose. In fact, the Godhead had planned this all out before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9). Paul tells us that [He] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7 -11)
Christmas is all about coming home, all about family. As a Christian don’t feel guilty for buying presents, or singing a few secular carols along with the solid, Biblical ones. Gather your family around you and lavish your love and gifts and food on them, just as your Father in heaven lavishes upon you the greatest gift of all, His only begotten Son. Think about all of the settings, the stories and parables in the Bible that contain elements of marriage and the family. Look at the story of the prodigal, where the father receives back his wayward son. Think about Joseph receiving his brothers back into fellowship in Egypt, about Joseph going ahead and making Mary and the little one to come a part of his family. Jesus was born into a family. Jesus gave Lazarus back to his two sisters, and the little girl back to her father, Jairus. The relationship between a husband and a wife is described as just like the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:25-32). The Church is called the bride of Christ in Revelation 19:7; 21:2; and 21:9. In Luke 5:34, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom. Make big over family this Christmas to show how God Himself makes a big deal over us and brings us into His family, through Christ Jesus our Lord, and Savior.
Just another homeless family
Looking for a strangers charity
Joseph and Mary weren’t necessarily homeless. They were poor, displaced, in a desperate condition with Mary’s impending birth, to be sure, but not homeless. When you see a nativity scene, don’t automatically think “homeless.” Don’t turn the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem into a social gospel. Sure, there are great social ills in this world, and Christians should put hands and feet to their faith and be concerned about homelessness, and poverty, and famine; but that is not our great message of hope to the world.
The big problem with all of mankind is that we need to come home to God, because we are alienated from Him, hostile to Him, condemned by Him. When you see a depictions of the nativity, think about God providing the means to bring you home, a way for you and me to be reconciled to God, in fact, a way for anyone who will believe on His Son. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God Ephesians 2:19. God sent His son into the world to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:5.
This time of year we should remember those who cannot be home for Christmas. Many missionaries are in foriegn lands, spreading this very gospel I have been talking about. They are sacrificing friends and family, home and hearth, for the sake of Christ. Remember to pray for them, that their Lord and ours would be their father and mother, brother and sister. Pray that God would bless their ministry and shine the light of the gospel in many dark places.
Last of all, remember our men and women in the armed forces, stationed in foriegn lands, far from home. Pray they will come home safely soon. Pray that the gospel will spread by them where missionaries aren’t allowed to go. One of the grains of sand in Galatians 4:4 was that Pax Romana, and the Appian Way, and all of those Roman soldiers who heard and believed the gospel, and then gossiped the gospel from one end of the Roman Empire to the other. Pray that God will do it again, just like that.
Photo Acknowledgements: These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago at our second annual “Yuletide Tulsa”, which this year consisted of a four-performance dinner-theater style outreach held at Trinity Baptist Church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- Joseph and Mary: Ron and Anna make a perfect Joseph and Mary. They are the only people I know who look just as young now as they did when I first met them 30 years ago. Don’t let their looks deceive you, they are about my age.
- Missionary: Marie, with her husband John, is planning to return to the mission field in Israel sometime in 2006. They served first in Africa, and now in their “retirement” years just keep going back on these one- and two-year assignments. There are many opportunities like these to serve.
- Soldier: Isaac just returned from Afghanistan a couple of months ago, and is now out of the Marines. He currently works in a machine shop and plans to start college soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mose, who is still in Iraq, away from his wife and little daughter.
- Choir: Trinity’s own Celebration Singers. They are the best. This is not all of them. The full choir is about twice as large.