Ways to honor Christ this season
Here are some suggestions for honoring Jesus, while bypassing the world's mass-marketed and self-focused spiritual blends. God tells us to "behold" Him, "looking unto Jesus who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." He also warns us to shun deceptions and compromise. Perhaps you can add to the list:
Pray that God fill your hearts with His love and show you His perfect will for your family during this season. You may find answers in some of these Scriptures.
Ask God how He wants to celebrate the life of His Son. Be still enough to listen. His original celebration gives us a clue: He sent an angel to announce the momentous event and a host of angels to praise the newborn King.
Go outside with your children at night. If the sky above your home is lit by city lights, drive to the countryside where the darker skies highlight a profusion of stars. Lie down on the snow or grass and take time to gaze at the heavenly display. Find the brightest star in the sky. Remember the star that later led the three wise men to the royal child, which would have been far brighter than anything you see tonight. Thank God for the ways He chooses to lead you. Though Jesus may well have been born in the spring or summer, perhaps the dark, cold nights of winter is our best time for seeing the warm light of His glory.
Find some of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Savior and His humble birthplace. Match the prophecy to the New Testament fulfillment. Write the scriptures on 3x5 cards and pass them out to family members. You might even make a game out of matching the prophecy to the fulfillment.
Bake a cake and invite neighborhood or school children to a birthday party for Jesus. Then tell the Christmas story. Child Evangelism Fellowship had wonderful flannel boards for making God's Word come alive.
Help children make cookies to bring to neighbors -- especially immigrants from nations that may not know the reason we celebrate Christmas -- to homeless people, to nursing homes, etc. We have a mission field at our doorsteps.
Go caroling in your neighborhood.
Make a simple replica of the manger scene for you living room. Put a star above it.
Let children take turns reading the Christmas story from the Bible.
From Sherry Carlstrom: Our family is still prayerfully considering how to deal with this holiday as our children grow and we teach them more of the truth. This year we have decided to continue with tradition ( trees, gifts, "feasts", stockings etc. ) We have been reading scriptures from Isaiah and the story of Jesus birth which our children love to hear any time of the year.We have also used a wonderful product put out by Family Life which is available at many bookstores, it is called ADOREnaments. It features 12 beautiful "symbols" which emphasize other characteristics of Jesus ( Bread of Life, The True Vine, The Lion of Judah, The Giver of Living Water, The Light of the World.......) included is a nice devotional book with short lessons on each of the wonderful traits of our Savior. We have been reading 2 every night and then hanging them on the tree which our 6 year old decided will "symbolize" the cross which Jesus bore for us, we also made a cross ( out of wrapping paper rolls ) and stuck it at the top!
A friend sent this link: The customs of Christmas. You might want to compare these myths and customs with the actual Christmas story. Then discuss how, with time, nations and people replace the "faith of their fathers" with various cultural alternatives.
From Shari: WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT JESUS?(from a Christmas card)
He was born of a woman so that we could be born of God.
He humbled Himself so that we could be lifted up.
He became a servant so that we could be made heirs.
He suffered rejection so that we could become His friends.
He denied Himself so that we could freely receive all things.
He gave Himself so that He could bless us in every way!
From Michele: I LOVED your latest article about there being no Christ in Christmas anymore. I had been talking about this very subject to my husband the other day. You know, the rest of the world can do as it wishes, but Christ IS the emphasis at Christmastime in our family. I want my 3 small girls to feel the joy of Jesus' birth, not the joy of getting tons of presents.
Oh, you mentioned how hard it is to find religous wrapping paper. The mail order catalogue Current sells some! I've had a hard time finding religous ornaments in stores. I just don't want our tree covered in Santas, elves and cartoon characters.
From Sue: We emphasize the birth of Jesus (no Santa Claus in our house!) and each of us bought or made gifts for the others - it was a giving of gifts rather than a getting of gifts. So while everyone had fun opening their gifts on Christmas, they also saw what fun it was to GIVE gifts and also the Christ Child was the center.
From Kelly: We decided not to exchange gifts this year.... In lieu of gifts, he and I are volunteering together for a local children's organization that serves a Christmas dinner to approx. 1,000 needy, abused and disadvantaged kids in the area. The greatest gift that people can give is to give of themselves. So, forget about what other people might think of you for not giving them a gift, and give of yourself in their honor.
From Jeanne, our precious friend who died last spring of a brain tumor. She had written this article long before she was diagnosed with cancer:
Do you remember counting the days till Christmas, wondering if it would ever come? Isn’t it interesting that for a child the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas goes so slow, but for an adult that same period of time goes too fast? For those of you who opened presents on Christmas day, do you remember the long wait till the morning light?
I sure do! My parents told us that we had to wait till the sun started to rise before we could open our presents. My sister, brother and I would often wake up at night and sit by the window, watching for the sun. It seemed like an eternity before it would start peeking over the horizon. Then we’d run into the living room and open our presents. Christmas was always well worth the wait; a time of joyous anticipation and celebration of Christ’s birth.
I’d like for us to think about the first Christmas as a time of eager anticipation for the Jews. Most of them had studied the Hebrew Scriptures from childhood, and they knew much of it by heart. They were eagerly expecting a Messiah, for the Hebrew Scriptures were filled with references of the Messiah that was to come....
What so many of these Jews failed to realize was that the prophecies of the Messiah also included references to a Suffering Servant who would give His life as a sacrifice in order to reconcile men to God (Isaiah 53). The Messiah was to be a prophet, priest, and a king. Jesus came, fulfilling all the prophecies of his first coming and filling all three roles of the Messiah. ...
As we see the darkness of sin spreading more and more over the earth, we should not despair. Instead, this should cause us to lift up our heads with eager anticipation and hope, knowing our redemption draws near.
Jesus Himself said, "Even so, when you see all these things . . . you know that it is near, right at the door" (Matthew 24:33). As the saying goes, "It’s always darkest just before the dawn." The last days on earth simply precede the first days of all eternity for us, and heaven and all its glories will be well worth the wait.
As we celebrate the birthday of the baby Jesus, let us also remember that He is the King of glory! In fact, most of the Christmas carols give honor to Jesus Christ the King (Joy to the World, What Child is This, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful) and let us never forget that He is coming again as King, just as He said.....
Even so, come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:12-20)
(For the complete article by Jeanne Tomlinson, click on Hope For Those Who Hurt
Kip sent this story [Let it remind you to look for signs of His goodness everywhere]:
A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White would symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The hardness would point to the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church and the firmness of God's promises.
The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It would also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd” with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that me candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. The three small stripes show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal lift.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane—a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to near”. I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness to the wonder of Jesus and His great Love.
From Rev. William H. Plenge, Pastor
MAKE ROOM FOR JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD THIS SEASON
Slowly the innkeeper shook his head. It was not that he meant to be unkind to the man who stood anxiously before his door. What a pity it was to turn them away without lodging. But, there was absolutely no room for them anywhere in the inn. Every chamber was crammed in with the travelers who were now thronging the small village of Bethlehem to enroll for the royal census ordered by the emperor. "There is no room," the man said firmly. Perhaps then he said, "You may stay in the cattle shed. At least there is enough straw to keep you warm."
That night Almighty God pierced the darkness to visit the little Hebrew village nestled in the Judean hills. He did not stop at any of the comfortable homes of the local religious dignitaries. He did not stop at the palace, which was fit for the birth of a King. He did not even stop at the village inn. The Majesty on High came directly to the cattle shed behind the inn, and there He transformed it into the entry way of heaven.
As the cattle lowed in their stalls and the donkeys peered from the darkened corners, holy Scripture declares that Mary "brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger." (Luke 2:7) Laying aside His royal robes of eternal sovereignty, Jesus Christ, the Joy of Heaven, stepped down into a dark, troubled, wretched, sinful world. He came in human flesh, as the angel told Joseph, "he shall save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
The Light from heaven now glowed in that cattle shed, which had become the nursery of God. The straw surrounding the Son of the living God glowed with a gold far purer than that of Caesars crown.
On the nearby hillside shepherds watched in astonishment as the skies were ripped open and a choir of angels sang, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) The shepherds ran to see the long awaited Christ child for themselves. Before the night was over, these men knelt at the crib of the Son of God and bowed their heads and their hearts in moving adoration. Angels praised Him, shepherds knelt in worship before Him, and wise men were on the dusty roads heading for Jerusalem to bring Him gifts fit only for a king.
But where was the innkeeper? At home, asleep? Exhausted by the day's activities? Where were the religious folks? Who were they really looking for? What were they waiting for?
At this present time, Jesus Christ still stands at the door, not of Bethlehems inn, but at the heart of every man, woman and child. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." This is the greatest opportunity any one ever has ~ to come to know God Himself through His Son. To have a personal relationship with God and to know the peace and the joy of sins forgiven. AND to know you can have the assurance of heaven after life on this earth is over.
We are each transgressors of God's holy law, but Jesus came to save us from our sins. This is the further meaning behind His birth. He came tosuffer and to die. But, He rose again proving that He is the One who fulfilled all that the Scriptures foretold of Him.
But how many of us are just like the innkeeper? We only have a cattle shed to offer Him. Like that ancient inn, our lives are already too crowded to make room for the Christ, Who is God. Every chamber of our heart is so crammed with our own selfish desires, our ambitions, our plans, our wants and our wishes, that we simply have no room for God Himself.
Jesus Christ will no longer go to the cattle shed. Either we welcome Him into the inn of our hearts and lives or He will leave us forever to ourselves. Jesus will not accept second place or any other lesser place in our lives. There is no middle ground for the Son of God.
Once again, at this special season of the year, Jesus Christ stands knocking at your door. What will YOU do with Jesus?
From Joetta: Hi I have received a few replies about Christmas celebrations. I want to share these with you. Just thought they were good things to think about:
Our family has participated in Operation Christmas Child for the last 3 years and last year and this year we got a catalog in the mail where you can order things for needy people somewhere else in the world. We had a family meeting and agreed on an amount of money that each of us could use to order from the catalog in lieu of that money being spent on us for Christmas. I'm still buying gifts but have decreased the amount I will spend on each person by the amount that we spent on the catalog items. None of us has told anyone what we ordered and a friend of mine has agreed to fill out the order form and tell me the amount to write the check for. Each of us kept a list of what we ordered and will wrap it as a gift to be opened on Christmas morning. I'm not sure if we will each open an unidentified box and try to guess who chose those items or just how we will do that. I picked medical supplies for the Sudan, a blanket for someone cold, a month of care for an AIDS orphan, and week of hot meals for a hungry child and a fish to stock a fish farm.
I think that most semi-informed Christians realize that many of our holidays came from pagan roots. But if it is a chance for Christians to talk of Jesus, then all the better. I agree with you that the change needs to happen in our own homes and hearts. I think that we are all guilty of materialism, I know I am. I have tried to combat it with my kids through World Vision or Angel tree. My kids are pretty spoiled but they do have generous hearts and I, like you, hope that that continues year round.
We don't have a Christmas tree. I have bought a Nativity that is stuffed and has the Christmas story in book form on the back of the Mary and Joseph figure. My granddaughter and I use this every day to read and then play act the story of the birth of Jesus. I do have a tree with a few balls on it that is about 12 inches high behind the Nativity that my daughter complains about quite regularly but I just keep reminding her that the tree and Santa are not what Christmas are all about and that I want my grandchildren to understand the true meaning of Christmas.
Growing up, we gave gifts at Thanksgiving. We always made gifts for one another during homeschool home-ec class. (We made hunting vests for my dad and brother the year my brother was old enough to hunt. I think that is the only year they went hunting, but it is a good memory). We never had a Christmas tree until a well-meaning lady in our church "took pity" on my brother and me (she thought) and bought us a huge artificial tree one year when we were teens. My parents let us put it up, but we still did Christmas at Thanksgiving. My mom wanted to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. She always baked muffins for all the neighbors, which we delivered with a tract.
I heard on the radio the other day that it takes people until May to pay for Christmas and really scratched my head! How ridiculous! I guess I was sheltered from the materialism of Christmas, and I am so thankful. My parents switched to giving gifts at Thanksgiving after a particularly materialistic extended family ordeal one year. It was when I was a baby, so that is all I know. After we went to college, sometimes we exchanged gifts at Christmas time instead of at Thanksgiving b/c we weren't home, but other times we exchanged at Thanksgiving if we could be together. The last thing I want to do is over-do Christmas for the kids. That is something I worry about b/c of so many people being excited for them... I don't want them to have big expectations. I think it is detrimental. We always got necessities like underwear, slippers, and socks and one special thing. One year my brother and I each got a boxed set of Thoene books.
When the kids were smaller, had a birthday party for Jesus, complete with games (pin the star above the stable), and a birthday cake. The gift thing is what bugs me the most. My kids are excited about the presents too. One suggestion from a homeschool friend was to only give three gifts to each child, like the wise men brought gifts. I have cut down on presents this year, but I knew that if we only did the 3 gift thing this year, the girls would be disappointed. So, I guess you could say I am doing it gradually and maybe in the next couple of years, cutting back each year, it will happen. :-) I also buy practical gifts too. I try and buy things that will promote the education (lots of books!) we want our kids to have. This year under the tree will be flannel sheet sets, hats and scarves, and two outfits (I don't buy a whole lot of school clothes at the beginning of the year choosing instead to use birthdays/Christmas for gifts of these). Of course the girls did pick out some special things they wanted, and those will be included too. It is so hard not to buy presents, even though I love the idea of working at a soup kitchen, ringing the Salvation Army bells, or anything else that focuses on giving instead of getting. I think I got "ruined" by growing up in a home where Christmas was about presents, and getting whatever one asked for.
I know I shouldn't make excuses, but I can't imagine telling our families that we aren't buying gifts or having a tree, or not coming to dinner. Even at our church, which uses this time of year for special evangelizing programs, there are Christmas parties and dinners and activities. ... And don't even get me started on the school thing, with all the kids talking about what they want for Christmas, although I do think it isn't that bad at this school.