Christmas can be a really hard season for many people, for many reasons. I am not normally one of those people though. I love Christmas. I love everything about this season of light. And I look forward to it every year, so much so that I begin the countdown to the next Christmas the day after Christmas.
But this year has been a bit different.
I’ve grown a lot this year spiritually, and have experienced God’s presence in new and deeper ways. I thought that would translate to a more meaningful and intimate Christmas with Him. But instead, I entered this season conflicted and feeling completely lost.
I had more growing to do. I needed to be refined in fire, His fire.
But our Father is so faithful. He didn’t leave me there.
So, this is my journey back to Christmas.
My journey actually started about a year ago when I started praying Ephesians 1:15-23. I wanted His wisdom. I wanted His Truth. And I wanted to know more about the Messiah that I have since began to call Lord. You see, I was saved a long time ago. But for many years I called myself a Christian but I lived like an atheist. I called Jesus my Savior. But I had yet to call Him Lord. I wanted Him to save me from my sin. But I wasn’t quite ready for Him to save me from myself.
A shift from me just being saved to living redeemed began a few years ago but seemed to snowball when I began praying these verses. God was faithful to His promise to gift wisdom when wisdom is asked and began to reveal Himself so deeply and intimately to me. I have grown in deeper understanding of who my Father is and what He did and does for me.
One major thing that He showed me and I learned about this year was that what I once called “Jewish feasts” are really God’s feasts, or appointed times to “meet” with man.
Leviticus 23:1 says that these appointed times, or feasts of the Lord are holy convocations. Now, I do not believe that any believer in Jesus is required to do them. The law was not abolished but it was fulfilled through Jesus’s redemptive sacrifice on the cross. I believe we, as believers, have been grafted into His family, and that leaves open whether we celebrate these feasts in their traditional sense. But for us, every day is an appointed time with our Father. We don’t need to wait for a feast day.
However, I felt this was to be included in part of my journey in growing in wisdom of Him, and in hind sight, I can honestly say celebrating them was a beautiful reminder of His Love and Faithfulness, much like Christmas is for many. So we decided as a family to celebrate them as a refocusing and as an arrow that pointed us to Jesus, and what He did for us, what He has done for us, and what He is soon to do for the world.
And through this we learned that most likely He was born in September, during the fall feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles. So we celebrated His birth then. And it was a sweet celebration. Humble, quiet, gentle. It competed with nothing and involved nothing extra. We set out the manger scene, watched our favorite Christmas movie The Nativity Story, put on our CHRISTmas music, and made a birthday cake. It was so peaceful. And it was exactly how I imagine that first silent night was, with Jesus, alone with his parents in a small barn surrounded only by a few farm animals and straw.
It was beautiful. It felt holy.
Then came Christmas.
And I’m going to be honest, as it approached I became very, very conflicted by Christmas.
I kept looking back to our simple September celebration and compared it to December’s.
Up in your face.
Even when we try to make it simple, it never is. There’s always another present to get, another decoration to put up, another treat to bake.
And I normally LOVE all that!
But this year, I couldn’t help but thinking, Really, what is the point? It’s not even His real birthday!
And so for the past few weeks, I have almost been turned off by Christmas to the point I didn’t even want to celebrate it anymore. And then learning its pagan roots seemed to solidify it for me.
And yet there was something in my spirit that keep holding onto it; there was a small part of me that was sad to let it go. I love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the family time. I love the slow down. And I love that at this time, the world seems to be more opened to hearing about Jesus. And without even knowing it nations are singing praises to Him. It’s the one time of the year, you can hear regular music stations proclaiming His name! And my heart seemed to be screaming there has to be some good in that!
I kept praying that God would reveal to me what I was missing. I kept insisting to Him that I was ok letting it go; that even Christmas isn’t so sacred that I wouldn’t let it go if He asked me to.
But my joy was gone.
Until Bunhead, my oldest spoke His Truth into my blindness.
Funny how God can take our children and use them to speak into us. Humbling, right?
We were driving to her youth group last Wednesday night and I was trying to work through all the conflictions going on in my head (which was my first clue that some of those thoughts were from the enemy), and I was kind of thinking out loud. She was sitting next to me in the front seat. And as I am ranting about how Christmas is pagan and what’s the point in celebrating His birth again, she said, “Remember Joseph. God took what was intended for evil and made it good.”
And I got it.
The message of Christmas, what God had been trying to show me for over a week.
We’ve always made Christmas about Jesus. He’s the reason for the season! and all that. But all those years we had been celebrating His birth, we were missing the whole message.
Christmas isn’t just about Christ entering into this fallen, broken world. It isn’t just about God coming to dwell among His creation.
It is about redemption.
Redemption was born that first silent night. Salvation was here to redeem what Adam had lost at the fall.
God sent His Son, His one and only Son, of earth and of divine, to tabernacle with His creation, because He wanted to right the wrong that happened in the garden. And Heaven’s answer to earth’s groaning and crying and sorrow, was the birth of this beautiful baby boy we celebrate at Christmas. He was sent and He came to redeem everything.
Col 1:20 says, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
Jesus redeems ALL things. All sin. All hurt. All pain. All brokenness. All disappointment. All of creation. Days. Seasons. Even pagan holidays. You. Me.
It has ALL been redeemed.
And it ALL is and always will be His.
The enemy can try to take what God has created and use it for evil. He can try to imitate God’s glory and try to steal His honor. But he fails. Every time. Because the blood of our Messiah covers it ALL. And what was intended for evil, is made new. It is redeemed.
So, I am seeing this whole Christmas thing a little different now. And I think it shows perfectly how we can respond to the redemption message of Christmas.
We can celebrate His birth in September. Quiet, simple, humble, meek, mild.
But we can still have Christmas in December. Loud. Bright. Busy. Up in your face.
Where does this fit in the nativity story?
To find the answer let’s look at Luke 2:8-15….
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
What is Christmas in the Nativity Story?
It’s Heaven’s announcement to the world!
Messiah has come! Salvation is here! Glory to the Light of the world!
Jesus was born quiet and simple in Bethlehem. But then Heaven proclaimed it to the world, and it was loud, in your face, bright. It was bold.
Jesus birth in September was His birthday. But Christmas is His birthday party.
And I think that that is how we approach the commandment to tell the world about Him. We first come to Him humble, meek, and mild. But then we shout! The King has come! Light is here! We celebrate with boldness Messiah!
And sometimes, after boldly and bravely proclaiming Him, we need to be like the shepherds and return to the quiet and simply rest and worship Him at His feet.
As I was running over all this stuff in my head this week, there was one moment I thought, Maybe we should just celebrate Hanukkah. It’s a wonderful story of an amazing miracle that God performed for the Jews in the century before Jesus’s birth. It is a beautiful story about His light and a beautiful representation of how His light is faithful and spreads. But I never felt at ease with that choose either.
And about two nights ago, I got my answer why…..
Hanukkah is the miracle of light I gave to my chosen people.
Christmas is the miracle of light I brought to you. Celebrate my Light coming.
When you look at your Christmas tree, see the cross and the sacrifice made for you.
When you look at the manger scene, see a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying on a stone manger and know that He will again be wrapped in swaddling clothes and will be laid on another stone for you.
When you look at the ornaments, see the fruit the first Adam ate bringing sin into the world, then see the fruit that the second Adam, Jesus, put back on the tree when He righted the wrong of the fall at His death and resurrection for you.
When you look at a candy cane, see the Good Shepherd’s staff, know that He leaves the rest of the flock for you.
When you look at the twinkling lights, see the Light of the world, the Messiah, shining His perfect Love for you.
When you look at the gifts wrapped and stacked around the tree, see the gift of God’s one and only Son, given for you.
When see Christmas, look past the surface and you will find Him.
Christmas, though not Jesus’s real birth, came to the gentiles later, just like the message of the Good News, and shows so perfectly how God can take even a pagan holiday and make it His. Just like He did with me. And just like He did with you.
So, I will end with this, Merry Christmas! May His light shine bright over you and your families during His exciting birthday party!
We come to you humbled. Humbled that you would love us enough to become one of us, to endure the hardships of what we endure, just so that you could take on what we deserve, at the cross. We thank you for your grace that covers us and for your mercy that allows you to look on us as blameless in your sight and worthy of your perfect love. We ask Father that you open the eyes of our hearts to know you more, see you more, and understand who you are at a deeper more intimate level, in order that we may be able to grasp how long, wide, high, and deep your love is for us. We thank you for the gift of Christmas and we celebrate with boldness your light coming into the world. Help us to remain focused on you this season and to remember the redemption that came with Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection. We love you Father, our Elohim, and we pray all this in the holy name of your son Yahshua, Jesus. Amen.