Christ is the Hope and Real Meaning of Christmas

'The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.'  O Little town of Bethlehem

‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ O Little town of Bethlehem

I was recently asked by a young disciple of Christ if the celebration of Christmas was in the Bible. My response to his question was an immediate—Yes! Both the wise men and shepherds came to worship and praise Christ soon after His birth. “

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

“And they came in hast and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as He lay in the manger…And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen just as had been told to them.” (Luke 2:16,20)

The specific day observed by Christians around the world to commemorate the annual celebration of birth of Jesus Christ is on December 25th. The feast of Christmas was developed by the early church to combat a heathen celebration known as “Saturnalia” or winter solstice. The primary reason for countering this pagan celebration was to place strong emphasis on the importance of redemption and to reflect on the early ministry of Jesus Christ. According to Walter A. Elwell in his Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “Christmas is not only a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, but it is also a time to stress the importance of receiving Him into the heart. His incarnation celebrates not only his birth but also His messianic age, which is the beginning of the end of the world as it marches toward eternity.”

Much speculation is made over the actual date of His birth by both theologians and secular historians. Scripture does not reveal the exact date of His birth, nor does it stress the time in which believers should celebrate of the Lord’s incarnation. What we do know is that by the late fourth century, Christmas was celebrated by many people within the church. Elwell also writes, “The church thereby offered the people a Christian alternative to the pagan festivities and eventually reinterpreted many of their symbols and actions in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice. For example, Jesus Christ was presented as the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2), replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus…” (Elwell, pg. 238)

Men like John Calvin, John Knox, the American Puritans, and many Presbyterians were in opposition to this practice. Mainly, because each generation incorporated into the its celebration many pagan customs (holly, mistletoe, Christmas tree, log fires, etc) and added new traditions (Christmas carols, nativity crib, etc). I would assume or suppose that the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church of Colosse would support their stance against such practices. He writes, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (2:8)

It was the Lutherans, the continental Reformers, and most other Protestants who defended the observance of Christmas by Christians. They sought to take the opportunity to stress the doctrine of the Incarnation during this seasonal celebration. I would suppose or speculate (again) that these individuals stressed their freedoms in Christ as mentioned by Paul (in his letter to the Romans) as a motive for participating in the Christmas festivity. The strong or mature believer’s faith in the passage below permits or allows him to exercise his freedom in Christ.

“For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for god has received him…One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it…” (Romans 14:2-3, 5-6)

By the mid-twentieth century Christmas was celebrated throughout the world. Countries such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America joined Europe in its festivities, plus incorporating new customs into their practices. With the recent influx of Modernism or Liberal Theology, the twenty-first century church has incorporated both a great deal of materialism and  an almost reverent response to the character known as Santa Claus. The strong emphasis on adapting religious ideas to modern culture and modes of thinking has almost eliminated from Christmas its original objective of Christ worship.

In either case, each man, woman, and child will have to stand before Christ for evaluation. It is interesting to note that His judgment does not take into account religious traditions or personal preferences like celebrating Christmas. This commemoration is not mentioned in scripture; therefore each believer must follow the dictates of his own conscience (unless specifically prohibited in scripture). The objective by the early church was call attention to redemption and to reflect on the ministry of Jesus Christ. We too during the Christmas advent must take the opportunity to draw men, women, and children back from their obsession with toys, gifts, sports, parties, etc to the worship of Christ (Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ Mass). The objective of every believer should be to bring non-believers into the true knowledge and worship of Christ, but also to the understanding of His immediate return.

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year from our family to yours!

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What does it really mean to bear fruit (in Evangelism)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16)

This is not an article on predestination or election, even though I could use the words of Christ to support each, but rather a note about suffering. Those of us chosen of God were specifically selected by Jesus Christ our Lord to bear fruit that would last throughout eternity. A good tree will demonstrate spiritual fruit such as godly attitudes (Gal 5:22-23), righteous behavior (Phil 1:11), praise (Heb 13:15), and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 1:13).

Since I am an evangelist and was ordained by God to share the gospel with lost people I would like to discuss a view of witnessing rarely mentioned in Christendom. We hear much about tens, hundreds, and even thousands of people professing faith in Jesus Christ every year as a result of outreach or evangelism events (Crusades, Blitzes, Church Services, etc). Baptism figures totaled at the end of the year by Church and Para-Church organizations are used to provide evidence that their outreach efforts were productive or successful.

Nevertheless, it is important that believers consider suffering punishment, imprisonment, rejection, hardships; etc for the gospel as a form of fruit bearing. As example that strongly supports this statement is revealed in the life of the Apostle Paul. Consider his calling as revealed in chapter nine of the book of Acts. This great evangelist was told (by Jesus) that he was not only a “chosen” instrument but would “suffer for My names sake.” Our Lord foreknew that Paul would experience beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, imprisonments, hardships, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights and the like for preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Nevertheless, Paul and other messengers of God throughout both the Old/New Testaments as well as church history experienced similar circumstances.

Cover of "Ashamed of the Gospel: When the...

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John MacArthur in his book titled, Ashamed of the Gospel” writes, “…Jeremiah, for example, preached forty years without seeing any significant positive response. On the contrary, his countrymen threatened to kill him if he did not stop prophesying (Jer 11:19-23); his own family and friends plotted against him (12;6); he was not permitted to marry and so had to suffer agonizing loneliness (16:2); plots were devised to fill him secretly (18:20-23); he was beaten and put in stocks (20:1-2); he was spied on by friends who sought revenge (v.10); he was consumed with sorrow and shame eve cursing the day he was born (vv. 14-18); and finally, falsely accused of being a traitor to the nation (37:13-14), Jeremiah was beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and starved many days (vv.15-21).” (MacArthur, 88)

John Fox records in his book Fox’s Book of Martyrs the testimonies of hundreds of men and women who throughout church history suffered to the point of death for evangelizing the world. This would include Stephen, the Apostles, Christians under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Christians in living Persia, France, Calabria, Bohemia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, China, Japan, Spanish America, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, United States, India, West Indies, Inquisitions under the Papacy, etc. Men like John Wickliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Surgeon and the like all suffered some form of persecution for their faith and for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Would emulating the sufferings of Christ be considered bearing fruit in the eyes of God?

Scripture records that before the Bema Judgment seat of Christ, believes are rewarded for their fruitfulness. The Bible mentions at least five rewards and two of them pertain to leading people to Christ known as the ‘Crown of Rejoicing’ mentioned in Proverbs 11:30; Dan 12; and I Thessalonians 2:19-20. The ‘Crown of Life’ is given to those who successfully endure trials, persecution, or suffering (for His name) is mention in James 1:2-3 and Rev 2:10.

Even though the current climate in our culture or world opposes the teachings of Christ, believers must (like their predecessors) be bold, plus steadfast in the proclamation of the gospel. Even if it means consequences that would cause Christians to suffer some form of ridicule, rejection, or negative repercussions for His name sake.  Not only is there a reward in eternity for this sort of fruit bearing, but also an opportunity to produce fruit in this present life. Remember, God called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light in order to produce fruit that will remain!