December 2015: Xmas?

Xmas?

           Is it “Christmas” or is it “Xmas”? Or do they both mean the same thing? Many would say it’s wrong to substitute Xmas for Christmas. Some say it makes no difference. How about you? Does the annual celebration we call Christmas make any difference in your life?  If Christmas doesn’t make a difference in your life, I urge you to quit reading right now because you’ll probably be wasting your time reading any further. Instead, go ahead and use these 3 pages of paper on the bottom of your bird cage.

          However, if Christmas does make a difference in your life, read on. I hope you’ll be encouraged and enriched by some of my thoughts I’ll be sharing with you.  To begin, I’d like you to take a few moments and think about how radically different our world would be if Jesus had not been born or had never existed.  No matter how people might criticize and deny that Jesus is a true, real historical person who was actually born 2,000 years ago, there is just too much archaeological and historical evidence to the contrary.  In fact (you might want to check this out for yourself), there’s more historical evidence in existence about Jesus than there is about George Washington!  Jesus was born. His mother was Mary. His stepfather was Joseph. His real, honest-to-goodness neighbors knew Him. His half brothers and sisters lived and played with Him. His “Pastors” in the Jewish faith knew Him. Yes, there is ample evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was a real, historical person.

12 Times

           Research has shown that most adult humans need to hear or read something repeated as many as 12 times before what they are learning permanently lodges in their mind and spirit and really “takes root,” becoming clear and understandable.  I have shared with readers of The Traveler the following teaching about the  “The Four C’s” two times in the past. This will be the third time. I hope it’s beginning  to become a permanent part of your thinking. If not, one way or another, I will likely share it again a few more times about this time each year.

The Four C’s

          What are the four C’s? I’m glad you asked . . . Since this issue comes to you in the month of December, God asked me to write a little about the timeless Christmas story.  You do know, don’t you that Jesus was not born on December 25th? It’s a long story, but that date was chosen and began to be used centuries after Jesus’ birth. In all likelihood, Jesus was probably born in the spring, but that’s another story, too.  At this point, I invite you to read The Christmas Story on our web site; it’s a Bible-based story I wrote to be read aloud serially during the month of December.

          Naturally, we all have a tendency during this month of the year to focus on the baby Jesus in the cradle. The cradle is the first C.  Actually, Jesus was laid in a manger or feeding trough for animals; I’ve taken the liberty to call it a cradle just for the sake of using four C’s as a technique for remembering this teaching about Jesus’ birth.  God did become a human being in Jesus, He was born of a human mother, He did live as a human among us. One of his titles, Immanuel, means God is fully present and living in and with us for all time and eternity.  Our salvation begins with the baby Jesus in a humble cradle in Bethlehem. Yes, we do focus on the cradle at this time of year—the first C.

          But while we concentrate on the scenario surrounding the cradle, let us never lose sight of the cross as well: the second C.  The helpless baby who once laid in that humble cradle was the God-Human who willingly chose to die on the cross, there to give his life and pour out his life’s blood to emancipate all humanity from its sinful condition and from the finality of death.  The despised Roman cross on which Jesus died was an instrument of unspeakable torture, suffering, and pain. Yet He willingly chose to hang there, bleed there, and die there in order to free us—you and me—from our lifelong and eternal bondage to sin and death.

         The cradle and the cross. But thank God that’s not the end of the story. There is also the crown: the third C.  After Jesus’ horrible death on your behalf and mine, God the Father brought God the Son back to life by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter, Jesus ascended back to the eternal, heavenly realms where He is now enthroned in majesty at the right hand of the Father. Jesus forever wears the crown of victory over sin and death!  The cradle, the cross, the crown. They are on a continuum in the pageant of our redemption: Christmas, Easter, and Jesus’ victorious Ascension to the Father’s right hand, there to rule as the fully just and benevolent King of the universe.

          But there’s more. The pageant is not yet complete. Still to come is Jesus’ return in majesty as King of all earth’s kings and Lord of earth’s lesser lords. He will return to establish his earthly kingdom and begin to consolidate his loving reign over our darkened and benighted planet.  Yes, the earth will yet bask in its bright, golden age wherein King Jesus will rule with divine justice, grace, and love.  At this time of the year when we normally focus on Jesus’ birth, let us not lose sight of God’s total package—his complete redemptive work on our behalf. Yes, there’s more—so much more—than Christmas alone: the cradle, the cross, the crown, and, his coming again: the fourth C!

Christmas Gift Giving

          What gifts do you hope to receive for Christmas this year? What presents do you plan to give for Christmas this year? How much will you be spending? How much can you honestly afford to spend?  Why do we practice Christmas gift-giving in the first place? Oh, I know all about Saint Nicholas . . . and how the wise men brought gifts to Jesus when He was a toddler . . . and how gift-giving at Christmas has just “always been done.” But has it? Really?

          Wanna know when gift-giving by God’s people actually began? I’m glad you asked. Gift-giving as we know it today—from a biblical perspective—actually began about 2,500 years ago during the time of Queen Esther in the Old Testament portion of the Bible.  After God delivered Queen Esther and the Israelites of that day from an evil plot to kill all of them, they celebrated “with days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.”(Esther 9: 22). 500 years before Jesus was born, God’s people began giving gifts to one another and presents to the poor!  But if our custom of giving gifts to others at Christmas began with the wise men giving gifts to Jesus, why do we give gifts to one another? Why don’t we give gifts to Jesus—instead of to one another? After all, whose birthday is it? Aren’t we supposed to give birthday gifts to the one whose birthday we are celebrating?

A Shift in our Thinking

          Maybe we need a radical shift in our thinking about who we should be giving birthday gifts to this time of year. Maybe we need to give gifts to Jesus and to the poor instead of to relatives and friends. Maybe we’re missing something by what we’re doing. Maybe we need to change something—beginning this year.  Jesus said on one occasion that there will always be poor people. I take that at face value. I believe there will always be poor people, both in this life and in early years of the age to come after Jesus returns to establish his Kingdom here on earth with his universal headquarters in Jerusalem.

          Some teach that after Jesus returns to earth, He will instantly make all things new with a snap of his fingers. I believe another view.  I firmly believe the Bible teaches that it will take a minimum of 1,000 years for Jesus to lay the groundwork for ushering in a fully restored universe and earth before we enter into a state of being called eternity.  And . . . we who have a personal relationship with Him now will be his servant-leader assistants in restoring all things as his Kingdom spreads.

Jesus Begins to Change Everything!

          For example, I believe it will take at least a few centuries after Jesus returns for Him to firmly take control of all earth’s governments. It will be the same with earth’s educational systems.  And dismantling earth’s military-industrial establishments, turning all of that vast industry into peaceful purposes. And restructuring all earth’s economic systems, finally beginning to truly eradicate poverty once and for all.  Having said that, the poor will continue to exist on this planet for a long time to come. Jesus expects those who “have” to help those who “have not.”  So . . . during this Christmas season, why not give gifts to the poor around you? No one is so poor that they cannot locate someone nearby who is just a little poorer.  Jesus said in Matthew 25 if we aid and assist those who are less well off than we are, that is the same as serving Him.  How much money are you planning to spend on gifts to others this Christmas? Even putting some of it on your credit card that you won’t be able to pay off for months?

Joy In Giving

          I guarantee you will find much more joy in giving if you will give to the poor rather than spend money you don’t even have for gifts no one uses. Or for gifts that are used for only a short while and then just tossed aside on a pile in the attic, garage, or basement with last year’s Christmas gifts.  You and I cannot eradicate poor-dom from planet earth—at least not until after Jesus returns. Only King Jesus can—and will—eradicate poor-dom after He returns to fully establish his Kingdom on earth.  But . . . we can help one poor person or one poor family in our locale during this Christmas season. I guarantee that not very far from you wherever you live on this planet, there is at least one poor person or family you can help with gifts in Jesus’ Name!

          It’s Jesus birthday; let’s give our gifts to Him instead of to one another!  You may be protesting, “What will people think! What will my children say? What will my family think? We’ve already bought most of our presents? I’ve already charged everything to my credit card. I’ve placed lots of things on layaway at K-Mart.”  Here’s my response to all those excuses: “S-o-o-o-o! Who are you trying to please, God or people?”Return those things. Get your money back. Remove things from layaway.   Talk things over with your family. Find a poor person or family in your locale. Bless them richly this Christmas day!  Spread your joy. Bless someone poor in the Name of Jesus. Make God happy. He will take great delight in your new approach to Christmas gift-giving.

          Give gifts to Jesus this year and all your years to come! Remember, He is always fully present with us and in us!

          “When the proper time had come, God sent his Son, born of a young pregnant virgin….”       –Galatians 4: 4          “Jesus actually became flesh and lived awhile among us; and we saw the glory and honor and majesty of the Father’s First-Born Son, full of grace and truth.”     –John 1: 14

Thought for the month

“This is how much God loves you: He gave you his son so you won’t perish because of your sin; by receiving and trusting in Jesus you can have a wonderful, whole, complete, and abundant life now and in eternity.”     –John 3: 16, paraphrased

All previous issues of The Traveler are archived on our ministry web site as well as some of my most popular teachings.

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated May 2019

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