christmas old and new
Four days until Christmas! In reading the Scripture and through teaching my students, I have seen the beauty of the ancient story of Christmas seen through brand new eyes. Here is a small taste of it!
In these weeks approaching Christmas, I have been working chapter-by-chapter through Isaiah. For a book written hundreds of years before Jesus, it sure talks about Him a lot! The passages regarding Christmas that can be found in Isaiah are so beautiful that I had to share just a few. (all emphasis mine)
Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
(p.s. – read that one again!)
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
I’ll stop there for now. This Christmas, pick up that Bible and let it pour into you! Remember that Christmas is so much more than just a holiday. This is the day prophesied of for centuries, the day longed for throughout all history, the day that God “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Gloria!
Here in China, the average person knows that Christmas involves an old man in a red suit, a tree, and gifts. I realized that one of the most common images they have of Christmas is a Christmas tree with gifts underneath. So I spent a bit of time considering how the true, first story of Christmas is in all of these items. The star was easy – remember the three kings? The gifts were easy too – just like the gifts given to Jesus on His birthday! The tree however, I will tell them about on Christmas day. The significance of an everlasting and “eternally” green tree is too much to ignore!
In teaching about Christmas, I had the opportunity to walk my students through the Christmas story in five basic points. 1 – Mary and the Angel. 2 – Mary and Joseph look for room. 3 – Jesus is born! 4 – The Angels and the Shepherds. 5 – The Three Kings come to see Jesus. I loved acting out the angel appearing to Mary, asking them what they’d do if they saw an angel, and watching their shocked faces. I loved running from student to student asking, “Do you have room?!” and seeing them all respond, “Sorry, no room,” while laughing at my antics. I loved watching their puzzled brains process the fact that Jesus, this person we have a whole holiday to celebrate, was born in a barn. I loved explaining that the three kings were from the East, maybe even near China! I loved taking them to see a traditional painting of the Nativity hung in our big auditorium, and hearing them identify, “Angel!” “Mary!” “Shepherds!” “Jesus!” And I loved hearing them re-tell the story from the notes they’d taken.
Most of us have celebrated Christmas every single year of our lives, and maybe we’ve lost some of the beauty of it by over-familiarity. Let the simplicity overwhelm you – God with us. Imagine explaining it to a group of people who have never heard that God Himself is that baby in the manger. (Better yet, go explain it to those people!) He came to the poor shepherds and the rich kings, He came not because we prepared our hearts and our lives for Him – not even a room! But He came all the same. And thus nothing will ever be the same! Hallelujah!
There are good tidings for us today, “A Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”