A Different Christmas

We are so blessed to live in a country where we are free to worship God and to celebrate Christmas. We recognise the privilege of living in a country where Christmas is recognised as a Christian celebration…

but this year we have struggled more with the issues surrounding Christmas than ever before.

The challenge for us at Christmas has been – how to glorify God in all we do and teach our children to do the same – while not falling for the “spiritualised worldliness” of Christmas but also not offending those He loves and wanting to be a witness and blessing to others. Here is a list of some of the changes we have made and thoughts on the matter – in no particular order.

This year at Christmas time we:

* find many of the Christmas “traditions” unacceptable for us – most of all the focus on “lots of presents for us all”. This year we all found such joy in carefully preparing gifts to give away to some in need, carefully making or buying something simple for each other, staying away from shops and building special traditions that mostly revolved around discovering from God’s Word together and from history more about God’s awesome plan unfolding on the earth.

* threw out most Christmas carols but kept and taught the children the special ones – Hark the Herald Angels, Joy to the World, While Shepherds watched their flocks – songs that tell the story Biblically – nothing that made Jesus seem like a weak  little baby but those that spoke of victory and of God’s providence. We told the children stories of the skies filled with angels – not sweet little girl angels, but powerful warrior angels from the throne of the Almighty, maybe Michael, Gabriel, the same angels that later rolled that huge stone away from the tomb of Christ – celebrating his birth, the glory the majesty, the chorus filling the sky with light and music, voices raised in triumph, delight and excitement at seeing God’s awesome plan unfolding!

* didn’t do a Christmas tree but we did do the Jesse tree for the first time. We printed the pictures representing prophesies or lineage of Christ, each child cut and coloured their own and decorated them. Hubby and sons made a wooden “tree” thing and we hung them up  each day as we read the scriptures that go with the pictures.

* didn’t do Christmas stockings. The children each saved up to buy a small gift for one of their siblings and they each made a little gift for another sibling – felt food, dolls house accessories, folder of pictures to colour – were on the list. These were so special and so meaningful.

* each week we read the scriptures and lit the advent candles (prophecy candle, Bethlehem candle, shepherds candle, angels candle and Christ’s candle)

* had a special thanksgiving meal and service on the eve of the 23rd where we sang carols and read scriptures that told the story. We also learnt some of the Bible prophecies as our memory verses during December.

* focused on the majesty and divinity of Christ. We talked about how Christ is no longer a babe in a manger but the risen Christ come in power, conquerer of sin and death, Immanuel – God with us, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. We talked about which parts of the story are Biblical and which are not. I’m not so sure that God looks at the little nativity plays in the churches and thinks.. “Aw.. cute” I think he probably looks at them and thinks sadly “what are you teaching those children!” If we look at the verses in scripture:  a stable, an innkeeper saying “sorry we are full”, a cow… none of these things appear. We wanted the glorious reality of the story as the Bible tells it.

* wanted to bless those in our extended family so gifted them and celebrated with them.

* gave away our fake flashy Christmas tree and decorations as they didn’t seem to serve much purpose or add much. What we did was awesome and special and had real fruit in our children’s lives.

There was much wrestling in our hearts with the implications of a worldly Christmas (santa claus has been out for a couple of years but this year we questioned everything about Christmas). Scott Brown has a wonderful series on his blog The 12 days of Christmas where he references many articles from respected men past and present and their view on Christians “celebrating’ Christmas – there are articles for and against… under the following heading.

(What about Christmas? Ponder through the Twelve Days of Christmas series and test each of them by the Word of God.)

Day 1: Sermon by Charles Spurgeon

Day 2: Jonathan Edwards on Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s

Day 3: XMAS by A.W. Pink

Day 4: John Piper

Day 5: George Whitefield

Day 6: Brian Schwertly

Day 7: John MacArthur on the Christmas Tree

Day 8: A Scottish Covenanter – George Gillespie – on Christmas

Day 9: Two Sermons Commenting on Christmas Observance from Charles Spurgeon

Day 10: Rethinking the Pagan Origins of Christmas

Day 11: The Puritans on Christmas

Day 12.1: Did We Celebrate Christmas in Early American History?

Day 12.2: More Quotes from the 17th to the 19th Centuries

Day 12.3: What Roman Catholics Say About Christmas

Day 12.4: Christmas And The Use of Time

I have included an excerpt that my husband wrote on the same topic as he has a way with words that I definitely don’t 🙂 – also gives a different perspective.

We have decided to do / not do the following:

Santa and anything relating to him is out (obviously) – while we believe this is a season to really bless others and give to those in need we may do that through soup kitchens, cards, blessings to widows and orphans, etc. not through Christmas stockings, St Nick, little red hats or even “snow” scenes – here in hot balmy Cape Town.

We will still celebrate Christmas. This may sound strange but before we were not aware of the origins of Christmas as clearly as we are now aware. We weren’t aware of the connection to Nimrod as the father of religion, the… In a way we would like to dissasociate ourselves with the “Christmas” of the world today which is not glorifying to God – but it is very hard to do that without perhaps pushing people further from God instead of drawing them closer to him – so instead we will try to honour God in what we do.

We will wholeheartedly celebrate the coming of our Saviour to the earth and the unfolding of God’s sovereign plan in history. We will focus on the coming of the Saviour more than the fact that the “baby” is born.

Christ is no longer a baby – he is a risen Saviour, he is God with us. The significance of the baby Jesus is the miraculous birth – the seed of God and we can learn from the obedience and submission of Mary to God’s will – but Christmas carols like “Away in a Manger” can tend to show Christ the baby in the wrong way. I keep thinking how do children see it. Why the little baby… We shouldn’t celebrate the birth of Christ in isolation but rather celebrate the life of Christ and the coming of our saviour – the significance of it in our lives.

We will do the Jesse tree because of the value of learning more about the lineage and prophecies of Christ. Each day the children colour in an shape, put it on a backing and we hang it on a little “tree” from our garden, then Daddy reads the scriptures and talks about it.

It was the first Christmas when I felt closer to God rather than further from Him afterwards.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9 v 6

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A Blessed Christmas

Its been a year of change for our family. Not so much outside change – in fact for the first time in a while we are in the same house, no new babies yet, same job for my husband, its been a time to settle and to lay foundations. The changes have been on the inside. Deeper contentment in our hearts and daily thankfulness for God’s rich mercies, deeper study of God’s word as a family, deeper convictions – testing everything we do against the word of God and doing things on purpose – not by habit or default. For the first time the Christmas season has truly been about Christ and about being a blessing to others.

May God bless you and reveal to you to depth of His love and mercy in sending His only begotten son to overcome and to die on the cross to pay for our sins. Watch this beautiful and inspiring video.

What an opportunity to share Christ with the world – in a way that they will accept far more readily because of  Christmas!

“And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”
1 John 4 v 14

Reflections on The Christ

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16v16

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ” Isaiah 9v6

I love reading this verse – isn’t it incredible!

Christ shall be called Wonderful

Christ shall be called Counsellor

Christ shall be called the mighty God

Christ shall be called the EVERLASTING FATHER and Prince of Peace.

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Justice and Grace met at the Cross of Christ.

Do we meditate enough on God’s holiness, His judgement, His justice and the need for a blood sacrifice for atonement – thats how evil our transgressions are to God.  Do we mock God by thinking that our sins are not really THAT bad? Do we fear our GREAT and MIGHTY God?

And yet God’s wonderful grace reached down and met his justice face to face and opened the way for us to be reunited with HIM – through our Saviour, The CHRIST.

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“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22v42-44 KJV

I love this verse about the angel appearing unto Jesus to strengthen him. Incredible to think of him MIGHTY GOD in human form needing that strengthening and being vulnerable to His creation. Wonderful the closeness of The Father and The Son…..

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23v46

….. and awful the anguish of the separation between The Father and The Son.

I can’t imagine knowing in advance what Jesus knew he was going to go through – the incredible anguish of his sweat as great drops of blood, then finding the strength to go through it and going through it with such submission and peace and strength of heart.

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“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Matthew 27v50-53

That must have been a moment like no other in the history of the world – other than the creation! The earthquake, the temple veil rent, the rocks rent! Graves opened. The Power of God – and the POWER of the SACRIFICE of the CHRIST.

IT IS FINISHED! Praise the Lord!

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ” John 3v18