This time of year is when we celebrate the season of Christmas. It really is a season, not just a single day on our calendars, as it consumes the entire month of December and in some cases appears before the Thanksgiving turkey has been served. One would think that because “Christmas Season” begins so early it would not be difficult to remember exactly why we have this time set aside to celebrate.
The point of today, and the two Friday’s following, are to help us do just that: remember why we celebrate Christmas. More than that we are going to take a look at the Significance of Christmas, and in particular, the significance of three parts of the Christmas story that are very important, but sometimes overlooked.
In today’s post at 11 AM EST, we are going to take a look at the Significance of the Time (Luke 2:1-3). Next Friday we will understand the Significance of Bethlehem (vv. 4-5), and in the following Friday we will do our best, with our limited human minds, to understand the Significance of the Child (vv. 6-7). Through these three posts I hope to convey to you the sovereign hand of God working in the midst of the world he created to accomplish his will and help you see the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
I invite you to head out to a coffee shop today and read this post. Taking time to slow down over a hot beverage will go well with taking a closer look at the Significance of Christmas.
Yesterday we, in the United Sates, celebrated Thanksgiving. It is traditionally a time of year to gather with family and friends over a large meal and create and share memories together. I usually describe it as a “warm” time of year. A time to think (hopefully) and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.
As believers we have a lot to be thankful for, in addition to all of the material comfort we have here in the States. I would like to take a few moments to reflect on two items in particular and leave you (and me) with a challenge.
1. Be Thankful That You are One of the Elect
Scripture is quite clear: “So then…[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). Prior to that, Paul writes in chapter 8: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29-30). So, while God loved the world so much that he sent his Son (John 3:16), Christ’s mission was not to save the entire world from their sin. No, Christ’s mission was to redeem those whom he predestined to redeem through his death on the cross.
Those who are saved, those who have put their faith in Jesus and have accepted the gift of Salvation, are commonly referred to as the “Elect.” The elect are his Church, and his Church is who he died for (Eph. 5:25; John 10:15; 15:13; 11:52; Acts 20:28). I encourage you to be thankful for this. Be thankful that it is “not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16) that you are saved from eternal separation from him. If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4, see also v. 9). It is by faith that you have been saved. Remember: those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he also justified (8:29). Take time today to reflect on this truth and pour your heart of thankfulness out to God because he saw fit choose you “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).
2. Be Thankful for the Freedom of Religion Enjoyed in the U.S. (but beware of the challenge you face)
Here in the States we enjoy an extremely safe place to practice our faith. We are not persecuted openly for attending church, nor are we told that we cannot practice our faith. Christians in the U.S. ought to be thankful for this freedom of religion that we have. Although it was not the only reason for the early settlers to come to the New World, freedom from the Religion of the Crown in Great Britain was one of the reasons. They sought to settle in a land that was open to many different religions, a land where there was little to no persecution for one’s beliefs. While there are obvious downsides to this, it has allowed Christianity to spread from coast to coast in America and also in other places of the world. So while we recognize that accepting every religion may have consequences, we are thankful for the freedom we have to worship our Lord and God and to spread his Gospel to every person that we are able to without physical harm.
Do not take the above paragraph for granted. I implore you to not become comfortable and lazy in the freedom you have. Also, because of the doctrine of predestination and the Sovereignty of the Gospel spoken of in the section above, you are not allowed to ignore and disobey the command given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Yes, God has predestined a certain number of his creation to be justified by the blood of Jesus. He has also predestined that those he justified would also preach and evangelize. Take a moment and look with me at Romans 10:14, “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Divine sovereignty does not give an excuse to not be a faithful witness. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Understand the human responsibility in that. God’s predestination does not negate our responsibility. Please heed this warning and take your election seriously.
As Christians we are thankful for the justification we have through Christ and for the responsibility we are given to “make disciples of all nations…baptize…[and] teach” (Matt. 28:19-20).
I hope that today will be a warm time of year being around friends and family. I also hope that you are able to spend a few moments reflecting on things that you are thankful for. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. To get things started, here are a few things that I am thankful for:
- That God saw fit to redeem me by the blood of his Son,
- That I have a loving wife,
- That I have the ability to read, learn, write, and teach,
- That God is continuing to work in me for his Glory,
- (I’m also thankful for my puppy, Lucy).
Stop by tomorrow morning at 11am EST for two things that you should be thankful for if you call yourself a Christian. You will learn a bit about predestination and God’s Sovereignty.
In the meantime, What are you thankful for?
This week we are looking at a verse that is familiar to anyone who owns a Bible or has ever set foot in a church building or attending a revival of some kind: John 3:16.
John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The reason I chose this verse for this week is because we (in the United States) celebrate Thanksgiving this week. While we have a lot of things to be thankful for, especially in this country, the one thing that all Christians should reflect on this week is the Love that God demonstrated towards us by putting his Son on the cross. Even this exercise, of thinking of what God did for us in that moment, is overdone in churches today. It has become an exercise that is meaningless, unfortunately.
I encourage you to take advantage of the short verse this week, and one that you probably already have memorized, and do an in-depth study of it. You will be surprised at how much meaning is packed into those twenty-four words. Through your study of the verse I hope that it’s truth becomes even more real to you today and will begin to show you just how amazing God’s Love is.
I look forward to reading your findings as you share them later in the week.
Esteemed Readers (also, if you are reading this, comment below. Say “hi,” “yo,” or anything. I know there are a lot of readers here, but only a few of you like to speak up),
Due to a few personal items that came up this week and required my immediate and direct attention, there will not be an academic paper published tomorrow. The beauty of this is that you should have no doubt that I am human and real. There are times when I simply cannot do everything I would like. While I do not like to get off track, it has to happens sometimes.
Here is what you can expect schedule-wise through the end of the year:
- November 25 – What are We Thankful For?
- December 2 – Satan: His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position
- December 9 – Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?
- December 16 – The Christmas Story Part 1 – The Significance of the Manger in the City of Bethlehem
- December 23 – The Christmas Story Part 2 – The Significance of the Shepherds and the Angels
- December 30 – The Christmas Story Part 3 – The Significance of the Birth of Jesus
I hope that giving you a look ahead will make up for the lack of a paper tomorrow. Please accept my apologies on this matter.
I am excited about the rest of the year here and what we will learn together. Be sure to sign up via email at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss the scheduled topics (and a few bonus posts I have up my sleeve). Also, use the links below to share this post and website with friends on Facebook, Twitter, or using old-fashioned-but-very-powerful email.
I hope that you have a great weekend.
p.s. I have updated the ‘About‘ page. It not so much about me, but more about what you can expect here and some pointers on what you can do here. Read and enjoy!