Chasing Christmas

What is it about Christmas that eludes me? It is something beyond my grasp, an emotion, a sense of completion or arrival or fulfillment? I know after many years of experience it is not a material thing. Perhaps it’s not an emotional thing either. Emotions can be manipulated. But there are times when the environment is right when I am calm and in peaceful contemplation listening to a touching musical arrangement, those tears swell. In these moments I know that the spirit of Christmas is close to me. I know this feeling is true and yet it is more than a feeling.

I seek out these moments because in them I feel closer to something comfortable but beyond understanding. I feel closer to Christmas. Like the biblical country shepherd who is drawn to the warmth of an evening fire. Who among those shepherds shivering in the cold raw darkness of a winter night would not be drawn to the light and warmth of a fire?  I am drawn to the comfortable chair in a warm corner of the living room. I am drawn to those earthly things that bring warmth and comfort and joy.

Perhaps it is a spiritual warm fire, or comfy chair, or cozy blanket that my spirit seeks out. Yes, I think it is a desire of the spirit to be near that spirit of warmth, comfort and joy.

It is in those times of personal comfort and quite that I sense the spiritual peace and reality of hope. The invisible hope beyond what can be seen, a hope for better things material and spiritual. In these short moments of this holy spiritual presence, I sense an overwhelming awareness of hope that this presence will someday be eternal. Until then I will continue to seek opportunities to be in the presence of this spirit.

As a Christian, I know the spirit of Christmas is Jesus Christ Himself in the fulfilled promise of the Holy Spirit.  I would have never found the spirit of Christmas on my own. I’ve spent years chasing after the spirit of Christmas by searching out the perfect gifts, the grandest plans and parties, the perfect friends, family or circumstance. All this time I had forgotten to open the perfect gift that I had received long ago. In my Christmas disillusion, I left this gift unopened under the Christmas tree year after year.

It was not until I read the words of a loving Father “Be still and know that I am God” and the words of a faithful friend “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest” that I realized the spirit of Christmas had found me! This spirit, the Holy Spirit, has found you as well. He is reaching out to you. Take this time to stop, open the gift and listen to His spirit. The child whom we celebrate at Christmas is the Son of promise, of prophecy, the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us.

His life among us miraculously demonstrated His love and compassion for His creation. His death on the cross destroyed the power of death. His rising from the dead is proof that death no longer rules over us. His Holy Spirit moves within all believers to inspire works of love, goodness and faith. This is the spirit of Christmas “Christ in us the hope of glory”. I am encouraged by the verse that calls us to “walk after the spirit, for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death”.

This Christmas open the gift God has given you. Read the Gospel of John and pray for God to reveal Himself to you. Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas!

 

Psalm 46:10

Matthew 11:28

Collosians 1:27

Romans 8:2

J is for Jesus

Christmas is a good time to be prepared to answer the skeptics who gladly point out the celebration of the birth of Christ lacks significance if the facts about Him are not true.  The faith of many would be futile “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished” 1 Corinthians 15:17

If Christ had not concluded His earthly ministry dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, this celebration would have no foundational substance and no consequence.  Skeptics through the ages have tried to disprove the reality of Jesus Christ and many have come away with a more confident faith than most believers.

In the recent film “The Case For Christ” Lee Strobel’s journey from skeptic to believer is skillfully portrayed. His story affirms that Christians have a reasonable faith. The film is based on Strobel’s book about his investigative journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Setting out to save his wife from what he saw as a cult, Strobel found himself confronted with a reality that changed his life forever.

His training and success as an investigative journalist allowed him to pursue evidence in support of the objections raised for the resurrection of Jesus. An associate reminded him that the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds it all together.

With that in mind, Lee Strobel set out to find evidence to bolster these objections.

  • The Gospel accounts are not reliable.
  • Jesus did not die on the cross.
  • Jesus did not appear to people after His death.

What he discovered moved him to confront the truth and respond with a decision.

Are the Gospel accounts reliable?

The closer the account is to the actual event the more reliable it is.

 https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel account date to within 25 to 40 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest copies of Homer’s Illiad are 500 years from the original. There is no doubt among scholars as to the integrity of the Illiad as well as many other works of antiquity.

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

The apostles and countless others have died for their beliefs. It is courageous and noble to die for one’s belief, however, it would seem foolish for anyone to die for something they know to be a lie.

Sean McDowell writes “there is the highest possible probability that Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) died as martyrs.”

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

In 2014 Christian History Institute published an article summarizing the total number of believers who have died for the Christian faith.

“Church statistician David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” He estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the church began.”

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

Did Jesus die on the cross?

In an article by “The American Journal of Medicine”,  medical experts reviewed what Jesus had suffered during His crucifixion and have determined that the  “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” According to the evidence, Jesus suffered severe blood loss and hypovolemic shock from the scourging He received from the Romans. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He suffered exhaustion and asphyxia. No one is likely to survive this type of execution. The spear to the side which released blood and water ensured Jesus death.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

Did Jesus really appear to many people after His death?

The first eyewitnesses to testify of the empty tomb were women. It would be foolish for the apostles to use the testimony of women in their fabrication of an incredible story. The testimony of women held no value in the courts at this time in history. Being the first to hear the women’s story, Peter and John raced towards the tomb to confirm the fact that Jesus was not there.

Shortly after this Jesus appeared to the Apostles and many others and by over 500 hundred believers at once.

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

Skeptics claim these appearances were the product of hallucinations and or hypnotic suggestion.

According to phycologists, group dreams or visions are not possible.

J. Warner Wallace speaks of the numbers of individuals who have seen the risen Christ and concludes that a great number of people seeing the same vision is not likely or reasonable.

Some argue that this was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection. The Gospel accounts point clearly to the fact that Jesus appeared in a physical body.

Matthew 28:9 states the Apostles “took hold of His feet and worshipped Him”

John 20: 24-28  says that Thomas placed his finger in the nail marks of Jesus’ hand and the wound mark at His side. Thomas then declares “My Lord and my God”

Luke 24:42-43 details the breakfast they had with Jesus “and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate before them.”

John 20:29 describes how Thomas rejoiced when seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh and Jesus responds “Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

A reasonable faith will strengthen your belief

The evidence is abundant, the experiences of witnesses and followers through the ages is overwhelming. The blood of confessors, saints, and martyrs cries out to this day. The resurrection of Christ proves there is a loving God who reaches out to us to redeem us to Himself to become the children of God. He is a God of justice and mercy and grace.

Our sin and rebellion have separated us from God. God came to us in the flesh as Jesus. He laid down His life for us.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18 

“It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

At one point Lee Strobel is advised that blind faith works both ways. Some will refuse to believe because of a prejudice or bias to one belief system regardless of the evidence presented. In order to believe in the Gospel accounts and have faith in their validity, you must choose to believe the facts presented as a reasonable account of the reality of Christ. Some refuse to believe because it means being accountable to a higher authority. Many have yet to learn that the promise of Christ is a new life of liberty from the emptiness of sin and His spirit is a source of peace, strength, grace, and joy.

Lee Strobel was overwhelmed by the evidence answering his objections to belief. He realized he had to make a decision.

The Lord calls us to examine the evidence, and to engage our reason.

Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The child we celebrate at Christmas is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

He laid down His life and is now risen alive in power to show us the way to a life eternal with Him.

I pray that you will receive the gift of Christmas, open it and believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life?

https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

We All Have A Gift!

We all have a gift. This gift is from God. Those who have opened it are called Christians. Perhaps one reason some people are so offended about the greeting “Merry Christmas”, is because it is a reminder of the gift they have left unopened. There it is under the nicely decorated evergreen tree forgotten and neglected. It may even get moved later on, after New Years Day, placed in a box with all the Christmas decorations and trimmings. “Perhaps I will open it next Christmas” many will explain.

If you are struggling with what to give your fellow employee, a partner at work, a family member or even the delivery person at your doorstep, consider helping them remember the gift they have left un-opened under their tree. The gift of Christmas is for everyone no one is left out.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,2Peter3:9 BSB

Helping someone un-wrap the gift of Christmas is the best gift you can give. Perhaps what you share may be something like this.

“Do you know why we celebrate Christmas? It’s the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some people have trouble with that right off the bat. You may be saying to yourself I don’t need a savior I’m fine. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, I have a good job and a family, I love them, I provide for them and do my best not to cuss around them and behave properly. God is love and I think He will let me into heaven. What kind of God would send a good person to hell anyway?

That’s right God is love and He has given you a gift.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 WEB

Perhaps the reason you don’t un-wrap this gift is because you don’t realize how much you need it. Like a person floundering in the ocean at risk of drowning any moment you flail away and dismiss the rescue boat that has pulled up beside you. I felt the same as you once and then one day I realized what Jesus Christ did for me. His love and concern for me, and for my soul compelled Him to die an agonizing death on the cross. He did not have to, He chose to die on the cross. He said Himself

“ No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”            John 10:18 NLT

There must have been a very good reason for Him to do this. God says we are all condemned.

“all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”                   2 Thess NIV

There is no one without sin – we all fall short and we are all destined for eternity in hell.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one” Romans 3:10 NLT

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our  Lord”  Romans 6:23 NLT

Everyone has broken the Ten Commandments no one has lived a perfect life, except our savior Jesus.

“but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” This is a free gift. We are not able to save ourselves. Nothing we do will save us from God’s perfect and just penalty.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”  Isaiah 64:6NLT

Only the grace and mercy of God can save us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Eph 2:8 ESV

God sent His son that

“we may have life and have it more abundantly” John 10:10 KJB

That we might be spared the penalty of sin which is death and eternal separation from the God of justice, who is also the God of mercy. Jesus received our penalty for us and as a sinless offering has fulfilled the demands of justice.

“And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-25 BSB

We celebrate Jesus birth like the angels did when the shepherds heard their singing in the heavens. Jesus is our reason to celebrate. The Bible says

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” Phil 2:10. NLT

He is uniquely qualified to be our savior, these are his qualifications:

  • He is God, Jesus is the triune God in the flesh.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1NLV

 “ and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 BSB

  • He is the fulfillment of prophecy.His birth was announced ages before he came. From the first book to the last, the Old Testament is filled with prophecy of His birth, His life, His death and Resurrection. The most recognized prophecy is from Isaiah.

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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV

  • His birth was miraculous. He was indeed born of a virgin.

“the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).Isaiah 7:14 NLT

  • He lived a sinless life although tempted as we all are, He overcame temptation.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 BSB

  • He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. His miracles were witnessed by many and were a testimony of who He was.

Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.” Acts 2:22 BSB

  • He died on the cross fulfilling prophecy.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 ESV

  • He was raised from the dead, having fulfilled the demands of justice He was the first to be raised to life.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.”    Psalm 16:10 NLT 

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1Cor 15:20 NIV

 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:12 ESV

He appeared to many before returning to heaven as His friends watched him leave.

“He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” 1Cor 15:5-7 BSB 

When Jesus had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” Luke 24:51 BSB

  • Finally He sent the Holy Spirit to testify of the truth and to indwell all believers with the power to share His message of love, life and liberty.

 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49 NLT

What is keeping you from opening this gift from God? Let me help you un-wrap it. Can I pray with you?”

“If only it was that simple you say” well sharing the truth of God’s gift gets easier as you practice and believe me I have not had enough practice. So let us as Christians pray for each other that we have the opportunities and the Holy Spirit power to follow through with helping others un-wrap Christmas. We experience such joy as we watch our loved ones open their gifts. How much more joy is experienced by the host of heaven as they watch someone un-wrap God’s loving and merciful gift to us!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 ESV

 Joy and gratefulness abounds as we repent and embrace the Love of Jesus and His precious gifts.  For the gift of God is one that opens up an abundant gift of many.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”                  Gal 5:22 KJB

I am praying that this post was helpful for you, and you will un-wrap or help someone nearby un-wrap the gift of Christmas!

References

https://gotquestions.org/is-Jesus-God.html

https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/rejoicing-in-heaven/

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2016/why-we-know-the-story-of-jesus-isnt-a-legend-video/

Bible Versions Used

BSB – Berean Study Bible

WEB – World English Bible

NLT – New Living Translation

NIV – New International Version

ESV – English Standard Version

KJB – King James Bible