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The Greatest Lessons of Christmas

Our culture has turned most holidays inside out, whether Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day or Christmas.  The holy day becomes the party day; the fun and frivolity overtake the core meaning; the event slowly morphs into excuses for excess.  Possibly the most glaring unintended consequence of today’s Christmas celebration has been the obscuring of its bedrock spiritual principles.  The shadow has triumphed over the substance, and we have been left with hollow, if painstakingly followed, traditions.  Rather than granting us a solemn reminder to return to core values, this most blessed holiday has pushed our society in the opposite direction.  We need a stiff challenge to re-discover these disappearing principles and turn Christmas right side out.

Power out of weakness.  The birth of a newborn sculpts out the quintessential image of weakness.  Helpless, dependent, vulnerable and powerless, Bethlehem’s Baby showed the world that God uses weakness, not the conventional sources of influence and power, to accomplish His purposes.  Our lesson is that we must not look to this visible, secular world for our strength.  God’s way may look hopelessly weak, but it contains all the necessary elements of power.  (1 Corinthians 1:25).

New out of old.  The lesson here is deafening:  you CAN start over!  You are not stuck in your sorry past forever.  Lay your failures to rest.  Bury your misspent moments, your unmitigated disasters, your ill-advised decisions and your ruined relationships in the soil beneath your feet.  Jesus did not come to condemn you; He didn’t come to shame you back into your cave of shame.  He came as a baby to show you that you can begin anew.  (John 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Wealth out of poverty.  Are you measuring your wealth in dollars and cents?  Christmas emphatically shows us that our true worth has much more to do with intangibles like love, faith, integrity and virtue than it does with money.  Dirt-poor conditions characterized the birth of Christ, yet His birth generated enormous spiritual wealth.  Thousands of rich people live at the poverty level in the spirit because they mistake money for wealth.  Whatever you get—or give—for Christmas, is there an exchange of love?  How about joy, peace, hope and truth?  No amount of money can measure up to these spiritual commodities.  (Luke 12:15).

Recognition out of obscurity.  Our jaded media with its focus on the rich and famous have led us to substitute position for character.  The truth is that you are significant despite your upbringing or surroundings.  Too often, we have seen those with talent, good looks or enviable connections exalted to pinnacles of fame and fortune, only to be summarily knocked off their perches when either their seamier side shows through or some new celebrity comes along.  Jesus was a “root out of a dry ground.”  His ascendancy to significance came from within Him, not from the powers that be.  Pay more attention to who you are than where you are.  (Isaiah 53:1-3).

Joy out of sorrow.  Our lesson?  Today’s tears will turn into tomorrow’s joys.  The sorrows of Mary and Joseph did not win the day, even though the census, the back-breaking journey, the insensitivity of the innkeeper and the insult of a barn and feeding trough silently mocked them.  Christmas says smile through the pain, sing in the rain and pray through the seemingly insurmountable difficulties.  The distress in the stable could not deter the “joy to the world!” (Luke 2:10).

Liberty out of bondage.  Have you been down so long that doom and gloom looks like home?  Every day, people shackled with addictions and wicked habits wake up in the morning thinking it is a new day, only to resign themselves all over again to their cruel bondage.  Quit wringing your hands in defeat.  The message of Christmas says you can be set free!  The birth of Christ defied the decree of King Herod and the suffocating laws of Augustus Caesar.  Jesus represents freedom from the slave masters who have gutted your life of real meaning.  (John 8:32).

Life out of death.  The intimate details of the Christmas story reveal unspeakably grim circumstances and damaged emotions.  Mary was found with child while only engaged to Joseph.  Betrothal had the force of marriage in those days, and if it had not been for God’s intervention through an angel, divorce would have ended the relationship.  Mary’s humiliation would have been tantamount to death.  The spiritual principle here is profound.  Keep believing when it seems all is lost.  God does bring life out of death.  He not only gave us a precursor at Bethlehem, He demonstrated the actual event in His death, burial and resurrection!  When life deals you a death blow, the power of God can raise you up again.  (John 11:25).

Deity through humanity.  Finally, the greatest lesson of all is what God can do with humanity.  God let his deity shine through humanity.  Lying there in the manger was the Almighty robed in flesh; the Eternal God manifested in a temporal vessel of clay; the visible image of the invisible God.  The flesh of Jesus was sinless, but it grew weak, became fatigued and felt the entire range of emotions as does any other human being.  Because of His humanity, Jesus has become our sympathetic High Priest, tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin.  He descended to our level of humanity to identify with us; we then can identify with Him in his eternal life.  “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3 NIV).

We spend countless hours and mountains of money on the holiday fluff while we mindlessly neglect the core values.  Somewhere in the wrappings, trimmings and gifts now tossed aside are principles powerful enough to change your life.  Find some way to reach in, pull them out, dust them off and hold them up for all to see.  The traditions are smoke screens.  The principles behind them must shine through them all.  Have a Merry Christmas indeed!


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