Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas and the God of Surprises

Christmas is proof that God loves surprises. According to the prophet Isaiah, God had promised to bring light to people living in darkness, joy to replace sorrow, and freedom from the burden of oppression. He would do this by sending someone to rule with justice and spread peace everywhere. What is surprising about that? That the someone he was sending would be a baby. Continue reading

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Wide Angle: Christmas, in God’s Time, in God’s Way

It’s time to zoom out and consider the Christmas story from a wide-angle viewpoint. After four hundred years of radio silence, heaven re-established contact and sent messengers (that is the meaning of the Greek word we translate as “angel”) to … Continue reading

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Wide Angle: Operation Bethlehem

If you remove the Christmas story from the larger narrative that surrounds it, from the promises of God to rescue and renew his people, you still have a nice story but you may just miss the point. This little child … Continue reading

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Christmas Through the Wide Angle: The Line Becomes the Point of it All

If you remove the Christmas story from this larger narrative, from the promises of God to rescue and renew his people, you still have a nice story, but you may just miss the point. This little child is the fulfillment of the great promises. He is the king. Bethlehem is not just an inhospitable town; it is an invasion site. Bethlehem ought to be listed with Thermopylae, Troy, Normandy, and Omaha Beach. With the coming of this child the forces of the eternal kingdom have arrived, and the deciding campaign of the Long War has begun. Continue reading

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Right on Time: A Message for Christmas

If God let his promise to them fail, might not his promises to us be annulled? If his anger smoldered against them, might it not smolder against us? If they waited too long, might we not wait too long?

But they did not wait too long. They didn’t wait long enough. Some of them didn’t wait at all. Instead of trusting God, they took matters into their own hands. They gave up on God, but God did not give up on himself or his promises. Continue reading

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Faith in the Future: Christmas as a Symbol of Hope

d the Corp of Engineers to dam a river, and that meant evacuating a small town that would be permanently flooded. It took years of hearings and tons of paperwork before the plan finally went into effect. Eventually, the state purchased the property from the town, and gave people ample time to find other places to live.

As soon as the decision was finalized, a fascinating thing began to happen. The once beautiful town fell into disrepair. When things stopped working, machines failed, or windows broke, the people of the town just let them go. One of the residents said, “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no work in the present.” Continue reading

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Wide Angle: We Stopped Trusting Too Soon

hrone of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Remember that he was born in, of all places, Bethlehem, the town of David.  The prophet had hundreds of years earlier said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” Continue reading

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Wide Angle: When the Line Vanished

That promise was recorded and published, and it left an indelible impression on the minds of the house of Israel. And I say “the house of Israel” again because it was only a few hundred years after David that the “kingdom of Israel” was a kingdom no more. The kingdom was shattered from within, and then crushed from without. David’s descendants were sent into exile. The royal line vanished in a faraway land.

wind. They had lost the promised land and the promised king in one blow. And where was God while all this was happening? That’s what the psalmist wanted to know. Continue reading

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Disruption: We Hate It but We Need It

God, the theologians tell us, is omnipotent, immutable, and incomprehensible. They should have told us that he is also inconvenient. The eternal and omnipresent God doesn’t step into our little lives without disrupting our plans.

The fact is most of us need a good disruption from time to time. We may not like it – probably won’t – but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Without occasional disruptions, the priority of our convenience, our plans, our schedule remain unchallenged, which can leave us assuming a false independence from God. God uses disruptions for our good, to teach us to trust him, to break us out of our self-centeredness and enable us to know him better.

He also uses disruptions to move us in new and better directions. The business world has a term for systemic changes brought about by the introduction of a new agent. They call it disruptive innovation. God has been managing disruptive innovation since he banished our first parents from the Garden. No one understands it better. Continue reading

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Jesus Is Not Peter Pan: Let’s Stop Confusing Them

I think we get Jesus confused with Peter Pan. We seem to think he is the boy who would not grow up.

A seven-year-old girl went with her grandparents to look at Christmas displays in the suburb where they lived. When they saw a large Nativity scene, Grandma called attention to it: “Look, Sarah, isn’t it beautiful?” And Sarah, who was a very smart girl, said: “Grandma, one thing bothers me. Jesus is the same size he was last year. Why doesn’t he ever grow up?”

Perhaps Jesus does not grow up because we won’t let him. We love the baby Jesus. He is so sweet, sitting on his mother’s lap, like he is in Leonardo’s painting, stretching out a tiny hand to his admirers. It is all so charming – and entirely innocuous. What could be less threatening than a little baby – particularly one that never grows up?

But leaving Jesus at Bethlehem on Christmas Day is like leaving WWII at Normandy on D-Day, or manned flight at Kitty-hawk on a December day in 1903. It is important to celebrate the act that set it all in motion, but there is so much more to the story. Interestingly, Christians did not think to celebrate Christ’s birth until about the fifth century, but for many contemporary westerners, Christmas is the only Christian holiday they celebrate.

At Christmas, we stand over the manger – we are comfortable there – and sing about the Child who is proof of God’s love for the world. But at some point we need to move away from the manger.
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