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Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Christmas Gospel

by Dr. Neil Chadwick

John Mark completely ignores the first 30 years of Jesus' life, and begins his narrative with the announcement, made by another John, that the Messiah was coming and would baptize, not with water as he, John the Baptist, was doing, but with the Holy Spirit. At that point, we first hear of Jesus coming from Galilee to the Jordan River near Jericho to be baptized. The announcement by the man John, was followed by an announcement from heaven, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)

Sometimes we hear people say, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have walked with Jesus while He was here among us?" Perhaps, but then we would have to give up one of our most prized celebrations, because His first disciples didn't have Christmas. Others may say, "We want to be His disciples." But again, if we were really like them, there would be no Christmas.

The earliest written records of Christianity had no Christmas because for them there was something much more important than Christmas.

Evidently there are many Christian churches that don't believe this. By now, everyone has noticed that December 25th, the day artificially designated "Christmas," happens to fall on a Sunday, the first time in eleven years. Believe it or not, many churches are canceling worship services that day - the message is clear: "Christmas, that is, partying, feasting, exchanging gifts, is more important than gathering together with other Christians for worship."

Of course some will counter with, "But you don't understand, Christmas is a family celebration - a time when we get together with members of our family who have become separated and scattered in our mobile society." Right, but don't you remember what Jesus said when members of his family came for a visit? (Mark 3:33-35)

This week a major news program released a story which bore the opening paragraph, "This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several mega churches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day." A spokeswoman for one of these churches said at least 500 volunteers were needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend church. She said, "Many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working." (http://www.foxnews.com/)

Doesn't anybody see the contradiction? In the world around us there is this battle to at least keep the title "Christmas" instead of allowing it to be reduced to the title, "Holiday." And yet the very people who claim that same title by calling themselves "Christian" are planning to ignore the specific command, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" on the very day set aside to celebrate God's greatest gift!

Evidently, the story of the birth of Jesus was something that Mark thought so unimportant as to leave it totally out of his Gospel account. He simply reported, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

What is "gospel"? What is this "god-story"? It is Jesus - but not His birth, but rather His death and resurrection.

No, it's not the romantic account of a new-born baby, of doting patents and adoring visitors, of singing angels on a peaceful starlit night. No, the story of God is the ugly story of the crucifixion of Jesus.

So if you want to talk about Christmas, that's fine, but I want to talk about the cross.

If you want to talk about the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem, I'll talk about the donkey that carried Jesus into the city of His fateful death.

If you want to talk about the shepherds who watched their flocks by night, I'll talk about Jesus our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep.

If you want to talk about the good kings from the East, and Herod the jealous king, I'll talk about Him who had over his bleeding head a sign which said, "Jesus, King of the Jews."

If you want to talk about the sheep grazing on the hillside when the angel choir sang their heavenly announcement, I'll talk about what Isaiah said, "All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned every one to his own way." (Is 53:6)

If you want to talk about the angels who sang, "Glory to God in the Highest," I'll talk about the angel that ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He agonized over what was about to happen, His pending crucifixion and death. (Luke 22:43)

If you want to talk about adoring shepherd boys and pompous kings kneeling humbly in worship, I'll talk about the jeering crowds and mocking religious leaders who pridefully paraded their success in silencing their enemy, a simple teacher from Galilee.

If you want to talk about the glorious light that shone down on a quaint stable-turned-nativity-scene, I'll talk about the darkness that stole the noonday sun, and the heart wrenching cries, "My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?" and "It is finished!"

If you want to talk about a beautiful young mother softly singing a sweet lullaby, I'll talk about a bereft mother weeping at the foot of the cross as her firstborn son delegates her care to a non-family member.

If you want to talk about the baby comfortably wrapped in swaddling clothes, I'll talk about the man stripped of His one earthly possession, a seamless garment, gambled away by calloused military executioners.

If you want to talk about the soft pink baby flesh, I'll talk about the torn, bruised and bleeding back, head, hands, feet, and side of a man dying a most agonizing death.

If you want to talk about the miraculous escape from an evil king's slaughtering sword, I'll talk about the sword that pierced the side of the Son of God, releasing blood and water signaling a broken heart.

This is the Gospel, this is God's story.

In the minds of many, the Christmas story is "The Greatest Story Ever Told." It has human interest, charm, and intrigue, and it calls forth wonder and sympathy and even anger towards cold hearted inn keepers and jealous kings. But let's be careful not to confuse this story with the Gospel. The Gospel, "God's Story" is about a cruel death on the cross, pain, blood and death - and glorious resurrection. It is the only story offering true hope for eternal life.

See Also:

Birth of the Incarnate God
The greatest the great wonder of our Savior's birth is how He humbled Himself to leave His throne on high to take our human nature so He could appease His Father's wrath upon our sin, and so making peace. He came to redeem us from a debt we could not pay, and reconcile us back unto God.

Testimony of an Inn-Keeper
A familiar Christmas Story with a twist.

Glad News, Good news, Christ is born
The greatest wonder ever revealed in heaven or earth was the wonder recorded in the verses before us for consideration.

Christmas Message from the Patriarch of Antioch - 2005

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