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
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