The Celebration of Christmas

Birth Celebrations

If you’re a parent, there’s one thing that you cannot forget.

The birth of your kids.

Each of my girls was an incredible – unique, challenging, and filled with adventure! They were also filled with celebrations. They happened in the delivery room with hospital staff the first few moments after delivery. Nicky and I celebrated what God had done. Nicky celebrated that it was over!

Then family comes to visit. And the tradition of celebration continues. What was once a parent now enters the hospital room as a grandparent, maybe for the first time. Who was once a sister now enters the room as an aunt. Gifts are delivered. Meals are provided. My point? Births are a time for celebration.

And we aren’t the only ones with our own traditions on celebrating births. In Latin America, mothers are given forty days to recuperate while friends and family pitch in with all the mother’s other responsibilities. And in Brazil, new moms are not given gifts but give gifts to the guests that come and visit.

No matter the culture, it’s universal. Births are a time for celebration.

Sacrificial system

And if we look again at Luke’s recording of the birth of Jesus, we’ll find yet another birth celebration. This one celebrated in angelic fashion!

But before we head there, let’s get some quick context. Animals such as bulls, goats, and sheep were continually sacrificed for people’s sins year after year. Imagine each year, bringing in your sacrifice, the animal taking your place, but also being a constant reminder of the wrong things you’ve done – the sin that separates. That was the system in place.

And shepherds cared for many of these animals. Shepherds were likely the lowest class economically and socially. Yet this group of men guarded the very animal that gave its life sacrificially. What better group of people to celebrate the birth of Jesus!? Why? Well, let’s go back to the beginning, as in the very beginning.

Back to the garden

God created a perfect garden environment for Adam and Eve to live in. It was full of God and full of peace. Food was all around. Indeed, there were many trees Adam and Eve could select from and a vegetable garden unlike any we’ve ever seen or eaten. I mean, this was the perfect environment!

And as long as they remained thankful for what they had and didn’t desire what they couldn’t have, things would go well for them. It was when they looked longingly at what they couldn’t have that set their downfall (and ours) in motion.

You know the story. Eve is tempted to eat from the ONLY tree that God said not to eat. They probably had hundreds of different trees to eat from. But this one, being off-limits, made it all the more desirable. So, Eve and Adam succumbed, taking their eyes off all the other blessings in the garden to obtain what they thought would be a tremendous blessing. But as you and I know, it turned out to be something quite the opposite of a blessing. It was something much worse.

Broken peace.

Broken peace…now restored

Peace between man and woman, as well as peace between God and humanity, was broken. Peace would no longer rule. The unbroken communion Adam and Eve had experienced with each other was now broken. Theirs was the first relationship to suffer. The next? Their relationship to God. The unbroken communion they both shared with God was severed, leaving a gap between God and the people meant to be in a close, peaceful relationship with God.

Restoring peace would take something much more than the sacrifice of goats, bulls, or sheep that the shepherds guarded. It would take the Son of God.

Jesus would be the one to restore peace, reconciling God and man, and being the bridge that man could cross and once again experience “peace that passes understanding.” Paul writes in Colossians 1:20 about Jesus that…

…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

The shepherds likely didn’t fully grasp all of this at once. But God did. And I’ll bet His angels did too! This was THE birth to celebrate, for it was the one that paved the road for grace, mercy, and peace.

A time to celebrate

With all that in mind, the angels’ words to the shepherds ought to take a slightly different shape!

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” Luke 2:8-14 CEB

The angels cried out, praising God for peace. The separation between God and man was being resolved because Jesus would make peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20)!

Indeed it was a time to celebrate! And of all people, the shepherds were invited to the celebration! How awesome!

So…How are you celebrating Christmas?

It’s a great question to consider this week as we move closer to Christmas Day. Like births, Christmas has celebration traditions – presents, food, decorations! All of them are so stellar! But how can you, while you’re keeping with all your traditions, start a new one?

What about doing something intentionally to celebrate the peace Jesus brings. Here’s a great one! Read the Christmas Story from Luke on Christmas morning. And then just sit and marinate in it. Let it wash over you. You no longer have to be reminded of past sins and regrets. You can move ahead into the new year, celebrating the peace you have through Jesus Christ. God love you so much that He gave you the greatest gift of all!

You can celebrate because God gave you Jesus!

Finding peace if you don’t have it

If you don’t have the peace we’ve been talking about, but you’d like it, it’s not complicated. It’s simple. And you can do it right now. I call it the ABCs of Salvation.

The A is for admit. We admit we’ve done wrong things. We admit we’ve sinned. And we admit we cannot save ourselves or give ourselves the peace we so desperately need.

The B is for believe. We choose to believe in the person and purpose of Jesus – that He is God’s Son, born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life yet died a sinners death so that you and I would not have to. We choose to believe that He did not stay in the grave, but after three days, God raised Him back to life, conquering both the power of sin and death.

The C is for choose. God doesn’t force Himself on us. It’s our choice to choose Him. It’s our choice to choose His offer for peace. We can accept it. There’s no fancy prayer or rite you have to go through.

It’s as simple as Admitting, Believing, and Choosing.

My prayer is that you choose Him. Choose the peace He offers. And when you do, you will have a new reason to celebrate! You’ll celebrate a birth! Not just Jesus’ birth, but your new birth as a Christian!! And a great way to celebrate?? Let’s look at what the shepherds did.

…they reported what they had been told about this child. Luke 2:17 CEB

They told people. So…Tell someone – Someone you know that has a relationship with Jesus. And then find a church! Celebrate with them! It’s a new birth, and they will want to celebrate with you.

And you know what else? Heaven celebrates with you!!

I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.” Luke 15:10 CEB

You are loved!