Word: the biblical starting point
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior— yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’” Luke 2:8-14 (NLT)
“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherd’s story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” Luke 2:15-20 (NLT)
“Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, ‘If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.’ So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—‘either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” Luke 2:21-24 (NLT)
“At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!’” Luke 2:25-32 (NLT)
Wisdom: a guiding sentiment
“We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.” Timothy Keller
Weave: an intertwining of experience or reflection and the biblical story
An encounter with the Christ child resulted in worship. Scripture recounts that the angels, shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, all of them, bowed their hearts to the newborn king, the Messiah spoken of by the prophets. It was a celebration of hope, peace and joy birthed from the divine spring of God’s cosmic redemption plan—specifically, his gift of salvation for humankind. Scripture gives us a snapshot of the worship that took place at Christ’s birth and shortly afterwards. There is much left unsaid. I would love to know what happened, but not recounted. What did their worship literally look like? What were they thinking? What was their heart telling them? What emotions did they demonstrate? What was transformed in their life after their encounter with the Christ child?
Recently, my wife and I embarked on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. I had heard stories, seen pictures and videos of this land feature, but when I physically stood and surveyed this amazing creation of God, my heart exploded into worship. I could do nothing less. The vastness of this canyon, its vibrant colours, its beautiful contours, all of it was breathtaking, spell-binding. My understanding of God’s power and creativity was forever changed when I saw this wonder wrought by the Sovereign’s word. My worship was enriched and my faith enhanced. I wonder if these ancient worshippers could even begin to grasp who it was that lay in the manger or was carried in the arms of Mary. Here was the “I am.”
The word “Christmas” (“Cristenmaesse” in Middle English meaning “Christ’s Mass”) is imbued with an inherent call to worship. Christmas is to be a sacrosanct space for the worship of Emmanuel. Over time, the faith community has heaped upon this time, intended for praise and veneration, earthly and carnal practices. We have buried what is to be holy and sacred under so much that is ungodly and self-serving. Sadly, your Christmas may be far from being a life-transforming encounter with the King of kings. However, it does not have to continue to be that. Once again quoting C.S. Lewis: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Wrestle: pondering next steps
So, it’s Christmas Day and you wish it was more—more focused on Jesus, more focused on worship, more fixed on heavenly, eternal things. If you’re breathing, you have an opportunity to reboot your Christmas Day. Don’t aim for the moon and upend everything you had previously set in motion. Rather, choose a space of time (an afternoon, an hour) and infuse it solely with worship. In that space, why not reclaim the essence of that which made that first Christmas an experience for the unbridled worship of Jesus? Let me help you get started by suggesting that you reflect on, and then sing, the hymn “For He Alone Is Worthy.” Jesus would be pleased.
“For he alone is worthy,
for he alone is worthy,
for he alone is worthy, Christ the Lord.
“We’ll give him all the glory,
we’ll give him all the glory,
we’ll give him all the glory, Christ the Lord.
Oh, come let us adore him,
oh, come let us adore him,
oh, come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”