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Christmas Unwrapped-uncovering the true meaning of Christmas

Let me begin today by saying that I love Christmas. I believe the story told by the Gospel writers and foretold by the prophets. So Christmas is all about God’s love and the Savior being born. Emmanuel, God with us, the hope of Glory.

There are many wonderful songs of Christmas. There are the traditional and contemporary. There are religious and secular. There is one though that no matter what music you are listening to this Christmas season is going to be played and it will draw you into the spirit of Christmas. That song is “O Holy Night”. It is a marvelous carol of Christmas and has an interesting history.


The lyrics to the song were written by a French commissioner of wine who wasn’t a very devout Christian. He was however known for his poetry. The music was composed by a Jewish composer who didn’t even believe in the event described in the verses. Nonetheless, the song was first performed at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in 1847.


It would quickly gain popularity across France, but once the French church discovered that those who created the song were not “of the spirit of the religion” they tried to ban it. However, it continued to be popular in homes and was picked up by an American abolitionist who was deeply touched the lyrics.

1. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;


Chorus

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!

O night divine! O night when Christ was born.

O night, O holy night, O night divine.


He brought the song overseas to a new audience who embraced the Luke-based lyrics. Then in 1906, a 33-year-old professor named Reginald Fessenden, who had worked for Thomas Edison, shocked the world by broadcasting his voice over the radio for the first time.

He read from the gospel of Luke and people from all over rushed to their radios to hear his voice. After finishing, he picked up his violin and began playing “O Holy Night” to his audience. It has the distinction of being the first Christmas Carol ever broadcast on the radio.


You know there is something so special about Christmas and that night, that “O, Holy Night”, it shows us the great meaning of Christmas and that meaning originated in heaven.


Things had gone terribly wrong in the Garden of Eden. God had a plan that would right the wrongs, it would be a truth that people would need and He sent a baby to His world that would be the meaning of Christmas. Well, what did this baby do? What was the result of His birth? He provided a way for God to forgive our sins and bring us back into right relationship with Him. That God sent Jesus to be the Savior is good news for all people and is the true meaning of Christmas.


Billy Graham once said-


“Christmas is the celebration of the event that set Heaven to singing, and event that gave the stars of the night sky a new brilliance”


The true meaning of Christmas is about Jesus. It has been said the “Christmas is about a baby born in a stable, who changed the world forever” (John Maxwell)


Luke 2:8-12


8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.


9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 


10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 


11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 


12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”


Some of you may have been a shepherd in a Christmas production. Every year all over the world this scene is repeated, of course it is much less this year because of COVID-19. Do we really need to be reminded what happened? Yes, the world needs to hear that the message for Christmas is about Jesus. What happened that night?


There were shepherds and angels. There was good news for all people and it happened exactly where God said it would. The Prophet Micah had said it would be Bethlehem, the city of David In Micah 5:2


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me

The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,

From everlasting.”


You know we might be prone to ask the question? Why Bethlehem, why shepherds, why a manger? Why not? God sent his angels as messengers to ordinary people, doing ordinary things in an ordinary place. To see His extraordinary work of redemption. God always works that way. Who else does God have besides ordinary people like you who are also the objects of His love?


The message for Christmas is about Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas is to be shared.


One day I was reading about Christmas, and that it is the perfect time to share feelings of joy and good cheer. And of course, the more good feelings we share, the more we have left over for ourselves. I think that is so true, don’t you?


Luke 2:16-18


16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 


17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 


18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.


I’m not sure that we really get the idea of what happened right here. They hurried to find Mary, Joseph, and the Babe. The shepherds believed what they had been told and they went to see but even more wonderful is that they saw and then they told others.


Ordinary people telling others about an extraordinary thing. The shepherd’s response to the heavenly vision was:


They listened

They understood

They responded

And they told others


Christmas began with the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man. The message for Christmas is about Jesus, and the message for Christmas is to be shared because the true meaning of Christmas is for all people.


Luke 2:25-32


25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 

26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 

27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 

28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation

31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”


The story of Christmas with the shepherds is widely known however Simeon's part in the Christmas story is news to many. Simeon was an interesting person. Luke says that he was just and devout. A Jew who had been waiting for the Consolation of Israel. This word consolation is an important word. This word is built upon a root word that appears only 17 times in the Bible. However, consolation is related to several words translated compassion, which occur frequently in the Bible. Consolation means, “to provide comfort that relieves pain and grief”.


When used in the OT consolation came through the meeting of physical or spiritual needs. While here in Luke, Simeon had recognized that God would send someone and that it would be this Babe to provide God’s comfort for His people, the ultimate comfort. Simeon knew and linked that with salvation with the comfort God provides through Jesus, and we should, too.


How wonderful that God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, and he would bring the Consolation to Israel that “comfort that relieves pain and grief”.


Verses 27-32


27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 

28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation

31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”


These words of Simeon tie the Christ in the crib to the Christ on the cross. At Christmas, we celebrate His birth, it is the message for Christmas. Just like Simeon, we should lift our hearts and voices in praise to God for providing salvation for all people. The prophet Isaiah knew of a child to come-


Isaiah 9:6


For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


So today we are exactly one week away from the day that we celebrate His birth. Yet the message for Christmas is about Jesus, to tell of His love and to tell it to the whole world. It is not a message for only one day a year but for every day. It is the message that can and will save a lost person. It is the gift of God which was offered that first Christmas morning when a Savior was born in Bethlehem.


Let me close today in wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.


A thought to ponder,


Elbert Nasworthy








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