(12/16) I. A History of Christmas Recently, I went back and reviewed the history of Christmas celebration. That might sound silly to some, but did you know that it wasn't until around the 5th century that Christians began to observe the birth of Jesus. There is no example or instruction in the Bible about observing this day nor does the Bible even
mention the exact day on which Jesus was born. In fact, Christmas came into being when the Church in Rome in an effort to Christianize pagans without destroying pagan customs, took the various winter festivals of the nations and created the Feast of the Nativity, incorporating the Scandinavian feast of yule, and the Roman observance of Saturnalia and some others to create a
carnival like observance that resembled Mardi Gras. Most all of these observances took place at the end of December. After the Protestant Reformation, many protestant Christians wanted to rid themselves of Roman traditions that were not in the Bible and for years Christmas was one of them. Under Oliver Cromwell, it was illegal in England to make figgy pudding or mince pie
during the Christmas season. When the Puritans came to America, December 25th was purposely made a work day and in Boston it was illegal to observe Christmas.
It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century when Washington Irving wrote some short stories about different classes of peoples putting aside their differences and promoting harmony and good will during the Christmas season that American interest in Christmas began. At the same time in Engand, Charles Dickens wrote the infamous, A Christmas Carol,
and a renewed interest in Christmas began. A season of peace and good will toward everyone with a special interests in children spread through out England and the United States. It wasn't until 1870 that Christmas became a Federal Holiday in America. But instead of simply focusing on the birth of the Savior, both Americans and the English looked back to the ancient pagan
customs of observing the Christmas season. These customs included the decorating of trees, a yule log, blessing the poor, drinking parties, and the giving of gifts. Santa Claus became part of the observance in America largely due to Clement Moore's poem, A Visit from Saint Nicolas or as it is commonly referred to, 'Twas the night before Christmas', written in the early to mid
What I hope for, as a Pastor, is that both my family and the people who hear me will look at Christmas and worship God as they remember that God kept His promises and sent a Savior. I don't expect the world that doesn't truly know the Savior to worship as those who do, but I also don't want those who know the Savior to behave as those who don't. The
joy of Christmas is intimately tied to the joy of knowing the Christ of Christmas and all that God has given to us in His Son Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen!
II. A Child is Born - Let's return to Isaiah 9. Into a dark world, that had, to a great degree, turned away from God, God had promised light. That light would come from a child that would be without a human father. A virgin would conceive and bring forth a Son and He would be called Immanuel - Our God is With Us (7:14). Notice 9:6 says, "Unto us a
child is born," This virgin born Savior would be completely human, one of us, fulfilling God's first promise that the Savior would be of the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15). And unto us a Son would is given. The wording, I believe is a deliberate attempt to relate Isaiah's prophecy of a Savior King to that of the 2nd Psalm. This Savior King would be the Son of God or God in
visible human form. The prophetic promises plainly teach that Messiah would be God in the flesh (9:6 with Micah 5:2). At least 2 times in John's Gospel people attempted to stone Jesus because He claimed to be the Son of God or the visible presence of God with us. Look at John 5:18-19; 10:25-33. Matthew and Luke tell us that Mary was the virgin and the Jesus is the child that
was born as predicted.
III. The Indescribable Counselor - One of the outstanding Characteristics of this Savior King, who is God with us, is that He will known for His incredible wisdom, He will be called Wonderful Counselor. One of the things that Kings did was to hold court and make decisions that affected people's lives. Solomon was a prime example fo that. His wisdom was
known throughout the known world of His day. Let's look at this description.
A. The word - 'Wonderful,' is a word that means, marvelous, wondrous, unimaginable, beyond comprehension, indescribable, mind boggling, awesome. Cp. Judges 13:18 where the Angel of the Lord appears to the parents of Samson. They ask Him what His name is and He responds, "And the Angel of the Lord said to him, "Why do you ask My name, seeing it is
wonderful?" (or secret, or awesome, etc.) This was a preincarnate visit of Jesus. This child; this Son would be indescribable in His wisdom.
B. The word - 'Counselor,' refers to one who gives out advice, or teaching or wisdom according to a well thought out plan, policies, or program. A king would make decisions that would affect peoples lives and guide those over which He governs. He will know the best way to live in this life, and how to straighten up the mess that we have made of it and
how to govern a world in peace and righteousness. Since He is God with us, the God who created us, He knows the best way for us to live and have peace and righteousness. The New Testament ascribes to Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies of promise.
C. The Critique of His Counsel. Jesus seldom spoke that he didn't, "Wow," people with His words. Listen to some of the comments.
Matthew 7:28-29, after Jesus our Lord had finished His Sermon on the Mount, which we will be teaching through after the first of the year, "And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Luke 4:22 after He read in the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up, "So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph’s son?"
Matthew 12:23,"And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"
Matt. 13:54, After teaching by Parables, it says, "He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
John 7:45-46, The Sheriff's Dept. was sent to arrest him and when they came back without Him they said to the court, "Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?" The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!" Whenever Jesus spoke, people were, Wowed!
D. The Course of His Counsel. Jesus' counsel always revolved around two things:
1. Knowing and Honoring the Father - He lived and breathed to honor The Father- (John 6:38)
2. Loving People for God - On several occasions He said that all of God's word is based on these two premises. The whole world seems to emphasize the counsel that says that your life should evolve around yourself and getting by. Jesus emphasizes thinking about God and others. His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and a similar Sermon the Plain in Luke
6, are completely contrary to the common philosophy's of life. His Golden rule emphasizes not giving people what they deserve, but thinking of how you would want people to treat you if you were the one who is in need, who made the mistake or who is guilty of sin.
He dispensed a crowd that wanted to stone an adulteress woman, by simply saying, "Let the one without sin, first, cast a stone."
He told a rich young man that the way to have eternal life was to give all that he had away and to follow Him.
He told a crowd that wanted to trap Him with His words, to render unto Ceaser the things that are Ceaser's and to God the things that are God's.
He confounded the arrogant by asking them where John the Baptist got His message, from God or People. They couldn't answer.
He confounded the religious by asking them how David could call His Son, Lord?
He spoke of God as one who knew God personally and He loved to introduce people to Him.
He claimed on several occasions that He spoke the truth, because He is the Truth. John 8:31-32 says, "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 14:6, "I Am the way, the Truth, and the Life."
IV. Considering This Wonderful Counselor. We live in a time in history when it is fashionable to be seeing a Counselor, a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Therapist, Psycho Anaylist, etc. Today's buzz words are Bi-polar, stress, anxiety, phobias, depression, co-dependency, dysfunctional, etc. The most popular selling books are self help books. How can I
overcome this, Have that, Achieve this, Lose that, Be Happy, Have Peace, Gain Wealth, Be Healthy, Know My Purpose, Save My Marriage, Discipline My kids, Marry the Right Person, Deal with my Enemies, and so on?
Listen, If we would study and follow the words of Jesus and the Book that His Holy Spirit has breathed out for us, we would have the answers to all of these and more answered. (Pause - There are times when we do need to seek the counsel of those who are equipped to help us, but that help needs to be linked to God's truth. Sometimes we have problems
that are physically, chemically inked and a professional can diagnose that. But most of us just need to learn and follow His Counsel.) His counsel is awesome. Listen, the Gospel isn't to just give us a free trip to heaven but to give us the best life possible, this side of heaven. He said, "I have come that you might have abundant - over-flowing life," (John 10:10). But to
have that life, we have to listen to and obey His counsel. We mess up when don't seek His counsel or think that His counsel doesn't apply to us or that it doesn't or won't work for me, or that we know what is best for ourselves. But consider this:
A. He is the Truth. All truth has its origin in Him. Col. 2:3 says that, " in Him is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is nothing but the truth.
B. He Knows the Truth. Counselors are experimenting, theorizing, studying and still trying to learn how to treat people. He already knows you and knows the truth and knows what you need before you ask. He knows what is in every heart. He knows the truth because all truth comes from Him.
C. He Only Gives the Truth. Sometimes it hurts, but it is always the best way to live, and He is always honest with us. Following your heart isn't always the best advice, nor is having it your way, nor is the counsel of the world always the best way, but Jesus is always the best way. To the spiritually empty Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life." To the
Lost, He says, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life, believe in me." To the lonely He says, "I am the Good Shepherd and I will always care for my sheep, follow me." To those who are all wrapped up in the stuff that doesn't last, He says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all this other stuff will be added to you." To those who are thinking that their goodness will get them
into heaven he says, "You must be born again, or you won't see the Kingdom of Heaven." To the weary, He says, "Come to me and I will give you rest."
For the price of one visit to a Counselor you can purchase a good concordance, a Bible dictionary, a good Study Bible, and a Good one volume commentary on the Bible. I would encourage everyone to seriously consider purchasing them.
D. He is always Accessible - James 1:5; Heb. 4:16; 10:19-22; Jer. 29:11-14a. 33:3. His line is never busy, His door is never closed.
E. He is Accepting - He turns no one away, He will forgive anything, He will love you regardless of where you have been. He understands us because He became one of us. He knows how to be strong or victorious in whatever you are facing or how to cast it all onto God's shoulders.
F. He is Accurate - What He tells us is for our Good and His Glory. He had a book written for us so we would know how to have the best life now, and if we mess it up, the book tells us how to clean it up, and how God can turn your mess into a masterpiece. It will always be right. He really does have your best at heart. He knows how to be a Godly
person, How to be a Good Husband, a Good Wife, A Good parent, A Good employee, a Good employer, How to invest your money, How to love and be loved, How to be a good neighbor, a good citizen, invest your money, have victory over worry, know peace, be free of fear, have joy and love. And its all in here. and its all for those who want to Know Him and know Truth.
G. He is Asking you to Come to Him - Matthew 11:28-30, Isa. 55:1-6
To take His yoke is to put yourself under His teachings, and the result is, you will find rest for your souls. That is what the one whose birth we celebrate is asking us to do, because He is an Awesome Counselor. Have you come to Him? Have you taken His yoke and yielded to His leadership in your life? Would consider doing that today? This baby in a
manger wants to teach you how to have the best life possible now and secure your future forever.
Let me close with encouraging you to consider something. As we approach the new year, many people are encouraged to read through the Bible. That is an awesome goal, but here is the problem. Once we get to the middle of the second book of Exodus, we start getting bogged down worth all the dimensions of the cloth and furniture of the Tabernacle, and then
we get to the 3rd book and all the details of all the sacrifices and laws, and then if we get to the 4th book we get all the names and the numbers of the people in Israel. Before we get to the 5th book, we often opt out. Be honest. For 2013, let's do something different. Let's spend the time between Christmas and Easter entirely focused on the 4 gospels. Let's read and
meditate on the words of Jesus. Just one chapter or even just 1/2 chapter a day. Perhaps keep a journal on these 4 books. Use the ACCEPTS questions; that is, ask yourself these seven questions. You may not answer but one, or you may answer more than one, but everyday, you will discover that God has something to say to you.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman