Cutting Through The Chaos Of the Holidays

come lord jesus

Another year has passed. The holiday season is upon us, and if your life is anything like mine that means busyness is also upon us. On top of ordinary life come Christmas parties, vacations to see family, gift shopping, decorating – not to mention consuming the requisite quantities of eggnog and Santa-shaped sugar cookies. For the most part these once-a-year festivities are joyous…but they’re chaotic, too.

But let’s pause for a moment to cut through the chaos. Another year has passed. Once again we proclaim that Christ has come. Once, many years ago, in the fullness of time, the Son of God took on human flesh. Infinity joined with finitude. Omnipotence joined with weakness. Years would pass. In the weakness of that human flesh, Jesus would grow from infant to adult. And yet, in the weakness of that human flesh, and for the first and only time in human history, Jesus would offer perfect obedience. The second Adam would succeed where the first had failed.

Then, when the years of his life were complete, in a moment foreknown before the foundation of the world, the Son became the sacrifice. On Golgotha, God provided the lamb. Jesus died for our sins. And God accepted the sacrifice.

Three days would pass. Then, for the first but not the last time in human history, resurrection conquered death. The Lamb who was slain was raised as the Lion of Judah. Sin lost its dominion and the grave lost its sting. The new age has dawned. Redemption accomplished.

Years would pass, decades into centuries into millennia. Until one day, in the power of the Spirit, from the lips of ordinary humans, the message of this redemption came home to me. With saving power I heard that the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me – and for you too, if you receive him by faith.

More years will pass. An unknown number of Christmases will come and go. Until one day, in power and glory, before the watching eyes of the cosmos, this same Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead – and me, and you. We will stand before him. And one plea will be sufficient: Jesus died for me.

The holidays are busy, even chaotic. So is life in a fallen world. But underneath it’s very simple. Christ came. Christ died. Christ rose. Christ is coming. Until then, him we proclaim.

Come Lord Jesus!

Photo by Tim Green aka atoach

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you so much for reading our blog.

Here’s a Christmas song I wrote a few years ago that Sovereign Grace Music was kind enough to publish. If you’d like to listen to it you can do that here.

CHRIST THE LORD IS BORN TODAY

VERSE 1
How my happy heart rejoices
I can hear the angel voices
“Christ is born” they all are singing
From the sky this good news bringing
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

CHORUS
Christ the Lord is born today
He came from heaven’s throne
God is born a man today
To bring His children home
To bring His children home

VERSE 2
Death and darkness surely tremble
Light has come to all the people
The Lion comes to crush the serpent
He comes a Lamb, a lowly servant
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

VERSE 3
God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, released 01 November 2006
Words and music by Mark Altrogge
© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

My Love-Hate Relationship With Christmas Carols

Let me say from the beginning, the problem is me, not you. I have a heart that is two times too small. I’m a Scrooge, a Grinch you might say. Every year around Christmas time, I find myself becoming more cynical. A permanent scowl begins to harden on my face. My nostrils tend to flare more frequently. Why? Christmas carols. I don’t like them. And they’re everywhere!

Now, I realize that I am in the serious minority here. When I tell people that I don’t like the song “Mary Did You Know?”, they look at me as if I’ve just said I like to eat kittens. But, before you write me off as a total Christmas-hating Scrooge, hear me out.

As I read through the Bible, it seems that the story of Jesus’ birth has a soundtrack running behind it. It is an epic soundtrack, a thundering soundtrack, a soundtrack of war. Of battle. Of great, intense conflict. When Jesus was born, the demonic powers shuddered with fear. They knew that the king had come, and that their doom was imminent. They did all they could to stop the king. They incited Herod to slaughter baby boys. But they could not stop God’s redemption plan.

Jesus’ birth is the story of light breaking into darkness, of hope bursting into gloom. It is the story of sadness being undone, and the demonic rulers being overrun. It is the story of the King of Kings becoming a lowly, grasping, nursing, crying baby. It is the story of hidden glory.

The Christmas story is the story of a great warrior coming to rescue a helpless people. It’s a story of grit, and blood, and a rugged cross that awaited the newborn babe. The soft flesh of the babe would soon be punctured by nails. The smooth skin of the child would soon be ripped apart by a whip. When I hear Christmas carols, I don’t hear the grit or the struggle or the rescue. I don’t hear the initial cracks and pops of Satan’s skull underneath Jesus’ foot. I hear the story of a little drummer boy, and a silent night that is calm and bright. I hear about a white Christmas, and the Christmas shoes.

Now, is it wrong to like Christmas carols? Of course not! Jen loves them, including (to my chagrin), Amy Grant’s Christmas album. Plus, Christmas carols often cause us to brim over with memories of Christmas past, which is good.

But as we listen to their sweet melodies, let’s not forget about the glorious battle our Savior fought and won. Let’s remember the grit and the glory of what our Savior has accomplished. Let’s remember that the stable hung under the shadow of the cross.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some beef log to eat.

Jesus Is For People Who Hate Christmas

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Sometimes I think my heart is two times too small.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do like Christmas. I like getting together with my family to open presents and sit around the tree and watch reruns of Seinfeld and The Andy Griffith Show. I’m happy when it snows on Christmas. I like seeing tastefully decorated houses. Heck, I even like some Christmas music (don’t get me started on “Mary Did You Know?”).

But Christmas often brings out the gloomy side of me as well. I’m reminded of one of my favorite families who, because of cancer, no longer has a dad around the house. I’m reminded of some of my favorite people who, after many years of patiently waiting, are still single. I’m reminded of my sister, who has been dealing with migraine headaches for years without much relief. I’m reminded of my own ongoing battles with intense physical anxiety.

After the tree is down and the wrapping paper put away and the music silenced and the egg nog polished off, all the problems still remain. I think one of the reasons we cling so tightly to Christmas is that it helps us forget about our problems for awhile. For a few, brief days, everything seems as it should be. We long for a white Christmas because the snow covers up all the mud and muck.

My propensity toward Christmas gloom is one of the reasons I am so grateful for Jesus. Not in a “Jesus is the reason for the season,” kind of way, but in a, “Jesus is a holy warrior,” kind of way.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 8-9. In these chapters Jesus cleanses a leper, heals a centurion’s servant, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms a storm, drives demons out of two raving madmen, heals a paralytic, raises a girl from the dead, heals two blind men, and heals a man who is unable to speak. In the comments section of The Gospel Transformation Bible it says:

Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God, and where God reigns, the invisible powers of the universe in rebellion against him are banished and left powerless to do anyone ultimate harm…Since believers are united with Christ, they share Christ’s victory over evil.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of Christmas. Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God! Christmas is ultimately about the kingdom of God coming to this sad, broken, sin-marred world. Christmas is ultimately about a baby who would grow into a mighty warrior – a warrior who would crush Satan, undo sadness, defeat death, and ensure that it would be always Christmas and never winter.

Listen closely. For just a moment, tune out the Christmas music and television commercials. Do you hear that slow creaking and cracking noise? It’s the sound of Satan’s skull being slowly crushed underneath the foot of our conquering Savior. Now we suffer. Now we experience cancer and migraines and anxiety and singleness and sadness and loneliness and poverty. Now we are afflicted by sin and Satan and our flesh. But not always.

Ultimately, Christmas should give the most hope to those who hate Christmas. Things won’t always be this way. As it says in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Those are such sweet words. Christmas is a celebration of war! Jesus himself has declared open season on Satan. He came to destroy all the works of the evil one. He came to wipe away tears and heal broken bodies and lift up despondent hearts and drive out fear and destroy loneliness.

If you’re feeling gloomy, take heart. Jesus is for those who hate Christmas.

The Ultimate Comedown

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I don’t like to humble myself.

I love myself too much.  That’s why I so need the Lord’s grace to serve and lay down my life for others.  Apart from the Spirit’s power, I would only seek to be admired and served, to live for my own comfort and pleasure.   I’d never associate with the lowly nor look to the interests of others.

How I need to contemplate the immeasurable humility of Jesus.

Before Jesus took on flesh he existed as God from all eternity, infinite in glory, power and majesty.  All he had to do was give the word and the host of heaven would fly to do his will.  Myriads and myriads of angels worshiped and served him.  He had no needs, existing in perfect joyous fellowship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus “emptied himself” of his glory and took on a human nature.  This self-humbling was the ultimate comedown.

For Jesus to tread the mud of this earth and suffer hunger and weakness and associate with sinners was a greater humiliation than if I became a cockroach, for Jesus is infinitely exalted above his creation, and I am certainly not infinitely exalted above cockroaches.  Even the most radiant angels in heaven are only finite creatures, separated by an infinite chasm from the unfathomable greatness and glory of Jesus.  Angels are closer to garden slugs in their being than they are to God.  The highest order of creatures, seraphim, must cover their faces with their wings because they cannot bear the sight of Jesus’ blazing holiness.

Never has there been so deep a humiliation as Christ’s incarnation.  But on the cross his humiliation reached incalculable depths when he “became sin” in God’s sight.  Jesus, the sinless One, in bearing our crimes, became the most abhorrent, despicable thing that exists in his Father’s eyes.

And he did all this to purchase our salvation, to bring us to God, and clothe us with his own beauty.

That’s what Christmas is all about – the glorious Son of God, willingly embracing infinite humiliation to rescue and exalt vile sinners.

photo by kunkelstein