Carl Laferton writes: For years I thought “Christ” was Jesus’ surname. I assumed that Joseph and Mary were Mr and Mrs Christ, and so Jesus’ full name was Jesus Christ. But actually “Christ” is a title not a name. Christ is a title which means God’s promised King.
Source: Carl Laferton, Christmas Uncut, 2015, The Good Book Company, p.19
Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake as a lady called Thelma Howard, an American maid, who missed out on a fortune because she didn’t look carefully enough at her Christmas present. Her employer was Walt Disney, who gave her a piece of paper in an envelope every Christmas. Thelma didn’t understand what it was, so she added it to a pile under her bed. After her death her relatives discovered the documents and realised they were shares in the Disney Corporation, worth over thirty million dollars.
Source: Vaughan Roberts booklet, Christmas In Three Words
The story of Christmas trees is fascinating! The tradition started in Germany hundreds of years ago. Tribes of people decorated trees to honour their gods, including the very powerful god Thor. The Oak of Thor was a huge tree that no one cut down! A Christian missionary named Boniface, who was there to spread the good news about Jesus Christ to the people, chopped down Thor’s oak to prove that Thor was a false god, not the true God who loved them and created them in his image! Nothing happened! They all began to believe in Jesus, and Boniface told them to use an evergreen tree to represent Christ, because its green leaves were constant and never-changing, like Christ’s love. So today we honour Jesus through evergreen trees at Christmas! Let’s praise God for His powerful love and how He always loves us, no matter what.
Source: YouVersion Bible reading plan, Why do we call it Christmas, by Phil Vischer
Scholars disagree as to the exact date of Christ’s birth. Nor do they know that the Church of the Nativity that is visited everyday by pilgrims in Bethlehem, is the exact location of His birth. Nor can any of us comprehend how by the Holy Spirit, a virgin could conceive a child. But here’s the good news: you don’t need to know when, where or how Jesus was born; you just need to know why.
Source: The UCB Word For Today, 25/12/17
I love the funny story about a husband and wife who were out Christmas shopping and they agreed to meet up at a certain place and time. The husband wasn’t there when he should have been and his wife got crosser and crosser until she eventually called his mobile and said, ‘I’ve been waiting here for 20 minutes, where the heck are you?’ The husband said: ‘Darling, I’m sorry. You remember that jewellery shop where you fell in love with that diamond necklace and I said I couldn’t afford it but I’d buy it for you one day?’ His wife replied: ‘Oh yes, sweetie, I remember.’ The husband said: ‘I’m in the pub next door!’
Tim Thornborough asks: Is it possible to like Christmas too much? Andy Park, who calls himself “Mr Christmas”, has celebrated Christmas every day since 1994. He drinks champagne, sends himself cards and gifts, and sits down to a turkey dinner after watching a recording of the Queen’s speech. Over the years, Mr Park has chewed his way through 150,000 Brussel sprouts, and eaten in excess of 100,000 mince pies, washed down with gallons of sherry. But all of this joyful celebration has not come without cost. Mr Park, an electrician, was advised by doctors to stop his habit when his weight ballooned to over 19 stone. Mr Park, who is single, confesses he has spent a small fortune on Christmas, adding, “It’s hard to find a woman who wants to celebrate Christmas every day with you.” – I want to say to him… it might also be something to do with sprouts, Andy!
Source: Tim Thornborough, 2016, How To Have A Happy Christmas, booklet by The Good Book Company
H. G. Wells, speaking about great men of history, said of Jesus: “More than 1900 years later a historian like myself who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture centring irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man. (…) The historians test on an individual’s greatness is ‘What did he leave to grow?’ Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigour that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.” – You can gauge the size of ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake it leaves behind.
Source: Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 2000, London: Marshall Pickering, p.15
‘Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, has ruled over the United Kingdom for more than sixty years. She is the second longest reigning British monarch. Each year, on Christmas Day, the Queen gives a message to the nation. In 2015 she said, ‘For me the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and anchor in my life.’ On Christmas Day 2012, she said: ‘This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer… that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.’ – The Queen of the United Kingdom reminded us that Jesus spoke of another kingdom, a kingdom which he came to establish, and which he will come again to rule.’
Nicky Gumbel, Bible in One Year – Alpha devotional, (accessed 18/1/2015)
The wise men gave gifts to Jesus at Christmas, and at Christmas God gave to us the best gift we will ever get because… it is the most costly gift you’ll ever receive; it’s the only gift that lasts forever; and it is the gift you can enjoy for the rest of your life.
One Christmas Eve a man sat in silence by his open fire mulling over the meaning of Christmas. “There is no point to a God who became human,” he mused. “Why would an all-powerful God want to share life with the likes of us? And even if he did, why would God choose to be born in a stable? No way! The whole thing is absurd! I’m sure that if God really wanted to come down to earth, he would have chosen some other way.” – Suddenly, the man was roused from his thoughts by a strange sound outside. He rushed to the window, looked out and saw a gaggle of snow geese frantically honking and flapping their wings amid the deep snow and freezing cold. They seemed dazed and confused… exhausted, they had dropped out of a larger flock migrating south. Moved by compassion the man went outside and tried to “shoo” the shivering geese into the shelter of his garage, but the more he “shooed,” the more the geese panicked. “If only they realized I’m trying to save them,” he thought. “How can I make them understand my concern for their well-being?” Suddenly a thought came to him: “If, just for a minute, I could become one of them, if I could become a snow goose and communicate with them in their own language, then they’d know what I’m trying to do.” – In a flash of inspiration, he remembered it was Christmas Eve and a smile crossed his face as he realised the Christmas story no longer seemed absurd. He visualized an ordinary-looking infant lying in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. He understood the answer to his Christmas problem: God became one-like-us to tell us, in ways we can understand, that he loves us and is concerned about our welfare… our eternal well-being. – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Source: Brian Cavanaugh, 1994, Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds, New Jersey: Paulist Press, p.63-64
On 6th June 1944 – D-Day – Allied troops landed in northern France to begin the liberation of occupied Europe. It was a re-invasion, and the German armies were forced to retreat until their final defeat almost a year later. In AD 0(ish!), another re-invasion of this world began… the first Christmas Day.
Explore Bible notes 1/6/2012
The Magi, the wise men asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews’? (Matthew 2:2) The wise men really, really wanted to find this ‘king of the Jews; they wanted to meet him so much – and here perhaps is the real Christmas miracle – that men stopped and asked for directions. What man does that?
One of the classic Christmas songs is this one by Chris Rea: “I’m driving home for Christmas. Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces…” – ‘Why are the roads and trains and airlines so busy on Christmas Eve? The answer is because – like pigeons – we have a homing instinct. And that instinct is especially powerful as we approach December 25th. We feel the need to be with friends, family and loved ones on this one special day of the year. We just want to be home with the people we love – to catch up on the news, to relax and enjoy time with family, and to celebrate life together. This drive to be with the people you love is at the very heart of the Christmas story, and the Christmas message today.’
Excerpt from tract, ‘Christmas Presence’ (2015), published by The Good Book Company
Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas!
What did Adam say on the day before Christmas? It’s Christmas, Eve!
In a trial one Christmas time the judge asked the defendant: “What are you charged with?” The man said: “Doing my Christmas shopping early.” “But that’s not an offence,” said the judge. “How early were you doing your shopping?” The man replied, “Before the store opened!”
Source: The Real Christmas, Christianity Explored booklet, by Marcus Hodder and Tim Thornborough, p.7-8
In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He totally missed the big news—man had flown!
Source: Our Daily Bread, 23/12/1991
As we run up to Christmas we are in the season of Advent, but do you know what advent means? Advent means ‘coming’. – Although at Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are not really looking forward to Jesus being born, are we (because that happened 2000 years ago)? We are now looking forward to his ‘advent’, his coming again. And just as the Old Testament is packed full of hints and prophecies and promises all predicting the first coming of the Messiah, so also the New Testament is full of prophecies and promises that Jesus will return – the second coming – to bring about judgment, and to bring in God’s kingdom, the new creation.
Did you know that because of the international time line it’s possible that you can fly from America on December 24th and arrive in Australia on December 26th, missing Christmas Day altogether? But do you know what… you can even stay at home and miss Christmas Day altogether, that is, you can miss the meaning or miss what Christmas Day is all about.
I came across a very interesting and sober piece, a “re-telling” of Luke’s Christmas story; let me share with you:
‘And there came in that same country, children keeping watch over their stockings by the fireplace. And lo! Santa Claus came upon them, and they were sore afraid. And Santa said unto them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people who can afford them.
For unto you will be given great feast of good Turkey, dressing, cake, and many presents. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find presents wrapped in bright paper, lying beneath a Christmas tree adorned with tinsel, coloured baubles and lights.
And suddenly there will be with you a multitude of relatives and friends, praising you and saying, ‘Thank you so much! It was just what I wanted!
And it shall come to pass as the friends and relatives have gone away into their own homes, the parents shall say to one another, ‘Darn it! What a mess we have to clean up. And I’m tired. Let’s go to bed and pick it up tomorrow. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year.’ And they shall go with haste to their cold beds and find their desired rest.
That’s how most people will experience December 25 this year, and they’ll call it Christmas. But make no mistake about it. You can do all of that while leaving Jesus standing out in the cold like an unwelcome stranger; the guest of honour not even invited to His own birthday party celebrations.
Source: Time To Get Serious, by Tony Evans, p.347
God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants and nowhere to lay the new-born King but a feed-trough. A mule could have stepped on him! The sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names. The Christmas story inspired an Episcopalian priest visiting Bethlehem in 1865 to pen the familiar words: ‘How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessing of his Heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin; where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.’
Source: The UCB Word For Today, 27/12/2016
A TV interviewer was filming in downtown Tokyo at Christmas time. Much as in the UK, Christmas shopping is a big commercial success in Japan. The interviewer stopped one young woman on the street and asked, “What is the meaning of Christmas?” Laughing, she responded, “I don’t know. Is that the day that Jesus died?” In a sense there is a profound truth to her answer. Commercialism often tries to bring the death of Christ at Christmas. And if you cross Christ out of Christmas what do you get? Xmas!
Source: Donald Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, San Jose: Resource, 1992, p.16
I heard a tale about a little boy who went upstairs to his bedroom to write a letter to God about what he wanted for Christmas. “Dear God, he wrote, “I’ve been very good these last twelve months. Please send me a bike.” Then he thought about it and figured that wasn’t quite truthful, so he screwed it up and started again. “Dear God, I’ve been very good these last few months. Please send me a bike.” But then he thought, ‘No, I can’t even say that’. So he screwed it up again and paced up and down thinking what to write… he really wanted a bike! Finally, he went downstairs to the sitting room where there was a Christmas tree, and beside it, a model of the nativity scene complete with figures and animals. He picked up the Virgin Mary and went back upstairs to his bedroom, took a fresh piece of paper, sat down again as his desk and wrote: Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again…!”
Clearly, here’s someone who was desperate for a bicycle and would go to any lengths to get one… But does God need to be persuaded like that, or will God withhold the Holy Spirit from those who want to be filled? No He will not.
One writer put it like this…
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need is forgiveness and so God sent us a Saviour!
Source: Charles Swindoll, The Grace Awakening, p.279
The Magi followed the star all the way from their homeland (tradition says they were from Parthia, near the site of ancient Babylon, where Iraq stands today). They would have journeyed for months and travelled well over a thousand miles to and from the town where Jesus was staying. Who has ever heard of following a star around the world? If you are sceptical there’s something you might like to know. Every 804 years a rare triple-conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars occurs and it looks like a brilliant star. Modern astronomers, studying ancient records, have discovered that around 2000 years ago (right about the time Jesus was born) this rare conjunction strangely occurred three times in the same year. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the Magi followed a conjunction (I believe that God, who created the heavens and the earth, created a special star to signal the arrival of his Son). But what I’m saying is if you’re sceptical about a star leading foreign ambassadors half-way across the world it’s worth suspending that scepticism, since we know for a fact there was a rare astronomical sight visible from that part of the world at just the right time.
Paul Bennett, Is the New Testament history?, 1994, Hodder and Stoughton, p.122 – cited by John Dickson in Stranger Than Fiction, p.29
Christmas illustration: (Have three wrapped Christmas Parcels. First volunteer takes one present but then says I don’t want it and throws in on the floor. Second, takes another present and marvels at the box, the wrapping paper and the pretty bow but says, ‘I couldn’t possible open it… I might not like it, besides my life is too busy and too complicated right now… I’ll just keep it for some other time’. The third rips open the present and tips out lots of sweets all over the floor, and then starts to share them with others.)
Application: People respond in three ways to God’s Christmas gift to mankind. First response is to ignore it; have nothing to do with it. Second response is to receive it, once a year maybe, but they never actually open the present; they never really get what the present is or what it’s about; instead they focus on the packaging, the children, the decorations, the family… ‘For me that’s what Christmas is all about’, they say! The third response is to receive the gift willingly; they open it and enjoy all that God has in store for them.
Christmas and The 4 Stages of Life:
- You believe in Santa Claus
- You don’t believe in Santa Claus
- You dress up as Santa Claus
- You look like Santa Claus
A little boy was doing a school project on his family. He came home one day and asked: “Dad, where did I come from?” The flustered father replied: “The stork brought you.” A while later he asked his mother, “Mum, where did you come from?” “I was found under a gooseberry bush,” she said. Granny also happened to be staying with them so the little boy asked her, and she too held the same line, “The stork brought me,” she said. – Well next day, he went back to school and started to write his project. It began: There hasn’t been a normal birth in our family for three generations…
In the case of Jesus though, it really wasn’t a normal birth because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit: (Well actually, it was a normal birth. It was not a normal conception!) Does that seem far-fetched to you? It’s not just far-fetched – it’s absurd, it’s impossible, humanly speaking. But that is precisely the point. This was God intervening in the world, in a unique way: it was a miracle.
Source: The Real Christmas, Christianity Explored booklet, by Marcus Hodder and Tim Thornborough, New Malden, Surrey: The Good Book Company, p.3-4
In the Christmas story of Jesus birth, how many kings were there? The correct answer is two: King Herod and King Jesus. And did you know that the original real-life Mary didn’t ride on a donkey? The donkey scene and the three kings are a famous part of the nativity story and school play – and they’re fun parts – but they are nowhere to be seen in the Bible. The word translated “Magi” or “wise men” refers to a group of scholars who studied the stars; they were probably astrologers. We read: In the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (We don’t even know how many Magi were there… From the three gifts listed, many assume there were three wise men; this maybe, but it’s by no means certain.) There were, however, two kings: King Herod and King Jesus.
Adapted from Carl Laferton, Christmas Uncut, 2015, The Good Book Company, p.6
Max Lucado paints the picture of Jesus’ birth: ‘‘The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling… Mary looks into the face of her Son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point the human being who best understands who God is and what He’s doing is a teenage girl… She remembers the angel’s words, “His Kingdom will never end.” Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Honour in the filth of manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable. This baby had once overlooked the universe. His robes of eternity were exchanged for the rags keeping Him warm. His golden throne room abandoned in favour of a dirty sheep pen. Worshipping angels replaced with shepherds. Meanwhile the city hums, unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe he’d just sent God out into the cold. And people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility. But those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of acts of evil or malice. No, they missed it because they weren’t looking for Him!’
Source: The UCB Word For Today , 24/12/2015
Why is Christmas just like your job? You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.
Do you know who visited you after you were born? Apparently, I was visited by [my father, my grandmother, a man called Dennis and a lady, Ann, who I grew up calling Aunty Ann, but who wasn’t my real aunt]. In other words, my birth was so significant that I was visited by members of my family [and friends of my parents.] But, as far as I am aware, Queen Elizabeth II was not even informed that I had entered the world. The professors of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale Universities didn’t pack their bags and come racing to the hospital to peer over the side of my cot. Once I got home, at no stage did the Prime Minister or the US President knock on the door and ask my parents if they could give me some presents. Of course they didn’t. It would have been ridiculous for them to do so. The powerful and the intelligent people [of the day] would have been crazy to have dropped everything, cleared their diaries, and come to see me so that they could get on their knees and worship me. But that’s exactly what these “wise men” did in around 0.AD.
Adapted from Carl Laferton, Christmas Uncut, 2015, The Good Book Company, p.31-32
The Bible insists that the Christmas story is an actual historical event; Jesus really was born in stable in Bethlehem and he grew up to become the most remarkable man the world has ever seen. So remarkable, in fact, that the whole world records time either before or after his birth. Have you ever really stopped to consider that?
Wise men still seek Jesus – wise women too! Your call!
Someone asked: What would have happened if there had been Three Wise Women instead of Three Wise Men? Answer: The women would have asked directions; arrived on time; helped deliver the baby; cleaned the stable; made a casserole, and brought practical gifts, like a cot or nappies!
At Christmas we remember the ‘central event in the history of the earth – the very thing the whole story has been about’.
One writer, rather cynically, said, Christmas shopping is like a tumble dryer: you go round and round the shops in circles, get very hot, and then when you get home you realise you’ve been taken to the cleaners! There has got to be more to Christmas than shopping, surely.
Source: Vaughan Roberts booklet, Christmas In Three Words.
At Christmas the overcrowding on the streets and in the shops can lead to so-called ‘Santa-Claustrophobia’!
Borrowing a line from an old TV ad: The best a man can get is not a Gillette razor blade… the best a man can get is to recognize and accept Jesus, the real meaning of Christmas.
Why did no-one bid for Rudolf and Blitzen on eBay? Because they were two deer!
How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas? – Deep pan, crisp and even!
What sort of mobile phone has Santa got? – Pay as you Ho, Ho, Ho!
Many people, sadly, just never get past the Christmas crib! They sing carols such as, “Away in a Manger,” they see pictures of the baby Jesus on Christmas cards, and at their children’s nativity play and it makes them feel all kind-of warm and Christmassy inside… they seem to get a fleeting glimpse or sense of God’s love for them, but they just don’t take it any further and they miss the true meaning of Christmas. They leave the baby Jesus in the manger… and then, on the twelfth day of Christmas, or probably before (because we get bored easily), they pack everything away again, into the loft for another year. It’s like having a winning lottery ticket or a cheque for £1million in your pocket: For some people, they pull it out every Christmas and it feels really nice to hold it – “I love Christmas,” they say – but then they put Christmas away in the loft again: They never cash the cheque!
We are told: ‘Mary wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’ Now, by the nature of their business, an inn receives all comers… so does Jesus, and He is never too busy to turn people away.
You may recall that at the cross, just before he died, Jesus cried out, “Tetelestai!” (which means It is done; it is paid, it is finished!) What’s finished; what is done; what’s been paid? The price for our salvation: the payment of our sin… – it is a gift of God, offered freely to all who will accept and receive it. That’s what the Christmas message is about, the gift of God to mankind. But, as with any gift, it only becomes ours if we accept and receive it. Forgiveness and eternal life are not forced or bestowed on us automatically, but they are offered freely to all who will receive. Friends, it’s our call!
R. Ian Seymour
Colonel James Irwin was one of the first men to walk on the moon. Soon afterwards he said: ‘The greatest miracle is not that man stood on the moon. It is that God came and stood on earth.’
Source: Vaughan Roberts: Missing The Point?, p.22
Richard Nixon got carried away with excitement in 1969 when Apollo astronauts first landed on the moon. “It’s the greatest day since Creation!” crowed the president, until Billy Graham solemnly reminded him of Christmas and Easter. By any measure of history Graham was right. The Galilean, who in his lifetime spoke to fewer people than would fill just one of the many stadia that Graham has filled, changed the world more than any other person. He introduced a new force field into history, and now holds the allegiance of a third of all people on earth.
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 2000, London: Marshall Pickering, p.14
I read an article recently that said: ‘Describe Christmas in three words’. – That was the challenge put to various celebrities in a TV advert for a famous high street store a few years ago. – ‘Eating too much,’ said one actress. ‘Morecombe and Wise,’ said another celebrity. Other suggestions included ‘filling a stocking’, ‘The Queen’s Speech,’ and ‘last-minute shopping,’ and then eventually the adverts grand finale: ‘Marks and Spencer’. – Have you noticed that if you take Christ out of the word ‘Christmas’ you are left with ‘MAS’ – ‘M&S’? Is that really what Christmas is all about?
Source: Vaughan Roberts booklet, Christmas In Three Words
What nationality is Santa Claus? North Polish!
What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas. Gee thanks, I’ll never part with it!
Vaughan Roberts recounts the following story: ‘A few days before Christmas in 1991, nineteen-year-old Robin Farmer had just returned to Northern Ireland after his first term at university in Scotland. He was working in the family shop in County Tyrone when a terrorist gunman burst in and aimed a gun at his father, who was a police reservist. Robin instinctively dived in front of his father and was hit instead, dying shortly afterwards. That courageous sacrifice reflects something of what Jesus did for us. As Robin’s father can say, ‘My son died for me’, so we can say ‘God’s son died for us’. That’s why he had to come to earth. There was no other way by which we could be right with God and have our sins forgiven. Christmas is essential: it really matters!’
Source: Vaughan Roberts booklet, Christmas In Three Words
What does Santa Claus have to do with Jesus’ birthday? Some would say nothing, but that’s not quite true. Santa Claus’ real name was Saint Nicholas, and he was a Christian bishop who lived in Germany. Saint Nicholas was very wealthy, but he didn’t keep his money for himself! He gave it away to people who needed it, by dropping gold coins through their windows at night. He became so popular that people all over Europe began to celebrate Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas became famous throughout all of Europe for helping the poor. Churches began to celebrate Saint Nicholas on December 6 and kids all over Europe would set out shoes and stockings the night before Saint Nicholas Day hoping he would visit them. When people began moving to America in the 1600s, they brought their stories and traditions of Saint Nicholas with them! The Dutch settlers called him “Sinter Claase,” which became Santa Claus. Over time, the December 6 celebration of Saint Nicholas and the December 25 celebration of Jesus blended together. Saint Nicholas spent his life serving Jesus, which is what we are called to do as well.
Source: YouVersion Bible reading plan, Why do we call it Christmas, by Phil Vischer