Isn’t the history of this season laced with unbelief and idolatry?
Certainly, the Romans decorated their temples and their pagan altars with greenery and candles.
December 25th was the celebration of one of their chief gods.
Go back into the days of the Roman Empire and you’ll discover pagan priests using mistletoe in their pagan ceremonies; arranging holly and ivy for decor in their pagan temples.
By the 5th century, all of these trappings had become a part of the church’s celebration of Christmas.
The Puritans tried to stamp out any observance of Christmas. They passed a law in England in 1644 that made Christmas Day an official working day. In fact, for a while in England, it was literally illegal to cook special desserts like plum pudding and mince pie on December 25th – which only made people to bake all their pies on Christmas Eve.
Even Great Britain’s Parliament met for years on December 25th to show their disdain for Christmas Day celebrations.
One way to handle all these old pagan things is to give it redemptive, gospel meaning. Like Martin Luther the reformer who many believe was the first to come up with the idea of taking lighted globes and attaching them to his Christmas tree . . . signifying the birth of the Light of the World. He took something pagan and gave it redemptive purpose.
In my study I found it interesting to read one article that traces the hottest selling toys for kids over the past few decades and how those gifts have changed – not only in price, but in complexity.
For instance, in 1967 the top selling Christmas gift was the board game Battleship. Fifty years later – in 2007, it was the Ipod touch.In 1990 the biggest seller was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you don’t know who they are, I don’t have time to explain.
In 1995 it was the Beeny Baby craze. In 1980 it was Rubik’s Cube.
Go back even further and the most popular Christmas gift for kids in 1965 was An Easy Bake Oven.
Four years later, in 1969 it was your own personal chemistry set
Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women. Follow these rules and you should have no problems.
Rule #1: When in doubt – buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.
Rule #2: If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.
Rule #3: If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car, a 99 cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.
Rule #4: Never buy men bathrobes. Once I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn’t have invented Jockey shorts.
Rule #5: You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.
Rule #6: Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after-shave or deodorant. I’m told they do not stink – they are earthy.
Rule #7: Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. "Socks. Shorts. Cups. saucers. Door. Lock. Sink." You get the idea. No one knows why.
Rule #8: Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his Special Day and he will always have parts left over. No one knows why.
Rule #9: Good places to shop for men include …. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t know what it is. ("From Super cheap Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn’t this a starter for a ’68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! thanks.")
Rule #10: Men enjoy danger. That’s why they never cook – but they will barbecue. (No one knows why) Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"
Rule #11: Tickets to a Cowboys game are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts." Everyone knows why.
Rule #12: Men love chain saws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chain saw. If you don’t know why – please refer to Rule #7 and what happens when he gets a label maker.
Rule #13: It’s hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a stepladder. It must be an extension ladder. No one knows why.
Rule #14: Rope. Men love rope. It takes us back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope. No one knows why.
1. Some gifts meet a basic NEED.
2. Some gifts thrill their HEART.
3. Some gifts quiet the CONFLICT.
4. Some gifts make you a HERO.
5. Some gifts IMPRESS their friends.
6. Some gifts change their LIVES.
1. REMEMBER THE PAST
For many hundred years had the Jews been waiting for the Messiah’s advent: and at that precise time, when Jesus came, were they “expecting him, as the consolation of Israel,” and “looking for redemption in Jerusalem.” And no sooner was he born into the world, than an angel appeared to certain shepherds, to announce his advent; saying, “Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born, this day, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord [Note: Luk 2:10-11.].” As for the joy which these tidings excited, we may judge of it, not only from the exultation of the shepherds, but from the expressions of that aged saint, who, on taking the infant Saviour in his arms, exclaimed, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation [Note: Luk 2:25-30.]!”
2. RELISH THE PRESENT
We live in the in-between time, between Christ’s first and second coming.
Isaiah 25:9 On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
He said Luke 2;10,11, Luke 2:28-32
Joy is to be the mark of the Christian today!
3. ANTICIPATE THE FUTURE
In the 1800’s the French novelist Victor Hugo (1802-1885) who is best known for writing Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame made this statement about the future: “In the twentieth
century war will be dead. The scaffold [hanging] will be dead. Hatred will be dead. Frontier boundaries
will be dead. Dogmas will be dead. But man will live. He will possess something higher than all these: a
great country, the whole earth, a great hope, the whole heaven.” [Quoted in Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word, page 337] If Mr. Hugo was alive today, he would be quite disappointed. War is very much alive, the scaffold may be rare, but it has been replaced by the electric chair, the gas chamber and lethal injections. Things are actually quite worse than they were in the 1800’s. Like Victor Hugo, mankind has always looked for a sort of utopia here on earth, but the more we have tried, it seems that life here on planet earth just keeps getting worse. According to Scripture, there is coming a time when things will drastically change. Even though we think of Joy to the World as being a Christmas song, it actually looks forward to this time in the future when everything wrong is made right here on earth. This song written by Isaac Watts in 1719 talks about Jesus coming to earth as King. It speaks of all creation rejoicing in His coming to rule and reign on the earth. It speaks of an earth with the curse of sin lifted. It speaks of Christ ruling the world with truth and grace and ruling the nations on earth. Listen to a few of the verses with that in mind:
Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love.
What the song writer was writing about, what even nature looks forward to is the return of Christ to lift
the curse of sin and establish His millennial kingdom here on earth
Old Testaments prophets (especially Isaiah) describe this time as a time when the curse on the earth is lifted, the Messiah will rule with a rod of iron (no rebellion prohibited), and there will be peace on earth. Isaiah described it in Isaiah 11:6-9 (NKJV) 6 "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Isaiah 2:4 (NKJV) “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their
swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Isaiah 25: 6 The Lord of •Hosts will prepare a feast for all the peoples on this mountain— a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine.
7 On this mountain ⌊He⌋ will destroy the ⌊burial⌋ shroud, the shroud over all the peoples, the sheet covering all the nations;
8 He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.
9 On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
10 For the Lord’s power will rest on this mountain.
The Church is now expecting a second advent of our Lord, when he shall take to him his great power, and reign over the face of the whole earth. We verily believe that the time is near at hand, when “all kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him,” and “all the kingdoms of the world become his undivided empire.” And oh! what joy will his advent diffuse throughout the whole intelligent creation, both of Jews and Gentiles! Of that time the Prophet Isaiah speaks, when he says, “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: for thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like a herb [Note: Isa 66:10-14.]. It is this reign of Christ’s rule that the old song refers to that says: There shall be peace in the valley for me some day; When the beast of the wild shall be led by a child, There shall be peace in the valley some day.
Are you ready?
Do you have the Joy now?
Have you reflected on the joy that first Christmas brings you now and hereafter?