Many families have Christmas traditions. Some households gather on Christmas Eve to open some or all of their gifts. Some families have a special meal. Others have a birthday cake for Jesus. In some homes the family reads the Christmas story from the Bible. Some decorate Christmas trees. We all have our traditions.
What is the appropriate way to celebrate Christmas? To answer this question, we are going to look at the biblical accounts of the Christmas story and seek to discover how the various players in the story responded to the birth of Jesus.
I. WORSHIP (MATT. 2:11)
Both the Magi and the shepherds responded with worship. Perhaps we can represent worship with an offering plate. The Magi offered gifts, and the shepherds offered their praise to God. The Magi, the shepherds, and all the other participants in the Nativity story gave themselves to the Lord. They worshipped God.
There are at least two reasons why this is an appropriate response. First, we should worship God because He is God. In Bethlehem, God came to earth.
The second reason is because of why God came to earth. Jesus came into the world to help us find the way to be right with God. He came to communicate God’s love and goodness to those who cast Him aside. He came to give His life for us.
There are many stories of people who have become friends because of a gift of a kidney or bone marrow. One person gives sacrificially, and the recipient feels gratitude for the rest of his or her life. How much more should we be grateful for what God has done for us in Christ?
It would be unthinkable to go to a birthday celebration and give gifts to everyone but the person having the birthday. What plans have you made to honor the King? (Read Luke 2:20)
II. CELEBRATION (MATT. 2:10)
The second element of an appropriate Christmas observance is celebration and joy. In the same chapter of Matthew, we read that when the Magi saw the star, they were overjoyed. When Elizabeth (Mary’s aunt who was pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist) heard Mary’s greeting, she said her baby jumped for joy!
The Bible speaks of songs that were sung or spoken by Mary, the angels, and Simeon (the old man who blessed Jesus when He was brought to the temple). That first Christmas was a time of joy! Is there any better news than that “God has come and opened to us the way to eternal life?” (Read Luke 1:44, 46; 2:29)
III. REFLECTION (LUKE 2:19)
A third response is seen in Luke 2:19. We read that after Mary was told all the things the shepherds saw and heard, she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
If you have been blessed to have had a child of your own, think back to that wonderful day when your child was born. You smiled and thanked God, but more than anything, you held that child and treasured and pondered how your life had changed. You thought about your responsibility to protect this new life.
I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the birth of Jesus. Stop and think about the difference that His coming makes to your life. Think about how His entry into the world has changed everything (even for those who don’t believe). Find a quiet place and ponder and reflect on the truth of His coming. As you do, your heart will be led into worship.
IV. EVANGELISM (LUKE 2:17)
Fourth, it is proper to use this time to tell others about Jesus. Notice that in Luke 2:17, we are told that after the shepherds met Jesus for the first time, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child.
The birth of Jesus is a life-changing event for all of us, and because He has changed our lives, we are driven to tell everybody about what He has done. Why wouldn’t we share such great news with others? We feel hesitant about evangelism because we don’t believe we can answer the questions of a skeptic or point to the right Scripture passages. The shepherds couldn’t do any of these things either. All they could do was testify of what they had seen and heard. We can do the same today.
V. OBEDIENCE (LUKE 1:38, 2:15)
Finally, we see in the original Christmas story that there was one response from those who met Jesus: obedience.
• Joseph obeyed God; he took Mary as his wife and named the child she delivered, Jesus.
• The Magi, having been warned in a dream, did not go back to Herod.
• Joseph obeyed the angel and took Mary and Baby Jesus to Egypt.
• Joseph brought Jesus back to Israel and eventually ended up in Nazareth because this was what God had told him to do (Matt. 2:23).
• Mary responded to the request of the angel with the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
• The shepherds went to see the baby that the Lord’s angels had told them about (Luke 2:15).
Each person in the Nativity story honored God by obeying Him. These people didn’t obey because what they had been asked to do seemed like a good idea; they obeyed because they trusted God. They obeyed because they had faith.
It is an appropriate response to Christmas. If you love someone, you show your love by how you live. If you are grateful, you show it by the things you do. At Christmas, it is a good time to obey God by:
• Forgiving an offense or letting go of resentment.
• Telling the truth.
• Reaching out to someone who is hurting.
• Receiving Christ as the one who can save and transform you.
• Sharing the message of Christ with someone close to you. Obedience illustrates our devotion. (Read Matt. 1:24, 2:12,14)
As you prepare for Christmas, do you see worship, celebration, reflection, evangelism, and obedience in how you plan to celebrate Christmas? It is possible to have wonderful family traditions and still miss the real celebration of Christmas. You can go to church and never worship. You can sing the carols of the season and never encounter Christ. You can spend thousands of dollars on gifts and still ignore the One whose life we honor
Enjoy your family traditions, but don’t forget to honor the King.
General Conference Ministerial Association