I don't know what your family traditions are, but I would hope that reading the Word of God is included on the agenda for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
If it's not, why don't you make 2016 the year to start a new tradition?
Below are three passages that I love to choose from. I also included some brief comments that you could share with your family and friends.
Have a blessed Christmas!
Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Is it possible that the celebration of grace could collide more directly with the horror of sin than at the birth of the baby Jesus?
This is the Christmas story. That babe in the manger was the Son of the Most High God. He willingly came to a place where such unthinkable violence and injustice exists. The wrath of the ruler would eventually fall on him. He would die a violent death at the hands of evil men. Followers would weep that the Messiah was dead, but he would rise again and complete the work that he came to earth to do.
As we sit beneath a beautifully decorated tree and eat the rich food of celebration, we must not let ourselves forget the horror and violence at the beginning and end of the Christmas story.
This story begins with a horrible slaughter of children and ends with the violent murder of the Son of God. The slaughter depicts how much the earth needs grace. The murder is the moment when that grace is given.
Look into that manger and see the One who came to die. Hear the angels’ song and remember that death would be the only way that peace would be given.
Look at your tree and remember another tree—one not decorated with shining ornaments, but stained with the blood of the Son of God. As you celebrate, remember that the pathway to your celebration was the death of the One you celebrate, and be thankful.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
The Christmas story really is a light story. Not the lights that decorate the city where you live, the lights that you have carefully hung on the tree in your living room, or the candles that you have placed in your windows. No, this story is about the light coming into a world that had been sadly cast into darkness.
Under the burden of the shroud of rebellion and sin, the world had become a dark place. In the darkness of immorality, injustice, violence, greed, self-righteousness, thievery, racism, and a host of other ills, the world was desperate for light. Everyone was part of the problem and everyone suffered from the problem, but no one could solve the problem.
God’s solution was the only way. He sent the One who is light to be the light that would light the world by his grace. He came into the darkness so that we could know light and life forever. Here is the Christmas story—only light can defeat the darkness, and light has come!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These words remind us what the Christmas story is all about. They express the glorious result of the coming of the Christ child to earth.
He experienced the manger, the flight to Egypt, the daily suffering of hunger and homelessness, the rejection of the religious authorities, the disloyalty of the disciples, the unjust trial, the cruel death, and the tomb.
He came and endured all these things for you and me so that we would have forever what we never could have earned, deserved, or achieved on our own.
Jesus willingly endured constant rejection and life-ending injustice so that you and I would experience the unalterable, unshakable, undefeatable love of God forever.
He readily went unloved so that we would know constant love. He deserved to be loved, but was rejected so that we who deserve to be rejected would be eternally loved.
He was willing to subject himself to the fickle and failing love of his followers so that we would know the faithful and unfailing love of the Father. He endured separation so that nothing could ever separate us from the Father’s love.
As you remember these things, remember this: if God was willing to give up his Son so that we would know his love, doesn’t it make sense that he will also with him give us everything else that we need?
The promise of the Christmas story is unshakable love and every need met. That’s worth celebrating!