Many of us grew up watching Christmas Specials. These TV shows were often musical, meaningful and moving, even fun. And yet they usually missed what makes Christmas special. Join us as we move through the Advent season, preparing ourselves with the insights that make Christmas not just special but exceptional.
Christmas Day Service
Isaiah 8:20-22 (NLT)
20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.
Isaiah 9:1-3 (NLT)
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.
Isaiah 9:4-5 (NLT)
4For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)
6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
John 8:12 (NLT)
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Christmas Eve Service
Christmas Music Celebration
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” 33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Simeon's song expresses the fulfillment of God's promise for deliverance.
"And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
The Silence Is Broken
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the LORD you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.
6 “I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah.
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives."
He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!”
He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children
“His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.
76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Questions for Reflection Time
- John the Baptist was the "best man" to Jesus' bridegroom. He "points the way" to Christ.
- Does your life point to Christ? Has someone pointed you to Christ?
- What is it about John's story that leads you to pray now?
- The story of the birth of John the Baptist reminds us that even though much time can pass, God keeps His promises.
- Reconsider Elizabeth's words to Mary: "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said."
- Is your hope weak in any areas? How can the examples of Elizabeth and Mary lead you to pray for strength in the waiting or silence?
Christmas in the Garden
"Christmas doesn’t start in the manger of Bethlehem, but in the Garden of Eden. God’s glorious creation lasted two chapters until sin slithered in and ruined everything. The moment Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, sin sank its teeth into the heart of humanity, turning image-reflectors into godless rebels."
-David Daniels, Wonder: Advent Meditations
It was among the thorns of curse and consequence, that the seed of hope was planted.
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. 15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.
And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
1 John 3:8b
The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
Questions for Reflection
What makes Christmas special for you? Does that include the primary reason that Christmas is special?
In light of the lesson we learned today, ask the Holy Spirit to connect or reconnect you with your ultimate need for Jesus, and guide you to him.
Satan came to the garden of Eden to crush humanity. Jesus came through the garden of Gethsemane to crush the serpent.
How does this cosmic conflict between God and Satan help you see what is behind the death and resurrection of Jesus? Use this time to consider more deeply what this means for you and take communion in light of this fresh understanding.