Christmas - Whose Birthday is it Anyway?
What will your gift for Jesus be?
Even though December 25 ranks next to last in the list of popularity of Birthdays, with on February 29 beneath it, there are still an estimated 18 million people worldwide who might have a problem with the statement, “Christmas is not your birthday.” 1 Truth be told, though, even if your birthday does fall on the least common day of the year, your birthday is December 25, not Christmas.
The day is only called Christmas because more than 1600 years ago an Emperor and a Pope decided to set aside a day to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and eventually that day became known as Christmas. Originally it was a special service (a mass) to honor the fact Christ came to earth. All the gift giving and hullabaloo came much later; and it’s only the last 100 years or less the holiday has become more about the extravagance than the baby in the manger.
A few years ago I wrote a single line about Christmas. I’d forgotten about it until I found the scrap of paper recently. It said, “What would it take for us to celebrate in such a way to remember Christmas isn’t our birthday?” Those few words begged me to consider the question, and it challenged me to ask you, “What would it take for you to celebrate as if Christmas was not your birthday?”
There are 28 days in a long advent. But even after spending 28 days focusing on Christ and His birthday, I’m guessing we’ll still buy too many gifts and get caught up in all the holiday hoopla. But hopefully by spending some time focusing on the truth and prophecy in God’s Word, our Christmas will be a time of praise and delight for the One whose birth we celebrate.
Daily Readings for the Advent Season
I'd like to invite you to stop back every day beginning November 27 to see daily devotions designed to help us focus on Christ this Advent season. It's so easy to get caught up in the parties and shopping, but the celebration of Christ's birth was originally meant to be a holy day, a day worthy of a perfect and mighty Savior.
Join me as I journey through advent exploring the gifts I might give to Jesus this year. In addition to stopping on this page each day, these devotions will be sent to inboxes throughout the world to those who've requested it here.
The First Week of Advent
The Candle of Truth
The First Sunday in Advent
But he’s already
made it plain how to live,
what to do,
what God is looking for
in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair
and just to your neighbor,
and loyal in your love,
And walk humbly with God.
Have you made a Christmas list yet? That’s the question everyone’s asking. This time of year we get so caught up in decorations, gifts, parties and preparations, we sometimes forget it’s not our birthday. How would your celebration be different if instead of asking for presents or searching for the right gift for someone else, you tried to give Jesus everything on His list?
For the next few weeks, that’s exactly what we’ll try to do. For a few minutes each day, we’ll slow down, light a candle or two and read some scripture to discover what’s on Jesus’ wish list. These first seven days we’ll light one candle we’ll call Truth. Its light will remind us there are a few basics Jesus wants for His birthday.
Thirty-some years ago I started a tradition in our family. Every year each of my girls, and now my grandkids, get a Christmas ornament. Plus we create handmade ornaments to give to the extended family. It’s a basic gift, something my family has come to count on (and hopefully appreciate).
Our verse from Micah gives us the first three items to put on Jesus’ Birthday Wish List. Like my ornaments, these three things are just basic gifts. They aren’t showy or fancy. They’re just simple truths, gifts, presents for Jesus.
Micah tells us God wants us to act justly, be compassionate and walk with Him. Our celebration of Jesus’ birthday is just around the corner. It’s important we give Him the right gifts, things He’s asked for. But what will these gifts look like when you wrap them up for Jesus? How will you do what is fair? Who will you treat with more kindness? Will you read more scripture and take more time to talk to Him so you can walk humbly with Jesus tomorrow and the next day? Tomorrow we’ll add more truths to the Birthday Wish List, but until then let’s start giving Jesus these basic gifts today.
The Second Week of Advent
The Candle of Prophecy
The Second Sunday in Advent
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
3 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
for the display of his splendor. (NIV)
Every day this week we’ll light two candles. We’ll relight the Candle of Truth to remind us the basic truths of scripture never change and the first things Jesus wants for His birthday are the basics.
The second candle we’ll call the Candle of Prophecy. More than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament gave Messianic clues to the people of Israel. Jesus fulfilled every single one. This first one from Isaiah is pretty well-known because one day when they asked Jesus to read scripture at the temple, this is the one He read. And just in case there was any doubt He was the Messiah, Mary’s Son told the people of His hometown, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” That sermon didn’t do a thing to increase his popularity in Nazareth. But we know these verses are talking about Jesus.
So, what do you see to add to Jesus Birthday Wish List? I think He’s telling us to bring to Him the poor, the brokenhearted and those who are being held captive.
Each of us have fun gifts on our wish list based on the talents we’ve been given. I like paper, pens and guitar strings. Jesus was given the ability to bind up broken hearts and free those held captive unfairly. Makes sense He wants us to bring Him the things that help Him best use His gifts.
In your prayer time, bring to Jesus the names of those who are poor, broken hearted and held captive. Lift them up to Him as a gift for His birthday. Plus if you’re poor, spiritually or financially, come to Christ. If you have had your heart broken, by a friend or loved one, death or disappointment, bring your brokenness to Jesus. Perhaps you feel like you’re being held captive. You feel stifled and unable to reach the potential you were created with, come to the Savior who wants to free you from those chains. And remember when you do, you’re bringing Jesus a tremendous birthday gift.
Readings for all the days of Advent
We have up to 28 days to prepare for Christmas. It's a season Christians call Advent. It's so easy to get caught up in the commercialization of the holiday. Advent readings can help us bring our focus back to Jesus and prepare us to enjoy the true Spirit of Christmas. These twenty-eight readings help us remember that this isn't a season of gifts and decorations, it's a season to remember Jesus was born as a human baby to death and become the Savior of the World.
The Third Week of Advent
The Candle of Praise
The Third Sunday in Advent
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;’
. . .
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth. (NIV)
What better gift for Jesus’ birthday than the gift of praise! This week, as we add a third light, we’ll concentrate on ways to praise Jesus.
The whole holiday we call Christmas began as a special service of praise. The earliest Christians wanted to celebrate the splendor and majesty of Jesus. They were grateful the Son of God had come to earth, and set aside a special time to praise Him for giving up the beauty of heaven to live here.
Today’s scripture tells us to sing our praise. It doesn’t say it has to sound beautiful to human ears. It just says to sing and praise His Name. Jesus loves to hear your songs.
When you sing praise in the shower or the car, when you lift up one of those songs you heard in church at the top of your lungs, Jesus considers it a gift.
If you’re brave enough, end your devotion time today with a song of praise. You can even make it up as you go. Jesus’ birthday is only a couple of weeks away. Will you give Him a song of praise?
The Rest of the Archive
If you'd like to read the rest of the devotions in this series you can find the archive here:
The Fourth Week of Advent
The Candle of Delight
The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Psalm 37:3-4, 23-24
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
. . .
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (NIV)
What brings you delight? Your friends and family are probably looking for something to bring you delight right this minute! The thing is Jesus wants to be your delight.
When Jesus is our delight, our wish list becomes as short as Christ’s. We discover we don’t need much. In fact, when the Savior becomes our delight, the desires of our heart change to things that are good for us, things that please our Heavenly Father. So it becomes easy for God to give them to us. With the Son of God as our heart’s delight our steps are firm. He leads us and we stay out of trouble! When the One whose birth we celebrate is our heart’s greatest delight, He is pleased.
It’s a simple thing, yet quite difficult. Much like the ribbons and lights and bows get in our way when we try to focus on Christ at Christmas, the blessings God gives us can steal our focus as we try to make His Son our heart’s delight.
As we bring Christ gifts for His birthday, make Him your delight. It’ll take some time, but the more you focus on His Word, the more you’ll understand exactly who He is, the easier it will become. It will be a gift that will go way past Christmas because it will take a long time to give it, and it will be one of Jesus’ favorites.
The Candle of Christ
The Candle of Christ
Four weeks of lighting candles and contemplating the perfect gift for the perfect Son of God. If you have indeed lit those candles, now we’ll light the center white one. White to remind us the Baby born in a cave-like stable was pure, holy and sinless. Its light symbolizes Jesus bringing light into a dark world. And those verses from Luke suggest there were no gifts for the Christ Child on the day He was born.
The gifts from the Magi we talked about a couple weeks ago came later. Joseph and Mary had found a house by then. During the first few days after His birth, there were no presents for the One born to become Savior of the world.
Joseph had nothing special for Mary’s firstborn Son; they were poor. There was no money for shiny baby toys. And we’ve got no record of any gift but amazement from the shepherds who visited.
There’s a good chance the angels didn’t even show up inside the town of Bethlehem. The Bible puts them in the fields with the sheep, but never near the manger. Not even a heavenly song was lifted for a Baby who would one day be King of kings.
Fortunately, Jesus didn’t come to get gifts, He came to be God’s ‘indescribable gift.’ (2 Corinthians 9:15) He wasn’t born to impress humans or flaunt His Deity. He became God Incarnate to quietly bring peace to the hearts of His followers.
The presents, the bows, the trees and decorations, none of these are why Jesus came. All are simply reminders and symbols of a day in history never marked on any calendar; a date never recorded in any book, yet one of the most significant in Christian history.
Jesus came to be the Truth. He was born to fulfill His Father’s Prophecy. He is worthy of our Praise, and He deserves to be Delighted.
You are His delight. Though noone brought gifts on the day of His birth, we are privileged to bring Him offerings and sacrifices every day until we die. We don’t bring them out of obligation or to win His favor. You are His favor! We bring them out of love and gratitude. We offer them with a humble heart filled with awe.
Immanuel, God with us, came to this earth for you and me. The Great I Am was born in the least of places to demonstrate how much He wants a relationship with even the least of men and woman. The Messiah, Christ, Savior entered the earth as an infant instead of a conquering King to be your Friend.
And it’s your Friend whose birth we celebrate. It’s your Friend who gets the gifts. Tomorrow many of us will gather to bring gifts of praise to our Friend. We’ll celebrate His birthday with a party like friends do. And hopefully I’ll remember to bring my Friend the gift that delights Him the most . . . the gift of me.