Many of you have already put up and decorated your Christmas trees. Maybe you played Christmas music and enjoyed hot cocoa as you decorated. If you are like my wife and me, you discussed each ornament as you place it on the tree. Many of our decorations have a story behind them. When the tree is decorated, you turn off the lights and enjoy the wonderful lights in the darkness. There are many theories about the origin of the Christmas tree. Some believe that trees were used celebrate pagan festivals as early as a thousand years before Christ. Others believe Christmas trees started appearing in the second century and made the transformation from that point to where we are today. However, many believe that the first Christmas tree to be brought into the house and decorated started with Martin Luther, the great reformation leader. The legend goes that Luther was walking home in the evening shortly before Christmas. On his walk, he happened to look up at the trees and saw a star shining in the midst of the tree. As he pondered the encounter, he thought about Jesus who left the stars in heaven and came to earth to go to the cross to pay for the sins of the world. Then on Christmas Eve, Luther cut down the tree and brought it home. He placed the tree in his living room and decorated it with white candles. Then, he shared the joy of the Christmas story with his family. And thus, we have the start of the Christmas tradition. Galatians 4:4-6 declares, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
May the Lord Bless you this Christmas season and every day of the year!
Dr. Michael J. Frazier
One of my favorite accounts surrounding the birth of Christ is the Magi from the east. Many movies, articles, and figurines depicting the wise presenting their gifts in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus are inconsistent with the Scripture. Matthew 2:9 says, “When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” First, I am sure Matthew is able to distinguish the difference between an infant and a child. If he would have used the word “infant” or “baby” in describing Jesus, then we could assume the wise men were present at the stable. But, Matthew calls Jesus a “young child” indicating the Savior was not an infant. Second, Matthew 2:11 says, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him.” Unlike the stable narrative which often appears in movies and plays; the wise men go into a house, not a stable. Third, King Herod orders the killing of every male child two years and under, “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” (Matthew 2:16). It is my contention that the Magi started their journey when the star first appeared. Since the wise men traveled from Persia (Iran), the journey was a little over 1,000 miles and would have taken 18-24 months on a camel. The journey was dangerous so the Magi would not have traveled alone (see picture above). The wise men would have needed water, food, tents and other items for survival not to mention security. So, I believe the wise men didn’t arrive for nearly two years. This helps explain King Herod’s edict to kill all children two years and younger. In closing, the wise men stand as an exceptional model for the Christian faith. They blindly followed a star across many miles just to see this King, who was born to take on the sins of the world and bring redemption for those who believe in Him.
May God bless you this Christmas season!
Years ago at my first church in Bible College, I preached a sermon entitled: “Christmas without Christ.” It was an unusual Christmas sermon because most pastors preach on the Coming of the Messiah, the gift of salvation or even the place where Jesus was born. However, that Sunday I preached “what if” Christ had not come. I gave the congregation a litany of implications of Christmas without Christ: no beautiful Christmas carols, no Christmas tree, no presents under the tree, no Christmas shopping, no family gathered together to celebrate the joy of the season or days off work. Then, I drilled down a little deeper. There would be no forgiveness of sin, no redemption, no joy of eternal life, no peace with God, no hope of seeing loved ones again, and no presence of God in our lives. Then, I read the last words in the Old Testament, “else I come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:6). Yeah, that is a sobering thought, isn’t it? I left the congregation stunned with those words and turned out every light in the sanctuary. We were in total darkness. You could have heard a pin drop. Then, I had one of the ushers turn the lights back on. Christmas without Christ isn’t pretty, is it? Thankfully, Christ did come and die on the cross for the sins of the world. We do have forgiveness, redemption, renewal with God and the hope of heaven in our hearts! Praise be to God in the highest for sending Jesus into our dark and dying world! So, while you’re shopping, singing and enjoying the Christmas season – remember, Christmas is about Christ from start to finish!
May the Lord who blessed us this Christmas season, bless your hearts with the peace of His presence!