The Challenge: Begin With Christmas
He gave up Heaven, power and honor in exchange for a dirty feeding trough, helplessness and a cross. He gave up all the benefits that come with being God just so He could save us from our own mess.
The Creator of the Universe became like us and lived among us. But the miracle that makes Christmas worth celebrating is much more personal than God with us. The miracle of Christmas is that God came here to be born within us.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, he took on the broken and corrupt spirits of every person who would ever choose to believe in him – and he crucified them along with himself. 1 Peter says, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin…” And when Jesus walked out of his grave, he paved the path to full, abundant and eternal life.
In John 3 (right before the “For God so loved the world” passage in verse 16) Jesus tells a man that if he wants to see God’s Kingdom, he must be born again. Jesus’ entire life, death and resurrection took place so He could offer us an entirely new spirit. Jesus was born so that we could be reborn. But just as Jesus’ purpose on earth was bigger than his birth, our spiritual lives have potential that reaches far beyond Christmas morning.
We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, but we do know that when he was 12 years old, he went missing for three days. When his parents finally found him, he was hanging out in the Temple with the religious leaders, asking them questions and impressing everyone with his insights.
Jesus went there as a young boy to soak in spiritual truth. He craved deeper knowledge and understanding and pursued it. Even though he was God incarnate, he had to grow, learn and mature spiritually, just like he had to physically. And He knew that he needed to nourish his body, mind and spirit in order to grow into full maturity.
The Hope: Grow in Christ
Likewise, we need our own nourishment to grow into spiritual maturity after we have been born again. 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”
That passage mirrors Proverbs 2:2-5, which says:
“Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”
We all love the holiness of Christmas Eve. We light candles in church as we sing “Silent Night” and we gaze at the manger scenes set up in our homes and we read the account of the first Christmas. It is all so wonderful, but we can’t forget that Christmas is only the beginning. We can’t forget it as we wait throughout this season of Advent or as we celebrate on Christmas day or as we put away the lights and the stockings.
We can’t forget that the birth is only the beginning because we have so much to learn. God wants to keep growing us “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
To miss growing beyond Christmas is to miss the true meaning of Christmas altogether.
As we continue to wait well for the celebration of Christ’s coming (as we discussed last week) with great expectations, with confidence, and with joy, we should also start planning on how to grow as Christians beyond Christmas Day.
Take time now to find a daily devotional that feeds your soul and life - that challenges and instructs you to embrace the fullness of God’s grace. Visit a Christian bookstore and browse through the many selections. And, while you are there, look for a solid Study Bible that speaks to you in a manner that will create a hunger for further growth. There are many excellent versions available, whether you are interested in learning more about the character of God, the history of the various historical periods in which the Bible was written, or many other aspects of Truth.
We particularly enjoy the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House Publishers) in the New Living Translation (NLT). The commentary includes profiles of Bible figures and what we can learn from them; “life application” notes spread throughout that help us apply biblical truth to daily life; introductions to each book of the Bible that outline their specific themes; and some 10,000 maps, charts, notes and other features to help us grow in Christ.
Why not make it your goal of this Advent week to not only wait well for the coming of Christ’s birth, but to prepare to grow in His Truth?