They’re Not Just Christmas Carols
Christmas Carols

What puts a song in your heart?

  • Your favorite playlist?
  • Your wedding song?
  • Christmas carols?

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the music. You may be tired of hearing Christmas carols that have already been playing since Halloween. For many, the joy of those carols slowly dissipates until we have nothing left by December 25th.

But Christmas carols can provide more than mere distraction and entertainment. They communicate spiritual truths in wonderfully memorable ways. If you’re like me, you may have a difficult time with memorization, including memorizing Scripture verses. But if you know the words to many familiar Christmas carols, you probably have more Bible verses memorized or paraphrased than you realize!

For example, consider the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” originally written by Charles Wesley. Before you groan at the thought of listening to yet another Christmas carol, read the words as if for the first time…

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King:
“Glory to God in the highest…” (Luke 2:14).

Peace on earth, and mercy mild:
“…and on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14).

God and sinners reconciled!:
“…to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

With the angelic host proclaim:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Christ is born in Bethlehem!:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King!:
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

Enjoy the carols of Christmas. And while you’re at it, enjoy the amount of Scripture you didn’t know you knew!

Think of your favorite Christmas carol – how many Bible verses can you identify in its lyrics?


More Than a Baby Jesus
More Than a Baby

I love Christmas. The music, lights, and decorations. Trees with their ornaments, Christmas villages, and especially nativity scenes. Of all my Christmas decorations, my favorite is a large tabletop display that includes a manger set in the midst of a hustling, bustling Bethlehem.

A friend has a tradition regarding the nativity scene to remind her young family of the central focus of Christmas. She sets up the crèche with Mary, Joseph, the animals, and the shepherds. On Christmas morning, they read the Nativity story and one of her children places the baby Jesus in the manger. Then they sing a Christmas carol about the birth of the Savior.

Think about Christmas carols such as “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” What do they have in common? A baby. Cute. Helpless. Non-threatening. Christmas overflows with images of a Babe whose first bed was a livestock feeding trough.

The images are there, but it seems the Babe in the manger is being pushed out of His own birthday. Why are people so against the One whose birthday we celebrate?

More Than a Baby

Because He did not stay a baby. Jesus grew up and went about His Father’s business. He stepped on toes. He pushed people’s buttons—especially religious people.

He’s still stepping on toes and pushing our buttons by touching the idols that compete with Him for our attention and worship. Even religious activities that make it easy to avoid intimacy with our heavenly Father.

Yet that’s the reason the Word became flesh. The God of the universe took human form—not as an adult, but as a helpless baby. Still, when Jesus was born, something happened beyond the simple birth of a baby. The infinite, sovereign, creator God chose to temporarily limit Himself within the body of a finite human being.

J.I. Packer wrote, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”

Charles Stanley put it this way: “Christmas is that moment in time when God, in His unconditional love, stepped out of heaven onto earth, in order that we might one day step out of earth into heaven.”

And C.S. Lewis wrote, “Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Is Your Jesus Too Small?

If you think of Jesus Christ as nothing more than an innocent baby surrounded by animals and shepherds, then your Jesus is too small. And if your Jesus is too small, your problems are too big. Your temptations are too powerful. A world filled with terrorism is too fearful. And your hope is swallowed up in despair’s darkness.

But John, the gospel writer, tells us Jesus is both life and light. His light cuts through our darkness. Here’s another description of Jesus from Revelation 1:12-18 (NIV):

Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus is more than a baby. He is the glorious, majestic Son of God! There isn’t a manger big enough to hold Him anymore because the universe itself isn’t big enough to hold Him.

What will you do with Jesus Christ? I’m not talking about the baby lying on a manger. I’m talking about the Son of God who brings light and life.

Will you surrender to, and honor, the Son of God who entered this world as a tiny baby, but didn’t stay a baby? Then, during this Christmas season, will you purpose to tell someone else about your Savior?

We celebrate the birth of baby Jesus at Christmas, but He is more than a baby!


Complaints About Christmas
Complaints about Christmas

You may be reading this on Thanksgiving, but complaints about Christmas already abound. Have you heard them?

Christmas has become too commercial!

  • Actually, this one isn’t really new. Remember the 1947 classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street? More than 70 years ago, people were complaining about Christmas commercialism. One of my favorite quotes from that movie is:

“Yeah, there’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same–don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.” ~ Alfred, the janitor at Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas is being ruined by the politically correct crowd!

  • “Merry Christmas” might offend someone, so how about “Happy Holidays”? If you don’t like that one, feel free to wish people a “Merry Coffee.” Yes, that phrase is now appearing on the cups of a certain national coffee chain.

We’ve lost the true spirit of Christmas!

  • What’s the true spirit of Christmas? Ask five people and you’ll receive six answers, and most of them are usually found in a Hallmark Christmas movie. The spirit of Christmas is Love. Giving. Family. In one Christmas movie, the spirit of Christmas is an actual spirit who hasn’t “crossed over” yet!

Perhaps you’ve shared these same complaints. Maybe you have a few of your own about the Christmas season.

We can dwell on the complaints or we can change our perspective and our behavior:

Instead of complaining about commercialism, just don’t buy into it (pun intended!). Declare your family gift exchange a “homemade zone.” All gifts must be homemade or services offered. No purchase required!

Instead of getting upset over politically correct greetings, extend a little grace. Perhaps the store employee is simply following her manager’s instructions. The next time someone wishes you a “Happy Holiday,” why not respond with a dose of kindness. I try to respond with, “Thank you. And if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!”

And the true spirit of Christmas? I love those Hallmark movies as much as anyone, but they miss the boat on this one. The spirit of Christmas isn’t any of the things usually mentioned. The spirit of Christmas is Jesus! All those other things—love, giving, family—they’re all made so much better because of the birth of the One who came to restore us to our heavenly Father.

So as we enter the Christmas season, the next time we feel the urge to complain, let’s just flip it around. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Grumbling about “those people who are tarnishing our Christmas celebration” won’t win them over and will only reinforce negative stereotypes about Christians.

When we reflect Christ to a hostile world, we proclaim the real reason for the season. Let’s start today!


Christmas Letdown

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Even this year, as I adjust to missing a piece of my heart, I still love Christmas.

Sappy movies with happy-ever-after endings.

Hectic schedules punctuated by peaceful moments listening to Christmas carols in the subdued light of the Christmas tree.

Receiving cards from people I haven’t talked to all year and reconnecting as I read their Christmas notes and updates.

Most of all, celebrating the reason for the season—the miracle of God becoming human to enable humans to become sons and daughters of God.

So the days after December 25 had traditionally been a letdown for me. Christmas trees dumped on the curb, shreds of tinsel still clinging precariously to their branches. Bright lights unplugged. Traditional carols of yesteryear pushed aside in favor of contemporary songs.

Worst of all, the change of perspective fueled the letdown. From the heaven-sent Christ child to earthbound cares. From music and lights to bills and worries. And from silent nights to discordant days.

In many ways, the week after Christmas signifies the end. The end of the Christmas season. The imminent end of the year. And for me, this year, the end of a year marking my greatest loss.

But it’s not the end. The day after Christmas is a beginning.

The beginning of the time God stepped into His creation. A cradle leading to a cross. The beginning of our salvation, when a life was born for the purpose of death. A death that means life for you and me if we choose to receive it.

Strip the tinsel and needles from the Christmas tree and we’re left with a different kind of tree. Bare wood, just as the cross Jesus hung on was bare wood. Several New Testament verses speak of Jesus on the cross. In these verses the word for cross actually comes from the Greek word for wood. Some translations use the word tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; I Peter 2:24).

No, December 26 is not the end of Christmas. It’s the beginning of Immanuel, “God with us.” It’s the beginning of the opportunity for an intimate relationship with the One who not only created us, but sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. It’s the beginning of a chance to be and have all God intended for us.

Christmas letdown? Not anymore!


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