Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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Christmas is here again.It seems every year some are just trying to find out what the real meaning of Christmas is about. They get tired of the commercialism, the pressure to give the right gift and when it's all over there is an emotional let down. Something is not quite right. Something is missing.If you find yourself still asking “what's all this about?” then stay with us on Beyond Today . You're going to be surprised. Christ's birth is not about trees and tinsel and lights and gifts. It's about something far more important. Let's look at “The Real Meaning of Christ's Birth.”Let me get a disclaimer out of way right now. I do not celebrate Christmas. In fact, my last Christmas was when I was 12 years old. My mother made a decision to stop the custom in our home. One year we had a Christmas tree all decorated in the house and next, there was none. That last tree was a live one and we planted it in the front yard and I watched it grow for several years before I left home.Now, don't worry. My life was not somehow warped beyond repair because I had Christmas taken away. I suffered no emotional scarring. My mother was wise enough to substitute something far better and more enjoyable. I'll talk more about that later.I have been asked, didn't you miss the gifts? Well the answer is no. Gifts and giving did not disappear from my life. They just came in different forms and at different times throughout the entire year, but never in celebration of December 25 as Christ's birthday.One time, I had a friend who challenged me about whether I believed in Jesus Christ. He thought I didn't. Since I didn't celebrate Christ's birth, he thought I must not be a Christian, or not a very good Christian. So I told him, yes, I did believe in Christ as the Son of God.If I remember correctly, I gave my friend several facts that he should know about Christmas:One being that Jesus was not born on or near December 25. That this date was when the Romans celebrated a multi-day period of drunken partying. No one, I said, knows the exact date of Christ's birth. It's lost in history.I also probably said that the customs surrounding Christmas are rooted in ancient pagan rituals that pre-date Christ's birth by hundreds of years.I made the point that the early Christian church did not celebrate Christ's birth, rather they commemorated His death and His resurrection.And I think I remember telling him that in early America, the Puritans in New England refused to celebrate the custom and in some areas Christmas celebrations were actually outlawed.I told him that it was not until the 1820s, 1822 to be exact, when a man named Clement Clark Moore wrote a poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Now we know it today as the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” It's when that poem came out that the modern commercialization of Christmas became an entrenched part of the English-speaking culture.I also told my young friend that Christ was never in Christmas, it had nothing to do with His birth and that Christmas was rooted in pagan origins.But guess what? My friend did not care. And you know, I find today most people today, they don't care about, one bit, about all the pagan customs of Christmas. They don't care where it came from. Many people don't care that it is supposed to be a religious custom—they just want to have a good time.Now what about you? What is the real meaning of Christmas for you?Here's something I learned recently: Most people who celebrate Christmas really are searching for some dimly remembered Christmas past. They have nostalgia for a time when Christmas was more pious or peaceful. They imagine a time when it was less commercial. And they're looking for something else.They're looking for a relationship, a relationship with something or someone that has eluded them. I see this every year in some of my favorite television programs. When they do their Christmas show, the shows always usually deal with some lost relationship with a loved one, a family member or a friend. It's around the time of the Christmas theme when this most basic need seems to be addressed.I also see it in the anger expressed by those who defend the Christmas custom against the secular efforts to remove Christmas from the public square. Recently a popular host of a cable news show promised to quote, “use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people” who “diminish and denigrate the [Christmas] holiday.”You know why he made this threat? Because his Christmas memories as a child were “magical.” They formed the happiest memories of his childhood. Most people who get wrapped up in Christmas feel this way.You see Christmas just evokes powerful emotions for a deep relationship with people. And by itself that's not bad. It's just that Christmas as a holiday does not really supply in the fullest the deepest of human needs. Relationships with people are very important, and it's very important for religion to fill the need of that vital relationship. For it to do so, that religion must be founded and rooted in truth. Christ said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Commercialism and misguided religion does not fill the vast voids in our life.That's what God is supposed to do. And that's why God sent His Son, in the flesh, born in a manger in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is He who fills the deepest of human needs. That's why the real meaning of Christ's birth is so important to understand. Christmas does not teach the deepest truths of why He was born.The story told in the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke are a wonderful part of the story of God and His love for mankind. When you focus on the story alone, it opens up a new world of understanding.I'm going to take you to the story of Christ's birth and I'm going to read through it to bring out what the Bible really says and what we should learn. But first, I want to offer you a booklet that shows you God's alternative to man's religious holidays. It shows you what my own mother began to understand and substituted all those years ago for me when she took Christmas out of our home. It's a free booklet that we have entitled: Holidays or Holy Days: Does it Matter Which Days We Observe? This booklet reviews the origins of man's holidays and it shows a better set of Holy Days that God gave to man and revealed in the Bible.You don't need to give up something and leave a void in your life. My mother understood that when she stopped observing Christmas in our house when I was a kid. She had learned that there was a better alternative, and a far superior understanding of God and Jesus Christ through the observance of the annual Holy Days, God's Holy Days.This free booklet guides you through a study of this vital subject. Make no mistake, it does matter which days we observe. These days must be of God's design—not man's tradition.We offer you this booklet. It's free, there's no charge. We give it as an educational service in the public interest. And you can read this booklet online at BeyondToday.tv . Or you can go to your phone and you can call: 1-888-886-8632 and request a free copy. That number again is 1-888-886-8632 for a free copy of this booklet.Now I also want to mention that the United Church of God is holding free Bible seminars in the cities across the United States and around the world. You're not going to want to miss these seminars where you will learn more about the Kingdom of God. You can go to BeyondToday.tv and you can look for the “Kingdom of God Bible Seminars” link to register to attend. These live events are absolutely free.The message of Jesus Christ, the hope of the Kingdom of God is what you need to hear. In the midst of today's bad news, you need to hear the positive, focused message of the Kingdom of God.Now space may be limited, so sign up for the seminars now. Go to BeyondToday.tv and click on the “Kingdom of God Bible Seminars” link.Now we're going to show you the real meaning of Christ's birth, by reading in Luke's account, Luke 2. You may be familiar with this, but I want you to listen very, very carefully as I read through part of the story. There is more to the story than you realize, more than the Christmas tradition of today actually reveals.Let's begin in Luke 2:1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.×: “…it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in [a] swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”Now let's pause. Let's note a few things about this part of the account.First, Christ's birth was in the fullness of times. It was right on God's time-table is what that means. It was at the height of the Roman Empire. It was a divine convergence at the perfect time in history. It was not random. The Greek language was widespread, the Romans maintained a vast system of roads and highways, and the scattered Jewish people allowed the gospel of the Kingdom to take firm root in the world. God's timing is always right and Christ was born of a human mother at the best time in human history.Second, we see that Christ as a baby was born in a simple animal stall, a crib, that was used in a shelter to house animals. This was the only room available because there was no other room or space available for the family. God made His entry into this world among humble surroundings, without much attention, in a manger.Can we grasp the real lesson from this story?You see, possessing a “Manger Mentality” allows us to know where and how God is working. Understand that Herod and the political and religious advisers in power at that time misread the events of Christ's birth. When a woman is to give birth, she seeks ideal conditions. A couple does this not because of a sense of confidence, but from a sense of concern and weakness. When Christ was born, He was born at best in some form of stable in a smelly, unsanitary setting, an unsettling atmosphere. This occurred not because God was poor, but because God was confident in carrying out His purpose for us.The leaders, the political and religious leaders, they did misread the signs. Christ's birth was not a sign of a weak and ineffectual king. Rather it was a sign of God's confidence and knowledge of who He is. It was an act of love. The leaders of that time weren't acquainted with this form of thought—so they missed it and didn't know where to find Him.It should lead us to ask, where we are looking for our answers. Do you look for answers to the idols of life or do we look above, to God?