(Taken from a Christmas message shared with Rancho Baptist Women’s Ministry)
Take a rest from your shopping lists, baking and the busyness of the Christmas season to consider the idea of an old fashion Christmas. Actor and television celebrity Hugh Downs said it well:
“Something about an old-fashioned Christmas is hard to forget.”
What is an old fashion Christmas? Let’s start by defining the term old fashion…
The term can mean of a style or method formerly in vogue, it has often been used with the idea of something being “outdated”. Some of the synonyms used to describe it are antique, old-school, quaint or vintage but perhaps the clearest definition is this:
Attached to or favoring methods, ideas, or customs of an earlier time
I am 56 years old and certainly the Christmas’ I remember did not include on-line shopping, E-cards and video games and the Iphone, Ipad and Kindles were not on any of my Christmas wish lists.
I asked many of my friends on “Facebook”
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of an old fashioned Christmas?
Here are some of their answers. Many commented on the
Smell of a pine tree and fresh baked cookies, Grandma’s apple cinnamon pie
Crackling fire in the fireplace — Christmas carols
Special Treats of the Season
Hot apple cider, hot chocolate, freshly baked bread, eggnog, strings of popcorn
Weather of the Season
Snow with horse drawn sleigh rides and sleds
Movies of the Season — It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story
Activities of the Season — Baking, board games, church services, midnight mass, hanging stocking, wrapping presents, gift exchanges
But in every response was the important mention of family and loved ones —-even a woman who shared the memory of her daddy lifting her up to place the angel on top of the tree.
I am sure that many of their answers strike a chord in your heart or remind you of “traditions’ you enjoy as a family. After all our traditions are the passing on of customs or beliefs from generation to generation –
We enjoy a Christmas tradition in my family that was passed on by my grandmother to my mother, to me, and then to my daughters – the baking of Italian cookies.
I know it was important to my grandma that I carried on this tradition — I will admit that I am not a very good cook and making this dough from scratch is a lot of work, but it is something that my family has adopted that simply makes Christmas special — but is it really the cookies themselves or the times we enjoy as a family getting together to make them — I have fond memories of baking with my grandma my mother, and my daughters.
These traditions are important to us and take all of us back to simpler times…
It was Bob Hope who said
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness. ~Bob Hope
Simplicity speaks of a removal of clutter, and helps us to focus on the things that really matter. The more we have the more complicated our lives become.
One of the most stressful times of year is during the holidays. Why is that when Christmas should be full of joy
Think about the three year old little girl who opens up her first doll and baby stroller. She embraces and hugs her doll as if it were the only thing that mattered in the whole world.
If it had been the only present she received at Christmas, she would have been perfectly content, but that was not the only present she opened. Gift after gift continued to be placed in front of her and as she continued to tear through the wrapping paper her joy begins to dissipate and her face gives way to a kind of numbness because where the doll and stroller had been special, now nothing was. What remained was a growing pile of things and very little time to appreciate any of it.
That is because we have been tricked, that somehow more is better, that somehow MORE has greater value when in reality the opposite is true! LESS IS REALLY MORE! The danger lies in placing value on having more than appreciating the gift itself.
And so it is with Christmas…we have added so much to it in terms of the things that are not important that it has become cluttered. The busy pursuit of shopping, decorating, wrapping, baking and cooking leaves us tired and empty and often depressed when the season is over.
Somewhere along the way the MORE of it—- the stress, the unrealistic expectations, the unreasonable demands, causes our joy to dissipate, and just like that little girl we grow numb because what we were deeply longing for never arrived…
Because there is something missing and that is the real reason for the season.
So we seem to be arriving at what an Old Fashion Christmas really is —
We know it goes beyond the nostalgic Norman Rockwell picture postcard scene that includes the pine scented tree, the warm apple cider, a fire in the fireplace, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” –
There is nothing wrong with those traditions but we find there is a heart to Christmas –
What are traditions without family and friends to enjoy them with? But yet there is still something missing, the reason for the season – a true Old Fashion Christmas
So as our definition demands let us attach ourselves to the real reason for the season — a time that takes us way back to a story that holds great value for each one of us, that captures the heart of Christmas — a story so simple that even children can tell it.
We find the story in the Bible in Luke chapter 2:8-14.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
We like the shepherds of old are told today
I don’t know about you but those words bring comfort to my heart — for we look out at our world today and certainly have reasons to be afraid —– our economy – our government – the tensions in world affairs — the onslaught of more natural disasters and weather catastrophes — but let’s bring those fears in a little closer to home…
For some of you Christmas comes with a loved one or you being out of work or family financial struggles — for some of you Christmas comes with loneliness or the recent memory of the loss of someone close to you or family that is far away, for some of you Christmas comes with an illness and for some of you Christmas comes with the dread of unresolved bitterness in family relationships.
Aren’t you glad that you are told do not be afraid? Embrace those words!
Then BEHOLD, look and pay attention to what is said next…
I BRING “YOU” GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY! Good Tidings of Great Joy!
This is what is at the heart of an old fashion Christmas —
JOY – JOY – JOY —
Isn’t that truly the Spirit of Christmas —- Isn’t that what all our Christmas traditions of long ago point to —- and this good news of great joy is for ALL PEOPLE — not just some — but for you too —-
No matter what circumstances you find yourself in this CHRISTMAS you can find joy! Why?
Because today you are brought Good Tidings or Good News — Maybe you have just been the recipient of bad news…that has brought you sorrow, or disappointment, or rejection, or discouragement
But at Christmas we celebrate Good News that will bring great joy – lasting joy that never fades!
What is the GOOD NEWS?
It is clearly announced in Luke 2:11:
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
THERE IS BORN TO YOU THIS DAY A SAVIOR — WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD….
An Old fashion Christmas is celebrating CHRIST but more importantly celebrating the birth of a Savior!
Many celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas but what we are really celebrating is the birth of a Savior to you and to me because that was our greatest need — it has been said that
If the world had needed education, God would have sent a teacher.
If the world had needed an army, God would have sent a general.
If the world had needed more money, God would have sent a banker.
But since the world needed a Savior, God sent a baby!
If you have any question as to whether you or I need a Savior we need only look at our recent BLACK FRIDAY
And in North Carolina, a former police officer released a “puff” of pepper spray, reportedly to calm down a crowd that was getting out of hand at another Wal-Mart – stories of shopping rage were widespread….What drives that kind of behavior —- the sin of selfishness, the sin greed…. And if we were all to be honest the desire to live for ourselves drives us everyday
So what do we do — better yet – where do we look — we look to the manger – a feeding trough where the Savior of the world was born –
That is what the world has done with Christ — in Christmas He is no longer useful or suitable as our world seeks to replace Him with commercialism, driving the consumer to buy— buy— buy and they use the “picture” of an old fashion Christmas to convince us to buy in — but where does that leave us when Christmas is over…
Still with a need for a Savior – so we look for a sign and we are pointed to the manger-
Luke 2:12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
To rescue us from ourselves Jesus was placed in a humble manger of wood at His birth for us; and He would later be crucified on a humiliating cross of wood at His death.
That’s how far God’s love reached for us. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:19 that we love Him because He first loved us.
He came to this earth in a humble manger; so that He could take us to heavenly glory. He came growing up in a poor family; so that we could become the children of His heavenly Father.
He walked on earth with no place to lay His head; so that He could prepare a place for us in His Father’s house. He died on a cross for us sinners; so that we could live forever with Him.
That is what are hearts are truly yearning for at Christmas — the love of a Savior!
Max Lucado in “It Began In a Manger
” peeks into the nativity scene as Baby Jesus is resting peaceably in the feeding trough wrapped in swaddling clothes.
He profoundly contemplates Mary’s thought as she pondered the moment of her son’s birth.
GOD. O infant-God. Heaven’s fairest child. Conceived by the union of divine grace with our disgrace. Sleep well.
Sleep well. Bask in the coolness of this night bright with diamonds.
Sleep well, for the heat of anger simmers nearby. Enjoy the silence of the crib, for the noise of confusion rumbles in your future. Savor the sweet safety of my arms, for a day is soon coming when I cannot protect you.
Rest well, tiny hands. For though you belong to a king, you will touch no satin, own no gold. You will grasp no pen, guide no brush. No, your tiny hands are reserved for works more precious:
- to touch a leper’s open wound,
- to wipe a widow’s weary tear,
- to claw the ground of Gethsemane
Your hands, so tiny, so white—clutched tonight in an infant’s fist. They aren’t destined to hold a scepter nor wave from a palace balcony. They are reserved instead for a Roman spike that will staple them to a Roman cross.
Sleep deeply, tiny eyes. Sleep while you can. For soon the blurriness will clear and you will see the mess we have made of your world.
You will see our nakedness, for we cannot hide.
You will see our selfishness, for we cannot give.
You will see our pain, for we cannot heal.
O eyes that will see hell’s darkest pit and witness her ugly prince . . . sleep, please sleep; sleep while you can.
Lie still, tiny mouth. Lie still, mouth from which eternity will speak.
Tiny tongue that will soon summon the dead, that will define grace, that will silence our foolishness.
Rosebud lips—upon which ride a starborn kiss of forgiveness to those who believe you, and of death to those who deny you—lie still.
And tiny feet cupped in the palm of my hand, rest. For many difficult steps lie ahead for you.
- Do you taste the dust of the trails you will travel?
- Do you feel the cold seawater upon which you will walk?
- Do you wrench at the invasion of the nail you will bear?
- Do you fear the steep descent down the spiral staircase into Satan’s domain
Rest, tiny feet. Rest today so that tomorrow you might walk with power. Rest. For millions will follow in your steps.
And little heart . . . holy heart . . . pumping the blood of life through the universe: How many times will we break you?
You’ll be torn by the thorns of our accusations.
You’ll be ravaged by the cancer of our sin.
You’ll be crushed under the weight of your own sorrow.
And you’ll be pierced by the spear of our rejection.
Yet in that piercing, in that ultimate ripping of muscle and membrane, in that final rush of blood and water, you will find rest. Your hands will be freed, your eyes will see justice, your lips will smile, and your feet will carry you home.
And there you’ll rest again this time in the embrace of your Father.
Joy comes from being forgiven — joy comes from the freedom of guilt, — joy comes in knowing that Christ has won and overcome death and that for those who believe in Him, who place their faith in Him, their hope in Him, their trust in Him — to those there is everlasting joy — and we find as we continue to Luke 2:13-14 that along with joy comes peace!
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The Jewish word shalom
(peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life.
It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances.
Because Christ has come Peace is now available – Peace with God, Peace within our own hearts and Peace with others.
The New Testament describes at least three spheres, or planes, of peace:
- Peace with God – that’s the vertical dimension
- Peace of God – this takes place internally
- Peace with others – when we have peace with God and we experience the peace of God, we can then extend peace horizontally
The Angels gave the conditions of receiving that Peace.
The Phrase and good will toward men –
is literally translated “peace to men of good will,” or “peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
In the last century Charles Haddon Spurgeon of London preached an amazing text out of this very same chapter–
The scene at Bethlehem is one of utter simplicity:
a mother, a father, and a baby. Thus was “the Word made flesh” to dwell among us. What God does is both simple and clear. And the message to us is also simple and clear.
Those who come in simple faith to the Lord Jesus Christ find great peace. We need once again to preach the plain man’s gospel, free of speculation and centered on Christ.
Spurgeon then urged his hearers to come in faith to the Babe of Bethlehem who would one day die for the sins of the world.
Little children should come for he was once a little child himself.
Young women should come for Mary was a young woman who was God’s instrument for bringing Christ into the world.
Young men should come for Joseph was a young man who had great faith in God.
Old women should come for Anna was an old woman who looked for the coming of the Lord.
Old men should come for aged Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel.
The working men and women should come to Christ because the shepherds represent all those who work with their hands for a living—and they too came to Bethlehem.
Finally, the highly-educated of the world should come for the Wise Men came bearing gifts. They too bowed and worshiped the King.
That which makes it possible to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be healed, that which makes it possible for us to receive our life back again, fresh and clean and new, is the power of God’s Grace in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
An old fashion Christmas declares a message of love, hope and joy to anyone who will listen. Don’t just celebrate the holiday . . Celebrate the Holy DAY. Don’t just celebrate the birth of Jesus but celebrate the birth of the Savior.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior – recognize today your complete and utter need for Him. Let down the walls of your heart that carry the weight of sin and guilt and receive the One who can make you whole and give you eternal life.
Today, bow in simple faith and say, Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am sinful and I acknowledge the wrong that I have done. Today I need a Savior. And I turn to You and acknowledge you to be that Savior. I place my life, my hope, and my confidence in You. Take this broken person and make me new. Lead me and I will follow.
It’s a gift — all you have to do is receive it! Then unwrap the Word of God and discover the abundant life that Christ has won for you!