• Mark Ledbetter

Jesus is the Reason for the Season and so are You!!

“there has been born for you a Savior”, Luke 2:11

One of the favorite memories for many adults my age (presently 69 and holding), was receiving the Sears Christmas Edition featuring page after page of toys. I, like many I suppose, went through the toy section marking toys that captured my imagination.

One year I asked Santa for a robot that shot missiles out of its head and catapulted balls as its arms swung around and a Godzilla-type creature that fired objects from its mouth. I imagined epic battles between the modern technology of robots against the fantasy of dragons.

I didn’t get the reptile but I did get a Cape Canaveral (pre-Cape Kennedy) set with control center with rockets and satellites ready to be launched. Defended by toy soldiers from previous gifts, Cape Canaveral had to withstand the onslaught of a remote Robot’s attacks.

Christmas catalogues, TV commercials, and radio ads were the only media fueling not only the imaginations of children but adults as well. Christmas missions were launched against shopping malls, Sears, Western Autos, etc., in search of the perfect gifts for Christmas, young and old alike. This was the Spirit of Christmas Past (Sorry Mr. Dickinson).

Christmas sale receipts became staggering and as time advanced retailers paid premiums to ad companies to advertise their wares. Eventually, Christmas sales became the major resource with receipts keeping retailers afloat. Without Christmas many franchises would face severe financial stress. Thus, more and more emphasis was placed on advertising the newest technological gizmos, cell phones, while featuring trending fashions, perfumes, and gadgets designed to make our lives joyful.

Christmas became an encroachment as retailers started the season early, sometimes in late summer. Thanksgiving became not only a time for family to gather around the table enjoying a sumptuous meal, but a time to strategize for Black Fridays as malls featured special sales. Walmart closed early only to reopen with thousands streaming in to claim their share of the sales, even resulting in skirmishes as supplies were limited.

Then enters on-line orders allowing shoppers to bypass the in-house shopping experience for a home-delivery of the item carefully researched and placed in an on-line shopping cart. Cyber Monday rivaled Black Friday, and with the two special occasions retail sales soared.

Cyber sales took a new direction with the Covid Virus grounding shoppers to their computers and cell phones to shop. Shoppers waited upon the new Santas, viz., UPS, FedEx, and the Post Office to deliver gifts to the door. When Covid loosened its grip, retailers resorted to Black Friday Sales long before Thanksgiving, and the maddening march towards commercial bliss has become surreal.

Thus we have the Spirit of Christmas Present.

The Reason for the Season

For several years, and still today, I am on a crusade to restore the real meaning and purpose for Christmas. Although a gander under my Tree may appear contrary, I firmly believe “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and remains my slogan, and others like me, I sound against the maddening commercialization of the Christmas Season. Some people express the same sentiments by having a nativity scene with Santa Claus kneeling before the Christ Child.

Today’s commercialization of Christmas has made Christmas a cultural phenomenon, one allowing the Christmas décor acceptable without embracing the Christ-Centered origin of Christmas itself. Trees, lights, Santas, Elves, Reindeer, are fully acceptable in both public and governmental sectors but in some cases any Christian emphasis is offensive and regarded taboo. If you want to celebrate the Birth of Christ you can do so privately, even display manger scenes on you lawn, and celebrate Christmas musicals at Church.

The Reason for the Season fails to register, other than lip service, in the secular world.

A couple of years ago, I had an Epiphany. It wasn’t a vision of Christ, or an angelic visitation, but an obvious revelation found in the story of the Angels appearance to the Shepherds watching over their flocks, I picked up on another reason for the season – You!!!! The Angel proclaimed, “…there has been born for YOU a savior…” (emphasis added).

You Are Also the Reason for the Season!

The Shepherds’ Christmas Story

Required by a royal decree, yet orchestrated by the Sovereign God, Joseph takes a very expectant Mary to his “hometown” of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the governor of Syria.[1] Making the three-day trek was no easy task, a trip made more difficult by Mary’s pregnancy. Verse six reads, “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth” (emphasis added).

Apparently the couple pressed by time and circumstance, sought the only refuge they could find, yet there was no suitable lodging to be found, but only crowded quarters in a villager’s stable. (See previous message, “The Gift of Hospitality.”)

In this humble setting Mary gave birth to the Son of God. Not in a palace, nor a mansion but a cattle stall. Mary wrapped Jesus securely winding Him in strips of cloth;[2] and the only thing that could serve as a crib for the royal Son of God was a feeding trough.[3]

Far away from home, Mary delivered her child. Unlike the birth of John the Baptist, there were no family or friends, no musicians rejoicing at her son’s birth.[4] Silence filled the air except the movement of a burrow or cattle, perhaps stirred by the crying of an infant.

Perhaps it was while Mary sung a lullaby, or maybe while she slept from exhaustion, shepherds on nearby hills were watching over their sheep in a watchtower especially designed so they could survey the grazing area and for the safety of their sheep from night predators. I wonder if these were the same fields the shepherd boy, David, once watched over his father’s sheep?[5]

A Glorious Appearance

In their leisure, perhaps telling stories, swapping jokes, or maybe just gazing across a sky strewn with stars and naming constellations they had become familiar, their tranquility was interrupted by a visitor. The dark of night gave way to the radiance of a heavenly glory. In the midst of the glorious light an angel emerged and the sight drove the shepherds to their faces in fear. Yet, as with most angelic appearances, the angel declared, “Fear not!”

Then the angel continued with a message of great hope:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Lk 2:10-12

Was it irony, chance, or divine design that the long awaited announcement of the birth of Israel’s Messiah was given to shepherds. Micah prophesied the birth place and included the pastoral nature of the Coming One – the Shepherd King. The shepherds’ fear was no doubt compounded when “a multitude of heavenly host” broke forth in proud refrain:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Lk 2:14

The traditional rendering found in many versions strike a parallel between God in the highest heaven and salvation for mankind – “and on earth peace, good will toward men.”[6] The message is interpreted as God’s abundant grace, the extension of His hand of mercy to sinful man. However, closer examination of the passage is revealing.

First, it was not just a single pronouncement but a chorus, or round, sung by an innumerable host of angels that repeated for some time the glorious glad tidings and God’s greatness – Think Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in his “Messiah”.[7]

Second, the glorious refrain is bursting with prophetic promise and foreshadowing.

The phrase they repeated: “Glory to God in the highest”.[8] God is greatly esteemed far above human comprehension and expression. ‘Elyon is the poetic name for God and means Supreme God, the Ultimate Deity, the One Above All! They sang:Glory to the Most High, Supreme God!

The Christ-child, the Savior, the expected Messiah came to glorify the Most High, deferring all praise and honor to His heavenly Father. He came not to be worshipped but to point souls to the One He deemed worthy of all glory and honor. Though equal with God, and though in Him the “fullness of Deity” (Colossians 1:19) resided “in bodily form,” He divested Himself of all advantages and submitted Himself to the Father’s will, even in His death He brought honor to God.[9] Just hours prior to His death He prayed, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).

As Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace, the Christ-Child would offer men true peace. It would be through His the shedding of His blood that He would break down the barriers of distinction between Jew and Gentile and creating “one new man.”[10] Through Him all social, gender, ethnic, and economic differences would be obliterated and paving the way for all who come to Him to become members of the Father’s household.[11] Ultimately, “there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).

Shalom is more than the absence of strife but includes God’s blessings and provisions. In this case, the angelic declaration offers peace coming from reconciliation offered by a Heavenly Father to earthbound men, separated from God by sin and disbelief. It is an invitation to fellowship and communion with the Most High God given to men of low estate. ‘Elyon desires to become our place of refuge, a place of safety and protection.

“good will towards men”

Then, the generic proclamation of good will toward men evaporates when we realize the true language of those targeted with the proclamation – men with whom He is pleased. Better, with men of good will. The implication is that the peace God brings ultimately comes to those who are seeking it, or is in agreement with the peace that comes from the arrival of Messiah. God will not impose His peace upon those who will not receive it. Compare this with the instructions Jesus eventually gives His disciples as He sends them on a mission to reach the Lost Sheep of Israel:

“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace…” Matthew 10:11-13.[12]

What makes anyone “worthy” is not based upon the merits of the individual but the willingness to accept the message! [13]

God, knowing that not all would receive His Son but it did not deter His plan: “He came to His own, and those who were of His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).

This sends a subtle message to Believers in this day: Are you looking towards the Return of Christ with a burning passion, eagerly anticipating His Second Coming?

Authenticating the Story

What a glorious night! The shepherds left their flocks to see the new born King of the Jews. Just as they were told, they found the Babe lying in a manger. Seeing the Child, they rejoiced and became the first men to proclaim the glad tidings. Their night-watches would never be the same.

There is an unwritten fact that needs to be addressed. Shepherds were not considered to be the most respected men in society. Their duties kept them from ritual observations, they often broke the Sabbath, and marauding shepherds stealing other men’s flocks gave their profession a bad name. When it came to witnessing in a court of law, shepherds were never called because they were never considered reliable.

The irony: The Scriptural account is given credibility because it was first announced to shepherds. Anyone wanting to fabricate a story would not have the news announced to and witnessed by such unreliable witnesses. Yet, it is the absolute humility of the story that authenticates the message. Why have the Son of God born in such humble circumstances and why let shepherds be the first witnesses? Because that is the way it happened!

Another Reason for the Season!

When we read the angelic announcement to the shepherds that night so long ago, if we will reread it carefully, we will discover there is another reason for the season:

…I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for YOU a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… (emphasis added)

It is for my sake, your sake, for the sake of the whole world, that Mary brought forth her Son, wrapped with the love and compassion of the Heavenly Father for a sin-weary world, people of every nationality and race beat down by the tyranny of sin. Unto you a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord!

Our Heavenly Father chose the perfect gift, He spared no expense, and He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Jesus is the reason for the season…and so are you!

Merry Christmas!

[1] Syria, which is interesting since it is the remnant of Assyria, Israel and Judah’s ancient oppressor and now the seat of oppression under Roman rule. The region under Roman rule was named Syria-Palestinia. [2] For a view of actions taken at childbirth see Ezekiel 16:4. [3] “eating stand” (לָהֶם מָקוֹם), lahem maqom. [4] Luke 1:57f. [5] For an insightful look alternate story addressing these events, see “Deep Calls to Deep: Riches from our Jewish Roots.” [6] The King James or Authorized Version. [7] George Frideric Handel, 1741, “ [8] Kavod le’lohim ba-me-romim, כָּבוֹד לֵאלֹהִים בַּמְּרוֹמִים [9] Colossians 2:8; Philippians 2:6-11. [10] Ephesians 2:13-18. [11] Galatians 3:27-29; Colossians 3:11. [12] Today in Iran and other countries where Christians are persecuted, they pray that they may meet those who are “of peace” to witness. [13] “In the NT the thought of merit is excluded; we are worthy of the gospel only as we receive it (cf. Mt. 10:11, 13; 22:8; Acts 13:46; Heb. 11:38; Rev. 3:4).” [Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 63). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.]

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