Unbelievers celebrate Christmas every year, so how do we know that we’re actually observing Christmas in a way that pleases the Lord? Today AMBrewster explains some simple ways we and our faith communities can genuinely worship God this Christmas.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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Christmas is just around the corner. I can already smell the cinnamon and pine; I can almost taste the delicious feasts, and my mind is longing to revel in the Incarnation.
I really hope — whether you get to have an official Christmas vacation or not — that you are able to rest this Christmas — even if only for a little bit. The advent of the Messiah is worthy of our rest. How sad it would be to run ourselves ragged during our celebration of God’s peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
Now, some of you definitely plan to rest, and that’s going to look different for nearly everyone. Some of you will be taking a break from social media, but others of you may try to catch up on podcasts and newsfeeds.
If you’re in the second group, I invite you to spend the holidays with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Parler, Instagram, and YouTube.
I won’t be posting a ton, but I do want to encourage you and challenge you and assist in your celebration of God. If you plan to visit the socials this Christmas, I’d love for you to join me in redeeming our feeds.
And — of course — you should also follow The Celebration of God on Facebook and Instagram for daily worship prompts.
And check out CelebrationOfGod.com for tons of amazing resources for celebrating Christmas including today’s free episode notes and transcripts.
And — speaking of celebrating Christmas — what exactly does that look like?
As I’ve mentioned a number of times on this show, I will be celebrating my 40th Christmas this year, but I can’t say that I’ve celebrated God very much over those 40 years.
Most of my Christmas-ing was done for my own pleasure. It’s so easy to do . . . especially when we’re enjoying otherwise noble pursuits.
But the Holy Spirit has really been convicting me the past few years that my subconscious “righteous living” isn’t what I thought it was.
If unbelievers can give gifts and spend quality time with family and sing Christmas carols and volunteer and give to charities and work toward peace on earth . . . and still displease the Lord, then what guarantees that I’m pleasing Him when I do those things?
Now, some of you may be wondering how I can say that unbelievers don’t please the Lord when they do good things.
Consider Romans 8:6-8, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
So if those who are in the flesh cannot please God regardless of what they’re doing, what causes me to please God? Is it simply my position in Christ? Is it merely the outward, noble deed I’m performing? Does becoming a Christian automatically sanctify everything I do?
Well, that can’t be true otherwise it would be impossible for Christians to sin, but we do sin. And when we sin, the Lord is not pleased.
So, what is it that allows me — as a Christian — to practically — not just positionally — please the Lord?
Well, Paul answers the question. A. We need to be positionally in the Spirit. That’s the first part. But B. We also need to walk in the Spirit. We need to be filled with the Spirit as he describes it in Ephesians 5:18.
In Romans 8:12-13, Paul says, “We are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
And that “putting to death the deeds of the body” is not a passive, unconscious thing that happens whether I want it to or not. It must be a conscious choice that leads to a conscious desire to please the Lord by doing what He wants, how He wants, for the reason He wants, in the power He provides.
Then and only then may a Christian please the Lord.
So, if — in past Christmases — I sat down to spend quality time with my family, but I was only doing it because I wanted to do it or because I wanted them to give me some quiet time to myself later that day or I felt guilt or any number of otherwise unsanctified reasons, I was not pleasing the Lord even as my family and I sat playing a game and being sweet.
This is where intentionality is so important. So this is where we need to have a plan.
Alright, so let’s start by acknowledging that if we have any Christmas traditions or activities that we know don’t please the Lord, then we need to stop doing those. The concept is easy to accept, but the application is far more difficult. What doesn’t please the Lord?
Well, that’s too big for the scope of today’s discussion, but allow me to mention just one. The Bible condemns drunkenness. It would be a sin to get drunk as part of your Christmas festivities. And there are other very clear biblical expectations that people ignore this time of year.
But, let’s assume that your usual Christmas traditions and activities are otherwise pleasing to the Lord. How do we guarantee that they actually glorify Him?
We must do them in the Spirit. That is to say that we must do them in submission to the Spirit’s will and in His power.
Allow me to illustrate using a lesson we learned on Truth.Love.Parent. During our “Teach Your Children to Obey” series we learned that complete obedience has 4 non-negotiable parts.
Let’s work through those 4 parts using a common Christmas tradition — gift giving.
The first part of obedience is that we must do the righteous things. Can giving gifts be righteous? Yes, it can. I believe that as Christians give gifts as a picture of God’s greatest gift to us, gift-giving can please the Lord. But just giving gifts isn’t enough.
This is where the second part of obedience fits. We must do the righteous thing in the righteous way. Now, it’s kind of hard to imagine a “wrong” way to give a gift, so allow me to use a different illustration for this point. Most people assume that playing games with the family is good, but we have to do it the right way. Complaining when I don’t win, cheating, and demanding that everyone play the games I want to play would not be playing games in a righteous way.
And why might I do the right things in the wrong way? Well, that has to do with the third facet of obedience. And this one is the single most important part of all Christ-honoring obedience. I must do the righteous thing for a biblically righteous reason. And there’s only one reason I should do anything — I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
To give glory to God is to cause people to think rightly about Him. This is identical to Christ’s words in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
So, what’s the right reason to give a gift? Well, I should give you a gift solely because I want to please the Lord. And that means that I need to do it in a way that pleases the Lord. I need to do it because it’s in God’s best interest for your life that I give you this gift. That requires intentionality for sure! My gift giving becomes less about what I want to give you and more about the best way I can show love for God and love for you.
When we do God’s things in God’s ways for God’s reasons, people won’t be able to help but see God in it, and whatever we do in true obedience will give the attention to Him, not us.
Now, before I move to the fourth point, we need to address a potentially wrong thought. Sometimes people hear me or a pastor or someone talk like that, and their immediate response is that all of our gift-giving has to be Bible-oriented. We can’t give legos or cute outfits or DVD’s or game systems because we imagine that those things can’t possible be in God’s best interest for anyone.
Well, if that’s true, then we shouldn’t want those things to be part of ours or anyone else’s lives.
But that’s not the case.
It can be God’s best interest that I purchase a game system for my family. If we’re going to use it to His honor and glory, then it may be a great idea. If we’re going to use it to celebrate Him in our family time and serve each other and grow in our redemptive relationships, then God will be pleased by the gift. If I’m going to use that gift to teach my kids how to be mature in their time management and learn to place the correct priority on entertainment, then, yes, the Lord will be pleased by that and my gift of a game system could very well be in their best interest.
But you heard right . . . there were a lot of “ifs,” “ands,” and “buts” in that description.
So, what’s the fourth part of true obedience? Well, if I do the right thing in the right way for the right reason, I will have access to the right power. That’s right, this is when I am filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. This is when I have the divine enabling to live righteously — something I can’t do in the flesh.
Romans 8:26 illustrates this in our prayer lives. It reads, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
When our motivations are aligned with God, we consciously work to do righteous things in biblical ways, and when we strive to intentionally live like that, the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and empowers us to be victorious in our obedience all to the glory of God.
Now, that may have seemed like one really long introduction, but that truly was the meat of our episode today.
Our ability to celebrate God and disciple our loved ones this Christmas is directly tied to our ability to truly obey God in our worship this Christmas.
When you’re baking cookies, do it in the Spirit.
When you’re watching movies, glorify God.
When you’re exchanging gifts, make sure that the honor is the Lord’s.
And the same goes for the time we spend in the Scriptures and in prayer and in discussion about God.
On one of our Thanksgiving episodes I asked if we were going to invite God over for Thanksgiving.
Well, let me ask us now, are we going to invite God over for Christmas?
If God were to come over for Christmas, how would we respond to Him? Would we be like Martha — more concerned for our hosting and food prep that we basically ignore Him? Would we allow Him to give a 15 minute challenge or recitation of the incarnation, but then not let Him speak the rest of the time?
I would hope that we would want Him to take full ownership of our entire celebration and that we would hang off His every word, movement, and desire.
Well, God is omnipresent, so — in a way — He will be at your Christmas party. But will you converse with Him?
God talks to us from His Word and we talk back to Him in prayer. We should seek to pray without ceasing on Christmas as much as we did on Thanksgiving. We should intentionally plan times to focus on God’s Word so as to be instructed and encouraged and built up by Him.
I hope you’ll take advantage of the Advent and Christmas Bible Readings available at CelebrationOfGod.com. Just navigate to the holidays and download the passages.
But there are other ways to celebrate God this Christmas.
I hope in all of your talk you remember to discuss God’s grace. I also hope you work in our salvation focus for this Season . . . glorification. Glorification is the goal for our relationship with God. Until we are sinless, we cannot enjoy the purest relationship with the Father. But when we are glorified, we will be able to know Him as we are known.
And don’t forget to look forward and backward. Remember the celebration of God journey down which we’ve been walking. It all started with Creation, was marred by the fall, and we’ve been anxiously anticipating the Incarnation which anticipates the crucifixion and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit and the church and God’s Word and — one day — eternity with God!
And — as I’ve been describing this God-centered Christmas experience, I’ve been doing so with the assumption that we’re interacting with other believers. We’re reading together and serving each other and eating together and playing together and exchanging gifts and praying together and talking about God’s marvelous salvation together.
As we are being discipled by God and others, we should discipling others. God wants to use you to sharpen your loved ones.
If they are unsaved, be a pure and brilliant light for Christ this season, and if they are born again followers of Christ, the people who spend time with you this Christmas should be more like Christ because they did.
Those are some big picture ways we need to celebrate God and disciple others this Christmas season. Of course, the details of that discipleship and celebration are vast and wide, and we’d love to hear how your family is going to worship God this Christmas. Just head to Facebook and share with all of us what you’re going to do.
One thing, though, that we all could do would be to check out CelebrationOfGod.com for the “Family Christmas Bible Time.”
On that episode of Truth.Love.Parent. I read the Christmas story, and I think it would be cool if Christians everywhere all listened to that Christmas reading as an act of corporate worship this holy day.
Again, you can find that — and a bunch of other great Christmas resources as CelebrationOfGod.com.
One recent addition is “Dough Holy Night.” If you love to bake cookies and would like a prepackaged reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, you should check out “Dough Holy Night” at CelebrationOfGod.com.
This particular resource is really good if you want to invite over a family from your neighborhood so you can introduce them to Jesus. Check out “Dough Holy Night” and the Cookie Crew and come up with some fun ways of integrating them into your Christmas Preparation or Celebration this year.
Also, share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and join us next time as we explain some specific ways your family can celebrate the full Twelve Days of Christmas!
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.