Tag Archives: Christmas

The Nativity Scene Up Close

NativitylSmall

JesusSmall

This is the last in a series of several blogs on the characters
that are part of the traditional Nativity scene

Jesus

The Son of God had been absent from Heaven and the Father’s side for nine earth months. Heaven must have felt empty without the Heavenly Father’s Son, even as Mary’s womb grew more full with His presence. Now things were about to change in an amazing and wonderful way!

This was a night on earth that would be forever special, God being born among His people on planet earth as one of them! What an amazing story the Christmas story is! It’s the beginning of a bigger story, the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus’ life, mission, and achievement!

We can merge our story with this greatest story ever told. On the night of Jesus’ birth the angel said to the shepherds, and it’s recorded for us to take to heart as well, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Yes, He’s to be our Savior.

When the wise men came searching for the one who prompted the amazing star in the sky the religious experts quoted a reference in the scriptures about Bethlehem, “for out of you will come a ruler…” (Matthew 2:6) The wise men were wise and worshiped him as a king come straight from heaven.

Yes, He’s to be our Ruler, our King, our Lord.

There’s no one like Jesus. He’s the greatest human being who ever lived, because He was not only human, but divine, God come to us! He’s to be our Savior and Lord.

Heaven’s absence of Jesus for some thirty plus years while He was on earth was so that we might occupy heaven, forever! Celebrating the birth of Christ in a stable can only be real for us when we accept Him as Lord and Savior for ourselves, and have that reality make the profound difference it’s supposed to in our daily lives.

Merry Christmas!

The Nativity Scene Up Close

NativitylSmall

WiseMenSmall

This is a series of several blogs on the characters
that are part of the traditional Nativity scene

The Wise Men

There’s something about us that wants to be in awe, we want to be wowed, to be astonished, blown away, amazed. We pay good money to have it happen. We buy tickets for off-the charts concerts, movies with cutting-edge special effects, and monster truck shows.

There’s a group of guys who were amazed. They’re part of the Christmas story. They’re the Magi, the Wise Men. They observed a cosmic event in their homeland, probably Persia, and traveled a thousand or more miles to see what the sky had announced – the birth of a very special child. The historical record says they worshiped Him and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Though the wise men were in awe of the Christ child and gave Him gifts they couldn’t have known all that we know about Jesus. The unfolding of the rest of Jesus’ earthly life and the rest of the New Testament tells us so much more about Jesus. We should be inspired to greater awe and generosity.

We can be in awe of a lot of things and give gifts to each other, but the Magi were wise men and I’m going to take a clue from them. The subject of their awe and gift-giving deserves my full attention, and more! They understood what Christmas was all about, who Christmas was all about – and it wasn’t even called Christmas back then!

“And they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

The Nativity Scene Up Close

NativitylSmall

ShepherdsSmall

This is a series of several blogs on the characters
that are part of the traditional Nativity scene

part 3

The Shepherds

It happened on a hillside outside the little town of Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. Some shepherds were watching their flock of sheep. It was night. (When there are no fences the sheep need 24/7 care.) Suddenly the dark and silent night was interrupted by a single heavenly visitor, an angel straight from the throne of heaven. Historian Dr. Luke states that the glory of the Lord shown all around them. In other words, they found themselves in the middle of a holy hologram with sacred surround sound!

The angel informed them that the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, had been born in the nearby town, in a barn, and could be found lying in a hay manger. Then a flash mob of angels appeared in the sky above them, a heavenly choir of thousands singing to an audience of less than half a dozen shepherds!

The shepherds went to town, searched stables, and found what the angels said they would find. And they worshiped the special child. When they left they couldn’t help but spread the word about their experience. These ordinary, humble shepherds were the world’s first evangelists!

Christmas means a lot of things, but the shepherds who visited the stable and stood amazed at what lay in the manger tell us one thing Christmas means. Christmas means… sharing good news! It can for us, too!

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17)

The Nativity Scene Up Close — Week One of Advent

NativitylSmall

MarySmall

This is a series of several blogs for Advent
on the characters that are part of
the traditional Nativity scene

These Advent devotionals were posted
on this blog a year ago.
I’ve decided to post them again,
for those who didn’t see them last year
and for those who did, but have short memories!

part 1
Mary

You have to wonder what the young woman Mary was doing on what — until that moment — was probably an ordinary day. She undoubtedly was still living with her parents. Was she fixing a meal, praying, washing clothes, or cleaning the house?

So begins the Christmas story, nine months before Christmas! Whatever she was doing, her day was interrupted and changed her life forever. It wasn’t an ordinary person who interrupted her. It wasn’t a person at all: it was an angel! His name was Gabriel.

The angel informed her that she would be pregnant without benefit of a man. The power of the Almighty would miraculously cause a child to be in her womb, a really special child she was to name Jesus.

Mary’s response was an example for all of us to live by. She couldn’t have possibly grasped fully at that moment all that was happening to her and all that it would mean. She would have to face Joseph and tell him, “I’m pregnant!” She would have to tell her parents too. Would any of them believe the story about an angel? But her response was one of faith and trust in the mysterious workings of God.

Our lives are filled with mysteries, too. We don’t understand why things happen the way they do and why God doesn’t fulfill our expectations of what He should do. We want to know how God can work with us as we are, where we are, and with what we’re facing.

It’s here we need to follow Mary’s example. In the midst of all the craziness of life, in the midst of the mystery of it all, we can do no better than to pray what Mary said to the angel Gabriel.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

The Nativity Scene Up Close

NativitylSmall

AngelSmall

This is a series of several blogs on the characters
that are part of the traditional Nativity scene

part 4

The Angels

The shepherds were minding their own business, the business of tending their sheep, camped out under the stars outside of Bethlehem. But an angel was sent from heaven on a business trip to interrupt the shepherds’ night shift.

You have to wonder what heaven was like the moment before the angel left the throne of God with his assignment to bring good news to some shepherds tending their flock outside a village on the dark side of the earth. This angel would go alone at first, to make the announcement, then, right on cue, an entire host of angels were instructed to join him in glorious praise, all of which was choreographed by God the Father to announce the birth of His Son as a human being. Sure beats putting a one dimensional stork sign in the front yard announcing the birth of a child. There must have been no small measure of excitement in heaven. If angels get excited there must have been a great deal of it, the angels knowing they were about to overwhelm some unsuspecting shepherds with the best news the world ever had heard or would ever hear.

The coming of the angel to the shepherds, then an entire bunch joining him in praise of the birth of Jesus gives additional proof, among so much other proof, that Jesus stands alone in all of human history as unique. He is not just another great teacher or moral example; He’s God come to us! His coming and His life and mission here on earth can’t be ignored or taken lightly if one attempts, at all, to be a thoughtful person intent on grasping truth and responding to it appropriately.

After the announcement the angels returned to heaven, mission accomplished. Now it would be up to the shepherds to spread the good news that a savior had been born among us, one who is to be our Lord. The shepherds, after seeing the baby Jesus did their part of spreading the Word. Now, these many years later, it’s our turn to do what the angels and shepherds did on that night of all nights.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God… So when the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…” (Luke 2:8-13,15-17)

Christmas Under the Radar

Santa

This is a distillation of what I shared in my
2012 Christmas Eve message
at Mayfair-Plymouth Church

On Christmas Eve you’ll see reports on TV or the internet giving updates, sometimes from radar readings, of where Santa is on his journey. What if Santa didn’t want to be tracked by radar? What if he said to Rudolph,Take us down to an altitude of 100 feet; lets fly under the radar?

The very first Christmas happened largely under the radar. Except for a handful of people, the birth of Jesus was a non-event for the people who were alive at that time. We have record in Luke’s gospel that a few shepherds were privy to what had just happened. We read that they spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, but we have no record of the folks of Bethlehem lining up at the stable to get a look.

The only other account of Jesus’ birth of which we have record is the visit, at a later date, of some magi from Babylon or Persia or some other place far, far east. The priests and scholars of Jerusalem identified the place of Christ’s birth as Bethlehem for the wisemen, but we have no record of any of them going along with the wisemen to check it out.

That first Christmas, when God invaded our world in the flesh as a baby, could be described as a covert operation instead of an overt operation. Hardly anyone took notice! This shouldn’t surprise us. God often moves in mighty ways “under the radar” of day-to-day living and casual observation. God still works in such low-key ways, under the radar. There are all sorts of God events in our daily lives that we can easily overlook. Can we spot them even though they’re “under the radar” of that which we normally observe? Do we hear God’s call for us to contribute our seemingly-small gifts of who we are and what we can do in the lives of others? The fact that the first Christmas was a covert operation should be a reminder that God often works in seemingly small ways that have big results.

Who despises the day of small things?(Zechariah 4:10)

A Photovotional — The Christmas Ladder

ChristmasLadderI designed and photographed this image of a stepladder with lights and an angel topping it off as an illustration for a short story I wrote in 2007 called A Christmas Ladder. The story first premiered as my 2007 Christmas Eve message. Normally I preach without notes but for this sermon I read the story.

The story is about nine-year-old twins, Amber and Alex, who are being raised by their single mother. The family can’t afford a Christmas tree so the twins decorate an old stepladder with lights, decorations, and an angel perched on top.

Their pastor, Pastor Bill, upon paying the family a visit, is very impressed with their Christmas ladder and asks to borrow the specially decorated ladder for the Christmas Eve Service. With Amber, Alex, and their mother in the front pew, he explains to the congregation where the ladder has come from, glancing at the twins. He then uses it as an object lesson for his Christmas Eve message.

Pastor Bill explains, “The Bible says that God loved the world so much that He sent His own Son Jesus from heaven to earth. He did this because the world is all messed up with sin. We all need God’s love and forgiveness. This is why He sent Jesus to earth in the form of a little baby. The baby Jesus grew up. He was a great teacher and He healed many people. He did many wonderful things, but the most wonderful thing He did was die on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven. That is why God sent Jesus. That is why Jesus came, to take away our sins so that we could be close to God here on earth and someday go to His heaven forever.

“A ladder is something you go up and down. This Christmas ladder has an angel at the top. The angels are in heaven, way up high and out there somewhere, is how we picture them,” Pastor Bill said, pointing upward. Then he pointed to the base of the ladder and said, “And at the bottom of the ladder is the stable with a manger in it and the baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus left heaven where the angels are and came down to earth. He wanted to join us, to be one of us.

“Jesus came down to earth because He loves us. Jesus came down to us so that someday we can go up to heaven to be with Him. This is the message of Christmas. This is the message of the Christmas ladder.”

The story is designed to be read to children, but to be enjoyed and taken to heart by the adult reading it as well. I thought I’d share it with you too. Because God came to us we can come to Him! May this reminder give you a lift in the middle of your week. My hope is you’ll never look at a stepladder the same way again!

(If you want to read or listen to the complete story, go to my web site at www.daveclaassen.com and click on the appropriate link. You may also order the eBook version from Amazon through my web site.)

Christmas Under the Radar — A Short Essay from the Sermon

On Christmas Eve you’ll see reports on TV or the internet giving updates, sometimes from radar readings, of where Santa is on his journey. What if Santa didn’t want to be tracked by radar? What if he said to Rudolph, “Take us down to an altitude of 100 feet; let’s fly under the radar”?

The very first Christmas, the Christmas that begat all succeeding Christmases, happened largely under the radar. Except for a handful of people, the birth of Jesus was a non-event for the people who were alive at that time. We have record in Luke’s gospel that a few shepherds were privy to what had just happened. We read that they spread the good news of Jesus’ birth in the stable, but we have no record of the folks of Bethlehem lining up at the stable to to get a look.

The only other account of Jesus’ birth of which we have record is the visit, sometime later, of some magi from Babylon or Persia or some other place far, far east. The priests and scholars of Jerusalem identified the place of Christ’s birth as Bethlehem for the wisemen, but we have no record of any of them going along with the wisemen to check it out.

That first Christmas, when God invaded our world in the flesh as a baby, could be seen as a covert operation instead of an overt operation. Hardly anyone took notice! It was a covert Christmas. Actually, that shouldn’t be surprising to us. God often moves in mighty ways “under the radar” of day-to-day living and casual observation. God still works in such low-key ways, under the radar. Each of us is called upon to contribute our seemingly-small gifts of who we are and what we can do.

“Who despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10)

Christmas Under the Radar

If you’d like to read my Christmas message from last weekend, December 15/16, titled Christmas Under the Radar click HERE.

Christmas Thought

A poster I designed. The baby “actor” playing the cosmic Christ is our grandson Casey, now five. Merry Christmas!