December 11th: The Celebration of God's Love

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

JOHN 3:16

In John 3:16, Jesus teaches us that the God who exists loves. Let that sink in. The God who absolutely is. Loves. He loves. Of all the things you might say about God, be sure to say this: he loves.

The same writer of John 3:16 says in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” Which I take to mean at least this: giving what’s good and serving the benefit of others is closer to the essence of God than getting and being served. God is without needs. God inclines to meet needs. God is a giver. God is love.

So Jesus tells us more specifically what he means by love in John 3:16. “God so loved . . .” The “so” here doesn’t mean an amount of love, but a way of loving. He doesn’t mean, God loved so much, but God loved this way. “God so loved” means “God thus loved.”

How? What is the way God loved? He loved such “that he gave his only Son.” And we know that this giving was a giving up to rejection and death. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Instead they killed him. And Jesus said of all this, “I glorified you [Father] on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). So when the Father gave his only begotten Son, he gave him to die.

That’s the kind of love the Father has. It is a giving love. It gives his most precious treasure—his Son.

Meditate on that this Christmas. It was a very costly love. A very powerful love. A very rugged, painful love. The meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this love. “God so loved . . .” And wonder of wonders, God gives this costly love to an undeserving world of sinners, like us.

December 10th: What Christmas Came to Destroy

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1 JOHN 3:8

The coming of the eternal Son of God into the world as the God-man, Jesus Christ, is a fact of history. Yet thousands of people say they believe this fact but then live just like everybody else. They have the same anxieties that good things will be lost and the same frustrations that crummy things can’t be changed. Evidently, there is not much power in giving right answers on religious surveys about historical facts.

That’s because the coming of the Son of God into the world is so much more than a historical fact. It was a message of hope sent by God to teenagers and single parents and crabby husbands and sullen wives and overweight women and impotent men and disabled neighbors and people with same- sex attraction and preachers and lovers—and you.

And since the Son of God lived, died, rose, reigns, and is coming again, God’s message through him is more than a historical fact. It is a Christmas gift to you from the voice of the living God.

Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can’t be changed—these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy.

It is God’s message of hope this Christmas that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed. The Devil works to take the good and bring the bad. And Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil.

December 9th: Why the Son of Man?

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

JOHN 1:51

Why is Jesus called the Son of Man in verse 51 and elsewhere in the Gospels? It has everything to do with Christmas.

It’s not simply because he is human. It’s because the figure of a “son of man” in Daniel 7:13 is both human and far more than human. This was Jesus’s favorite designation for himself—Son of Man. It’s used over eighty times in the Gospels, and only Jesus uses it to refer to himself.

He got the title “Son of Man” from Daniel 7:13–14:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This is the language of kingship and glory and sovereignty (John 3:13; 5:27; 6:62). But it has a different ring than the titles Son of God and King of Israel. It sounds more lowly and ordinary. So when he used it, his claims to kingship and glory and sovereignty didn’t sound so overt. Only those who had ears to hear broke through to the exalted meaning of the term Son of Man when Jesus used it.

So this time it was not the Jewish leaders who used the title to bring him to the cross. Jesus himself used it that way. The key verse is John 3:14–15: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

So you could say that the greatest glory that you or I would ever see is the glory of the Son of Man, the Lord of heaven, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, lifted up on a cross to die for sinners.

So when you see him this Christmas season as Son of God and as King of Israel and as Son of Man, make sure that you see him dying to give you eternal life and, therefore, see him as glorious.

December 8th: God Can Be Trusted

Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.” And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your off-spring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.

ACTS 3:22–26

From the same passage, we now learn that part of the blessing is the demonstration of the truthfulness of God.

Peter piles up the promises. In verse 22 he says that Moses predicted the coming of a prophet like himself. In verse 24 he says that all the prophets from Samuel on down proclaimed these days—the days of Jesus. In verse 25 he says that God made a promise to Abraham about these days. The point is that when Jesus comes, he confirms the truth of all these promises. He shows that God is trustworthy; he keeps his word.

Here is the way Paul put it in Romans 15:8: “Christ became a servant to the circumcised [that is, the Jews] to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” So there it is, stated crystal clear: Christ came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps his promises. Christmas means that God can be trusted.

This is part of the blessing that he brings and that he offers you in this Christmas season. It is a blessing because where it is forsaken, moral and spiritual life disintegrates. The foundation of moral life is God’s truthfulness. A society that forsakes the centrality of the absolute truthfulness of God forsakes the foundation of truth, the foundation of morality, and the foundation of beauty.

Christmas is the reassertion of the foundation of all truth and goodness and beauty, because Christmas means: God is truthful.

God’s truthfulness is the constant in a universe of flux. God’s truthfulness is the unwavering absolute. If we forsake God’s truthfulness, the anchor is up, the rudder is loose, the keel is broken, and the ship of life (political life, social life, educational life, scientific life, family life) is simply at the mercy of the wind of human wishes.

So I say it with all my heart: demonstrating the truthfulness of God is a great blessing. Give that blessing to your children. Say to the next generation again and again: God is truthful; God keeps his word; God does not lie; God can be trusted! That’s one blessing of this season. Receive it as a wonderful Christmas gift, and give it to as many people as you can.

December 7th: He comes to bless us

Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.” And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your ospring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.

ACTS 3:22–26

What this passage teaches us is that God brought Jesus onto the scene of history to bless people. “In your ospring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

God said to his Son in heaven, “The time is fulfilled; I have promised blessing; now is the time to make good on my promise; you will be my emissary of blessing; I want blessing to come to the world; I have so much to give; go now and bless my people, bless them; indeed bless all the families of the earth through them, bless them, bless them.”

You can see this in verses 25 and 26 as God’s blessing is mentioned twice. In verse 26, it says explicitly that God sent Jesus to the people of Israel to bless them. And when it says that God sent him to Israel first, it means that he will send the blessing on to others after that. Verse 25 makes plain that this was God’s aim in the covenant he made with Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Blessing for the Jews and then, through them—through the Jewish Messiah— blessing for all the peoples, and that includes you.

So I say to you that God is moving toward you with blessing in this Christmas season. You are in verse 25. It doesn’t matter that two millennia have passed. With God, a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet. 3:8). With him, it is as though he made this promise two days ago. That’s how fresh the blessing for you is today. If you will move toward him in faith, you will receive the blessing. That is what Christmas is all about—the greatest blessing.

December 6th: God's Passion for God at Christmas

For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.

JOHN 12:27–28

One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “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 among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14).

Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation and to make man glad in God.

So when we come to John 12, there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at the most important point of his earthly life, namely, his death and resurrection. That God would in fact be glorified in the rescue of sinners. Look at John 12:27–30:

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? [We know he means the hour of his death, because in verse 24 he had said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”] But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.”

In verse 27, Jesus says, “For this purpose I have come to this hour.” What purpose? Answer: verse 28, “Father, glorify your name.” That is why my death approaches.

The Father hears Jesus’s prayer and answers, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” He had just glorified his name through Jesus in the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:4, 40), and now he will glorify it in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And don’t miss the emphasis on God’s commitment to glorify God. Not only does Jesus pray for God to glorify God: “Father, glorify your name” (v. 28), but God himself says, “I have glorified my name and I will again.” God sent angels to say it in Luke 2. And God himself says it in John 12:28, “I have glorified [my name], and I will glorify it again.”

The deepest reason why we live for the glory of God is that God acts for the glory of God. We are passionate about God’s glory because God is passionate about God’s glory.

And what makes this such good news, especially in the Gospel of John, is that the glory of God is full of grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The most glorious thing about God is that he is so completely, fully self-sufficient that the glory of the fullness of his being overflows in truth and grace for his creatures. He doesn’t need us. And therefore in his fullness he overflows for us. Such is the grace we receive at Christmas.

December 5th: Why Christmas Happened?

You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. . . . The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 JOHN 3:5, 8

Two times in 1 John 3:1–10 we are told why Christmas hap- pened—that is, why the eternal, divine Son of God came into the world as human.

In verse 5, John says, “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” So the sinlessness of Christ is armed—“In him there is no sin.” And the reason for his coming is armed—“He appeared in order to take away sins.”

Then in the second part of verse 8, John says, “The rea- son the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” And the specific focus John has in mind when he says “works of the devil” is the sin that the Devil promotes. We see that in the first part of verse 8: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” So the works of the Devil that Jesus came to destroy are the works of sin.

So two times John tells us that Christmas happened—the Son of God became human—to take away sin, or to destroy the works of the Devil, namely, sin. Jesus was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18–20) and “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and was perfectly obedient and sinless in all his life and ministry, all the way to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–8; Heb. 4:15)—in order to destroy the works of the Devil—to take away sin.

Our sin. Make this personal and love him for it. Take the very personal words of the apostle Paul and make them your own. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This is how he destroyed the works of the Devil and rescued us from our sin. Don’t leave Christmas in the abstract. Your sin. Your conflict with the Devil. Your victory. He came for this.

December 4th: What Christmas Is All About!

Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. MARK 10:45

Christmas is about the coming of Christ into the world. It’s about the Son of God, who existed eternally with the Father as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” taking on human nature and becoming man (Heb. 1:3).

It’s about the virgin birth of a child conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit so that he is the Son of God, not the way you and I are sons of God, but in an utterly unique way (Luke 1:35).

It’s about the coming of a man named Jesus in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).

It’s about the coming of the “fullness of time” that had been prophesied by the prophets of old that a ruler would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2); and a child would be born called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6); and a Messiah, an anointed one, a shoot from the stem of Jesse, a Son of David, a King, would come (Isa. 11:1–4; Zech. 9:9).

And, according to Mark 10:45, Christmas is about the coming of the Son of Man who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” These words in Mark 10:45, as a brief expression of Christmas, are what I hope God will fix in your mind and heart this season..

Open your heart to receive the best present imaginable:

Jesus giving himself to die for you and to serve you all the rest of eternity. Receive this. Turn away from self-help and sin. Become like little children. Trust him. Trust him. Trust him with your life.