Christmas Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Worship Ideas for Christmas</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong>When:</strong> December 25</span><br /><span class="body-copy"><strong>Liturgical Colors: </strong>white and gold</span><br /><span class="body-copy"><strong>Associated Objects/Symbols: </strong>nativities/crèche, greenery, angels</span><br /><strong><span class="body-copy">Themes:</span></strong></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy">Incarnation</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Immanuel, God with us</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Prophesies of the Messiah (See <a href="#ChristmasintheProphets">Christmas in the Prophets</a>)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Peace and righteousness</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Linking Jesus&rsquo; birth and death</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Line of David (See <a href="#LineofDavid">Line of David</a>)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Creation and re-creation (See <a href="#GodCreatesandRe-CreatesEverything">God Creates and Re-Creates Everything New</a>)</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Ideas from Scripture for Christmas</span></strong></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Christmas in the Psalms</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The psalms speak of the longing for God, the need for a savior, and God&rsquo;s faithfulness.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 24</a>, The earth is the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span>&rsquo;s, and everything in it</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalms 42&ndash;43</a>, As the deer pants for streams of water</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 43</a>, Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 63:1&ndash;7</a>, You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 66</a>, Shout for joy to God, all the earth</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 72</a>, Endow the king with your justice, O God</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 80</a>, Hear us, Shepherd of Israel</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 97</a>, The L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> reigns, let the earth be glad</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 98</a>, Sing to the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> a new song</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 148</a>, Praise the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> from the heavens</span></li></ul><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="ChristmasintheProphets" name="ChristmasintheProphets">Christmas in the Prophets</span></span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Christ&rsquo;s coming was long foretold; God had a plan in place and we hear of it throughout the prophets as they look forward to the coming King.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 9:2&ndash; 7</a>, a light shines in the darkness</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 11:1&ndash; 9</a>, a shoot will come up from Jesse</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 35</a>, the joy of the redeemed</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 42:1&ndash; 9</a>, the servant of the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 52:7&ndash; 10</a>, all the earth will see the salvation of our God</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 53</a>, Christ was despised and rejected, a man of suffering</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 63</a>, God&rsquo;s day of vengeance and redemption</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Jeremiah 31:7&ndash;14</a>, God saves the remnant of Israel</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Jesus Is Born</span></strong></p><p><span class="heading-sm"><span class="body-copy">The gospel accounts of Christ&rsquo;s birth.</span></span></p><ul><li><a href=""><span class="body-copy">Matthew 1:18&ndash;2:23</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span class="body-copy">Luke 1:26&ndash;45</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span class="body-copy">Luke 2:1&ndash;21</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span class="body-copy">John 1:1&ndash;18</span></a></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Songs or Canticles of Scripture</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Throughout scripture we hear the story of salvation as told through song.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 15:1&ndash;18, 21</a>, Song of Moses and Miriam</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">1 Samuel 2:1&ndash;10</a>, Song of Hannah</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 12:1&ndash;6</a>, Song of Isaiah</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 1:48&ndash;55</a>, Song of Mary (the Magnificat)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 1:68&ndash;70</a>, Song of Zechariah (Benedictus)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 2:25&ndash;34</a>, Song of Simeon (Nunc dimittis)</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="LineofDavid" name="LineofDavid">Line of David</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The genealogy of Matthew 1:1&ndash;17 has provided a fruitful Advent series for many preachers, especially when focused on the stories of the four women mentioned here: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Each one in her own way illustrates the meaning of Jesus&#39; coming. Throughout scripture we find mention of the root of Jesse, a reference to the line and lineage of David through which we find Jesus.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">2 Samuel 7:12&ndash;16</a>, your throne will be established forever</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 110</a>, The <span class="small-caps">Lord</span> will extend your mighty scepter from Zion</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 9:7</a>, Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Isaiah 11</a>, the branch from Jesse</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Jeremiah 23:5&ndash;6</a>, a king will reign wisely</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 1:1&ndash;17</a>, the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Romans 15:8&ndash;13</a>, the Root of Jesse will spring up</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Revelation 22:16</a>, Jesus is the Root and Offspring of David</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="GodCreatesandRe-CreatesEverything" name="GodCreatesandRe-CreatesEverything">God Creates and Re-Creates Everything</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">In the beginning, God created the world. But the world became and still is a fallen place. The story of Christmas reminds us that God is not done creating. God is actively working and calling us to work in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to redeem the fallen world until God makes everything new.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 1</a>, God creates the world, and it is very good</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 3:8&ndash;19</a>, sin comes into the world</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 22:13&ndash;18</a>, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 51:1&ndash;2, 10&ndash;15</a>, &ldquo;Create in me a clean heart, O God&rdquo;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Galatians 4:4&ndash;7</a>, heirs of God</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Ephesians 1:3&ndash;14</a>, our adoption as God&rsquo;s children in and through Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Ephesians 2:13&ndash;18</a>, Christ is our peace</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Philippians 2</a>, imitating Christ&rsquo;s humility</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Titus 2:11&ndash;14</a>, grace was given to redeem the world of its wickedness</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Titus 3:4&ndash;8</a>, God saved us out of mercy</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Hebrews 1:1&ndash;12</a>: God is faithful throughout history</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Hebrews 2:10&ndash;18</a>, Christ shares in our humanity</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">1 John 4:7&ndash;16</a>, &ldquo;God is love. . . . If we love one another, God lives in us.&rdquo;</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections on the Gospel Accounts of Jesus&rsquo; Birth</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Matthew&#39;s account of Jesus&rsquo; birth and its surrounding events (in Matt. 1&ndash;2) emphasizes the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matt. 1:23), a main theme throughout Matthew. Another important element is Matthew&rsquo;s attention to Joseph (Luke&rsquo;s account focuses on Mary, with Joseph a secondary character). Joseph is a righteous man who treats Mary and her surprising pregnancy with understanding and kindness. Joseph, like his namesake in the Old Testament, is also guided by dreams.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">There are several approaches one could take with the gospels&rsquo; birth accounts. Luke sets the birth of Christ in the context of world history, naming Caesar Augustus and Quirinius. Luke&#39;s barely hidden irony is the fact that the Messiah, the world&#39;s true king, slips in under the radar of the most powerful government in the world. At the same time, Luke pictures a couple suffering under the oppression of Roman rule, forced to travel a long distance while pregnant. Homeless and helpless, they end up giving birth to the Son of God in a stable and laying him in a manger. This is at least a signal that the salvation he brings is cosmic in scope and includes all the creatures God has made. Further adding to the irony is that the only announcement of the momentous birth is made not to the religious elite in Jerusalem a few miles up the road, but to some poor shepherds in the nearby fields. Christ&#39;s birth, angels proclaimed, is &quot;good news of great joy for all the people.&quot; The angels sing of peace, the principal purpose of the One who was born (Isa. 11:6, Eph. 2:14&ndash;15).</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">John&#39;s gospel is above all a theological gospel, and his approach to the birth of Christ places it in the context of creation itself. The Word is the eternal logos who was present with and involved in the creation of the world, the one whose appearance in the world as light amid darkness is unheralded, unexpected, and unwelcome (John 1:11). The declaration that &quot;the Word became flesh and lived among us&quot; astounds us into the realization that this is nothing less than the beginning of a new creation. Eugene Peterson&#39;s The Message makes the passage even more vivid, saying that the persistent Word &quot;moved into our neighborhood.&quot; The Greek word John uses for &ldquo;dwell&quot; is skene, meaning &ldquo;tent&rdquo; or &ldquo;tabernacle.&rdquo; The word harks back to Yahweh&#39;s stated desire in establishing the tabernacle/temple to &quot;dwell with his people&quot; (Ex. 25:8). Jesus is the new temple by whom God dwells with us and we with God (see John 2:13&ndash;24 for a further explanation of Jesus as temple.)</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections on Christmas</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">&ldquo;Whether before or after Christmas, it&#39;s important . . . to marvel at Mary. . . . The significance of Mary is that she is the first believer, the primary disciple, and therefore the preeminent saint. Congregations are sometimes surprised to realize that most of the words in the &quot;Hail Mary&quot; prayer are straight from Luke. Many excellent recent books can help Protestants to reclaim their idea of Mary. This passage also helps us understand the person of Christ as human, as the divine Son of God, and as the son of David.&rdquo;</span> <span class="body-copy-sm">(Tim Perry, <em>Mary for Evangelicals</em> [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006])</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&ldquo;Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.&rdquo; </span><span class="body-copy-sm">(Philip Yancey, <em>Grace Notes </em>[Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009], 19)</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&ldquo;And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.&rdquo;</span><span class="body-copy-sm">(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, <em>Selected Writings</em> [New York: Harper Collins, 1995], 147)</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&ldquo;Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don&#39;t light a candle in a room that&#39;s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that&#39;s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. . . . Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism. Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of &lsquo;reality.&rsquo;&rdquo;</span> <span class="body-copy-sm">(N.T Wright, <em>For All God&#39;s Worth</em> (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997], 2)</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&ldquo;[Mary] uncovered her baby as much as she could in that chilly, dank space. She examined him from head to toe, caressed his tiny body, touched his perfect fingers and toes. Perhaps it wasn&#39;t so amazing to her or to Joseph, but to me the most amazing sight she laid her eyes on was the stub that protruded from his belly, the freshly-cut, already-withering cord that had sustained his life in her womb&mdash;the cord through which he received her nourishment, her very life. When you really think about it, this is the amazing thing: This child, the long-promised Son of God, has a belly button. . . . The incarnation means that God now has a belly button. He is bound forever to the human race, and that remnant of an umbilicus proves it.&rdquo;</span> <span class="body-copy-sm">(Leonard Vander Zee, &ldquo;God&rsquo;s Belly Button,&rdquo; <em>The Banner</em>, December 2012, 18)</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Affirmation of Faith for Christmas</span></strong></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Belgic Confession, Articles 18&ndash;19</span></strong></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Incarnation</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">So then we confess</span><br /><span class="body-copy">that God fulfilled the promise<br />made to the early fathers and mothers<br />by the mouth of the holy prophets<br />when he sent the only and eternal Son of God<br />into the world at the time appointed.<br />The Son took the &ldquo;form of a slave&rdquo;<br />and was made in &ldquo;human form,&rdquo;<br />truly assuming a real human nature,<br />with all its weaknesses,<br />except for sin;<br />being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary<br />by the power of the Holy Spirit,<br />without male participation.<br />And Christ not only assumed human nature<br />as far as the body is concerned<br />but also a real human soul,<br />in order to be a real human being.<br />For since the soul had been lost as well as the body,<br />Christ had to assume them both to save them both together.<br />Therefore we confess<br />(against the heresy of the Anabaptists<br />who deny that Christ assumed<br />human flesh from his mother)<br />that Christ shared the very flesh and blood of children;<br />being the fruit of the loins of David according to the flesh,<br />descended from David according to the flesh;<br />the fruit of the womb of the virgin Mary;<br />born of a woman;<br />the seed of David;<br />the root of Jesse;<br />descended from Judah,<br />having descended from the Jews according to the flesh;<br />descended from Abraham&mdash;<br />having assumed descent from Abraham and Sarah,<br />and was made like his brothers and sisters,<br />yet without sin.<br />In this way Christ is truly our Immanuel&mdash;<br />that is: &ldquo;God with us.&rdquo;</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Two Natures of Christ</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">We believe that by being thus conceived<br />the person of the Son has been inseparably united<br />and joined together<br />with human nature,<br />in such a way that there are not two Sons of God,<br />nor two persons,<br />but two natures united in a single person,<br />with each nature retaining its own distinct properties.<br />Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated,<br />without beginning of days or end of life,<br />filling heaven and earth.<br />Christ&rsquo;s human nature has not lost its properties<br />but continues to have those of a creature&mdash;<br />it has a beginning of days;<br />it is of a finite nature<br />and retains all that belongs to a real body.<br />And even though he,<br />by his resurrection,<br />gave it immortality,<br />that nonetheless did not change<br />the reality of his human nature;<br />for our salvation and resurrection<br />depend also on the reality of his body.<br />But these two natures<br />are so united together in one person<br />that they are not even separated by his death.<br />So then,<br />what he committed to his Father when he died<br />was a real human spirit which left his body.<br />But meanwhile his divine nature remained<br />united with his human nature<br />even when he was lying in the grave;<br />and his deity never ceased to be in him,<br />just as it was in him when he was a little child,<br />though for a while it did not so reveal itself.<br />These are the reasons why we confess him<br />to be true God and truly human&mdash;<br />true God in order to conquer death by his power,<br />and truly human that he might die for us<br />in the weakness of his flesh.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Heidelberg Catechism Q&amp;A 35&ndash;36</span></strong></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">What does it mean that he &ldquo;was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary&rdquo;?</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit, from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a truly human nature so that he might become David&rsquo;s true descendant, like his brothers in every way except for sin.</span></p><p><em>How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?</em><br />He is our mediator, and with his innocence and perfect holiness he removes from God&rsquo;s sight my sin&mdash;mine since I was conceived.</p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Westminster Confession, Chapter VIII, Sections 2&ndash;3</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">II. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man&rsquo;s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">III. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure; having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell: to the end, that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Our Song of Hope, stanza 3</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Our only hope is Jesus Christ.<br />After we refused to live in the image of God,<br />he was born of the virgin Mary,<br />sharing our genes and our instincts,<br />entering our culture,<br />speaking our language,<br />fulfilling the law of our God.<br />Being united to Christ&rsquo;s humanity,<br />we know ourselves when we rest in him.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Our World Belongs to God, stanza 23</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Remembering the promise to reconcile the world to himself,<br />God joined our humanity in Jesus Christ&mdash;<br />the eternal Word made flesh.<br />He is the long-awaited Messiah,<br />one with us and one with God,<br />fully human and fully divine,<br />conceived by the Holy Spirit<br />and born of the virgin Mary.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">---</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Introduction from </span><span class="body-copy-sm"><em>The Worship Sourcebook</em>, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013], 471</span>.</p>