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I grew up going to a church building every Sunday morning. Sadly, I knew nothing about the Bible, Jesus, or the gospel. As a result, religion was intensely impersonal and quite frankly irrelevant. I treated the Christmas story with requisite respect but there was no marvel whatsoever. The nativity could not move the needle for me.

This all shifted dramatically upon my conversion. And I remember that it was quite surprising for me. In the months following my conversion some good, old Christmas hymns had made snuck onto the airwaves in the car I was riding in and I was shredded. Suddenly the story had life, texture, and relevance. Jesus, the Son of God, became man for me. All of the stories and the songs pointed to a central truth: God saves sinners! And I was (am) a sinner indeed.

Previously I had thought about the Christmas story of Advent like I might think about other stories that we watch on television during the holidays. It had its place in the “canon” of cultural entertainment and consumption. But, upon seeing Christ through the eyes of faith I realized in fact that he loved me and came for me. As Paul writes in Galatians 2, “he loved me and gave himself for me.” Those two verbs are so intensely personal.

When we think about the incarnation we think about the cross. We have to think about the fact that the cross was God’s means for dealing with us and our biggest problems. While we do not know everything about ourselves, we do know that there are within the mansions of our hearts some very dark, frightening rooms. There are places that we fear to enter in but only hear stories about. We have seen flashes of anger, selfishness, bitterness, and self-preservation that make us shudder. There are countless rooms in our hearts that are professionally decorated with such vices.

God knows everything about all of that. He knows what we have done and what we are capable of doing. He knows it all. And yet he loves us and gave himself for us.

Some might say, "What kind of love is this that knows about such wickedness and yet still loves? How can anyone love a monster?"

That's just the thing--this intimate knowledge is accompanied by infinite love. To truly love you have to sacrifice, you have to give. This is the nature of true love, isn’t it? Love gives. Love shares. Love blesses. Here we are reminded that God set his love upon someone like me. Jesus gave himself for me. This is a redemptive love. It is a love that sees, acknowledges, and acts based upon our own personal brokenness.

When these two truths come rushing to the fore we see that God knows everything about us (he knows us to the core, that is intimately) and yet at the same time he loves us to the end  (he loves us redemptively, that is infinitely). Friends, this is so personal, so powerful!

How many can say that they have friends that truly know everything about them but yet love them anyway? To have such a relationship is truly a rare blessing. However, this is the very core of the Christian gospel: God knows everything about us and yet still loves us through it all. We have never had such a friend nor will we ever. It is love from another land! It is a bond conceived of and secured in the counsel room of the Triune God.

This Christmas season please remember that the story of Jesus’s birth is more than just a story for people “out there.” It is a  Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul breaks out into praise in the middle of a letter to a church. He writes with such devotion and delight. He was moved by the glorious truth of the incarnation: “he loved me and gave himself for me.” Let yourself today be moved by the personal and powerful truth of the gospel.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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One thought on “The Christmas Story is Personal”

  1. Finding Love at Christmas One
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #6 of In That Day Teachings

    If I was Father God,
    Above Christmas: first one!
    I’d fill all with Spirit,
    When the story was begun!

    Then: every year at Christmas!
    This would be the tradition,
    That all that could be filled,
    Like those around His first Son!

    What? You don’t know?
    This is just what Father did,
    With eight persons!
    It’s in Luke and it’s not hid!

    Mary was filled with the Spirit,
    That’s how and why she prophesied,
    Elizabeth was filled up true,
    And prophesied at Mary’s side.

    Jesus was Spirit-imbued,
    You know, at conception,
    That Spirit filled up John,
    At their moms’ connection!

    Now what about the fathers,
    Of this Spirit-filled family?
    We’ve got the sons and moms,
    What did Spirit do in history?

    Well, Zacharias was a little stubborn,
    At the temple at first,
    The angel had to shut up his unbelief,
    Until came his son’s birth!

    And Joseph saw and obeyed angels,
    Few on earth can do it!
    He thus avoided baby kill zones,
    With Spirit’s conduit!

    But this family of six: Spirit-filled,
    For Father God wasn’t enough!
    Father included some old folk,
    A ready team, off-the-cuff!

    Old they were, not bitter,
    But loving kind!
    In prophetic they were,
    Speaking God’s mind!

    Anna and Simeon at the temple,
    Spoke good words,
    So that all then and since have known God’s,
    Love observed!

    Yes, if I was Father God,
    It would be the Christmas tradition,
    E’en two thousand years later,
    To be filled with Spirit: the mission!

    Is that our tradition,
    As told in Luke?
    Love: filling first family!
    If you just look.

    If I was Father God,
    And sent my son to a dangerous place,
    My love would fill up all,
    Around: to show how to save a race!

    And then: there were the wise men,
    And the manger manager,
    And shepherds: all spirit-led,
    To do right, Spirit-inferred!

    Read again the Christmas story!
    Read in Luke and see!
    Avoid kill zones next year, friends,
    Be loved, filled and free!

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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