What says “Christmas” to you?
Many of us anticipate Christmas with joy as we think of the ways we enjoy celebrating the season; for others, Christmas is the most stressful time of the year, a season to be endured. Regardless, there are certain “signs of the season” which turn our thoughts to Christmas and all that surrounds it in our Western culture—houses decorated inside and out, traditional foods, music, shopping for the perfect gifts, programs and parties. Some of us have traditions handed down through many generations from the countries of our ancestors. As we become adults, and particularly if we marry, new traditions are formed.
Some of us think it “isn’t Christmas” unless we include certain elements in our celebration. In 1942, Irving Berlin wrote the well-loved, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…” It struck a chord with those away from home in the military during World War II. What happens when we can’t celebrate the way we want to? When we marry into a family or move to a culture which does not appreciate or allow traditions which are important to us, are we able to celebrate wholeheartedly, without resentment, the true meaning of Christmas?
I have been impressed with how clearly and joyfully many of our Christmas carols tell the story of Christmas. Music may be one of those traditions which we can incorporate, regardless of where we live, to joyfully and meaningfully enhance our celebration of the season. Let’s spend a couple weeks thinking and singing together through the Christmas story. For this study you will need a Bible and a Christmas carol or hymn book which contains all the verses of the carols we will be highlighting. If you desire, “The Cyber Hymnal” will give you access to lyrics and musical accompaniment to sing to.
Are you ready?
I. DAY ONE: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
A. Why do we need Christmas?
1. Genesis 3:1-7 tells us that it wasn’t long after creation (which God declared to be “very good”i) before mankind chose to rebel against God. The consequences were clearly stated. What did God say in Genesis 2:17?
2. What truth does Romans 6:23 state which coincides with this first command?
3. Along with the consequences of Romans 6:23 comes a promise. That promise was first given in response to the first sin. Genesis 3:15 promised that God would send someone (the offspring of a woman) who would fix the problem mankind had created. Ever since that promise of Genesis 3:15, people of faith began looking for the arrival of that child. The Christmas story begins the fulfillment of that promise of “good news” which was God’s answer to the “bad news” of mankind’s sin.
B. Who is the person of Christmas?
1. Eve mistakenly thought her firstborn son was that child (Genesis 4:1). But while the promised child was to be born of a woman, who would his father be? (See Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:32, 35.)
2. What does Isaiah 9:6-7 say about this person?
3. Define “Emmanuel” (“Immanuel”). (Matthew 1:23)
C. How would the person of Christmas be recognized?
1. Scripture records a series of prophecies giving increasingly specific information about this person. What do you learn from each of the following verses: Genesis 12:3; 22:1-18; 28:14; 49:8-12; II Samuel 7:12-13?
D. Did Emmanuel come only to ransom Israel or to ransom those of all peoples and nations who turned to God in faith?
1. Genesis 12:3
2. Daniel 7:13-14
3. Israel was captive to various nations throughout her history. From what more serious captivity does each of us need to be ransomed? (Romans 5:6-11)
4. When did He ransom you personally?
II. DAY TWO: “Silent Night”
A. Where did Mary’s faith come from?
1. What prophecy did Mary have the privilege of fulfilling? (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14)
2. Read Luke 1:46-55. What does Mary’s song reveal about her knowledge of God’s character? God’s Word?
B. How did Mary live out her faith?
1. Contrast Mary’s response to God’s message (Luke 1:34-38) with Zechariah’s (Luke 1:18-20).
2. What did Mary also do in Luke 2:19?
C. When do you set aside times of silence to intentionally “ponder” (or meditate) on God’s Word, on what you see Him doing or not doing, on how He is speaking into your situation and your life? (Psalm 46:10; Jeremiah 15:16) If you aren’t hearing Him speak, could a lack in this area be the reason?
D. “Silent Night” is one of the all-time favorite Christmas carols. It has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects. The Cyber Hymnal includes several in addition to English. As you sing this carol, join Mary in pondering the meaning of Christ’s birth.
III. DAY THREE: “O Come All Ye Faithful”
A. Who was Jesus’ father?
1. Matthew 1:1-17 records Jesus’ legal genealogy through His stepfather, Joseph. What is important about this genealogy?
2. Luke 3:23-38 records Jesus’ biological genealogy through His mother, Mary.
3. Who was His actual father? (Luke 3:22, 38)
B. How did Joseph live out his faith?
1. Joseph was a wonderful choice to be Jesus’ stepfather. How is Joseph’s character described in Matthew 1:19?
2. What was Joseph’s consistent response to God’s direction? (Matthew 1:20-25; 2:13-15; 2:19-23)
C. How does your level of obedience compare to Joseph’s? Is it as complete? Is it as quick? Is it as trusting?
D. “O Come All Ye Faithful” references many of those faithful who came to celebrate Jesus’ birth. How does this also describe Joseph?
IV. DAY FOUR: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
A. When and where was Jesus born?
1. Jesus’ birth, life and death are not mere legend, they are true facts rooted in time and place in human history.
2. Compare the prophecy and fulfillment of the location of Jesus’ birth. (Micah 5:2 and Luke 2:4)
3. When did this occur? (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-2)
B. Why was Bethlehem sleeping?
1. Luke 2:8 tells us it was night. To spiritualize, could it be that people had gotten tired of looking for the person of Christmas to come? Had they come to disbelieve the promise?
2. Luke 2:7 gives us the practical facts. Bethlehem was crowded with visitors. To spiritualize, could it be that the practicalities of making a living, of demands on their time and energy had crowded out desires and even thoughts of the need for a solution to their sin problem?
3. Are you and I asleep spiritually? Is God speaking and are we missing His message to us?
C. In the place where you and I live, there is much spiritual darkness. What great hope does this carol promise us? After singing this carol, bow in thankful prayer for Emmanuel who came at Christmas so long ago, and who continues to come to hearts today.
V. DAY FIVE: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
A. Why did the angels sing or speak?
1. Most of mankind may have been asleep, but the spirit world was not. Angels had long been wondering what the prophecies about a Messiah meant.ii They didn’t yet understand the whole story, but the part they were now viewing was incredibly exciting! A summary of that story is in I Timothy 3:16.
2. Read Luke 2:8-14.
3. What was the natural response to the presence of the angel? What, therefore, was the first thing the angel said?
4. What was the good news?
5. For whom was this message “good news”?
6. What was the result of this good news to God? To people?
B. Where is the peace they proclaimed?
1. According to Luke 2:14, who was this peace for?
2. Describe the peace we have now. (John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:7)
3. Describe the peace which we have to look forward to. (Isaiah 2:2-4; 65:17-25; Revelation 21:1-6)
C. Enjoy singing this joyful carol!
1. As you sing this carol, notice how it proclaims the fulfillment of that original prophecy in Genesis 3:15.
2. How does your proclamation of the good news correlate with that of the angels?
3. Taking thoughts from this carol, write them in your own words as a prayer.
1. Read through the Christmas story: Luke 1:26-45; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; Luke 2:21-38; Matthew 2:1-18
2. Which part of your “Christmas” celebrates its true meaning?
3. Plan how you might incorporate Christmas carols into your personal or family Christmas celebration.
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