The next three | Mark’s Remarks

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I told you last week that I’m reading Hank Hanegraaff’s book “The Heart of Christmas.”  We talked about the first three letters of Christmas and what they stand for in Hank’s clever acronym. This week, we’ll do the next three.

“I” stands for Incarnation. I don’t think we spend a whole lot of time thinking about how our God came to earth and walked around among us as a man.  He, being as powerful as He is, could summon an army of angels at any time; He could do anything He wanted.  Yet He chose to come to Earth and become human. Incarnate. God “in flesh.”

This letter also stands for Immanuel, another name we hear during this time of the year. Isaiah spoke this name long before Jesus was born. I told you that before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Prophecy, especially this one, blows me away.

I don’t know if you are like me, but it is often very hard to wrap your brain around the fact that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. As Hank mentions in his book, Jesus was both divine and human at the same time. Yes, hard to understand fully.

It’s also important to remember how Jesus behaved here on Earth. I mean, even in the beginning, He did not come into our world like gangbusters, did He? Humble servant, yet Savior.

Believe it or not, the “S” stands for Santa Claus. Yes, that’s what I said. How many folks do you know who won’t even introduce Santa Claus at Christmas? I’m not judging and I’m certainly not saying we should go overboard with Santa. Yes, I think kids need to know from the get-go what Christmas is really all about.

Santa Claus was really Saint Nicholas, a bishop from long ago. He not only took care of needy children and gave them gifts, but he also stood up for his Christian beliefs. He supported the doctrine of the Trinity. Christians who know about him regard him as a hero of the faith.

Yes, the whole story of Santa Claus and the elves and the toy factory can cause some folks to cry overkill. Personally, I think there are ways to explain the whole story of Santa Claus to kids, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, when you think of where the Santa Claus tradition came from, think of his selflessness and his work in the church. Perhaps his story can remind us to support the ministries of our churches and ultimately remember the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.

You may have already figured out that the “T” stands for tradition. And boy, is there a lot of tradition when it comes to Christmas. Christmas trees, gift giving, the three wise men.  There are too many to write about, I’m afraid.

But have you ever heard folks fussing about Christmas trees? Some Christians talk about Christmas trees being idolatrous with all the ornaments and stuff.

There is a passage in Jeremiah that speaks about wooden idols. If you read it, you will see that it sounds a whole lot like a Christmas tree. But, it’s really speaking of wooden idols.  That’s it. So you see, now we know why some folks have opinions on Christmas trees.

Christmas trees actually started in Germany (lots of people know that already), evolving from “paradise trees” which were once hung with apples to remember the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

In Germany, they also used to build a triangular shelf and put figurines of the Nativity on it. They’d even put a star on top. The apple tree tradition and the shelf eventually merged into the Christmas tree tradition. You don’t need a Christmas tree to worship, of course. But now that we know where they come from, they can serve, just like other symbols of Christmas, as a reminder of why we celebrate.

The Incarnation, Santa Claus, and Tradition. Yes, we only have three more letters to go.

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