December 25, 2017
This post is part of a series of Christmas Devotionals by Dr. John Neihof, president of Wesley Biblical Seminary. You can find all of the devotionals by clicking here.
Scripture passages: Luke 6:13-16, Acts 4:13
The Christmas season will soon fade from the calendar. The stores will mark all of their holiday items down to 50% and even 70% off the “before” Christmas retail price. The radio station in town that has played Christmas music for two months will return to its secular format on December 26. We are taking down the tree and putting the decorations in storage for another year.
Christmas Day has come and will soon be gone. I have thought much of Christ’s coming to earth as God made flesh to live among us. But as I consider the first coming of the Lord, I must ask myself, “So what? How am I different? How has Christ’s coming changed me?”
In order to answer that question I find myself asking the same thing about others. “What change did Jesus make in the lives of the people who knew Him best?”
He certainly turned things upside down for Mary and Joseph! The people of Bethlehem were never the same again. Their adoration and loyalty cost many families the lives of their infant sons. Perhaps some of the very shepherds who had worshiped Him at His birth, now had empty cradles and shattered lives. Anna and Simeon could die in peace because they had seen the Lord. The Wise Men were convinced they had met the Son of God, the King of the Jews. Each character in the Christmas narrative who encountered Him was forever changed.
What about those who knew Jesus best in life and ministry? How did His coming change them? Church tradition recites many of their deaths. James was the first martyr, thrown off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia. Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until dead. Hanging on a Grecian hillside was Doctor Luke’s end. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. Bartholomew, Andrew, Thomas, Jude, Matthais, Barnabas, and Paul–all died martyr’s deaths. Only John lived out his full years, dying in his nineties. But it was not for a lack of trying. John’s would-be assassin had attempted to fry the preacher alive in a cauldron of boiling oil, but John had escaped.
Why were they willing, even eager to die for Jesus? Because His coming had changed them. They had met Messiah and were compelled to follow Him to their own cross of sacrifice. Early church father, Tertullian, said it well, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Christmas will soon be a fading memory. As I trade an old calendar for a new one, I return to my question. “How has Christ’s coming changed me?”
So, I follow. I follow Him. I serve Him. I obey Him. I refuse to return to status quo.