One of the most famous Christmas stories in the English language is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It tells of a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who was very stingy with his money, and who hated Christmas. But in the story he is visited by three “spirits” in a dream: the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who reveal to him how mean and stingy he has been toward other people. Following the dreams he promises to live differently. The book closes by saying that afterwards “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

How do you celebrate Christmas? What is Christmas really all about?
Our scripture passages reveal the true origin and meaning of Christmas.

Bible Reading

Luke 2:1-10
Jesus Christ was born into this world in a real place and time in history. He was a “flesh and blood” man born in the days of the Roman Empire; following a decree which went out from Caesar Augustus, a Roman ruler whom we know much of; at a historical time when Quirinius was the governor of Syria.  Thus in a real time, in a real place, with real historical people, Jesus Christ was really born. And importantly, He came to earth in an humble manner. He was not born into a king’s palace, but into a poor family. His “cradle” was a manger, a place from which the animals ate their food. This reminds us that Jesus came for ALL of the people of the world — even the poor and lowly.  While Jesus was a real baby, He was far from ordinary. His birth was proclaimed by angels from heaven. He was unique. The angels proclaimed:

“Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Matthew 2:1-12
This scripture does not describe the birth of Jesus as much as it does the response of others here on earth to His birth. It is interesting to note the different ways people responded to the birth of Jesus:
— The Jewish leaders “knew” the right answer about where the Christ was to be born: “in Bethlehem of Judea”, they said.  They quoted Micah who predicted Jesus’ birth 700 years beforehand*. But there is no evidence that these men ever did anything about what they knew about Jesus, or that they ever went to worship Him. It was an intellectual response only.
— King Herod “pretended” to want to go and worship Jesus, but he really wanted to kill Him, to protect his own rule over the people. His was a hypocritical response.
— The Magi were “seeking” to find Jesus. When they found Him, theirs was a sincere response of faith.  They worshiped the baby Jesus for who He was: the true God, who had come to earth to be the Savior of the world!

Discussion

    1. What are some ways that you have seen or heard about how different people or cultures celebrate the Christmas holiday?
    2. What difference would it make to you if the baby born in Bethlehem that day was not only a real human being, but also God?
    3. What are some of the things that the magi did in Matthew 2:11?
    4. Which of these do you feel was the greatest response to the birth of Jesus ~ the Jewish leaders, Herod, the Magi?

Word List
stingy – unwilling to give, not generous
scripture – words in the The Holy Bible
manger – where animals eat
unique – one and only
Savior – Jesus Christ
Micah – a prophet in the Old Testament
intellectual – mental knowledge
hypocrite – someone who pretends to be what they are not
Magi – wise men from the East
sincere response of faith – to believe something with a pure heart and to believe personally

*Prophecies concerning Jesus
Micah 5:2 and many other verses were written centuries before Jesus was born to tell of His coming.  
Read more 

Christmas is the Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1-20

2:1 Now it came about in those days that an order went out from Caesar Augustus that there was to be a numbering of all the world.
2:2 This was the first numbering, which was made when Quirinius was ruler of Syria.
2:3 And all men went to be numbered, everyone to his town.
2:4 And Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, into Judaea, to Beth-lehem, the town of David, because he was of the house and family of David,
2:5 To be put on the list with Mary, his future wife, who was about to become a mother.
2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
2:7 And she had her first son; and folding him in linen, she put him to rest in the place where the cattle had their food, because there was no room for them in the house.
2:8 And in the same country there were keepers of sheep in the fields, watching over their flock by night.
2:9 And an angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord was shining round about them: and fear came on them.
2:10 And the angel said, Have no fear; for truly, I give you good news of great joy which will be for all the people:
2:11 For on this day, in the town of David, a Saviour has come to birth, who is Christ the Lord.
2:12 And this is the sign to you: you will see a young child folded in linen, in the place where the cattle have their food.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a great band of spirits from heaven, giving praise to God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased.
2:15 And when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the keepers of the sheep said to one another, Let us go now to Beth-lehem, and see this thing which has come about, which the Lord has made clear to us.
2:16 And they came quickly, and saw Mary and Joseph, and the child in the place where the cattle had their food.
2:17 And when they saw it, they gave them an account of the things which had been said to them about the child.
2:18 And all those to whose ears it came were full of wonder at the things said by the keepers of the sheep.
2:19 But Mary kept all these words in her heart, and gave much thought to them.
2:20 Then the keepers of the sheep went back, giving glory and praise to God for all the things which had come to their ears and which they had seen, as it had been said to them.

路 加 福 音 Luke 2:1-20

2:1 当 那 些 日 子 , 该 撒 亚 古 士 督 有 旨 意 下 来 , 叫 天 下 人 民 都 报 名 上 册 。
2:2 这 是 居 里 扭 作 叙 利 亚 巡 抚 的 时 候 , 头 一 次 行 报 名 上 册 的 事 。
2:3 众 人 各 归 各 城 , 报 名 上 册 。
2:4 约 瑟 也 从 加 利 利 的 拿 撒 勒 城 上 犹 太 去 , 到 了 大 卫 的 城 , 名 叫 伯 利 恒 , 因 他 本 是 大 卫 一 族 一 家 的 人 。
2:5 要 和 他 所 聘 之 妻 马 利 亚 , 一 同 报 名 上 册 。 那 时 马 利 亚 的 身 孕 已 经 重 了 。
2:6 他 们 在 那 里 的 时 候 , 马 利 亚 的 产 期 到 了 。
2:7 就 生 了 头 胎 的 儿 子 , 用 布 包 起 来 , 放 在 马 槽 里 , 因 为 客 店 里 没 有 地 方 。
2:8 在 伯 利 恒 之 野 地 里 有 牧 羊 的 人 , 夜 间 按 着 更 次 看 守 羊 群 。
2:9 有 主 的 使 者 站 在 他 们 旁 边 , 主 的 荣 光 四 面 照 着 他 们 。 牧 羊 的 人 就 甚 惧 怕 。
2:10 那 天 使 对 他 们 说 , 不 要 惧 怕 , 我 报 给 你 们 大 喜 的 信 息 , 是 关 乎 万 民 的 。
2:11 因 今 天 在 大 卫 的 城 里 , 为 你 们 生 了 救 主 , 就 是 主 基 督 。
2:12 你 们 要 看 见 一 个 婴 孩 , 包 着 布 , 卧 在 马 槽 里 , 那 就 是 记 号 了 。
2:13 忽 然 有 一 大 队 天 兵 , 同 那 天 使 赞 美 神 说 ,
2:14 在 至 高 之 处 荣 耀 归 与 神 , 在 地 上 平 安 归 与 他 所 喜 悦 的 人 。 ( 有 古 卷 作 喜 悦 归 与 人 ) 。
2:15 众 天 使 离 开 他 们 升 天 去 了 , 牧 羊 的 人 彼 此 说 , 我 们 往 伯 利 恒 去 , 看 看 所 成 的 事 , 就 是 主 所 指 示 我 们 的 。
2:16 他 们 急 忙 去 了 , 就 寻 见 马 利 亚 和 约 瑟 , 又 有 那 婴 孩 卧 在 马 槽 里 。
2:17 既 然 看 见 , 就 把 天 使 论 这 孩 子 的 话 传 开 了 。
2:18 凡 听 见 的 , 就 诧 异 牧 羊 之 人 对 他 们 所 说 的 话 。
2:19 马 利 亚 却 把 这 一 切 的 事 存 在 心 里 , 反 复 思 想 。
2:20 牧 羊 的 人 回 去 了 , 因 所 听 见 所 看 见 的 一 切 事 , 正 如 天 使 向 他 们 所 说 的 , 就 归 荣 耀 与 神 , 赞 美 他 。

Wise Men Travel from the East to Worship Jesus

Matthew 2:1-12

2:1 Now when the birth of Jesus took place in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 Saying, Where is the King of the Jews whose birth has now taken place? We have seen his star in the east and have come to give him worship.
2:3 And when it came to the ears of Herod the king, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And he got together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, questioning them as to where the birth-place of the Christ would be.
2:5 And they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is said in the writings of the prophet,
2:6 You Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the chiefs of Judah: out of you will come a ruler, who will be the keeper of my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod sent for the wise men privately, and put questions to them about what time the star had been seen.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make certain where the young child is; and when you have seen him, let me have news of it, so that I may come and give him worship.
2:9 And after hearing the king, they went on their way; and the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the young child was.
2:10 And when they saw the star they were full of joy.
2:11 And they came into the house, and saw the young child with Mary, his mother; and falling down on their faces they gave him worship; and from their store they gave him offerings of gold, perfume, and spices.
2:12 And it was made clear to them by God in a dream that they were not to go back to Herod; so they went into their country by another way.

马 太 福 音 Matthew 2:1-12

2:1 当 希 律 王 的 时 候 , 耶 稣 生 在 犹 太 的 伯 利 恒 。 有 几 个 博 士 从 东 方 来 到 耶 路 撒 冷 , 说 ,
2:2 那 生 下 来 作 犹 太 人 之 王 的 在 哪 里 ? 我 们 在 东 方 看 见 他 的 星 , 特 来 拜 他 。
2:3 希 律 王 听 见 了 , 就 心 里 不 安 。 耶 路 撒 冷 合 城 的 人 , 也 都 不 安 。
2:4 他 就 召 齐 了 祭 司 长 和 民 间 的 文 士 , 问 他 们 说 , 基 督 当 生 在 何 处 。
2:5 他 们 回 答 说 , 在 犹 太 的 伯 利 恒 。 因 为 有 先 知 记 着 说 ,
2:6 犹 大 地 的 伯 利 恒 阿 , 你 在 犹 大 诸 城 中 , 并 不 是 最 小 的 。 因 为 将 来 有 一 位 君 王 , 要 从 你 那 里 出 来 , 牧 养 我 以 色 列 民 。
2:7 当 下 希 律 暗 暗 地 召 了 博 士 来 , 细 问 那 星 是 什 么 时 候 出 现 的 。
2:8 就 差 他 们 往 伯 利 恒 去 , 说 , 你 们 去 仔 细 寻 访 那 小 孩 子 。 寻 到 了 , 就 来 报 信 , 我 也 好 去 拜 他 。
2:9 他 们 听 见 王 的 话 , 就 去 了 。 在 东 方 所 看 见 的 那 星 , 忽 然 在 他 们 前 头 行 , 直 行 到 小 孩 子 的 地 方 , 就 在 上 头 停 住 了 。
2:10 他 们 看 见 那 星 , 就 大 大 地 欢 喜 。
2:11 进 了 房 子 , 看 见 小 孩 子 和 他 母 亲 马 利 亚 , 就 俯 伏 拜 那 小 孩 子 , 揭 开 宝 盒 , 拿 黄 金 , 乳 香 , 没 药 为 礼 物 献 给 他 。
2:12 博 士 因 为 在 梦 中 被 主 指 示 , 不 要 回 去 见 希 律 , 就 从 别 的 路 回 本 地 去 了 。