For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens

– Hebrews 7:26

 

Should I or shouldn’t I celebrate Christmas? Some will answer that question with, “Absolutely! What am I a Scrooge?” Others will answer, “No way! What am I a pagan?” There are people who support both sides of that question. There can be a lot of guilt associated with whether we celebrate Christmas and that can spoil it for everyone.

This teaching is going to tackle the question of whether we should celebrate Christmas. I’m going to tell you from the start that I think we should celebrate Christmas, but I also have some caveats to my encouragement to celebrate Christmas. In the end I pray what we learn will help us to all lift up Jesus and glorify His name.

Let’s start by laying a foundation for Christmas.

What is “Christmas”?

We think of Christmas as a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the incarnation, the virgin birth, Immanuel – “God with us.” That is right and true. But if we are going to handle Christmas appropriately, we have to start even more basically than that. Christmas is a “holiday.”

What is a “Holiday”?

Holiday. A “holiday” is a holy day. The word “holiday” is found four times in the Bible, all four in the book of Esther (Esther 2:18; 8:17; 9:19 and 22). So it is not really a commonly used word in the Bible. The word “holiday,” according to The New Oxford American Dictionary, states “holiday” can be traced to the Old English word haligdaeg or holy day. Some people mistakenly believe that “holiday” derives from “Holly Day,” but this is incorrect. A holiday is a holy day.

 What does “holy” mean? What is “holiness”?

Holy. The word “holy” is found 680 times in the NKJV Bible. The first mention of “holy” in scripture is in Exodus 3:5 where the LORD at the Burning Bush advises Moses, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” The word “holy” in the Old Testament is translated from the Hebrew term quodesh and means a sacred place or thing, sanctity, consecrated, dedicated, hallowed, holiness, apartness, separateness. Something or someone that is “holy” is separated to God for His use. The idea of “holy” in scripture is something that is uncommon, set aside and special.

 God is holy. The Bible states, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9; cf. also Psalm 99:3 and 5). God is “holy” in the sense that he is unique; there is none like Him. God’s holiness is defined by His nature which is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, gracious, merciful, loving, and sovereign overall. When we say “God is holy” we are saying there is no One like God.

 What does God’s holiness have to do with us?

We are called by God to be holy like God is holy. To be holy means to be uncommon, unique, distinct. Just as God is “holy” in that there is none like Him, we are to be “holy” in that we are uncommonly, uniquely, distinctively belonging to God. Much of the Church today is focused on making every effort to present itself like the world in order to attract the world. Much of the Church is caught up in having “common” ground with the world. But in doing that, the Church has gotten off course. The Church has been deceived into going in the exact wrong direction as far as holiness is concerned.

The Bible states:

Leviticus 11:44–45 (NKJV) – 44 For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Leviticus 19:2 (NKJV) – “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 (NKJV) – Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.

1 Peter 1:15–16 (NKJV) – 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Those saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and who have been given spiritual life by the indwelling Holy Spirit, are to be holy. The idea of holiness and holy living is a lost scriptural emphasis in our day. The Church today seems more concerned with relating to and being more like the common trends and world than it is about being holy or separated to God for His uses. This emphasis is evidence that the Church today has lost its way. Through Jeremiah the LORD said, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” Unfortunately, like the first recipients of those words it can be said the response today is, “We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). We need to pray for today’s Church. We need to pray we get back on God’s holy road.

Saints. God’s followers in the Old Testament are referred to as “Saints,” (Hebrew quodes) or separated ones (e.g., Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 33:2 and 3). Born again believers in the New Testament are referred to as “saints,” (Greek hagios) or those who are lit. an awful thing, or sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless, ceremonially consecrated), holy, separated distinctively unto God for His use. NT saints are holy by virtue of their faith in Jesus. We are righteous and blameless in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. also Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17). And we are called to be holy by God.

What is the Nature of Holiness? What is Holiness Like?

To be holy is to be set apart to God for His use, but what is the nature of holiness, what is it like? Sometimes people reduce holiness to a set of does and don’ts, to a set of rules to keep or restrictions to adhere to. But holiness is so much more than that.

Holiness is loving. In the Old Testament the Book of Leviticus is about the holiness of God. In the context of that book when it states, “You shall be holy, for the LORD your God is holy” (Leviticus 19:2) it goes on to define such holiness as “you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).

In the New Testament the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love:

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV) – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Interestingly, the word “fruit” here is in the singular not plural as many sometimes understand it. What follows love are not various additional fruits of the Spirit, but characteristics of the fruit of love the Spirit births in us to make us holy.

When the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us love is the nature of His holy work in us:

Romans 5:5 (NKJV) – Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

The “love” (Greek agape) of the Spirit is the same “love” word used when the love of God is mentioned. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believers in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The nature of the love of the Spirit and the love of God that is poured out into our hearts is a love that sacrifices, that gives, that serves, that puts others before ourselves. That is the nature of true holiness.

When Jesus was asked what the two greatest commandments were, He responded:

Matthew 22:36–40 (NKJV) – 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love is the greatest (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). The Law was given to expose human inability and unwillingness to obey God (cf. Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10). But once a person is saved by trusting Jesus as Savior through the gospel, what do we do with the Law? The Bible says love fulfills the law of God:

Romans 13:10 (NKJV) – Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Therefore, if we are to be holy and set apart to God for His use, the way He uses us is lovingly. The Holy Spirit births love in us. Whatever we do in our holy walk with God will be loving. The Holy Spirit produces a life of love in the one regenerated to eternal life through faith in Jesus. Holiness is agape love of the Spirit working in and through us. That is holiness and holy living. Holiness is loving in the Spirit.

What is “love”?

Love is not merely emotional attachment. Love is not license to participate in anything that feels good or emotionally appeals to us. Love is more than that.

Love is the fruit of the Spirit and by nature involves “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Love is further defined as:

1 Corinthians 13:4–8, and 13 (NKJV) – Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. . .. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This is a full and accurate description of what love is and does. The world says, “Love is love,” and what they really mean is that if they put “love” in their banners, they can justify anything they do, no matter how scripturally sinful, with their “love.” That is not the love God reveals to us.

There is an essential ingredient left out of such a definition of “love.” The world says, “love is love,” meaning love is emotional affection, usually expressed in a sexual relationship between any two people of any gender preference or invention. But as Christians, our love must be defined by our Savior Jesus. Let’s look at what Jesus said about love.

Love is Keeping Jesus’ Commandments

Love is keeping Jesus’ commands (i.e., obedience). Jesus said:

John 14:15 – 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 

What does it mean to “keep”? “Keep’ occurs 75 times in scripture (AV) – keep 57, reserve 8, observe 4, watch 2, preserve 2, keeper 1, hold fast 1; to attend to carefully, take care of to guard metaphor, to keep, one in the state in which he is to observe, to reserve: to undergo something, to submit to. To “keep” (Greek τηρω tēreō; from τερς teros), means, to guard from loss or injury by keeping an eye upon. An example of this is when we note and proclaim a prophetic portion of God’s prophetic word. By doing so we are keeping God’s word. To “keep” means to fulfill a command; to hold onto, maintain. To “keep” involves withholding or restricting yourself for a purpose of God. The idea is akin to two people not indulging in sexual relations before marriage to preserve the holy aspect of holy matrimony. To “keep” involves sacrifice. To keep means to dedicate to or live for, to discipline yourself for something. To keep means to hold fast, be a keeper of something, to preserve or assure something is reserved by watching over it. We are to be keepers of the commands of Jesus.

What is a “commandment”? The word “commandment” refers to an authoritative prescription: — commandment, precept. The word “commandment” occurs seventy-one times (AV) – commandment 69, precept 2; an order, command, charge, precept, injunction that which is prescribed to one by reason of his office, commandments prescribed by rule in accordance with which a thing is done, a precept or principle. We are to keep Jesus’ commands in particular, and God’s word more broadly.

Why is Keeping Jesus’ Commandments important? 

Why is keeping Jesus’ commands so important for us? There are three benefits to us for keeping Jesu’ commands.

First, keeping Jesus’ commands cures our loneliness. Christmas for many can be one of the loneliest times of the year. Maybe we are downcast because of a loved one who has recently passed away, or a relationship that has ended. Maybe we are physically alone. A person can be alone in a crowd. But when we keep Jesus’ commands God’s presence comes along side us.

Jesus said:

John 14:15-18 (NKJV) – 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Lovingly keeping Jesus’ commands is associated with Jesus praying for us that the “Helper” “the Spirit of truth” (the Holy Spirit) would abide with us or be present with us so we do not feel like orphans. (cf. also Acts 5:32).

Second, keeping Jesus’ commands invites God to manifest Himself to us. Jesus said:

John 14:21 (NKJV) – 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Lovingly keeping Jesus’ commands leads to us being loved by the Father and Jesus and to Jesus’ “manifest” presence with us. The term “manifest” (Greek μφανζω emphanizō) means to exhibit (in person) or disclose (by words), to appear, declare (plainly), inform, (will) manifest, shew, signify. “Manifest” occurs ten times in the Authorized Version of the Bible – inform 3, be manifest 2, appear 2, signify 1, show 1, declare plainly 1. “Manifest” means, to manifest, exhibit to view to show oneself, come to view, appear, be manifested, to disclose, declare, make known. If you need or are looking for a word from the Lord, a good place to begin is by keeping Jesus’ commands.

Therefore, when we keep Jesus’ commandments facilitates an environment where God in His fullness makes His presence known to us by communicating to us. E.g., when I am preparing a message the Lord speaks to me (sometimes early Sunday morning!).

Third, keeping Jesus commands is a way to invite God to be at home with us. Lovingly keeping Jesus’ commands leads to the Father and Jesus and the Spirit (context) making “Our home with him.” Jesus said:

John 14:23 (NKJV) – 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

The word “home” (Greek μον monē) refers to a staying, i.e., taking up residence (the act or the place. The idea is that when we keep Jesus’ commands we invite God to make His abode with us. This word only occurs twice in the Authorized Version of the Bible. If Christmas is about home, warmth, and fellowship, then keeping Jesus’ commands invites God to help us experience all of that. When we keep Jesus’ commandments it makes Him want to take up residence in us or fellowship with us even more.

If Christmas is a Holiday It Should Be a Holy Day Celebrated in a Holy Way by God’s Holy Ones

If Christmas is a holiday, it should be a holy day celebrated in a holy way by God’s holy ones.

This means loving God supremely. This means loving others sacrificially. Christmas should be a time to express our love toward God and His love through us to others. This love involves keeping Jesus’ commandments by restricting ourselves when tempted with sinful impulses, but also actively sacrificing for God and others. It means making ourselves available to Jesus to spend time with Him and do what He would have us do.

Christmas should be a day where God’s people celebrate the holy and unique birth or incarnation of Jesus. Jesus came in the incarnation because of God’s love for humanity (John 3:16). The birth of Christ is holy; no other birth has ever been like it. Those separated unto God as holy by virtue of their adoption into God’s family (Romans 8:14-17), should celebrate the holy birth of the Son of Man Jesus, in a holy way.

Jesus Is Holy and Harmless and Deserves a Holiday that is a Holy Day

Jesus is holy (there is none like Him) and “harmless” therefore everything about Him should be celebrated in a holy way. In Hebrews it states of Jesus:

Hebrews 7:26–28 (NKJV) – 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Jesus is “holy.” There is none like Jesus, fully God and fully Man. Here He is also described as “harmless” (Greek akakos) meaning innocent, unsuspecting, harmless. The humble and vulnerable birth of Jesus testifies to His harmlessness. Jesus came innocently, harmlessly at His incarnation.

Jesus offered Himself up for us on the cross.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus is coming back as the King of Kings.

Yes, Jesus gave His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins – death. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. The next time He comes He will come as a holy King of Kings to squash the enemies of God (cf., Luke 21:25-28; Revelation 19:11-16). JESUS DESERVES A HOLY HOLIDAY LIKE CHRISTMAS CEELBRATED BY HIS HOLY ONES IN A HOLY WAY. When we celebrate Christmas, the holy and harmless coming of Jesus, we should do so in a holy way. Jesus deserves our worship in a holy holiday celebration like Christmas.

In light of God’s holiness and His call for us to be holy, how ought we to celebrate the holiday of Christmas? Let’s see.

To sum up we can now say:

What is “Christmas”? Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a “holiday.” What is a holiday? A holiday is a holy day. What does it mean to be “holy”? To be holy means to distinctively and uncommonly set apart to God for His use. What is “holiness”? Holiness is love/loving in the Spirit God supremely and others sacrificially. Love is “keeping” Jesus’ commandments which leads to the “Helper,” “Spirit of truth” presence so we don’t feel like orphans (i.e., lonely), the manifest presence of God with us (Immanuel), and God making His home with us. That is Christmas. And that’s what Jesus deserves from us.

 

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