The following is the introduction to the book “Saving Christmas: How God Kept His Promise Through the Generations,” written by Pastor Mike and Travis McSherley. You can purchase the book in the RBC Bookstore, or order it online and have it shipped to you using the link below. We hope it will be a blessing to all of you.Order “Saving Christmas”
This book tells the story of the war on Christmas.
We know what you might be thinking: Hasn’t enough already been written about how everybody says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” these days?
It’s true that we tend to use the phrase “war on Christmas” to refer to our cultural reluctance to attribute any spiritual significance to December 25. Though that may be an unfortunate trend, it is not what this book is about. And it is certainly not what the Bible is about. The real war on Christmas has much greater stakes—universal stakes, eternal stakes. It is a war that takes place on the grandest of scales between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. And it is a war that has already been fought—and won—by God Almighty Himself.
And where can you find the story of Christmas in the Bible?
To answer that question, your mind might go to Matthew 1 or Luke 2. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Maybe you would point to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Or Isaiah 9:6, which says that “to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
No doubt about it—those are wonderful and precious passages of Scripture on which to reflect when we think about the coming of the Lord. But what about Genesis 3? Joshua 2? Micah 5? The books of Ruth or Esther?
What if we told you that the entire Old Testament is telling the story of Christmas? That Christmas shows up on nearly every page? That each of the narratives is a link in a chain that reaches from Eden to Bethlehem? That the focus of Old Testament history was a war fought because somebody had to save Christmas?
This book provides an overview of that war, from beginning to glorious end, and the good, bad, and ugly people whom God used along the way. Over the span of thousands of years, God employed the most unlikely individuals and the most improbable circumstances to ensure that a baby would be born to a virgin in Bethlehem one holy night. He called murderers, liars, harlots, kings, queens, peasants, Jews, and Gentiles into His service—all sinners, you might notice. He made use of dreams, famines, plagues, and even governments. He used faithful people and faithless people. Because somebody had to save Christmas.
That’s what we celebrate during this season—not just the birth of the Messiah, our Savior, “God with us,” but also ultimate victory in the greatest war ever fought and the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem His people from the shackles of sin, death, and hell.
If you are a follower of Christ, we hope that this book will inspire you to worship the one and only King as you see how His sovereign hand has worked in every detail of every story to provide the way for salvation and eternal life. If you don’t yet believe in Jesus, our prayer is that your spirit will be stirred as you learn about the incredible and dramatic events that led to Jesus’ birth.
And may all of us be amazed by God’s power and love as we consider the price that was paid to save Christmas.
Regardless of the history of our hurt associated with our earthly fathers, because of our redemption through Jesus Christ, God is now our Father.
Research from scholars has concluded that in all existing books of the Old Testament and all existing books of extrabiblical Jewish writings dating from the beginning of Judaism until the tenth century A.D. in Italy—there is not a single reference of a Jewish person addressing God directly in the first person as Father. Jewish people and their children were trained to address God with proper phrases of respect. But of all the titles used, the term Father was never among them. The first Jewish rabbi to address God as “Father” directly was Jesus of Nazareth.
This radical departure from tradition greatly contributed to why the Jewish leaders and people of the day wanted to kill Him. How dare Jesus address the creator of everything, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with such an intimate, personal term as Father. Even more extreme is when Jesus told his followers to do the same. “When you pray, you say, ‘Our Father.’” You and I have been adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5), and as co-heirs with the Son we can now cry out “Abba Father.”
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)
What kind of love? A love unlike anything we have ever seen. There is nothing to compare to it. A love so unimaginable that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. A love so gracious that it is free to us because another paid the price. A love so enduring that nothing can ever separate us from it. A love so complete that every future sin is forgiven. A love so personal that He welcomes each of us just as we are. He delights in us. He actually wants us to enjoy the fullness of His goodness. A love so humble that He tells us to approach Him boldly. God, our Father, is the perfect Father.
Yet being “made new” by the Holy Spirit and having God as our Father does not result in divine amnesia. Whether the pain from our past centers around neglect, abandonment, or abuse, like garbage in a compost pile, the LORD can turn this suffering into the richest soil from which our lives bear fruit. God’s grace can heal any wound — including wounds from fathers. The apostle Peter wrote that “He has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” This means the ability to forgive the worst of dads.
The LORD is continually at work bringing reconciliation between fathers and their children. One of the catalysts is often the children becoming fathers themselves. Any father who has yet to fail repeatedly in raising children hasn’t completed the process. He has only rocked a baby. And while we are each tempted to be paralyzed or depressed by our failures, let them instead serve to sprout our contrition, grow our confession, and energize us to teach our children until they know God as their Father.
So, then, every day becomes Father’s Day.
Five Skills for Effective Fatherhood
With a desire to aid our prayers and pursuit to become better dads, I have included below the summary outline of a talk I have given entitled “Five Skills for Effective Fatherhood.” It is aided by too many saints to footnote. I did not always demonstrate these qualities in raising my own children, and when I didn’t our relationship was negatively affected. Let us continue the pursuit of becoming better fathers and grandfathers.
1. Expressing gratefulness to the LORD and others (Ephesians 5:15-20, Colossians 3:17).
- A father should express genuine gratitude to those in his own family for the efforts they make to please him; otherwise they will cease to make the effort.
- Your family will learn to express their gratefulness as they see you do it. Consider the example of the apostle Paul. In nearly every letter he writes he thanks the Christians and frequently names specific people for something. Romans 1:8: “First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, (and what does he give thanks for?) that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Colossians 1:3-4: “We give thanks to God, the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love that you have for all the saints.”
- A basic foundation of gratitude is a spirit of contentment. Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious or worried for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know unto God.” And Paul goes on to say in v. 11 that “I have learned in whatsoever state I am in to be content. I know both how to suffer need and I know how to abound: everywhere and in ALL things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” As a Father this means stopping and enjoying the accomplishments of the family. If you constantly urge your family on to more achievement without stopping to enjoy and praise what they have done, they will get discouraged and want to give up trying. They will feel they can never do enough to please you.
2. Maintain a genuine spirit of humility (Philippians 2:3-8, 1 Peter 5:5-6).
- Your wife and each child need to be told that they are needed and loved. They need to hear that you need their prayers and help in order to be the spiritual leader that God intends you to be.
- Admit when you are wrong. If we don’t admit obvious faults and sins, they will translate this as pride and react to it. James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another.”
- All members of a family will fail each other at some point in time. This cannot be completely avoided. Fathers should lead the reconciliation process. James 5:18: “God who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.”
- Do not demand to be heard. Earn the privilege by developing a relationship with each one in the family.
- Display good manners. It demonstrates to others what we really think of our wife and children. It shows we value them as people. A lack of manners by a father will infect the family. His sons will develop a disrespect for their mother and sister. Our wife and daughters will tend to withdraw. The very essence of good manners involves sacrifice and yielding rights as Christ did.
3. Learn to control our tongue and emotions.
James warns us in James 3:8-10 that the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With our tongue we bless God our heavenly Father; and then we use it to curse men which are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers these things ought not to be so.”
- Harsh words and thoughtless statements cut deeply within the heart of a family member and are not easily removed. Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
- Consistency in emotions without the father being way up one day and way down the next. Avoid anger or complaining. Our children receive encouragement and reassurance from us from our stability. If you are in a time of depression seek help. The day will come when you have rich and useful insights to pass onto your family and others.
- Discipline should not be done in anger but calmly after clarifying the offense.
4. Accept each child at his or her own rate of development.
Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
- Each of your children are different and will mature physically and spiritually on his or her own unique schedule.
- Never compare anyone in the family with another with a greater ability or achievement. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul warned them against comparing themselves among themselves.
- Fathers should seek to balance supervision and freedom to fail. Too much freedom will be interpreted by children as rejection. Too much supervision will be interpreted by the wife and children as a lack of trust. Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers do not provoke (exasperate or frustrate) your children to anger but bring them up in the nurture and admonition (training and instruction) of the LORD.
- Express appreciation for what they are now, rather than what they might be in the future.
5. Recognize individual Worth and Potential
- God gifts and equips each one uniquely. Romans 11:29: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (He never withdraws his gifts once they are given and never changes His mind towards those to whom he gives His grace).” See also Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-29.
- Praise and emphasize the strong points and provide training for the weak points. (Romans 15:1-2)
- Commit yourself to God’s reputation and their success rather than focus on your own success.
- A father should not ask his family to do things he would not do.
- They need reassurance that we love them and whether they are right or wrong, we always will love them. They may break our heart by doing evil but they must know that we will never disown them. Luke 15:11-32: The prodigal son and the father.
In the great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13:6-8, the Scripture says that “love does not rejoice in iniquity (evil, wrongdoing), but rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never fails.”
This month, we have the opportunity to reflect on the sanctity of human life.
And that is certainly a topic worthy of reflection. Such a phrase represents far more than just a political issue or a cultural debate. Rather, it is a reminder of the value placed on us by God Himself.
All life is miraculous and amazing, a dazzling display of the Creator’s intricate design and handiwork. But human life is uniquely precious, significant, and sacred. How do we know that? Because Scripture, from beginning to end, reveals the profound esteem given to Adam’s descendants.
Human life is sacred because it is made in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Human life is sacred because it is elevated above the rest of creation. “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).
Human life is sacred because God takes special care to craft each one. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14).
Human life is sacred because it is eternal. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
Human life is sacred because Christ was willing to pay an inexpressible cost to redeem it. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Human life is sacred because all of heaven celebrates when a sinner repents. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Human life is sacred because it is made for God’s glory. “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).
Human life is sacred because God loves it beyond measure. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
A question that may be at the forefront of our minds this month is: When does life become precious, sacred, and valuable? Is it when we’re holding a crying newborn at the hospital? Right before birth? When we see little arms and legs moving on an ultrasound? When we hear the first heartbeats? At the moment of conception?
Or maybe long before? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
Science may be able to speculate about when life “begins,” but only the Creator of life can assign it true worth. And He has assigned it immense worth. Incomprehensible worth.
So this month, and every month, we reflect on life. We marvel at life. And much more so, we marvel at the One who formed us.
Words mean something.
In this short devotional, my desire is to look at some of our favorite words that we sing at this time of year and reflect on their meaning. You might be in for a surprise.
We don’t often use the term “lame” much anymore, except in the vernacular to describe someone who is not “cool.” As we celebrated communion this week we looked at a character from the Old Testament who was physically lame. In 2 Samuel 9 we read of Mephibosheth, who was Saul’s grandson. Saul had been the first king of Israel and had, on more than one occasion, tried to kill David, who was anointed by the Lord to be Saul’s successor. David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a deep friendship and were as close as brothers. In chapter 9, Saul and Jonathan are now dead, David is king; and, for Jonathan’s sake, he wants to show kindness to living members of the house of Saul. Ziba, a servant from the house of Saul was found and he identified Mephibosheth as a son of Jonathan. Mephibosheth was crippled from the age of five because he was dropped when his nurse was fleeing with him after the death of Jonathan and Saul at the battle of Mount Gilboa. David brings Mephibosheth to his household to live with him and says he will eat at the King’s table like one of the King’s family. Mephibosheth’s name means “dispeller of shame.”
Though we may not have physical disabilities that cause us to be lame, we are all spiritually lame, unable to bring ourselves to salvation. But God, in the greatest act of grace, reached out to us and provided salvation through the death of His son Jesus. There is nothing we can do to earn this salvation. God, the great bearer of our shame through the crucifixion of His son Jesus, carries us to His table and invites us to dine with Him. This is the gospel.
Many of our missionaries are so wounded that they may feel emotionally lame. Mark and Donna McDonnel have served in Kiev, Ukraine, with WorldVenture for 18 years, 13 of which with RBC as a supporting church. The McDonnels have been through some hard trials lately, but they have endured. Mark’s primary ministry is as a seminary professor at Kiev Theological Seminary, but they also felt the Lord drawing them to become involved with a ministry of their local church to the physically and mentally disabled. There is far less government assistance there than in the U.S., making any ministry to these families especially meaningful.
Each year the church hosts a camp for these special people. Because of your faithful giving RBC has been able to provide financial help toward this camp. The McDonnels have shared a short video from this year’s camp. During the video, Pastor Sasha is asking the candidates if they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and that they are saved by faith in Him alone. Each responds, “I believe.” Then he asks if they will commit their lives to serving Him, and they respond, “Yes.” Then Sasha says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The last one to be baptized, Andrei, is carried into the pool.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)
LOVE IS PATIENT: Thank you for being patient with my shortcomings. It makes me feel accepted by you.
LOVE IS KIND: Your kindness is more than I could ever wish as it makes each day something to look forward to.
LOVE IS NOT ENVIOUS: I have never felt your envy toward me which makes our relationship one of encouragement and not competition.
LOVE IS NOT BOASTFUL: You never speak highly of yourself which becomes an example for me to emulate.
LOVE IS NOT PROUD: Your humility landscapes the lives of those around you, and my life has been shaped by it.
LOVE IS NOT RUDE: There are no sharp edges in your speech or manners. I can express my thoughts without fear of attack.
LOVE IS NOT SELF-SEEKING: The fact that you are not self-seeking makes me feel important and not just tolerated.
LOVE IS NOT ANGRY: You never seem angry which makes me feel protected and safe when I don’t measure up.
LOVE DOES NOT KEEP SCORE: I have the freedom to fail without being reminded of past failures.
LOVE DELIGHTS NOT IN EVIL: Your avoidance of evil is a moral safeguard in our friendship.
LOVE REJOICES IN TRUTH: Your pursuit of truth gives me confidence that you are making wise decisions.
LOVE PROTECTS: I feel secure that you desire to protect my reputation, emotions and the hidden fears of my heart.
LOVE TRUSTS: Your consistent trust in me removes any suspicion and replaces it with trust in you.
LOVE GIVES HOPE: When you give hope to my life, I feel valued.
LOVE PERSEVERES: Your persevering love has been a faithful guide for my earthly pilgrimage.