The Christmas season is one of the busiest and brightest times of the year. Houses and store windows shine with twinkling lights, while smart phones and televisions are lit up with dazzling advertisements for the latest and greatest goods. During the month of December, there’s no shortage of hustle and bustle, festivities and feasting. We decorate, cookie-bake, and fill our days with parties, programs, and present-shopping. Whether these activities excite or exhaust us (or both), we can agree that the Christmas season is significant, not only in our culture but in our hearts as well. Although it has been commercialized, there is a glory or “weight” to the season as it completely invades an entire month of the year and our lives.
Are we enthralled by Jesus at Christmas?
As Christians, we know “Jesus is the reason for the season.” We recognize that all the bright and beautiful traditions and celebrations of December should point us and our children to the ultimate glory of God himself — the God who took on flesh and entered history as a human baby to save sinners. Yet, while we know what is true, the gloriously good news of Christ’s first coming often seems a bit muted next to the flashy glories of the holiday season itself.
Let’s be honest. The events, traditions, and “stuff” of Christmas tend to enthrall our hearts and consume our minds more than the reality of the long-awaited Messiah and King, who came and is coming back for us again. Our children are more quickly and easily enamored by tales of Santa Claus, with his flying reindeer and bag of shiny new toys, than by the story of the Christ child in the manger. And that’s not too surprising if all they hear is a serene story about a baby born in Bethlehem thousands of years ago to save them. Save them from what? Santa brings kids stuff they can see, touch, feel, and enjoy right now! What does this baby of old have to do with their lives (and their parents’ lives) today?
The answer is: everything. We just need eyes to see it. In his book What is Biblical Theology? James Hamilton writes: “What we think and how we live is largely determined by the larger story in which we interpret our lives. Does your story enable you to look death in the face? Does your story give you a hope that goes beyond the grave? . . . The world does have a true story. The Bible tells it.”
Jesus Christ is the hero of the world’s true story — a story that’s epic, true, and able to bring meaning, purpose, and hope to our own stories. The world’s story is really God’s story, found in the pages of Scripture and told through many smaller stories that all connect to form one grand narrative. This narrative begins with the creation of the world in the book of Genesis and ends with the consummation of all things in the book of Revelation. Between these bookends, the story climaxes in the life, death, and resurrection of the story’s hero, Jesus the Christ — the one who changes everything about our lives.
Jesus is the connecting thread who binds each individual story and book of the Bible together to reveal something greater. So, when we disjoin his nativity from the larger narrative, it loses its luster, so to speak. In fact, the birth of Christ really makes no sense when removed from the context of the larger story. When we read it and teach it to our children as an isolated event, we fail to realize the personal and cosmic significance — the sheer glory — of Christ coming to earth and taking on human flesh. Without the whole story, we don’t understand why we needed him to come in the first place.
Helping your family trace glory
Tracing Glory: The Christmas Story Through the Bible is a daily advent reading for the month of December that seeks to help individuals and families see and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ within its proper context of the Bible’s big story. Written with children, teenagers, and adults in mind, it begins looking back at the creation of the world in the book of Genesis and ends looking forward to the new creation in the book of Revelation, tracing the glory of Jesus Christ from start to finish. In each day’s reading, there is a key scripture to look up, a devotional commentary to read, a helpful summary highlighting the key point and showing how that Bible passage points to Jesus, and questions to prompt discussion with your families.
Tracing Glory was written to help my children and others see that the Christmas story we read in Luke chapter two is much more than a sweet tale of a baby lying peacefully in a manger under the warm glow of the stars. The birth of Christ is the pivotal event in history and the climax of the Bible’s storyline, a story full of captivating themes like good and evil, power, love, war, sacrifice, redemption, mystery, death, victory, and glory. It’s all there, and it’s all true. As we start to truly grasp God’s big story, it draws us in and enables us to make sense of our own individual stories. It tells us why we’re here, what has gone wrong in our own hearts and in our world, and what (or, rather, who) is the solution to our problem.
The reality is that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ outshines all the flashy glories of this present world, even, and maybe especially, during the holidays. When we truly “see” him, our lives are forever changed. God alone can give us eyes to see, and he does this by revealing the beauty and sufficiency of his Son through his Word and by his Spirit. The goal of this resource is to take you and your family to the Word of God during the Christmas season and help you trace the glory of Jesus Christ from start to finish. As you do, my prayer is that Christ would become more desirable to you and sufficient for you than anything else. During this bright and busy season, may you and your family more deeply love the story and more joyfully reflect his glory.