Once upon a time, …. Uh, no, that’s not this story. 
It came upon a midnight clear, …… We’re getting a little closer.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross… Now we’re getting there.

I grew up like many children, celebrating Christmas with a tinsel-covered tree, lights decorating the outside of the house, and a Nativity scene on a table. After all, the Nativity scene was what Christmas was all about, right? At least, that’s what we were taught. The first Christmas happened the night the infant Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem because there was no room for his mom and dad at the inn. And Santa Claus came to visit Him at that stable, …. WAIT! That’s not right. Did you ever stop to think about how one holiday could be about two very distinctly different people? 

A few centuries after Jesus was born, lived, and died, Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome from 306 to 337 AD, decided to make Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. However, in order to keep the pagans happy, he had to incorporate some of their beliefs into Christianity. Now, this isn’t how Santa Claus became a part of Christmas. But it does have something to do with why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Some historians believe that Jesus was actually born a few months before that. However, these historical details are not the direction this story is going. You can do some research on your own if you want to know more about the origins and traditions of the secular Christmas celebration. This story’s direction is going to Jerusalem, 33 years after Jesus’ birth.

Chapter One takes place in Nazareth, before Jesus’ birth. “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’” (Matthew 1:20-21) This infant Jesus was born to be a Savior.

Chapter Two takes place in Bethlehem. The angels proclaimed this to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) The shepherds went to visit Him in the stable where He was born. Eight days later, when His parents took him to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord, Simeon held Him and praised Him, saying He was born to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32) Simeon said to His mother Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (Luke 2:33-35) God revealed Who Jesus truly was.

Chapter Three takes place in Jerusalem 12 years later. Jesus knew His purpose, although His parents did not understand it. When His parents had to return to the temple in Jerusalem to find Him after the Feast of Passover He told them, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be concerning myself with my Father’s affairs?” (Luke 2:49) Twelve years old, and He knew why He had been born. 

Chapter Four has no entries. The Scriptures contain no details of Jesus’ life for approximately the next 18 years after He was in the temple courts of Jerusalem. 

Chapter Five takes place at the Jordan River. When John saw Jesus he said, “Look, The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) If you remember, the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save His people from their sins. And the angels, when speaking to the shepherds about Jesus’ birth, referred to Him as a Savior. 

Chapter Six takes place in Jerusalem. Jesus’ disciples have begun to follow Him. He has begun performing miraculous signs. Even some of the Pharisees have sought Him out. In answer to Nicodemus’ questions He declared, “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) He continued, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) Jesus did not hesitate to tell the truth about Who He was and why He was here.

Chapter Seven takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, 33 years after Jesus’ birth. For three years He had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, delivered the demon-possessed, raised the dead, and more. And for this, His people demanded His crucifixion. Before His arrest He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) The time had come for Him to fulfill the reason for which He had been born. He was arrested, tried, and handed over to the will of the people. As He hung on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Before He breathed His last breath He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He had accomplished all that His Father had asked of Him.

Chapter Eight takes place three days later at the tomb where Jesus had been buried. Some women who had been followers of Jesus went to His tomb with spices they had prepared. When they arrived there, they found that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. “While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ’ ” (Luke 24:4-7) He, Who was born to die, lives again!

Chapter Nine takes place 40 days later, in the vicinity of Bethany, where Jesus spoke His last words to the disciples after His resurrection. “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) Thirty-three years after He had been born in that stable, He returned to His home - our home, if we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

I’m sure you realize that this is not your typical Christmas story. Most Christmas stories focus on Jesus’ birth. However, what began in Nazareth more than 2000 years ago (Chapter One) continued on this earth until its purpose was fulfilled on the cross (Chapter Seven.) Jesus was born to die. But the story didn’t end there. He was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of His Father, where He is crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev 19:16) Through His life, death and resurrection, Jesus has bought us the greatest Christmas gift of all time - eternal life with Him.
For my Grandchildren KSBJ

(Public Domain) by George Bennard

"On a hill far away stood an old, rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
Such a wonderful beauty I see
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.

And I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
It's shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he'll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

And I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown​"




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