Jeremiah 29: Not Your Average Hallmark Greeting

Jeremiah 29:11

As I was reading Jeremiah today, I came across one of the most famous passages of the book, chapter 29 verse 11:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

I can imagine this verse being set to a Hallmark card accompanied by an inspirational photo in the background. And in fact, a quick Google Image search of “Jeremiah 29” yields just that: dozens of cute/inspirational/tranquil etc. images, each with the text of Jer 29:11.

Well, I don’t want to spend my time bashing these images for being tacky or misleading (in the sense that they lead us to interpret the passage out-of-context). Jeremiah 29:11 certainly is a beautiful and comforting passage. But I’d like to suggest that when we read this verse in context, we aren’t just left with the fuzzy feeling of a Hallmark greeting. Instead, we gain a lasting impression of God’s redemptive grace.

First, consider the historical context. The passage is part of a letter that Jeremiah sent to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. Jeremiah 29:2 tells us that “[t]his was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem.” You can read the full narrative of these events in 2 Kings 24. In short, the best and the brightest of Judah have already been exiled. The Zedekiah described in Jer. 29:3 is basically a puppet governor of King Nebuchadnezzar (Zedekiah will later rebel, and the rest of Judah will be exiled to Babylon). All of this is happening to Judah because of their sin and idolatry.

So what should we make of all this history? Well, the actual contents of the letter that Jeremiah sends to the exiles is surprising, given the historical context. Consider Jer 29:4-7:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

In other words, Jeremiah is telling the exiles that they are going to spend a long time in Babylon. This likely isn’t something they wanted to hear. Remember, Babylon is the enemy of Judah. Indeed, Jer. 27-28 is about how false prophets in Judah are promising that Babylon will fall and the exiles will return. As much as Jeremiah himself wishes that this were true (see Jer. 28:6), he is clear about God’s word: Judah will go into exile and live among the Babylonians.

To summarize, Judah is going into exile for her idolatry, and this exile is going to be longer than expected. Judah is experiencing the consequences of her sin; God is judging her. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t just about God promising to do good and to bless people in general; Jeremiah 29:11 is about God promising to do good for Israel despite her radical unfaithfulness towards him. Thus, it is a testament to God’s continuing grace for His people despite their failure to keep the covenant.

Far from killing the good feelings we have towards Jer. 29:11, reading it in context humbles us before the majesty of God’s grace. The focus, as it turns out, isn’t on us, or even on Judah. The main speaker, the initiator, and the star actor in the passage is God. Jeremiah 29 offers a glimpse into the character of God. Here are several things we learn about Him:

First, we learn that God is sovereign and that his sovereignty is characterized by grace. In 29:14, God says that He is the one who has sent Judah into exile. Despite how it may look from a human perspective, Judah is not at the mercy of her enemies. Her exile is not just the story of the Babylonian war machine gobbling up another smaller nation as it tightens its grip on the ancient near-east. Instead, it is the story of God chastising his people and judging them for their unfaithfulness. Throughout all this, God-not King Nebuchadnezzar-is the one who is in control.

Since God is in control, exile does not spell the end of the Israelite nation. Carry on while you are in exile says God, because His plan for Israel is a plan for wholeness, for hope, and for a future. Even mighty Babylon will one day fall to the Persians (who will fall to the Greeks, who will fall to the Romans…), but there will always be a remnant of Israel. From this remnant, Israel will receive her Messiah, who will not only save Israel, but all of humanity from sin and death. God shows grace to Israel by preserving her in exile.

Surprisingly, God’s grace is also extended to the Babylonians, Judah’s enemies, through the Israelite exiles. Seek the welfare of Babylon, says God; pray to the LORD on behalf of its inhabitants. Yes, exile is a bad thing for Judah, but through all this, the Babylonians come into contact with the people who worship the living God–the people whose destiny is to become a blessing to all nations. Despite their failure to live up to their high calling, God’s people, by His grace, continue to be a priestly nation even while they are being judged in exile.

All that to say: Jeremiah 29 reminds us that God is sovereign, that He is gracious, and that His grace extends even to the enemies of Judah. God continues to be faithful, even when the Israelites have been radically unfaithful. Judah’s exile isn’t the end of the story for God’s people, but a chapter in the narrative of redemption that will culminate in the coming of Jesus Messiah. In this sense, Jeremiah 29:11 is not an ancient Hallmark greeting. It is God’s promise to remain faithful to his plans for redemption, a testament to His sovereignty and grace.

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The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the annual Rose Bowl football game. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California 30 yards away from the Georgia Tech’s end zone. Unfortunately he became confused and began running the wrong way. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, overtook and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

This was during the first half. Everyone was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Riegels in the second half. During half-time Riegels sat alone in a corner, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, put his hands in his face and cried like a baby.

We’re not football players, but have you experienced failure on your journey of discipleship? If we’re honest, we fail our God more times than we can count on the journey of discipleship. We visited websites that we weren’t suppose to, gossiped about a brother or sister in Christ, yelled at the wife instead of loving her as Christ loves the church, and fall into unspeakable sins.

Is there hope for us when we fail in our journey of discipleship?

In Mark 16:1-8 it tells us that there is hope for those who have failed on their journey of discipleship. In this passage you will hear three points: faithfulness ending in failure, hope offered, and what are we to do in light of hope being offered.

Faithfulness ending in Failure

We have now reached the end of the gospel of Mark. All along we have seen that the gospel of Mark is about the journey of discipleship. The women demonstrated their faithfulness to him on this journey.

The women were faithful to Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They ministered to him while he was in Galilee (15:41); they followed him to the cross and saw the crucifixion (15:40). They saw where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus (15:47) and rose early in the morning to go there to anoint the body of Christ with species. They saw the empty tomb (16:5-6). They were faithful to follow Jesus, where as the crowd, his family and the religious leaders rejected him. His male disciples fled and denied Him. The women were the last hope that someone within Jesus’s crowd would continue as faithful followers. That was not to be the case, despite their faithfulness they failed to carry the message that was commissioned by the young man to “God and tell, His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.’” Their failure is highlighted through the word ‘fled’ and their silence.

They “fled” in 16:8 because trembling and astonishment had gripped them. Instead of faithfully proclaiming the message, they fled in fear. Mark is trying to paint a picture of the women’s failure through the word “fled”. This word was used in back in 14:50 when the disciples fled and again with the young man (14:52), two examples of the failure through the use of the word “fled”.

They not only fled the scene, they also said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Their silence jeopardized the second round of discipleship. Faithful to follow Jesus but failed to proclaim the message. Is that us? Faithful to attend seminary but fail to proclaim the message of the good news. Faithful to your husband and wife but fail to proclaim gospel. Faithful to ministry to the saints but fail to proclaim the message of the good news.

Hope Offered

We have seen the failure of the women at the most pivotal point in their journey of discipleship.  Now let’s move to hope offered. The young man commanded the three women, “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.”

Please notice the words, “just as He told you”. Where did Jesus say that He was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection?

Jesus told them that he was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection back in Mark 14:28. In that context, Jesus spoke of his violent death and prophesied his disciples’ future failure and their future abandonment of him. Jesus knew his disciples would fail, but he offers them hope, that in failure there is always a new beginning. There is always the next round. After the resurrection, the scattered disciples would be regathered in Galilee.

The journey of discipleship started in Galilee. Jesus called his disciples when he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:15. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of Men.” (Mark 1:17). On way to Jerusalem, one by one the disciples abandoned Jesus.

The disciples fled and left him at his betrayal and arrest. Peter denied Jesus three times. What about us? Have we fled and left him? Have we denied Jesus? When homework and projects are piling up, is Jesus the first to be let go? When work and play time consume us, is Jesus the first to be let go? The prayer life, the quite time, and Bible reading all go to waste side until “the busy moments” in our lives are over and then we will get back on the road with Jesus. Oh, how we in our own ways have fled and left Jesus.

Here in this statement, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you” hope and restoration are offered to those who have failed, fled, and left Jesus in their journey of discipleship. The resurrected Christ will meet them where it all started. It is the promise of a new start, back to the point of origin, Galilee. It is a new beginning: a new iteration of the trip of discipleship. All can get back “on the way” to follow Jesus.

Don’t miss what the young man said, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter,” Is this not redundant? Is Peter not a disciple of Christ? Why did the young man say “go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee?”

The disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. In comparison Peter’s failure was worst than the other disciples. It is in this redundancy that we get this principle: Forgiveness and restoration are extended to those who have even experienced the worst of failure.

On this journey of discipleship for us there will be failures. There will be moments where we’ve ruined our God, our faith, and ourselves. In those moments hope and restoration are offered. Just as Jesus extended restoration and hope for the disciples in the phrase, “I will go ahead of you to Galilee” and the young man echoing Jesus’s statement does the same thing, then likewise, when we fail in our journey of discipleship, hope and restoration are offered. Hope and restoration are offered to the murders all the way down to those who tell “white lies.” The promise of a new start is extended to all. Jesus is waiting for you in Galilee, will you meet him there?

Application

We have seen faithfulness leading to failure, hope offered, now let’s move to the application. How do I meet Jesus in Galilee? Let me give you three steps:

  1. The first step is confession of sin. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. So confess your sin to the Lord.
  2. The second step is once you confessed your sins, realized you have been forgiven. The blood of Christ has washed all your sins away. So often we hang onto the guilt and the pain of our sins. Realized that we have been forgiven and let them go. Don’t let it consume you.
  3. We left Roy Riegels at the corner with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his hands in his face weeping like a baby, with no hope, during half time.Three minutes before the start of the second half Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”Riegels never moved. The coach called him and again he never moved. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”Reigels said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over.” Roy Reigels went back. Those Tech men will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.For those who have experienced failure on their journey of discipleship, the resurrected Jesus offers hope and restoration.

    The game is only half over, confess and realize that our sins are forgiven, then get up and go back on the journey of discipleship.

May God bless you,
Dien

The Gospel

I went into college thinking I knew more than most about Christianity. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I saw myself as “mature”, “knowledgeable”, “rooted”.

Then God began a series of humbling events and trials, revealing my sin and my superficial understanding of the gospel.

I had heard the gospel so many times. I learned to recite it as a kid. I was taught to preach the gospel to myself daily. I knew the facts.

I knew that I am a sinner and deserve hell, but a part of me still thought, “I am better than most.” “My sin is not that bad.”

Slowly, God changed my prideful heart. Over and over again this year, God revealed to me my sin, showing me how easily my heart wanders and seeks self instead of Him. I often felt helpless against my sin, as I seemed to have no ability or power to control my thoughts or actions. I felt disgusted at myself and thought in fear about how God must feel towards my sin.

But in these times of despair and helplessness, the gospel became so much greater and so much more necessary. In these times, I could do nothing but desperately turn to the cross, reminding myself of Ephesians 2:1-7

” 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

The more I saw my own failures, the more victorious Christ’s death and resurrection became. The more I felt helpless in my ability to overcome sin, the more I thanked Christ for his sacrifice that freed me from the bondage of sin. The more hopeless my condition seemed, the more I rejoiced in the undeserved gift I received through Christ’s suffering.

I then realized that the things I am told to do at church like worship, service, prayer, reading my Bible, are all natural responses to the gift of the gospel. Knowing I have been saved from sin and can now have fellowship with the Creator God who loves me more than I can imagine, what could I do but praise this God and follow Him joyfully and obediently?

O, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of His grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears
That bids our sorrows cease
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears
‘Tis life and health and peace

He breaks the power of cancelled sin
He sets the prisoners free
His blood can make the foulest clean
His blood availed for me

1:1 With God

A guest post by a good friend – originally posted on the CCCTO Semi-Pro fellowship blog

What does it mean to worship God and work on your relationship with Him, outside the couple of hours you’ve marked in your week as “God time”?  What is left of your faith, when you strip away everything that is warm, fuzzy, familiar, and habitual?

This past weekend has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me, as this was my first time going home since telling my parents that I had made the decision to become Christian.  Coming home to a non-Christian environment really took away everything that I’ve become comfortable with in the past several months, like going to church on Sundays and praying with a group before meals.  Being sick this past week made the experience even more contrasting, since I couldn’t even make it to discipleship or Bible study. Basically, this past week has been void of any of the normal “God time” that I’ve become accustomed to having.

What this made me realize is that I’ve become a little too comfortable with my spiritual walk in the past few months.  It’s been easy going to church and Bible study each week.  What’s not to love about seeing friends that you love and who share the same love for God as you?  No one likes eating more than me, and I get to eat all the time with these wonderful people, either after church, during Semi Pro, or whenever a couple of us can get together to hang out on the weekends.  I’m not going to lie- it’s been a lot of fun and way too easy for me to get caught up in the happiness that is found in human relationships.

But having time away from everybody and everything that I’ve associated with my faith has helped me refocus on the most important relationship of all:  my personal relationship with God.  It’s shown me what is left of my faith, when its just me and God.

My relationship with God is something I haven’t really spent time on in awhile, actually.  It’s crazy to think that I call myself a Christian when the most important relationship in my life is something I haven’t put in time or energy into.  I make all this time to maintain old friendships and foster budding friendships, but I can’t put time aside for me and God.  I set aside time during the week to go to church, Bible study, and discipleship in order to grow my relationship with God, but is there even a relationship to grow?  What is the point in me spending all this time talking to other people about my relationship with God when I don’t directly talk to Him about it first?

I am so blessed because God has really used this past week to remind me of His amazing love and of how much I MISS HIM.  It’s kind of like when you have a really awesome one-on-one conversation with an old friend that you’ve gotten used to seeing in group settings so much, except on a much grander scale.  The basis of the conversation in a 1:1 is so different and it immediately reminds you that it is the personal aspect of the relationship that makes this friendship real. How blessed am I that God would draw me back to Him each time I wander?  I miss Him so much that my heart aches when I think about how in love I used to be with Him.  Yet, He is SO gracious to welcome me back with open arms every single time.

Do you know what its like to have everything you’ve relied on spiritually for the past several months taken away completely?  No church, no Bible study, no discipleship?  Not even the normal worship songs that you’ve gotten accustomed to hearing every day?  It’s liberating.  This isn’t because I don’t love those things and this isn’t because those things haven’t helped me tremendously in many ways (in fact, they are wonderful and have been crucial to my growth as a new Christian).  But, it has been liberating because it’s taken away every excuse that I’ve given myself (“I am spending time with God. I’m going to church, aren’t I?” or “Well, I’m fellowshipping with people right now.  God wants that, right?”) and has forced me to rely on God. Just God. Our wonderful, holy, and loving God.

When you rely directly on God as your source of growth for once, He kinda takes you on a wild ride.  He had me hear sermons that I had always meant to get to “eventually” but never made the time for because I already felt like church and Bible study provided enough “God time” for the week.  The messages turned out to be messages that struck me where it hurt the most but were messages that I needed to hear the most.  God and I read through parts of the Bible with a focus that I don’t usually have and with time that I don’t usually spend to carefully read and fully absorb the words in front of me.  Funny enough, they were all passages that I’ve read before in the past.  These passages took on a whole deeper meaning when read whole-heartedly the second time around, when it wasn’t just my eyes, but my heart and soul drinking in God’s Word.

God even surrounded me with a bunch of worship music I had never heard before.  Did He know that I’ve grown so used to mouthing the words to a bunch of worship songs, that I can listen to a whole CD of worship music without so much of even feeling a tug or slight ache of the heart at the thought of MY SAVIOR DYING AND SUFFERING ON THE CROSS FOR SOMEONE SO UNGRATEFUL, SO SELFISH AS MYSELF?  You know, there was a time in my life I used to feel like crying at almost every worship song I heard because the cost of my salvation, Christ’s blood, was so real to me.  It is sad at how easy it has been for me to grow numb to Christ’s love and cling to everything but the cross.

Yet, God is so, so gracious each time I forget.  This weekend, I had a lot of time to drive in the car by myself, so I switched on some K-LOVE.  It just seemed right to spend that time listening to worship music, instead of calling up people on my phone (which is what I normally do to pass time on longer car rides) for once.  It was crazy actually listening to the lyrics of these worship songs that I wasn’t familiar with and thinking about what they meant to me.  There was one song that really struck a chord with me, as I was driving home tonight:

You Are My King (Amazing Love)

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, To honor You

You are my King
You are my King
Jesus, You are my King
You are my King

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, To honor You

In all I do, To honor You,
In all I do, To honor You,
In all I do, Let me honor You.

Every good thing I have in this world is because of what Christ has done for me on the cross.  I have an amazing Bible study and church, not because of anything one person has done, but because we are bonded together by our love for our King.  If you take away everything good in my life, I am still the most loved I have ever been; nothing can change the fact that God has given me His endless, amazing love through Christ’s blood on the cross.

Christ is the center and source of everything I am, and without Him, I am nothing.   My relationship with God cannot and should not be founded in anything else but Him alone.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  – John 15:5

The Christmas Message

The below is a special guest post by my friend, coworker, and brother in Christ, Andrew Lin.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul begins this verse or statement with the following: “the statement is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”. This should immediately grab your attention. Paul prefaces his upcoming statement by saying that it is not only trustworthy but also deserving of full acceptance. In the Greek, it literally reads “trustworthy is the statement”, placing the emphasis on trustworthy; this statement is worthy of banking your whole life on. In addition, Paul adds that it is deserving of full acceptance. Here I want to draw your attention to the word full, it speaks to two possibilities here in which I think Paul is emphasizing both. Full implying the attention of all peoples that would hear this, and also full implying the entirety of one’s being. On the one hand, Paul is saying that this deserves the attention of everyone, all humans. But also, for each and every one of us, it deserves our entire, full, undivided attention. What an introduction to the following statement!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I want to draw your attention to the subject of this statement: Christ Jesus. Paul is talking about the person of the Trinity who took on human flesh. Literally Christ meaning the “anointed one.” It was his title. And Jesus transliterated from the Hebrew, “Yahweh-saves”, God saves. It is the person of Christ that the gospel centers upon, and it is the person of Christ that Christmas centers on.

“Christ Jesus came into the world.” This coming into the world indicates not a coming into being, but rather coming from another place. This speaks to Jesus coming into this world, taking on human flesh, coming from another world. Jesus came from Heaven where He existed from eternity past in perfect fellowship with the God and the Holy Spirit. John writes in his gospel “1In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God and the Word was God… 14And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us.” And lets not diminish the action of coming into the world. Jesus left his place in Heaven where he experienced full joy and satisfaction to come into decaying world, a world filled with sin, a world that hated him. This condescension demonstrates the humility of Christ. It demonstrates the ultimate sacrificial love in which Jesus would leave his place in Heaven to come into the world among sinners.

For what purpose did he come? Paul continues to write that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His primary purpose in coming. This is what the whole Christmas story is centered upon; not only did Christ come into the world, but he came into the world to save sinners! Christmas is not about gift giving, holly, Christmas trees, fat Santa, and apple cider, but rather is about God who comes to save His people, to save sinners.

Paul is specific here, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did not come into the world to save the righteous or the holy or the unblemished, but that he came into the world to save wretched sinners. The distinction here is not that there are those in the world that are sinners and those that are not, those that need Christ and those who do not. But rather this is the mentality that is echoed in Paul’s following statement: “of whom I am the foremost.” It is the reality, made known through the word of God that we are all sinners. “None is righteous, no not one”–Romans 3:10. It is the realization of sin in the face of a righteous God in which Paul recognizes the greatness, the infinite nature of his sin. And in this humility he cries out “of whom I am the foremost.” It is this humble attitude and recognition of undeserved mercy and grace, that demonstrates true and authentic faith in Christ.

I think that if we are all honest, Christian and non-Christian, we would concede that we are somewhat sinful. However how many of you would tell your friends that you are the worst sinner, the worst person you know? Probably not many, but this is what Paul is saying here, that in contrast to God and his infinite holiness and a proper understanding of our sinfulness, this an appropriate response. And in this humble statement, Paul is direction our attention not to himself necessarily, but to what he finds his value in. He continues in the next verse saying that he receives mercy for the reason that Christ Jesus would be the foremost. His value, his joy, his assurance is not found internally, but externally. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

This simple statement is the gospel message, the Christmas message. You are wretchedly sinful against a holy and infinite God. This has separated us from true fellowship with Him and your sin demands payment. The Bible informs us of our utter need for a Savior and the insufficiency of imperfect substitutes. Just look at the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But God in his grace and mercy provides for us the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute as payment for our sins. And He is Jesus Christ. The Christmas message more than anything is a message about the Savior of the world who has come to save sinners, to save us.

I encourage you this holiday season to consider Christ. Consider the depths in which God condescended from Heaven to come into this world. To be born into a filthy, ordinary manger in human flesh. That he lived a perfect life so that he could be the all-sufficient solution to our dire need. He has come into the world to save sinners. Understand that Christmas is not so much about a cute baby in a manger, but a God-man who came into this world; it is not so much about giving gifts to one another, but the ultimate gift God has given in his Son; and it is not so much about warm fuzzy feelings of joy in a festive season, but a humble recognition of our sin and Christ as the perfect atonement for us.

And be encouraged as well. The verb here that Paul uses is “came”. It is past tense, it means that it has happened. The gospels each testify to Jesus coming into the world and testify to Jesus living a perfect life, and finally testifying to his death on the cross. And it doesn’t end there, but that Jesus was raised from the dead in victory over sin, and sits at the right hand of God. This has been accomplished for the purpose of saving sinners. Believe in him, trust in the Savior.  Take joy in the fact that your salvation, that your assurance of faith, that your sanctification lies not in your own self, but rather in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

That is the Christmas message.