Christmas is Coming!

The cultural juggernaut that is Christmas is coming! Can I be honest with you? There’s a lot about Christmas that I really don’t like. There, I said it.

Overwhelmed man wrapping giftsI don’t like the stress and traffic. I really don’t like the display of consumerism and greed. I don’t like that people feel compelled to spend money they don’t have to buy people stuff they don’t need. I don’t like that people are made to feel like a failure if they can’t deliver a Christmas experience that rivals any Norman Rockwell illustration. And I really, really don’t like that in a holiday that’s ostensibly all about Jesus, he typically takes last place.
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Are you an Incarnation Person or a Resurrection Person?

Jesus Statue

It’s Christmastime (in case you haven’t noticed.) This is the time of the year when we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus. It occurred to me how we Christians have a tendency to “pick a side,” associate ourselves with either the incarnation or the resurrection.

Some churches focus mostly on the incarnation. In my experience, this focus is most common in more theologically liberal churches, though certainly not exclusively so.  They concentrate on Jesus’ example of how he lived as a human, and what he taught during his ministry on earth–especially passages like Matthew 25 which deal with treatment of the poor. This tends to be a more “earth based” theology, dealing with works and how we live now.

Other churches are more resurrection-focused. I find this most prevalent in the evangelical world, though, again, certainly not exclusively so. They focus their attention on the redemptive work of Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection. What matters is first being in a right relationship with God, and second helping others enter this relationship. This is a more “heaven based” theology, dealing with faith and getting to heaven.

I think part of the reason we do this is out of a desire to separate ourselves from what we see as errors or excesses on the “other side.” For example, in evangelical circles, where I tend to spend most of my time, there can be an aversion to terms like “social justice.” If we focus on social issues, it might give the impression that we are denying the important role of faith.

The truth is, this is not an either-or situation. It is not incarnation or resurrection, works or faith. We must have both. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching about how to live in this world. (See the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Matthew 5 for an example.) He also spoke clearly of the foolishness of living only for this world. (E.g. Mark 8:34-38) If we are going to be followers of Jesus, we must both live our lives now based on his example and teachings, and put our faith in him and the power of his resurrection to carry us through this life and into the next.

The Rest of the (Christmas) Story

Traditional Manger Scene

Last year, I worked with the Creation Museum to develop a magical pre-show program for their Magi drama at their Christmas Town event. While brainstorming, I thought of Paul Harvey’s catchphrase, “the rest of the story,” from his old radio program. It occurred to me that while most people in our culture know the basics of “the Christmas story,” relatively few really understand “the rest of the story.”

For starters, the traditional Christmas story that is often told this time of year adds a lot that is not in the Bible at all, and includes some things that are clearly false. For example, the Bible never say the angels sang, it never mentions an innkeeper or stable, doesn’t tell how many Wisemen there were, and the Wisemen definitely didn’t show up at the manger shortly after Jesus’s birth.

More importantly, many approach the “Christmas Story” as just that, a story. It’s told like a fairy tale or fable. Jesus’ incarnation and birth is not just a story. It’s even more than just an historical fact. If we really grasp the significance of God becoming human and  bearing our sin for us, it changes everything, here and now.

So, I developed a program to fill in some of the gaps in the traditional version of the story. It begins at the manger, but ties it back to Jesus’ role in creation, and looks forward to the cross and on to today.

This Christmas, I encourage you to find ways to share “the rest of the story” with others. (And if you’re in the area, visit the free Christmas Town event. Either Chris Garner or I will be performing the magical pre-show before the Magi drama on each night.)

Christmas Town 2010

First century marketplace.

Again this year, I helped out with the Creation Museum‘s Christmas Town event. It is a huge production, which is presented free of charge to the community. Over 20,000 people attended this year. The event is designed to have a strong evangelistic focus, as well as dispelling some of the myths of what happened.

I participated in several roles. One was portraying one of the shepherds. In fact, I still haven’t shaved off  my shepherd beard! We did a presentation for the guests that served several functions. On a practical level, we were there to pace the crowd. The next presentation after us took place at the house where Jesus was born. (Yes, house, not stable.) If people get there too soon when nothing is happening, they’ll miss that presentation, which presents the most information about Jesus birth and includes a clear gospel presentation.

The shepherd drama was a lot of fun, and had the crowds laughing. It also conveyed important content. Bethlehem is where the sacrificial lambs were raised. We used this to introduce the concept of sin and the need for a sacrifice. This helped prepare the people for the message they would hear at the manger scene.

I also put together a custom gospel magic presentation that was used to introduce the Magi. I performed it some days, and other magicians did it on other days so I could be available for shepherding duty. The presentation was titled “More Than a Story.” It was designed to show that the safe, sanitized version of the “Christmas Story” doesn’t tell everything. There is much more to it than just a poor baby being born and placed in a manger. This baby was the same God who created the world in six days. He had come to die to provide for forgiveness of our sins, making it possible for us to be in a relationship with God.

It was truly a blessing and an honor to be a part of this event!

The Magic of Christmas

‘Tis the season to be amazed with the wonder of Christmas. The 2010 version of my Magical Christmas Program is ready to be unveiled. In addition to some of my most sought after routines, there are also special Christmas-themed additions that are only available this time of year.

The Christmas season is fast approaching. So contact us now, because dates are obviously very limited.