Courtney Jacob

The Cast of Christmas

For many of us, the weeks leading up to Christmas are busy ones. There are work parties, school programs, cookie exchanges, and family gatherings, as well as shopping to do, and traditions to keep. But as Christians, we know that this season is the season of Advent and the purpose of all the special events we plan and the traditions we keep should be to draw us into the story of Jesus’ birth again. This season, join Groundwork for our series, “The Cast of Christmas”  In this Groundwork series, we’ll examine each of the traditional elements of the Christmas story as we dig deeply into the scriptures from which they are drawn. 

Advent and the Church Year

There’s a beautiful rhythm to the church year, a rhythm that fosters spiritual reflection and invites us to remember again the work of salvation God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The church calendar actually begins with the weeks leading up to Christmas, known as Advent, a season of waiting and hope. We remember Jesus’ birth and anticipate our annual celebration of it. Still, at the same time, during Advent, we prepare our hearts as we look forward and anticipate Jesus’ second coming. 

These weeks leading up to Christmas are full of cherished traditions. We sign hymns and Christmas songs that retell the events of the first Christmas. We might attend Candlelight services or children’s Christmas pageants. Homes are adorned with visual nativity displays, decorations, and even candles in windows. The purpose of each element and tradition is to draw us again into the story of Jesus’ birth when the Son of God became incarnate to dwell among us in the flesh. The first step in God’s salvation plan. 

Scriptural or Tradition? 

Christmas traditions are wonderful and special, but like everything, it’s good to review and reflect on them once in a while. This allows us to keep focused on the gospel message to which all those traditions were intended to point. It helps us remember what is biblical and needs to be held tightly versus what is tradition and can be held more loosely. 

For example, when we study the account of the Magi’s visit in the gospel of Matthew, we’re reminded that the Magi were not present at the manger, so maybe we can hold the accuracy of the inclusion of the Magi in our wooden, manger scenes more loosely. However, Matthew includes the Magi in the larger nativity story to remind us exactly who Jesus came for…a truth we need to cherish and use to guide our own lives. 

Remembering and studying each element of the classic Christmas story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke reminds us that God called many individuals to play strategic roles in welcoming the Messiah into our world. Their witness and participation help us understand and appreciate the magnitude of God’s great love for us. We can glean valuable wisdom from their experiences to nurture our own spiritual growth and inform our participation in God’s continued work in our world today. 

Journey Through the Christmas Story

I invite you to look closely at each of the individuals of the Christmas story with us as we anticipate Jesus’ birth through our Groundwork series, “The Cast of Christmas”:

...and together we’ll prepare our hearts this Advent season to both celebrate Jesus’ birth once again and to anticipate when he will come again.

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