Regarding The Christ of Christmas, Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “In our post-Christian culture, people no longer look to the Bible for the Christmas story – rather, we make Christmas into a sentimental holiday that centers around our personal stories. For those who wish to celebrate the birth of Christ in a thoughtful and festive way, James Boice has written an excellent guide. The perfect way to reflect on the true meaning behind the historic birth of Jesus Christ.”
Use of the book
I agree with Joni and believe this book can be used in at least three ways (1) to read devotionally during the Christmas season, (2) to read aloud to the family in preparation for the holyday, and (3) if you’re a pastor, to get ideas on how to preach the Christmas passages of the Bible. I’ve personally found this is the hardest time of the year to preach because there are a limited number of texts that refer to Christ’s birth or incarnation, and they’re some of the most well-known by Christians, young and old.
Just a bit of information on the author: Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000), with degrees from Harvard, Princeton, and Basel (Switzerland), served a very significant downtown church, Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, from 1968 until his death. Boice was heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.
Despite all of Dr. Boice’s impressive credentials, this book, containing 16 Christmas sermons, is written in a simple fashion. It’s biblical and insightful. It’s theological, yet practical. It’s well illustrated with homespun stories, as well as allusions to great works of art and literature.
Rather than going on telling you why I like this 191 page work, let me share with you an excerpt. It’s just a part of what Boice wrote about Anna who met the Christ child with His parents in the temple in Jerusalem. Here he is explaining the last phrase in the narrative.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38 ESV.)
“Here was a woman who was certainly the least of all the little people of the Christmas story. She was widowed. She was old – probably about one hundred five years old – to judge from Luke’s figures. Yet from what Luke tells us, she undoubtedly understood more about the full significance of the coming of Jesus Christ than any of the others who appear in the nativity accounts.
“What was it that Anna the prophetess understood about the coming of Jesus Christ? Anna understood that the infant Jesus was to become the redeemer that God had promised to Israel. We know that because she announced His birth to all in Jerusalem who, like herself, looked for that redemption.
“That was the remarkable thing. But we can only understand how remarkable it was when we realize fully what redemption means. The prefix re means ‘again’ and the main part of the word is based upon a root that means to ‘buy back.’ Consequently, redemption is the act of buying something back, or the act of purchasing it again. We use the word in reference to purchasing goods that have been left in a pawn shop. We redeem them. There is also a technical use of the word in business to describe the action of a company that is able to buy back bond issues in order to cancel a financial obligation.
“That is basic to the biblical meaning of the term. But there is an additional, special overtone to this word due to the fact that in biblical days it was used primarily for the act of freeing a slave. A slave could be set free if someone would pay the price necessary for his full redemption. In the various words that are used in the Bible for that type of redemption there is the suggestion that the person is “bought in the marketplace” (agorazo) where slaves were always sold, that is he is “bought out of the marketplace” (exagorazo) never to be sold there again, and that he is “cut loose” or “set free” (luo). When the Bible uses the term in a spiritual sense it implies that although all have been sold under the slavery of sin and have been sold and resold as they have passed from one dealer to another, Jesus Christ entered the marketplace in order to buy them back. He did so in order that the sinner might be purchased out of the marketplace forever.
“In many parts of the Bible that idea is reinforced by references to the ‘price’ paid for our redemption. Peter writes to his readers, ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’ (1 Peter 1:18-19). The price of our redemption was Christ’s blood. We sing about it one of our hymns:
Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
Nor riches of earth could have saved my poor soul;
The blood of the cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Savior now maketh me whole.
I am redeemed, but not with silver;
I am bought, but not with gold;
Bought with a price –the blood of Jesus,
Precious price of love untold (James M. Gray)
“That is what Anna the prophetess was waiting for God to do for His people in the city of Jerusalem. So when she saw the infant Jesus she recognized Him as He who would one day pay the price of our redemption from sin and its power.
“Christmas is not merely the story of the birth of a helpless baby in a stable, as beautiful as that may be, not the wonder of the shepherds, not the gifts of the wise men, not the enraptured singing of the angel chorus. The heart of Christmas lies in the fact that ‘God so loved 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.)”