I’m a scrooge at Christmas…and that’s especially hard when you look like Santa Claus. I don’t know about you, but there are a number of reasons why I don’t like Christmas. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic. People like us don’t often have wonderful Christmas memories and, not only that, we’re big into control. At Christmas, everything is abnormal and out of control.
Then there is also the guilt I feel. My late friend, Rusty Anderson, used to say that he liked everything that went along with Christmas, but Jesus. Rusty said that he liked the parties, the food, the presents and the family…but Jesus messed it all up. As he enjoyed all that went along with the celebration of Christmas, he would think, I’m not being very religious. It isn’t my birthday…It’s Jesus’ birthday. As Rusty suggested, maybe we should celebrate Jesus’ birth in July and enjoy the holidays in December.
If you’re a scrooge, the religious stuff messes with your head at Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong: my favorite service all year long is Christmas Eve. By then, if you haven’t bought the right present for the right person, it’s too late. Then you can only think about Jesus.
Another reason Christmas is difficult for me – and this was especially true when I was still a pastor – is because so many people are in pain at Christmas. Those who have lost loved ones feel the sadness of loss more at Christmas; those who are depressed are only more depressed at Christmas; and those who have been abused, abandoned or shamed feel that more at Christmas than any other time of the year.
One other reason. Nothing can live up to the hype of Christmas…without Jesus. Think about it. Christmas without Jesus is a holiday to celebrate nothing. Holiday trees, secular music and solstice winter celebrations are all fine, but they become a celebration of nothing. Absolutely nothing. While I’m not a serial killer about taking Christ out of Christmas, it is sad and sets up people for a horrible letdown. Without Christ, nothing can live up to the hype of Christmas.
I can see a mother putting away the Christmas decorations and thinking, You know, there was something there. Then she shrugs her shoulders and mops the floor, or goes to work at the office, or gets drunk…and that’s it. That is so sad. If you’re not a Christian, don’t let that happen to you this year.
With all of that being said, though, as an old guy, I’m starting to look forward to Christmas. I like all the stuff that goes along with it, but I like Jesus better. Let me let you in on a secret. As I’ve walked with Him most of my life, I’ve found out that He likes the parties and the food too. (And that makes me feel less guilty!)
Who is this Jesus—really? A man who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born has some answers. In Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah the prophet looked into the future and prophesied about something – Someone – had never seen, something – Someone – we look back to. Even Jesus Christ, Wonderful Counselor.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Jesus the Messiah will be called Wonderful Counselor.
While in the Hebrew this has overtones of our word “wonderful,” it literally means “supernatural”…so Supernatural Counselor.
We need to be reminded of the supernatural. You are connected to an incredibly supernatural power that parts seas, moves mountains and changes things. You are connected to a God who is real and who is supernatural. Do you pray that way? Do you live that way? Truth be told, we really don’t believe that.
And what does Jesus do as Supernatural Counselor?
A COUNSELOR SPEAKS TRUTH
Jesus speaks supernatural truth (Psalm 119:24).
Real supernatural power has spoken truth to us.
When the first Christmas took place, God entered time and space because He was fond of us. At that very moment, we found out that God wasn’t angry at His own. We are forgiven, loved and accepted.
But it was more than that. It was a time when light entered the darkness…when truth stood up to the lies.
After the Civil War, when the Union troops captured Richmond, wagonloads of Confederate money were taken from the city. In the evenings during that trip, the Union troops would play poker with Confederate money. It wasn’t an important game. In fact, it was a meaningless game. The money was absolutely worthless.
In His coming, Jesus gave us truth: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…Everyone…who believes in me shall never die…” (John 11:25-26). “Neither do I condemn you…” (John 8:11). “…and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). You belong to him. That is true…absolute truth.
He speaks supernatural truth to us and that enables us to speak truth in turn. We let them know that the poker game isn’t real. And, when it’s over, nobody wins in that game.
Because of the coming of the Messiah, you know what’s important. You know truth that nobody but you can know because of him.
A COUNSELOR SHARES FAVOR
Jesus shares supernatural favor (Isaiah 1:26).
Do you remember the Garth Brooks lyric “I got friends in low places”? There was a time when I had a brother in high places. My late brother Ron was the District Attorney of the 28th Congressional District in North Carolina. (He was a Democrat and the only good thing about his death is that he now knows the truth!)
We grew up on “the other side of the tracks.” When my brother was the D.A., I had connective power. In Asheville where he served, the police knew my name. Even the ones who once yelled at me started calling me with respect “Mr. Brown.” I didn’t try, but maybe I could have even gotten parking tickets fixed!
You have a friend in a high place – a very high place – too. The Bible teaches that Jesus “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Your Supernatural Counselor sits at the right hand of God.
You don’t ever have to cower before God, worry about your life or think that anything is hopeless because you have a friend…a friend in a very high place.
A COUNSELOR SECURES JUSTICE
Jesus secures supernatural justice (1 John 2:1).
My out-of-town lawyer friend once told me, “I like for you to get into trouble because it’s the only time I see you.” And he does just that – gets me out of trouble.
We have a counselor, a lawyer, who pleads our case before the throne.
If you’re not a believer, some day you are going to stand before a holy God. Frankly, you’re going to be stuck representing yourself. And, as they say, anyone who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer.
If, as a Christian, you’ve had a personal Christmas, you have a lawyer to plead your case before the bar of ultimate justice.
Peter Marshall said that one day he will stand before God and be condemned. At that moment, Jesus will come and put His hand on Peter’s shoulder and say, “It’s okay, Father. I took care of all of that on the cross.”
A COUNSELOR SUPPLIES COMFORT
Jesus supplies supernatural comfort (John 14:16, 18).
There was a convention of psychiatrists at a Disney resort. In the large auditorium of the resort, there was a trapped pigeon flying all around. Believe it or not, it took three full days before anybody admitted that they saw the pigeon.
It generally takes about that long in the darkness before we look up and remember that it is okay because Jesus – the dove, the Holy Spirit, the Messiah – is there.
Do you remember when Jesus walked on the water (Matthew 14)? It was a scary time. The wind was against them and the waves were beating against the boat. Then one of the disciples saw Jesus. They all looked and thought it was a ghost. That’s when Jesus said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (v. 27). “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
I don’t know what you’re going through, but be still and listen for His voice. Jesus tells you the same thing, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Isaiah said hundreds of years before it happened that the coming Messiah would be an amazing supernatural source of comfort and encouragement.
I’ve been walking this walk a long time and have a lot of lines in my face to prove it. A lot of those lines are laugh lines, but there are worry and fear lines too.
I’ve walked in some dark places, some painful places and through some things that I would rather not have gone (some that I’m embarrassed that I did). But you know something? I’ve never walked through any of those places alone. If I could get still enough, Jesus would say, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Then there will be “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). And He will be there too.
It’s an old illustration: In Scotland, an old man was dying. He called for his pastor and, during their conversation, the dying man admitted to having trouble praying.
The pastor told him, “It’s not as hard as you think. You’re making it too religious. Just picture Jesus sitting in the chair where I’m sitting right now and talk to Him the way you talk to me.” There was some more chit-chat and then the pastor left to go home.
The next day, the man’s daughter called the pastor and said through her tears, “Father died last night. I had just brought him his supper and had come back to retrieve the dishes. And he was gone.”
She paused and then said, “And, pastor, the strangest thing. His hand was on the chair beside his bed.”
If you need therapy, invite Jesus to be your Counselor this Christmas.
Reprinted with permission. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Steve Brown is the founder of Key Life Network, a radio broadcaster, seminary professor, and author. He previously served as a pastor for twenty-five years and now serves as Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaching at the campuses in Atlanta, Orlando and Washington, D.C. He is the author of numerous books, including A Scandalous Freedom and What Was I Thinking? His is new book, Three Free Sins, will be released in February of 2012.