Christmas in Context
Christmas only makes sense in context. You quickly realise that when you start to read the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke. Who are David and Abraham and what’s the big deal about this Jesus Christ guy being their descendant? (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 1:27; 2:4) For that matter, what’s the significance of the title ‘Christ’? (Matt. 1:1, 17, 18; 2:4; Luke 2:11) And is the name ‘Jesus’ significant? (Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:31) Why is it so important that the prophets spoke of these things beforehand? (Matt. 1:22; 2:5-6, 15, 17-18, 23) What’s the ‘throne of David’, and who are the ‘house of Jacob’? (Luke 1:32-33) Why do we need a saviour? (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11) And what’s with all the singing and celebration? (Luke 1:46-55, 67-79; 2:14)
Advent is a great opportunity to think about this context. It’s a great opportunity to dive into the Old Testament and to see that the birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end, not just the beginning of the story. It’s yet another reminder that we really need the Old Testament!
One of my favourite ways to explore this context during Advent has been to use the Jesus Storybook Bible! The Jesus Storybook Bible is the children’s Bible that every adult should read (even Dr Wilson himself has said so!) It’s the story of God’s ‘Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love’, told in beautiful prose, with stunning illustrations and with a wonderful focus on the Bible as a unified story in which Jesus is the centre point. As the introduction explains:
The Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the centre of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.
Sometimes hearing a story in a fresh way, and with the focus so clearly on the over-arching narrative of the Bible, brings new life to stories we’ve heard many times before. This is what the Jesus Storybook Bible does so well.
And it just so happens that the Old Testament and Christmas story in the Jesus Storybook Bible take up 24 chapters. So, while you eat your little chocolate from your advent calendar each day in December, you can be reminded of the context of Christmas by reading (or listening to or watching) a chapter.
If you’ve got kids, this is a great thing to do together over advent. If you haven’t, this is still a great thing to do across advent. (I’m a single guy in my 20s and the Jesus Storybook Bible has blessed me greatly!) And if you’re worried about reading a children’s Bible on the train as you travel to work, there’s a version just for you without the pictures (but you’ll miss some of the beauty!)
The creator of the Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones, has a page on her blog with links to lots of creative ideas of how families can use the book in Advent. Take a look here.