My dear friend whom I deeply loved and worked with on The Message Bible , Eugene Peterson was a lifelong pastor, a scholar of biblical languages, who was passionate about helping disaffected outsiders and bored insiders fall in love with Jesus. Here in The Message of Christmas, Eugene shares about the gifts of Christmas and how they continue to give us life every day. It’s an absolute joy and grace to welcome the words of Eugene to the farm’s table today…
The story of Jesus’ birth has an immense progeny. Our planet fairly teems with stories and songs, paintings and drama that got their start from this story. The reproductive energies show no sign of tapering off.
Writers and singers and artists, to say nothing of countless children and parents and grandparents all over the world, continue to find fresh and novel ways of keeping this story going.
But even more impressive are the lives that continue to get a fresh start—a new birth—in the story of this birth.
“The birth of Jesus is a birth with a message…In Jesus, God is here to give us life, real life.”
Day after day, men and women who feel more dead than alive, in the hearing or singing or seeing of this story, rediscover the utter and unspeakable and beautiful preciousness of life.
The story of Jesus’ birth gets reproduced in human lives still, over and over and over again. The birth of Jesus is a birth with a message. It takes the entire Bible to bring the complete message, but this birth is the core of it: In Jesus, God is here to give us life, real life.
“Through Jesus, we experience God’s unconditional love and kindness and, in turn, experience the power to gift that love to others.”
Open the Gifts of Christmas
When we open and receive the great gift of God’s Son—first given to us at Christmas—we find other gifts nestled with Him in the package. Through Jesus, we experience God’s unconditional love and kindness and, in turn, experience the power to gift that love to others.
As God fills our lives with his loving presence, we also find his joy, peace, and hope welling up inside, no matter what our circumstances. We discover that our life, once empty and aimless, is filled with God’s purpose and calling.
We experience real forgiveness—no matter what we’ve done in our past. And we begin to find the strength and freedom to forgive others, experiencing God’s healing for even our most broken relationships.
At Christmas, God demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son to be born as a human baby—to live among us and ultimately die for us. As we receive God’s love and are transformed by it, we are called in turn to love God by loving others as his representatives in this broken world.
“Life in this world is often difficult but living with God’s constant presence and an eternal hope allows us to experience joy no matter what we may face.”
The angels announced to the shepherds that the coming of Jesus was a great and joyful event that was significant for everyone. God had come to live among us! Life in this world is often difficult but living with God’s constant presence and an eternal hope allows us to experience joy no matter what we may face. God’s presence in our lives is always a reason for joy.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as the Prince of Wholeness—the Prince of Peace, and so we often reflect on peace and wholeness as a gift of Christmas. In a world filled with conflict, anxiety, loneliness, and suffering, so many of us long for peace—to be complete and whole.
Jesus offers us personal wholeness and peace with God and his people through his first coming, and we now long for the ultimate eternal wholeness he will bring when he returns.
“The coming of Jesus into this world offers us a clear and real hope that everything wrong in the world will be made right again in the end.”
In a world filled with conflict and suffering, people often lose all hope. The coming of Jesus into this world offers us a clear and real hope that everything wrong in the world will be made right again in the end. And by following Jesus, we can offer hope to others not only for life today but also for the eternal life to come.
By sending his Son at Christmas to reconcile us to himself, God demonstrated his desire to reach out to us and to call us into friendship with himself through Jesus. Our purpose in life is first to joyfully embrace this friendship with God, and then to join God in his redeeming work in the world, whatever form that might take.
By sending Jesus at Christmas, God was putting into action his plan for our forgiveness and redemption. Through his death on the cross, Jesus would pay for our guilt before God and pave the way to our reconciliation with him. And as those who have been forgiven, we are called upon to give forgiveness to all those who have wronged us.
More than two thousand years ago, the people of God were looking and longing for a savior, but they didn’t expect Jesus. His miraculous birth unfolded in a stunning paradox; while humanity routinely overlooked Him, the entire cosmos celebrated his arrival.
Today, now, we get to join in that celebration, as we hold fast to the gifts of Christmas and share them with others.
Eugene H. Peterson (1932–2018) was a pastor for thirty years, as well as an author of more than thirty books. He is best known for The Message, his translation of the Bible into contemporary, poetic language. His ministry as a pastor and his writings on theology and spirituality have shaped generations of Christians.
Go deeper with your copy of The Message of Christmas. This pocket-sized booklet is perfect for holiday outreach. It is a great way to personally share the hope of Christmas with neighbors, church visitors, or anyone curious about the meaning of Christmas. You can also get a 20 pack of The Message of Christmas for your church or ministry.
[Our humble thanks to NavPress for their partnership in today’s devotion]