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Rediscovering the Characters of Christmas, with Daniel Darling

When you think about your nativity or imagine the manger scene, which individuals stand out to you the most? Look beyond the stereotypical story and rediscover the characters of Christmas with guest Daniel Darling. He’ll help you see the Christmas story with a fresh perspective and how everything points to Jesus, the most important one of all.

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Episode Notes

The Characters of Christmas by Daniel Darling

Revive Our Hearts Christmas Playlist—Spotify

Revive Our Hearts Christmas Playlist—Youtube

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Erin Davis: Well, grab your broken wiseman or your ceramic sheep, you’re going to need them for this episode of Grounded. I’m Erin Davis.

Portia Collins: I’m Portia Collins.

Dannah Gresh: And I'm Dannah Gresh. I guess we’re the three wise women this morning. 

Erin: I like it.

Dannah: This is Grounded a live podcast and videocast from Revive Our Hearts. We're feeling like we need a dose of Christmas today. I think some of you may be identifying. But at the same time, yesterday, someone in church heard the Christmas story that sometimes seems like we take it for granted. And it's the same old, same old? Well, if you've experienced that, pastor and theologian Daniel Darling is with us. He's the author of The Characters of Christmas. He's going to help us take a fresh look, a second look at the characters of Christmas that we find in our Bibles.

Portia: But before we go any further, we want to acknowledge that many people have been deeply impacted by the tornadoes that ripped through several states over the weekend. The governor of hard-hit Kentucky said this, “To the people of America, there is no lens big enough to show you the extent of the damage here in Graves County or in Kentucky.”

Since our mission here on Grounded is to give you true hope and perspective, we don't want to miss the opportunity to offer hope to those of you who have been impacted by these storms. And so, we will have a special time of prayer for those impacted later on in the broadcast. We encourage you to stay right here with this.

Erin: Yeah, I'm feeling the juxtaposition of Christmas this morning. We wanted to come into this episode jingle bells ringing, ugly sweater wearing, but feeling the weight of what happened this weekend, we wanted to respond appropriately. But isn't that Christmas? The hope of Jesus and the darkness both present. 

So, we are going to talk about Christmas this morning, and I've asked my cohost to come prepared for our first ever Grounded show and tell and we're going to do. So we’ll have something from our own Nativity sets this morning. I'll go first. I brought a couple characters from my Nativity set. This is one of the wise men. Dannah mentioned us being the wise women; I love that. You can’t tell, but he's glued up pretty good. He's actually an amputee. Both arms have been knocked off at some point.

Dannah: Oh no. 

Erin: My husband is so good to glue them back on. And this is one of the sheep. I don't know if you can tell, but he only has one ear. So, he gets tucked back in the back with the sheep that have two ears. They kind of cover it up. So, four boys, the Nativity set is hard hit at the Davis home.

Dannah: Yeah, I get that, Erin. Let me show you a really “specious,” special family heirloom that…

Erin: I like “specious.” That’s a good word. 

Dannah: That's my “specious” family heirloom. This is my first Christmas gift ever. It is my first gift ever. I am a Christmas baby. My birthday is this Friday. And for Christmas, my mom and dad appropriately purchased me this Nativity. So, we shall not say how old this Nativity is. 

Erin: You don’t have to. 

Dannah: But suffice to say, not only have the characters been glued back a few times, but the moss has needed to be changed once or twice, if you know what I'm saying. 

Erin: So sweet, I can picture baby Dannah with that Nativity close by. 

Portia: Well, I don't have an actual Nativity yet. Alright?

Erin: You’ve got to get one! 

Portia: I know. But I just got this cute, beautiful cross. Hold on, let me move it in front of me. If you see at the bottom, it's a little Nativity scene with the star. This came from my friends in Senatobia, Mississippi. They just had a women's weekend. I was able to come share with them, and they gave me that.

Dannah: Oh, it’s beautiful. 

Portia: And so super meaningful. 

Erin: Awe Portia, that’s so “specious.” 

Portia: Yes, it’s “specious.”

Dannah: Yeah, it’s “specious.” Thank you for not making fun of me.

Erin: I can’t believe you don’t have a Nativity, Portia. This is a little tip. I give Nativities as wedding gifts all the time, because every family needs one. 

Portia: Well, I have an anniversary so . . . if you want to, like you know, I just had a five-year anniversary.

Erin: Okay.

Portia: I'll send you my mailing address. 

Erin: Okay, send it to me. How about you Grounded friends? We want to know, what is the most meaningful piece in your Nativity set? You got the chat there you can just drop it in there.

Dannah: Okay, Erin, you can't do that, that's a no brainer. They're all gonna say Jesus. Like, you can't ask them. “What's your most meaningful piece?” You know how that's gonna sound. It’s Jesus.

Erin: Yeah, I guess there is just one right answer. Okay, Jesus. Yes, He is the best part of the Nativity. But tell us a little bit about your Nativity set. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate answer. But I want to step into your Christmas for just a moment. I want you to tell me the scoop. 

Did the toddler in your house break off all the legs on your sheep? We have some sheep with broken legs at my house. Do you have to glue on angel wings every year? Is your Nativity like Dannah’s? Is it a family heirloom? Use that chat feature and tell us all about it. Or maybe you don't have a Nativity like Portia, but you need to get yourself to Hobby Lobby because they're 50% off over there. Tell us about your Nativity in the chat.

Dannah: Yeah, I'm so excited about our conversation today with Daniel Darling. He's really going to help us look at those different characters in the Nativity. I hate to use the word characters; that makes it sound like it's fictional rather than people in the Nativity. But it's so that we can see with greater clarity exactly who Jesus is—the one that is the most important of all. 

Erin: He really is the most of all. 

Portia: Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Dannah: We want to see Him with new eyes, with fresh eyes. That's our goal today; that we would have freshness in our hearts, fresh amazement, fresh worship. I'm just really excited for that conversation coming up in a few minutes. But first, we need some good news.

Erin: We do. It's not Monday morning on Grounded without some good news. I've got an idea for Dan's next book. 

Dannah: What’s that?

Erin: We’re going to talk about the characters of Christmas. But how about this title Dan: The Animals of Christmas. Were there really donkeys in the birthing room? You're gonna have to read Luke 2 for yourself to find out. But we've got some animals we want to introduce you to in today's good news segment.

Good News: All Creatures Great and Small (16:24)

Dannah: That's right. The goal of this good news segment is to warm your heart more than a cup of steaming tea. And today's good news is a little unusual, and it's not super Christmasy. But it came from a text thread between Erin and me over, get this, a giant phantom jellyfish. 

Erin: Now they know. They know what we text about before Grounded. 

Dannah: Erin, I don't even know if this guy counts as an animal. What is he?

Erin: He’s a creature. 

Dannah: He’s a glob. Like, they can't get one, because if they try, it goes through the netting. That's a true fact. 

Erin: He's weird.

Dannah: But this guy's a jellyfish that lives in the deepest part of the ocean, and it's giant. All right, it's dome is three feet across. Its tentacles, which, that's not actually a technical term. They're called oral arms. 

Erin: Oh.

Dannah: Yeah, you just learned something. I'm signing you up. They can be 33 feet long.

Erin: Okay, guys, that's three stories. That's equivalent to a three-story building.

Dannah: Yes, or the length of a school bus. 

Erin: Really?

Dannah: Really. Yes, school buses are 25 to 45 feet. So somewhere in that.

Erin: I feel like I am enrolled in a class this morning.

Dannah: Come on, step up to Dannah’s class of science. Okay. As the name suggests, this guy is hardly ever seen. He's a phantom. But first, I'm going to show you a picture of a red-bellied woodpecker. These guys also have a red head. They are so beautiful. I have one that comes to my feeder most mornings while I'm reading my Bible, although he's not super happy and doesn't show up when I don't have food in the feeder.

Erin: I bet. 

Dannah: Last week I was noticing him. And Erin, sometimes I just get awestruck. I just said, “Lord, did you create that one for my pleasure?” But even as I said it, my theology kicked. No, I thought to myself, no, God created that guy for His pleasure. 

Erin: Right.

Dannah: And then I said, “Lord, I'm just thankful you share him with me.” I mean, there's just this sweet moment with the Lord. Do you ever have that when you're observing nature? Well, that got me thinking about the nearly extinct ivory billed woodpecker. Now there's a controversy. Some people think he is extinct. I for one vote no, he's not. 

He's nearly two feet tall. And these beauties are the largest woodpeckers on the planet. Their cousin is the pileated. They're super shy. So, the last documented sighting of these guys was in 1987. 

I thought to myself when I was thinking about him, hmm, God can see that guy any time He pleases. He's like, I want to see that ivory billed woodpecker, boom, He looks. Think about it.

Erin: You're giving a whole lesson on Romans 1 here, which tells us that we can understand the invisible nature of God by looking at what He has made. I tell you, if I come across a two-foot-tall woodpecker in the woods, I'm going to be a little bit afraid maybe, not awestruck, but pretty amazing.

I've been having a similar experience in my heart, not with woodpeckers, but with a lobster. Several weeks ago, a lobsterman in Maine . . . (I had to look up what you call somebody who hunts lobsters.) They're called lobstermen, instead of fishermen. A lobsterman in Maine captured an ultra-rare what this guy's called a “cotton candy lobster.” Look at him. You can tell why he's called that. Look at his coloring. It's amazing. Candy lobsters only make up one in 100 million lobsters.

My husband Jason said, “Oh, that's not that rare.”

I'm like, “That's pretty rare. 100 million lobsters.”

He's like, “Well, we eat a lot of lobsters. We don't personally . . .”

But so the cotton candy lobster is hardly ever seen because, as you can imagine, there's only one in every 100 million there is next to a regular-colored lobster. So, you got a taste of the difference. 

Dannah: Don’t taste the tasty cotton candy lobster Erin. 

Erin: No, he's going to live in a museum, so that they're not going to kill him and eat it. Dannah suggested that they are so rare because they're for God's enjoyment and not our enjoyment. Which brings me back to that giant phantom jellyfish. I thought he was called the phantom jellyfish because he reminds me of The Phantom of the Opera. You're gonna know why here in a minute. Last week. 

After only nine sightings of this creature off the California coast since the 1800s . . . You mentioned the woodpecker not being seen since the 1980s. This guy has barely been seen since the 1800s. Someone caught one on video actually; it was an unmanned vehicle that they sent down there to take pictures. I was so overjoyed when I saw this giant phantom jellyfish that I had to send it to share it with somebody, and I knew who to share it with my girl, Dannah.

Dannah: Yeah.

Erin: And it happened to be on the very day you had that experience with the ivory billed woodpecker, while you're reading your Bible.

Dannah: Yeah.

Erin: Amazing. 

Dannah: It's like God was saying, “Dannah, I know you're having this thing about what secret creatures are out there that are just for My glory just for My pleasure just for Me.” So, hey, guess what? You texted me that thing. Wow!

Erin: I was having the same response in my heart. You could tell I get really excited, because I’m amazed.

Dannah: Okay, we need to calm down. But the point of this is that all creation was made by Jesus for Jesus. He declared in the book of Genesis, “It is good” when He looked at His creation. Erin's actually going to talk about all Creation being made by Jesus for Jesus in a moment when we get grounded in God's Word. But for now, as promised, for our Monday morning video audience, here’s this stunning display of God's magnificent creativity, that giant phantom jellyfish. 

Erin: There he is just doing what he was made to do.

Dannah: I bet you're not going to forget those 33-foot oral arms any time soon. Or the way he floats through the deep ocean.

Erin: So amazing. 

Dannah: Wow. Calms my heart. It's like, just, peace.

Erin: There is with those arms outstretched. 

Dannah: For Your glory. 

Erin: Over waters of the deep. I have watched that same clip. It's not very long. I've watched it over and over and over. I've showed it to my children; I’ve showed it to you, Dannah. We were at the Book Fair last week, and all the teachers were there. And I was like, teachers, have you seen the giant phantom jellyfish? You’ve got to tell your kids, because that creature has been hidden in the deep, not for my entertainment, but for God's glory for His enjoyment. What an amazing Creator we serve. And that is our good news this morning.

Dannah: That is our good news and our science lesson. We hope you liked those words.

Erin: Right.

Dannah: Oral arms and lobsterman. I'm going to put that one in my vocabulary. Alright, it's time to get grounded with God's people. And let me remind you that when God created mankind, He said it is good. God enjoys us. God enjoys His people, just like those other creations. And that includes our wonderful guest today, whom I follow and enjoy so much, Daniel Darling is his pen name. He's an award-winning writer. His name is Dan to his friends. And so, I'm going to count myself as a friend today. Hello, Dan, how are you?

Looking at the Christmas Characters with Daniel Darling (24:21)

Daniel Darling: Hey, it's great to be here with you. Dannah, I love the show, and I love learning about this phantom jellyfish.

Dannah: Oral arms, don’t forget . . . and lobsterman. 

Alright, today, you're gonna help us consider the characters of Christmas. We want you to just help us slow down and look at some of the individuals we read about in the Christmas story over and over. And the point of this is so that we can just look at Jesus with fresh eyes. So tell us, when you were writing your book, The Characters of Christmas, which of the characters in the Christmas story did God really use the most, to refresh your understanding of Christmas?

Daniel: Well, it's hard to pick just one. I've always loved character profiles, and I've always loved biographies. One of the things I do in my leisure time is read biographies. And the Bible is rich with these amazing characters. I think I probably resonated with Joseph. Here's someone who his entire life changed. Here's a young man who probably had his whole life planned out for him. And in a matter of few weeks or days or hours, his whole life changed. 

And he all along the way just always did the next right thing. He always put himself last; he always put Mary first; he put God first. He was God fearing. And really, I think he's an example of ordinary faithfulness. 

I think we forget that all these characters are on the Nativity set that adorn our Christmas cards, our kids dress up as them in Christmas pageants, and all that. They were just ordinary people who were caught up in the story of Jesus. It's really a story about the kind of kingdom that Jesus came to establish. That it's an upside-down kingdom where the ordinary and the common are great. The birth of Christ was not announced in the great halls of Rome or even among the religious people are even to Herod. It was announced to common folk. I think it's not an accident that these are the people cast in the story.

Dannah: So, Joseph, we don't even know that much about Joseph. He doesn't make a very grand appearance in the Scriptures, not very many moments. He's there when Jesus is born, and then when he's 12 years old. We see these little glimpses but not a lot. You said young man, for some reason that caught me off guard, because I always thought of him as older. Do we have any idea of how old Joseph was?

Daniel: I mean, we don't really know. We probably assume he was a little bit older than Mary. There's a lot of different ideas that scholars have speculated over the years. But I think you have to assume that he was a young man about to get married. He was betrothed to Mary, you know, this sort of long engagement period. So, he had his whole life ahead of them. It really was faithful to take care of Mary and to obey God.

Dannah: Yeah, that's beautiful. It's interesting that you identify with Joseph, but that's maybe because you're male. Are you a dad, Dan?

Daniel: I am a dad. I have four children..

Dannah: So you have that fatherly, paternal instinct in you. My heart always turns to Mary, as a woman. I think what must that have been like for her? For this man that she was supposed to be taking care of, he takes her to a barn and says, “Yeah, sorry about the arrangement of accommodations for the night.” But do you think you could do that here? I just think I would have flipped out. What observations did you make about Mary as you studied her in the Christmas story?

Daniel: You know, Mary is someone of great faith. She's a great hero of the Gospel story. As Protestants, we sometimes recoil a little bit at the way that the Catholics venerate Mary. But sometimes I think we go the other way, and we don't actually appreciate her faithfulness. I mean, here's a young woman, probably 13 or 14, who is thrust into this role, to be the mother of the Son of God. She knows what this means . . . that the Son of God was born to die for the sins of the world. 

She would see her Son go through all this agonizing death on the cross and Him mocked and ridiculed. Even His own family rejected Him. She would herself endure tremendous social stigma, because she was visited by an angel who told her that the baby was from the Holy Spirit. But her family didn't get the angel visit, so would they believe her story or not? 

But look at her words and her prayer. Her response was to say, basically, “I'm going to do this. May it be.” Her prayer communicates what she understood that the Messiah would do; that this was not just an ordinary baby, but He would come to renew and restore the world and save people from their sins. So, she is an incredible example of faithfulness and devotion to God.

Dannah: When she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord” . . . Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has often taught on that passage of Scripture. Let me condense it for you. When Mary was faced with what would have looked like what we call a crisis pregnancy, an untimed pregnancy out of what would have been, what they knew as wedlock. She doesn't say, “But that's going to be hard. This is going to be difficult.” No. I don't think she freaked out when she walked into that barn because she was so full of faith. Nancy says that, basically, what Mary was saying in that song was, “Yes, Lord. Yes. I agree with Your plan. I trust You. You're good.”

Okay, let's go to the shepherds. I have always been amazed by them. God shows up to them in the dark of night. Tell us about that, what’d you learn?

Daniel: I think it's just remarkable that the first people who heard about the news of the gospel, the news that Jesus had come to earth, that God had visited His people in the flesh. You know, this is the culmination of hundreds of years, centuries of prophecy along the way. That promise He doesn't announce to Caesar, He doesn't announce to Herod, He doesn't even announce to the religious leaders. Instead, there's this incredible concert in a shepherd's field. And it's no accident that the news came to shepherds. I think there's three reasons for that. 

I think number one, shepherds were common people, blue collar folks, who were sometimes looked down on. But they were ready to receive the message and go tell folks. 

I think number two, shepherding is a real theme throughout Scripture. Israel's greatest king, King David was plucked from the shepherds’ fields. God when He rebuked the leaders of Israel said that they were bad shepherds. And then Jesus, of course, declares that He is the Good Shepherd. And so, it shows what kind of King, Jesus was going to be. He was going to be a shepherd King, which is really different from the models of leadership that people had seen and even today that people emulate. 

And I think the third thing is there's deep symbolism here, because the shepherds are caring for lambs that would be prepared for Passover. This is a declaration that Jesus had come to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. So, when we think about the shepherds in those fields, we should not miss what God is doing. We should not miss the symbolism that God is trying to send us a message about the Kingdom of God.

Dannah: Yeah, that there's my freshness for the day that just got my heart stirred, Dan. Because I just think about the thematic nature of Scripture in general. I’ve never heard that before, that maybe He chose them because He was continuing the theme of the story, the theme of the Scripture. The Bible is one long story. It’s not a lot of individual books, even though we divided it up into books. That was good. 

Okay, well, one last set of characters I want to land on today, very briefly. I've been thinking a lot about Simeon and Anna, these two elderly people that are in the temple. Tell us what you've observed about those two characters. Fill in the story a little bit.

Daniel: Well, you have these two elderly folks who come to the temple every day. Simeon is this elderly man who's reading the Old Testament Scriptures. He's coming every day. And probably most people in the temple thought he was a little nuts. They thought, here's this old guy over there who actually thinks this is gonna happen. He thinks he's gonna see the Messiah. Let's just humor him. 

He's waiting, he's waiting. And then one day, the Holy Spirit kind of tells him, that couple over there, that baby, that's the One which is interesting to me. We think of Mary and Joseph as walking around with this sort of halo over them or spotlight, and everyone would know there's the Son of God. But they wouldn't have known because they just looked like an ordinary couple. 

He sees the baby. He holds it, and He blesses it. And one of the things Simeon says that is really amazing is, “Having seen Jesus, now I can die.” In other words, having met Jesus, I'm ready to face eternity. And really, this is the assurance that every person who's met Jesus really has. 

And of course, you have Anna, who is probably a widow, probably doesn't have a lot of resources, probably very poor. She, too, comes to the temple. She, too, is reading those prophecies. She sees that it has to be a baby even though no one else can see it. And she, probably too, seems a little bit crazy. The Holy Spirit tells her, “This is the day; this is the time; this is the hour.” 

I just think it's an example of faithfulness in an era where everyone else was unfaithful, where everyone else was cynical. Everyone else could not see God on the move. These were oppressed people that were under the thumb of the Roman government. And yet, they were able to hold on to their faith in God and find faith. It's a sliver of faithfulness in a sea of unfaithfulness. 

I think it's an example for us today. It's easy to become cynical. It's easy to not see where God is moving. It's easy to not believe that Jesus is going to come again and rule and reign and bring us to heaven. But we can be those people who are faithful. And see that. 

Dannah: That's right. I want to be one of those women. I want to be like Anna. And if people think I'm crazy, then so be it. But I think they have warmed my heart recently. What must that have been like when they realize that's Him? That's the long-awaited Messiah. That's Him!

Like, oh, what that felt like, I can't even imagine. But the other thing is, I know Christmas can be deeply painful for a lot of people sometimes because they've experienced great loss. And I'm thinking about all those people whose lives have been up-ended in these terrible storms over the weekend, our hearts have been with them. The Grounded team has been texting back and forth. We've been praying for them. But other people are experiencing pain at Christmas time because they're waiting for something. They're waiting for God to fix their marriage. They're waiting for their prodigal child to come home. They're waiting for someone to share their life with. 

And these can be very painful times when Christmas, the celebration, and everyone being so happy. Seems like such a juxtaposition to what's going on inside of their heart. Simeon and Anna remind us that we do have to wait, but we wait with great hope. Sometimes the Lord does allow us to see what our eyes and our hearts have been hoping and praying for. I hope that for you this Christmas season. 

Dan Darling, thank you for being with us today. His book is called The Characters of Christmas. You will love it. It is insightful. We hope you'll grab a copy. One last question Dan Darling, do you have a Nativity set, and has it needed to be repaired from time to time?

Daniel: Yes, we have a couple of them. First of all, we have that Fisher Price Nativity set that our kids played with when they were little. We have a Nativity set that is from Israel that was purchased in the Old City in Jerusalem. 

Dannah: Nice. 

Daniel: And that is a really treasured piece, a really treasured thing in our family.

Dannah: My husband would love one of those. Well, thank you. God bless. We have so enjoyed having you today, Dan.

Daniel: Thank you. 

Portia: What a good interview. I love Grounded with God's people. I'm always feeling like I'm just over here soaking up so much stuff. That was good. I love to listen about Simeon and Anna. So, thank you guys. 

Well, there is one word that I am glad we keep saying is this Christmas episode what's that word? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And so, we want you to check out this short teaching clip of Revive Our Hearts by founder, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, on why Jesus is the source of all true holiday cheer. Then I want you to grab your Bible because Erin is up next. She's going to help us get grounded in God's Word.

Come Adore with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (38:32)

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, because Jesus the Dayspring has come, we no longer have to walk in darkness or dread or fear. He is the source of all true holiday cheer. And this says to me, and I think this is one of the biggest takeaways the Lord has been giving me over the last several days as I've been immersed in these Christmas carols, is that we should be cheerful people. My husband likes having a cheerful wife, I'll just tell you that. He's not crazy, nor is any other husband crazy, about having a whining, moaning, unhappy wife. Note to the wives. 

He loves it when my heart is cheerful and encouraged. Now, he's not asking me to pretend when things are hurtful or hard. He wants to know those. But he's blessed, he's encouraged when my heart is cheerful. 

As I've been studying these Christmas carols, I realized that we're supposed to be people of cheer. We're not supposed to be gloomy people. We are people of the light. We are people of hope. Yes, we still live in a world that has darkness. There's a lot of it around us, and there's still indwelling sin within us. That sometimes makes us very frustrated, very sad. But penetrating all that is the gospel in this carol, that the Dayspring, the Light, the Dawn has come, and He disperses the darkness. He gives us hope. He said, “I am the light of the world.”

Grounded in the Word: Colossians 1:15–16 (40:05)

Erin: Grounded friends, be of good cheer, we have Jesus! How did I never see the Passover lamb in the shepherd’s field before today. I'm so grateful that Dan pointed that out to us. We like to open our Bibles here on Grounded. I want you to open yours this morning to Colossians chapter one. 

As a child, the joy and excitement of this season was all tied up in what was under the Christmas tree for me, right? That's true for all of us. That's all my boys can think about is what are they going to get to unwrap? I still get excited about what's under the tree. I'm not going to pretend that I don't. But year after year, I am more and more amazed by the story of Christmas and then by calling it a story like Dannah said we're not acting like it's fiction. It really happened. Those people were real. And all of the things we read in our Bibles are true, and they are actual historical events.

But that story of the shepherds and the wiseman and the angels and the Baby in the manger, that just gets sweeter and sweeter to me year after year—the bottomline that Jesus, the King of kings, is also Emmanuel, God with us. 

One of the thoughts that has been making me a woman of good cheer in this season is that our future is us with God. And so, year after year, that story takes on new sweetness, kind of the patina of hearing it over and over again and being amazed by it. 

This Advent season. My husband Jason and I have been lingering by the fire in the evenings with the lights of the Christmas tree on. We have those bubble lights. My granny had bubble lights; my mom had bubble lights. So, our tree has those bubble lights. We sit by the fire with the bubble lights a’bubblin. And I'm thinking about all the things that I need to do in this Christmas season that we all need to do. But there's a new thought that has also been stirring in my heart in this Christmas season. 

It comes from Colossians 1, verse 16. I'm actually going to run it back to verse 15, because I feel it ties us back to our good news. Verse 15 says, “He,” the He there is Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” And then we get to 16. “For by] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities . . .” get out your pens for this next part, “. . . all things were created through him and for him.”

All things have been created through Jesus; He speaks them all into existence. And all things have been created for Jesus, all things, all things, all things. That means that every element of the Christmas story, which most of us are very familiar with . . . I recognize there probably are people in the world who haven't heard the Christmas story, but most of us who are here watching Grounded, were familiar with it. And everything in the Christmas story, every part of it was made through Jesus and made for Jesus. 

Jesus spoke the star into existence that the wise men used to find their way to Him. That reminds me of one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 40:26, which says,

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might (by the greatest of Jesus’ might)
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.

It was Jesus who called out that star that would point the wise men to Him. And speaking of the wise men, they were created through Jesus, they were created for Jesus, of course. They came to worship Him. He was the reason they existed in the first place. 

The sheep and the shepherds, they were created through Jesus, and they were created for Jesus. And Mary and Joseph well, they were created through Jesus and for Jesus. Get this, this is a mind bender. Jesus's parents didn't create Him; He created them. 

Think even deeper about that. Jesus created the womb that He lived inside of for nine months. Jesus created the tree that was made into a manger for His first bed. Jesus created Herod, who searched for Jesus in order to kill Him. Not only was Herod created by Jesus, Herod was created for Jesus. He was created as part of this plan for His glory. The angels, the stable, the swaddling clothes, all of them were made through Jesus, and all of them were made for Jesus.

I think sometimes we fret because we want to honor God with our celebrations. I do. And we get a little worried that our traditions aren't overly Christian enough, or maybe we shouldn't exchange gifts because it's too commercialized, or maybe we shouldn't put a tree up because isn't that rooted in pagan traditions? But if everything was created through Jesus and everything was created for Jesus, it's all for Him. It's all because of Him. 

When we acknowledge that this season gets infused with amazement, that leads to rightly placed worship. One final thought from Colossians 1:16. Jesus didn't stay a baby, of course. My mama taught me the sweetest poem. And the last line of it goes, “I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.”

And that's true of Jesus. He didn't stay bundled up in Mary's arms for very long at all. He came with a mission. And that mission was to die, to rescue us, and follow Colossians 1:16 through to the crucifixion. The Roman soldiers who whipped Jesus were made through Him, and for him. The cross that He hung on to save us, the cross was made through Him and for him. Jesus spoke a tree into existence that He knew would be used for His execution. It was all made for Him. It was all made through Him. And it was made really for us, so that we might be redeemed. What a merry Christmas thought. It's all for Jesus. Portia.

Portia: Absolutely, man. Talk about a perspective changer. I cannot say that I've ever thought about the fact that Jesus created the tree that he was gonna hang on.

Erin: You probably couldn't tell, but I was like on my tiptoes. I always wanted to share that because that's so exciting to me to think about.

The Good Stuff (47:46)

Portia: Yes. Yes. Well thank you, Erin for always getting us grounded in God's Word. I am here to give you some tools today to help you stay grounded. I know it's a little early, but we want to give you a Christmas gift. And guess what, you don't even have to unwrap it. Revive Our Hearts has its own Christmas playlist on YouTube. And guess what? It is designed to point you to Jesus while you wrap your presents or bake cookies or drive to the Christmas parties and parades. We're going to drop a link in the chat for you to check it out. 

We also want to let you know that December provides an opportunity to partner with us in ministry. We are asking God to provide $2.8 million. And I know I know that sounds like a big number. But here's the good news, we have some friends of the ministry who have stepped up to provide us a matching challenge to help us reach the need. That means everything that you give to Revive Our Hearts during the month of December will be met double, okay? 

And so, if Grounded has pointed you to Jesus, and you want other women to be able to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. And we're not just talking about other women that you know that's in your reach, but even other women across the globe because this is a global ministry. But we hope that you will consider giving to the year-end need to do so. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com/Match. And we'll drop a link for you to check that out.

Dannah: And today, we are so grateful that we have Christmas that gives us hope. I was reading over the weekend that when the early believers decided a date to observe the birth of Jesus Christ, it was still during a time when you know we didn't have our cell phones telling us what time it was during the day or what month and day it was. They were using the sky to know what time of the year it was. And so, they looked to the sky as all people at that time did to determine a date. They chose it based on this factor. The time of Christmas that we observe it is over the winter solstice, which is the darkest time of the year. And those early believers wanted to remind us that even at the darkest times, we have the hope of Jesus, and He shows up in those dark times.

And so, we celebrate Jesus at the darkest time of the year when the days of the shortest and the nights are the longest, remember that He is the Light of the world, and how desperately some of our friends in four states need to know that because they have faced a devastating storm—a tornado that is still being analyzed, but it looks to be one of the longest track tornadoes in the history of the United States of America. It has left entire towns flattened, without homes, without grocery stores, without resources of any type. 

And I was thinking, when something happens in a neighborhood, the other neighbors rush around to help. Or when something happens at a church, the other church members bring their dinner and their food, and they lighten the load. So, these are communities that can't even do that, because they are all at ground zero. And so, we're inviting you today, as we end this special episode about the characters of Christmas, to turn your hearts to prayer, to get on your knees for these communities. 

I’m watching the comments. I see some people saying I didn't even know there were storms this weekend. We're telling you ,and we're telling you for one reason, so that you can pray. And if you know somebody who's helping these communities, you can support that outreach. Also, we're telling you because some of you have been affected. 

One of my friends just wrote, “Hey, my niece was in those storms, and praise the Lord, she's safe.” I'm so thankful and we rejoice with you. But we really do just want to take a moment and pray for the 1,000s of people who are facing this Monday morning, weeks before Christmas, without a home, without their business or school. And for the many people who are grieving the loss of someone they love. Humanly speaking, we may not have a lens big enough to see the scope of the damage, but God does. So will you please join us in asking Him to care for the displaced in the grieving this morning?

Portia I'm going to ask you to pray for the people that are grieving. And then Erin if you would pray for the people, who are without a home, would you just pray for those different people. Then I'll close us in a brief prayer.

Dannah: Father, Lord, I know what it feels like to grieve, to mourn the loss of a family of friends. And right now, I know that pain; I know that hurt. And right now, I just pray that You would comfort those who are grieving right now, who have lost family members, who have lost friends, who have been devastated by what has happened with these storms over the weekend. God, I pray that You will comfort them and provide them with a sweet peace that comes from nowhere else or anything else, God. 

I also pray that you will help those of us who may not have been directly impacted by these storms. But help us to be able to empathize, to be able to weep with others, to be able to comfort and encourage in these hard, hard moments, Lord. 

Lord, we know that You are, You are the giver of peace, You are the one who brings joy and hope in light. And we just pray that You will just close every hurting heart in all the good things of You, Father. It's in Christ's name that I pray. 

Erin: And, Lord, we don't have to pray for You to be with the people affected by the storm. You are right there with them. You are close to the brokenhearted. And, Lord, I just pray that You would give them eyes to see that. And I know there are many people who escaped with their lives, but lost everything else. And that's no small loss. 

And so, Lord, I've read stories of entire churches leveled. They've lost their spiritual home, their place of worship, and families displaced. They will be spending the holiday season in some hotel room, probably Lord. I just pray that You would give them everything they need, that you would keep Your promise to meet all of their needs out of your riches in glory, Lord, and that many, many hearts would turn to You in this season of desperation.

Dannah: And Lord, I pray for every ear that hears these prayers. Father, those of us who have not been affected by these storms, we are called to be neighbors to those who have been. And so, Father, as we put gifts around the base of our Christmas tree, I pray that we wouldn't do that without thinking first, how can I meet the needs of these families? And whether it's through an organization that has boots on the ground, or whether it's through reaching out and knowing someone in those communities ourselves, I pray Father that we would give generously and be the neighbors that Your Word says we're supposed to be.

Let us not just pray for them God, let us do what it is we are able to do. In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray Your peace that passes all understanding on this very broken world. 

Father, it just came to my heart in my mind to Lord, I feel deeply burdened to ask You that it's not just the people in this storm, but the all the different storms of life Father. They might be listening to us pray for these people and thinking about the devastation in my life. Oh God, You just brought it to my heart that You see them, that You see them this Christmas season. And that they might even be saying, “I don't like Christmas, Christmas doesn't even seem like a joy to me.”

Oh Father, I'm reminded of the testimony of my dear friend who after the death of her husband and the sickness of a baby in the same year. She said, “I don't even want Christmas to come.” You spoke to her heart and said what if it didn't? What if it didn't come? What if I didn't come? Then what? Lord You are our great hope. I just pray Father for the one that's sitting there listening and saying, “I'm about to give up on Jesus. I'm about to give up on Christmas.” Oh, Lord, what if You didn't come? Then what hope would we have? I pray that You would be there for that woman right now, in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Erin: Amen. 

Portia: Amen. Well, thank you, Dannah. My heart, our hearts really do go out to everyone who is experiencing a storm. For as long as the Lord allows, we'll be here to try to give you a little bit of hope, a little bit of perspective. We'll be back next Monday, and my sweet friend, our sweet friend Laura Booz will be our guest. She will help us exchange our holiday stress for joy. Let's wake up with hope together next week on Grounded.

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About the Hosts

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

Portia Collins

Portia Collins

Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher and writer/blogger who enjoys studying and teaching Scripture.  Portia is the founder of "She Shall Be Called" (SSBC), a women’s ministry centered on helping women understand and embrace true biblical womanhood through solid study of God's Word. To learn more about SSBC, visit www.sheshallbecalled.com.  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. 

About the Guest

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is the Senior Vice-President of Communications for the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and a regular contributor to several leading evangelical publications, including Christianity Today, Homelife, InTouch and others. He has authored six books, including Teen People of the Bible, The Original Jesus, and The Dignity Revolution. Dan is a teaching pastor at Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee and lives with his wife and four children in the Nashville area.