The ABC's Of Christmas

II Corinthians 8:9

Have you ever tried to explain the real meaning of Christmas to a child? It isn’t easy. There is so much tradition mixed up with spiritual truth that it’s sometimes hard to tell Jesus from Santa Claus and the Wise Men from the snowmen.

Sometimes our children have a hard time understanding what it all means. This week I clipped out a cartoon called “Marvin.” In the first frame a young mother has just finished reading the Christmas story to her young son. The lad has a puzzled look on his face as he sorts it all out. Then he thinks to himself, “Let me see if I’ve got this straight … Christmas is baby Jesus’ birthday, but I get the presents?” The final frame shows him with a satisfied grin as he says to himself, “Is this a great religion or what?!”

A few years ago when Joshua had just turned two, we bought him the “Christmas ABC Book.” Some of you probably have seen it. We kept it for many years until the binding fell apart. Each letter of the alphabet connects with the biblical story in a little rhyme. For instance,

A means Angel … An Angel was the first to tell

That Christ had come on earth to dwell.

D means Donkey …A Donkey followed Joseph’s track

And carried Mary on his back.

(That’s okay, even though the Bible doesn’t mention a donkey. It is quite possible that Mary did indeed ride a donkey since she was in the late stages of her pregnancy.)

Then there is the occasional odd one:

O means Oxen … An Ox awoke and wondered why

So many people knelt nearby.

But all in all, it was a wonderful book. It’s good for children to know the ABC’s of Christmas. Even more, it’s good for all of us to see through the tinsel and fantasy to the great story of Bethlehem.

There is a verse that for me sums up the real meaning of Christmas better than any verse in the Bible. It is just one verse tucked away in a forgotten corner of the New Testament. But in it we find the ABC’s of Christmas.

And here is the verse—II Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” The whole story of Christmas is in that verse. It sums up the great truth behind a baby’s birth.

Let us examine this verse to discover the ABC’s of Christmas, first for the strengthening of our own hearts and second, that we might teach these things to our children.

A — He Was Rich

This week I spent some time trying to decide who is the richest person I’ve ever known. Many years ago I knew a wealthy man who was a state senator in Alabama. Then I knew a man out in Los Angeles who made quite a bit of money—some of it clean, some of it not-so-clean. And I know a man down in Texas who has a nice-sized ranch. And I know another man who has done quite well in the field of sports television.

But I don’t know Donald Trump. Or Sam Walton. Or, for that matter, any of the jetsetting playboys who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills.

You see, there are several categories of richness. There is Average Rich: More money than most people, but not incredibly wealthy. The rich people I know fall into that category. Then there is Medium Rich: These are your basic multi-millionaires. Then there is Super Rich: These are the people you see on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Finally, there is Incredibly Rich: That would be Donald Trump and Sam Walton and H. Ross Perot and the others on the Fortune magazine list of the world’s richest people. They are your basic billionaires.

Let me put it this way. The Average Rich fly first class. The Medium Rich charter a jet. The Super Rich own the jet. The Incredibly Rich own the airline.

But Jesus Christ owns the skies. The Bible says, “He was rich.” It is speaking of what he had before he left heaven to come to earth.

The Bible says that all the glory of God radiates from him (Hebrews 1:3). It also says that all things hold together in him (Colossians 1:17). It also says that by him were all things created (Colossians 1:16). And before he was born, he was the Mighty God and the Father of Eternity (Isaiah 9:6).

Suppose you thought about it this way:

Take the 10 richest men who ever lived …

And the 10 most powerful rulers who ever ruled …

Add the 10 wisest men who pondered life’s questions …

Throw in the 10 mightiest generals who ever went to battle …

Add the 10 strongest athletes in every sport …

And the 10 most mesmerizing orators …

Plus the 10 greatest political leaders …

And any 10 other great men left on the earth …

Calculate their accumulated wealth … power … influence … skill … genius … wisdom … insight … ability. Whatever that vast sum comes to, Jesus had more in heaven. No man or collection of men could come close to him.

He was rich. He didn’t leave heaven in search of riches. He had the universe at his disposal. He wasn’t looking for money. All the money in the universe was his for the asking.

Theologians speak of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. That simply means that before Bethlehem, the Son of God existed from all eternity in heaven. Not as a pauper or a beggar, but in glorious splendor.



That’s the A of the ABC’s of Christmas—He Was Rich.

(But that is only part of the story. Christmas begins with what happens next.)

B. He Became Poor

What does it mean? He was rich in eternity. He became poor in time. He left heaven for a remote village in a forgotten province, to join a despised race, to be born of an obscure teenage peasant girl in a stable, wrapped in rags, placed in a feeding-trough instead of a crib.

This much we all know. But notice the verb—He became poor. Not, He was made poor. That’s what happens to us. We are made poor by circumstances. But he himself, of his own free will, became poor. That’s something we would never do. He voluntarily gave up the riches of heaven for the poverty of earth. He who was richer than any man has ever been gave it up freely and became poorer than any man has ever been.

We understand riches. And we understand poverty. But to choose poverty is beyond us and something we would never do. But that is the heart of the gospel. The richest person in the universe, of his own free will, became poorer than the poor.

Theologians also have a word for this. They call it the incarnation. The idea comes from John 1:14 which says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The phrase “became flesh” really means to wrap yourself in flesh. It has the idea of God wrapping himself in human flesh. That’s what happened at Bethlehem. It was God entering the human race in the form of a man.

The Richest Person I’ve Known

This week I spent some time trying to decide who is the richest person I’ve ever known. Many years ago I knew a wealthy man who was a state senator in Alabama. Then I knew a man out in Los Angeles who made quite a bit of money—some of it clean, some of it not-so-clean. And I know a man down in Texas who has a nice-sized ranch. And I know another man who has done quite well in the field of sports television.

But I don’t know Donald Trump. Or Sam Walton. Or, for that matter, any of the jetsetting playboys who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills.

You see, there are several categories of richness. There is Average Rich: More money than most people, but not incredibly wealthy. The rich people I know fall into that category. Then there is Medium Rich: These are your basic multi-millionaires. Then there is Super Rich: These are the people you see on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Finally, there is Incredibly Rich: That would be Donald Trump and Sam Walton and H. Ross Perot and the others on the Fortune magazine list of the world’s richest people. They are your basic billionaires.

Let me put it this way. The Average Rich fly first class. The Medium Rich charter a jet. The Super Rich own the jet. The Incredibly Rich own the airline.

But Jesus Christ owns the skies. The Bible says, “He was rich.” It is speaking of what he had before he left heaven to come to earth.

The Ant Farm

Many of you have heard the old illustration about the ant farm. You remember how it goes. If I had some ants that I loved, how could I communicate my love to them? I could stand up and shout, “I love you,” but because they are ants, they wouldn’t understand. I could write them a letter, but they couldn’t read it. I could shrink down to ant size, but they wouldn’t recognize me. But there is one thing I could do. I could take on the form of an ant, be born as an ant, live as an ant, communicate as they do. Then I could find a way to say, “I love you.”

That is what God did. He didn’t mail a letter or shout from heaven. He did the one thing we could understand. God himself came down and entered the human race. He became poor like us so that forever we would hear him saying, “I love you.”

We wouldn’t have done it that way. We’d schedule a press conference, call the TV stations, hire a press agent, have a parade, call in the dignitaries, sell tickets, make a big deal so all the world could see. We would take the Madison Avenue approach.

But that’s not God’s way. Read the New Testament again. Instead of flash and splash, there is a frightened father, an exhausted mother, a dirty stable in wintertime, swaddling clothes and a feeding-trough. There he is, ignored by the mighty and powerful—the Deity in Diapers. Immanuel—God with us.

It’s so simple that you know it must be true. Only God would have done it that way.

That’s the B of the ABC’s of Christmas—He Became Poor

(There is one more truth about Christmas we must know if we are to discover the true meaning of this day.)

C. That We Might Become Rich

Here is the purpose of Christmas. He came so that we who were poor might become rich. How does that happen? Most of you are familiar with the term guilt-by-association. That means if I hang around with a fellow who has committed a crime, I may be considered guilty as well because of my close relationship with him. Turn that concept around and you’ve got Christmas. It is Grace by association. All the grace of God is available to me by virtue of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Think of it. All the riches … all the power … all the prestige of his good name are mine.

But someone will say, “You don’t deserve that.” Indeed I don’t. That’s the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If I deserved it, I wouldn’t need Jesus, would I? But through my association with Jesus Christ, suddenly I am a rich man.

The theologians have a word for this as well. They call it the doctrine of imputation. It’s what happens when I come to Jesus Christ. He takes my sin and I take his righteousness. I don’t earn it; it is imputed to me. It is credited to my account. That’s grace by association.

Let me illustrate. Many of you will remember the great wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles a few years ago. Lady Diana did not come from poverty, but compared to the royal family, her family was poor. But now, by virtue of her marriage to Prince Charles, all the wealth, all the prestige, all the power, all the pomp and glory of the royal family belong to her. Once she was an outsider; now she has access to the Queen. Did she earn such a lofty standing? No. It was imputed to her by virtue of her relationship to Prince Charles. That’s imputed honor, imputed wealth, imputed standing.

What do you call a poor girl who marries a prince? You call her “Your Highness.”

So it is, that when I come to Jesus Christ, I come as a pauper in the spiritual realm. My hands are empty, my pockets bare, I have nothing to offer, no claim to make. All my good works are as filthy rags, my resume is filled with failure. All my life I have gone two steps forward and three steps back. And when I come to him, I am fed, clothed, filled, forgiven, crowned with every good thing. He takes away my rags and puts around me the robe of his own righteousness. Everything that was against me is gone. Everything I lacked, I now have.

Once I was poor. Now I am rich. That’s the grace of God. And it happened because of Christmas. He who was rich became poor for my sake that I through his poverty might become rich.

C.S. Lewis said it this way: “The Son of God became a son of man in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God.”

And what do rich people do? They give things away. They give and give and give because they have more than enough and plenty to spare. And that’s why we give gifts at Christmas. Because we who were poor have suddenly been made rich.

How Silently, How Silently

Here, then, are the ABC’s of Christmas:



A — He was rich

B — He became poor

C — That we might become rich

And that’s the true meaning of Christmas. Let us rejoice this year that these things are true and let us teach them to our children that they may know what this season is all about.

Only one question is left. Have you found the Lord Jesus, who came at Christmas, to be your Savior? Have you placed your trust in him? Have you given up your spiritual poverty for the riches he offers you? He can be yours at this moment. Phillips Brooks, in his carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” has a verse which is a delight at this point.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is giv’n

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessing of his heav’n.

No ear may hear his coming,

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him still,

The dear Christ enters in.

So He does! May that be your experience this Christmas season.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *



Lord Jesus, what miracles you have done.

We were naked and you clothed us with your righteousness.

We were hungry and you fed us with bread from heaven.

We were thirsty and you gave us living water to drink.

We were so poor and you made us rich beyond belief.

We were dying and you brought us back to life.

You came! You didn’t leave us alone!



Glory to your name forever! Amen.

1989-12-24-The-ABCs-Of-Christmas

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Ray Pritchard

RAY PRITCHARD

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