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Illegitimate. That's what some people called the baby born in Bethlehem that first Christmas - even years later. They didn't understand, or didn't believe, that this was God's Son, miraculously conceived in a virgin's womb.

Actually, there's no such thing as an illegitimate or unplanned child. Every life has been planned by God. "God's workmanship" - That's what the Bible calls you, no matter how you were conceived or how you've been treated (Ephesians 2:10).

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Two teenage friends suddenly appeared at our door on Christmas Eve, looking for a refuge from the party at home. Well, we were in the middle of acting out the Christmas story - with our two-year-old in a basket as Baby Jesus, and his older brother and sister in bathrobe and shawl as Joseph and Mary - with me, the angel, on the back of the couch and my wife crawling around baa-ing. The girls weren't too sure about us - but, hey, we invited them right into our Christmas.

Which is what God is doing for you this Christmas season - inviting you into the middle of what He was really doing that first Christmas. Anybody's welcome to come on in and join God's family. Look at who got the first invitation to "come on in" - shepherds, society's rejects in that day. God said to them, "A Savior has been born to you" (Luke 2:11). Now, maybe you, like the shepherds, have felt your share of closed doors and condemnation. Well, so did Jesus - all the way to the cross where He died for all the sins of your life.

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As I was growing up, our manger was always under our Christmas tree. That's probably the right place for it - since, in a real sense, the shadow of a tree loomed over the manger that first Christmas morning. You can't really understand Christmas without Good Friday - where this sinless Son of God was nailed to a tree He created, by men He created.

The Bible says, "He bore our sins in His body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus absorbed the death penalty of hell for every wrong thing you've done - to rescue you. That's how much He loves you.

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You can wrap that present like a pro - a kid doesn't care. He'll just rip off the paper with one mighty blow. All he cares about is what's inside.

God's like that. He doesn't much care about what you're like on the outside - the Bible says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). He sees what no one else sees - the pain, the insecurity, the sin. Jesus came because He wants to heal that pain...to give you one love, one hope you can never lose, and to forgive every wrong thing you've ever done.

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As our two-year-old grandson was helping set up the family Nativity scene, he noticed they were missing one figure - Baby Jesus. That night, our grandson greeted his father at the door with an impassioned question - "Hey, where's Jesus?"

That's the question God is asking some of us as He looks at our lives - "Where's Jesus?" It's possible that, like our grandson that day, you have everything except Jesus. That's why the Bible says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5). You may have a Christian vocabulary, Christian beliefs, - but there may have never been that time when you personally told Jesus, "I believe You died for me - I'm Yours."

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The little boy was having a hard time getting to sleep - he was scared of the dark, even though his Mommy told him God was there, watching over him. And he responded, "Mommy - I need God with skin on."

Because of Christmas, we've got God with skin on. The Bible says that the Son of God "became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). Jesus isn't just another prophet or religious leader - He's God with skin on. This Jesus, who asks for your heart, has walked your trail. He knows what it is to be lonely...to be abandoned...to be betrayed...to be a victim...to be tortured...to die. That brutal death on a cross was ultimately His choice - He loves you so much that He chose to take the death penalty for your sin so you could be with Him forever.

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Bottom line - Christmas is a birthday. The bombshell birthday. The birth that literally split history in two. B.C., A.D. - before Christ and after Christ.

For millions of people, the coming of Jesus has been the turning point of their life - my life before Jesus was there, and since He came in. The Bible describes the miraculous change this way: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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I've played a shepherd, a wise man, even Joseph in the Christmas Story. I've never played King Herod. I never want to. He was the king the wise men told about the birth of Jesus - the king who was enraged that there could possibly be a king other than him.

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Recently, I went to the garage and hauled out Christmas - all the boxes full of decorations. All too soon, I'll be putting our Christmas away again - until we want it again. You can do that with Christmas - you can't do that with Christ.

To be honest, maybe that's what it's been like with you and Jesus. You've kept Him on the edges of your life. You want Him to be around, but you don't want Him to be in charge. It's nice to have Jesus for Christmas, for Sundays, for emergencies. But the truth is, you've never really given your life to the One who gave His life for you. That cross was for you - for every wrong thing you've ever done.

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There are two words that I hated to see on any toys we bought for Christmas - "assembly required." Great! I get this box full of pieces, but I have to figure out how they go together.

Kind of like our lives, huh? We've got all these pieces in our life, but how do they go together into something that makes life make sense? In a recent survey asking people what question they would most like to ask God, by far the largest response was, "What's my purpose here?"

            

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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
P.O. Box 400
Harrison, AR 72602-0400

(870) 741-3300
(877) 741-1200 (toll-free)
(870) 741-3400 (fax)

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