Unfamiliar or Misunderstood Words of Christmas

Christmas is a special time of the year. We often make time to visit family, give gifts, decorate, and celebrate. As the years go by and history passes there are certain traditions or meanings associated with Christmas that can become lost. Maybe you’ve read the Christmas story or sang carols and wondered what was meant by a certain word or phrase.

Here is a short list of some of the most unfamiliar or misunderstood words of Christmas:


Advent is a Latin word that means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. Christians have used the word to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The advent season usually begins four weeks before Christmas.

Bethlehem is a small village in Israel where Jesus was born. Jesus actually grew up in Nazareth, but his parents traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was still pregnant by order of the Roman Emperor who demanded a census (Luke 2:1-7). This fulfilled the prophecy of Micah (cf. 5:2-5). Bethlehem was also the birth place of King David.

Christ the Lord was a title that is given to Jesus by the angel, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) The title means ‘anointed’ or ‘savior’ (see Messiah).

Emmanuel (or Immanuel). The word itself means “God with us” in the Hebrew language. It was first prophesied by Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus was born (cf. 7:14). In the prophesy it was said there would be a savior who would come who’s name was Emmanuel. An angel later told Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, that his son would be called, Emmanuel (Matthew 1:22-23).

Frankincense an aromatic resin that comes from a special tree (see Exodus 30:34-38). The magi brought frankincense to Jesus’ birth as a present fit for a king (Matthew 2:11). It was a costly gift and a sweet smelling incense.

Gabriel was an angel and special character in the Christmas story. His role was to announce the birth of Jesus. He visited Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, to let him know that his wife Elizabeth would miraculously give birth to a son (Luke 1:11-20). They were to name the baby John, and he would lead the way to the Messiah. Later, Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38).

Glory was what the angels said observing the of Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the Highest.” (Luke 2:14) Glory means to give praise, honor and worship. the angels thought that the birth of Jesus was magnificent and their natural response was to praise God.

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word that is translated into many languages meaning ‘Praise the Lord’.

Heavenly Host is another way to say a bunch of angels. After Jesus was born the heavens opened up with a multitude of angels praise God (Luke 2:14). These angels were visible, audible, and countless in number.

Incarnation is a person who embodies in flesh and blood a deity. Christians acknowledge Jesus is God with skin on. God became a man to save man from their sin (Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Hebrews 2:11 -14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Galatians 4:4). Jesus was 100% God and 100% man.

Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua. It was the name given by the angel of the Lord in a dream to Jospeh in which he was told he would have a son through his virgin wife, Mary (Matthew 1:20-23).

Magi. The Bible tells us little about the magi. They are often referred to as wisemen, but they were likely astrologers as they were watching the night sky and followed a unique star to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12).

Messiah. The Jewish people had long been promised an ‘annointed one’ or ‘deliverer’ who would come to free them from sin and slavery (Genesis 3:15). Although the Jews rejected Jesus, the title of Messiah is given to Jesus by Christians who recognize him as the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament (Matthew 26:54; Mark 9:12; Luke 18:31; John 5:39; 26:22-23; Acts 2).

Myrrh was an expensive spice used in ancient times for making perfume, incense, medicine, and for anointing the dead. It appears three times in the life of Jesus Christ—his birth crucifixion, and burial (Matthew 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39). At his birth, it was one of the costly gifts presented to Jesus by the wise men.

Nativity. We often think of it as a small display of figurines from the Christmas story like baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, wisemen, manger and animals. In it’s Latin origin, the word nativity means ‘birth’, particularly the birth of Jesus Christ.

Nicholas is not a character from the Bible, yet he is often associated with Christmas. Nicholas was a bishop in the fourth century. According to Catholic history he is the patron saint of children and sailors.

Noël is the French way of saying ‘Christmas’.

Peace on Earth was what the host of angels said after the birth of Jesus. It is often a saying people say to one another during Christmas (Luke 2:14), yet Jesus came to bring peace to the earth. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; cf. 52:7; 53:5; Micah 5:5; Luke 1:79; John 14:27; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14,17).

Salvation is what Jesus came to offer to the people of the earth. He was the Savior who came to save mankind from impending judgment due to their sin. Mary sang about it (Luke 1:46-47). Joseph was told about it (Matthew 1:21). The shepherds outside Bethlehem were told about it (Luke 2:11).

Tidings. This is an old English word for ‘news’ or ‘information’. When Jesus came there was an announcement and bearer of glad tidings or good news (Luke 1:19; 2:10). Indeed, it was the greatest news on earth and still is.


This list was birthed out of a desire to help my children understand unfamiliar words within the Christmas story. Feel free to use or add to the definitions.

why did Jesus die?

Jesus lived to die. Jesus was a man on a mission. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh so that He would become the complete and perfect God-man. His death is incredibly important.

Without the death of Christ man cannot live (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17) Christ died to save lost and sinful me. Christ died to save sinful man from their hopeless state (Romans 3:21-26). In other words, Christ died in my place to satisfy the wrath of God on me in order to declare me innocent even through I was guilty (justification), He died to buy me off the slave market of sin (redemption), He died to make me friend even when I was an enemy (reconciliation), and He died so the Father would see me through the righteousness of Christ. Christ paid the penalty that He did not owe so that I might be freed from a penalty that I owed but could not pay.

Without the death of Christ He would not have glorified His Father (Luke 22:41-42; John 6:38; 17:1-5). Jesus was obedient to His father and did what He was commanded to do—be the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial promises and became our suffering servant (Isaiah 53). The death on the cross is what God wanted and the cross was the means by which Jesus glorified His father. Jesus Christ glorified God the Father in both His life and in His death.

Jesus lived to die. Without His death I could not live, forever. Without His death i could not glorify the Father. But Jesus did die, therefore I have eternal hope of glory. Thanks be to God.

For more, check out this video by Thabiti Anyabwile:

God Is

Part 1 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We live in a culture [as others before us] willing to worship anyone and anything. We will pack arena’s to sing our favorite songs from our favorite band. We will be first in line at the movie theatre to see the next biggest summer blockbuster. We will pack sports stadiums and worship teams and players with loud cheers and waving our banners. Last December Sarah and I went to our first fridged Packer game at Lambeau Field. There was some worship going on that day! Later we thought, as great as the game was, “Heaven is going to be awesome!”

We are about all worship. It is not easy to define real worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything. Worship is about what we live for [who we are]. Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. You can’t stop it or live without it. Worship is a way of life. It is a whole-life response to God’s greatness and glory. You are a worshipper before you are a father, mother, sister, brother, boss, employee or student. Worship is simply about value. Worship is our response to what we value most.

Why does worship matter? Why must worship matter to me? Why is it so important? Worship matters because GOD IS and His character demands my worship [Isaiah 6:1-3].

God is alive.

Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” Uzziah is dead, but God still lives. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Psalm 90:2]. God has no beginning or end. He does not depend anything or anyone to exist. God was alive when this universe banged into existence. He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive when JFK was shot. He was alive when a tsunami sweep away Indonesia, and earthquakes rocked Haiti and Chile. He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny people in power are long forgotten. But not God, He always has been and always will be alive.

God is authoritative.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams. He holds it together. He sits on a throne. He rules with peace and control. He has authority over our lives even though we may never acknowledge Him.

God is omnipotent.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” God’s throne is higher than every other throne signifies God’s superior power to exercise His authority. No opposing authority can nullify the decrees of God. What He purposes, He accomplishes. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].

God is majestic.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and the train his robe filled the temple.” You have seen pictures of brides whose dresses are gathered around them covering the steps and the platform. What would the meaning be if the train filled the aisles and covered the seats and the stage, woven all of one piece? That God’s robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that he is a God of incomparable splendor and honor. His creative fullness spills over in excessive beauty. God loves to wow us.

God is revered.

“Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” No one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are [not some chubby winged angel babies], and they never appear again in the Bible. When one of them speaks, the foundations of the temple shake [v.4]. These are magnificent creature that most of us would be wowed by, but God wows them.

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” God is in a class by Himself. When asked for His name in Exodus 3:14, He said, “I am who I am.” What is God’s holiness? [Hebrew Qadesh, Greek Hagios, separate/different] 1 Samuel 2:2, “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” Isaiah 40:25, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” Hosea 11:9, “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” And repeated throughout the Scripture is the theme: “YHWH alone is God” [Ex.22:20; 34:14; 20:5].

God is incomparable, unfathomable. It determines all that He is and does and His ways are not determined by anyone. His holiness is what He is as God, which no one else is or ever will be. Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness will rock your world to the core. There is no way to scale mountain and heights of God’s holiness [not even in this message or our lifetime]. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” [Habakkuk 2:20].

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The glory of God is the seen of God’s holiness. God’s holiness has gone public in His glory. When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is glory. In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

Worship matters because GOD IS. His character demands my worship.

Is God for me or for Himself?

I would like to try to persuade you that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever (also the historic first point of the Westminster Confession). Or to put it another way: the chief end of God is to enjoy glorifying himself.

The reason this may sound strange is that we tend to be more familiar with our duties than with God’s designs. We know why we exist – to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But why does God exist? What should he love with all his heart and soul and mind and strength? Whom should he worship? Or will we deny him that highest of pleasures? It matters a lot what God’s ultimate allegiance is to!His allegiance is utterly and only to Himself. Sound egotistical. Yes. But He has the right to be. We worship Him as He wants to be worshipped.