Christmas on a Supermarket Floor


It was a day of running errands. Lisa was in Christmas baking mode and my day was spent getting last minute gift cards, fetching lunch, and making runs to the store for more sugar, shortening and a few items for Christmas Eve dinner. It was the during last run to the market that I came across a sight that changed my perspective of the holiday.

I was in a hurry and after grabbing my shopping cart I quickly headed to the back of the store, moving down the leftmost isle and turning right. To my surprise, there in front of me an elderly woman lay flat on her back, surrounded by two women, each of whom were trying to find her pulse. I left my cart and rushed forward. “I am  Family Doctor, what’s going on?”

“She collapsed, I think it was a seizure!” said the younger of the women, her fingers on the woman’s neck over the area of the right carotid artery, “I think I feel a pulse.”

I looked down at the woman. She was clearly unconscious. She was breathing in a labored fashion, gurgling with each breath. “She’s breathing, so she has a pulse,” I replied, “Has 911 been called?” A man nearby siad that he had just seen the paramedics pull up outside the store. As she was breathing and the paramedics were on the scene I realized there was nothing I could do for her as a physician. I stood back as the paramedics took over her care.

As I watched them attend to her the thought went through my mind, “Merry Christmas…” Whatever her plans were for Christmas, they had certainly changed. I wondered about her family, and if she was going to be in the hospital over the holiday. My heart ached for her. I found myself saying a prayer for the woman as they loaded her onto a stretcher and wheeled her away.

I have thought of her often today, for her story reminds me of the fragility of life and the futility of human plans. Regardless of the intensity of our efforts or the thoroughness of our preparations, stuff happens. Everything we desire and hope for can evaporate in a moment. Christmas is not a time of year we like to think about such things but for people like the woman in the market, these thoughts can be thrust upon us.

In such moments the true message of Christmas is profoundly relevant. Christmas is not about gifts, music, cookies, or even getting together with family. Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, the One who came to die for the sins of the world, the One who came to save us from our sins. It is He who gives us hope, He who promises peace, He who we celebrate.

It is because of the Savior that we can be hopeful in any and all circumstances, the reason we we have hope in the darkest moments. Whether we find ourselves on the floor of a supermarket, or in a bed in a hospital, it is the true story of Christmas that keeps despair at bay.

We have hope and peace, “For unto us was born that day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas


Christmas Story, or Christmas History?


Most of us have heard the Christmas story dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Even the unchurched and irreligious among us are familiar with the story of the angel appearing to the shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem telling them of the birth of the Savior who would be found wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,  of the declaration of the heavenly host, “Peace on earth and goodwill to men”, and of the shepherds hurrying to the city to discover the child exactly as promised.

We see the Nativity scenes as we drive through our neighborhoods and display them in our homes. We know the words to all of the Christmas carols and cheerfully sing “Christ the Savior is born”, “Glory to the newborn king”, “Born the King of Angels”, and that “This, this, is Christ the King.” We love the story of Christmas.

The question we need to answer is, “Is it just a story, or is it history?” Are the events of which we sing a fairy tale or fable, to did they actually happen?

This is not just an academic question. It is a question of supreme importance. If the story of Jesus’ birth is not real, if it is a folk tale on the same level as the story of Santa Claus or A Christmas Carol, then it requires nothing from us or of us. We can forget about it on December 26, Set it aside for the next 11 months. We can file it away with our Christmas decorations and store it in the attic.

Yet if the story is true, if the events described in the gospels happened as described, then the message of Christmas must endure all year long, every year. The message of the Angels that the Savior was born carries deep meaning, for it implies that we are lost and broken. Saviors are only born to those in need of salvation! The appearance of a heavenly host confirms the existence of a heaven, that this life is not all there is. The proclamation of Peace on Earth implies a world filled with conflict, between nations of men and between men and God. A world waiting for the Prince of Peace.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was no ordinary baby. He was no ordinary man. Born of a Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Bible teaches that Eternal God entered time on the first Christmas, clothing Himself in flesh, taking the form of a baby. 

If the Biblical account is true, then we should respond to the Christmas story in the same manner as did the Shepherds- “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” If the account is true, we have little choice but to spend the rest of our lives pursuing a greater understanding of who this Jesus is, why he came, and how we can best honor him with our lives.

What we should not do is allow another Christmas to pass without honestly addressing the question.

- Bart

PS: Merry Christmas!

The Original Christmas Tree


Sometimes a person’s heritage says a lot about them. I think it is fascinating that I am a direct descendant of William Brewster, the first spiritual leader of the Pilgrims when they arrived in New England. My family history of pastors also includes Wade Barrett, a prolific church planter who lived in the south in the early 1800’s. It seems that I come from a long line of Jesus freaks.

As interesting as I find my family tree it has nowhere near the meaning of the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew chapter 1. There we find the original “Christmas Family tree”, the lineage of the Messiah. We can learn a lot about Jesus and His ministry by looking at his ancestors.

There are many familiar and expected names in the tree including Abraham, the father of the Jewish people and David, the king of Israel through whom the Messiah was prophesied to come. While these names are crucial in establishing Jesus’ messianic credentials, it is in the unexpected names that we learn the amazing nature of Jesus’ ministry. The list is predominantly male, as family trees were traced through the paternal line, but there are a few female names listed as well. Each of these women has a fascinating story.

The first female name is that of Tamar. We see in the third verse of Matthew 1 that she gave birth to Perez, whose father was a man named Judah. The story of Tamar and Judah is found in the book of Genesis. Tamar was married to Judah’s son Er. Er died before fathering a child. Tradition provided that Tamar have children through one of her husband’s brothers. When neither Judah or his other sons honored this tradition, Tamar dressed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. The child, Perez, was the result of this union between an immoral woman and her promise breaking father-in-law.

In verse 5 of Matthew 1 we find the name of another woman, Rahab. Her story is found in the book of Joshua. Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. In spite of her immoral profession, she came to believe that the God of Israel was the One true God. She defied the king of Jericho and risked her life to protect two Israelites who had been sent to spy on her city. She was a foreigner and a prostitute, and an ancestor of Jesus.

We find the name of another foreign woman in verse 5, Ruth. She was a poor woman from the country of Moab. She married one of the sons of a faithful Jewish woman named Naomi. When Ruth’s husband died she made the remarkable choice to travel with her mother-in-law when Naomi went back to Bethlehem. It was remarkable because Moabites were unwelcome in Israel, and prohibited from entering the temple. In spite of this she made Bethlehem her home. There she married a man named Boaz; their son Obed was the grandfather of King David.

King David himself was an immoral man. He had many wives and concubines (mistresses). Even worse, he impregnated the wife of one of his best friends and then had him murdered to cover up the adultery. In verse 6 of Matthew 1 we see it was through this adulterous woman that the messianic line was continued.

David was an adulterer and a murderer yet he cannot lay claim to being the worst person on the list. That “honor” goes to Manasseh, an evil king who lived several generations after David. Mannasseh worshipped idols and engaged in child sacrifice. The book of Kings tells us he murdered his own son as an offering to the false god Moloch.

I find myself asking, “Why did Jesus have so many bad ancestors? Why is it that God did not give His Son a more noble lineage?” The passage in Matthew does not say, but I believe the story of Jesus’ birth provides a clue.

In Jesus’ ancestry we see all kinds of people. Wealthy men like Abraham and poor women like Ruth. We see Godly men like Josiah, who led the nation according to the Law of God for thirty -one years, and ungodly men like Manasseh. We find prostitutes and kings, as well as liars, cheats and murderers. We see foreigners and the accursed as well as pure blooded Israelites.

We see that Jesus, the one whose birth brought “Good News of great joy which shall be for all people” came from a family that included all sorts of people. He came from a broken and troubled family line to save a broken and troubled world. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came from a family with a conflicted history, to proclaim Peace to a world in conflict.

The “family tree” of Christmas reminds us that regardless of our background or station in life, no matter who we are or what we have done, there is room in the family for us.

- Bart

If you are interested in reading more about the stories behind the names in Jesus' family tree, go to and enter the name into the search bar. Thanks to all who read and share. Those who wish to receive future posts via email can do so by subscribing to the blog. I also share each post on Twitter @bartbarrettmd. 

Peace on Earth in a World Filled with Conflict

The words are repeated every year at Christmas in word and song, “Peace on Earth, Good will to men.” It is a beautiful sentiment, but as with many Christmas proclamations for some its meaning has been lost after centuries of repetition. God gave the angels these words to describe the good news of the Savior’s birth so it seems they are important enough to reflect upon at Christmas.

In considering these words the first thought that comes to mind is that they do not appear to be entirely true. For most of human history there has not been anything close to “Peace on Earth.” War is a perpetual reality. A review of history reveals that at any given point in time there is at least one group of people trying to kill or conquer another group of people. One is left to wonder, “Where is this peace promised by the angels?”

Clues to the answer can be found in the source of the proclamation, the angels who appeared to the shepherds on Christmas night. Their nature and identity shed light around the shepherds then and shed light for us now.

Luke, in his gospel, describes the angels in this way-

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

 “A multitude of the heavenly host” appeared.  A clearer description of these individuals is found in Wuest’s expanded New Testament, where he translates the phrase, “a multitude of the army of heaven.” Wuest was on to something. It was not a choir that appeared. The word “host” is a military term used to describe the soldiers of an army. Standing on the hillside that first Christmas night was no angelic choir. It was the army of the Living God. They were there for a reason. It was not by accident that God sent his army to proclaim “Peace on Earth.” Their presence on the scene has tremendous meaning.

The army of God is described in a number of places in scripture. In the Old Testament it appears on the scene to defend the prophet Elisha from the Assyrian army. (2 Kings 6) In the New Testament, this army returns at the end of the world to carry out God’s judgment. It is this last job description that is most significant with regards to the Christmas message. The message of peace was proclaimed by those who will one be the agents of God’s wrath. At the end of the age God will send His armies to wage war against not only the devil, but against all of disobedient mankind. The battle into which this army will be sent is God’s battle against sinful man.

The presence of the Army of God reminds us of the conflict addressed by the birth of the Savior. Since the fall of man, the original sin, Mankind has been at war with God. The universal peace lacked by all was peace with God. Unless something happened to restore this peace the wrath of God would fall on all people.

On that first Christmas night the solution to the conflict was proclaimed. The one who would resolve the conflict had been born, the Prince of Peace. The army of God arrived on the scene and with their presence reminded all of the wrath that was coming and that was deserved. In their words they proclaimed the reality of how the wrathful hand of God would be stayed. In response to the birth of Jesus they laid their weapons down and proclaimed, “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”

This is the message of Christmas. Our world is sinful and fallen, deserving of destruction at the hands of a holy God. As deserving as we are of such punishment, we need not experience it. For on that day, in the city of Bethelehem, was born a Savior. The One who would one day take the wrath of God upon himself and open the door to everlasting peace.

Merry Christmas

-          Bart