Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas and the Birth of Jesus

What Christmas means to the world and many Christians
  • Santa Claus and reindeer
  • Christmas trees
  • Gift exchanges
  • Holidays/days off of work
  • Parties
A few atheists and agnostics fight the season – especially hoping to purify any government-owned locations of evil nativity scenes and such like – but most secular non-believers enjoy the trappings of the season. Cultural, nominal, notional[i] and other Christians join them in the Christmas joy. Some separated saints fight to put Christ back in Christmas while others invoke “the law of non-Christmas”[ii] – but, for better or worse, the average American Christian and the average secular American celebrate Christmas in very much the same way.

Though the Christmas holiday season is primarily one of joy – “the most wonderful time of the year” – to some it means gloom, despair, agony, depression, pain and misery. Some experts claim this is onset by such things as stress (including perceived pressure to spend lots of money), unrealistic expectations, excessive self-reflection and loneliness.

What the birth of Jesus means, according to the Scriptures
1. The fulfillment of centuries of God’s promises through prophecy
The Old Testament is filled with promises of a seed, a Saviour, an Anointed One (Messiah, Christ) that God would send into the world. This Christ would be:
  • The seed of woman, Genesis 3:15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Cf. Galatians 4:4)
  • Blessings on Shem, Genesis 9:26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Cf. Luke 3:36)
  • Seed of Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord had said unto Abram…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Cf. 22:18; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:34)
  • The promise through Isaac and his descendants, Genesis 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Cf. 21:12; Luke 3:34)
  • The promise to Jacob, Genesis 28:13-14 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Cf. Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:34)
  • From the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Cf. Psalm 78:68; Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34)
  • Family of Jesse, 1 Samuel 16:1 And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. (Cf. Isaiah 11:1, 10; Luke 3:32)
  • Son of David, Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. (Cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Luke 3:31; Matthew 1:1; Luke 2:11)
  • Born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Cf. Matthew 1:18-25)
  • Time of Messiah’s birth in the days of the Roman kings, Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Cf. Daniel 9:24-27; Luke 2:1; 3:1)
  • Born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Cf. Matthew 2:1; Luke 4:2-11)
2. The commencement of the earthly phase of redemption
God must put on flesh, to die for us, to condemn sin and to pay sin’s penalty.
  • “Late in time, behold Him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.” Galatians 4:4 but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law
  • “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity” John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
  • “Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die” Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
  • “Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, stamp Thine image in its place” Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
  • “Second Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love.” 1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
God was not “doing nothing” before Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Cf. 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8), but this act instated God’s earthly phase of redemption. His grand design required a God who was a man to seek and save the lost and die as a ransom for the wicked souls of men.

[i] Since seeing this term used in a Barna survey, I’ve been salivating for a chance to use it. J Barna Research, which uses this term in their polling, defines “notional Christians” as “people who consider themselves to be Christian but they have not made ‘a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today’ or believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.”
[ii] This reference is to those Christians who oppose the celebration of Christmas. In my opinion, fighting cultural holidays and seasons is not “a hill to die on,” but they ought to be kept out of the church.

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