Just because the calendar turns to December does not insure that our hearts and minds turn toward the miracle of “God with Us,” Emmanuel. As Tim’s sermon series has pointed out, we must remember more than His birth. We must remember what God the Father, through writings He inspired, said about the coming of His only Son. John 1 reminds us He is the light that lights every man, and the glory that existed before anything was created. Philippians 2 reminds us that he set aside his position in the heavens to restore mankind into fellowship with the Godhead.
The Christ was born to die, as the very strips of cloth he was swaddled in were a foretaste of his burial.
The glory he set aside in order to take on human form would not be his again until his ascension, after which he appeared to His disciples. This appearance to his disciples was a taste of the promise that they too one day would be with him in a glorious existence. What we celebrate this Christmas is not just a baby in a manger but a king on the throne who will come again to restore us to the glory we were created with, before sin marred the communion He made man and woman to enjoy in the garden. While we sing songs of Christmas and enjoy the time with family and as the gathered community, the Body of Christ, let us remember what we were made for. We were made to be image bearers, and despite mankind’s Fall, we were redeemed into an even nobler identity, becoming sons and daughters because of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is one of the implications of Christmas. God became a man so that in Christ, man could enjoy the relationship God intended between the Godhead and us (John 17:21, Eph 1:7-13)
Let’s not get lost among decorations, parties, and bustling around to find the right gifts, without also reflecting on the “beyond belief” story that God has written in His Son.
C.S. Lewis said in his essay “The Weight of Glory” the following description of what God restoring a level of fellowship between man with God, through the birth and eath of Jesus, really means, and why we should be overwhelmed with the wonder of it.
“I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By
God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more
important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to
how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be
inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work
of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that
examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God...to be a real ingredient in the
divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in
his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our
thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
Jesus’ gospel is not man-centered. As Lewis says, it’s not what we think about God that matters most. The “good news” of His message is that God loves us and delights in us. Certainly we must respond to that offer of love and salvation. But the worth, the delight He assigns to His creations, is what matters. That is why peace and joy, those traits that are so often mentioned at Christmas, can rest on those of us who believe in Him, because we can be found by God, at the time of “examination,” as Lewis calls it, when we appear before God at the judgment, and be found righteous because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice. (Philippians 3:9, Titus 3:5)
So if peace and joy are to be ours, based on the actions and character of God on our behalf, how do we exemplify the peace and joy that he creates in us?
One way to demonstrate these gifts of peace and joy is to be thankful for our salvation. It is easy when we have celebrated many Christmases to focus on the birth story. But a “longing for a Savior” existed from long ago in Israel’s history. We would do well to remember He was fulfillment of hope, even as some failed to recognize it.
A song that doesn’t appear among traditional carols is “Deliver Us,” written by Andrew Peterson, as part of his “Behold the Lamb of God” tour. Like Tim’s sermons, its lyrics reflect the story before the Luke 2 account, namely, of Israel’s wish for a deliverer. Those Jews living closest to the time of Jesus did not experience the same type of bondage as those during Moses’ time, but they were bound in their own way, looking for a Savior. Jesus did not enter history without a context; his entry as a baby was part of the salvation story God had begun from ages past among His own people.
Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile
Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand
Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we're bound
Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land
Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Yahweh, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight
Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay
These shackles they were made with our own hands
Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give
So Yahweh, break your silence if you can
How often I have longed
To gather you beneath my gentle wings
One way to be thankful this Christmas is to thank Him for providing a deliverer for Israel, and thus, for the Gentile world. And praise Him that the baby King’s arrival means that “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Here God promised Israel in this time period, if they obeyed Him, He would cleanse them. It was a preview of the obedience of Christ, in suffering and dying for our sin, cleansing us from sin.
Merry Christmas to all of us who hope in His coming!
- Dr. Bryan McIntosh