What are the features most prominent at Christmas time for Christians to hear, read and see? Shepherds, the star, wise men and of course the babe in the manger. All of these grab our attention and fascinate us with their various amounts of mystery surrounding them. However, there is so much more to the Christmas event which so many of us never seem to hear about.
A number of the New Testament books hold various key facts and factors about Christmas. When we put them together, as best we can, an awesome, powerful, majestic and definitely mysterious picture emerges. From Matthew we see the birth of the promise king in the Davidic line. Luke gives to us the fact that the Bethlehem baby is the promised Second Adam. As such, this Jesus is the Saviour of all. John goes beyond the historical and into the wonder of the eternal. He is overwhelmed by the fact that this baby who became a man is none other than Emmanuel, God with us. How this could be has been wrestled with ever since.
Paul in writing to the Philippians tries to help us come to grips with this mystery of grace. His version of Christmas is in chapter 2:6-7: ‘though he (Christ Jesus) was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.’
In Hebrews 2:5 the writer expresses his view of the purpose for Christmas. It was to receive a body without blemish so as to fulfil the symbolisms undergirding the Old Testament sacrificial system. For that body to be free of a sin nature required the virgin birth promised in Isaiah 7:14. The book unfolds the wonder of why Christmas was necessary to the completion of God’s revealed word and symbols from Genesis to Malachi. Again and again through the New Testament we are faced with the reality that the Christmas event is more than an act of God. Rather it is God Himself in action, coming into humanity’s realm to save and lift up to His realm.
When writing to Titus the apostle Paul used the word ‘Epiphany’, which has the meaning of light being shone. Paul in effect says that Christmas became the time when the kindness and love of God lit up and penetrated history. That light was not something created. It refers to the one who is the Light of the world who came into the darkness of Humanity’s existence. As you can grasp Christmas is much more than the cherished account of shepherds and wise men and a manger. When we take the time to look at it from the whole of Scripture we must surely be overcome with wonder.
In the words of Peter, Christmas isn’t a fairy story but fulfilled prophesy. In writing to the Church he wrote ‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eye witnesses of his majesty’. (2 Peter 1:16) Notice Christmas is the power of God bound up in a dependent, vulnerable baby. That power continues today, not because of the events of Bethlehem but of Calvary thirty three years late. However one without the other is impossible.
As you celebrate Christmas enjoy the family time, the Church services and various activities. However, do not lose sight of the mystery, the majesty and the marvel which surrounds this event. It is to draw us into a commitment of our lives to the One who committed His life to us so as to save us from sin, from judgement and eternal rejection. Christmas is the kindness of God preparing a safe place for us before He comes in judgement.
copyright Ray Hawkins 22.12.2014.