“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 HCSB
At Christmas, we are confronted with the difficult task of separating the reality of the gospel from the fallacy of Christmas traditions. There is so much confusion that sometimes you feel like the real Christmas story is like a precious diamond lost amongst a bunch of svarsky crystals. It just seems impossible to find. Christmas has really become a hopeless muddle of confusion.
The humility and the poverty of the stable are somehow confused with the wealth and indulgence and selfishness of gift-giving. The quietness of Bethlehem is mingled with the noise of shopping malls. The soberness of the incarnation is somehow mixed with the drunkenness of this season. Blinking colored lights somehow have some connection to the star of Bethlehem. The room in the inn, so obscure, so dirty, somehow embraces the thought of a warm house, a yule log on the fireplace, and feasting. Cheap plastic toys for little kids with which to act out their foolishness are mixed with the true value of the gifts given by wise men. Salesmen somehow get mixed up with shepherds.
The pain of childbirth is mixed with the parties. The filth of the stable is confounded with the whiteness of fresh snow. And then there’s Mary, Joseph, A Christmas Story(You’ll shoot your eye out) and Bing Crosby.
The great reality of Christmas, which is the glory of the Lord being revealed, is obscured by so much tinsel, evergreen trees, temporal activity, and commercialism; and I think it’s true that Santa Claus really has become the focus of Christmas for most people. In fact, it’s amazing, but I think some people have trouble confusing Santa Claus with Jesus, You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town! He’s making a list, And checking it twice, Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town!
He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake!
Matthew 1:18-25(HCSB)18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.
Luke 2:1-7(HCSB)In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus[a] that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him[d] and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.
That first Christmas, earth was not aware to the significance of a simple birth in a quiet town. But heaven wasn’t. The holy angels waited in anticipation to break forth in praise and worship and adoration at the birth of the newborn Christ. This Child’s birth meant deliverance for mankind. The angel told Joseph: Matthew 1:21(HCSB)21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
Unlike Isaac, who ascended the mountain with Abraham unaware he was to be the sacrifice, Jesus descended from heaven in full awareness of what the Father had in store for Him. Scripture records for us what may have been a farewell message Jesus gave just prior to His incarnation.
When He comes into the world, He says,Hebrews 10:5-7(HCSB)5 Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said: You did not want sacrifice and offering, but You prepared a body for Me. 6 You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, “See—it is written about Me in the volume of the scroll—I have come to do Your will, God!
That passage of Scripture gives us a remarkable look at the heart of the Savior before His birth. He knew He was entering the world to be the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. His body had been divinely prepared by God specifically for that purpose. Jesus was going to die for the sins of the world, and He knew it. Moreover, He was doing it willingly. That was the whole point of the incarnation.
John 10:14-18(HCSB)14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”
The important issue of Christmas is not so much that Jesus came, but why He came. There was no salvation in His birth. Nor did the sinless way He lived His life have any redemptive force of its own. His example, as flawless as it was, could not rescue men from their sins. Even His teaching, the greatest truth ever revealed to man, could not save us from our sins. There was a price to be paid for our sins. Someone had to die. Only Jesus could do it.
Jesus came to earth, of course, to reveal God to mankind. He came to teach truth. He came to fulfill the Law. He came to offer His kingdom. He came to show us how to live. He came to reveal God’s love. He came to bring peace. He came to heal the sick. He came to minister to the needy.
Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day stagger up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant’s head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die.
Don’t think I’m trying to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Far from it—for Jesus’ death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory over evil anyone has ever accomplished.
Christ’s Humility and Exaltation
This portion of scripture tells of the descension of the Son of God to earth, to die, and then to return in exaltation to glory. It’s the theology of Christmas, it tells us what happened from the divine side of the story.
Philippians 2:5-11(HCSB)5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He abandoned a sovereign position. Go back to verse 6 and this identifies His person, His nature, His character, His attributes in eternity before He came. In a word, His sovereign position. It says in verse 6 that He existed in the form of God thus He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or seized.
So the story of Christmas begins with the Son of God abandoning a sovereign position. Secondly, He accepted a slave’s place…He accepted a slave’s place. Back to verse 7, “Taking the form of a slave.” It’s doulos, slave and there’s no such word as bondservant in the Greek, it’s the word for slave. He came down. How far down? He came to be a slave. He took off the robes of majesty and put on the apron of a slave. This, of course, is what the Old Testament promises. Regarding Jesus’ birth—Isaiah 7:14(ESV): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Isaiah 9:6(ESV): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 53:6-12(HCSB)We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. 8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.9 They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished. 11He will see it out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
He takes on the attributes, takes on the characteristics of a slave. He literally becomes a slave, a slave of God and a slave of sinners, if you will. He came not to be served, but to serve. Luke 22:27(HCSB)27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. And how? By giving His life.
I think the point of Christmas is right here. Christmas, there’s no better time in the year than to teach us the illustration of the lesson of humility. The character of Christ, He was unselfish. He was humble. And Paul is challenging the church to that perspective; an attitude of a willingness to suffer, to be humiliated, to be selfless, to be sacrificing, so that God can lift us up. And the thing we need to learn, people, is not to always be asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, pushing ourselves up, but to be humble and selfless. That is the message of Christmas to us.
Hebrews 2:14-15(HCSB)14 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.
So we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that command. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the Now. If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others. What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!
It’s appropriate to commemorate the birth of Christ. But don’t make the mistake of leaving Him as a baby in a manger. Keep in mind that His birth was just the first step in God’s glorious plan of redemption. Remember that it’s the triumph of Christ’s sacrificial death that gives meaning to His humble birth. You can’t truly celebrate one without the other
We all have sinned, Sinfulness is the general characteristic of all mankind; we are all guilty before God. We are sinners by nature and by our own acts of transgression.
Romans 3:9-10(HCSB)”What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one.”
Romans 3:23(HCSB)for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Psalm 14:3(HCSB)All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.
We are all sinners because Adam passed on his sinful condition that leads inevitably to our personal sin and death.Romans 5:12(HCSB)12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. All share Adam’s death sentence as an inherited condition (the “sin nature”) that is passed down to and through the human race and that every child brings into the world. Even before a child can be held accountable for personal sin, he or she is naturally prone to disobey, to tell lies, etc. Every child is born with a sin nature.
Titus 3:4-7(HCSB)But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.
The Atonement of Christ is the sacrificial work of Jesus for sinners. In his death on the cross, Christ atoned for the sins of humanity such that God is satisfied and reconciliation is accomplished for all who will be redeemed.Jesus’ death satisfied and reconciled sinners to God.
1 Timothy 1:15-17(HCSB) 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.