The message of Christmas is the beginning of the out-working of the salvation of God through the ministry of His only begotten Son. A Christmas which means less than this is not the Christmas of the Christian. It is possible to become so absorbed in the history of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus that practically no thought is given to the real purpose of His coming into this world.
It is true that the message of the angels remains to this day an exciting and thrilling story. At that time, it was not the ordinary thing for angels to visit men, though they had done so on numerous occasions in other ages. Some New Testament Scriptures indicate that the Law was received by the disposition of angels, and was so ordained in the hand of a mediator. (See Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19). It is also indicated that those who received the Law in this manner did not keep it.
The writer of Hebrews states, “For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:2-4).
God had spoken to men in other ways, but His message for the last days came directly from heaven: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:1-4).
Yes, the Son of God, as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger, was ushered into this world by the announcement of “the angel of the Lord” and a praising multitude of the heavenly host saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). But even that angel’s message looked beyond the hour of His birth and encompassed His ministry. To the Judean shepherds, the declaration was: “… And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).
I suppose everyone in Israel knew the meaning of “Christ the Lord,” for the word “Christ” meant “the Anointed one” for whom all Israel had looked forward to receiving from the very beginnings of their history.
The “good tidings of great joy” were to ALL people. And the tidings were that salvation from sin would be provided for all men who would believe and receive. Earlier, when the angel of the Lord had spoken his comforting words to Joseph, the message had been: “…Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20, 21).
In a sense, “his people” were the Jews; but in a broader sense, His people were all men, for the promise of a Saviour was given before there was a nation or people of Israel. God’s covenant with the patriarch Abraham promised the blessing to all nations of the earth. Through Abraham’s seed, that promise would be fulfilled; and, while Isaac was the promised seed as pertained to that generation, the prophecy actually pointed to Christ. Paul wrote: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). This was addressed to Gentiles, but the promises God made to Abraham took them in.
From Adam’s day, fallen man had looked for a Saviour, for from the very mouth of God the first promise was given. Speaking to the serpent, God had said: “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” (Gen. 3:15).
More than 3,000 years later, God, through the prophet Isaiah, made the prophecy plainer: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). That the prophecy was of Jesus the Christ cannot be denied; and since, according to the New Testament, Emmanuel means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), it is clear that Christ was God in the flesh, being born of the Holy Ghost.
The apostle John tells us that the Word was God, and that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among men, full of grace and truth. The same apostle presents Christ as the Saviour of men: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13).
Some 1,500 years before the birth of Christ, the Law was given to show men the awfulness of their sins and the need of a Saviour. The apostle Paul writes: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4, 5).
We are told in another place that the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Now the schoolmaster had done his work, and Christ had come to redeem sinful men, and to give them power to become the sons of God. Being made under the Law, He did not begin His anointed ministry until He was about 30 years of age. Following His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, He went to Nazareth and proclaimed Himself the anointed one of Isaiah’s prophecy. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord… And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:18, 19, 21).
Then He called and trained His disciples, and began His journey toward the cross. At times His following was large; at other times many turned away from Him. His life was sought from the very day He preached that sermon in Nazareth, though He had come to give life to others. His own testimony was, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Then, immediately He added, foretelling His death, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep… No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:11, 18).
A little later, He said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). In giving His life, He gave Himself; but His meaning was not understood until the time of His crucifixion and resurrection. It was then that the true meaning of His coming—the true meaning of Christmas, if you please— began to be seen in its prophetic light.
When Christ at last was unjustly tried and lifted up on the tree, it was heaven’s appeal to “look and live.” Few, if any, identified Him that day with the babe of Bethlehem, for the ugliness of the sins of the whole world were upon Him there. His brow was pierced with thorns, and the welts of the scourge disfigured His precious back. Sweat and blood mingled with the shame of the cross. Even the Father turned away momentarily, when He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
And why had the Father forsaken His Son? Because your sins and mine were on that cross, and He was paying the penalty for us. Peter states it thus: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
There was no other way to redeem fallen man. The Father could not be just if He failed to execute His own Word. The law said men must die for their sins unless a perfect sacrifice was offered. Sinful man could not offer a perfect sacrifice. The ages had proven it. But “God so loved the world” that He would spare nothing in order to save us. When all else failed, God provided Himself a sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews and the Psalmist David transfer the scene from heaven to earth: “Wherefore when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7).
When Jesus, on the Cross, said, “It is finished,” and bowed His head and gave up the ghost, our full redemption was purchased. But there was one more accomplishment to be made: He must rise victorious over death, hell, and the grave. Paul explained to the Romans that the righteousness of God is imputed to us. “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 4:24-5:1).
Had He not been raised from the dead, men could have said He died as any other man. But doubt gives way to faith when we see the risen Lord, whose blood was not shed in vain.
Yet, some stop at justification and see only the pardon of their sins. But, in doing the will of the Father by becoming the one and last Sacrifice, He also sanctified us and purchased the Church with His own blood. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Paul speaks of “the church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Then in fulfillment of His own promise, we have the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever… But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:16, 26). Christ had ascended to the right hand of the Father, then the Holy Ghost came on the day of Pentecost. Besides the joy and power which accompany the mighty Comforter, He seals our hope of even greater things to come at the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and the rapture of the saints. Paul says, “after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13, 14).
Yes, Christmas is wonderful; more wonderful than many know. We love the story of the angels, the shepherds, the manger, and the Wise Men. We enjoy the spirit of giving and sharing that accompanies the season. Carols have been inspired and books have been written in an effort to perpetuate the blessed story. But, thank the Lord, not one jot or tittle failed of all that was written of Him pertaining to the thirty-three years that followed His holy birth.
And not only has the message echoed down through the corridors of time, but the power of His endless life is shared by the sons of God even until now. And we joyfully join in the spirit of the old and the famous doxology: Glory be to the Father, And to the Son, And to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, Is now and ever shall be, World without end! Amen! Amen!By: M.A. Tomlinson White Wing Messenger, December 14, 1974 image credit: http://www.ncregister.com/images/uploads/birth-of-jesus.jpg