Monday, December 25, 2017

The Christmas Challenge: Day Eight

The Challenge

What do people have in their Christmas celebrations, and their lives in general, that is a greater expression of “good news of great joy”[1] than what Jesus the Christ did for us through his coming into the world, laying down his life in love, and securing an eternal victory over sin and death?

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[2]
When people say, “Merry Christmas,” the focus is on having a good time celebrating whatever Christmas traditions anyone prefers. “Joyous Noel”, is often used as a synonym for Merry Christmas, but the word Noel is more attached to both the birth of the Christ, and the good news announcing his entrance into the world.[3]

If we consider what God had in mind by sending his Son into the world, what expression suits the ongoing celebration of this gift?

For starters, our interest is not satisfied by a mere greeting for a holiday season. Even though the cultural focus creates heightened attention on having a good time, any celebration of anything to do with the Christ and his birth must look at something much more substantial than that.

In fact, we must annually remind ourselves that a child of God may experience the “joy unspeakable and full of glory,”[4] daily without celebrating Christmas whatsoever![5] There is nothing wrong with having a constant appreciation of God so loving the world as to give his one and only Son (beginning with his birth in Bethlehem) in order that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will not perish but have eternal life.[6] No special days are required to praise God with glad and sincere hearts that he would so lovingly and graciously do such a thing.

There is also a special delight of wonder any time we consider the virgin birth of Jesus Christ[7] as the glorious fulfillment of promise that God would send a Savior who would be the offspring of the woman[8] but not a descendant of the first Adam.[9] It does not matter when or how often we think of this amazing solution to the sin problem, there is joy, and wonder, and hope, and praise, that we could be the recipient of such a gift.

And then there is the direction the birth of Jesus leads us. Without the discovery of what Jesus came into the world to do, and why this was required, we cannot know the level of joy that is “unspeakable and full of glory” which is felt by those who are experiencing “the salvation of your souls.”[10] Warm-fuzzies because someone was born two millennia ago doesn’t even touch the real mess of our sinful and deteriorating condition.

In fact, for some people, Christmas is not that merry and joyous blip in the midst of a warring and discontented world.[11] There is so much depression, worthlessness, and hopelessness associated with the Christmas season because its heightened focus on happy relationships and festive gatherings exacerbates the misery of those who have no honest and healthy connection with their family and friends. In such cases, remembering someone miraculously born two thousand years ago just doesn’t cut it.

What we need is the whole story, that Jesus’ birth leads to the awesome and transforming work of his death and resurrection.[12] Jesus came to deal with our sin problem, and since our sin-problem had put us under the curse of death, our death for our sins had to be resolved.[13]

Of course, it should be noted that God’s gift of grace through the death of Jesus Christ has no date or time limit that requires us to celebrate this feat according to any seasons of the year, Christmas and Easter included! Every day of our lives we can celebrate the life we have because of Jesus’ death, and the magnificent glory of Jesus’ victory expressed in his resurrection from the dead.[14]

In fact, the whole message of Scripture directs us into a constant love-relationship with God that is characterized by the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” that is ours because of the salvation of our souls. The first announcement of Jesus’ arrival had to speak of “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” because “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[15]

However, since Jesus has been born, and has fulfilled the prophecies that the Christ would suffer for our deliverance,[16] our reason for joy is not an annual celebration of his birth, but the reality that we have received the gift of salvation God was offering us during that whole season of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, and it now affects our lives every day of the year.

In fact, as the  prophets foretold,  so we now exclaim:

It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”[17]

So, what expression suits the ongoing celebration of God sending his Son into our world? How about these:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”[18]

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”[19]

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”[20]

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Luke 2:10
[2] Luke 2:10-11
[4] I Peter 1:8-9
[5] No, it is not heresy to suggest that the commemorations of Christmas and Easter are totally optional since there is no biblical requirement to observe these traditions at any time of the year nor on an annual basis. God’s children are free to sing songs about Jesus’ birth any time they would like, and to express worship and praise regarding the descriptions of Jesus’ birth every time they are mentioned or come up during our Bible meditations. Believing in the prophecies regarding the Christ’s coming into the world, the details of his birth fulfilling these prophecies, and how this led to his sinless human life and offering himself as a sacrifice for sin, are all necessary to true faith in Jesus Christ, but the word of God does not stipulate anything resembling any sense of obligation to participate in Christmas or Easter. There are ZERO Christian laws about such traditions, but immense teaching on the necessity of believing all the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ and his glorious gift of love in our so great salvation.
[6] John 3:16; Luke 2:1-20
[7] Isaiah 7:14 foretells this particular aspect of the Messiah’s coming into the world, and Matthew 1:22-23 identifies Mary’s pregnancy as the fulfillment of this prophecy (see Matthew 1:18-25 as context)
[8] Genesis 3:15 identifies the prophecy; Galatians 4:4-5 explains the fulfillment
[9] The first Adam refers to the man God created in the beginning, and everything to do with him bringing sin into the world. Romans 5:12-21 shows a clear contrast between this Adam and Jesus. I Corinthians 15:45 states this contrast, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Jesus was born of a virgin so he did not inherit the first Adam’s sinful nature, and so he was a sinless person who could die for the sins of others.
[10] I Peter 1:8-9
[11] There is the famous story of the Christmas truce of 1914 during the early months of the I World War in which opposing sides stopped fighting over portions of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For many hurting people, Christmas isn’t a truce with family, but a reminder of what they have lost.
[12] Matthew 16:21 is an example of Jesus’ telling his disciples that both his death and resurrection were soon to take place. I Corinthians 15:3-8 summarizes these things. Romans 10:9-10 identifies the necessity of confessing our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. I Peter 1:13-21 expresses the connection between Jesus’ death and resurrection and how this affects the way we live. Of course, there is much more in God’s Book about this, and all these glorious expressions encourage us to rejoice in the gift of salvation in a constant state of wonder and joy.
[13] Galatians 3:10 shows that we are all under the curse of death because of our sin (see also Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), and Galatians 3:13 identifies that Jesus became a curse on our behalf in order to deliver us from the curse. By “becoming a curse for us” Jesus had to endure the death that was associated with the curse of sin that was upon us.
[14] Jesus’ resurrection is so well substantiated that it is the decisive issue in people wondering which is the true way to God (see John 14:6). An internet search looking for the evidences for Jesus’ resurrection will provide many good resources that list these details. Here is one such sampling: It should also be noted that none of the claims denying Jesus’ resurrection have any substantiated weight or merit. That such claims are there cannot be ignored, but anyone who treats the evidences of Jesus’ resurrection as they would have been handled in a court of law and the verdict is in that Jesus truly died for our sins, was raised on the third day, and is now preparing a home for all those who trust in him (see John 14:1-6).
[15] Luke 2:10-11
[16] Isaiah 53:4-6
[17] Isaiah 25:9
[18] Revelation 5:12
[19] Revelation 5:13
[20] Revelation 7:10

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