“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“Now there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 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. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom God is well pleased.’ And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds… But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” (Luke 2:1-20)
Many of us have our romantic ideas and conceptions of what kind of “event” the birth of Jesus might have been. Yet, most of us never consider what sort world it was that Jesus was born into 2,000 years ago. Geo-politically, the known world had been bludgeoned into submission by the brutal and heavy-handed power of Rome. In fact, the fear of being put to death as a subversive was so real, no individual would hardly dare to murmur a protest against any government office or official. That was one reality; call it a practical reality. There were also spiritual realities. Because of widespread paganism (which included worship writs and rituals spanning everything from temple prostitutes to human sacrifice) coupled together with rank hedonism (drunkenness, gluttony, opulence, lewdness, promiscuity, etc) it was a very dark time. On the other side of paganism, there was Judaism – which left the people spiritually parched and wanting. The reason? Its system of ceremony & sacrifice, and statutes & ordinances, and writs & ritual had nothing of real worth or value to offer.
The stage was set and the time was right: The world was ready for peace; The world was ready for a Saviour! This is where we pick up the story – (the bible declares it; Gal. 4:4) At the appropriate moment; When the time was right… “God sent forth his son…born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law… that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
This is what we celebrate at Christmas – the birth of Jesus… one sent to save the people from their sins!
Now, with that said, let me say this: Jesus is not a ‘religious philosophy’ to be discussed; nor is He not a ‘Religious Theory’ to be debated. He is a ‘Messiah’ to be worshipped; He is a ‘King’ to be obeyed; He is a ‘Savior’ to be embraced.
Think of it this way ~
- If our greatest need had been information… God would have sent an educator.
- If our greatest need had been technology… God would have sent us a scientist or an inventor.
- If our greatest need had been money matters… God would have sent an economist.
- If our greatest need had been pleasure… God would have sent an entertainer.
BUT WHAT WAS MAN’S GREATEST NEED? The same as his greatest need today: the need for FORGIVENESS and REDEMPTION. Consequently, God sent His Son to be our Savior. In the familiar words of Isaiah 9:6 ~ “for unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given.” From our human perspective, the first Christmas was just the birth of a child. But from God’s divine perspective (the perspective of eternity), it was the gracious gift of His pre-existent, eternal Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer.
Jesus willingly left heaven, to come to earth; (the bible tells us; Philippians 2:7-8) “He emptied himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” THIS is the Christmas Story: that Jesus was born to die, that others might live. Ponder that for a moment: God Almighty Himself (the great ‘El Shaddai’) came into this world, born as a helpless little baby.
“He emptied Himself!” Of what? He emptied Himself of His glory; and He divested Himself of His divine privilege. He who had spoken all of creation into existence, ‘emptied Himself’ and came to the earth as a helpless infant; And this He did that He might identify Himself with us, by experiencing all that we experience. The bible tells us, “He was in all points tempted as we are…(Heb. 4:15)” Meaning? He knew all of our physical limitations and He knew all of our human emotions.
- He was hungry; He was thirsty; He became tired…
- He experienced great joy & wonderful happiness…
- but He also experienced true loneliness and genuine sadness and deep sorrow.
Indeed, the bible tells us: “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)“
Here’s the point: Jesus knew that He was entering into the world to be the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. The bible tells us (Heb. 10:5, quoting Ps. 40:6) that a human body had been prepared for Him by the Father… for that very purpose. Indeed, Jesus was born to die for the sins of the world – and He knew it; That was the whole point of His coming. And the truly amazing thing about it, was that He was doing it all willingly! And this brings us to the core of the Christmas story: not so much the fact that Jesus came… but why He came; He came to die!
Think about it with me ~
- there was no salvation in His birth.
- there was no salvation in His “sinless” life.
- there was no salvation in His “flawless” example.
- there was no salvation in His teaching… although it contained the greatest truth ever revealed to men.
The bottom line? In order to secure our redemption, there was a price that had to be paid for our sins. Consequently, someone had to die; innocent blood had to be shed – and only the blood of Jesus could accomplish what needed to be accomplished.
Jesus had one supremely all-important reason for coming to this world as a man: He came to die! And this is a side of the Christmas story that isn’t often told ~ That those tiny little hands formed in the womb of Mary, would one day be pierced through with nails; That those little pink feet would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross; That His sweet little head was formed to accommodate a crown of thorns that would one day be placed upon it, then beaten down with Roman rods; That His sweet little face would be brutally slapped and spit upon by Roman soldiers; That His little body, wrapped in swaddling clothes… would one day be ripped open by a Roman spear.
Perhaps my favorite Christmas text is Isaiah 9:6-7 ~ “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called wonderful counselor, the mighty god, the everlasting father, the prince of peace.” What we have here in these two verses is the good news of God’s answer to all of the confusion, all of the chaos and all of the conflict in life.
- UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN – Yes, indeed… from our human perspective, He is but an innocent child.
- UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN – From the perspective of heaven & eternity, He is a wise & Wonderful Counselor, and a Mighty King; both the Father of Eternity and the Prince of Peace.
He is IMMANUEL; God with us!
Consider it again: He who is the author & creator of all, humbled Himself – laying aside His glory and divesting Himself of his divine privilege – and was born of a virgin, born under the law… that He might redeem those who were under the law, providing them the privilege to become the adopted sons & daughters of God!
In the words of Annie Johnson Flint:
Unto you is born this day a Saviour / Which is Jesus Christ, the Wondrous Lord;
Not a ‘Teacher’ not a ‘Good Example / But the Son of God; The Living Word.
No ‘Philosopher’ his fancies weaving / Warp of Dreams and Woof of Visions Vast;
Not a ‘Prophet’, peering down the future / Not a ‘Scholar’, delving in the past.
But, unto you is born this day, a Saviour / Earth’s one hope; The Life, The Truth, The Way;
Mighty God and Glorious Redeemer / Jesus Christ, the Lord, was born this day!
Before I conclude this ever-broadening “musing” of mine, let me share the often quoted words of Keith L. Brooks – “Jesus Christ was born in the humblest of circumstances, but the air above was filled with the Hallelujah’s of the Heavenly Hosts! His lodging was a feeding troff in a dank cave, but a Star drew distinguished visitants from afar to pay his homage. His birth was contrary to the laws of life. His death was contrary to the laws of death. No miracle is so inexplicable as His life & teaching. He had no cornfields or fisheries, but He could spread a table for 5,000 and have bread & fish to spare. He did not walk on beautiful carpets; But He walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and they supported Him.
His crucifixion was the crime of crimes; but, on God’s side, no lesser price could have made possible our redemption. When He died, few men mourned; but a black shroud hung over the sun. Though Men trembled not for their sins, the earth beneath shook under the weight of them. All nature honored Him; Sinners alone rejected Him. Corruption could not get hold of His body; The soil that had been reddened with His blood could not claim His dust.
3½ years He preached His gospel. He wrote no book, built no church, and had no money back of Him. Yet, after nearly 2,000 years He is the one central character of human history. He is the perpetual theme of all preaching; the “pivot” around which the events of this age revolve; the only Regenerator of the human race.
Was it merely the Son of Mary & Joseph who crossed the world’s horizon nearly 2,000 years ago? Was it merely human blood that was spilled on Calvary’s Cross for the redemption of sinners… and which has worked such wonders in Men & Nations through the centuries? What thinking man can keep from exclaiming: MY LORD AND MY GOD!
This brings my thoughts back to the “Christmas Reality” of Isaiah 9:6-7 ~ “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Ponder this for a moment. His shoulders are broad enough to bear the Government for an Eternal Kingdom; and yet, His compassion is such that He offers His forgiveness and He offers His Peace to the likes of you & me – undeserving sinners!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given!”
Who is ‘US’? Is US representative of all men, everywhere? NO! In the context here, Isaiah is speaking of those who Believe; those who Rejoice in God, their Savior! The simple but undeniable truth, is this: that there is no Savior, no Hope, no Peace, no Eternal Life; There is no Mighty Power and/or no Wise Counsel for any of those who do not know Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way. But for those who do? Theirs’ is the Kingdom! Their lives are redeemed and transformed by His power. He is their Peace and He becomes their Wonderful Counselor.
Is the ‘government’ of your life upon His shoulders? It should be. It can be. Perhaps you are wondering what kind of Christmas gift you give to the God of the universe, the maker and sustainer of heaven and earth? You give Him yourself.