A.W. Tozer said; “What comes to mind when we think of God is the most important thing about us.” Certainly our thoughts of God are our most important thoughts. All other thoughts are mere trivia by comparison. E. Stanley Jones once said, “If God isn’t as good as Christ, then God isn’t as good as He could be” (“Christlikeness” from NavPress). This is not irreverence towards God but a statement of the value of the person of Christ. If you are a Christian, your Christology is the centerpiece of your belief system. Christ is quite literally your life.
As we worship Christ this Christmas season, I offer this poem by H.R. Bramley. It expresses something of the wonder of Christ and the mystery of the incarnation.
A babe on the breast of a maiden He lies,
Yet sits with the Father on High in the skies,
Before Him their faces the seraphim hide,
While Joseph stands, Waiting, un-scared by His ride.
Oh wonder of wonders which none can unfold,
The Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
The Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worship by angels, And God comes to birth.
The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
Yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains,
He is that He was, and forever shall be,
But becomes what He was not for you and for me.
“That which is conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit”
We are often drawn to and awed by the lowly nature of Christ as illustrated in His ignominious birth. It is striking that God the Son arrived in a stable surrounded by the smells and filth of animals and was worshipped by dirty shepherds.
But there is also something of God majesty in Christ’s earthly beginnings. The conception of the Christ child was no ordinary conception. The awesome nature of the person and work of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, is displayed in the Christmas story.
Joseph was overwhelmed to find that his betrothed wife Mary was with child, since he had acted with moral integrity and not had sexual relations with her. The only thing to do was to divorce her as the Law allowed in cases of betrothal unfaithfulness. His love for her and his godly forbearance moved him to do so in private to spare her shame and the stoning which might come.
But Joseph went from being disturbed by human circumstances to being overwhelmed by the nature of what God is doing; “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Conception itself is an amazing thing. Sexual union and procreation are intricately designed for the natural gestation and birth of a child. But think of the majesty of almighty God put on display by the supernatural conception of Christ in the womb of a virgin. This is an “awful” thing in the oldest and best since of the word. It leaves us full of awe. That Mary, a sinful young woman in need of the Savior she carried, should carry and bring to birth the second person of the Godhead is beyond comprehension.
The angel described this in even more majestic terms to Mary some time before the event with Joseph. “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall over shadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God” [Luke 1:35]. The second person of the Godhead, the Creator of all things was conceived in the womb of a Jewish virgin girl.
Here is the Biblical, historical narrative we see the three persons of the Godhead displayed: God the Father sending His Son; God the Spirit conceiving the Son; and God the Son conceived and growing in the womb of Mary to be born the Savior of sinners. This is the beauty of Christmas. This is the wonder of the incarnation. This is the majesty of God.
As I listen to the Christmas carols sung across the system in the store where I work, I am struck by two things:
The first thing that strikes me is the amazing grace of God in salvation. Such phrases as “God and sinner reconciled”, “It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth”, and “Remember Christ our Savior was born on…” remind me of the saving mercies of my God in Christ. The incarnation season is full of joyful reminders that God has blessed me “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)
The second thing that strikes me is the ignorance of most of those who sing these truths, the significance of what they sing, and the ignorance of most who hear. I am moved to pray that God will open the eyes of many of them to the truth of the Gospel. It is not unusual for people to think of Christ as a savior in some general, benign sense. The moral influence of His life and the Martyrdom of His death are considered noble and significant. But the personal need for a substitute and the remedy for our sin problem are not issues one naturally things of and require the work of the Holy Spirit. That is why we pray that God will not only have mercy on those who listen in blindness and ignorance, but that He will also use those of us who know Him as instruments of grace.
“You shall call His name Jesus.” Jesus comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew Jehoshua and means “deliverer”. Many people are happy to have Jesus “come into their hearts” and be delivered from hell, marriage problems, financial problems, depression or any number of other ills, while holding onto their sins. But deliverance “from” something also means deliverance “to” something. And followers of Christ are not only delivered from hell, they are delivered from their sins and into a new life in Him. In much the same way that Moses delivered the Old Testament people of God from the bondage of Egypt and Joshua delivered them into the land of promise and obedience to God, so the New Testament believer is saved from sin’s power and penalty (and ultimate its presence) until a life abundant in Christ; a life lived to the glory of God (which is the great point of salvation, after all).
This is the burden and glory of Christmas for us: the burden of being surrounded by a humanity in need of a Savior and the glory of a salvation complete in Christ. “Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Because of the Saviour,
People are incurable. They will worship something, even if it is themselves. But people will not naturally worship the true God, the God of the Bible. They will instead seek after an entirely different God or form the God of Scripture to their own liking.
But God is not interested in the so-called well-meaning efforts of people seeking to worship something. He calls people to worship Him as He has ordained and fear Him only. So Christmas is much more than a celebration of human ideas loosely attached to some historical event that happened about 2000 years ago. Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of the one and only transcendent God in the person of His Son the second person of the Godhead. Christmas is “God with us.” A young Jewish virgin labored and gave birth to God the Son. God came to birth.
“God, who at different times and in various manners has spoken in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us in His Son; whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom He made the world; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the exact representation of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sin, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
This is why Christmas is special. This is why we say “Merry Christmas!” We give gifts because He has given so much to us. And we give not because any of us is deserving, but because we know the God of grace who has revealed Himself to us in His Son Christ Jesus.
The joy of Christmas is the joy of knowing the one true and living God who reveals Himself in the person of His Son.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
This is Christmas; the presence of God in the person of Christ. Know it. Sing it. Celebrate it. Live it. “God with us.”
What do you do on Thanksgiving? Do you watch parades, watch football, eat at least one huge meal with lots of snacks between means? And there may be some measure of visiting with friends and family. These are all good things that we have come to associate with the holiday we call Thanksgiving. There is also a rich heritage that goes with our national holiday but which is very often forgotten and even pushed out by the contrivances of the modern celebration. Our pilgrim forefathers had journeyed into the unknown in search of the freedom to worship and serve the God of Scripture without encumbrance of government intervention. But the journey, and the new life it brought, challenged them to trust the grace and providence of God as they never hand, and that “first” Thanksgiving was the expression of their genuine thanks for His merciful goodness towards them. Far from the relative safety of the Old World, and surrounded by the dangers of a raw and unknown land, they nevertheless had a very strong sense of God’s provision and His grace in their lives.
Paul’s words to the Ephesians were appropriate when he wrote them, they were so to our Pilgrim Fathers, and we should heed them now: “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
There are certain seasons which remind us of God’s grace and generosity and should remind us to give thanks: Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s incarnation and Easter of His passion and redemption. Even secular holidays remind us of God’s goodness. But, in the end, those earthly seasons are reminders that we re to give thanks always.
Life also brings various situations that are opportunities for giving thanks, and those situations are not always what we would choose. Ironically, Thanksgiving morning brought me two situations that were not of my choosing: a car window stuck in the down position and a clogged kitchen drain. Addressing those issues was not how I wanted to spend the morning of my holiday. And giving thanks was not my first response. But these relatively minor problems were ordained by my Heavenly Father, and are to “give thanks always for all things.” The Lord may be pleased to bring much more significant trials to us. Part of trusting and glorifying Him is learning to “give thanks always for all things.” He means them for our good and His glory. In fact, He is working to see that these ends are accomplished. (Romans 8:28 & 29)
We hear a lot about being thankful during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, but we hear very little about to whom we should give thanks. The very idea of gratefulness presupposes we are the beneficiaries and another is the benefactor. Those of us who know Christ and enjoy his salvation know who is the giver of every blessing and gift. “Every good and perfect gift is from above…The Father of lights.” (James 1:17) Gratefulness is not just a good feeling about the stuff we have and the supposed safety and security we enjoy. True gratefulness is recognition of and a submission to the loving sovereignty of our great God who does all things well. The true child of God recognizes that, even if we never ate another bite of pumpkin pie or watched another football game, we are the recipients of untold mercies in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving Day is therefore a reminder that, as unworthy as we are, we are called to live life to the glory of Christ until He returns.