Christmas never saved anyone…but without Christmas, salvation would have never come.
Christmas–that is, the events of Christ’s birth that many people celebrate on December 25th–broke a 400 year silence from God. Since His last words in the book of Malachi, He sent no prophecies and added no revelation.
Then, one day, that all changed..
An angel appeared next to the altar of incense in Herod’s Temple. And the silence was broken, as it had been so many times before, with the news of an unexpected birth.
“Impossible!” the startled Zacharias said.
I can just see the angel narrowing his eyes. “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He who sent me to you with this good news!” (Luke 1:19, TLB)
Maybe miracles had been hard to come by lately. But that was about to change, dramatically.
God the Father, in eternal communion with His Son and His Spirit, sent down His Son Jesus to this lonely world, to be one of us.
And that event, more than anything else up to that point in history, told us a lot about the God that we serve.
God keeps his promises
Since the promise of a Seed who would destroy the serpent (Genesis 3:15), God had been making promises of a future heaven-sent deliverer (Isaiah 11:1-5). Christmas shows us that God means what He says. In the form of hundreds of prophecies, He promised a the arrival of a certain kind of man, a certain God. And every single one of them came true.
God controls history
Only an all-powerful God with a perfect sense of timing can make unchanging promises. To be truthful, by necessity He must also be in control of history. And that He is…and demonstrated at Christmas. An unheard of thing–a virgin girl having a child (Isaiah 7:14). A hectic Bethlehem tax registration…just in time to bring the pregnant Mary to the city predestined to be the Christ’s birthplace (Micah 5:2 ). A hurried escape to Egypt–just as He said “out of Egypt I have called my son” ( Hosea 11:1).
Social class does not impress God
While God certainly does not bar the rich or the powerful from His kingdom, the Christmas story does not star many of the world’s elite. In fact, the story is full of common–even disadvantaged–people. Peasant parents, middle-class innkeepers, shepherd guests…a baby born in a barn among the animals. From His birth on, Jesus seems to go out of the way to appear to the poor, the medically isolated, the ethnically outcast, and the religiously deficit. He did not come for those who thought they were enough, but for the ones who–in God’s grace–were humbled enough to see that they could never be enough (Luke 5:31).
God reveals Himself
A star blazed the trail for hopeful astronomers. Angels shouted glory over the hillside. An angel appeared to both Zacharias and Mary with special birth announcements. Joseph and the Magi both dreamed of what they should do. Zacharias, his wife Elizabeth, and Simeon at the temple all prophesied through the power of the Holy Spirit, telling of the Christ’s coming and His messenger, John the Baptist.
After so much silence, suddenly light broke over the darkness. If God was whispering before, now He was shouting.
Here’s the truth: if God had hidden Himself, we would have never seen Him. We would have missed Christmas. It would have been too high for us, going right over our bent heads and right past our blind eyes. Even with a cast of angels, prophets, and a cooperative star, most Israelites missed out on the significance of this far-from-silent night. Aside from a passel of shepherds stunned by the glory of God, the newborn Son of God had no adoring visitors. I wonder if any children stirred in their beds at the shouts of the angels. I wonder if the light of the star kept anyone awake.
But God is good and gifted some with the capacity for comprehension (John 1:5). In His purposes, someone saw the light. Someone saw the angels. Someone saw the baby enthroned on the cow’s trough. And soon, such glorious things were done in Israel that the world could not contain them.
God identified with us through vulnerability
Jesus, beginning in the stench of hay and barn, loves us enough to live the barest, most humble life. He was a baby, a refugee, a peasant, a citizen of a conquered nation, a blue-collar worker’s son.
In His humanity, Jesus endured every pain and temptation that the rest of us endure. He felt the cold biting his skin. He was ripped by the claws of betrayal and scalded with scorn. He understood the keen pull of temptation, because He too endured the siren song of the Evil One.
He does understand.
He is God of the everyday
“It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes.
—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest”
In his birth, Jesus made the commonplace holy. His humble beginning shows me that my everyday living does matter. My “small things” are still important to Him. My years of normal living, unmemorialized by men, can please Him. After all, He is God, and only about 10% of his earthly life made it into the Bible. What did He do in those 30 unrecorded years? Small deeds of absolute faithfulness and love. We’re not called to live in the spotlight, at least not all the time. He will take my small days and small hours with pleasure, if I give them to Him in love.
God deals in relationships
“Jesus does not turn away from the world, but turns to face it. Jesus came down. He turns toward. He makes his face to shine upon. He shows compassion. He sits with. His with-ness is so important that every time we say his name, we declare it—Immanuel, God with us.”
― Emily P. Freeman,
Not only is our triune God in close communion with Himself (Mark 1:11), He delights in pouring out His love on His children. Unlike the gods of lore who seem to poke at their creations with a long pole, not caring to be near to them, our God is a God of relationships. This is clear in the Christmas story. He is the God who cared enough to tell Mary, “Do not be afraid.” He is the God who came to earth to actually enter into the closeness of human living, alongside us.
“I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn’t confide in his slaves; now you are my friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told me.”
– John 15:15, TLB –
Our God is a God of great joy
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
– Luke 10:21 NIV –
I do not usually think about the joy of our God. But it only makes sense. If we are to become like Christ, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 3:1). The Spirit of Christ in us produces joy (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus, “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
If we creatures can be full of joy, then think how much joy must be contained in our uncontainable God! Christmas shows us this mind of the Father for rejoicing:
“The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.”
– Luke 2:10, CEB –
Our God certainly understands the longings of our hearts.
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.” – Psalm 107:8-9, NKJV
Christmas was the beginning of the end of Darkness. Over thirty years later, the Darkness would be permanently dethroned from its hold on the world. Over thirty years later, the red-faced infant would be a bloody-faced convict, still suffering for the world He had borne and been born into. Over thirty years later, He would become the only man whose own power was too great for Death to keep Him in its grasp. His rising would become the pattern for our own resurrection day.
Christmas is almost here! Take the time to read the stories our Savior’s arrival again, and think about what our God shows us about Himself in this season.
Christmas certainly does not save. But the Christ of it does.
I think that calls for a celebration.
“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world.
The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son.
The only requirement is to believe in Him.
The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
– Corrie Ten Boom –