BY SAMUEL STEVENS
Shoes, clothes, toys, video games… the lists that get passed around and worried about this time of year can be endless. People get lost in the hustle and bustle just to please people they don’t like or to maintain a status among their friends. It can be sad sometimes to see people go to great lengths to “celebrate” a holiday that they don’t even really know about.
What adds to the chaos is the many stories that surround this season: Santa Claus or Jolly old Saint Nicholas, the seemingly endless variations of Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer, elves, elves, and more elves. It is like major broadcasting networks swallowed a Christmas tree and heaved it back up in chunks, leaving us with the ugly sight of twisted facts and fiction accompanied by the sickening smell of advertisement, and topped off by the groaning sound of commercial jingles and clever sales pitches. Is it any wonder why people call this holiday “Xmas?”
What is Christmas all about? Well, the short answer is simply the birth of Jesus Christ. However, this answer is not as simple as it appears. People don’t seem to know that Christmas is the celebration of a gift. This gift was given with no regard to our deserving or worthiness and is completely free to us.
What is so special about this gift? This gift was God coming down to earth from His holy heaven to be a man and live with men for the express purpose of paying for our sins. Jesus Christ is God’s son, the second person of the Trinity, equal with and the same as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Scripture says in the book of John that Jesus is the “Word” and that He was “with God” and “was God (John 1:1). Further into the chapter, John states that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is an important statement because it tells us that Christ did come from God, He was God’s son, and that He was full of grace and truth.
What are grace and truth? Why was He filled with grace and truth? First, to be full of something in this context is to possess that certain thing. It also means that there is no room for anything else. Obviously, the word “full” implies a constraint that has been reached to its maximum. Jesus Christ possessed grace and truth to the fullest.
This grace was not just a description of demeanor, though. Grace is the favor that God bestowed on Him. It is the attitude of satisfaction and contentment with him in response to the joy that God gets from Him. In essence, Jesus “had arrived” in God’s eyes. What is even more amazing is that he didn’t need to “arrive” because He was God himself. This demonstration of grace was solely for our benefit in this regard.
The truth that Jesus possessed was nothing less than objective truth from above. He had the real perspective about everything that He created and the accurate perception of what our situation is. Later in the book of John, Jesus actually claims (and rightly so) to be truth itself (John 14:6).
What is really incredible is that by God sending His son to us, God was giving us grace. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of what we do not deserve: to be the children of God. Why? Because we are sinners. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and is punishable by death (Romans 6:23). Yet in the second part of Romans 6:23 it reads “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist and the first person to receive a message from the angel Gabriel concerning the first Christmas, knew the significance of God’s grace in this event. Having been made mute for his unbelief and then his voice restored when he accepted the truth about his son, Zacharias praised God for His provision.
One word that he mentions later in this praise is the word “mercy” (v. 72). This mercy is the goodness and kindness given to those who are oppressed. Mercy is given in the place of judgment. It is the opposite of a verdict based upon the facts of the situation in conjunction with the law. Mercy, as it has been given to us by God, is the withholding of what we do deserve: God’s wrath.
Mary recognized the mercy God gives to us in her praise to God for selecting her to bear His Son. She knew that she was not worthy of such an honor (and neither are any of us), but she recognized that those who reverently fear God will receive mercy. This fear is an attitude that displays our knowledge of who we are and how undeserving we are of even being considered by God.
The Christmas story is Jesus Christ coming down from above through humble means for the purpose of paying for our sins. Why would God himself be willing to pay the price for our sins? Because he loves us!
In John 3:16, Jesus states that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. As mentioned before, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.
He came and lived a perfect life, fulfilling God’s law to the letter. Instead of receiving a crown of glory for his life’s work, he gladly received a crown of thorns and endured an agonizing death by crucifixion. He then endured a separation from God so deep and dark, we can never fully grasp in our mortal imaginations.
But, He came back from the grave three days later, the victor over death eternal and damnation of our souls! He holds the power over the grave and it is his sacrifice on our behalf that we can obtain mercy and grace from God the Father through the righteousness of Christ to the adoption into God’s eternal kingdom as heirs with Christ.
Christmas is about the fulfillment of a promise God had made with humanity to redeem us from our debt to His Holy Law. It is about the humble initiation of the life of that promise coming to us through humble means. It is about God’s undeserved favor and the negation of totally deserved punishment. It is about the glory, splendor, and complete holiness of God being clothed in flesh, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a trough.
For those who may feel unloved, insecure, totally lost in this world and no hope or sense of value for your own existence: Christ came for you. He loves you and wants to save you from the condemnation we deserve. He has made you in his image and he knew you before you were even in your mother’s womb.
All you have to do is believe that His sacrifice for you covers your sins and repent (turn away from) your previous life and commitment to sin. Just reach out and talk to Him! He says that if you confess your sins, he will forgive you and wash you of all your unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Please consider the gift that God has given us this Christmas: Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all!