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In a few days we will celebrate one of the great annual events on the Christian calendar, the birth of the Christ child. Because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn they found shelter in a barn. Following his birth the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger from which the animals ate. It was in this ill-kempt place Mary gave birth to the one who would be the Savior of all mankind. In spite of such an ignoble beginning no other being born in this world can compare with the impact He would have on this world. However, at the time, his birth seemed to hold little significance to the world around Him.
“Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being, he is a Being who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from outside. His life is the Highest and the Holiest entering in at the Lowliest door. Our Lord’s birth was an advent.” Oswald Chambers
God took particular care to announce the ‘Good News’ of His birth to a select people:
1. The shepherds represented the peasants. They were, “…abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night…And the angel said unto them,….unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)
2. The wise men represented the educated. “When…they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him….they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matt. 2:11)
3. Herod represented royalty even though he sought to destroy Him.
4. Heaven was represented by the Star that shone by night.
5. Lower creation was represented by the cattle around the manger.
6. Poverty was represented by the very place He was born.
He came to be the Savior of the world. The name Savior implies that there is something from which we need to be saved. The first Adam, through disobedience, forfeited the moral image of God. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Jesus, the last Adam, came into the world to redeem man from all sin and restore the image of his Creator. In order to accomplish the plan of salvation He had to die an ignominious death on the cross to uphold the law of God and be able to offer mercy to all who would receive Him.
The cradle of Bethlehem was in view of the cross of Calvary. The cradle was where God became man and the cross was where the God-man became sin. Christmas without Calvary would be eternally incomplete.
When man sinned in the garden the human race became a prodigal race. He departed into a far country and lived his life for and by himself. The dividends of his depraved passion drove him into spiritual bankruptcy. Sinful man is perishing trying to survive on the husks of earthly pleasure and pursuits. Jesus took on the likeness of man as the assuring word from home welcoming us to return. He came to reveal that God’s heart breaks for the return of His long-lost sons and daughters. He came to make a way for our return.
He was conceived miraculously, lived sinlessly, served sacrificially, died ignominiously and rose victoriously to re-create us in the likeness of God. Historian Lecky wrote: “The simple record of the three short years of Christ’s active life in this world has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the Disquisitions of Philosophy and all the Exhortations of Moralists. “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2: 2)
There once was a pastor who came to the end of a long and tiring year in service to his parishioners. He toiled faithfully in preparation for the sermon he would preach on Christmas Sunday. He went to the church early to pray before he would give the good news about the ‘Word that was made Flesh,’ the birth of the Christ-child. While praying, tired and weary in body, he went to sleep and had a dream.
He dreamed that Christ had not come into this world. In his dream he went into his library and could find neither Bible nor hymn book on his shelves. In fact he could find nothing about Christ. He ran outside and found no churches with steeples pointing to heaven. A little girl came running and crying and said, “Come quickly, mother is dying and needs a minister.” He rushed to her bedside but soon discovered he could not give any comfort in her dying hour. He had no New Testament, no Christ, nor resurrection, no heaven and no hope. A few days later at the grave-site he could only say, ‘earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.’ Then all of a sudden he was awakened by the Church Choir singing, ”JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD IS COME!”
The story illustrates that it would be unrelieved darkness if the light of Christ would be snuffed out. If he had not come this Holy Day would be nothing but a holiday that would mock us. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because the ‘Word was made Flesh!’ This is the true meaning of Christmas. But those who “receive Him not,” can only mimic the lamentation of the noted infidel, Robert Ingersoll. While speaking at the grave of his brother he delivered this dirge:
“Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We call aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the un-replying dead there comes no sound.”
Jesus has come from beyond the heights to tell us that “there is a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” for all who receive Him. The ‘cold and barren peaks’ of which Ingersoll spoke are aglow with the unfailing light of the Celestial realm and we who have made our heart His home now breathe the atmosphere of another world because our citizenship is in heaven. We celebrate Christmas with all the hope and joy it brings because over 2000 years ago “the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us!”