By Roland W. Keith
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
All around the world people have already began coming together to celebrate Christmas. For most it is a time to celebrate family with homecoming and gift giving. Others still see it as a time to honor its namesake, Jesus Christ. This latter group often laments the need to “put Christ back in Christmas.” I would argue that we need to put Christ back in our lives on a day-to-day basis, more so than on an arbitrary day designated as a holiday in His name. Nonetheless, any day we choose to celebrate the birth of our Savior is a good day. Still the Bible focuses on the death of our Lord more so than His birth. We are not commanded to pay homage to His birth as we are to memorialize His death (Matthew 26:26-29). It is in His death and resurrection that we are reminded of the great sacrifice God has made for us. However, it would be remiss to ignore Jesus’ birth altogether, considering that it was the most heralded birthday in history.
When man fell from grace in the garden God had already determined not to wash His hands of us, but instead to provide us with an escape from eternal damnation, as Paul wrote to Titus, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7; see also I Timothy 1:15-17).
God sent His Son to earth to redeem mankind by paying the price for our sins in terms universally understood by man— He gave His life to save us; an innocent man paying for the sins of others. Jesus, Himself made this clear when He said, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In human terms Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself to be executed for our crimes against God and man: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4-5; I John 5:11).
God prepared man for this momentous event by heralding the birth of His Son. Isaiah 7:14 records, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.” Isaiah also wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Centuries later, Luke recounted how the Lord prepared the young Mary for her role in God’s plan, writing, “And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:28-32). Her betrothed, Joseph, who was considering putting her away due to her pregnancy was visited by an angel as well, and told to have no fear in taking Mary as his bride, being told also, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
It is interesting that when the time for our Lord’s birth arrived God chose to proclaim His arrival to both the simple and wise of the earth. An angel appeared to shepherds in the field telling them “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (see full account in Luke 2:4-141). As for the wise, Matthew wrote, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him… After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12).
In his gospel account John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Paul described Jesus as an indescribable gift from God (II Corinthians 9:15). On Christmas Day we will give gifts to one another out of love for family and friends or just human kindness. And though it is not a biblical command it may be nice during your Christmas celebrations to seek a quiet moment in the day to meditate on the gift that inspired the day— the indescribable gift of God’s Son, given to man out of the infinite store of God’s love. You may even want to recount the story of Jesus’ birth with those gathered around you (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:18-25).
The day Jesus was born the world changed forever. No, sin has not gone away. The self-centered and destructive tendencies of man continue almost unabated. But there is a love in the world that wasn’t here before. Yes, love existed, as Jesus proclaimed, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). But the Law and the Prophets did not have that which is perfect. Many things were still a mystery to them. Today we can see more clearly (I Corinthians 13:9-13). The light of God’s perfect love has walked among us and left us that which exceeds the Law and Prophets— that to which they pointed. The grace of God as revealed in and through His Son.
On that day, over two thousand years ago a child like no other was born. He was both God and man. He is both our guide and path to salvation (John 14:6; John 8:12). He is the Lord of lords and King of kings (I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14), as the angel Gabriel told His mother, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.