The Real Message of Christmas
19 Dec 2009, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
THE REAL MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS
The apostle John in John 1: 14 says 'And the Word was made 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.'
After so many years of waiting The Messiah was born.
Sadly, this event that so clearly revealed God's grace and mercy to a sinful world was to be received in a variety of different ways. This reaction was to be similar to the variety of responses we see today from those who hear the good news of salvation.
This greatest event in earth's history takes place in the sleeping city of Bethlehem. A baby is born, but unlike other such births, the coming of this child marks the further unfolding of God's plan for the redemption of the human race.
God has become flesh.
Who is this child and what makes Him different from all other children who have been born before and after?
The apostle John leaves us in no doubt as to what made this birth so unique as he attempts to describe the 'Word' that became flesh. Let's read what he has to say in John 1: 1-5, 14-18 (RSV).
V 1-5 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.'
V 14-18 'The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'
John the Baptist testifies of Him when he cries out saying, 'This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. For [as] the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made Him known.'
There was no doubt in John's mind that the baby boy born in Bethlehem that star filled night was none other than God, the Creator of all things, and this God had become flesh.
No matter what else we wish to believe about the story of this miraculous birth, this fact becomes central. The greatest revelation of God's grace and mercy is tied up with the fact that Jesus, the eternal God, came to dwell among us.
We need to understand that the gospel of John was written about thirty years after the other writers and was specifically designed to answer the many questions that were coming from the people of his day. They wanted to know who this man was.
John's evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, a divine-human being, and a member of the Trinity was based on the fact that he and a number of others were eyewitnesses to all the events he describes (1 John 1: 1-4).
Where does this story begin?
Luke 2: 1-7 tells us that the long months of waiting were over. Joseph and Mary had completed their weary trip to the little town of Bethlehem and the time was now ripe for the birth of their little boy. Since 'there was no room for them at the Inn' they found themselves amid the company of animals in a common stable. It was in these humble surroundings that Mary, a first time mother, gave birth to the Son of God. There were no fancy clothes and attractive cradle, but only a swaddling cloth or blanket and a manger.
While the actual chronology of this event is somewhat complicated, the evidence points to the year 4 BC according to our current calendars. More importantly however, we need to understand that this event marks God's greatest revelation of His grace and mercy towards all mankind. Without this miraculous demonstration of God's love, humanity would have been eternally lost.
To further mark this event Matt 2: 1-12 tells of the visit of the wise men from the east. These men were seekers of truth, men of integrity, and learned in their country's philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were most likely astronomers because we know that they 'studied the starry heavens, and sought to fathom the mystery hidden in their bright paths. In this study they were to behold the glory of the Creator and in order to seek a clearer knowledge, they turned to the Hebrew Scriptures. It was here that the Magi learned with great joy that the coming of the Messiah was near and that the whole world would be filled with knowledge of the glory of the Lord (White, 1940: 59, 60).
How surprised these learned men must have been when they found that the people of Jerusalem seemed to be uniformed about this event. How they must have wondered at the humble surrounding of the child that was to be 'born King of the Jews.' Yet they had no doubt in their minds that this was the one for whom they had been searching and they had been led to this place by the constant guidance of the star. We also know that God's guidance did not cease after they found Jesus because we read in Matt 2: 12 that they were warned in a dream to return to their own country without any further contact with King Herod.
While ruler of Palestine, Herod sometimes used his power and wealth for charitable purposes, but he was also highly protective of his throne. His reaction to the news of Jesus' birth is not surprising when we consider his reputation for killing anyone slightly suspected of treason. Anyone who could kill his wife, mother-in-law and three sons would not hesitate to kill any new threat to the throne. Herod's action to deal with this new perceived danger was found in his slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem.
However, while Satan was bent on destroying the Saviour through Herod's plan, God, by His superior power, was to place his protection over this little family allowing them to escape to Egypt.
In the story of Jesus' birth we are able see two classes of people. There were those who were genuine seekers of truth and welcomed His birth and those who knew the Scriptures and ultimately rejected Him. Likewise today, we find that people react in many different ways to the good news of the Gospel and to the offer of salvation through Jesus.
While all heaven rejoiced at the birth of the Son of God, very few on earth were prepared for this event. It would seem that pride, selfishness and closed-mindedness prevented them from meeting with joy the news of the Saviour's birth. However, God was not without those who faithfully looked with eagerness for this 'incarnation of grace' and, as such, led them to a personal encounter with Jesus. Let me tell you this morning that there is no greater revelation than the fact that the Word was made flesh.
During this Christmas period it is easy to overlook the true message that we should be hearing. It is a message not only about the birth of Jesus, but one that shares why He came to this earth.
His birth shows us God's mercy and grace in providing a substitute for us and shows us God's willingness to go to any length to provide for our salvation.
The message of Christmas is now asking for our response.
White, E. G. (1940) The Desire of Ages. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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