The Meaning of Christmas…?
Such is the common question answered most often by modern entertainers, such as television and movies, as well as the modern “church,” which makes sure to have their congregants leaving feeling warm and safe inside. People become obsessed with the outward, such as the decor, feelings, warmth and yes, even family, and we have come to define “Christmas” almost solely as a “time for family and love.” But is this truly the meaning of Christmas? I myself do not have a problem with Christmas cookies, trees, lights, friends and family, nor even the warmth and fun that come along with it- I personally enjoy it more than many. But did the Christ come to die so that we can spray fake pine scent across the room, bake sugar cookies that look like an over-simplification of what an actual angel might look like (where are the other eyes?), and sit down doing relatively little, save for the obsessive shopping done by the masses and the constant travelling which causes more stress and hate than it does the “warmth and love” that has become the sole intention and purpose of the holiday?
Or did the Christ come as a baby for more than just our self-indulgence and practical well-being? And so let us look at the actual Christmas account in the Biblical context, regardless of whether or not we have fudge and hot chocolate to melt the heart… or teeth.
Who He Was
Colossians 1 gives us an excellent parallel to this Christmas account. I referenced it in a recent post, and am referencing again here because of the absolute clarity of Who Jesus truly was. It paints a much clearer picture of the birth of the Messiah in light of His actual nature, regardless of outward appearance.
The first part to notice is where Jesus came from. Before He was ever born to Mary and before the angels ever proclaimed His coming, He was.
Who sent Jesus? This point is important to understand, because throughout the Gospels (especially John’s) Jesus is constantly reaffirming where He came from, and by Whose authority He was speaking and doing what He did. When we hear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many think “Jesus saved me because He loved me!” And this is not necessarily an inaccurate statement, but it is not what Jesus told the people when He came. Colossians 1:13a says this: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness…” Many stop there and think “Ah, that’s Jesus!” No, it isn’t. Read on… “…and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son…” Did Jesus have a Son? No. Therefore, when we read “He rescued us…” this is speaking of the Father, not the Son. Too often people become comfortable thinking that the God of the Old Testament was mean and cruel, and grumpy and old, but Jesus was youthful and kind, and loved us and saved us. This is utterly inaccurate, wholly unbiblical and entirely blasphemous. The Father was the One who sent the Son (John 5:36-37, see also John 6:44), and it was the Father’s will to save men, and it is ultimately the One before whom we must be justified.
“For He [the Father] rescued us from the domain of darkness…” What is this domain? Many might say “Death,” since it appears to be the greatest darkness there could be, but that would be wrong. “The domain of darkness” is sin, which (when it is complete) results in death. And as with death, from which no man can revive himself, so sin cannot be cured by the sinner, since he is utterly lost in this sin. More importantly, the sinner does not want to be rescued from sin. Col. 1:21 clarifies this domain which the “alien” comes from, where he is not only separate from God’s holiness and righteousness, but is “hostile [against God] in mind [as opposed to just outward action]…” He is utterly pitted against the Law of God, and as Romans 1 says, he suppresses the Truth with his own “unrighteousness.” And so he is not only sinful, but entirely so, being so hateful of God, that if offered the choice of salvation, he quickly throws it back and demands it be done his way, according to his own will, not that of God. These are not just “sick” with sin, nor are they “dying” from it, but are entirely “dead” in it (Eph. 2:1-2), and in death, no man can revive himself.
Thus he needs a savior. One who is not trapped in sin and dead in transgressions of the Law of God, but instead One who can keep the whole of the Law, never failing in a single point of the Law, and being utterly pure in motive. And so God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who would transfer us from this “domain of darkness” to the Kingdom of His beloved Son. And this Son redeems us from this domain through the “forgiveness of sins,” which is not simply a “pardon” from the past sins, but an absolute rebirth- the destruction of the sinful nature and the complete transformation into a son of God, as though there were never any sins, nor would there ever be again.
And so we see where the Son comes from, and what He did, but Who was He?
Paul, who writes this letter to the Colossians, writes further: “He is the image of the invisible God…” This does not mean He is a just a “clone” of the real God, but is the “exact representation of God.” He is the Son of God- the fullness of the Father- and there can be no distinction between the two when it comes to the deity and power. They are “One” (John 10:30), and as Jesus says distinctly, He is the “I Am” who spoke to Moses, and gave the Law to the people of Israel. Essentially, when people read the Old Testament and think “Wow, the Father was grumpy, unlike Jesus,” they overlook the fact that a lot of what was said in the Old Testament was actually said by Jesus. Because in Jesus all the “fullness” of God dwells (Col. 1:19), which is no vague statement, but a full declaration of the fact that He is God incarnate.
What does His resume look like? He is the “firstborn of all creation,” that is to say, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” That literally means, “All things.” Things in the heavens (of which the scientists of our world rejoice to get a low-resolution picture of from 10,000 miles away), and things on the earth (the very place we live and are used to). The visible (what we can touch, see, know and feel) and the invisible (the things that are too small for us to see, or things we cannot know). Even the rulers of the world are made and appointed by Him, regardless of their righteousness or lack thereof, whether King David or Nero. Not only were all things created by Him, but they are sustained by Him, for “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (1:17) The very cells that make up the body of the sinner are held together by Him, and if He so willed, they could be loosed and he would fall apart into nothingness. “He is also the head of the body, the church,” that is, those who believe in Him. We, as Christians, do not fear the works and words of men, because even their authorities are appointed by our Savior, and our Savior is the One who created them and holds their very existence together. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” being the One who established the church and saved His people by dying for them, and raising from the dead, to Himself bear all authority over death and Hades (see Revelation 1:17-18). And not to forget the reality that “it was the Father’s good pleasure [not obligation or pressure] for all the fullness [of God] to dwell in Him [the Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself [not the joy or practical well-being of the saved], having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” And so here we have the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who is the creator of all things and sustainer, and the savior of the church and judge of all. And how did He come?
The Birth of the King
A manger. The Jews were fully expecting the Messiah to come as a King, and ruler and savior from the kingdoms that ruled over them, and would come powerfully to bring Israel to its rightful place and kingdom over the kingdoms.But instead, we have the Lord of all Creation, the Christ, on the verge of birth, and the chosen people of God (the sons of Abraham) had no room, and thus He was born in a what might have been a cave outside the main city itself, where no other people would have been. The Jews had been expecting a great man- a great prophet and warrior, perhaps- but were sent God Himself. And how was He received? By the world’s standards, very poorly. Few knew of His birth, much less Who He was and Who He would become and what He would do. And yes, God did inform others of His birth. Years before the wisemen would ever come, there were shepherds in the field that same night, as they always would be. They were the lowest of the low, keeping watch over sheep that had relatively no intelligence, and such was their lifestyle. They often had no actual house, and weren’t exactly “paid” to do this, but kept watch over the sheep night and day, regardless of the weather, and even the various threats to their own lives. They were not prestigious nor glorious, nor worthy of any honor. And yet, as they sat in the field in the dark, there came an angel. And notice: Despite the lack of public attention, or praises from men, and a lack of a seeming proper birthplace, the angels sang praises to God, not because of the pleasure and attention of men, but because God had come to earth to accomplish the Gospel of Salvation. And although this Son of God would be crucified by the very ones He came to save, nevertheless, it was the plan of God that resulted in the glory of His praise.
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” – Luke 2:4-20