“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14
We all love the drama and richness of the Christmas story—the tenderness and devotion of Mary & Joseph, God’s revelation of the new king through humble shepherds and rich wise men, and the innocence of baby Jesus contrasted against the coldness of the innkeeper and the scheming and jealousy of Herod. And this is certainly the season for beautiful nativity sets, living manger scenes, and children’s Christmas pageants—all picturing the incarnation of Jesus. But there is so much more to the story—there is deeper meaning to Christmas.
In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul proclaims, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” He continues this theme of “gift” in Galatians 4:4-6: “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” That phrase, “when the time had fully come” speaks to God’s perfect timing. He used the nation of Israel under the domination and political system of the Roman Empire, the extensive system of Roman roads, a common Greek language, a dispersed Jewish people and hearts searching for answers to the questions of life—all to set the stage for the birth of the Messiah.
Monday’s devotional (we post on Monday and Thursday) challenged us all to look for similar verses which speak of the coming of Christ. I offer my favorites, but perhaps you can find more. The “Excellent or Praiseworthy” devotional, Christmas Presence, looked at Genesis 12:2-3, the first Christmas promise. This promise to Abraham leads us to the manger and the birth of the Messiah—to the promise of the blessing that Jesus Christ will be to all nations.
In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, we find a second Christmas promise—one that God conveys to King David through the prophet Nathan: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Perhaps David had a sense of the magnitude of what all of this meant, and it gave him comfort.
When Gabriel delivers his message from God to Mary in Luke 1:30-33, we find a third Christmas promise: “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” When we understand Mary’s situation we can appreciate why Gabriel began with the encouragement not to be afraid—that God was with her.
The first Christmas promise came to Abraham, the second to King David, the third to Mary—and the fourth Christmas promise to the world. Found in Isaiah 9:6-7, “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 increase 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.” This gift—this perfect indescribable gift, the Son of God who will rule forever and ever—born a child. Born to die as payment for our sin. Jesus, who is raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and who will return to reign in glory for all eternity. All of this is part of the Christmas story.
No, the story of Christmas must not be limited to a nativity set or a manger scene! We must make it personal, for the Christmas promise is to us—whether we are in
Peace in our hearts in the midst of war? Is that possible?
As the angel Gabriel said to Mary: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
Perhaps that is the best Christmas promise of all!
Questions to share:
1. Do you have a favorite Christmas that you remember? Why?
2. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” Do you feel that God is with you wherever you are?