The coming of Jesus made it possible for sinners in a dark sinful world to be brought into the light of fellowship with God. Everything the devil stands for is in opposition to this. The devil wants darkness, not light. The devil wants sin, not righteousness. The devil wants the lie, not the truth. The devil wants to keep people away from the joy of fellowship with God.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil!
Pleased to Dwell, p194.
People may not be rushing to Hebrews in Christmas devotionals, but maybe they should. After all, Hebrews is a confidence building sermon designed to stir believers to keep on trusting in Christ. God’s plan is to glorify humanity, but we don’t see that plan fulfilled yet. What we do see is that Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose, and Jesus is now glorified.
He has pioneered a way that we will follow. We can have confidence in God’s plan for us because of what happened in the incarnational journey of God the Son. We don’t yet see all that will be ours, but by faith we press on and follow the path laid out for us starting that first Christmas!
At first glimpse the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 appears to have nothing to do with the Incarnation narrative in Luke 1-2. However, when you think about it, you might realise there is only one journey in the two stories. Our minds go to the younger son and his flight from home and into the arms of the world to live a “prodigal” lifestyle, only to be spit out bereft of both dignity and “dollars.” But this is the wrong journey.
It is the father who makes the most terrible journey, out of an extravagant heart (a pure prodigality), he embarks on the rescue run to bring his boy home whatever the cost to himself. And in the incarnation, it is also God’s intent to go to extreme and extravagant lengths to bring him people home, whatever the cost of humiliation to himself.
Religion may be about our pilgrimages and journeys supposedly heavenwards. But Christianity is all about a different traveller – God himself. He makes the move, he pays the price, he performs the rescue.
When the Son of God burst into this world in a flurry of newborn cries, His mission was bigger than we tend to think. Just surviving to adulthood looked unlikely, but there was so much more. He came to breach the defences of the god of this age, to reveal His Father’s heart to us and for us, and to die in our place that our sins could be forgiven and our fellowship in union with the Son by the Spirit established.
That was quite the mission. But then the New Testament goes further, the mission just gets bigger. In reference to the coming of Christ, Paul wrote to Titus that it is God’s grace that teaches us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. The coming of Christ was not only to breach, reveal and rescue, but also to transform. Ungodly sinners transformed to have godly desires. This worldly sinners transformed to have future oriented hope. Once we see what had to happen in us, Jesus’ mission only appears bigger and bigger! What a Saviour!
At just the right time, God the Son was sent into the world and he came, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law. What comes next? This classic Christmas explanation in Galatians 4:4-5 is still only mid-sentence, but what comes next?
We sell Christmas short when the end result of Christmas was something less than what Paul writes here. He writes of adoption as sons and the sending of the Spirit into our hearts. Too often the Gospel we tell ourselves and others does not go there. Instead in the shrunken Gospel there is just some combination of some of these elements: Jesus makes a way for our guilt to be paid, we get to go to heaven, we get empowered to live better lives, we can now choose to obey God, etc.
Jesus came so that we could have the Spirit restored to us again. And the Spirit is sent, not primarily for improving our behaviour or empowering our obedience (although both will follow), He is sent to restore us to the love relationship of the Trinity. Let’s not sell Christmas short to ourselves, or to others.
Christmas feels like a long wait for children. They wait for it all year, and then December drags slower than ever. Christmas Eve feels like an eternity and finally Christmas morning comes. For many children, by the time the evening arrives their nerves are fried and everything starts getting a bit fraught. Was it worth the wait? Maybe.
Simeon waited many years to lay eyes on His Messiah. When Mary gingerly carried her newborn son into the temple with Joseph watching over her, Simeon finally got to see the boy Messiah. Now dismiss me! He declared. It was worth the wait.
May the familiarity of Christmas not spoil the wonder of the incarnation for us this year. Pray that by His Spirit, God will give your heart a glimpse of His Son that will remind you that only in Him is their true satisfaction. And, if you have met Jesus, then there is nothing to fear even if death is your next earthly experience!
There are plenty of journeys in the Christmas story, but two we should be primarily focused on.
The angel Gabriel travelled to bring news to Nazareth. Mary travelled to Judea, in part to avoid stares in Nazareth. Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, then later Egypt, then Nazareth. The Magi probably started their journey before all the others and maybe arrived sooner than is commonly thought. Herod’s soldiers travelled a short distance to perform a horrific deed. Lots of journeys, but two that matter most.
First, God the Son travelled all the way from heavenly glory to human poverty. He came to the humblest of circumstances to truly be Immanuel – God with us.
Second, because of what Jesus did, we are able to travel all the way into the throne room of God, calling His Father our Father and joining in the intra-trinitarian relationship forever. He came to us, so we can come to Him.
Hidden away in Zechariah’s song is a wonderful truth. He pondered all that the angel had told him for nine silent months. He searched Malachi since that was the text the angel referred to, but surely he had time to enjoy the rest of the Old Testament too. And when it all finally came out, Zechariah was gripped by God’s faithfulness, God’s rescue, and God’s transformative work in the lives of those He rescues.
Too often we give God half credit for salvation, but inadvertently try to take our part of the credit for the efforts at transformation. Christmas gets awkward when we only half receive a gift. “Thank you so much, but here’s mine to you!” The good news is that we, in our total bankruptcy, are invited to receive from an ever-abundant and generous God!
Mary would have had a mind swirling with questions after hearing all that Gabriel told her. Many of those questions were unanswered. Yes she would carry and bear the son of God – which was truly amazing. But what about other people? What would she say? How would all the complexity be worked out?
The trust of this young teen is heart stirring. I am God’s servant, so I trust Him. Actually, that is true for us too. We don’t know how the future will be worked out, but we do know who is in charge. And as Mary realised, God’s in-charge-ness is incredibly gracious and faithful. That is, He can be trusted.
Zechariah spent nine months pondering what the angel had said to him. It was nine months of anticipation. It was nine months of advent. Why? Surely this old priest was slightly distracted by the news that his elderly wife was going to have a son? Of course. But he knew the implications of the message from the messenger, and the message of Malachi.
If his son was going to be the one to prepare the way, then that meant that his Lord would be following soon after and coming to His temple. We read the Zechariah story as if it is a mildly interesting prelude to the more familiar birth of Christ. He lived it as if it was the most exciting preparation for the greatest of births.