The light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness.
Of course, there is more to the gospel than this: much more. But there is never less.
We have been looking at the meaning of Christmas for the past four weeks. Actually, this was my way of putting aside the triviality of this holiday and digging deep for my own sake. God worked in Joseph’s life by shattering all of his dreams and expectations for life in order to put Jesus at the center of his life. You see God had a promise, which He planted as a seed in Abraham and carried through David. He declared the law through Moses in order for us to see how sinful we really are in preparation to be saved by Jesus. Jesus, the creator of all, entered into his own creation as a human to become our Savior. It is what gives our lives meaning.
Was there proof of His divinity and Kingship? Wow, when I did my research I thought any court in the nation would say it had to be true. It starts with the Angel appearing to Zachariah. He was an old priest. In those days the priests would burn incense to God in the temple morning and night. There were 20,000 priests and they drew lots to find out who would burn the incense that day. It is remarkable to be picked at all. He was picked and an Angel appeared to him in the temple as he was burning incense and told him, his barren old wife was to bear a child who would be the precursor to Jesus. Elizabeth, his wife, and the daughter of a priest, became pregnant a good 6 months before Mary and the Bible says he was immediately filled with the Spirit in the womb. He was to bear witness to the light and His testimony was “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:15
Months later a fourteen-year-old pious poor woman named Mary was praying when an angel appeared to her (same angel as Zachariah). He said she would bear a son who would who would be the Savior. Mary was steeped in the Bible and knew exactly what that meant. Her soon to be husband, Joseph, was ready to secretly divorce her when an Angel appeared to him (same angel) proclaiming the same message as Mary. When Mary went to the house of her cousin Elizabeth to visit, Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant. Before she could tell her about Jesus, the baby in Elizabeth leapt for joy inside of her. When was the last time you heard a pregnant woman say that the baby “leapt”. Kicked or elbowed maybe, but to leap is pretty remarkable.
Then Elizabeth declared that Mary was with the baby who was to be the Savior of the world! How did she know?
Once the baby was born, we have the story of the shepherds and the wise men. The shepherds were the lowest on the totem pole of society. They were crude, smelly and quite poor. Their job was thankless. They were to herd sheep to slaughter for sacrifices. Yet, an angel appeared to them first before anyone else to proclaim a birth in Bethlehem of a Savior, Christ the Lord. This birth announcement had an unexpected twist. Instead of saying the birth of Jesus to Joseph and Mary, it said, “To you shepherds, this day in the city of David is born a Savior, who is Christ the King.” It is for the shepherds. It is for us.
There had to be a sign, a visible sign, or confirmation of the promise of the Scriptures. What was it? “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:22 So what did this communicate to the shepherds and to us? The Lord has come to redeem the poorest of the poor. The one who began his life wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the animals’ manger ends it laid in a rich man’s rock-hewn tomb, now wrapped in linen bands for a shroud.
What about the Wise men? They were from Babylon which was a long way from Bethlehem. They were rich and very intelligent. They saw this magnificent “star”. They believed that this new star meant that a new Jewish king had been born. Thus they set out for Judea. Interestingly, Herod who was in charge of Israel and deemed himself king of the Jews because he was Jewish entered the picture. The Maji got close to Judea and assumed that the king must be in the palace and they stopped following the star. They met Herod and told him that they were searching for the new king of the Jews. Herod told them that he was very interested in this new baby and wanted to worship him himself. So he told them to come back to him after visiting the baby.
When the Maji eventually saw the baby, “they fell down and worshiped him.” Matt 2:11. Then they had a dream of foreboding, which they took as a divine warning. As a result, they did not return to Herod. One of the fascinating features of the Maji getting lost was at a crucial point they assumed that they could find their own way.
What is also interesting was that learned and religious men in Herod’s palace who had immediate access to information about the birthplace of Jesus seemed to have no interest in finding him or going to worship him! Sadly they had plenty of knowledge but apparently, pride got in the way. A small group of pagans coming from the East put them to shame. Jesus said when on his ministry that “tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of heaven before you.” He said that to the chief priests and elders.
This is the true meaning of Christmas: seeking, finding, trusting, and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ.
God made us for himself, and until we come home to him we never sense that we have found our destiny. That is because our deepest longings are to find Jesus.
Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen sought to depict the lowliness and humility of Christ and that we too must be humble to accept this Savior. His marble statue of Christ is in the Cathedral of Copenhagen. I have pictured it. The figure’s arms are extended in a gesture of welcome to all. But the statue has an unusual feature. In order to look directly into its face, it is necessary to kneel. Charles Lamb, the eighteenth-century English essayist, once noted: If William Shakespeare were to come into a room, men would stand up out of respect for his accomplishments. But if Jesus Christ were to come into the room, the only response appropriate would be to kneel.
Source: Sinclair Ferguson’s book: Child in the Manger
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