One of the really enjoyable parts of Christmas is the carols we sing. I like to recreate in my imagination the scenes of the first Christmas. The world has removed many other Christian practices from our lives but they haven’t been able to remove the Christmas Carols.
Just recently Governor Swartzenegger of California re-instituted the name “Christmas” as the official name for the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. The former governor had changed the official name to something like “Holiday Season” or some such designation, leaving out the name of Christ.
The Christmas Carols set the atmosphere that we associate with the birth of our Savior, - the crowded inn, the smelly stable, the city of Jerusalem at rest - sleeping, the bright star shining down in all its majesty, lighting the night sky over the manger where baby Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, lay. The Carol, "Oh Holy Night" has a line that describes that night. “Long lay the world in sin and darkness pining ‘till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”
The shepherds in the field watching their sheep must have been surprised when all of a sudden, in a blaze of celestial glory, the star of Jesus appeared in the sky and the heavenly hosts brought tidings of good news and praise. What a contrast to the manger in a cave where a newborn baby slept. The shepherds, with hearts full of wonder, would go there to worship the newborn Son of God. What a scene that must have been, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, King of kings, born in the fullness of God’s time, born of a virgin - - lying in a manger in a stable.
One of my favorite Christmas carols asks the question, "What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping'?"
And the chorus answers, "This, this is Christ the King. Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the son of Mary."
"What Child is this?" must have been in the minds of the shepherds when they went to the stable on that first Christmas. Not even His mother knew the answer yet. Scripture tells us that Mary "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart," Luke 2:19. She didn’t know the answer. But she knew what the angel Gabriel had told her nine months earlier, that she would become the mother of the Messiah.
Until you read the full record unfolded in the Gospels you can’t answer the question “what child is this?” His birth is recorded, a little bit about the silent years in Nazareth, His baptism by John the Baptist, the gathering of His disciples, the start of His public ministry of preaching, teaching, doing miracles and finally the last dramatic week of His earthly life when He went to the cross to die with criminals, followed by His burial and His resurrection from the dead.
That’s not all. Forty days later He ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit came down and was poured out on the disciples and many other Jews dwelling at Jerusalem who were “devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” [Acts 2:5]
On the day of Pentecost, they were all gathered together and heard the sound of a rushing wind when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven to indwell all those who were believers in Christ. This gave a fuller meaning to this question, "What Child is this?"
Lets read the first four verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews. These verses give the answer to "What Child is this?" as well as any other passage of Scripture. This passage is about none other than Mary’s Child, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Hebrews 1:1-4. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2: Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3: Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4: Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
Twice in this passage "God spoke" to man. God wants us to understand that He, God the Father, spoke to man in times past by the prophets but now the He says, "He has spoken to us by His Son," the Child of our question, “What Child is this?”
The Babe in Bethlehem’s manger is the ultimate,
the complete word of God to mankind.
After Jesus’ mission on earth was finished,
God’s word to man was complete.
God, in the person of His Son, has spoken to us.
All that God wanted to say has been said.
There never will be another event like this.
John’s Gospel begins with this statement concerning His Son, Jesus, and refers to Him as the Word of God; John 1:1 and 1:3. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Verse 3: All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
Then John wrote, in verse 14; “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.” John proclaimed to the world that Jesus is the Word of God so everything Jesus said is truly the Word of God.
Hebrews 1:1, we read, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” This gives us a reason why that child of Bethlehem’s manger is God's final word to men. Christ appears in pictures and types from beginning to end in the Old Testament.
After His resurrection, Jesus spoke these words to two travelers on the Emmaus road: Luke 24:27. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
God spoke in many different ways in the Old Testament. In dreams, in visions, in sudden appearances and by inspiration. I don’t fully understand inspiration, how God enabled man to put the mind and heart of God into written words. I just believe that He did.
2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
The writer of Hebrews says that this inspiration by God came to the fathers at “sundry times and in divers manners.” Start with Genesis. There you find the TRUE account of creation, of the fall of man, and of the flood. This is followed by the lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Exodus tells the story of Moses and the flight from Egypt and how God’s voice was loud as thunder when the Law was given on Mt. Sinai.
Later we have the Psalms, the Proverbs and the love Song of Solomon and the rest of the Old Testament with prophecies of things that did happened and of things that are yet to come.
Much prophecy goes far beyond the present time to the great events, both good and bad, that God is going to bring into being before He writes the final chapter of earth’s history.
When you read what the prophets said in the Old Testament, you realize that God's voice had not answered the question that is in every human heart. When you read of Jesus in the Gospels, who He was, what He did, where He went, what He said, how He lived, then all that the prophets had written begins to fit together and we understand that God's final word to mankind is Jesus Christ.
God created rivers to drain the hills and valleys and mountain ranges. They may be separated from one another by great distances but they all run into the sea. In the same way, the Old Testament flows together to form one great voice that speaks in the New Testament where all the themes in the Old Testament are brought together in Jesus. He is God's final word to man, He is greater than the prophets, fulfilling everything they wrote.
Hebrews 1:2 points out that God “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;” Jesus forms the boundaries of history. In the beginning "He created the worlds." He is in control because He is "the heir of all things" and that means He owns everything.
The Christmas story is about a Baby, born to a Jewish virgin girl in a cave in Bethlehem, who is the Creator of the universe. He was the beginning of the past and He is the end of the future. He knows when this world will end. Matthew 24; Luke 21; Mark 13 tell what is coming and when The Son of Man will return in His glory and establish His kingdom on the earth.
Look back to the time of creation and you find Him there. Come out in the country where I live some night where you can see all the stars. There are millions of galaxies -- it takes hundreds of thousands of light years to cross even one of them -- they were all spoken into being by the Babe that Mary nursed in Bethlehem!
Old Testament Scripture predicted His coming and what it would mean to mankind and we find the fulfillment of it in the New Testament. There are people in our world today who deny He created the universe, but all humanity will someday confess that the Babe in the manger in Bethlehem is the Creator of the world. He is “from everlasting to everlasting.”
That’s not all. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the complete word of God and He is the master of the present as well.
Hebrews 1:3. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
He reflects the glory of God and is in total accord with God, even reflecting God’s image, and He upholds the universe by the word of his power. That is an amazing statement. He is in control of the whole universe and is the One who is keeping it going and in order right now.
Science continues to discover some amazing things. God is allowing them to find secrets we never knew existed. There are so many new finding that they don’t have enough names for them. But one thing they admit, some strange force holds everything together in the universe.
They don’t know what to call it, they can’t identify it. They know there is some kind of "cosmic glue" that holds things together. It’s fascinating that right here in the Word of God you have the very plain and exact answer, Jesus of Nazareth! The force that holds the universe together is Jesus. He sustains the universe by the word of his power, or as the NIV bible puts it, in Colossians 1:17b "and in him all things hold together.”
That is true of the physical universe including our bodies and it includes all other forces in the universe, be they physical, psychological, social, spiritual, whatever, He can control them all.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection, He told them that "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Matthew 28:18b. He controls all the physical forces of this planet as well as the universe and all the events that occur there.
As Christians we get used to seeing things through the secular eyes of the media and other propaganda forces around us and we tend to forget that behind the events they report (or distort) is the controlling hand that permits some things to happen and restrains others.
The Bible tells us that God’s hand shapes the destiny of nations and individuals. Because of this, He took into account the problem of human evil and made a solution for our sins through the death of Christ on the cross. Hebrews 1:3b. “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
Jesus is the final and complete word of God to man. He provided the complete and only cure for the deepest problem in human life -- the problem of sin. The very reason that the Creator of the world became the Babe of Bethlehem was to make atonement to God for our sin. He is the only one Who could wash away the stain of our sin with His sinless blood.
The good news of Christmas is that every one of us who has found Christ as our Savior is cleansed of past guilt and given a clean slate and a fresh page to write on every day. He has paid for all our sins. That’s the promise of Verse 3b. “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
He was obedient to God the Father, and He is entitled to the worship of all creation. Verse 4: “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
We usually associate angels with Christmas. The heavenly host spoke or sang praises to God on that wonderful night when Christ was born. They will gather again and give Him praise and glory, this time around the heavenly throne of the Lamb.
Revelation 5:6-14. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7: And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8: And when he had taken the book, the four creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9: And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10: And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11: And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the creatures and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12: Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Notice the seven-fold praise.) 13: And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14: And the four creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
That is the closing scene of all time and all creation is moving toward that real fast right now. Even though they don’t realize it or acknowledge it, everything that the electronic news media and newspapers report is working in some strange mysterious way toward that end.
This makes us more certain that what Christmas stands for is the greatest event the ages have ever seen, when the Lord of Glory became the Babe of Bethlehem in order that we might be delivered from our sins. That is what Christmas is all about.
An author unknown wrote, ""Though Christ a thousand times, In Bethlehem be born, Until he is born within your heart, Your life is still forlorn."
At this time of year the Christian world celebrates the birth of Christ. Over the years it’s become more of a financial celebration than a spiritual one as it originally was intended to be.
However, there are still a lot of people who do celebrate it as the time that the Son of God left the splendor of heaven to be born as a baby here on earth, grow to manhood and become the only blood sacrifice God could accept for mankind’s sin.
Luke 2:11 tells us that one angel was privileged to announce the birth of the Savior of the world. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
What’s more, the angel stated that God would be glorified by this. Verse 13-14: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
But there’s something more in that verse. It says “and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Now that peace that God promised, through the voices of many angels, wasn’t military peace, we don’t have that today. It wasn’t political peace, we don’t have that, either. It wasn’t even physical or mental peace, certainly there are a lot of mental and physical problems today. It was spiritual peace, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7.)
We can’t get that peace through Joseph or Mary or John the Baptist or any other preacher or priest. This true peace only comes through Christ who was born in Bethlehem, who grew to manhood and preached salvation’s message, was rejected by man and was crucified.
He shed His sinless blood as an atonement for our sins.
Christ paid the penalty prescribed by God’s Law
for all the sins of the world collectively and individually.
The only way we can get redemption
and have this peace is to claim it for ourselves,
to confess in total honesty to God
that we are guilty hell deserving sinners
and that we accept the forgiveness that He offers
through the price Jesus paid there on Calvary.
That’s the peace the angels promised in that pasture in Israel over 2000 years ago.
It’s peace with God.
It’s the only true peace there will be
while we’re still on earth
and it’s good for all eternity!
That’s Who this Child was,
Jesus Christ our Savior, the One who brought “peace and good will to men.”
That’s what Christmas is really about.