I pray Christmas was a time of great joy for you and your family. After all, it is the time of year that Christians everywhere celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But for many, the joy of the Christmas season begins after December 25th, because until that point Christmas has become a time of anxiety and stress. Shopping for Christmas gifts alone is enough to turn Christmas from a time of joy to a time of misery. Sadly, that has become the case as the drive to “buy the sales and discounts” spurs us on to shop till we drop so that no one gets shorted. Ah, Christmastime!
And yet, here we are the day after this great celebration. Let’s pause for a moment, if you will, to consider if it was really a time of joy – to sit back and ask whether we actually took the time to consider what Christmas is really all about. You see it is not about you and me and how many gifts we get or give, but it is a time to remember one of the most important events in all of history. In all the hustle and bustle of what was done to prepare for that special day yesterday, did you slow down from time-to-time to read from God’s Word the reason we celebrate Christmas? One of my favorite passages on the subject is Luke Chapter 2, the first 20 verses. In that account of our Savior’s birth, we learn God used the civil magistrate, Caesar Augustus, to ensure the birth of Jesus Christ took place at just the right place, Bethlehem of Judea. Though Jesus had a very humble beginning being born in a manger, a feeding trough for animals (v. 1-7), He was no ordinary baby. He was born the king of Israel (Luke 1:30-33) and the Savior of His people.
The angel delivered the joyous news to the nearby shepherds together with a heavenly host of angels singing and praising God for giving the greatest gift ever to fallen and sinful man, the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. The shepherds were in a field, shaking with great fear at the sight of the angel of the Lord. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (vv. 10-12, NKJV). Jesus is the king over all creation, including His church. Since He purchased His church with His own precious blood, saving sinners from the penalty of sin, atoning for their sins on the cross some 30 years after His birth; and by His bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus rules over all that is in heaven and on earth to the glory of God and His elect people (Ephesians 1:30-33).
Moreover, this baby is the “Ancient of Days” come in the flesh (Micah 5:2), the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8); He is the Second person of the Triune God, who took on Him the very nature of man (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1-3, 14; 1 Timothy 3:16). He is very God and very Man, because there was no other way that salvation could come to man and eternal life be obtained for us. It is only by Jesus being true God and a true and righteous man that God’s justice could be satisfied fully and perfectly for all time (Hebrews 10:11-18). Only by the power of His Godhead He would be able to bear in manhood the burden of God’s wrath, and so obtain for and restore to righteousness and life all who believe in Him through true faith (Heidelberg Catechism #s 16-17).
So when we stop and understand what Christmas is really about we have a great deal to rejoice about. Salvation had come to man some 2,000 years ago; a most undeserving and unmerited gift of God to all of us. Is it any wonder the heavenly host sang out with great joy, “Glory to God in the highest, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)? This is what Christmas is all about – this is the reason there is joy and peace on earth, and good will shared among men. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no joy of salvation, no peace with God, and no good will among men.
Was Christmas really a time of joy for you? It is not too late to still know the joy of the gracious gift of salvation, peace with God, and His good will toward men that is by His grace alone through faith alone in His Son, Jesus Christ. For all who have put their trust in Christ, resting in His one atoning work on the cross on their behalf, there is much in which to rejoice; sin’s penalty has been paid, redemption from the power of the devil accomplished, and hearts washed by the blood of Christ and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no greater joy in this world than to know that salvation has come, and by the grace of God we who are in Christ have been made partakers of this wonderful gift. Let’s, therefore, not be overwhelmed by what Christmas has become for many who do not know Christ and see Christmas merely as a “feel good” time of year, who live in the darkness, misery and condemnation of sin, but rather let us make it a real time of “joy” in the Lord, and “peace” with God, by celebrating the “goodwill” that God has shown toward man in His marvelous gift of salvation through, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead come in the flesh on that first Christmas day some 2,000 years ago.
Rev. Richard Stetler
Was Christmas really a time of joy for you? It is not too late to still know the joy of the gracious gift of salvation, peace with God, and His good will toward men that is by His grace alone.