Christmas is still a time of hope and joy
When the son of a friend of mine was quite young, he thought he had been told that Christmas was about the Baby Cheeses. Only when he was older did he finally understand that it was about the Baby Jesus.
Even knowing that, one cannot but suspect most people in the world, while enjoying the festival of Christmas, have little understanding of the enormous significance of the event that is being celebrated.
The writers of the Gospels made these claims about the coming of Jesus and its significance:
- Mary was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit of God, the same Holy Spirit of God who was present at the creation of the Universe.
- Angels sent from God told Mary of God’s plan, which she accepted, and told her betrothed Joseph, who also believed God’s message.
- The angel told Joseph He is to be named Jesus, meaning ‘salvation’, because He would save His people from their sins.
- People would also name Him Immanuel, meaning ‘God with us’, because they would recognise that God had come amongst them as a human being.
- Jesus was descended from Adam (the symbolic historical father of all humanity) through Abraham (from whom all Jews are descended)
- He was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of Herod the Great, after ‘His star’, probably a touching conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, had come about.
- Magi (wise men from Persia) knowing the Hebrew prophecies came to worship Him, giving the baby prophetic gifts of gold (for royalty), frankincense (for priesthood) and myrrh (for suffering death). This Jesus would be the divine priest-king who would die as a sacrifice to save His people from their sins.
- Herod sent soldiers to try to kill Him, but instead slaughtered all the infants in the region. Joseph having been been warned by God in a dream escaped to Egypt until the danger had passed, and then returned live in Nazareth, at that time a Jewish village in the Galilee region in northern Israel.
- Before Jesus was born a close relative, John, was also born, miraculously conceived to an elderly Jewish priest and his wife. An angel also appeared to the husband, Zechariah, with the message of John’s impact: “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This boy became John the Baptist and indeed prepared the way for Jesus to begin His earthly ministry.
- When Jesus was born, He was born in a stable. Nearby shepherds, who were watching over sheep were visited by a company of angels, who told them: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.” So, the shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger.
- Those shepherds were probably protecting sacrificial lambs that would be sacrificed in the Jewish Temple. If so, they would be working on land owned by Joseph, Jesus apparent father, who was a descendent of King David who had lived one thousand years before whose land it once had been, and which had been passed down the generations to Joseph. This land holding was the reason Joseph had to be present in Bethlehem, in order to comply with the Roman census of assets owned by citizens of their empire. This detail supports what John the Baptist declared about Jesus 30 years later: “‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
- The disciple and Gospel writer John describes the coming of Jesus in terms that remind us of the creation of the Universe: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
- He continues: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him; yet the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, and His own people did not accept Him. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.”
- John summarises what the world has received from this Jesus: “From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known.”
So, Christmas announces the Good News that, though we have not seen God our Father, He has been made known to us through Jesus, who is close to the Father’s heart.
Like Mary who sang to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, we can also rejoice and sing along to her prophetic song:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and His descendants forever, just as He promised our ancestors.”
We live in the days when God has been merciful to and has helped Hs servant Israel. We also live in the days when God continues to save His people from their sins. He does not stop inviting the people of this world to believe in Jesus, the crucified Lamb of God, who takes away sins and washes souls ‘white as snow’. There is no one else but Jesus who can save people from their sins.
God bless you all, this Christmas.
President – Jesus Christ for Muslims