Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Meditation on the birth of Jesus, 2014

            May the peace of Christ be with you! Another Christmas carol I love, we sang last night: Of the Father’s Love Begotten. The second verse opens: “Oh, that birth forever blessed, when the Virgin full of grace, by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race.” Truly there is no other birth in human history that is more blessed and more celebrated than the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Great men and women through history have had their birthday’s celebrated and remembered locally, nationally, or even internationally for certain periods of time. But none has had even remotely the universal impact and recognition throughout 2,000 years of history, as Jesus Christ. All other notable leaders and their birthdays have ultimately passed into the recesses of our memory, and their names eventually disappear from the calendars. None have had the influence that Jesus had.
            A few weeks ago I shared a quote in a sermon, from Philip Schaff, a historian, which I’ll repeat here:
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.
It’s just a small attempt to describe Jesus’ influence on science, learning, philosophy, faith, poetry, literature, speech, art, and music. But Jesus’ and His birth is loved and celebrated for so much more than this. He is not a great cultural or historical icon that is dead—but He is the Living Lord and Savior of all. As the only One to conquer death, He still lives and reigns to all eternity. And His greatest influence and impact must be measured not in culture or history, but in His redeeming work—rescuing us from our sin, and changing our human hearts.
His humble birth, attended by animals and set in a peasant environment, showed that His glory would not be through earthly things, but the glory, as the angel said, would be to God in the Highest, and peace and goodwill to men on earth. Jesus was sent to earth to do a heavenly work—a work of Divine Love—that would not be understood or received by those who first saw it. He came to proclaim the kingdom of God, and was largely rejected. Those who would find the peace and goodwill that He proclaimed, found it through humbling themselves by repentance, and receiving the forgiveness of sins that Jesus proclaimed.
And our next hymn, What Child is This? tells the purpose for which He came into the world: “nails, spear shall pierce Him through; the cross be born for me for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the Son of Mary.” The baby who was born would be the Savior who died on the cross, fulfilling His mission to mankind that began on Christmas. The manger, the cross, and the empty tomb are inseparably tied together, as the places through which Jesus journeyed to accomplish our salvation. From manger to cross the journey was in humility and suffering, lowliness, rejection, and sorrow. But from the empty tomb to the glory of heaven, His journey continues in glory, honor, and power. But from start to finish, behind the scenes, heaven saw and worshipped His glory. And that heavenly worship spilled out and over onto earth in the song of the angels at His birth. The beauty of the story was always apparent to heaven, but the proclaiming of the message to earth is how we discover the beauty of the story as well.
And the story of Jesus’ birth, is not just a beautiful “myth”—but it is Truth. Whether you look at the fact that Jesus was a real historical person, who birth dated to the reign of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, or whether you look at the fact that Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth and tell us the true meaning of life—He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. His whole purpose is bound up in bringing us back to God. If you are still a doubter or a skeptic, or if you are still lost, then receive this Good News today—Jesus Christ is born, a Savior! A Savior for you and I! And His story is not one that grows old with the retelling—it is a joy every time we rediscover it.
Even though Christmas is surrounded by so many other competing traditions, additions, and distractions—the True Story of Christmas is always here for us in God’s Word—to go back to, to peel back the accumulated layers, and discover the simple, beautiful jewel of Truth. The most blessed birth of all time, is the humble birth of our Savior Jesus, sent to save the world from sin. His Life, He lives for you! Rejoice and delight in the Light of His coming! Amen.

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