Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Christmas Gospel

Over the last few years I’ve written several blogs posts about the gospel. One might wonder how or why a writer would feel the need to address the subject again and again. And, well, again. It’s Christmas and I want to write about the gospel. This is my twelfth gospel post, and Christmas is the right time for it. I’ve had enough of shopping. Wrapping. Baking. Happy musical programs. Fun nativity hayrides. Enough Ho-ho-ho. Enough jingling of the bells hanging on my office doorknob. Enough eating a peppermint nougat with a Christmas tree in the center every time I walk by the candy dish. Enough already.

The one thing I will never get enough of is the gift. Not the one under the tree. By this time next year, I will have likely forgotten what I got for Christmas this year. The gift I won’t forget is the one God sent down from Heaven. If it weren’t for the arrival of the perfect Son of God, there would be no gospel. The event wasn’t so unusual. The birth of Jesus was like that of every other baby, except He wasn’t born on a clean bed in a warm room, but in a manger—a cave where animals were kept. It was His conception that was out of the ordinary, not his birth. The birth was messy. The little Lord Jesus probably did cry—he was a human baby as much as he was the God of the Universe. What a sweet mystery. An ordinary coming of an extraordinary baby into the world. It was indeed a night for the miraculous.

A visitation occurred that night in the fields nearby. Some shepherds met up with the Heavenly Hosts. Perhaps the shepherds guarded the sheep that were to be sacrificed in the temple. Of course, those men were not supposed to leave the sheep, but when angels sing of God’s glory and tell you to go look at a baby who, by the way, is the Messiah, well, you do it. In awe and wonder, they turned from the old sacrifice and set out to meet the new, the final sacrificial Lamb. Did they realize God was changing the course of history? Ending the curse of sin and death? Inviting the sons and daughters of the lost world to come home to the Father?

Without the birth, there would be no death. No resurrection. No redemption for me and my fellow broken human beings. No sacrifice great enough to cover us. Whatever gift I find wrapped under the tree, it can’t bring the joy, the awe, or the everlasting promise of the Gift that came to hang on a cross.

So, this holiday season I will sing of the promise. I will meditate on the Gift. And I will write, again, about the gospel. It’s all I want for Christmas. And while I remember the newborn babe, I will envision the soon-coming King of Kings. 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6,7

If you want to read my other gospel blog posts, here’s the list. Just click on the titles. Read one every once in a while to remind you of the Gift.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

This is the Christmas

The timeless gift of a baby.

All very tiny humans are, as far as I’m concerned, adorable. The description fits some a bit more than others. Occasionally a baby comes along who is, well, not exactly the customary version of cute. But pick him up and squeeze him, and it doesn’t matter. Wrapping your arms around a wiggling, cooing baby makes the day much better, and it doesn’t matter if he, or she, looks like Winston Churchill. But the little beings emit strange noises and odors, and sometimes they cover their helplessly awestruck fans in stuff no one could describe as adorable. They’re like a little piece of Heaven. Then they remind us we live in a world where things get messy.

The baby boy who came by divine design must have had the same effect on his earthly family. Even though he didn’t get the sterile birthing environment we demand when we welcome a baby, his mother must have adored him. Joseph must have been mesmerized by the sight of him. Maybe his grandparents coddled him. He was not just a piece of Heaven. Whether they knew it or not, this baby was their ticket to Heaven.

He was the savior of the world and yet he came as one completely helpless. And undeniably wonderful. But some were willing to destroy a generation of sweet little boys to keep one baby from fulfilling prophecy. As if anyone could put an end to God’s plan.

The prophet Isaiah tells us about the baby:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us). Isaiah 7:14

Three decades later, the baby was not someone to coddle. Most were long over their fascination with the little man. He was just a carpenter from Nazareth. But a few recognized Jesus for who he really was. And then the sweet story we celebrate of the baby born in a manger became the bitter, bloody event Isaiah wrote about seven hundred years before it happened. The Son perfectly submitted to his Father’s perfect plan. The plan was not one any earthly father would consider for his newborn son’s future. But God, considering our future, did the unthinkable.

God’s message through Isaiah doesn’t tell as much of the baby it does of the wounded, dying man. Nobody found him adorable then. They all turned away.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:1-6

Not exactly a Christmas card greeting. But without it the story of the little baby born in Bethlehem means nothing. Isaiah tells of the event in past tense, though he wrote it long before it happened. With God there is no past or future. There is only the happening. This is the day, the minute, the millisecond. It’s history. It’s right now. It’s our future. It changes everything.

This Christmas is the one God remembered when He left Mary’s baby boy hanging on a cross. He saw you hanging your stockings and arranging the little glass wise men and shepherds around the newborn baby who was, who is, God’s gift to the world. This Christmas you might sign your name to a card with the Nativity on the front. Picture that blessed moment with the cross on a hill in the background. Because when the baby was born, that’s what his Father saw.