The Hope of Christmas

I celebrate Christmas every year!  I look forward to the traditions of giving and receiving presents. It is often times the misplaced focus of Christmas with the hustle and bustle of buying and wrapping, crossing each name off your list. Even more often the misplaced focus on Santa.  We have all heard and probably even said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” or “It is a celebration of Jesus birth.” Yet I find myself knowing those things, but not being able to put my finger on the purpose of Christmas.  What is the hope of Christmas? It is as if Christmas has begun to lose its meaning in all the perfectly good things we do to celebrate.  Perhaps the hope of Christmas is indeed nestled with Jesus and in what scriptures proclaim he was… or should I say is.

Matthew 1:21-23
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Jesus, Immanuel. The wonder of Christmas is that the God of the universe would humble himself into a human form and dwell among men.  This can even be seen in John 1:1-3;14.

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 were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here we see that the Word is Jesus.  We also see the establishment that Jesus is indeed God.  He was there with God at the creation of the world.  So, Jesus, the God of the universe, humbles himself to a fleshly human form to dwell among us and literally be “God with us.”

Before Jesus, the dwelling of God was only seen in the Ark of the Covenant for that is what made it holy.  It was the physical representation of God’s presence.  God also dwelt on earth through the prophets and the priests, but Jesus was the first that God actually dwelt in the body of one man. Jesus for this reason is literally able to be called Immanuel, for he was literally God on earth with us.

Jesus did not stop being Immanuel when He ascended into heaven, though.  For now, by the Holy Spirit, God still remains with us by being in us, as is clear in Jesus’ words in John 14:15-18

If you love me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

How wonderful and glorious it is to live in a day and age where God is with me in every trial.  It is wonderful to know that I serve a big God that I can run to when I need Him for anything! From a scraped up knee to my desperate plea, from my worst fears to my heartfelt tears, from my chaotic mess to my overwhelming stress, from my praising to my struggling, from my day to my day, whatever the need, my God is there with me.  Jesus is Immanuel, God with us on earth, and now with us, in us, by the Spirit.  And all of this could not be, if it had not been for the glorious birth of Jesus, Immanuel!

Jesus, Light of the World. I have found that the wonder of Christmas is also God lighting the darkness with the birth of His Son, Jesus!  The times of Christ’s birth were not easy times.  Roman rule was no Hawaiian vacation.  They were subject to harsh taxes. There were crucifixions, and even the mass killing of toddlers and infants when Jesus was 2 or less.  Even the church was full of evil in Jesus day.  Look how Jesus destroyed the marketplace in righteous anger! Yet, in the midst of so much darkness, there dawned an everlasting light on Christmas, for the Light of the World was born.  John 1:4-5 says

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.

That word comprehend in the Greek is Katalambano, which means “to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to obtain, attain to, to make one’s own, to take into one’s self, appropriate-to seize upon, take possession of evils overtaking one, of the last day overtaking the wicked with destruction, of a demon about to torment one or in a good sense, of Christ by his holy power and influence laying hold of the human mind and will, in order to prompt and govern it.” It is the idea that the darkness was unable to contain the light.  This is the same word that Paul uses in writing to the Corinthians about running the race.  He says that there can only be one winner and to run as if to obtain it.  Obtain here is Katalambano.  The darkness could not comprehend, control, obtain, or overtake the Light of Christ.

It is easy to think, “If the Light of Christ is so powerful, why is there so much darkness in the world?”  I would say that is a plausible question.  For how can a man invade an elementary school and kill innocent children? How can terrorist bombers crash a plane into two towers, killing hundreds?  How can we fight dark wars? How can we kill millions of babies every year through abortion? How can gay marriage be such a progressive issue the church is up against? How can we be fighting so many moral wars today?  My answer is simply this: darkness still lies where the light does not shine.

When someone encounters the light of Christ, they have two choices. 1. They can embrace it, and allow God to show the innermost secrets and wounds.  Allow God to heal and make whole.  You can never find wholeness if you are living in the dark. 2. You can run from it. To run from it is to live in the darkness of your own soul. The only way the darkness of the world will change is if the Light of Christ is shone brighter than ever before!

We as a church must be bearers of the Light of Christ to the world!  For darkness only wins when the Light doesn’t shine.  Even a candle shines like a bright light in a dark place. Imagine what would happen if every Christian around the world began to understand their role as salt and light? I believe the two are told together for a specific reason in Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? it is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand. and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Salt refracts light. It doesn’t make light brighter, but light gives off a gentle glow when shown into a salt crystal.  Because Jesus is no longer on earth, there must be another source for His light to shine in the world. That is why we must be salt.  If we lost our saltiness, then God is not able to shine through us and we block his light from penetrating the darkness.  We must then be light by letting Christ radiate from a heart that is totally devoted to Jesus, the source of light! We must share with the world the Light of Christ.  Because of the birth of Jesus, spiritual light entered the spiritually dark world.

Jesus, Savior. The understanding of the darkness of the world is trailed by the obvious need for a Savior. This is the pinnacle of why God would send His Son, why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The Angels declared it to the shepherds in the fields that night:

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. (Luke 2:10-11)

In fact, the very name Jesus declares that he is our Savior.  Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means the Lord Saves.  That is why it says in Matthew 1:21

You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!

I know I need a savior.  It is a daily struggle against my own desires to truly live for God.  I have sinned on multiple occasions, and I do not boast in that, but I can boast in this: that while I was a sinner, Jesus came into the world to save me.  Jesus came that I may stand before you now changed and wholly devoted to Him.  He came to penetrate the darkness of my dark world, that I may turn around and share him with others.

My Jesus came and dwelt among us for 33 years.  He was a light into the darkest places of the world and died a dark death to save me and to save you from ourselves, and our wickedness.  To reconcile the broken relationship. Then He sent His Spirit to live in us and testify of Him.  The beauty, the hope, the wonder of Christmas is simply Jesus and all that He is for us!

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