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Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Christmas Message

The Gospel according to John doesn't tell us anything about the birth of the Christ-child.  John commences his record long before that - indeed, right at the beginning of everything!  "In the beginning was the Word (the Son - Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Yet John provides us with the Christmas message in just one well-known verse.  It's the verse that is sometimes referred to as "the Gosple in a nutshell" - John 3:16.  "For God loved the world so much that He entered it, in the Persona of the Son, clothed in human flesh; that every single individual who places their trust in Him, and Him alone, for salvation from sin, might have, here and now, God's life within them" (Ross expanded vesion!).

It's a verse that speaks of three things.

First of all, it decares a fact.  "For God loved the world so much ..." Not just the nice people; the good people; the charming people; the people who go, regularly, to church; but the world – the unlovable and the unlovely; those who are loved by no-one else; those who never give Him a thought; those who rebel against Him, and use His name as nothing other than a profanity. Love, according to the Christian Gospel, is the very mainspring of the Being of God. “God is love”, writes the early apostle, John. (I Jn.4:8,16). And part of the wonder of this is that it’s not a scientific theory to be changed in the light of fresh evidence or experimentation; it’s not a legal speculation to be argued over in a judicial court; it’s not some popular idea to be maintained only while it’s fashionable. It’s a Biblical fact - “God so loved the world”.  

So, it is God's infinite, and unique, love that is behind the Incarnation.  And it's that same love that is the motivating force behind the Passion of the Christ, His crucifixion, and His resurrection.  'God loved the world so much' - the greatest fact in all of history, and the one with the most far-treaching results.
But the love, even of Almighty God, if it were merely passive and uncommunicated, would not be sufficient. And so, after directing our thoughts towards the fact, this well-known verse goes on to speak of an act.  “God loved the world so much – that He gave His only-begotten Son…” And here is the love of God being put into action. God so loved, that He gave. And He gave sacrificially – even giving Himself in the Persona of the only-begotten Son.  Love always wants to give - and we tend to give the best to those whom we love the most  At that first Christmas, the eternal Creator of all that is gave the very best that He could.  He gave Himself, in the Persona of the Son. (for further clarification of my use of the word 'Persona', please listen to my audio message on The Doctrine of the Trinity at  Amazing love; amazing grace; amazing God! 

Christmas is traditionally a time for giving. And isn’t it wonderful to remember that, at the very first Christmas, the greatest and best Gift that could ever be, was given? Almighty God gave His own Son; putting His love into action; giving the very best that He could; giving all that He is.  It was a Gift so termendous that even Paul, with all of his learning and education,was unable to find words to describe it, and so spoke of God's "inestmable Gift"; His "inexpressible Gift"; His "Indescribable generosity"; His "Gift beyond words" (II Cor.9:15; various translations).
A fact; an act; and a pact. That’s the third thing of which that well-known verse speaks. “... that everyone who has faith in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love; God’s Gift; are not mere handouts. Free they may be – but the Christian faith teaches that they are only so to those who are willing to enter into a living relationship with that same God through the Son; only to those who have faith in Him; who put their trust in Him; who receive Him with humble and thankful hearts.   But this eternal life, given to those who believe, is not merely life that never ends.  What is really stressed is a different quality of life.  "When one really possesses this life, he experiences close fellowship with God, in Christ." (William Hendriksen).  It's the life of the age to come, of which disciples of Jesus already have a foretaste, as they come under the influence, and direction, of God the Holy Spirit - although the full consummation, and enjoyment, of it lies in that eternal day.
A simple fact; a gracious act; an eternal pact.

And that’s the true heart of CHRISTmas!


Raymond Stewart said...

I am interested in your views on this because I find the 'Christ-mass' nowhere in scripture.
It has now become a hindrance this year because of the clash with the Lord's Day [Dec 25th] and the reality that many churches have shut their doors following a morning service forinstance at 10am ? This doubtless is to accomodate those wanting to socialise and by such undermining the sanctity of the Lord's Day.

This is reality in my part of the UK

C.Brian Ross said...

Hello Raymond, and thank you for your comment.

I confess to having become a bit of a 'humbug' when it comes to the celebration of the contemprary 'Christmas'. I am of the opinion that it has, indeed, become something of a distraction. For too many - even within the Church - there is a constant conformity to the world (not quite what Paul sought: Rom.12:2). It concerns me that, at Christmas, there must be a decorated tree in the Sanctuary; that the children must have a party - visited, of course, by Santa Claus (and without even a nod in the direction of the original St Nicholas) with the obligatory gifts; and that, in some places, secular songs are as much a part of any 'Carol Service' as those that actually direct the mind to the Incarnation!

Your reference to the "Christ-mass" is, of course, quite correct. It was, originally, a special mass to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child. However, today it has become, for the vast majority who celebrate it at all, a mid-winter festival of commercialism, consumerism, and social events, that would make the pagans, who had such a celebration, feel perfectly at home!