Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Heavenly Christmas

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

A Heavenly Christmas

by Steven Clark Goad

          “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” Thus are the words of a favorite Yuletide song. A baby in a manger makes for quite a story. Everyone loves babies. Jesus was once a baby. But he grew up and became a man. Most people can smile at an innocent child. How many can worship a crucified Savior on a cross who stated clearly that no one could approach the Father except through him?
No wonder Christmas is easier on some minds than Easter. Babies make few demands. God on a cross is another matter entirely. The claims Jesus made boggle the mind. Either Christmas is a heavenly story of the coming of our Savior, or it’s pure fiction. Either the babe the son of Mary is a liar, a lunatic or Lord God in human flesh. There is no middle ground.

Maker of Wombs & Things

          As I was meditating recently a thought occurred to me in a more dramatic way than ever before. Not only was Jesus born of a virgin, he created the womb in which he gestated and out of which he was born. Awesome! “Without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). He created the straw that was in the stable where he made his appearance. He designed the tree from which the wood was taken to make the cross on which he would later die. Did he and Joseph chisel out the beams for the cross-tie that would become his means of execution? We can only speculate about such matters.
          Does the manger scene prove Jesus as Lord? Maybe not. But surely history does. A stable is one thing, but an empty tomb is quite another. Christianity is unique among all other religions in that it gives us a resurrected prophet. Buddha’s grave is with us to this day. So it Mohammed’s. Over 500 souls witnessed his resurrected body. He ate with his disciples before ascending to heaven. Why would so many be martyred for a dead man? Thomas was not a doubter. He just wanted proof like so many of us still desire. When Thomas saw the risen Lord all he could say was, “My Lord and my God!” Awesome!

Show Me!

          I’m not from Missouri, but I do like to be convinced before I will believe just anything that comes along. I will even drive a car before I buy it. It seems only sane to investigate the serviceability of something so costly. Is it wrong for us to want to be convinced of who Christ claimed to be? After all, he is the one who said when you had seen him you had seen the Father. No wonder the baby seems more attractive than the Savior. “You are being extremely exclusive, Lord. After all, we live in a pluralistic society.” Yep, we sure do. And secular humanism has us by our throats as we continue to make God in our image instead of the other way around.
          Victor Knowles has recently pointed out that over 300 Messianic prophecies can be found in the Old Testament. That our Lord fulfilled them is a monumental achievement in itself. The very day our Savior died he fulfilled 33 prophecies. Peter Stoner said, “The probability of any man who has lived fulfilling just eight prophecies has been calculated mathematically as 1 in 10 to the 17th power.” Do we really want to count that many zeroes?  I’m not a mathematician, but I’m able to grasp the significance between happenstance and fulfilled prediction of God’s prophets.

The First Noel

          Joseph and Mary. Chosen. Blessed. A virgin. A pregnancy. An angel puts Joseph’s mind at ease. “…because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Gabriel announces John’s birth to Zechariah. Six months later he announces Jesus’ coming. “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Awesome wonder. “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
          The angel told Mary this was true because nothing is impossible with God. So John is born. Then cousin Jesus. Under duress. Taxed and in transit Joseph and Mary find her in labor at an awkward time. No room in the inn. A borrowed stable. The very creator of the animals whose bleats and brays could be heard in the stable was now with them as a baby. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Truly a heavenly gift.

A Heavenly Christmas

          Jesus lived a perfect life. He grew in statue and in favor with God and man. He developed a trade in his father’s carpenter shop. He was a social creature. People were drawn to him. His ministry years were short and dynamic. He invited a few men to join him for three years in a hands-on training school. Before them he performed signs and miracles and wonders. He spoke as no man had spoken before. He healed the blind, the lame and the deaf. He walked on water. He calmed the storm. He raised Lazarus. He wept. He was no longer a baby.
          The Messiah of God was among the very people who looked for his coming. Most missed it. Pharisees resented him for the most part. Political leaders were fearful of his influence. No wonder they call him the Messiah, since the world was in such a horrible mess. Tempted of Satan in every way. He wept as if he were bleeding in the garden. “Let this cup pass from me,” he cried. Angels came and ministered to him.

The Manchild

          The baby has grown into manhood. The Christmas saga unfolds. Betrayed with a kiss. The guards and holy men seek him out. “I am who you are looking for.” They fall back. His awesome presence is powerful. Willingly and voluntarily he gives himself to them. He could have called ten thousand angels to come and rescue him. Yet he went eyes-wide-open to the cross. No wonder the baby story is more enjoyable than the man story. The baby says nothing. The man says, “Take up your own crosses and follow after me.” He declares, “If you love me you will do what I say.”
          The cross is ugly. It reveals humanity at its worst. It displays God at his best. “Father, forgive them.” “I thirst.” “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “Mother, behold your son. John, behold your mother.” “It is finished.” Even Mel Gibson with his The Passion of the Christ could not fully portray the agony of that six hours one Friday. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Awesome God

          Can I prove Christmas? Maybe not. But I know Jesus is Lord. And I know God loves me. Blaise Pascal wagered that it’s far easier to believe in Jesus because if it turns out there is a God we have everything to gain, but if there’s isn’t a God then we have nothing to lose. Christmas is a matter of blessed assurance.
                May I tell you why I believe in Christmas? Because of my grandson’s giggle. A lone desert sunset. Green pastures. A kiss. Still waters. Family. A galaxy millions of light years wide. The church. Penicillin. Pizza. The moon. Dad. The manger. The cross. Don’t ask me why I believe in a heavenly Christmas. Let me tell you. I would be a fool not to believe.

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