Friday, December 23, 2011

Born

--  This is an article written at Christmas 2010.  I hope you enjoy it, and that it stirs some thought.  -- B.D. -- 

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  —  Luke 2:10–12 (NAS)

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.  – J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 63
 

So many people are so very conflicted in mind and heart about this Christmas thing.  In our spiritual fellowship, we have a long history of struggling with Christmas.  We don't celebrate it.  Well, we do, but we don't want anybody to know about it.  Well, that's not altogether true either.  Some of us wouldn't be caught dead with a Christmas tree, and you just try to decorate one of our church buildings with tinsel or garlands.  Occasionally, we'll give in to some poinsettias, but we're not going to have any Christmas programs.  Don't come to our houses, though.  We're too busy going into debt buying presents for our kids.  Who, us, conflicted?  Not a chance.  Well, maybe a small chance.
 

We know all the odd facts that others seem to ignore.  For example, we know December 25th is probably not the correct date for Jesus' birth.  That right there is enough for us to cancel the party.  We know that nobody knows how many wise men there were, or if they showed up the night Jesus was born or as much as two years later - when he was in a house, not a stable!  Besides, we're theologically smart enough to know that we celebrate Jesus' death, not his birth.
 

OK, enough.  J.I. Packer observed something we just can't manage to admit.  Watch this:  ". . . at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross."  Packer understands that you can't get to the cross unless you first go through a stable, complete with shepherds, and wise men somewhere along the way.
 

Fear of "Christmas" puzzles me.  Nobody has to think anything about a date that isn't true.  You don't have to make some sacramental practice, or required worship out of the holiday.  But surely it is both logical and true to scripture to celebrate the birth of Jesus as the revelation of God.  Jesus was born to a young woman named Mary, a virgin who had never known her husband.  Angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds, and wise men followed a star until it revealed the King they sought.  That's the truth about the birth of the Son of God.  It's how God came in the flesh and dwelt among us.  We really need to welcome a time of the year when people the world over, celebrate the birth of Jesus.
 

Here's my best reason for thinking this:  No birth, nothing else.  If there had been no birth of the child, Jesus, there would have been no itinerant Rabbi, no miracles, nobody to believe in as the one who takes away the sins of the world, no hope for redemption and restoration to fellowship with God, no salvation, no resurrection of the dead, no hope for eternal life.  You need to be very glad Jesus was born.