Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Unto YOU a Child is Born

Well, the day’s almost here. We've spent a lot of time over the past month defending Christmas as a Christian holiday and many of its traditions as acceptable. But I wanted to write something attempting to explain the “pro” side – why anyone would want to celebrate Christmas. Aside from the gifts, the food and the pretty lights, that is. Why would any conscientious Christian desire to celebrate Christmas? Especially one who was raised to believe that Christmas was wrong, and survived just fine without it for decades?

I was trying to find the words to explain. But when I sat down to write, my children kept on practicing their choir music. Over. And over. AND. OVER. After my migraine subsided, I realized one of the songs they were singing did a much better job of explaining why anyone would want to mark Christ’s birth than I ever could. And no, I’m not just being spiteful because I will have this song stuck in my head until at least March. Remember, I’m sparing you the electric guitars and the off-key voices:

Hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
Christ was born today in Bethlehem.
I said hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
We have come to show the way to Him. (Luke 2:9-12)
Unto you a child is born
Unto you a Son is given
Unto you a Holy Child has come.
Unto you a mighty Lord (Isaiah 9:6)
Unto you a Light from Heaven (Isaiah 9:1-2)
We are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news!

So pretty much everything but “Hey” and “we are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news” is directly from Scripture.

Ok, so maybe the “world's greatest news” part is not quite accurate. The resurrection truly was the greatest news ever, because it confirmed that Jesus was Who He said He was, and that what He taught about forgiveness of sin and eternal life were true. But you can't have a death and resurrection without a birth, and it was the greatest news up until that point, chronologically speaking.

In keeping with that line of thinking, I'll admit that Christmas isn't my favorite Christian holiday. I wish Easter got half the attention that Christmas did (although, really, it would be distasteful to further commercialize an observance that involves the death of our Savior). But I'm not much for arguing with the heavenly host, and if the angels, who had no stake in the resurrection, sang and celebrated at his birth, why shouldn't we, the redeemed?

But then, that's the difference, isn't it? Even if those in the Churches of God could bring themselves to accept that they'd been lied to about Christmas, Christ's birth didn't really accomplish much, according to their theology. Herbert Armstrong, founder of the COG religious movement, taught that Jesus had to qualify to replace Satan as the ruler of this world. In his writings, the outcome of the incarnation was a history's greatest gamble up until the moment Jesus took His last breath. Most of today's COGs don't state this as explicitly, but still believe HWA spoke for God and continue to teach variations of his doctrines, including this one.

More to the point, Herbert Armstrong taught that Christians had to qualify for eternal life, just as he taught Jesus did, by overcoming Satan and sin. And if we didn't do a good enough job, God would abort us, as page 45 of HWA's booklet, Just what Do You Mean Born Again, tells us. So really, according to Armstrong’s theology, Christ's birth didn't accomplish much. It was the first step in an uncertain nail-biter, that gave humanity the chance to qualify for salvation, kinda, sorta maybe, if they just try hard enough. 

Thankfully for us, Scripture tells us these doctrines simply aren't true. From the Passover Lamb to the Snake on the Pole, we see Scriptural foreshadowing that indicates Christ's victory was certain:

(Numbers 21:8-9) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

(John 3:14-15) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(Isaiah 53:5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

(Luke 2:29-31) "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples." 

(Revelation 13:8) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

And that our victory comes through our trust in Jesus' finished work on the cross, not in our personal righteousness quotient:

(John 6:28-29) Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

(John 3:16-18) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

(Revelation 12:11) And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

(Galatians 2:21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Why would a sincere, God-fearing Christian want to celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus' birth, and subsequent death, bridged the gap between sinful man and perfect God. Because my standing before God on any given day does not depend upon my mixed bag of successes and failures. Because it is through His blood and my testimony of faith in Him that I can have eternal life. Because when I am discouraged with myself, my life and the dirty rags of my human efforts, I can know that my victory was assured since the foundation of the world. And as Luke 2:11 tells us, he was born “unto you” - unto the shepherds, unto Mary, until you, unto me, unto anyone and everyone who needed a Savior.

Now THAT is something to celebrate. Give thanks for your Savior this week, or in August, or whenever you feel comfortable. But make sure you do it. It's not a Catholic thing to do. It's not a Protestant thing to do. It's a Christian thing to thank God for the coming of the Christ. Merry Christmas, and God bless.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

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