News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Christmas: The birth of Jesus Christ

Christmas is the sacred day on which Christians celebrate the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what is the primary focus of that celebration? Certainly, for Christians, the primary focus is not family, food, or festivities — as worthy as those things are of enjoying. If a Christian’s desire is to focus the Christmas celebration on the birth of Jesus Christ, exactly what are we excited about?

It’s pretty exciting that a multitude of angels showed up in the skies above some shepherds in the region of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. I know I would be amazed to look up to see uncountable numbers of heavenly beings shining with the glory of the Lord. Not many people have witnessed such a miracle. I’d probably side with the shepherds to go check out the baby the angels were announcing. But I don’t think the angels are what we are supposed to be most excited about.

Then there are the magi — wise men or kings, depending on your version. They saw a star in the sky unlike anything they had ever seen. This was so miraculous that it caused them to pack their camels and travel hundreds of miles to follow this unique star that came to rest where there was a child that they believed to be a king. People have always used the positions of the stars in the sky to find their direction, but this time the star apparently actually moved across the sky and came to rest! But it is not the wise men or their expensive gifts or even the miraculous star that Christians should be most excited about.

What about the virgin birth? Now we are getting close to something that is most worthy of our excitement. An angel announced to Mary that she was about to have a baby. Mary pointed out the obvious inconsistency that she was a virgin. She knew a conception without a father was biologically impossible. But the angel promised that the Holy Spirit would conceive a baby in her body. The Creator would create a son in her womb because nothing is impossible with God.

This is the Christmas miracle most worth exploring. Yet if we leave our contemplation of the miracle of Christmas at a mere reading of the angel’s announcement to Mary, we have barely begun to grasp the mystery and the miracle of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The central tenet of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We celebrate that at Easter. Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no Christian faith. What does that have to do with Christmas?

Without the reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is simply a miracle that happened 2,000 years ago with no impact on anyone today. The reality of the incarnation is that God became man. The eternally-existing Son of God took on human flesh. The death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God changes everything. He now lives forever, not only as the eternal Son of God, but as the man, Jesus.

The Bible teaches that God is one, but He exists in three persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This teaching, referred to as the Trinity, is a mystery that Christians can attempt to put words to, but in the end, we admit we do not completely understand.

In the same way, we cannot completely understand that the Son, who has always existed in eternal relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, added something to His existence 2,000 years ago. And what He added was human flesh. The divine Son of God remained unchanged and yet at the same time, He was made flesh in a human body. Two natures — God and human — existing in one Person.

Now that is a mystery worthy of our excitement.

This Person, Jesus, from the moment of conception, was in His humanity confined to His mother’s womb and yet His divine nature was present throughout the universe.

He was born completely dependent on His parents and yet had power to uphold the universe.

As an adult, He thirsted and yet He provided living water so that people would never be thirsty again.

He hungered yet He multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 people.

As a human, He died on a Roman cross but, as God, He defeated the power of death.

The sorrow of the human condition gives way to the divine redemption.

Peace on earth is not just a hope for wars to cease but a promise of peace between humanity and God, mediated by the divine man, Jesus Christ.

All this Jesus Christ was capable of because of the astonishing miracle of the incarnation — the miracle that God so loved the world that, while remaining fully God, He became fully human. Christmas is the story of Immanuel — the humble birth to a poor Jewish family of a baby who was in every way God with us.

Those who would like to truly celebrate Jesus at Christmas will find the most wonder and joy in pondering both the miracle and the mystery of the incarnation.


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