“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
This season of the year, much is said about the birth of Christ. There are manger scenes on lawns of homes, churches, parks, etc... Some good Christmas hymns, and carols are played on the radio, and in the shopping malls, among the more jolly and frivolous music, and largely meaningless songs that are also played. Some of those hymns have a wonderful message. I am speaking of Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts in 1719; Away in a Manger, called Martin Luther‘s Cradle Hymn, but likely written by James R. Murray 1887; Silent Night by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr 1816-1820; and Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley, 1739, with music by Felix Mendelssohn, 1840. These, and some others, at least touch on the reason for Christ’s birth. So much that we see and hear during the Christmas season is void of any real mention of Jesus Christ. Instead, there is stuff about Santa Claus, presents, decorations, Christmas parties with drinking (and God knows what else!) People are scrambling to buy gifts (often people are charging things on credit cards that they cannot afford).
There is a lot about Christmas activity for the true Christian not to like. Much that we cannot partake of, in good conscience. Remember, the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas, as well as many other Christians of the past, and the situation was not as extreme as it is now. Be that as it may, I am not writing this to condemn Christmas. It likely would do no good; it is here to stay. But if we are going to observe any of it, we should know what it purports to represent. I hope to stir your conscience to put Christ first.
Several things: First We know Christ was born, in Bethlehem, in a manger; that shepherds were told by the angels, and came to see Him. Second We know that wise men of the East sought him, went to Herod to inquire, which set Herod off on a quest to kill this King whom he feared may take his throne. Third We know that his parents were from Nazareth; that He was born of a virgin, so though Mary was His mother, Joseph was not His real father. Fourth His real father was Almighty God. Most of us have, at least, heard these things about Jesus (whether we believe them or not).
Here is something you may not have heard. Christ did not begin life at Bethlehem. He did not begin to be the Son of God at Bethlehem. He is the Eternal Son, having always been so. Neither was the Holy Spirit a created being; He is God, and has always been so. Three Gods, you say? No! it is beyond our human understanding, but this God we serve has always been one God in three persons, or as The Philadelphia Confession of Faith of 1742 declares:
CHAPTER TWO; OF GOD AND THE HOLY TRINITY
3. In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him. (1 John 5:7; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Exod. 3:14; John 14:11; I Cor. 8:6; John 1:14,18; John 15:26; Gal. 4:6)
(This is identical with the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. The Westminster Confession (Presbyterian) of 1647 is almost identical on this portion except it says persons).
Checking the words persons and subsistences, I favor subsistences as being more correct. Remember though, we are speaking of the mystery of godliness, and what mere creature can fully grasp these truths? “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)
In the Incarnation, as traditionally defined, the divine nature of the Son was joined, but not mixed, with human nature in one divine Person, Jesus Christ, who was both "truly God and truly man". The Incarnation is commemorated and celebrated each year at Christmas. That is what it is really supposed to be about. It’s not about Santa Claus; presents, parties, revelry and holiday. It is supposed to be about the incarnation of the Son of God. As John Gill (1697-1771), stated:
"The incarnation of Christ is a most extraordinary and amazing affair; it is wonderful indeed, that the eternal Son of God should become man; that he should be born of a pure virgin, without any concern of man in it; that this should be brought about by the power of the Holy Ghost, in a way unseen, imperceptible and unknown, signified by his overshadowing; and all this in order to effect the most wonderful work that ever was done in the world, the redemption and salvation of men: it is a most mysterious thing, incomprehensible by men, and not to be accounted for upon the principles of natural reason; and is only to be believed and embraced upon the credit of divine revelation, to which it solely belongs." From John Gill; Incarnation of Christ ; Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 5 Chapter 1.
Philippians 2:7a tells us “But (Christ) made himself of no reputation” (Greek κενόω ἑαυτοῦ =emptied Himself). He emptied Himself of rights and privileges He had as King of Glory to come here and die for our sins. Hymn writer Charles Wesley in his great song And Can It Be That I Should Gain? says that Christ emptied Himself “of all but Love”. Can that be? I told you already that what He did cannot be fathomed by finite, human minds. Oh, What a saviour!
We observe that Matthew and Luke tell us more about His birth, and where He was born. John gets right down to who He is; Incarnate Deity! Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord! Do you know Him? Do you worship Him? Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess Him to be Lord. Have you done that yet? Bow down before Him, love and adore Him! He is Lord and Christ!