In a couple of weeks the world will celebrate Christmas. As the years march on, the controversy surrounding this day magnifies. The mainstream church seeks to defend its language, “Merry Christmas” from the Christ denying “Happy Holiday” or “Winter Solstice” substitutions. Some Christians view it as an unholy alliance between Christianity and paganism, which should be avoided like the plague. Of course, the same case is made for Holy Week and the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.
One would think Christians should know better. Whatever pagan roots there may have been, they have been conquered by Christ. Regardless, the God-hating world consistently dishonors the significance of Christ by substituting His preeminence with pagan themes. The question then becomes, should we throw out the baby with the bath water?
The view of Christmas has other implications as well. Some Protestants cringe at the last three words mas as it may be a reference to the Catholic Mass. Some point out that Christ was not born on December 25th, so why even bother. Others seek to avoid the commercialism surrounding the birth of Christ by concentrating on the “reason for the season.”
Obviously, Christmas has become many things to many people. But whether people honor or protest Christmas, its annual commemoration is certain. I suspect it will remain this way for the foreseeable future. Minimally, the merchants of the earth have a vested interest to secure the day if for no other reason than to boost their bottom line. The purpose for this article, however, seeks to understand the birth of Christ from a Biblical perspective. Does the Bible honor the event? If so, in what ways is the birth of Christ distinguished?
There is no doubt the God of the Bible viewed it as a major production. There were several hundred prophecies, types, and shadows that predicted, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6).” In fact, there are over three hundred prophecies concerning the Messiah interwoven throughout the Old Testament. Some of them are duplications of the same prophecy. For instance, the prophecy concerning Jesus being from the house of David is repeated about fourteen times. The prophecy that foretells the birth place of Messiah as the city of Bethlehem is repeated five times (Micah 5:2). The number of non-repeating distinct prophecies, however, comes in at about one hundred and ninety.
M.B. Bleecker, an engineer, took one hundred and fifty of these noteworthy prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and calculated the odds of His fulfilling them all. The odds of one man fulfilling one hundred and fifty prophecies in one lifetime are one in
-1,039,851,278,722,473,896,502,516,467,047,788,121,009,514,090,594,304 The odds of Jesus fulfilling just eight of them in His lifetime are one in -100,000,000,000,000,000
Concerning this mathematical probability, consider Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963). Mr. Stoner demonstrated that coincidence was ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner suggested that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, “We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.” That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrated it. He stated:
Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.
In the realms of astronomy, the Star of Bethlehem has garnered for itself “the world’s most famous celestial event” in history. God rearranged the heavens as a sign that something of dramatic worth was transpiring upon the earth. Of course, it was never a common occurrence that the heavens would open and a choir of angelic hosts would appear to sing praise to God
as they bring “good tidings of great joy.” What was the reason for such a bodacious display? They were carrying a divine message, which stated, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The Bible records that there was no small stir to the holy announcement. The most famous response came from the woman who was chosen to conceive and give birth to the Son of God. Today, we recognize Mary’s prophetic reply as the Magnificat. Pay close attention to her declarations as it pertains to this poor fallen world. Mary cried out:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
Mary acknowledged the incredible favor that had been demonstrated to her personally. Beyond personal considerations, she proclaimed powerful ramifications that would greatly impact the world. Wrongs would be righted. Justice would eventually prevail. Oppression in due course would cease. Tyrants, dictators, the ruling elite, and the proud would be cast down. The hungry, poor, outcast, and disenfranchised would be helped. All this and more was guaranteed by the promise God spoke to Abraham and was coming to pass with the birth of Christ. Is this something that should be ignored or should it be shouted from the rooftops now and forever more?
The theological term for this glorious event is called the Incarnation. In general terms it means in the flesh or to become human. When it came to the birth of Christ, however, who or what was becoming human or coming in the flesh? The Gospel according to John grants us the Biblical answer. John 1:1 and 1:14 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God… 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.”
Amazingly, the denial of the Incarnation is what constituted the dreadful designation the Bible called Anti-Christ. Any person, religion, or philosophy that denied Jesus Christ came in the flesh was considered Anti-Christ (1 John 4:1-3). Perhaps, there is more to this Christmas business than meets the eye.
The same Word that spoke the heavens and the earth into existence; the same Word canonized in the Bible; the same Word that God sent to heal us and deliver us from destruction became flesh and dwelt among us. One of the specific Words finds its fulfillment in Isaiah 7:14 which states, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew interprets the name Immanuel as God with us. C. S. Lewis defined the significance of the Incarnation as “The Son of God became a man so that men could become the sons of God.”
The first mention of the promise of the Incarnation traces back to Genesis 3:15. God promised, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Normally, I present this passage of Scripture to teach on the battle that is raging for the souls of men, the lives of children, and the future of our planet. For this article, however, the emphasis was changed. Genesis 3:15 was also the first mention the glorious Gospel of the Kingdom. It predicted the coming of Messiah as God’s remedy to redeem the Fall of man. To make this possible, God had to establish a seed line.
This, above all else, is what made Israel a special nation. God tapped Abraham and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” Why did God choose Abraham? This might have something to do with it. Genesis 18:19 states, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
The promise of Messiah passed from Abraham to Isaac from Isaac to Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons, which became the twelve tribes of Israel. Out of the twelve tribes, the tribe of Judah was chosen. Genesis 49:10 promised, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Out of the tribe of Judah, the House of David was chosen. 2 Samuel 7:12, 13 declares:
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever. Finally, the book of Galatians announced The Promise is born. Galatians 4:4, 5 records, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
Having traced the seed line that brought about the Glorious Incarnation, it is time to explore what this means to us and this poor fallen world?
There are many wonderful blessings associated with the Incarnation, but for our purposes, I’d like to concentrate on just two of them. One is corporate that concerns the world and the other is individual. The corporate implications of the Incarnation are discovered in Isaiah 9:6, 7. God’s word states:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
When did the Kingdom of God come and the establishment of God’s government commence? When the Son was given and the Holy Child was born. What does this mean in the real world? “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelations 11:15).” How or when shall it completely take place? All we need to know is “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.”
The Gospel according to Luke reveals how Christmas relates to us as individuals. God’s word states:
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:28-35).
Biblically, the same manner in which Mary conceived Christ physically is the same manner we receive Christ spiritually. Be it unto us according to Thy Word. 1 Peter 1:23 affirmed this powerful truth, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” James concurred, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).” The Apostle Paul agreed as well, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:15).”
The circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ in our poor fallen world are highly significant as well. There was no room for him in the inn. This world and each sinner in it have a natural repulsion towards Christ. We suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We reject the light and walk in darkness for fear our evil deeds will be exposed. We go astray from the womb because we are conceived in sin. We are born alienated from God and seek to be a law and god unto ourselves. Thus for many, there is no room in our wicked hearts for Christ.
He was born in a stinky stable and laid in a manger. The manger was not a crib, but a feeding trough for animals. To think that the King of the universe chose this humble estate in which to become one of us is mind boggling. What a powerful depiction of the state of our lives before the King of Glory, by the power of the Holy Ghost, takes up residence in our immoral lives. We suffer from stinking thinking and sinful actions. When Christ regenerates our lives, however, the sanctifying power of His precious blood goes to work to purify the “smelly stables” of our darkened souls.
Lastly, the ruling elite were clueless as the lowly shepherds saw and heard the glorious announcement:
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:10-14).
So it is today, many glory in their riches, power, and wisdom, while those who are being saved boast in the Lord. In this way Christmas, among its many other accomplishments, also reveals our calling:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Just as in His resurrection, Christ did not appear to Pilate, Caesar, and the High Priest, but rather visited His rough and unsophisticated disciples. So at His birth, the angels appeared to lowly shepherds and bypassed the rich and famous. As Jesus grew into an adult; His attitude towards the proud never changed. He prayed, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matthew 11:25).” “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out (Romans 11:33)!”
Much more can be shared about the implications of the “Glorious Incarnation,” but this will have to suffice for now. With that being said, I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and most blessed New Year in God’s Kingdom!