The Bible says Jesus was a “mystery” that was kept hidden for generations (Colossians 1:26). Many of our Christmas gatherings play off this same notion of mystery, revelation, or surprise. First, we make promises to bless one another. Then in secret, we go out and secure the most generous gift we can afford. We wrap the gift in paper, stick it under a tree… and for months we wait, letting the expectations of those we love build.
The Father promised Adam and Eve that a child would come. He promised Abraham that every nation on earth will be blessed through one of your offspring. But it’s not like God didn’t start seeding the clouds, hinting about the gift that was to come. In Deuteronomy 18:15 God told Moses He would raise up a prophet “like himself”. But Deuteronomy 18:18, this prophet would also be “like Moses” and “a brother.” God says, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak everything I command him.” Moses face radiated with the glory of God—just who was this person to come? God promised David that a King was coming who would establish his throne forever. God showed Daniel a vision of a Son of Man who come and establish a Kingdom that would never end.
Even more profoundly, God showed Isaiah vision after vision. Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.”
Isaiah 11:1-9, “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 3 His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, he will not execute justice by what he hears with his ears, 4 but he will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with a scepter[a] from his mouth, and he will kill the wicked with a command[b] from his lips. 5 Righteousness will be a belt around his hips; faithfulness will be a belt around his waist. 6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them. 7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle. 8 An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. 9 They will not harm or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water.”
In explicit detail, God shows Isaiah how this Christ child, this servant of God, would enter God’s glory through suffering (even death). How does the New Testament begin but with everyone looking into the dark sky waiting for the light of hope to appear, for Christmas morning to come! But then what does Galatians 4:4-7 tell us? “When the time came to completion [in the fullness of time!], God sent his Son, born of a woman.” And why? To redeem us, to adopt us, to be our Father forever and we his true sons and daughters, to make us eternal heirs of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3)
One of the things I love about the New Testament, no matter what book of the New Testament you read ,there are all these Old Testament references and quotations. It’s like the afterglow of Christmas when everyone is sitting around, enjoying their gifts, but then reflecting on the season, “Yeah, we were kind of surprised, but kind of not… do you remember when God told Adam and Eve… then Abraham, then Moses, then David, then Isaiah, and the Psalmists, and that prophet, and that person…. We kind of saw Christ coming all along! Father didn’t wrap him up tight enough; in love, the Father kept spilling the secret out drip by drip.”
Jesus is the mystery of God unveiled. It’s ironic. Christmas (Jesus) is the culmination of the single oldest story, the purpose, the plan and promise of God. But Christmas (Jesus) is also a kind of new beginning to a new story. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
If you’ve been to the movies lately, maybe you’ve seen that AMC $25 million dollar campaign commercial, where Nicole Kidman is sitting in an empty theater talking about the power of story to change us. As her face radiates from the halo of light cast from the projector… as she absorbs clips of Jurassic Park, Wonder Woman, and La La Land, she speaks of that indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim. “Somehow heartbreak feels good in a place like this”
Christmas isn’t just the first and oldest story (going back not just to creation, but to the very foundation of the world, my apologies Jurassic Park)! Christmas is the story of all stories, the story that changes all other stories. Christmas changes your story, my story, the story of history, the story of nations, or all heaven and earth and created order for eternity (my apologies to La La Land, Wonder woman, Nicole Kidman, and AMC)!
Let me again invite you to reflect on the wonder of the Christmas story. Part of the of the wonder of the Christmas story is seeing, feeling, tasting, touching, and experiencing God’s PRESENCE among us. This is why Isaiah said the promised child would be called Immanuel. Immanuel means “God’s with us.” I love the gospel of John, the fourth book in the New Testament.
The Apostle of John invites us to watch the spectacle of Christ’s life unfold. Here is what happens when. . .
• The Word (who was with God in the beginning, and was Himself Creator God) comes into the world and dwells or camps or tabernacles among us!
• Here is what happens to the darkness when God turns on the high beams of the glorious light of the life his One and Only Son Jesus Christ.
• When God displays his full glory, in all its grace and truth.
• When Jesus shows up in the wilderness, at a wedding, alongside the sea of Galilee, under a fig tree, at a wedding, at God’s holy temple, late one night in a Pharisees home, at a well where a seemingly unredeemable Samaritan woman is drawing water.
• When God stands before the vast harvest fields of harassed, helpless refugees—people without God and without hope. Here is what happens when God shows up by the sick bed of a boy, or at a sheep gate where the blind, lame, and paralyzed were dumped and forgotten, or by a pool that people imagine has mystical powers to heal their bodies!
• When Jesus shows up on a mountain where 5000 people are fainting from hunger, or shows up late at night to save the wind and wave whipped disciples, or happens upon the graceless mobs poised to stone the woman caught in adultery, or the funeral of a dead girl, or the funeral of a dead friend… etc. etc.
In Christ, there is a supernatural peace. In Christ, God is truly present not just among us but also within us. We know what it’s like to go about life without God and without hope in this dark world. We know what life is like without Immanuel, God with us. But have you tasted the peace God’s presence in Christ brings? “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27). “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.”” (Rev. 21:3-5). AMC commercial…Somehow heartbreak feels good in a place like this!
Another part of the of the wonder of the Christmas story is seeing, feeling, tasting, touching, and experiencing God’s POWER among us. It’s one thing to experience God’s presence, it’s another to experience God’s power. I love, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
You do not have to be a Christian or believer (of any kind of religion) to contemplate man’s need for salvation. Not do you have to be a believer to contemplate the INCREDIBLE POWER that would be required to bring salvation. Whatever you assume about to be true of God, you’d agree that we’ve been completely cut off from him. What power might reconcile us to God? What power might span the great chasm caused by our moral and spiritual rebellion? What power might quench the fury of God’s holy and righteous wrath? What power might bring everlasting light, life, and forgiveness to mortal men?
What power might free us from the carnality, power, and control of our own mortal flesh? What power might it take to truly destroy the dividing walls of cruelty erected among us and between all men? What power might silence the groans of creation and redeem us from the curse of death? I’ll tell you what makes for a blue, blue Christmas. It’s a Christmas void of the very presence and power of God in Christ! In Christ, there is forgiveness of sin and full reconciliation available with your God and Father. In Christ, there is freedom from the corruptive power of sin that’s robbed you of life. In Christ, there is the family restoration—we no longer relate as enemies but as Family of God, brother and sister, co-adoptees, co-heirs in Christ. In Christ there is also a future hope. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He said, “though you die yet shall you live” He said, “I am going to the Father to create a space, a place for you. And I go I have the power to come so that you will be with me forever—forever in the presence of God the Father!
A Christmas prayer. Ephesians 1:18-20a, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. 20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens”
Ephesians 3:14-20, “For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”