Christmas, a Time to Be…
The story begins like this: on the night that Jesus was born certain shepherds were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock. It was to them first of all that the news of his birth was broken. And by an angel no less! “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”, he said. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
It’s easy to feel remote from it all. These shepherds belong to a different age and, for most of us, to a different race. And the message was very much for them too, as Jews. For by “all the people” the angel meant all the people of Israel. God had promised them a Saviour. And now, after a long, long wait he had come. You could be forgiven for asking, “What is there in this for our largely non-Jewish 21st century world? What is there in this for me?”
The answer is much! The good news this angel announced is God’s good news for us. For you, for me, for all the world. It’s why Christians make so much of the Christmas story. It’s why we sing about it and talk about it. It’s why this article has been written. It’s why I ask you to take a few moments to read it.
The title is deliberately incomplete: Christmas, a time to be… Let’s fill in the blanks (for there are several!).
A time to be glad
The shepherds were afraid. Terrified in fact. An angel of the Lord was a scary being, especially one who came with such heavenly glory that the darkness was dispelled in an instant. But there was no need to be afraid. This was no avenging angel. He had come with “good news of great joy”. A Saviour had been born. It was a time to be glad, not filled with fear.
The God who sent him wants us to be glad too. And for the very same reason. A Saviour has been born. That was certainly good news for the Jews. It is good news for Jewish people still. But it’s also good news for the rest of us. Why? Because the same Bible that tells us that God sent his Son to be a Saviour to the Jews also tells us that he sent him “to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). It was because God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). The promise of eternal life is for whoever believes in him.
But we need to back up a little. I may be in serious need of medical attention. But unless I know that I am I’m not going to seek it out. So with Jesus. Why is it that the sending of a Saviour from heaven is a matter of sheer indifference to people? It’s because they have no sense of need for a Saviour. They are getting on perfectly fine without one. But the need is real! One day we are going to stand before our Maker, the God who has cared for us, provided for us, helped us, loved us; the God to whom we owe every breath and who is rightfully our lord. And we are going to have to answer for the way in which we have lived our lives in relation to him. For how we have pushed him to the margins of our lives – and beyond. For how we have refused him our service, our love, our worship, our obedience. For all the myriad of ways in which we have wronged both him and our fellow humans. How can we escape his condemnation? Impossible without a Saviour!
Which is why Christmas is a time to be glad. For in Jesus the God against whom we have sinned has lovingly given us the very thing that we need – a Saviour.
A time to be confident
We live in a world of under-performing products; of things (and people) that promise but can’t deliver. Can we have confidence in Jesus? Is he up to the task? Part of the answer lies in the title that the angel gave to him, Christ.
Think about the shepherds. The identifying of this baby as Christ was music to their ears. We can be sure of that. For it was the Christ for whom they had long been waiting; it was the Christ whom God had promised to send. That was how people referred to him; that was what they called him. And now here was an angel from heaven announcing his arrival.
We can be confident, then, of his identity. But so too of his ability. ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed one’. For the great task that was ahead of him – to save his people from their sins – Jesus was going to be anointed or empowered by the Holy Spirit. God had promised it beforehand. And as we follow the course of Jesus’ life we see how faithfully God kept his word. It was by the help of Holy Spirit that he taught God’s word. It was by the help of Holy Spirit that he performed his miraculous works. And it was by the by the help of the Holy Spirit that he died for us on the cross of Calvary.
History is littered with false saviours. People who have turned out to be frauds and failures. Not Jesus! When he was here he was given all the resources he needed to begin, carry on, and successfully complete the work he had been given to do. And by afterwards raising him from the dead and by using him since to transform millions of lives God has put that beyond all doubt.
So Christmas is a time to be confident. The Saviour we need is the very Saviour whom God has given to us in Jesus.
A time to be amazed
Here’s a big international company. It’s having to deal with a problem. Who do you think sets-to to sort it out? The CEO himself! That tells you how major a problem it is. And so with regard to our sin. How big a problem is our sin? The answer lies in the one whom God sends to deal with it. Let’s listen again to the angel: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”. This baby was no mere human, though to look at him that’s what you would suppose. This was the Lord himself, come from heaven to earth, because no one less than he was capable of sorting out the problem created by our sin.
“Christ the Lord”, says the angel. The Jesus of Bethlehem was a divine person; God the Son sent by God the Father. What an astonishing thing that he should come! And in the way that he did – clothing himself with our nature. And with a work ahead of him that would take him eventually to the suffering and death of the cross. Christmas is a time to be amazed. Amazed at the love of God. Amazed that he should so want to forgive us the wrongs we have done him that he was prepared to do this for us.
A time to be saved
All around the world, this Christmas season, Christians are doing what I have been doing in this article – telling people the “good news of great joy” that a Saviour has been born. You can guess why. We want people to be saved! It’s what I want for any reader who is not yet right with God. I want you to be freed from your guilt. I want you to be delivered from the wrath to come. I want you to be able to live the life your Creator created you to live. I want you to have the joy of knowing God, the pleasure of his eternal friendship.
It is through Jesus and Jesus alone that these blessings are to be had. It is to him, therefore, that you must turn. Give up all hope of saving yourself. Confess to Jesus your sin and ask him to be your Saviour. Welcome him, in the greatness of your need, into your heart and life. Give yourself unreservedly to him and live under his lordship from this day forward.
Let me appeal to you too to do it without delay. Don’t allow all the other things that are happening at this busy time to crowd it out. It is too important. Two thousand years ago a Saviour was born, Christ the Lord. Let this Christmas be the time when he becomes a Saviour to you.
David Campbell is a minister at North Preston Evangelical Church, and a trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust.
Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash
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