Friday, December 9, 2016

Why Christmas? (1)

I apologize if you don’t understand German. The video above is one of those “man on the street” interviews done at a Christmas Market in Hamburg Germany back in 2012. The question they are asked is simply, “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” Even though they are likely cheery-picked, it is astounding to see just how many people have no idea what Christmas is about.

It is a bit funny or possibly embarrassing to see just how bad the understanding of Christmas is in a land famous for the way they celebrate Christmas. But we must ask ourselves, are we any better? Sure, you can likely answer the question, “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” in your sleep. It’s all about Jesus birth, right? (and Santa, and family, and a big meal, and lights…) But Christmas really is not simply about Jesus birth.

“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” -Galatians 4:4,5

1. In Christmas we see the pinnacle of world history, the pinnacle of God’s plan of salvation.

We read in the Bible—in all the different books and all the diverse dramas, poems, and letters—an overarching story. It is the story of Jesus. It is the story of God’s plan to rescue creation from the sin of mankind’s rebellion.

Way back in Genesis 3:15, right after sin entered creation and God is cursing the tempter, God reveals His plan for a Messiah. A few pages later, God is telling Abraham about that Messiah. We repeatedly see God working in Creation to save His people—from their enemies and from their own rebellion.

And here in Galatians, Paul writes that Jesus, the Messiah, came at precisely the right moment in time. Experts agree. There was never before that moment in history a time when the Messiah could have so impacted the cultures of the whole world. The Roman Empire had conquered so much of the world that for the first time since Babel there was a commonality, a network of transportation and a common language spoken everywhere, that enabled a movement to spread across the whole of human culture.

It is precisely in this moment in time—the best possible time for God‘s plan—that Christmas occurred. It was no coincidence.

This is no small miracle. According to the source of all modern knowledge, Wikipedia: “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name, coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.”

All that is a bit of an extreme speculation of how complex our world and our history is. But the idea here is true. No man can hope to control the world and bend circumstances to their will. But the Bible tells us, and even demonstrates to us, that God as Creator of the universe outside the universe does have that ability. He holds everything under His watchful care, in His controlling hand. He can even use our free will and the choices we make for His own perfect purpose and plan.

Some call this providence. I don’t like the term because it is too often misunderstood or misused. But I recently heard a sermon by Drew Stephens where he defined the concept quite well:

”God is working connecting our lives together in the weaving of world circumstances to bring as many people as possible to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.”

All of this means for us that we are not merely celebrating a birthday at Christmas. Even if it happens to be the most important birthday in history. We see in Christmas the fulfillment of all of our hopes, the salvation of creation, the love of God. We should celebrate Christmas, but we should also be continually changed by Christmas. Because Christmas isn’t just for the world, it is for us as well…

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