Tis the season for some good ole Christmas music, but with a twist 🙂
Today marks the end of our advent calendar. We hope that as you have read each day you have been blessed by these posts. The king of the universe and Our Lord is worthy of worship.
We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas.
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Below is another piece by Stuart Chase, as we consider the virgin birth. You can read more from him over at deformed.co.za.
It is impossible for a virgin to conceive, they argue. And yet the Bible tells us quite plainly that Mary did conceive, and give birth, as a virgin. The question to be asked is, how important is the doctrine of the virgin birth to historic Christianity? Its significance is at least fourfold.
First, it is significant because it shows that his birth was supernatural. Right from the outset, Jesus’ life was shown to be one of supernatural significance. The story of Jesus of Nazareth commenced with a supernatural birth and concluded with a supernatural resurrection and ascension. As Donald Macleod notes, “The virgin birth is … blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find offence there is no point in proceeding further.”[1. Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology (Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 37.]
Second, it is significant because it shows that humanity can’t redeem itself. The human race was infected by sin. The sin nature, it seems, is passed from father to children; Jesus was therefore born without a sin nature because he had no biological human father. This made him uniquely qualified to serve as humanity’s Saviour.
The old testament is filled with rituals that were ment to guide our relationship with God. There was many priests who would serve to mediate between God and man. There were various sacrifices that were made to atone for sin. All of this was a shadow of what was to come.
The book of Hebrews was written so the we can see that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has not just come to fit into the earthly system of priestly ministry. He was not just a mere prophet. He wasn’t just the best and final human priest or just a significant sacrifice.
Jesus came to fulfill and put an end to that system of constant sacrifice. There is no need for priests to mediate for us because Jesus himself is ministering for us in heaven. The Old Testament tabernacle and priests and sacrifices were shadows. Now the reality has come, and the shadows pass away.
That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing. Jesus.
Now the main point in what has been said is this:
we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat
at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the
heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true
tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.
(This was inspired in part by John Pipers advent-Good news of Great Joy)
One of the images that comes to mind when we speak about Christmas is the image of Jesus as a baby. It is a tender yet striking image. Jesus as a new born, fresh from the womb, wrapped in swaddling cloth laying within a trough. It is in the centre of most nativity scenes. But we must be mindful to remember that is not where the image stops. The later part of Luke 2 tells us the story of when Jesus as a boy was found in the temple to be speaking to the teachers with wisdom beyond his years;
Luke 2:46-49 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress and he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus is not just a child that was born, he knew at a young age what his purpose was and he grew up with this in mind;
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Christmas is beautiful to us as it signifies the entrance of our Jesus into this world on the path to our redemption and his glory. Having accomplished his goal he is now to be considered the Lord Jesus Christ. Not the baby Jesus.
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The below (slightly long post) is by a brother called Stuart Chase who is also a elder at my church you can read from him over at deformed.co.za
Every December, we are reminded that a good segment of the wider Christian community vociferously objects to the celebration of Christmas. They point out that the birth of Christ is nowhere celebrated in the Bible or in early Christian literature. They argue that Jesus was demonstrably not born in late December. But the proverbial cherry on their argumentative cake is the undeniable historical fact that, long before it was celebrated as Christmas, 25 December was observed by pagans as Saturnalia (a festival in honour of Saturn) and Sol Invictus (the birthday of the sun god Mithras). It was not until the fourth century that Christians started celebrating the day in honour of Christ’s birth, and only in the sixth century was Christmas officially recognised as a Christian holiday.
The argument is that Christmas has clear pagan roots (much like Halloween), and should therefore not be celebrated by Christians.
The truth of the matter, however, is that Christmas has far deeper and far more ancient roots than Saturnalia or Sol Invictus. To be sure, December is quite clearly not the month in which Jesus was born, but the promise of Christmas was, nevertheless, humanity’s earliest hope. Prophecies of the incarnation are scattered throughout the Old Testament.
The earliest prophecy of Christmas was given at the dawn of human history, and is recorded in Genesis 3. God had created Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden, filled with everything they needed. He gave only one restriction: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed, and so the human race—and the entire creation—came under a divine curse. But that very curse became the basis for the promise of the incarnation.
When God confronted Adam and Eve because of their sin, he pronounced a curse on all three parties involved in the fall: the serpent (Satan), the woman (Eve), and the man (Adam). It is in the serpent’s curse that the first promise of Christmas is found.
“So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:14). This verse tells us why the promise of Christmas was necessary: because of the curse. All creation was cursed, but the serpent was cursed “more than” the rest of God’s creation.
The serpent’s curse is instructive for the Christmas promise. The emphasis of the serpent’s curse is not “on your belly,” but “you shall eat dust.” Eating dust is symbolic in Scripture of utter defeat (Micah 7:15–17). So thorough would the serpent’s defeat be that he is seen eating dust even in the restored creation (Isaiah 65:17–25). Unlike the rest of creation, the serpent’s curse was total and irreversible.
But the text goes on to enumerate the means by which this total defeat would take place: “And I will enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Here is the first revelation of Christmas.
The identity of “the Seed” is somewhat cryptic here, and certainly Adam and Eve did not know who the promised Seed was. The New Testament applies the language of crushing the serpent to Jesus Christ (Romans 16:20). But while the Genesis text doesn’t give a great deal of detail on the identity of the Seed, there are some significant features.
First, the Seed would be the Seed of the woman. This is significant in the Bible, which tends to identify people as the seed of their father. There is, perhaps, a hint of the virgin birth here: that the Seed would have no earthly father, but would instead be the Seed of the woman.
Second, the Seed would wage war against the serpent. We see this in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry. At one point, Jesus portrayed himself as entering a strong man’s house and plundering it. The strong man, in that context, was Satan. When he came to earth, Jesus took the war to the forces of darkness. In fact, it was his victory in that war that served as proof that the kingdom of God had come (Matthew 12:25–30).
Third, the Seed would be severely wounded in the battle. The serpent would strike the Seed’s heel, resulting in fatal injury. This was indeed fulfilled when Christ died on the cross. The wound that he suffered was death. His death was because of sin—not his own sin, to be sure, but the sin of those whom he came to save. The war waged against the forces of darkness cost him his life.
Fourth, the Seed would triumph. His heel would be crushed—but in the process he would crush the serpent’s head. This brings us to the final consideration.
The promise of Christmas is a promise of victory: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). At the very moment in which he believed he was victorious—the moment he struck the Seed’s heel—the serpent would suffer defeat. The curse would be turned into eternal blessing. The Seed would prove victorious, crushing the work of the devil. Yes, he would suffer great loss in the process, but in the end he would emerge the victor.
Of course, Christ’s victory over Satan was accomplished at the cross, not in the manger. It was at the cross, when he died, that Satan struck Christ’s heel. Victory cost Jesus his life—but only temporarily. The resurrection proved to be the decisive act. In the resurrection, Christ displayed his victory. The power of Satan had been trampled underfoot. The victory was won at Calvary.
But, of course, victory at Calvary would have been impossible apart from birth in Bethlehem. In order for the Seed of the woman to attain victory, he had to first be born. And ever since the promise of victory in the garden, humanity anticipated the coming of the Seed who would crush the head of the serpent.
For centuries following the fall, Jewish women lived in hope that they would be the one to bear the promised Seed. As history marched on, and the curse continued to weigh down on humanity, and the war between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed continued to rage, the only hope of victory was the anticipated Seed.
And then one day, in an obscure village in first century Palestine, a peasant girl heard these glorious words:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
(Luke 1:30–33, 35)
The twenty-fifth of December may have been celebrated by pagans long before it was celebrated by Christians, but the promise of Christmas is far more ancient than Saturnalia or the fabled birth of Mithras. The promise of Christmas stretches back to the dawn of time. And apart from Christmas—apart from the incarnation of the promised Seed—the victory of Easter would be impossible.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”