A Meditation and Devotion for Christmas
Christmas is many things to many people. A busy time, a time for family, 'all about the children,' nativity plays, gifts, remembering loved ones, carol services, good cheer, painful memories, a festival of colour and warmth in the middle of winter, an opportunity to invite friends and family to church and hear the good news, have them understand the 'real meaning of Christmas.'
Of course, some in this season face tragic circumstances, have sad memories, and entertain painful regrets. Not for them the Christmas cheer we all look forward to. For me it is a time to remember that we worship a God who keeps his promises. To remember that, at the time of the greatest tragedy in man's history, his terrible and devastating fall, God made this promise:
'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.' (Gen.3:15)
This is known as the protoevangelium, the first proclamation of the gospel, a promise that Christ would come and crush Satan and redeem mankind from the fall. God promised salvation at the time of greatest tragedy, pain and regret, something to remember in our troubled world and personal circumstances. Everyone who has looked to him throughout history has held on to that promise, whatever their circumstances. Priests and kings, shepherds, tent-makers, rich men, beggars, children and widows, lepers and doctors, fishermen and tax-collectors, all looked to that time when God would finally, and decisively act to liberate all creation 'from its bondage to decay.' (Rom. 8:21-24)
That promise began to be fulfilled through Abraham, from whom God promised to make a great nation, a people for himself.
The Promise to Abraham
“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (Gen.12:1-3; Ge.18:18, c.f. Mt.1:1; Lk 3:34; Gal.4:4)
When we look at the genealogy of Jesus, we read, A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham; Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob...' (Mt.1:1-2)
The Promise to Jacob
And so, through Jacob, the promise of a Saviour is remembered, reiterated. It is a promise fulfilled initially by David but, ultimately, by the one promised from the beginning:
“A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth” (Nu.24:17, c.f. Lk 3:34; Mt.1:2)
The Promise to Judah
“The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet. Until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Ge.49:10, c.f. Lk. 3:33; Mt.1:2-3)
This is the one to whom all nations will come and worship, whose rule and worth will be universally recognised. (Rev.15:3-4)
The Promise to David
Despite the sins of of kings like Ahaz, a descendent of David, the promised Messiah, will sit on David's throne and rule and reign eternally.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Is.9:7, c.f.Is.11:1-5; Mt.1:1,6)
The Promise to Bethlehem
“But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Mic.5:2, c.f. Mt.2:1; Lk.2:4-7)
'Bethlehem Ephratha,' not to distinguish it from other Bethlehems, of which there are many, but to remind us that his birthplace is the birthplace of kings. Here a king would be born, the King of kings.
The Promise to the Virgin
“Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel” (Is.7:14, c.f. Mt.1:18; Lk.1:26-35)
'Immanuel' meaning 'God with us.' The one promised from the very beginning, Eve's offspring, Abraham's seed, Jacob's rising star, David's promised king, Bethlehem's ruler 'from ancient times,' would be no other than God himself.
The Promise to Galilee
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Is.9:1-2, c.f. Mt.4:12-16)
Galilee, the most oppressed, by Syrian domination, despised by Southern Jews because of its mixed population such that it is called 'Galilee of the Gentiles,' would be the first to see the great light of God's deliverance in Jesus.
The Promise to God’s People
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers, you must listen to him” (Dt.18:15, c.f. Jn.6:14;1:45; Ac.3:19-26)
Here is the one of whom Philip spoke when he ran to tell his brother, Nathanael, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law...' (John 1:45)
The Promise to Sinners
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is.53:4-5, c.f. Mt.8:16-17; Ro.4:25; 1 Cor.15:3)
Here is the one who is universally recognised when you read them this short passage, written some 700 years before his birth. He has been foretold, his story is universal, and there is no hiding who he is and what he has done.
The Promise of Victory
“When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious – that you, O Lord God, might dwell there” (Ps.68:18, c.f. Lk.24:50-51; Ac.1:9)
This one would 'ascend on high' in complete victory and to the total devastation of all who stood against and defied him.
God’s Promises are ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus
“As surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you...was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, but in him it has always been ‘Yes’. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor.1:18-22)
In him all God's promises are affirmed with a resounding 'Yes!' as he saves, seals, indwells, and gives his sure promise to his people, all who trust in him.
God Who keeps His Promises
Faithful Simeon, devout and patient, awaits God's salvation, trusting that God keeps his promises, is rewarded when the infant Jesus is brought to the temple.
"Moved by the Spirit, [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
'Sovereign Lord, “as you have promised”, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, “which you have prepared in the sight of all people” a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to tour people Israel'” (Lk.2:27-32)
Christmas is a time to remember that God is faithful, a promise-keeper. May we, like Simeon, be faithful, watchful for that time when he comes again, this time to rule and reign, to judge the wicked and reward the faithful, to bring full and final salvation to all who look to him and worship him. May you have a blessed Christmas and be filled with wonder again at the great good news that, 'we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.' (Ro. 5:1-2)