Even for believers in Christ, the days and weeks leading up to Christmas can surge like a whirlwind. We attended Christmas programs and worship services. We had dinners and parties with close and not-so-close friends. We circled parking lots, etching out a few stolen moments to buy gifts. And no doubt, at some point, we pondered the true meaning of Christmas. Well two days later, as we glance at this defining holiday in the rear view mirror, that same meaning still stands true.
The celebration of our Lord’s birth can be summarized in just one word: Promise. When sin forever separated mankind from the perfect God, He promised that He would send a redeemer. Every person born into this world would have a means of reconciliation to the Almighty, and a way to spend eternity with Him when we die. This promise sprang from the lips of God’s prophets for centuries before its fulfillment. It brought comfort and hope to a dying world that one day Messiah would come.
Though Mary was young and perplexed, and Joseph stunned and contemplating, baby Jesus was yet birthed exactly as Scripture said. And although Herod was paranoid and murderous, plotting the infanticide of the newborn Savior, Emmanuel survived because He had a divine mission to complete. Even as He caused doctors, lawyers, and other wise men to marvel at His wisdom, and ignited hatred among religious leaders, the Lord drew the broken and desperate to His side. As His followers forsook Him, doubters blasphemed Him, courts of law questioned Him, and the Roman government sentenced Him, Jesus carried the cross to Calvary willingly.
Our Lord was born in that animal stable over two thousand years ago to die. He was the perfect, lasting sacrifice promised by the Creator of the world to bear all the sins of mankind on His back. Jesus Christ is the literal fulfillment of God’s everlasting love. No one will be turned away who bows before Him in repentance and accepts the gift He has given us, which is the gift of eternal life in spite of everything we are, or are not. This is what brings true joy to the world, long after the Christmas holiday has passed.
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes 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.” –Isaiah 53:3-6