Friday, December 25, 2015

What exactly are we celebrating on Christmas?

Isaiah 9:6King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

John 1:14King James Version (KJV)

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas to you all! This is the day that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ celebrate his birth. While some say, "there's no record of the early church celebrating Jesus' birth," I say, "there's no record of them celebrating their families birthdays or anniversaries either. Are you going to say that it's a sin to do so when the Bible clearly does not say that it is?" Incidentally, when the Angels sang on the day of his birth, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? When the Shepherds went to see him, wasn't that an acknowledgement of his glorious birth? When the wise men brought gifts (probably 2 years later) on his birthday, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? 
Some say, "Christmas has pagan roots and we shouldn't celebrate pagan things." If we were to cut out every pagan thing in our culture, we'd have practically nothing left. By their argument, why don't we go back to the Jewish calendar? After all, even the days of the week on the Gregorian calendar we use in the western world are all named after pagan gods. 
Finally, some say, "Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, so we shouldn't celebrate his birthday on that day." To these I say, "we don't know his birth date, so December 25th is as good a day as any other." 
Why cannot we Christians just except the good in some things instead of saying everything short of breathing is a sin? Relax! Jesus came, in part, to bring us joy everlasting and life eternal! Isn't that worth celebrating? 
But here's the most amazing thing to me. 
In the Old Covenant, before the first temple was built, the Jews worshiped God at a glorious tent called the tabernacle. It was at the altar near this tabernacle that the sacrifices were made by the priests for the sins of the people. It was in this tabernacle that this blood was taken, by the high priest, into the Holy of Holies, to sprinkle it onto the mercy seat in the midst of the ark of the covenant. 
The Holy of Holies was also where the presence of God dwelt. God is holy! No one unholy could enter there. In fact, they tied a long rope with bells on it to the ankle of the high priest when he went in. Why? Because if he had not repented right, if he had not sacrificed right, if he had not used the right amount of sacrificial blood on himself and his clothing before he entered the presence of God within the Holy of Holies, he would be struck dead by the holiness of God! 
For centuries, between the tabernacle and (later) the first temple, God was pretty well inaccessible to the vast majority of human beings. The laundry list of requirements to the people, the priests, and for the high priest himself, is astounding to read (found in Leviticus-Deuteronomy)! If a man had a small blemish on his skin, he could not be the high priest. 
If anyone tried to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, they would be struck dead by God himself! 
The people lived in fear and wonder of God. Yet, they were separated by sin from the one thing both God and man desired- a close relationship with almighty God! 
Then, an amazing thing happened. Mankind could do nothing to fix the situation, but God could. 
God himself became a man!
Read Isaiah 9:6 above. This baby that was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago was God himself! He was "the everlasting Father" in human flesh. He was the "wonderful Counsellor" (Holy Ghost) in a human body. He was "the mighty God" in a frail, human form. 
John puts it in an even more amazing way in John 1:14: "the word was made flesh and DWELT among us..." The word for "dwelt" there comes from the Greek word "skenoo", which means, " 
  1. to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
  2. to dwell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So, "on that first Christmas morn" (as some folks word it), GOD made his own tabernacle- his own Holy of Holies, and dwelt there!
  
Now, for the first time since Adam's day, common men and women could walk and talk with God! They could touch God! Shepherds who could never have come into his presence before, were able to actually touch him! Even the wise men would never have been able to give gifts to and touch and interact with God before this day. But, now they could! 
This was God reaching out to a lost and dying world in a magnificent way. He touched people now that he could never have touched before the incarnation. He talked with common sinners and forgave them (without requiring them to kill a sheep)! He showed love and compassion where he couldn't do it before. 
Why? Because he knew that soon even THIS new tabernacle's veil (his own flesh) would be torn on a cross on a hill called Calvary and HIS OWN BLOOD (ACTS 20:28) would be shed to cover the sins of these (and every person) people he was now touching. 
God made a plan before time began to buy us back! And that plan (his word) was made flesh and put into action on that "first Christmas morning."
What an amazing God we serve! 
Jesus Christ, not just the son of God, but the God of the whole universe all by himself, made flesh in order to purchase a people with his own blood.
Oh, what a savior! 
That's why I celebrate Christmas. It's not about the gift giving (though there were gifts given on Jesus' birthday). It's not about the family time so much (though we do enjoy that and thank God for the blessing he has given us in each other). 
It's all about the ultimate gift that God almighty gave by tabernacling himself in a human body to pay for the sins of us all! So, I will celebrate Christmas because it's the one day a year that nearly everyone celebrates him. AND I CHOOSE TO USE THIS DAY TO TELL THEM JUST HOW SPECIAL THIS DAY REALLY IS! And, they need to know how special they are in his eyes: so that they can see his nail-scarred hands reaching out to them in the hope that they will obey his plan of salvation (Acts 2:38) and come to him. 
The God of the universe became man, so that man could have a relationship with him. 
Won't you respond to him today? 
Merry Christmas to you all!