Thursday, December 24, 2009

Celebrating the Nativity

In the ancient world, all the land would celebrate the king's birthday as a holiday. Today, people in all lands celebrate Christmas as the birth of the one great King of Kings.

Both Christian and non-Christian, both churched and unchurched -- all, in one way or another, acknowledge Christ the King at this season. Of course, many only get the crumbs from the table in their celebration. All they see at this time is Santa, Rudolph and family get-togethers. Nevertheless, something about Christmas seems to resonate with just about everyone.

Did you ever wonder why Christmas seems to touch so many, so deeply? I think it has to do with a certain aspect of the Nativity message. It's a facet of the Gospel that most churches ignore, except during the Christmas season.

In short, the Nativity heralds the birth of a King who will put things right. A world where so many things are out of joint welcomes the arrival of the Baby in swaddling clothes who will restore goodness and justice to a troubled world. It's the message that resounds in many Scriptures that we quote only at Christmastide.

Christmas in Scripture

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 Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order and to establish it, and with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?. For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:1-2)

Christmas in Song

You also find the Biblical message of the King born to put things right echoed in the songs of Christmas. In fact, Handel's Messiah takes the words right out of Scripture itself. For example, Revelation 11:15 introduces the "Hallelujah Chorus":

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.

In Joy to the World, you find the exhortation: "Let earth receive her King." Also, the third verse of this carol carries a message that perfectly expresses the message of the Scriptures quoted above:

No more let sins and sorrows grow, 
   Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make Hid blessings known
   Far as the curse is found . . . .

O Holy Night also repeats that same message:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
   His Law is love, and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
  And in His name all oppression shall cease.

It Came upon the Midnight Clear also recounts message of the newborn King's peaceful reign:

For lo! The days are hast'ning on,
   By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years,
   Comes round the age of gold.
When peace shall over all the earth
  Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
  Which now the angels sing.

The Message of the Nativity

Have you ever heard people say that they wish that the spirit of Christmas could last all year long? Have you ever wondered why it doesn't?

I believe the reason lies substantially in the fact that after Christmas we (including most churches) pack up the message of the King along with the holiday ornaments. Yes, we preach that Jesus died for sinners (which is vitally true), and we preach that those who repent and trust in Him will have forgiveness and eternal life (also vitally true). But we leave out the part that Jesus is the King of Kings who has come to put things right.

Individuals, families, communities and nations that acknowledge Jesus as King and who live under His Royal Law will experience the blessings of Christmas all year round. That's the real message of Christmas (or as I like to call it, the Nativity).

So, proclaim liberty to the captive, seasons of refreshing to the weary and joy to the brokenhearted. For the King has come to put things right.

1 comment:

The Warrior said...

Once again, you made me think, and yet again-once again, excellent.