Chrismtas Eve

Act 1—Hope
At her core, the story of Christmas is the story of Scripture.  From the very beginning, God’s good creation was a gift to us and Himself.  To us as a means of provision and to Himself as a glorifying beacon that points to His transcendent might.  In spite of this wonderful present our poor choices revealed the depth of the sin of humanity and our inability to abide with and in the Almighty.

But in the midst of that rebellion, God’s mercy and planning are on full display as He promises a special provision—a new gift—that will undo the work of Satan and sin:

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.
(Genesis 3:15).

It is this grand pronouncement where the longings of Christmas truly begin. 

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

It is this longing to which John harkens back as the New Testament celebrates the arrival of the promised seed:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
(John 1:1 – 5)

Following our story we see the generations of a faithful family as they struggle through a world wrought with hardship, sin, and death.  After over a millennium and a half the longings of the people are summarized:

Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. 29 Now he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.”
(Genesis 5:28 – 29)

This is the hope of people, a rest; a deliverance, a redemption from God:

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

It is this hope, this longing for rest that is finally fulfilled in our Christmas lamb:

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
(Hebrews 4:10)

As we walk through Scripture God gracious provides us with more detail and a clearer picture of what our seed and source of rest will look like.  Through the sometimes rocky but always forwardly faithful walking of His people we see the hand of God provide and protect as He moves history towards its culmination:

We three kings of Orient are; 
bearing gifts we traverse afar, 
field and fountain, moor and mountain, 
following yonder star. 

Glorious now behold him arise; 
King and God and sacrifice: 
Alleluia, Alleluia, 
sounds through the earth and skies. 

O star of wonder, star of light, 
star with royal beauty bright, 
westward leading, still proceeding, 
guide us to thy perfect light.

“Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.

(Genesis 49:9 – 11)

Act 2—Love
Throughout all of this, humanities constant demonstration of sinfulness proves over and over again that we are broken and in and of ourselves incapable of restoring the good things God has given.  And yet, the steady drumbeat of God’s love can be heard as we see His mercy on display by His continued progressing towards the work of redemption:

From His lessons we learn more about the promised seed.  We learn He is to know God; to be One who will commune with God face to face as humanity once did in the perfect Garden. 

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
(Deuteronomy 18:15)

We are also presented with a picture of eternality of this soon to be prophet as God shows His power to redeem in one of the lesser voices to Israel.

As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
(2 Kings 2:11 – 12)

Angels we have heard on high,
singing sweetly o’er the plains,
and the mountains in reply
echoing their brave delight.

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
gloria in excelsis Deo.

It is this announcement that finds its highest fulfillment in the revelation of Christmas:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
(Hebrews 1:1 – 2)

An example of the love of God upon those who do not deserve it can be shown so vividly in one of His chosen pictures.  At a time when the people were perhaps the most lost In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25), they were granted a deliverer.  Not the deliverer the wanted, but surely the deliverer they deserved. 

This judge of the nation was set apart before his birth and was granted great strength.  Yet his sinful desires pulled him away again and again until there was no chords left to tie him to His God.  But instead of receiving his earthly reward in full; the love of God stirred within His servant the response of faith—and a demonstration of the work this seed and prophet would one day perform.

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.
(Judges 16:28 – 30)

The work of Samson should cause us to wonder, who could possibly have a strength greater than the most powerful of men.  Who could succeed where others fell; and who could rightly offer a sufficient sacrifice to overcome our great sin.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
(1 Peter 3:18)

Act 3—Joy
The need for a complete deliverance became ever more apparent to each generation.  Despite the love and mercy of God; each generation of people struggled anew with the temptations of sin and the corrupting pull of the depravity of this world.

In was in that setting that God’s voice was heard and His lessons taught through the prophets: walking reminders of the promises of God and the hope for His future Kingdom to come.  There messages of condemnation of sin were always seasoned with a reminder to turn to God; to trust in His grace; to long for His world that had been lost so very long ago.  Building upon this message was new information about how God could possibly set right what our sin had broken so easily.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:31 – 34)

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

It is this message of redemption wherein the true work of Christmas is found; for the work of Christmas is not a birth, but a prophetic sacrifice to undo the stain and power of sin.

For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
(Hebrews 9:19 – 22)

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
(Luke 22:19 – 20)

It is here that the simple act of birth, which in and of itself can create a joy unspeakable, becomes so much more.  Throughout Scripture, the story of God working can be seen in His choosing of the: lowly, poor, downtrodden, and afflicted.  The emptiness of our sin shown in the emptiness of the wombs God works through: Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth, Manoah’s wife, Hannah; all culminating in what is the most barren of wombs—the womb of a virgin.

The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14)

That simple promise contains within it: the answer to our hopes, the working of God’s love, and the reason for our joy.  The seed who will be prophet will have the power because He will not be broken as we are; but instead will be from God—will be God.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
(Luke 1:30 – 33)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive its king;
let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

Act 4—Peace
Because God has revealed that He, Himself will be the promised seed to faithfully deliver His messages, completing our joy, and delivering finally His people.  We can easily see the fulfillment of the monarchy that has been shown.

David was the king anointed by God.  The one who unified the nation, conquered her enemies and ushered in her peace.  But he was a man of war, a man of sin, and therefore unable to take the mantle of King of Kings.  What from a human view would be seen as a failure, was redeemed by God and used to demonstrate who the true King was to be.

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
(2 Samuel 7:12 – 13)

Sing we now of Christmas,
Noel, sing we here!
Hear our grateful praises
to the babe so dear.

Sing we Noel, the King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas, sing we now Noel!

Here the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ come together for the work of redemption.  The seed crushes the serpent, not by appeasing Satan or by defeating him in battle, but instead by appeasing God.  The Prophet rightly teaches of God’s Law and ordinances but also is the One who is strong enough to be the sacrifice and deliverer we desperately need.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5 – 11)

That knowledge, that fulfillment—that redemption is why we worship; it is why we live every single day in realization that Christ has come and that His work has been accomplished.  The longing of the nations is fulfilled in the Spirits indwelling of us.  The hope of those who have gone before is complete in each generation of believers that faithfully walk.

It is here that we stand in the line of believers who have come and gone and proclaim the mercies and excellencies of Him who has worked on our behalf.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19 – 20)

Go tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born!

Down in a lowly manger
the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation
that blessed Christmas morn.

Go tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born!

Go and do likewise; living each day for Him who has done and fulfilled all of this.  And know that while Christmas commemorates His birth; the story of Christmas is told on every page, by every word, and should be told by our every day—as long as He gives us breath.

Merry Christmas!!!!

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