Monday, December 25, 2006

The Christmas Story

The story of Christmas begins in the beginning of creation when God created the heavens and the earth and made man and woman in the image of God and gave them dominion over His creation. Man was given one commandment, perfect obedience to God's command, do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but man was unable to be obedient to God and so he lost his status and was driven from God's presence to live outside of fellowship with God, to be barred from returning to Eden and to the presence of God. But God promised that there would be a seed of the woman who would crush the head of the one who lead her astray.

Man continued to live his life outside the presence of God, fathering sons in his likeness. Generation after generation, each generation living outside the presence of God and each generation continuing to fall short of the glory of God and further into corruption and sin to the point that God was sorry He created man. So, God sent judgment in the form of rain and wiped man off from the face of the earth except for a remnant of Noah and his family but soon man was again rebelling against God, attempting to reach heaven on his own terms. God destroyed the attempt and scattered the people.

God chose one man to father a holy nation, a nation that would be a light to all other nations of his holiness and righteousness. A nation through which God would rule all the nations. God called Abraham from his people to walk before God and God promised Abraham land and many descendants and that he would be a blessing to the nations. That which had been lost in Adam, would be regained in Abraham.

After many years God fulfilled his promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah in their old age. God made a covenant with Abraham to be his God and to be the God of his descendants. And God sealed this covenant with a visual representation, circumcision.

God tested Abraham, as he tested Adam in the garden and told him to sacrifice his son to Him. And Abraham proved to be obedient and as he was about to plunge the knife into his only son, the heir of the promise, God stayed his hand. Abraham's obedience illucited a conformation of the promises to Abraham:

Genesis 22: 16 "By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his [4] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
God promised Abraham's son Isaac that he would be his God the same way that he was the God of Abraham and he promised him numerous descendants and land. And God made the same promise to Isaac's son Jacob. And in Jacob, God begins to fulfill his promise of numerous descendants that he had made to Abraham.

Jacob and his descendants are sent by God into Egypt to begin a period of testing that would last for many generations. He was preparing His people to be His holy nation. In Egypt, God's people were mistreated and enslaved and they cried out and God heard their cries and remembered the promise that he had made to Abraham, to be their God and they His people. So, he called them out of Egypt and brought them to the wilderness to test them as He tested Adam and Abraham and He made a covenant with them, He would be their God and give them the land he had promised Abraham but they would have to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood. They would be expelled from the land if they did not follow his commandments. The people agreed and God gave them the commandments that they would have to live by and then He brought them to the land of promise but they didn't trust that God would give them victory over their enemies. They failed the test. So, in judgment they were forced to wonder in the desert until the rebellious generation died off.

God brought them to the promise land again and this time they went in and defeated their enemies but not completely. Soon they followed after the gods of their enemies and became like the nations they were to drive out. They were no longer a shining light to the nations but the a reflection of their enemies. In judgment, God raised up their enemies and forced them to live under their yoke of oppression until they cried out to God for mercy and then he would raise up a deliverer but after the deliverer died, the people would rebel again and commit evil against God. This cycle went on until Samuel when the people demanded a king like the other nations.

God gave Israel a king but he proved to be inadequate, so God chose another king for Israel, David and he made a covenant with him that his descendants would remain on the throne forever. But David's descendants worshiped other gods and put their trust in alliances with other nations and not in God. They did not lead the people in righteousness and both king and nation were worshiping the gods of the nations and were in rebellion against God, they were not following His commandments as they promised to do in the wilderness, so God drove them out of the land of promise just as he did with Adam and Eve.

In exile, God promised to make a new covenant with Israel, a covenant they could keep because it was not a covenant of circumcision of the flesh but of the heart. God would take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh and write His law on their hearts and in their mind and they would be His people and He would be their God forever. And He promised to send them Messiah, someone who would sit on the throne of David and would rule in righteousness and justice, who would break the yoke of oppression of their enemies and set them free to rule the nations.

And so they waited for their Messiah, he would free them from bondage to Babylon and when Babylon fell, he would free them from the hand of the Persians and then the Greeks, and finally the Romans. And as they waited for the Messiah, they began to believe that their adherence to the Torah would lead to the advent of the Messiah. So they strove to follow the law and to keep Torah. They would once again be a holy nation, one that was distinct from the Gentiles.

They waited for many years in expectation that their salvation from the hands of their oppression would come. They waited under the oppression of the Romans and the an insane monarch, Herod. They waited, burdened by the oppression of heavy taxation and almost slave like conditions.

Then out of the blue, in a forsaken corner of the nation a young peasant girl, a virgin is told that she will bear the Messiah, that the one that was to sit on the throne of David was to be in her womb:
Luke 1:31-33 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And her betrothed is told by an angel not to fear taking her for a wife:
Matthew 1:20 "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
The promise that God made to Abraham and David was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. Here was the one that was to sit on the throne of David throughout eternity and who was about to bless the nations. Who would save the nation of Israel from the oppression of their enemies. Zechariah prophesied of it after the birth of his son John:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
The people were to learn that the Messiah did not come just to save Israel but the world and his rule wasn't limited to Israel but to all of mankind. That he would sit in the throne of David on the right hand of God ruling the nations from heaven. We see this foreshadowed in the announcement of the angels to the shepherds:
Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
And the words of Simeon who was able to hold his Messiah in his hands:
Luke 2:29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
The Messiah has come, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham and David but the people did not understand that His salvation was not just from the oppression of the Romans but the oppression of the one who tricked the woman into eating of the tree forbidden by God. That the real battle would by fought and won over an eternal kingdom not a temporal kingdom.

The Messiah came to do so much more than the people expected, the promises of the Lord were fulfilled abundantly. Thanks be to God for His magnificent gift to the world of a Savior, Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas to you! I hope that your heart is filled with the knowledge of God's love and His desire to live in peace with you.


2 Comments:

  1. Pamela said...
    Merry Christmas... and thanks for your gift of helping me with my blog this year.

    You are Santa Michele
    michele said...
    You are welcome but I like Saint Michele better (hehe)

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