18 Dec, 2010 Inspiration for Christmas
(Like a mini-message – this is what we included in our Christmas e-letter to friends and family this year. Its a bit long, but could encourage faith and hope 🙂
Why we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus has been talked about often. In summary, babies are born every day, so the significance of Christmas is not just celebrating the birth of a baby. It’s about WHO that particular baby was.
The reason people got excited about Jesus is because of the way His life fulfilled so many Old Testament prophecies. These have been further and further evidenced through the great work that has been done in the field of textual criticism. Generously speaking Jesus fulfilled about 350 prophecies, but even to a hardened skeptic (such as a Jew who denies Jesus was the fulfillment) Jesus still fulfilled a staggering 190 prophecies! To understand the significance of this, to get 2 or 3 prophecies correct takes a miracle – and there is all-but no parallel for even that. It’s a field of evidence that is simply overwhelming. Christmas thus becomes truly exciting, because it could be a point in history at which God made one of His ultimate interventions.
If you consider what the world’s problem might be, or consider a solution, the Bible suggests that no political or religious idea or system can solve the problems because the problem is in our hearts. Namely, it is our sin, or seemingly inbuilt selfishness. Fixing that requires more than human effort (try being perfect for a while and you will see). Nothing short of divine intervention can do it! Assuming God’s reality, this ‘sin’ is so great an offense to a holy, perfect God that the Bible says He CANNOT let us into heaven. However ,what He could do was provide a solution that would satisfy His just requirements as a holy God, and because God does love us He had the motivation to do it. It’s all good news! Here is what God did.
1. God had lots of teaching about His ways written down, including the history of those who both did and didn’t pay attention to it. This way we could learn how He wants us to live (the Bible).
2. God came in flesh (Jesus) to demonstrate the life we should live (we have a prototype of the ‘ideal’ life).
But up until this point we were still stuck, as we merely had the definition of how we should live but had no means to change ourselves / power to do it. So…
3. He provided a way for us to be forgiven for all our wrongs (Jesus’ death and bodily resurrection) which satisfied His need for justice, and thus enabled us to be made holy /be justifiably forgiven. As a result we could, one day, be where He is (heaven) without destroying its perfection through the presence of our sin.
4. He sent the Holy Spirit, who indwells all who believe in Jesus for their forgiveness, to help them live more holy lives. Obviously there are many insincere ‘Christians’ – but there are also many good ones whose lives stand out as a testimony to this hidden power, if we’re willing to look and consider.
In other words – God did it all! All we are left with is to make our own CHOICE, and to follow that through for about 70 years. Unfortunately there are high consequences involved, for if we do not make that choice we remain as we are. The Bible says that will be a real problem for us! But, inversely, there is no denying that choosing to follow God’s ways will involve some challenging selfless effort on our part also!
What is yet to come in history?
(Answer: A ‘staggered’ intervention, and even more Christian holidays – did you know?)
But wait – did you know there was more? While the Bible prophesied much about the ‘Messiah’s’ first coming, it prophesies that He will come TWO more times (just like in the movie title – ‘The Return of the King’). For some reason, God decided not to end all the suffering on this planet back at the time of Jesus. That was a ‘personal’ intervention, for each of us individually. However the Scriptures are clear that He is going to return…
(a) …a second time to intervene in human leadership on this planet (to accomplish what humans will prove themselves incapable of – fixing poverty and world problems), and then
(b) …a final time, to truly finish the job (Judgment / Heaven).
It sounds like a dream, and seems so hard to imagine that God would intervene visibly in a manner that we could put on the national news – but that is what happened when Jesus came, and the Bible says it will happen again. There are probably well over 100 prophecies on this second coming in the Scriptures, all of which have NOT yet been fulfilled. These are specific prophecies, just like the prophecies regarding the Messiahs first coming, i.e. the sort of thing that cannot be fabricated.
So, where we currently have Christmas (birth) and Easter (death and resurrection for our sin), in the future we’ll have a third celebration celebrating ‘Return Day’ (His intervention in human leadership of planet earth), and many years later a fourth and final celebration will begin, remembering when He ends it all – maybe called ‘Salvation Day’.
At Christmas and Easter we celebrate that God is the kind of God who truly loves us, and so who intervenes in our struggles, and this gives us a real hope!
We all have about seventy years to make our choices in life. Even if we consider all the world’s religions’ claims, Jesus most certainly stands as a focal point for considering our most important decision. No other religion offers forgiveness of sin. At the best a person pays ‘penance’ (or strict obedience or does good works) in the hope of some future mercy. But in Christ is found a credible basis for love, forgiveness and hope.
So, look to Jesus this Christmas. Consider His claims and if they could be true.
None of us can avoid the grave. Life passes quickly. What is it all really about?
I believe a God of love is standing at the door of each of our hearts, and He’s knocking.
What will your response be?