“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, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” Many churches recite “The Mystery of Faith” at some point during the worship service, frequently during the prayers before communion. Many people may wonder why a Christmas article would begin with this statement. However, the cross casts its shadow into the background of the light of Christmas. The birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return of Christ are interwoven in God’s plan of salvation.
The four weeks leading up to Christmas are Advent. Many Christians may reflect on the Old Testament promises of a coming Messiah that Jesus fulfilled. (Many more are too busy pondering Black Friday and the sales at Walmart and on Amazon.) However, this is also a time to remind ourselves of the promise that Jesus is coming again. The classic hymn, “Joy to the World,” probably celebrates Christ’s return as much as His birth, if not more so. Lectionary readings in many churches also emphasize these themes.
Jesus’ first and second comings are closely intertwined. Those who believe in Him for salvation can take comfort in His second coming. Whether we are here for the Rapture or second coming or see Him face to face when we die, we will enjoy the certainty of eternal life with Him. End-time prophecy should be a source of encouragement for us, not a reason for fear or anxiety. We have this promise because He forgave our sins through His death when He came approximately 2000 years ago.
God’s plan of redemption began with the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story is not a completely different message than the story of His death and resurrection. It was the beginning. Decades before He sacrificed His life by accepting rejection, scourging, abuse, crucifixion, and death, He sacrificed His dignity and glory by laying aside His majestic attributes, becoming incarnate as a helpless baby. He emptied Himself of His majesty, accepting the form of a human infant so that He could humble Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. He went from governing the universe to needing Mary’s nurturing love and Joseph’s protection.
So, as we celebrate with twinkling lights, sparkling decorations, and joyous hymns and carols, let us not forget that it is more than a story about a cute baby in a manger. Christmas is Phase 1 of God’s invasion to rescue humanity from the dominion of sin and Satan. His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming are all part of God’s plan to offer us eternal life. Let us cling to that gift.
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (From the Book of Common Prayer.)
What does the birth of Christ mean to you? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.