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Steven Ray Bragg
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I have been considering the Christmas story as a whole. The world seems to focus on the birth of Jesus, but not the entire message; the Gospel. The birth of Jesus is but only one piece of the entire story. Today people debate whether even to wish someone Merry Christmas. Many focus on holiday or Christmas celebration. Others debate if a Christian can or should celebrate a "Pagan Holiday," Christmas.
I think it was in The Screwtape Letters that I read the enemies plan was to get us focused on what would make us miss the point of the truth; the blessing;. That is my loose interpretation or memory, anyway.
Some religions want to focus on the baby or the boy or Jesus still upon the cross. They want him stationary. They worship only a segment of the message and sometimes miss the whole message of creation, redemption and eternal life.
The complete message is the Bible. But I will try to recap in a few words. I see it as a great love story.
God Chose To Love Us Before He Created Us.
The Bible says the message of Christmas started before the foundation of the world. The Bible says that, before the foundation of the world, God knew that we would be saved through Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 1:4 paraphrase by me). Jesus said a builder considers the cost before he starts. God knew before He created us that the cost would be the sacrifice of Himself through Jesus Christ. God considered the cost and created us anyway. He loved us before he created us. He loved us before the foundation of the world.
God Loved Us As He Created Us.
Out of all creation both in heaven and earth we were the only ones that would be created uniquely in His image and likeness. We are the only ones He is willing to sacrifice Himself for. Many want to identify man as a part of the animal kingdom, but we are not. God made angels and spoke our world and all its life into existence. But for us we were created differently. "Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness," (Genesis 1:26 NASB). Then the Bible says He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being," (Genesis 2:7 NASB). You and I were the only ones created with this unique gift of life.
Before He created us, He knew the great cost. Even knowing the cost, He loved us, He created us, and He made us exclusively like Himself. What an exceptional gift of life we have!
The Time To Ultimately Demonstrate His Glorious Love Arrives.
The time of love and sacrifice arrive in heaven. The Bible says "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself," (Philippines 2:6, 7a NASB). It must have been a solemn yet joyous occasion in heaven. The Word was about to leave heaven so that He could pay the price for our redemption. The Bible says "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame," (Hebrews 12:2 in part NASB). He was leaving heaven to become a man so that He could offer Himself up upon the cross to die in our place; "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. Philippians 2:7b, 8 NASB).
He was to pay the cost that was calculated before the "foundations of the world." The demonstration of His love known before time, known as He created us, and known to Him as we feel from life into death because of our rebellion; our sin.
His Love Came To Us In Spite Ourselves.
God knew not only the cost of His love, but why it was needed, and why it would cost Him so dearly. His awesome love would be demonstrated because of and in spite of our disgusting and offensive sin.
We rejected God while He loved us. Think of it. God made creation perfect and good. He made it perfect and good so that He could give it to us as a gift; a perfect and awesome gift. Our lives where perfect and awe-inspiring and so unique, in that, we were made in the likeness of Himself. Only man could enjoy the splendor of His perfect creation and His intimate fellowship. Yes, intimate fellowship! After the wondrous creation, God made a phenomenal and even more enhanced garden for man to live in and more than that. Man communed with God. Man was to enjoy not only life itself, but a magnificent creation. He enjoyed conciseness and self awareness like God. It is only because of this man could enjoy the very presence of God in the creation He gave us. The Bible says that God came to Adam and Eve in the "cool of the evening." Can you imagine the wonderful conversations of Adam and Eve and God in the majesty of the garden in the cool of the evening? Think of the joys in their hearts as they communed together with God himself in the cool of the day.
Rejection - Sin - Adultery
Well this is how bad our sin is. Adam and Eve enjoyed such wondrous splendor and depth of love and in perfection. Man, Adam and Eve, rejected God! The Bible calls this rejection sin and adultery. In their rejection of God, they became unfaithful to Him and His complete love for them. They rejected it all and wanted more. They wanted to become "like God." Is not this us today? We want to be like God; we want to be our own god. We want no rule or authority or law. We want what we want when we want it. We want to be the god of our own lives. The Bible says like Adam and Eve we too have rejected God; "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23 NASB). We too have rejected our Creator and God of this awesome and precious gift of life.
Yet even while in our rejection, sin, and adultery God chose to come and rescue us; redeem us with the sacrifice of Himself.
He paid the full measure of our rebellion and His Love upon the cross.
Christmas - Born To Die Upon the Cross!
"The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God," (Luke 1:35 NASB).
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth," (John 1:14 NASB).
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn," (Luke 7:2 NASB).
"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross," (Philippians 2:8 NASB).
He Loves Us Even At Our Worst.
While on the cross, they said if you are the son of God come down from the cross. But it was because He is the Son of God that He held Himself there upon the cross until the end of His last breath; until He was completely dead. If He came down from the cross, we would be lost forever. He held Himself there demonstrating His awesome love for you and me. It was not the nails or authorities that held Jesus on the cross. It was our sin and His love for us that held Him there. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," (Ephesians 2:4,5 NASB).
Christmas Means the Hope of Resurrection - Eternal life
Jesus did more than die for our sins. Because of the consequences of our sin, the debt of death was paid, we now can live through the resurrection. On the third day, He arose from the grave. We too also because sin is paid for, enjoy a new life; a resurrected life in Jesus Christ. "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay," (1 Peter 1:3,4 NLT).
Remember in the beginning before the fall caused by sin, man enjoyed a perfect creation and close intimate relationship with our Creator. Well, it comes again, thank you Lord!
All Things Made New.
In the end, all will be made right again. God will make a new heaven and a new earth. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband," (Revelation 21:1,2 NLT).
He Again Will Live With Us.
"I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them," (Revelation 21:3 NLT). Amazing to me is it does not say we will live with Him. It says He will live with us. God still wants fellowship with us. He was willing to create us and sacrifice Himself for us so that in the end He lives with us again.
God lives with us now. However, because of sin's corruption our fellowship is not full. In the end, it will be complete. Thank you Lord!
Tears, Death, Sorrow, and Pain Gone Forever!
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever," (Revelation 21:4 NLT).
The Story of Christmas; God's Eternal Love for Us Will Be Complete.
"And the One sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then He said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And He also said, "It is finished," Revelations 21:5, 6a NLT)!
Because of Christmas we will commune with God once again intimately, in the new and perfect creation. Amen!
Pastor Steve Bragg
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