By A.F. Ticker (12-22-2009)
In this season of the year, I am reminded of the reason for the season through the Christmas story as presented in the Gospels. Angels proclaimed the “good news” to the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night, and a star shone brightly in the sky that guided wise men from the East to seek the “Newborn King.”
The people of that time were sorely oppressed by the government of Rome, as well as by their own Jewish leaders. They were looking for an earthly king who would come and deliver them from their immediate circumstances. They were not looking for a child, born of a young virgin girl, born in a stable, and laid in a manger. They wanted a Messiah born of wealth and power, dressed in finery, a man who would overthrow the oppressive government. Many had forgotten the words of Isaiah, written some four hundred years earlier, which foretold the coming of the One Who would free His people. They only wanted the Messiah who would come to set the captives free and bring the vengeance of God on their enemies.
The remainder of the story was set aside since it did not bring the results the people were looking for. The people were indeed looking for a great warrior King.
Isaiah 61:1-2: 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God …
Return with me to the beginning:
Isaiah 53:2-9: He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Indeed, what a glorious and fulfilling account of events. It does create for many a time of celebration, as it should. It tells the glorious news of a Savior being born, a Savior for all mankind. The shepherds acted in accordance with their directions, which were to go and see. When they did, they found the child who would become the Savior of the world, at least for those who would believe and act accordingly.
Luke 2:19: 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
We know that He was born a King, for the wise men traveled many miles to find Him. When they arrived in the vicinity, they inquired:
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him”(Matt: 2:2)The story does not end with the manger or the arrival of the wise men who proclaimed him a King. For that we have even more reason to celebrate.
For those who have read the story, we know this child, Jesus, grew into manhood, and people were drawn to Him by His Spirit and His compelling message. Many who heard him teach and saw the miracles that he performed followed Him. This displeased those who were in power, especially the Jewish leaders. The Romans were so used to “insurrections” of all sorts that they actually paid little attention to this Man from Galilee. Those in power were fearful of loosing their power, and therefore, many stories were made up against this Jesus of Nazareth.
Among his disciples was one named Judas who would betray him for thirty pieces of silver. And so it goes. In the final part of this story we find Jesus on trial and accused of insurrection and various other “crimes.” Pilate, the Roman head of government in that region, found “no fault in this man.” But like a good politician, Pilate prevent himself from being portrayed as the “bad man” and offered the people their choice of a murderer or Jesus to be set free. The shouts of “Crucify Him. Crucify Him!” rang loud across the courtyard, and the people voted in favor of Barabbas. The known criminal Barabbas was set free, and Jesus was sentenced to death, just as had been foretold in Isaiah.
I have attempted to take you on a journey of celebration, a celebration not only for this season but for every day of the year. I have taken you from the manger to the cross, but I must continue for the story is not complete, and the reason for real celebration is not finished.
Matthew 27:35-54: 35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “ They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” 36 Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. 37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. 39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. 49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
We know from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus was taken from the Cross and buried in a borrowed tomb, but then, on the third day, He arose from the grave, triumphant over death and the grave. And that, dear friends, is a wonderful reason for celebration.
But bear with me. The story continues. Jesus walked and talked with His disciples, and after 40 days was caught up into heaven. While the disciples stood stunned with mouths agape, there appeared two men (angels bearing more good news).
Now this is a reason for celebration! The King Who came to the world as a child, grew to manhood, was crucified, buried, raised from the tomb, and ascended into heaven is coming again. This time He will not come as a peaceful Child. This time He will come as The King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Acts 1:11: 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
John gives us a glimpse in the book of Revelation of how this same Jesus, the Son of God, will return.
Revelation 19: 11-16: 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Hallelujah! And now we have the complete story and the full reason for the celebration.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have an understanding of why I have written what I consider the Reason for the Season — this time we call Christmas — and why I celebrate it with joy.