"An Eternal View of Christmas"
(A Christmas Eve Message, delivered Friday, December 24, 2004 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.)
Just a few moments ago, we heard the choir sing a song titled "Emmanuel". That's a song about the descriptive name of Jesus. It's based on Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel." That special name means something wonderful to everyone on this earth who suffers shame and sorrow for sin; because it means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
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Think about that phrase: "God with us." What does it mean that God is "with" us?
Sometimes, when we're having a time of trouble or difficulty - if we have to deal with a difficult task, or if we have to face a serious trial, or are going through a period of sorrow - it means a great deal to us when a friend puts his or her arm around us and says, "I am with you." When they say it, it means, "I support you. I stand along side you. I am on your side. I'm rooting for you." There's only so much such a friend can do, of course; but it sure does help to know that such a friend is "with us."
When we hear Jesus' name, "Immanuel", I have no doubt that it means something like that. God let's us know, in the gift of His wonderful Son, that He isn't against us, but is for us. He reaches out to us in love through Christ, and lets us know that He seeks our good. But I suggest to you that it means much more than just that.
I would like to share with you briefly this evening from a passage of Scripture that explains just how deep the meaning of that phrase is - that Jesus is "God with us". It shows us Christmas from God's eternal perspective, and teaches us just how much God is truly with us in the Person of His only-begotten Son Jesus. You can read this passage for yourself in the booklet you have in your hand tonight. It's found on page seven. Later on in our service, I'm going to ask you to read from it as a congregation; but for now, just follow along with me as we learn from it together. It says,
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11).
Let me point out four great truths that this passage teaches us about the wonderful truth we celebrate on Christmas - that Jesus means "God with us." The first thing we see is that . . .
1. CHRISTMAS IS SOMETHING ETERNAL.
We learn from this passage about Jesus Christ, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God . . ." In other words this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate as occurring at a point in time, first existed in eternity. He existed in relationship with the Triune Godhead, in perfect communion with the Father. He was born in time, but there was never a time when He was not.
This means that we shouldn't think of it as an "afterthought" that God came to be "with us". It was the expression of a loving plan for us that had its beginnings in the eternal council of God. God stepped from eternity into time when His Son Jesus Christ came to be conceived in the womb of Mary.
Second, we see that...
2. CHRISTMAS WAS WHEN GOD BECAME ONE OF US.
We learn here that "God with us" means that the eternal Son of God became a Man. He "made Himself of no reputation", and took "the form of a bondservant", and came "in the likeness of men" . . ."being found in appearance as a man".
The Bible teaches us that the Son of God never ceased to be the Son of God; but in becoming conceived in the womb of Mary, He also became fully human. It's a great mystery; but that's what it means when we read the phrase "God with us." It means that He became one of us. It means that what it says in John 1:14 is true; "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
Now why would He do this? Why would God take humanity to Himself? Well; thirdly, we see that . . .
3. CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE CROSS.
We read that, "being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." The eternal Son of God became a Man and was born into humanity for a specific reason: it was so that He could die as a Man for the sins of humanity on the cross.
Jesus became one of us, because that's the only way He could personally pay the price for our sins on the cross. And that's how much God is "with us". He is "with us" to the extent that He would take our sins on Himself - the very sins we committed against Him - and pay the price for them Himself. In the same book of the prophet Isaiah that I quoted earlier, we read these words about God's plan through His Son: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). O, how much He is "with us"!
And finally, we see that . . .
4. CHRISTMAS RESULTS IN EXALTATION.
Jesus came in order to die for us on the cross. But He didn't die in order to remain in the grave. God also raised Him from the dead. We read that, because of the sacrifice of the Son on the cross, "God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The event we celebrate on Christmas and the event we celebrate on Easter are together the outworking of what it means that He is "with us"; because not only was He born to die for us, but He was also raised to glorify us in Himself. Jesus Himself made this promise: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
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That's what it means that Jesus is "God with us" - that He would plan our salvation from eternity past, be born into time as one of us, take our sins on Himself and die for them on the cross, and then raise again from the dead in order to share His glory with those who trust in Him. Have you ever trusted in this God who is "with us" in such a wonderful way? Have you ever placed your faith in the Jesus who was born on Christmas Day?
I hope that, on this very special weekend, you'll cultivate an eternal view of Christmas. I hope that you'll take the time in prayer to thank the heavenly Father that He has extended His hand of love toward us in the Person of His Son; and place your trust in all that He came to do for us. Then, you'll really understand what it means that Jesus is Immanual: "God with us."
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