Free Bible Study Magazine
At Christmas time God challenges us in a way that calls for our response. True, he always challenges us through his Word when it is proclaimed with authority and clarity. He challenges us too by the Spirit who convinces us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8); and we in turn must challenge a sinful world with the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. But God has for many years used the challenge of Christmas, presenting each year afresh the message of salvation. Let us consider:
I. The Circumstances of Christmas
We cannot examine the circumstances that surround the birth of Jesus without being impressed with the element of the supernatural. His birth was:
1) Accomplished by God’s Power
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was supernatural; that is to say, whilst the process of birth was natural, the conception was divine. The ‘seed of the woman’ (Genesis 3:15) was united by the Spirit with the holy life of the Father to produce the incarnate Son. Luke records this sublime mystery as follows: ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35). What a challenge this is to our hearts! No one can afford to ignore a person who was born into the world in this unique way.
2) Advanced by God’s Providence
Have you ever considered the timing of the circumstances that surrounded the birth of Christ? The whole event speaks of a supernatural overruling of Providence. Caesar Augustus, the leader of the Roman world announced that a census would be conducted, and so the whole world was moved in order that God’s son could be born in Bethlehem. The history of man, too, had all been prepared for this point, and the Bible describes it as the fullness of time, ‘when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,’ (Gal 4:4).
3) Announced by God’s Prophets
Out of the hundreds of prophecies concerning the first advent of our Lord, a number were fulfilled at his birth. This is one of the greatest proofs that the Bible is the Word of God. When the Wise Men came to the palace of Herod, asking for the new-born king, Herod’s scribes emphatically declared that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2: ‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.’
II. The Crime of Christmas
‘She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’ (Luke 2:7). When Joseph and Mary arrived at the wayside inn and requested accommodation for the night, they were told there was no room. The innkeeper’s refusal to take in these weary travellers has been the crime of Christmas throughout the centuries. His attitude and action only symbolize:
1) The Sin of Woeful Ignorance
‘There was no room for them in the inn’ (Luke 2:7). The son of God turns up at the door but is turned away. In the same way, although he continues to knock at the door of their hearts, many people are still are turning Jesus away. No one who has ever heard the truth about Christmas can pretend to be ignorant of the saviour’s birth. Through that message of love revealed God continues to speak to our hearts each year, saying: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Rev 3:20).
2) The Sin of Wilful Indifference
‘There was no room for them in the inn’ (Luke 2:7). There was no excuse for the innkeeper for his indifference to the needs of these weary travellers. Surely he could see that Mary was heavily pregnant (Luke 2:5), and he would know that a woman in this condition not only calls for tenderness and consideration, but may be in need of emergency help. But the innkeeper was wilfully indifferent to all this. How typical this is of men and women in our day and generation! Wilfully ignorant of the consequences of their sinful condition and of the remedy God has provided or them in Jesus Christ. The annual reminder of Christmas each year means that they are without excuse – they pretend ignorance of the significance of Christmas in order to wilfully reject the light it gives them (John 3:19).
3) The Sin of Worldly Involvement
‘There was no room for them in the inn’ (Luke 2:7). Undoubtedly, this innkeeper refused Joseph and Mary for business reasons. The census of Caesar Augustus was a good thing in its way, he told himself, for it filled his house with guests and his pockets with money. To have welcomed this couple would have meant turning out two of his other guests—and he was not about to do that! Probably he refused these travellers because they wore poor and shabby clothes. If Joseph and Mary had been able to hold up a purse of gold, he would have quickly found room in the inn.
How true this is today! Men and women are far too busy with worldly involvement. They know very well that if Christ comes into their lives certain other things will have to go out. Or what is even more tragic, if Christ possesses them they will have to follow Him who was lowly, despised and rejected, and whose symbol is always a cross. Like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and went away sad when he realised that following Christ would mean parting with his possessions, so people today go from their Christmas encounter with Jesus with bags full of shopping but empty hearts and spiritually bankrupt lives.
Are you guilty of this crime? Can it be said of you: Room for pleasure, room for business, But for Christ the Crucified, Not a place that He can enter, In the heart for which He died?
III. The Claims of Christmas
‘Unto you is born…a Savior’ (Luke 2:11). This angelic announcement spells out God’s claim upon every life. The names and titles of our Lord were very carefully chosen in order that we might understand from the very beginning that Jesus Christ came into the world to claim a people for His name. We see that Christ’s coming into the world has:
1) A Saving Claim Upon Your Life
‘Unto you is born…a Savior’ (Luke 2:11). When the angel appeared to Joseph to announce the coming birth of Christ, he said, ‘Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). This is man’s greatest need. There is a sense in which he has everything but a Savior. Prophets, priests and lawgivers had preceded the coming of Jesus Christ, but there was still no final solution for sin. What man needs is not just a message, a way of worship, or even a standard of living: he needs a Savior. If a man is drowning, he needs more than a voice that attracts his attention, or gives him instructions on swimming techniques: he needs a savior.
2) A Spiritual Claim Upon Your Life
‘Unto you is born…a Savior, which is Christ’ (Luke 2:11). The title Christ means ‘the anointed one.’ It is a term which marks Him the one upon whom the Holy Spirit came without measure. This points to the fact that God’s claim upon our lives is essentially a spiritual one. In other words, we are more than body and soul: we are spiritual beings; and until we are quickened to life from spiritual death, we are totally unqualified to stand in God’s presence ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). Are you spiritually alive to God? Have you responded to the spiritual challenge of Jesus Christ?
3) A Sovereign Claim Upon Your Life
‘Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). This world will never be put right until Jesus Christ reigns as King of Kings and Lord of lords. What is true of the world generally is equally true of the individual personally. Your life will never know peace, purpose or power until Christ reigns with unchallenged sovereignty. He was born to be Lord. That is why the text says, ‘Unto you is born this day…the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). He died that He might be the Lord; He rose again that He might be Lord, for the Bible says that ‘Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living’ (Romans 14:9). In other words, the full purpose of the Advent is that God might reign in the hearts of men through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. Have you given Him unconditional surrender? Is He Lord of your spirit, of your soul, and of your body?
Here, then, is the supreme challenge of Christmas—not only the circumstances that we have considered, and the awful crime which is perpetrated year by year, but these claims of Jesus Christ upon your life. What is your response to the challenge of Christmas?
Search our 2014 Free New Testament Commentary