25 Dec 2020
Christians all over the world observe Christmas with gratefulness, humility and hope. It speaks of the Creator and the Redeemer ‘entering’ the world’ in history and becoming one with us by the “Word becoming flesh” and ‘dwelling’ among us.
We cannot know God directly. God is infinite and we are finite; it is also because we are sinners and He is holy. So God accommodates to our capacity: ‘in descending among us by the exercise of HIs power and grace’. He first accommodates to our capacity in the Scripture (Bible) and then, lo and behold, in Christ, HIs beloved Son! All knowledge of God is mediated through Christ, the one mediator; all self-revelation of God comes to us through Christ.. God is comprehended in Christ alone.This is the good news of Christmas – Emmanuel (God with us).
Let us remember that Jesus is not only historical but eternal. He confronts every generation, century and millennium in His roles of Saviour, Lord and judge. He is not only the centre and focus of history; He is the focus of Scripture. Jesus Himself declared that the Scriptures bear witness to Me (John 5:39).
It is noteworthy that the four gospels in Scripture reveal four ‘aspects’ of the portrait of our dear Lord:
a) Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfilment of the Old Testament, the bridge between the Old Testament and the New, between preparation and fulfilment. The believers in the New Testament were actually seeing, and hearing what their predecessors had longed to see and hear – in Jesus the long-awaited kingdom of God had come.
Matthew’s Christ was the fulfilment of prophecy.
b) Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord who dies for HIs people’s sins. The cross is at the centre of Mark’s understanding of Jesus.
c) Luke presents Jesus not principally as the Christ of Scripture nor as the Suffering Servant but as the Saviour of the world, irrespective of race, sex, need or age.
d) John presents the Word (Jesus) as God who became man; the Creator assumed the human frailty of His creatures. John wrote that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.
Jesus is not just the focus of history and Scripture; He is also the focus of mission. Christians cross land and sea, continents and cultures not just to commend a civilisation, an institution or an ideology but rather a person, Jesus Christ whom they believe to be unique. But we need not cross land, sea and continents to proclaim Jesus as the Saviour and Lord; we can do this even in our homes, families,among friends and in our country. Christ’s mission continues in His apostles and continues in His church, in us the believers. Christmas reminds us that the story of salvation has to be continually told and proclaimed through us – this is our mission individually and collectively as His church.
As we observe Christmas, we need to remember many of our brethren undergoing persecution for their faith in Jesus; we need to realise that in our current context of the viral pandemic, many have to deal with the stress and pressure of difficult trials. There are those who have lost their jobs and sense of dignity; many may be wrestling with how to live out what they believe.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus came, lived and died for our sins; He was resurrected and He ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. He lives to intercede for us; the Father and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and to enable us to go through all the trials. Every trial can become a God-given opportunity to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Only a trial can prove the depth of our faith and character. What is being tested is our faith; the testing can produce purity and perseverance in our lives.
Christmas reminds us that mission is from the heart of God and it is carried out in suffering in the world for God’s eternal glory; Jesus, in one sense, is not only the heavenly king, the royal high-priest, the prophet; He is also the first missionary who came into the world to redeem a people for God. He came, taking the form of a servant; humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, taking our place and punishment so that we may be redeemed. Indeed, mission is from God’s heart, grounded in God’s love and it participates in the suffering of God; mission has an eternal dimension – reflecting God’s character and God’s glory. As we observe Christmas, we are encouraged to remember that God expects us to participate with Him in His mission and to continue in it until Christ returns. Living such a life in mission individually and collectively as a church is costly and painful, and yet, in the end, it is glorious as we share in His glory. The sufferings of Jesus Christ and the glory that would follow – this was the key that the prophets looked for, and this is the identity of the Messiah that stays with us today. Each observance of Christmas is a call to us to renew the mission of our Lord and Master and to see it to the end. As a people who participates in Christ’s salvation and mission, we are also called through suffering (which is temporary) to that which is glorious and eternal, to the glory of the triune God! Let us continue to proclaim the story of Christmas.