Christmas and the Gospel

In less than one week, people all around the world will be celebrating the Christmas holiday.  Back in 1963, Andy Williams released a song that well describes this season as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a time where ‘there’ll be much mistltoeing, and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near.’  You know how it goes.  For the followers of Jesus, this is a wonderful time of the year, but for reasons far greater than the ones that Williams mentioned in his song.  Christmas is great because of the gospel.  It is great because it serves as a yearly reminder that God stepped into the world of broken humanity in order to rescue us from sin and death.

In my opinion, the best summary of the theology of Christmas is the beloved hymn, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” which just so happens to be my favorite carol.  Written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, and edited a bit by George Whitefield, the hymn encapsulates the meaning of Christmas and why the first advent of Christ was such a monumental occasion.  Pay close attention to these gospel-centered lyrics, and especially the last stanza which we seldom ever sing:

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come!
Fix in us Thy humble home:
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Final Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

Never forget that Christmas is all about the gospel!  Enjoy your family gatherings and gift exchanges this year, but don’t lose sight of the majesty of the incarnation.  The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men could become sons of God!  Hallelujah!

Forget Not His Benefits

This week, millions of Americans will gather together with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.  For many, it is a time to catch up with those we haven’t seen all year as we gorge ourselves on turkey and honey ham, and then enter into a coma while the Detroit Lions take their annual shellacking.  Far more than it being a holiday, however, thanksgiving is an attitude that ought to characterize the disciples of Jesus year round.  We are to give thanks to our God who has loaded us down with gracious benefits.  What are some of those benefits?  In Psalm 103:1-5, David writes, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

To begin with, we ought to give thanks to God because He forgives all our sins.  I have been completely and freely forgiven of my sin because Christ died in my place.  The backlog of sins that condemned me to death has been erased, and I now stand clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I have been accepted and welcomed as a son.  There will be a lot of estranged children that will not make it to the dinner table on Thanksgiving this year, but those who trust in Christ are always welcomed as sons at the Father’s table.

Second, we ought to give thanks to God because He heals all our diseases.  He is the Great Physician who heals the sin sickness of our souls.  Sin is the reason that there is sickness and death in the world.  The cross and empty tomb of Jesus, however, is the believer’s victory.  As our loved ones grow old and eventually pass away into eternity, we are reminded that death for the Christian is merely a shadow that we pass through.  The sickness of the body and the coldness of grave has no hold on the child of God.

Third, we ought to give thanks to God because He has redeemed our life from the pit.  If you are like me, you find it easy to complain when things don’t go your way or when you become disappointed.  Pride often leads us to believe we deserve something.  The only thing that a sinful person deserves is destruction.  If I received my just desserts, I’d be under the judgment of God.  Yet Christ has redeemed my life from the pit!  He has given me hope and a bright future.

Fourth, we ought to give thanks to God because He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.  When I should have been condemned, I have instead been given a crown.  That God’s love is steadfast means that it endures and never wanes.  God will never love me more than He does right now, and He will never love me less.  His love endures forever!

Last of all, we ought to give thanks to God because He satisfies us with good and renews our spirit day by day.  True and lasting satisfaction belongs to the one who loves God.  Only God can satisfy the longings of the human heart.  Jesus said that the one who drinks from the well of living water will find that they are never thirsty again.  In fact, the water that He gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  That is why Christ’s disciples can lose their possessions and be persecuted in the world and yet still remain most joyful and triumphant.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family and friends.  I am thankful for my wife and children.  But most of all, I am thankful for the Lord’s benefits.  How about you?

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