A few months ago, becoming aware that Christmas would soon be upon us, I began to think of a suitable theme for my holiday letter. How and where did it start? Was it in Bethlehem? No, it didn't really begin there; the idea was born long before the angels announced it to the shepherds. Old Testament prophets predicted Christ's coming. In my mind I eventually drifted back in time to the Garden of Eden. I thought, "That's it," it was in Eden that God promised a Redeemer, -- right? Yes, that's true. The sinful pair and the serpent heard God tell them that the "Seed of the woman" would crush the viper's head (Gen.3:15). This was God's promise of a Savior.
But the Lord reminded me that actually the Christmas story started long before Eden. The Bible discloses that Christmas was in the heart of God, "before the world began" (Titus 1:2; 1 Cor. 2:7;). God's plan called for Jesus the "Lamb," to be "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). His "purpose and grace...was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim.1:9;).
God knew what would happen in Eden, and made preparations for it. He planned that His "only begotten Son" (Jn.3:16), would come to earth as a man (Jn.1:14),Christmas was in the heart of God to die on the cross as a substitute for sinful humanity. Jesus' death would not only pay the penalty for man's sin, but in rising from the dead, He would destroy the power of the devil. Above all, His sacrifice would be the means of producing a family of "born again" sons and daughters, who of their own free will, would choose to believe, love, and serve God. Jesus looked forward to this "JOY" (Heb. 12:2).
Our annual observance of Christmas should clearly reflect our joy and gratitude for God's great plan, to save us and include us in His divine family (Jn.1:12). But alas, in most instances, our celebrations hardly express the real meaning of the holiday. But oh, what a salvation He devised! (See 1 Cor.2:9). What a gracious God!
Let's take a brief peek at His plan, as it evolves for us in the Bible.
- It starts with God. "In the beginning God..." (Gen.1:1). Before there was anything -- God was there. The whole Christmas story begins with Him.
- At His discretion, and in His own time, He created the universe, the angels, and everything seen and unseen (Neh.9:6; Heb. 11:3). Actually man's modern inventions are discoveries of God's creative principles and laws set in eternity-past).
- Desiring a family of sons and daughters, on whom He could generously lavish His love and priceless gifts, with whom He could have precious fellowship, and from whom He could receive love and glory, -- He created man in His "own image". (Gen. 1:26). He made Adam and Eve after His own "likeness" -- holy, and perfect. He enjoyed blessed fellowship with them in the Garden of Eden. (Gen.1:28; 2:8; 3:8).
- Enter: Lucifer, -- the rebellious, fallen archangel, who earlier became Satan, the enemy of God. In guise as a subtle serpent, he entered the garden and deceived the woman, causing mankind to sin against God.
- Sin immediately destroyed the serenity of Eden. It stripped humanity of its original perfection. The precious fellowship and eternal life enjoyed with God, was replaced with guilt, suffering, sickness, sorrow, enmity, confusion, fear and much more (Gen.2:17; 3:8-10). Death immediately started its devastating work. "When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned" (Rom. 5:12 NLT).
- Enter God: -- He confronted the sinful pair and the serpent, pronouncing a curse on the viper and upon the flora and fauna of the earth. Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden of Eden. They were forced to face the harsh realities of a blighted sin cursed earth, and soon discovered the real meaning of eating fruit from the tree of "the knowledge of good and evil," which God forbade (Gen.2:17).
- 7. But God manifested His grace by promising a Savior, -- Jesus, the "Seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15), "the Lamb of God" (Jn.1:29). In subsequent years after Eden, God kept reminding humanity of His promise to deliver. "God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets" (Heb.1:1 NLT). Peter writes: "The Lord...is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet.3:9). "For He wants everyone to be saved" (1 Tim.2:4 NLT).
- "But now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son" (Heb.1:2 NLT). Yes, Jesus came as "Emmanuel" -- God with us (Mt. 1:23), -- born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem as promised (Micah 5:2). While on earth, Jesus taught, ministered, and finally as the spotless, sinless sacrifice -- the prophesied "Lamb slain," -- He died on the cross of Calvary (Lk.23:14,33). He accepted death as the "wages" of our sins (Rom. 6:23). By this He set us free. Rom.5:8,18,19).
- Jesus made it very clear why He came to this world. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk.19:10). He said, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" (Jn.18:37).
- All this was planned long before we were born, before Bethlehem, before Adam was created, and "before the foundation of the world." God knew we could not save ourselves; we would need a savior. Apostle Peter writes: "God paid a ransom to save you...not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chcose Him for this purpose long before the world began...And He did this for you" (1 Pet.1:18-20 NLT). There is no other way to be saved -- only through Jesus Christ! Jesus said, "No man cometh to the Father but by Me" (Jn.14:6). "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
The Reason for it All
What a tragedy, that Christmas is celebrated by so many who don't realize what it's all about.
The greatest way to observe this holiday is first, to be sure we have personally accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Then, to give Him thanks and honor for His great gift of eternal life. That's why He came, -- to save us, and to include us in His family!
Have you invited Him into your heart? If not, what are you waiting for? Later?
It could be too late. God's Word says: "Now is the accepted time - now is the day of salvation."