Sam Storms: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14) Let’s revisit the night when the birth of Jesus was announced. As
Freed By Christmas And Calvary
John Piper: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood… That’s us. Flesh and blood. Human. Finite. Limited. Mortal. Frail. That’s our nature. And “children” is a good word to describe us. O, how helpless we are! I mean when the real issue is at stake: death. Presidents and paupers are all flesh and blood. They get old and die. …he himself likewise partook of the same nature… That’s Christ. Eternal Son of God. Infinite. Almighty. Creator. Heir of all things. Upholding the world by the word of his power. He looked down on us with love and, without ceasing to be God, took on our human nature. God-Man.
The Messianic Hope
By T. D. Alexander DEFINITION At the heart of the Old Testament is the expectation that God will send a unique king, associated with the Davidic dynasty, who will bring God’s blessing to the nations of the world. Significantly, he will sacrifice his life to atone for the sins of others. SUMMARY Beginning in the book of Genesis, God intimates that his plan to redeem the world from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience will centre on one of Eve’s descendants, who will overthrow God’s enemy, the serpent, identified elsewhere in the Bible as the devil or Satan. This hope is subsequently linked to Abraham, with the expectation that one of his descendants will be a king, through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. The path towards the fulfillment of these promises eventually leads to the Davidic dynasty. Through David and his son Solomon, God establishes Jerusalem as his holy city where he dwells among
The Word became Flesh – A Christmas Meditation on the Most Breathtaking Verse in the Bible
Sam Storms: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) Let’s think for a moment of the beauty of Jesus as revealed in the act of incarnation. For some of you that’s a new and unfamiliar word. It may sound esoteric, but without it we are a hopeless people. Without it Jesus is nothing to us and we are nothing to him. So what exactly do I mean by the word “Incarnation”? The idea is found in several texts which speak of Jesus as “coming in the flesh” (1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7), being “sent in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), “appearing in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16); he also “suffered in the flesh” (1 Pt. 4:1), “died in the flesh” (1 Pt. 3:18), made peace by abolishing “in the flesh the enmity” (Eph. 2:15), and “made reconciliation in the body of his flesh” (Col. 1:21-22). In sum, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Thus, by the Incarnation we mean that the eternal
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Merry Christmas from Charles H. Spurgeon
Phillip Ort: Charles Spurgeon loved Christmas. In fact, he once said, “I like Christmas; I wish it came six times a year.” He liked the generosity of “those who give to the poor,” and as for the cheer of the season exclaimed “I would not stop a smile. God forbid me!” Indeed, Spurgeon really loved Christmas, so much so that he wished “there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year.” After all, “there is work enough in the world” and he thought “a little more rest would not hurt labouring people.” Indeed, again, Spurgeon really, really loved Christmas so much that he wished “there were twenty Christmas days in the year.” For, it was seldom that “young men can meet with their friends” and distant relatives could be “united as happy families.” Indeed, Christmas was “one of England’s brightest days,” the “great Sabbath of the year,” and a sacred “family institution.” However, Spurgeon also said “I have no respect to the religious observance of
Did Jesus Exist Before Christmas?
Sam Storms: That may sound like a strange question to ask, but such was the title of an article I recently read. 63% of church-going Christians said Yes, which means that 37% said No. When the survey included all American adults, only 41% believe Jesus existed before his birth in Bethlehem. So, let’s get this straight. What I’m about to say may at first sound heretical, but be patient with me. No, Jesus, the human being who walked the earth, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, did not exist prior to his being conceived in the womb of a young virgin girl named Mary. Before you cast me aside as an apostate, listen closely. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, has always existed. There are countless texts that affirm the eternal pre-existence of God the Son. One thinks immediately of two texts in John’s gospel, where Jesus himself said this: “Jesus said
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). Bernard N. Howard: Swaddling cloths are still in use today. With a few deft tucks, a pediatric nurse can swaddle a baby in seconds. It looks easy, but as overconfident new fathers soon find out, good swaddling technique takes a lot of practice. The objective is to surround the baby’s body with cloth, while leaving the head free. Doctors think this comforts the baby by recreating the sensation of being in the womb. Swaddling also restricts a baby’s startle reflex, which helps maintain unbroken sleep. Is there anything more vulnerable, more dependent, than a swaddled baby? The hospital nurse described our swaddled son as a “baby burrito.” The only things swaddled babies can do are rock a little from side to side, thump their feet a bit, and—as parents well know—cry loudly in the middle of the night.
Why does the virginal conception of Jesus matter?
Kevin DeYoung: The accounts of Jesus’s birth in Matthew (chapter 1) and Luke (chapters 1-2) are clear and unequivocal: Jesus’s birth was not ordinary. He was not an ordinary child, and his conception did not come about in the ordinary way. His mother, Mary, was a virgin, having had no intercourse prior to conception and birth. By the Holy Spirit, Mary’s womb became the cradle of the Son’s incarnation (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35). Of course, the doctrine of the virgin birth (or more precisely, the virginal conception) has been ridiculed by many outside the church, and, in modern times, by not a few voices inside the church. Two arguments are usually mentioned. First, the prophecy about a virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, it is argued, actually speaks of a young woman and not a virgin. (To be fair, some scholars make this argument about Isaiah’s prophecy and still believe in the virgin birth). Many have pointed out that the Hebrew word in Isaiah
The Incarnation and Two Natures of Christ
By Stephen Wellum: DEFINITION Incarnation is the term that refers to the supernatural act of the triune God, whereby the eternal, divine Son, from the Father, by the agency of the Spirit, took into union with himself a complete human nature apart from sin. As a result, the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, now and forevermore exists as one person in two natures, our only Lord and Savior. SUMMARY This article will describe who Jesus is as God the Son incarnate in light of the Scriptural teaching and the Confessional orthodoxy of the Church. By developing five truths about the incarnation, starting with Jesus’ full deity as the eternal Son in relation to the Father and Spirit, and working from eternity to time, the identity of Christ and the nature of the incarnation will be described. To know Jesus rightly from Scripture, we must see who he is in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the reason for the
Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off?
Kevin DeYoung: We’ve heard it so many times that it’s practically part of the Christmas story itself. The Romans celebrated their seven-day winter festival, Saturnalia, starting on December 17. It was a thoroughly pagan affair full of debauchery and the worship of the god Saturn. To mark the end of the winter solstice, the Roman emperor established December 25 as a feast to Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). Wanting to make Christianity more palatable to the Romans and more popular with the people, the church co-opted these pagan festivals and put the celebration of the birth of their Savior on December 25. For whatever the Christmas holiday has become today, it started as a copycat of well-established pagan holidays. If you like Christmas, you have Saturnalia and Sol Invictus to thank. That’s the story, and everyone from liberal Christians to conservative Christians to non-Christians seem to agree that it’s true. Except that it isn’t. For starters, we should distinguish between
Tracing the Story of Christmas
Stephen Nichols: In order to understand the story of Christmas, we have to go back. Not back just a few thousand years to the birth of Jesus, but all the way back, back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. God placed them in the lush and perfect garden of Eden. They had everything they needed. It was perfect. Then they sinned. As a consequence, God banished them. Now Adam and Eve lived under the curse. But as God pronounced the curse, thundering from heaven, He also gave them a promise. God gave Adam and Eve the promise of a Seed, a Seed who would be born of a woman. That Seed would make all that was wrong, right. He would make all that was broken, whole. This Seed would bring peace and harmony where strife and conflict raged like a storm-tossed sea. In the Old Testament, the third chapter of the very first book, Genesis, speaks of conflict and enmity. Adam
Why Was Jesus Born of a Virgin?
Wyatt Graham: Everyone knows the story. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary. He tells her that she will have a child who will save his people and establish his kingdom. But there is a problem. As Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The angel Gabriel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Instead of doubt, Mary believes. She confesses: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She believed and did not waver. Why did God decide that Jesus would be born in this particular way? Why did God use a virgin birth to bring Jesus into the world? There are at least three answers. To fulfill prophecy First, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the coming one
10 Things You Should Know About the Incarnation
Stephen Wellum: At the heart of Christianity and the gospel is the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the “Word becoming flesh” (John 1:14) and the incarnate Son of God living and dying in our place as our Savior, there is no salvation. Apart from the coming of the eternal Son, his taking on human nature and acting as our covenant representative, there is no hope for the world. It is appropriate at Christmas to think more deeply about the incarnation. Here are 10 things we should grasp. 1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son. John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6–8). 2. As the eternal Son, the second
Christmas: A Story of the Wealth and Poverty of the Son of God
Sam Storms: No biblical text so vividly portrays for us the true meaning of Christmas as does 2 Corinthians 8:9. There the apostle Paul wrote this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). In what sense was Christ “rich” or “wealthy”? I want you to think with me about what kind of “wealth” or “riches” characterized the Son of God in eternity past, before the incarnation, before he became a fetus in the womb of Mary, before he was born on that first Christmas morning. But I also want you to consider with me the ways in which the Son of God became “poor”. When I hear Paul say that the Son of God was “rich”, the first thing that comes to mind is the incalculable “wealth” of his eternal glory. The sacrifice of
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Christmas Reminds Us That Jesus is God
Jared Wilson: What would prompt us to refer to a man as God? And even if we acknowledge that Jesus was somehow God, how did he become God? Was he born a man and later “divinized” in some way, perhaps at his baptism? Many have wrestled with these questions throughout church history, but the faithful church has always held as orthodox what the apostles profess in the creed: “We believe. . . in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary . . . This short phrase encapsulates the doctrine we call “the Incarnation.” What the Incarnation means is this: Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. He was not God manifesting in the illusion or appearance of a man. And he was not man operating under the title “God” as some vicarious ambassador or adoptee. Jesus was—simultaneously, totally, and actually—God and man. The second person of the Triune Godhead, the eternally
The Sounding Joy: Four Reasons to Rejoice in Jesus’ Arrival
Brandon Freeman: Luke’s infancy narratives provide the most detailed description of Jesus’ birth and its surrounding events. The Gospel writer records the angelic announcements of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah (1:5–25), then Jesus’ birth to Mary (1:26–38). Mary’s song of praise (1:46–56) and Zechariah’s prophecy (1:67–80) are wondrously recounted. The births of John the Baptist (1:57–66) and that of Jesus (2:1–8) are not left to the reader’s imagination. Throughout, the author expresses the mercy of God (1:50, 72) and the salvation of God (1:47, 69) visible in the coming of Jesus. Have you noticed, though, the theme of joy that pervades the narratives in Luke 1–2? Joy occurs more often in Luke than in Matthew and Mark combined and is a motif that Luke desires to see connected to Jesus’ arrival. Observe the notes of joy documented by Luke. The angel told Zechariah that “Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness,
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God’s Passion for God at Christmas
For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. —John 12:27–28 John Piper: Glory to God in the Highest One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14). Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation and to make man glad in God. So when we come to John 12, there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at
Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?
Nathan W. Bingham: In Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ. As you prayerfully read Sinclair Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?” 1. A Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. 2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus is
Mind Your Christmas Imperatives
Tim Challies: Christmas is coming and with it a special season for Christians. Or most Christians, anyway. As we get into the season and as so many people begin their month-long reflections on the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s probably a good time to consider our Christmas imperatives. What are Christians commanded to do in the Christmas season? The Incarnation is nothing short of a miracle. As Christians, we believe that God took on flesh. Jesus Christ, who was and is and always will be God, became a man. The infinite and eternal God was, in the words of John Wesley, “contracted to a span” and “incomprehensibly made man.” An early theologian marveled, “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.” He became what he was not so he could save the people he loved. Without the incarnation there could be no salvation. Little wonder, then, that God’s people celebrate it on this day and through this season
Joy to the world: Far as the Curse is Found
Al Mohler: Many Christians would be surprised, and perhaps even disappointed, to learn that the song often cited as our favorite Christmas carol is not actually a Christmas carol at all. The famed hymn writer Isaac Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719. Millions of Christians sing this great hymn at Christmas, celebrating the great news of the incarnation and declaring “let earth receive her king.” “Let every heart, prepare him room, and heaven and angels sing.” At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of Christ, the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. But “Joy to the World,” though sung rightly and triumphantly at Christmas, is really about the Second Coming of Christ. Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge. When we sing “Joy