The first glimpse of Christmas comes thousands of years before the Lord Jesus came as a baby to the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph.
Adam and Eve whom God had created in His image had just disobeyed God’s one command–Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of the knowledge of good and evil. And in that moment, the perfect existence God had made for them shattered. They felt shame and the rift that their disobedience had torn between God and themselves, and they hid from God.
This was the singular act that would forever change the good world God had made. Just as God had warned, Adam and Eve would die, and until they did, sickness, sorrow, pain, difficulty, and death would be the companions of their mortal life. Worse yet, the direct relationship that they had enjoyed with the LORD in the garden was over. They would be banished–they and all their descendants–every one of us. ,
“. . . Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all have sinned.” Romans 5:12b, ESV.
And yet the LORD loved mankind whom He had made and did not wish to condemn us to eternal death, separated from our Life-Giver. And to our parents, cowering in the first, awful coldness of the knowledge of good and evil (not yet fully aware of the devastation that one choice independent of their Maker would make), the LORD offered hope.
The promise of a Savior.
He was first foretold in God’s words of condemnation to the serpent who deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and then giving it to Adam to eat as well.
“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.‘” Genesis 3:14-15, ESV
And then they waited. And their children waited, generation after generation, until one day it was finally time, and God sent the Savior.
“But when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4
The only hope for sinners, condemned to death for our sins, came at Christmas time. The familiar account of the nativity is full of the hope that God has not abandoned the people He made to condemnation.
There is hope in the message from God to Mary via the angel Gabriel.
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-3, ESV
There is hope in the message from God to Joseph by an angel in a dream and in Matthew’s commentary on that message.
“… ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. ‘All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:20b-23, ESV
There is hope in Mary’s exclamation of praise in regard to the miracle that God was accomplishing through her.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has loooked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humbe estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:47-55, ESV
There is hope in the words of Zacharias at the birth of his son, John, the forerunner of Christ.
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgivenss of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:67
There is hope in the message of the angels to the Shepherds.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born r hthis day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” Luke 2:10-11, ESV
There is hope in the words of Simeon when he encountered Mary and Joseph and little Jesus at the temple.
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2: 29-32, ESV
Without Christmas, Christ would not have come. He would not have lived a perfect life as the God-man and then died on the cross, taking God’s just wrath for our sins in our place. And without that sacrifice, none of us would have any hope of salvation from the guilt of our sins. Our sin would have doomed us to “life” apart from God, our Life-giver, and to die eternally where “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” (Mark 9:48).
Thankfully, the Lord is merciful, and He did what was necessary to save us from our sins–He gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-7, ESV
Oh Lord, we thank you for Christmas. Thank you for Your desire throughout all history to dwell with the people You created, despite our sin. Thank you for Your wise plan to save us and make us Yours forever. Thank you for sending Your Son to take our sins so that we could be declared righteous. Thank you for the abundant, eternal life with You offered to us through Him. Your mercy and power and wisdom are displayed so beautifully in the story of Christmas, and we praise you for Your salvation.