By Pastor Hal Reed
The words of the angel to the shepherds that first “Christmas” night, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of Great Joy, which shall be to ALL people,” sent a shaft of sunshine piercing through the darkness of sin and despair. Christ is still alive and still saves, yet “Christmas” will find multitudes going through the empty form of “Christmas” observance, still ignorant as to how they might appropriate this great joy which is offered to ALL people.
Surely never have the good tidings of great joy been more needed than today. Sin and misery, sorrow and despair are on every hand, even though the world is doing all within its power to offer pleasure and forgetfulness to a sin-burdened people, but all to no avail. Try as one may, with the guilt and burden of sin bearing drown upon the soul, there can never be true joy and peace, and “none can keep alive his own soul” (Ps. 22:29) “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Christ is man’s superlative need. It is either Christ or eternal ruin.
The next words of the angel reveal the source and means of receiving this great joy, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” To Israel, in bondage to sin, under the curse of the Law, and ruled by a Gentile overlordship, the advent of Jesus, the Savior, was indeed good tidings of great joy. He came to “save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1: 21), to “redeem them that were under the Law” (Gal. 4:5), and “to be a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear” (Lk. 1:69, 74).
This glorious message of joy is not limited to Israel alone. Into the heart under the dominion of, and in bondage to sin, Christ is ready to come today with His message of joy, peace and forgiveness of sins. He is the “Saviour of the World”, and “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins”. He is “Lord of all”, “For there is NO difference between the Jew and Greek; for the same Lord over ALL is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10: 12-13) “The God of Hope fill you with ALL JOY and peace in believing” (Rom. 15: 13).
How is this joy received? Meditation upon the glorious birth of Jesus alone cannot bring joy. Feasting, merriment and observance of “Christmas” brings but a temporary shadow over the glaring sinfulness of the human heart. Exchanging gifts and feeding the poor and hungry still leave the heart, aching with the guilt of sin, simply temporarily stimulated and relieved. Peace with God through forgiveness of sins, and joy in the Lord as the fruit of the indwelling Spirit, come not through outward rites and ceremonies, nor inward or outward works of man. Rather, they come through the heart’s belief and trust in the redemptive work of Christ, in His taking on Himself our sins in cruel death on the tree and by God imputing to us His Divine righteousness and holiness. “Joy and Peace IN BELIEVING.”
As the world at this season contemplates the wondrous event of the entrance of the Son of God into this sin-cursed world as the Babe of Bethlehem, may our minds dwell on that greater mystery, the entrance of Christ into the heart of a sinner saved by grace. “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: If any man hears my voice, and opens the door. I will come in to Him, and will sup with Him, and He with me” (Rev. 3: 20) “To whom God would make known the riches of the glory of this mystery . . . Christ IN you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1: 27-28). The shepherds glorified and praised God for the wonderful word of the entrance of the Christ child into the world. What greater glorifying and praising God should be the expression of the one to-day who contemplates the matchless grace of God in Christ’s entrance into his heart by faith. Small wonder that the apostle challenged the lives of the careless Corinthian saints—”What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6: 19-20).
In the tabernacle worship, they were to make a perfume to put before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, and God forbade the making of any like unto it to “smell thereto”. It was not for mere personal gratification, but to be “holy for the Lord” (Ex. 30:37). Similarly in this age, the perfume of praise for the matchless grace of God is not for us to be occupied with for our own personal pleasure, but set apart for Him. Let us beware of our being so occupied with our exalted position in Christ and the mystery of His indwelling, that we fail in remembering these graces are not for us to “smell thereto”, but are for the express purpose “that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1: 12). They are “holy for the Lord”. Let us “glorify God in our body”. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Col. 2: 6).
Those who at this season of the year are occupied with Christ as the babe and the man of Nazareth may well “mind earthly things.” Let us who are saved by His grace and possess Christ within as the hope of glory, as we contemplate our exalted blessings in Him, heed the Word—”Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3: 2-3) “When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3: 4) Our Head (Christ) is in heaven; our life is hid with Christ in God; we are seated in the heavenlies in Him. Then let us remember our feet are upon the earth in order that we might manifest in our walk, our manner of life, that we indeed have a heavenly citizenship, by lives of separation unto, and witnessing for the Christ who died for all. May our aim be that of the apostle, “whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working that worketh in me mightily (Col. 1:28-29).
What abiding joy there is in salvation and service under Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say, Rejoice,” “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8: 10).
A Joyous “Christmas” to ALL.