I live in Edinburgh, home of the Scottish Parliament. This time last year there was much debate and newspaper correspondence over a decision by that parliament.
What was the decision? That the words ‘Season’s greetings’ should replace ‘Christmas greetings’ on its Christmas cards!
This was not the first time, of course, that our Lord Jesus Christ has been left out of Christmas. Surrounded by commercialism, tinsel and music, we may think it doesn’t much matter anyway. But it is a serious loss if we miss the simple yet profound truth that God has spoken in his Son.
God communicates with us, his creatures, in three ways. He speaks first through what we see of his creation. The created world displays strong evidences of intelligent design or thought. The human body, for example, is recognised by scientists, doctors and ordinary people alike, to be a most wonderful piece of machinery.
Where there is thought there must be a Thinker. Laws control the natural world. The motion of the earth and planets, for instance, follow clearly definable laws. Where there are laws, there must be a Lawgiver.
The world teems with life. Television programmes take us to remote regions of the world to show us the immense variety of life on this planet. Where there is life, there must be a Life-giver. Creation shouts out that God exists.
God’s second line of approach is the Bible – a unique communication from our Creator. Unashamedly, it claims that he is its source, saying that it is ‘inspired’ or ‘breathed’ by him. Jesus promised such inspiration to his apostles and, not surprisingly, they claimed to possess it. And from their inspired writings arose what we know as the New Testament.
The third line of approach is what happened at the first Christmas. An American newscaster captured his listeners’ attention as he recounted the following story one Christmas Day.
A man decided to stop his annual farce of insincere church attendance on the Sunday before Christmas. His wife could go alone; he would remain at home.
As she left the house to go to the church service, snow was falling heavily. The curtains were open, the lights were on, and the husband felt self-satisfied at the strength of his convictions.
Suddenly there were several loud thuds as something crashed against the picture window. Birds, attracted by the bright light shining from the room, had hit the glass. After hitting the window with such force, they lay half stunned by the impact.
The husband’s instinct was to help them, so he quickly conceived a plan. He rushed out to open the doors of the barn, where they could find shelter for the night from the snow. To attract them, he turned on the barn lights.
But it was useless; they made no move toward the barn. He tried to catch them one by one, but without success.
Frustrated, he watched them and exclaimed, ‘You foolish, stubborn creatures! I want to help, but you won’t let me. I guess I would have to become a bird – to be just like you – before I could get through to you and help’.
At that precise moment the church bells – the Christmas bells – rang, and he suddenly understood why God himself became a man like us (in all except our sinfulness) in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, the visible image of the invisible God, said, ‘He who has looked on me has looked on the Father’. As he lived among men and women of the first century, they saw the unique majesty and glory of God.
The human Jesus Christ could be seen, heard and felt. And he was seen to be the Son of God. His miracles bore witness to his deity – especially the miracle of his resurrection. The more his claims are tested, the more convincing they become.
God could not have spoken more clearly than he has done in Jesus Christ. God’s love for the world shines out as we realise that he sent his only Son to become the Mediator between God and men.
Jesus came to deal with a colossal problem – the problem of human sin and its penalty of death and eternal separation from God. To this end, Christ died and rose again. The Righteous One died for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
He was raised from death on the third day, giving the assurance to all who trust in him that they also will be raised to everlasting life at his return.
God has spoken – creation, the Bible and Jesus himself stand before us inviting our investigation. The most treasured presents we receive this Christmas will carry not only the name of the giver but also the words ‘With love’.
No gift is a greater evidence of God’s love than the gift of Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of the world. No statement in the Bible puts it more clearly than John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.
God’s greatest gift is his Son.Christmas reminds us that this gift has been freely given. A most important question must be asked. Have we received God’s gift?
John explains in the first chapter of his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world many refused to receive him. Clearly they did not realise they were lost, needing to be found. They did not appreciate that their sin separated them from God. Sadly that remains the case today.
However, there were those who did receive him – that is, they repented of their sin and unbelief and put their trust in the Son of God, the only Saviour of sinners.
A miracle had taken place in their lives – they were born again! They received not only the forgiveness of their sins but the right and privilege to become God’s children. It may be hard to take it in at first, but the same privilege is still open to us here and now – if we too receive God’s gift.