Truth and tradition have always been in contention. And this is especially true when it comes to the subject of Christmas.
This is a season full of traditions, from Santa Claus, to Rudolph the reindeer, to Christmas trees. These are harmless and happy traditions, except when they push the truth out of Christmas.
The truth is that Christmas is the invention of God. By Christmas I don’t mean 25 December, but the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the world.
The truth is that God planned this event in all its details. He prophesied it in the Old Testament and then brought it about at exactly the time he wanted. ‘But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons’ (Galatians 4:4).
The author, John Stott, says of this verse, ‘Notice that God’s purpose was both to “redeem” and to “adopt”; not just to rescue from slavery, but to make slaves into sons. We are not told here how the redemption was achieved, but we know from Galatians 1:4 that it was by the death of Christ, and from 3:13 that this death was a “curse-bearing” death.
‘What is emphasised in these verses is that the one whom God sent to accomplish our redemption was perfectly qualified to do so. He was God’s Son. He was also born of a human mother, so that he was human as well as divine, the one and only God-man. And he was born “under the law”, that is, of a Jewish mother, into the Jewish nation, subject to the Jewish law’.
‘Throughout his life he submitted to all the requirements of the law. He succeeded where all others before and since have failed: he perfectly fulfilled the righteousness of the law. So the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualified him to be man’s
‘If he had not been man, he could not have redeemed men. If he had not been a righteous man, he could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if he had not been God’s Son, he could not have redeemed men for God or made them the sons of God’.
That is not tradition. That is truth. The traditions of men are pathetic compared with the wonder and glory of these truths. Is there anything more amazing than God becoming man in order to save sinners?
People today have difficulty believing in miracles. While books like Harry Potter always top the sales charts, the Bible’s emphasis upon the supernatural is dismissed as impossible.
People think the miraculous and supernatural are alright in stories, but we can’t be expected totake them seriously. We think that, if we can’t do miracles, then neither can God. We impose our human limitations upon God. But God isn’t like us, and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the Christmas story.
The miracle of Christmas is that God became man. This is the greatest miracle of all, and, if we can believe this, then every other miracle becomes inevitable. The world needs a miracle!
The first-century world into which Jesus was born was no different, morally and spiritually, from our twenty-first century. It was in a mess.
Who can deny the mess of our day? Terrorism, rampant crime, greed in business, broken families; the list is endless. Every copy of a newspaper and every TV news programme emphasises the mess we’re in.
Why is this? It’s not because of economic, social or political reasons; the problem is spiritual. Rich and poor, we’re all in the same spiritual and moral mess, and no one has an answer. No one, that is, except God. God has the answer.
The answer is not tradition, but to get back to the truth about Christ. This isn’t a fairy story. It’s very, very real. There is, even for us today, the possibility of salvation.
Salvation means being saved from the consequences of our sin. It means being acceptable to God; and only Jesus can make this possible for us.
Jesus is the only Saviour because he is the only Saviour that God has provided. He alone is both God and man, and so he is the only one who could possibly achieve salvation for us.
What God offered that first Christmas 2000 years ago, he still offers today. The day of salvation is not yet over.
The author is a retired pastor, having ministered in churches in Cwmbran, Rugby and Swansea.