I wonder what you think of when you hear the word ‘Christmas’?
- Santa Claus? Presents?
- Christmas trees? Christmas songs? Christmas jumpers?
- Turkey? Tinsel? Lights?
- Family? Good TV? Or bad TV maybe.
- Angels? Shepherds? Wise men?
- Nativity? Mary, Joseph?
There are probably a whole host of things that come to mind when we hear the word ‘Christmas’. If we were asked to finish the sentence, ‘Christmas is all about…’ I am sure we would get a load of different answers. But I don’t want to get into that, or try and persuade you that Christmas should be one thing and not another. What I want to do is share with you what the first Christmas was all about. Because that is most important.
The first Christmas was all about the coming of the Son of God into the world.
So, to think about that a little bit I want us to consider Galatians 4:4 – 5 and answer three simple questions. When did he come? How did he come? Why did he come?
- When did he come?
Our western calendars give us a clue as to when the Son of God came. Because they date back to his entrance into our world. As if you didn’t know, we are living in the year 2020 which reminds us that about two thousand and twenty years ago the Son of God walked the earth. It is a Historical fact. You can read about his birth, and life, and what he came to do in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
But why did he come then? Why not before then? Why not now? Why 2000 years ago?
Because, as verse 4 tells us, that was the right time – ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.’
In hindsight we can see that there were lots of good reasons why this was the right time.
- The Greek language had spread right throughout the civilized world.
- Jewish synagogues had been erected in numerous places.
- Roman roads and Roman rule brought relative political peace to the world.
And all served to provide uniquely ideal circumstances. Circumstances that would see the good news about the Son of God’s coming, (and what he had accomplished), taken far and wide.
We can imagine what was being said in the trade routes in the early years after Jesus death and resurrection.
- ‘Have you heard about the God-man, Jesus Christ?’
- ‘His followers are everywhere.’
- ‘They are willing to die for him.’
- ‘They don’t bow down to anyone else but him.’
- ‘You can even hear about him in Greek in the local Jewish synagogue.’
But though all this is true, the only reason that we can be absolutely sure of that this was the right time is that it was God’s time. It was the time appointed by the Father.
We can imagine the eternal Father turning to the eternal Son, in the heights of highest heaven and saying, ‘are you ready? Are you ready to take on frail flesh and die?’ And the answer from the Son coming, ‘I am ready.’
Verse 4 is a wonderful verse because it reminds us that God has a perfect plan.
- In the fullness of time.
- When the time was right.
God executed his plan. He sent his Son.
What a comfort that is to us in a world that seems so out of control. That there is a good God in heaven who is at work in the world, executing his plans and purposes in accordance with his will. Always working for his glory and his people’s good.
Sometimes when people are faced with the mess our world is in, they ask the question, and perhaps you have asked it,
- ‘where is God in a messed-up world?’
- ‘if God is so loving and kind, why doesn’t he come and do something about the mess?’
This verse tells us that he has. ‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.’ He has a plan. And he is committed to executing it. But this verse also tells us that God is committed to keeping his promises, and that his timing is perfect.
Right throughout the Old Testament, beginning as far back as Genesis 3, God had promised that he would send a deliverer into the world:
- One who would be the seed or the offspring of the woman.
- One who was destroy Satan and save his people.
And ever since the promise was given, faithful men and women looked to it, and they hoped in it.
And so too through all the:
before Christ’s coming, God’s people looked to the promise. They believed that it would come. And at just the right time, it did. So now we can look back more than 2000 years later and say, ‘He kept his promise because the Son of God came.’
And so, in our little lives, as we trust him, we can dare to believe that he has a plan, he will keep his promises, and his timing is perfect.
That’s the when, what about the how?
- How did he come?
He came as one sent.
There have sometimes been people in history who have had a great sense of purpose. They are sure they know why they were sent into the world. Churchill was one of them. He had a strong sense that he was destined for something great. We can almost hear him saying ‘I know the reason I have been sent’.
But Jesus was the only person who was really sent. Sent from heaven that is. From the Father’s right side.
We have already seen it, verse 4, ‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.’
John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he sent…’
The God who is the one true and living God revealed in the Bible as being one, and yet three. One God, three Persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is why when a service ends the words of the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 are often read,
‘Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen’
Because the God of Christians is a God who is one and yet three. So, the Son of God was sent. And he was sent, this verse tells us, via the womb of a woman.
Verse 4, ‘God sent forth his Son, born of a woman’
Earlier we heard some verses of Matthew’s gospel read. Which witness to the fact that that woman was Mary. And that at the time, she was a virgin. The birth was natural, but the conception was miraculous. The baby in her womb was placed there by the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18, ‘Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.’
How did the Son of God come? Via a virgin’s womb.
Perhaps you are listening to this and thinking, ‘this is crazy. Virgin’s don’t give birth’ – and I agree, in normal ordinary circumstances, they don’t. And so, for:
thinking, this is crazy. But for the thinking that comes from faith, which is based on:
- the reliability of the Bible as the word of God,
- its truth,
- historical accuracy,
this is very wonderful.
We can’t possibly understand all that is going on here. We are lost on the how.
- How is God both one and three?
- How did God become a man?
- How did the Holy Spirit work in the womb of a woman who had not known a man so that she become pregnant?
In the end we have to humble ourselves and recognise, ‘where reason fails, with all her powers, there faith prevails, and love adores.’
But we are not the only ones who have to come to this point. Mary and Joseph had to too. When an angel appeared to Mary telling her about the child that she would give birth to, she asked, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the answer came, ‘with God nothing will be impossible.’ (Luke 1:34)
Later when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he decided he would break off the relationship quietly so as not to expose her. But the answer came, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’
They believed. And it happened just as they were told.
When did the Son of God come? At just the right time. How did he come? As one sent, via the womb of the virgin. But finally, and most importantly, why did he come?
- Why did he come?
Verse 5 tells us, ‘to redeem those who were under the law.’
He came to:
- To buy back.
- To purchase.
those, Paul says, who were under the law. As human beings the Bible tells us that we are under the law. Not just the law of the land that we are citizens of, but the law of the God who created us – and the Bible also tells us, (our consciences agreeing with its testimony), that we are guilty of being lawbreakers.
- God says ‘do not lie’. And we have and do.
- God says ‘do not covet’ but be content with what you have been given. But we are full of covetousness.
- God says ‘do not hate others’. But we do.
- God says ‘be pure’. But we are not.
- God says ‘be selfless’. But we are selfish.
- God says ‘deal with the plank in your own eye before you try and pick the spec out of your brother’s eye’. But instead of addressing our own sin and hypocrisy, we judge others.
- God says ‘confess you sins to me and turn from them and I will freely forgive you’. But instead, we hold onto them and turn away from God.
- God says ‘I am your God, and you shall worship me alone’. But instead of bowing the knee in humble adoration we turn and go our own way.
And all this lawbreaking stems from the fact that our first parents, Adam and Eve, turned away from God and went their own way. They listened to the voice of Satan over trusting the voice of God – and as a result, sin came into our world and brought us into the mess we now see. So we find ourselves under God’s curse, and Satan’s rule.
Being under God’s curse and Satan’s rule means death and eternal punishment when we die and this is all highlighted by the law of God. It’s a curse to us. We are under the curse of the law.
The law tells us God’s standard. And not just the 10 commandments, but the whole Bible. It shows us what is pleasing to God and acceptable to him. But as we read it, it only condemns us and exposes how sinful we really are. It begs the question, ‘why read the Bible?’ Because the law does something else: it drives us to Christ and shows us our need of a Saviour.
(incidentally when we have come to Christ, reading the law is a totally different experience. We begin to rejoice in it.)
The wonderfully good news of Christmas is that Christ came to redeem sinners like us, to buy us back from our:
- slavery to sin
- Satan’s power,
- and to bring us back to God.
To give us eternal life with him forever in heaven.
How did he do it?
- By becoming a man.
And it had to be that way. That is why he was born of a woman.
The first promise given in Genesis said that it would be of the offspring of the woman that Satan would be defeated and sinners saved.
- It was human beings who had sinned against God.
- It was human beings who were guilty.
- And only a human being could make amends for their wrong.
And yet in our guilt and our sin we are unwilling to make things right. So having sinned against an infinite and holy God we are unable to make things right. So, the Son of God became a man. Fully human, and yet without sin. And he is both willing and able to save.
How did he do it?
- By being born under the law
In order for sinners to be accepted before God it wasn’t just God’s wrath that needed to be turned away, it was God’s law that needed to be perfectly kept. And so, he was born under the law. He kept it perfectly. Where we failed – he succeeded.
How did he do it?
- By becoming a curse for us.
Galatians 3:13, ‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)’
The God man, Jesus Christ, hung on a tree. He bled and died to take the punishment for sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- He died as a divine person. And so, the sacrifice was of infinite worth.
- He died as a real man. And so, the punishment for sin was truly taken and guilt truly removed.
So that whoever will turn to him and trust in him will be saved.
And that includes you.
- When did he come? At the right time.
- How did he come? Via the virgin’s womb.
- Why did he come? To save sinners like you.