A number of years ago I was preparing a message to present to the congregation on Christmas Eve. At the time I had been reading much of Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century Baptist Preacher. I thought to myself that there could be no better source than Spurgeon for bringing meaning to the Christmas message. Spurgeon had a way with words and in his old English prose there was always deep meaning. That was a mistake. Unbeknownst to me Charles despised the Christmas celebration. This is a somewhat sanitized version of his thoughts on Christmas. He writes:
“WE HAVE NO superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Saviour’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred.
So even though I thought wise not to quote Spurgeon on that occasion I am going to do so in this post. A young Charles Spurgeon summarizes my point with his sermon on Christmas Eve 1854.
“We have nearly arrived at the great merry-making season of the year. On Christmas-day we shall find all the world in England enjoying themselves with all the good cheer which they can afford. Servants of God, you who have the largest share in the person of him who was born at Bethlehem, I invite you to the best of all Christmas fare–to nobler food than makes the table groan–bread from heaven, food for your spirit. Behold, how rich and how abundant are the provisions which God has made for the high festival which he would have his servants keep, not now and then, but all the days of their lives!”
Spurgeon did not have much regard for Christmas as a holiday celebration because what he saw was that the little child in that manger was worthy of being celebrated every day of a believer’s life. Contemplate what Spurgeon would think of what our culture has made of Christmas today. Our traditions, most of which have little or nothing to do with the birth of the Messiah, instead have much to do with commercialization, excessive consumption and a mythical tribute to a Dutch saint and his elves.
So who is this baby that we celebrate on the 25th of December. Prior to this baby’s birth every pregnant Israelite woman would wonder whether or not the child in her womb was a son, and if a son, if he might be the Messiah. While we now can read the gospel accounts of the Messiah’s birth, we cannot really fathom the depth of anticipation and hope of those righteous Jewish people who yearned for the Messiah’s arrival.
Some of the most beautiful messianic promises written prior to the birth of Jesus the Messiah are found in the Psalms. God was speaking through the psalmists of Israel, foretelling the arrival of this Child, Israel’s coming King.
Psalm 2 speaks of the Messiah as the One whom God will install as His King over Israel. Messiah will be given the nations as His inheritance, and He will rule over those who seek to oppose. The nations are thus urged to worship God now, or face the wrath of this coming King. To put this in perspective that King is this newborn child we adore at Christmas!
Psalm 22 portrays the suffering of Messiah on the cross of Calvary. It begins with the words which our Lord quoted upon the cross, “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?” thus identifying the Savior with the One whose sufferings are described in this Psalm. This suffering Messiah was that very same baby, born into this world for the salvation of man and destined to die on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
Psalm 45 is written for the celebration of the king’s marriage. It therefore focuses on the splendor and majesty of the coming King and upon the fact that His throne is eternal. The bride of the king loves righteousness and hates wickedness. The splendor and beauty of the bride is described as she has been prepared for her presentation to the King. The bride is the Church and it this baby on sweet smelling hay that would wed himself to his bride.
Psalm 72 depicts the reign of the Righteous King of Israel, who judges the people with righteousness and justice, and who vindicates the afflicted. He is the One who will answer the cries of the afflicted and will bring them deliverance. This is the baby!
Psalm 110 speaks of the installation of the Messiah at the right hand of God, who will rule over His enemies. Not only is He to rule as king, but He is also an eternal priest. He will come to the earth to destroy His enemies. This baby we adore at Christmas was before all recorded time destined for greatness.
It is Isaiah, however, who has the most to say about Messiah. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will finally and fully deliver His people and restore them. The coming of Messiah is thus a prominent theme in the Book of Isaiah. He was the hope promised by God. This little baby, in other words, is the hope promised by God to deliver His people.
It is Isaiah that reveals to us “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel – God with Us, God with Us – The book of Hebrews tells us that this baby is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being. So that baby is God with us.
In Matthew 1:18 we are told “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew tells us that this new born baby is that promised Messiah. We are celebrating the birth of the Promised One through whom God’s Salvation plan was to be accomplished.
As we are struggling on Christmas morning to put the kid’s new toys together we need to remember who that baby is. Hebrews tells us that He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his God’s being. Think about that – that baby is an exact representation of God’s being! As we are in the middle of downloading fifty new apps for our new phones we need to take time to think about who that baby is. He is the manifestation of the Second Person of the Godhead in human flesh, he is the Promised Messiah. That baby is the Son of God, He is God made Manifest in the flesh, He is the Creator of all things, He is the Upholder of all things, He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Lamb of God and the Lamb that was slain. That baby is the Bright Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness, The Rock of our Salvation, the Great High Priest, our Mediator, He is the Redeemer, He is the Faithful & True Witness. That little child is the First-Born from the dead, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the King of Glory, the Great Physician.
God has always desired to walk with his people. In Matthew 1:23 the gospel writer tells us “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”
Charles Spurgeon may not like Christmas day but he can certainly put the birth of our Savior in perspective. Our young prince of preachers preached:
“Immanuel.” It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.” Sages look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it. The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths. The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high and the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it! “God with us.” It is Hell’s terror! Satan trembles at the sound of it. His legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it! Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word, “God with us”—back he falls—confounded and confused! Satan trembles when he hears that name, “God with us.” It is the laborer’s strength—how could he preach the Gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor acknowledge his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? “God with us,” is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe, is the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep which God gives to His beloved, is their rest after exertion and toil.
Ah, and to finish, “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet, is Heaven’s hallelujah, is the shout of the glorified, is the song of the redeemed, is the chorus of angels, is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky! “God with us.”
That newborn child is “God with us”.