THEOLOGY OF CHRISTMAS (PART 1)

Driving around my hometown this past Veteran’s day, I noticed that people were already putting up their decorations for Christmas. Lights were being wrapped around trees and fences. Plastic images of santa and snowmen were placed on display encircled with reindeer and elves. As time went on manger scenes began to appear as well along the landscape. Seeing all these things emerge on lawns for the fiftieth time (at least times I can remember seeing with understanding), made me reflect on what Christmas is truly about. 

Perhaps, for most in our secular society, Christmas is about the things I mentioned above; with the added enjoyments of giving and receiving presents, and the football games on television to watch as the stomach settles from our overindulgence in the holiday feast.

For many who hold a Christian worldview Christmas begins with the birth of a little baby named Jesus. A baby who was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26,27,30,31), in a place called Bethlehem (Luke 2:4,5,7), and who was declared to be the Son of God (Matthew 3:17). We reflect on the  shepherds in the fields that were visited by the angel of the Lord proclaiming the good news: “A Savior has been born which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11), and the angelic choir praising God and saying, “peace on earth and good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). We marvel at the humble birth; baby Jesus being found in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them at the local inn.

All of these things are true and worthy of our acceptance and praise. But is this it? Is this all there is to the Christmas story? Why did Jesus come to earth the way He did at the time He did? Was His birth foretold in the scriptures, and what was the mind of God in sending His only begotten Son to earth in this way; through the supernatural conception within a virgins womb (Luke 1:31)? Does this story or God’s purpose end at Christ’s birth, or was it the catalyst for even greater things to come?

The birth of Christ is a vital part of the story of Christmas, but it’s not the beginning! Let’s look into our bibles and see what we can learn or perhaps be reminded of as the days draw nearer for us to celebrate our Lords birth once again.

The story begins with Isaiah’s account of Lucifers rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-14; see also: Ezekiel 28:11-19). Isaiah, in writing of the fall of Satan which we know of as a fact (Jesus Himself cited these scriptures describing Satan’s fall in Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:8-10), uses this inspired writing in addressing the king of Babylon and the devil that energized him. Both fell as a result of pride. Lucifer was cast out of heaven along with all the fallen angels after they rebelled against God. Shortly thereafter we find him on the earth seeking to destroy anything good that God has created.

In the book of Genesis we read that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them, made mankind in His image and likeness to rule over His creation as His representative (Genesis 1:26). Adam and Eve were to have children and multiply mankind upon the face of the earth. They were to exercise control over their environment as faithful stewards of the One who created it. But they were to do this in acknowledgement of His authority; honoring and obeying Him in all things. 

But Eve, Adams wife, fell into temptation. Eve being tempted by a “serpent” in the garden one day, believed the lies of the serpent and took of the fruit and ate, and then gave it to her husband and He ate of it as well (Genesis 3:6). This serpent is none other than Lucifer himself! There is more to this snake than meets the eye. Lucifer, being a fallen angel, a supernatural spirit, not flesh and bones like us, possessed the body of this snake and used it to challenge God’s authority (Genesis 3:1-6). As a result of their disobedience their “eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7), and so they sought to cover themselves using fig leaves. Now, as one commentator observes, “Adam and Eve see good and evil from the standpoint of sinners, from the low level of sin.”

 God comes to the garden seeking to deal with their sin against Him, but they are trying to hide from Him. When confronted about their sin, Adam and Eve play the blame game that we are so familiar with (Genesis 3:7-13). God then tell’s them the consequences for their disobedience. Not only do Adam and his wife suffer consequences for their sin, God curses the ground  because of them, and till this day “the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. . .  In hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-22).

In respect to the serpent, God curses it; some form of external change has now taken place. Its role is now diminished among the creation. Once, perhaps exulted among it, now is reduced to slithering on its belly throughout all generations (Genesis 3:14). A greater curse upon the serpent is placed upon the one behind its actions, Satan (Genesis 3:15)! This theologians refer to as the “Protevangelium,” the first mention of the gospel found in our bibles. Herein lies the first proclamation of a Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will destroy the works of Satan. In this first gospel we see that there will be a conflict between Satan and Christ; a conflict that involves the people of God and the followers of Satan (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). The “seed” of the woman is a direct reference to the Messiah to come, Jesus, who will deliver a fatal death blow to Satan, while Satan will only “bruise Christ’s heel” (vs. 15). 

This is a message of hope, good news for mankind; the declaration that mankind will not always have to remain in a fallen state, but through the Messiah to come, he can be “redeemed,” bought back from sin and its curse (Ephesians 1:7)!

Adam and Eve are then expelled from the garden because of their disobedience. But this expulsion is also as an act of love by their creator, to protect them from eating of the tree of life and therefore remaining in their “pitiful cursed condition.” Mankind’s relationship to his creator has been temporarily changed by the actions of our first parents: Adam and Eve suffer the killing of one child by another (Genesis 4:1-8), sin grows and grows in the hearts of men until its abundance leads to the Lord declaring that He will: “blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land . . .” (Genesis 6:1-8). God brings a universal flood upon His creation and the end result is that only eight people, Noah and his family, along with the animals that came to the ark, survived God’s judgement upon the wickedness of mankind. After the flood, Noah, his family, and all the animals step out onto dry ground once again! Through Shem, Ham, and Japheth the world will be repopulated (Genesis 9:1).

That is not the end of sin upon the earth, however. After the flood, as the population grew, mankind determined that they would not obey God and multiply upon the face of the earth, but rather, would just stay in one place, the plain of Shinar. Here they stop to establish a city as a monument to their pride; the tower was a representation of their sinful pride. Here again, we see the the same root of sin, pride, come into play in rebellion against mankind’s creator (Genesis 11:1-4). God then confuses their language so they could not understand each other and scatters them over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:7-8). On and on we could go, the Bible is replete with account after account of mans rebellion against Him. 

As mankind’s sinful heart raged on and on, so did the kindness and mercy of God. In Genesis 12:3 God makes a covenant with Abraham promising him that, “in you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” This has its fulfillment in none other than the Christ child, Jesus (Matthew 1:1)! God also saw fit to reveal to the patriarch’s that the “seed of a woman,” spoken of back in Genesis 3, will come from the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3; 17:19; Numbers 24:17). That He will be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and be anointed as an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7). 

All of these things are part of the Christmas story. They supply the background information we need if we are to fully grasp and appreciate what God had given us, what He has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. I invite you to come back next week for part two of this theology of Christmas, where we will begin to see the fulfillment of all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament come to their fruition in the Christ child!

For more reading about the wonder of Christmas and what it is truly about, click the picture below. Pastor MacArthur does a great job at leading the reader through scripture to help them see “baby Jesus through the eyes of those who saw Him first.” As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases, this helps to support this ministry, thank you.

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