The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is 9:2,6)
1. There is hope for humanity and the world
We live in desperate times. We fear for our world and we are angry at one another. Many of us see our species as an environmental blight (a recent opinion piece in the New York Times reflected on the benefits of our extinction). We often despair at humanity’s character: its rapacity, insatiability, stupidity, narcissism, xenophobia and belligerence. Many of us wonder whether it makes sense to bring children into such a hopeless world.
But God thought it was worth it.
Many of us wonder whether it makes sense to bring children into such a hopeless world. But God thought it was worth it.
The coming of Christ proves that evil and destruction will not have the final word in God’s economy. God has a plan for us—a plan to restore and reestablish us as good governors of his good creation – just as he did at the beginning. God hasn’t given up on us. He loved the world so much that he sent his Son into the world. (John 3:16)
2. God has provided the remedy we need
We mustn’t misunderstand the previous point. God’s intervention in the person of Jesus doesn’t mean we should imagine that there is a reason for hope within ourselves—as if we weren’t so bad after all. It is God’s plan and God’s mercy that counts here—not our virtue. When Jesus is asked “who can be saved?” his answer is that “with man it is impossible, but not with God.” (Mark 10:27) Or, as Paul writes “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom [and] Gomorrah.” (Rom 9:29)
Human prospects are far worse than the most pessimistic among us fear. But God has given us a greater saviour to rescue us:
- a truly righteous king to replace our corrupt rulers (Is 11:1-5);
- a perfect sacrifice to deal with our indelible guilt before God (Heb 9:24-28);
- a man of the Spirit to change our lives (2Cor 3:17-18);
- a friend and lover who can soften our hard hearts (Matt-John!).
3. Jesus’ coming means our rebirth
Jesus doesn’t just patch humanity or shore-up the old system. He changes everything about humanity. He changes us from people of dust to people of heaven (1Cor 15:47-49). When we put our trust in him, we might look the same outwardly but we are translated into the presence of God and his angels (Heb 12:22-24). In Christ, we belong to a new world and have the firstfruits of his new creation growing inside of us (2Cor 5:17; Rom 8:22-23).
4. Now we know what “God” really means
Jesus is the key to all theology and true religion.
Because of who he is—the eternal Son, Word and glory of God—he presents us with the perfect lens or mirror for viewing God (John 1; Heb 1).
Because of what he does—makes atonement for our sins—he brings us closer to God and shows us what God is like at home. Through Jesus—and only through him—the terrifying fires of God’s holy wrath become a hearth-light to warm us. In him, the God who sweeps away lives, cities and civilisations becomes a father who runs to meet us with open arms.
Through Jesus, the terrifying fires of God’s holy wrath become a hearth-light to warm us. In him, the God who sweeps away lives, cities and civilisations becomes a father who runs to meet us with open arms.
When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God covered him with his hand and told him about his faithfulness, justice and mercy (Ex 33:12-34:7). But Christians have seen God’s justice, mercy and glory. It is Christ: come into the world as a servant; submitting to death on a cross; exalted as king and saviour. (Phil 2:5-11; John 13)
5. Now we know the reason for history
Jesus isn’t just our rescuer—he’s also the reason why we exist. The writer of Hebrews calls him God’s appointed heir (Heb 1:2). Paul says that “all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16). Jesus himself says that his mission is a product of God’s plan that “that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.” (John 5:23)
The coming of Jesus reveals both the fact that God is triune and that the love between the persons is the cause of our creation and redemption. If we put our faith in Christ, we find that we are part of a gift given to the Son by the Father and from the Son back to the Father (Eph 1:3-4,10; John 17:6-10; 1Cor 15:24-28).
6. We have a God who knows us
The Persons of the Godhead are utterly transcendent—outside time and space and all change. Our God is incomprehensible and indescribable.
Yet in the human life of Jesus, God the Son has come into this world—like a painter painting himself into a scene or an author writing himself into his own novel. The second person of the Trinity knows what it is to suffer and die; to be ignorant and sad; to have to trust and obey. Even now, in his glorified state, he is still a creature—his Spirit and revelation are gifts given by his Father (Acts 2:33; Rev 1:1).
This should be a great comfort to us. As the writer of Hebrews put is, it means that we have a Priest and Saviour who calls us his brothers and sisters; who understands our frailty and can help us (Heb 2:11-12,17; 4:15-16); who stands alongside us and brings us to God his Father.
7. We have an infinitely greater hope
There is nothing in this world that can give us lasting satisfaction. Our lives are candle-flickers that come and gone in a moment, and if we lived forever it would be worse.
Mere eternal life would become cloying and repetitive—an eternal Ecclesiastes where everything became more and more wearyingly familiar.
Mere eternal life would become cloying and repetitive—an eternal Ecclesiastes where everything became more and more wearyingly familiar. But in Christ, God has given us himself
But in Christ, God has given us himself—the infinite source of infinite good. As the psalmist says “whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you … God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:25-26)
The gift we really need isn’t just a new and better world. We need God, whose presence brings “fullness of joy” and eternal pleasures (Ps 16:11). And that is what Christ gives us. As he declares to the Samaritan woman:
…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)
May Christ fill all our hearts and mouths with the joy of his presence and the comfort of his salvation this Christmas!