Jesus The True Christmas GospelFeatured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Sunday, December 21st, 2014
By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Christmas is a time for thinking about the new beginning. It is not just the beginning of another set of twelve calendar months but that God is the beginning of the new creation and Jesus Christ the Messiah is the New Adam in the new creation. The gospel is the announcement that the kingdom of God has come and Jesus, the Son of God, is the Anointed King. This same Christmas gospel, according to St Luke, is the beginning of fulfillment of all the promises in the Old Testament and for St John it is the beginning of God in the flesh living in amongst us. The beginning of new creation, of the gospel, of the divine promises fulfilled and of God come in the flesh is not four different beginnings but four different ways of speaking about the ultimate new beginning God has brought into the world. In another occasion and standing at the cusp of existence, before its very conception, when anything could have been, but nothing was the owner of the beginning declared that should be light. The truth of all darkness is its mandate to become light; the truth of all conscious beings is their mandate to perceive that light; the truth of all existence is to know that it emerges out of that which stands beyond existence. The Christmas gospel allows us to know that Jesus is the light, the beginning and the end.
For the Jews, who had been carried off into captivity for many centuries and when they were eventually allowed to return to their own land, they remained under foreign dominion. Even in the days of King Herod, at the time Jesus was born, the Jews were still under foreign leaders, for he was appointed by the Roman Empire and was quite tyrannical. So the Jews were in their homeland but they were not at home in their homeland. They were still in exile somewhat. Their expectation about Messiah, however, was still alive. God had spoken the promise in various ways over the centuries, and many of the various Jewish movements still looked for him, longed for him, though their understanding was very mixed about what it would be and how it would happen. They knew that Messiah would come to deliver Israel and establish God’s kingdom. They had the promise of God, and to the extent they trusted God and believed that promise, they had expectation. Because God spoke, there was hope. Now here was Zechariah, whose faith revived very late in life, praising God for the miraculous birth of his son, John the Baptist, who was somehow caught up in the fulfillment of the messianic promise and in the Christmas gospel.
Zechariah begins the Christmas Gospel with the declaration that God has come to His people and redeemed them. Then he relates it to the promise and the things spoken by the mouths of the Old Testament prophets. He recalls the covenant God swore to Abraham. He focuses on the promise of mercy and deliverance and freedom, that God’s people would be able to serve Him without fear all the days of their lives. In short, Zechariah’s prophecy was an announcement that the time of Messiah was at hand. With his faith renewed to the promise of God, Zechariah began to understand that it was now beginning to be fulfilled. God was doing what He promised. Zechariah believed the promise and he was bursting with this expectation.
Therefore the true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus Christ came into the world and died for our sin, he rose and that he is alive forever. According to the Jews custom Jesus was probably born around October rather than on December 25 that we choose for this celebration. Jesus himself declared (Luke 4: 18); “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” This is Jesus the son of Mary and we are telling you that he is the true Messiah with a Christmas gospel to all mankind; not to the Jews alone. In fact some Jews are still expecting their messiah.
It is a season when we are expected to thank God for the blessings obtained and for the people that have surrounded us with love, service, support, and prayers during the outgoing year. We are expressing gratitude for the victories that we experienced together this year, and now we are looking to the future filled with many expectations to see what God will continually do for us. God is faithful and we should commit the entire unknown future to him fully. Of course we have many families around us who may, like us, be less forward in the celebration mood because they have found the passing year very challenging. Yes in many occasions we are so helpless and we find no answers to this troubling world. However why do we allow the unknown future to bother us so much? It is partly because we know that the enemy of our being, Satan, is ever lurking around to strike at us at every moment we appear careless or unaware of his presence and his tricks. He misled Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden and that got them thrown out of an excellent environment to abide in a very harsh condition where ordinary daily feeding is difficult and we are dying any how and at any age. The Christmas gospel is the renewal of relationship with God, the way of salvation and back to the Garden to have fellowship with God; and hence a time to celebrate.
From our observational survey we find a significant portion of the population who thinks that Christmas is a cultural matter rather than a religious affair. In addition we find that Christmas has become highly commercial. Many people don’t even care what they get for Christmas as long as people enjoy the Christmas season and it brings them joy, gifts, lot of sales and peace. A large part of the population spends the time with family and by organizing community meetings and other events for which they could find no other more convenient space in their busy schedules. Meanwhile many commercial stores want it to remain at cultural level because they only think about money and it is the time they record highest sale levels. In some cases Christmas period is sadly better known for presents and Santa (Father Christmas) than Jesus Christ and Christianity. At another level, gifts, family feasts, acts of kindness like presenting gifts to less privileged are all good and fun at this period but the birth of Christ that is the real reason for the season is kept at a low base. Jesus wants us to listen and learn from him and his Word rather than merely busy attempting to be serving. Jesus is more content with a Mary that is ready to listen and learn at his feet than a Martha that is burning out herself to serve her Lord and Master.
Some of us merely refer to Jesus as “personal Lord” which too often translates in modernity as my private Lord. If Jesus is merely one’s private Lord then Jesus is not really Lord. Jesus is not content to be a private Lord; He demands to be one’s public Lord as well. Nor is Jesus merely my individual Lord; He is Lord and King precisely because he is Lord and King of the whole cosmos world. And neither can Jesus be merely my personal saviour only. This is because there can be no good news apart from the gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel is about a person (who is a king) and a Kingdom. The gospel is the good news of this King and the Kingdom. If we fail to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, in favour of the plan of salvation, we may have failed to preach the gospel. The gospel is the story about the liberating King Jesus; how his life, death, burial and resurrection come to fulfill God’s promises to Israel, and through Israel and Jesus God’s promises to the nations and all the created orders. There can be no good news apart from Jesus as the Liberating King.
Then what is the good news, the gospel, at Christmas? Very simply there is one basic message we are invited to announce: Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, is the King. The Christmas gospel — it’s all here — is that Jesus is King and the gospel is to declare that the “Story of the Bible” has been fulfilled in the “Story of Jesus”, who is King (Messiah of the entire world) and Lord who saves. At the heart of this gospel then is a story, a story that begins with Adam and then all over again with Abraham and winds and wends its way all the way to Jesus. That Story is told in the Old Testament. The Christmas Story is a Story fulfilled.
For Mary the mother of Jesus the Christmas gospel is a big gospel. Hence Mary has a big gospel to spread and she understands. She has a gospel that covers the whole Bible and the whole world. This isn’t something she learned as a “deeper truth” for mature Christians; this was her hope and expectation, but it is something the story narratives miss because they jump from Genesis to Jesus and don’t include the whole story in their understanding of Gospel as Mary did. From the beginning, Mary praised God as the King who rules the earth, who has called her to join him in the bringing about the blessing of a New Creation. This is the core of the gospel and the Christmas message.
We all have been called also to spread and share in this glorious gospel, to know that we have a living God who lives and works with us along the narrow way daily. We have the Prince of peace to resolve all our conflicts without having to resort to any arm of flesh and our victory is guaranteed at his name. Yet it is a wonderful thing that God’s own Son should come from heaven to save a wretch like us even if comprehending the whole stuff is beyond us. Jesus is a name that is above all names; at his name the princes and princesses of darkness quiver and shrink to nothing. If we can bring one self to believing in this name we have eternal life because Jesus came to regenerate and reposition individuals for the Kingdom of God by grace through our faith in his son. He is reconciling us to God with whom we broke relationship at Adam’s failure in the Garden of Eden. We don’t know how it is happening but everyday and anyone Jesus touches becomes a new being, all our past and debts scrolling away and new beings are produced for the new heaven and the new earth. Why will it be so difficult for you to let this King Jesus take over the affairs of your life which has been ruined by sin and self will?
Only with the power of Jesus, who is beyond both darkness and light, which is heaven on earth can awaken the divine within us. Ordinarily our objective has been meditation, prayer or doing some acts of kindness. Jesus has come so that the beast within us should lift its eyes to the heavens, that the dark side of a human creature should let in a little light, that a human ego should do good despite itself. The Christmas gospel allows darkness to know light, the earth to know heaven, and that our sinful nature is made holy in the likeness of God. We live between the early and latter rains in this advent season of the world, waiting for the fulfillment of what was begun at the first Christmas. Though there are many difficulties and persecutions the innocent and the righteous are presently suffering, the Lord will come and the harvest he brings will be exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Here in Nigeria our Chibok girls remain in captivity, and we are told by their captors that all of them have been converted to Islam and married off to their captors. It used to be that pastors were killed by terrorists and churches burned while the security forces looked on helplessly. In the North East part of Nigeria the stories coming out include that Police and Army barracks, mosques and Muslims, ordinary citizens going about for their daily bread are not spared. The situation seems to deteriorate by the day. We who trust in the Lord Jesus will not despair because we believe that he is more than able to deliver us.
The fear needed in our, private or public, daily service is not a servile, cringing, or enslaving terror but a combination of love, admiration and respect for what he is. He is the everlasting father who pities his children a king who looks on the one who is poor and of contrite heart, a physician who heals the body, cleanses the spirit with his word, mercifully forgiving and giving sound counsel so that his children can work out their salvation with fear and trembling. When this fear of God enters a man’s evil heart godly knowledge, understanding and wisdom can begin to grow. In making better decisions and choices a person must break his heart enslaved to do his own evil heart desires. This transformation from doing self will to obeying godly desires creates the new man, the new beginning and comes from the Christmas story. We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
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