The Joy of His Birth:
Makes Us Glad
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Founder and CEO
The Collect, or summary, of the readings for Christmas, tells us that:
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For most people, Christmas makes them glad. In Japan, Christmas is a big deal, even though very few Japanese are Christian. The Who in the GRINCH love Christmas more than any other holiday.
Why does the birth of Jesus Christ fill us with joy? The Bible readings for Christmas tell us “why.”
Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7, written 700 years before Jesus Christ, tells us:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders; and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and His kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forever more.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This passage discusses people who walk in darkness. I get up four or five times a night, and believe it or not, it’s hard to find the light switches, so I always bump into things. In fact, after my eye operation, I broke my toe in the dark.
This is all to say that I understand the physical challenges of walking in darkness. Even more challenging is spiritual darkness. Once you turn on the Light, Jesus Christ, you can see your way.
More than that, as Isaiah says, Christ delivers us from our burdens. He breaks the yolk on our shoulders, he breaks the shackles, This is exactly what Jesus did. He set us free from slavery to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
This is the most radical political event in history, because it frees you and me from bondage to the world, the flesh and the Adversary.
This passage says that God will give unto us, unto you and me, a child. There is nothing more precious than a child. The thought that Jesus would come as a child is special.
The names that God gave His Son are nowhere else in the Bible:
The Wonderful Counselor is the king because in the old days the king would sit at the gates of the city and make decisions. The child given to us is called “Wonderful Counselor” because he makes the right decisions. He loves us so much that not only does he make the decision, but he carries out the decisions to make us glad.
It also says he’s going to be a Mighty God, who is warrior against the forces of the Adversary. The Christ child is a Mighty Warrior for us against the forces of the Adversary. Throughout the movie versions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, there are statements that you have to take back your homeland. You can’t let the devil have it. We have been asleep, we have let the darkness take over, and we have to wake up and take back the homeland. This is a radical message, but it’s a biblical message. To take it back we need a mighty warrior, Jesus Christ.
Also, He’s an Everlasting Father. He wants to provide for us and protect us, and His provision is something better than we can possibly expect from the world’s provision. As the first chapter of the Gospel of John says in John 1:1 and John 1:10, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.”
Jesus wants to provide for us and protect us. His provisions are better than anything we ourselves can possibly expect on our own, because He wants to make us glad.
Finally, He is the Prince of Peace who wants us to have wholeness and well-being now. He wants us, each one of us, to be at peace with God and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we are glad.
The reading from Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 for Christmas also shows why Christmas makes us glad:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled; upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is He who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds.
God our Savior showed us how good and kind He is. He saved us because of His mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning, God sent Jesus Christ our Savior to give us His Spirit. Jesus treated us much better than we deserve. He made us acceptable to God and gave us the hope of eternal life.
Titus 2 affirms that God saved you, and it is a gift. It’s saying that some have been trying to save themselves, and it just doesn’t work.
I grew up in the entertainment industry. I was born when my father was starring on Broadway and SHOW BOAT. I spent years trying to figure out how to save myself until God saved me radically.
When he does save us, what happens? We get an attitude of gratitude, which is an attitude of love. Grace alone instructs us how to love. It encourages us to love. It teaches us how to love.
“Save” in this passage is an aorist verb. Aorist is a Greek verb tense that we don’t have in English. It’s something that starts at a specific time in the past, continues in the present, and ends in the future.
So, when we talk about salvation, we were saved by Jesus on the Cross and His resurrection, but we’re also talking about how we are BEING saved, and we’re also talking about how we WILL BE ultimately saved at the Last Judgement with all the saints.
Titus 2 is packed with four-fold grace. We have freedom from sin. I know what that is because I grew up in sin. We have been cleansed from sin so we can be like a newborn baby and adopted by God and loved by God. Because God is kind and merciful, as it says in Titus, we want to love God and bless God. We want to be worthy of being his heirs.
The Gospel of Luke 2:1-20 tells the Nativity Story:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and say: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned; glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
There has never been a story of this magnitude of the Nativity Story. The Ancient of Days, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of everything in heaven and earth, came to Earth as a baby. It was an alien invasion, but not as an ugly creature coming down from space or up from the Pacific, but a loving God as a non-threatening baby whom you can cuddle and hug.
Now, let’s put this into context. There was a man at that time, Emperor Augustus, as he called himself. The name Augustus – August – means “exalted.” Augustus exalted himself to be Emperor and transformed the Roman Republic into the most draconian, tyrannical empire of all time.
As he was doing these evil things and destroying entire civilizations, the real emperor of the universe was born. Jesus didn’t exalt himself. He was born as a baby surrounded by smelly animals in a manger.
What is a manger? Mange in French means to eat. This is foreshadowing of The Communion where He would say, “This is my body. This is my blood”. He was born in a manger and then angels appeared to declare his birth.
Mind you, not the wimpy “angels” we see on trees. Real angels are fearsome. Every time angels appear in the Bible, people cower.
Whom did they appear to? They didn’t appear to the rulers, they appeared to shepherds. Shepherds were the lowliest, taking care of sheep that stank. They weren’t the businessmen, the royalty, or the Pharisees, or the Sadducees. They were just shepherds, and they were scared stiff.
The angels said to them, “Fear not. For unto you this day a Savior has been born,” and they knew what that meant. It meant a Savior to save them from Emperor Augustus’ oppression. He would be their Messiah, that means someone who was chosen by God, not by himself like Augustus, not a self-important person. He would be a man who is going to take care of you and will be your father.
So the greatest gift is not to the high and mighty or the exalted, it was to the people. It was to you and me. He gave Himself to you and me to free us from fear. To free us from pain. To free us from all the things we did wrong and all the penalties we have to pay for all the people we hurt. More than a Savior, He is a Redeemer, He is here to care for you, protect you, and guide you. He is here to help you, walk with you, and talk with you. He died for our sins and was resurrected for you and me to set us free, to turn on a light.
All of this is about the greatest gift of all time: because as it said.
And, we can be glad when we participate in his love and his grace by joyfully receiving Him as our Redeemer and personal Savior.
As the old beloved hymn says, “Joy to the World, the LORD is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and Nature sing. Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! No more let sins and sorrows grow. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love!”
© Baehr, 2018