Carols, greeting cards, and church bulletins all proclaim Christmas is about "joy" and "peace". But this year, there doesn't seem to be much of that in the world. So, what gives? When Christmas is placed in context to the larger story of the Bible, the reason for joy and peace becomes much clearer.
Hey everyone, welcome to episode number seven, the final episode of this short series that I’ve been calling The Myths of Christmas. Today’s myth: “Jesus’ first coming and Christmas is all about glad tidings of comfort and joy.”
Well yet again we have another popular Christmas carol that tells us to remember “Christ our savior who was born on Christmas day”, and that there’s good news, or tidings, of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
Well, that definitely needs some clarification and qualification. Because you can look at the world today, even from where I’m at here in America in 2020, and there’s not all that much peace and joy this Christmas season. So what gives?
Well, the second you turn the page from Luke chapter 1 to Luke chapter 2, we meet Simeon, a man who held the baby Jesus in his arms and said this to Mary:
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:24-25)
Turn the page again and you come to John the Baptist in Luke chapter 3, who said this about Jesus:
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:16-17)
Now flip over to Matthew’s Gospel, and you get another crazy statement from Jesus himself. He said this in Matthew 10:34 and 35:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
So is Jesus’ first coming about a nice meal and a good time with your family opening presents on December 25th? Or is it even about being happy because you’re forgiven of your sin and Jesus is your savior from a lifestyle of bad moral choices? Well, for Mary and Joseph and Simeon and John the Baptist and any Jew in the first century, the answer to those questions would be “no”. Why? Because there’s a larger story going on, and the birth of Jesus best fits within that larger story. As I talked about back in my very first episode of this short series, we see from Genesis 12 that God had chosen the ethnic descendants of Abraham to be the nation through which all the other nations would be blessed. Israel would go on to make a covenant with God at Mount Sinai in Exodus, specifically because God had chosen them to be his firstborn nation, and because had shown his power by taking them of Egypt. Israel then entered the land God had promised to Abraham, and went on to anticipate the reign of a king and his kingdom in Israel so that that this blessing of life that was lost at the fall in Genesis 3 would return to humanity. This coming king would be from David’s lineage and would give Israel rest from her enemies and cause them to dwell safely in the land. Then the prophets would say that all the nations would flow up to Jerusalem to worship Israel’s God and to hear his instruction, and that would result in global peace and prosperity.
But one huge part of the first coming of Jesus was about God reckoning with his chosen people Israel. Jesus came to expose the hearts of the Jews, specifically the leadership of the nation. They had gone astray and were in danger of judgment because of their inauthentic heart posture and their mere external obedience. I’ve got a whole series of videos on this here on my Youtube channel called “Opening Up the Gospels” where I go through all of this, so be sure to check them out.
But this larger story is the context of the comfort and joy that should accompany our remembrance of the birth of Jesus. Luke wrote that Simeon, a devout Jew, was “waiting for the consolation” or the “comfort” of Israel. Mary in her little song about the birth of Jesus proclaimed God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham. After the angels left, the shepherds were filled with great joy because they had heard that the long-awaited Davidic king had been born. John the Baptist said that the one coming after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit - a promise given to the whole nation of Israel in the prophets. So for a first century Jew, these are huge reasons to have joy and to be comforted. God had not abandoned his people and was really going to do what he said.
And so what does this mean for us this Christmas? It means that God’s plan to bless the nations through the ethnic descendants of Abraham is still on - it hasn’t been redefined or reimagined. We anticipate the day that Jesus, the one born in such humility and lowliness, the one crucified and risen, the one who sits at the right hand of God in the heavens waiting for the day that his enemies are made his footstool, we look forward to the day he returns to sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem, when sin and death are no more and joy and peace fills our hearts forever.
THIS news is the tidings of comfort and joy that we need to hear at Christmas.
Well that wraps up this short little series, I hope you’ve been blessed and encouraged to continue to run the race toward the day of his coming with perseverance. Hit that like button down below and share this video with your friends, and subscribe to my channel for more. God bless, merry Christmas, and Maranatha.