"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas and Christ's Sobering Purpose

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur."  These words, spoken in Acts 4:27-28 (emphasis added), tell us that there was established divine intention behind the crucifixion and death of Christ.  It is the predetermined nature of this purpose that concerns us at this time of year, for it means that this purpose was in place even as Christ was born. 

For this reason, we cannot consider the birth of Christ without the death of Christ invading our thinking.  He came with a divinely-imparted anointing to serve as the great sacrificial Lamb.  There would be an abundance of teaching, and of example, and of proof of His divinity and messianic mission, but all would culminate in His death and resurrection, wherein He would conquer death and exhaust the inexhaustible wrath of God intended for His children in an unprecedented display of divine grace. 

All of this was in the mind of God, and indeed was set into motion, at the birth of Christ.  The Savior never deviated, willfully or accidentally, from His direct course toward the cross.  At the very first step of this momentous journey, the angelic host announced to the shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14) As we ponder this peace, we realize that it is not a Hallmark Channel sort of peace in which gruff but lovable people are reconciled after years of hostility.  There is a curious notion today that Christmas itself (or often "the spirit of Christmas," which is never defined, but always seems to reside in the hearts of children on television) is sufficient to bring about a wondrous sort of peace between people.  Perhaps the thought is that Christmas simply brings out the best in people, or even that God works during the Christmas season with the simple purpose of increasing our love for each other.

We must get these purely humanistic notions out of our heads.  When we see the unbelieving world using Christmas solely as an opportunity to join together and love one another, do we not understand that this is worthless, tragic, even vile in God's sight?  It should break our hearts!  What satisfaction can God have in love that is not based in Him?  Is unity pleasant to His heart if His grace is not the bond of that unity?  We must sweep the stars from our eyes and see that these are people who are going to hell, and no well-wishing or kind gestures on their parts can remove them from this deserved fate.  It is like watching skydivers rocketing toward an erupting volcano - and then smiling as they join hands to make a formation as they plummet. 

The peace that was proclaimed on that wondrous night is, incredibly, peace with God.  Christ came to bring people peace with their Creator.  The very God who was, at every moment, slighted and angered anew by the sins of His creations, and who would someday judge them eternally for those sins, was at the very same time, extending an offer of grace, of peace, to these very people.  This peace, then, was a peace that was calculated to keep us from eternal destuction, offered by our divine Opponent, and bought with precious, divine, innocent blood, the blood of the very God whom we have offended so keenly.  It is a peace that utterly obliterates our petty, trifling notions of human peace and crushes its rubble with a mountain of pure grace, a strong mountain that all of eternity will not wear down.  This is worthy of our devotion, our thanksgiving, and our proclamation as we bear down on Christmas this year.  Amen? 

Peace with God, by the blood of Christ, who came as a baby, with a divine appointment.  "For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross..." (Col. 1:19-20b)


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