“No Christmas without Christ”
nkjv@1John:1:1 @ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--
nkjv@1John:1:2 @ the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--
nkjv@1John:1:3 @ that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
This passage is not typically given as a Advent/Christmas passage. Yet I would like to suggest to you that John's explaination here is exactly what the Christmas message should be all about. Let me translate...
- That child there in the manger/sea shore/market place/mountain top:
- Is that which was from the beginning (through whom all things were created)
- Which we have heard of (through prophecy/law/psalms of scripture)
- Which we have seen with our eyes (his very appearance)
- Which we have looked upon (as close as I am now to you)
- Which our hands have handled (we've touched his flesh)
- life manifested (that which is eternal forever to forever)(even though many tried to end His eternal life)
- Him we have seen/bare witness to declare
- was with the Father suddenly manifest to us
- of Him we testify of that you might have fellowship (not merely with us but with Father and Son named Jesus Christ)
The shepherds and inn keepers that night could have said something to this effect as a matter of pure hope but, little did they know about what this Messiah here now "in the flesh" would come to mean. Perhaps you too will set your hopes upon this nativity this Advent season but, will you be brave enough to follow it the rest of it's course to where our daily living fellowship is with the Father and very Son of God Jesus the Living Christ?
Will you be able to declare this "appearance of God in the flesh" and it's wondrous results upon mankind (essentially this 1John:1 Christmas message) with the same vigor and valor and personal testimony as these saints in Christ Jesus?
I. Messianic Prophecy
There were many OT prophecies regarding the coming and mission of Christ. Let's survey some of them:
Why such a reliance upon prophecy?
nkjv@Isaiah:45:21 @ Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.
A. Surely, it's understood that unless Jesus Christ has already fulfilled these many detailed prophecies that no other historical figure has been forwarded. (other alleged Great Prophets/gods (none with any level of advance prophecy))
B. Certainly there is a tremendous difficulty interpreting prophecy correctly in advance of it's fulfillment. One must ask why this difficulty is. I submit to you that it is because of the self deceiving subtleties of man's heart rather than the integrity of scripture.
C. The difficulty largely ends however, when the prophecy is finally fulfilled and our corrupted expectations diminish.
D. In the case of Messianic prophecy, the primary importance is in determining who the Messiah is, once the Messiah can be identified confirming details fall into place (even details we didn't originally know were meant to be details).
Here is what Jesus said to His disciples after His resurrection:
nkjv@Luke:24:44 @ Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
nkjv@Luke:24:45 @ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
1. Note: even after being with Jesus 3 years the disciples had not fully seen the reality of what had just occurred.
2. Note: the importance of scripture interpreting scripture and not corrupted man.
3. Follow the sequence: Disciples originally understand "in the flesh" Jesus based upon their own expectations of Him/Jesus fulfills according to the Father's design/Jesus returns to recount the body of fulfillment/Veil is lifted through being brought to an better understanding/eyes are opened. Peter perhaps best describes this opening as a dawning light shining brighter unto the full day:
nkjv@2Peter:1:19 @ And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
4. It is this "Christ in the flesh" realization that is the key to our understanding of prophecy/scripture. Without it is nothing more than a story or else a wild goose trail of awkward details. The Jews have gone on an additional two thousand years waiting for their expectations of things to proceed. Many have fallen into a secular form of Judaism having it just become an old folks tale.
C. Just as Jesus had done for His disciples, Matthew and others set out to do for their circles of influence.
D. This is the same type of "in the flesh" exercise that we need to be able of continuing towards others. We would do well to follow our Lord's example with our friends and family this season "opening the eyes of their understanding"
- by pointing/remininding them to/of:
- The things Jesus said while He was with us.
- The things written in the Law of Moses leading us to Christ
- The things written about Christ by the prophets
- The things written about Christ in the Psalms
II. The true opportunity of Advent/Christmas
We began by claiming "there is no Christmas without Christ" and the importance of realizing Christ has indeed come to us in the flesh.
- Some would have us do away with such observances altogether:
- "Advent" not mandated or mentioned in the NT. Neither is "Christmas"
- Jesus was not born on December 25th
- 4th Century confiscation of various pagan holidays.
- The truer observance has steadily become more and more pagan-ized as a result.
- I would submit to you rather:
- Avoid a godly form of participation and we forfeit the entire opportunity the season affords us.
- The influence of our truer observance has been >= the Pagan influence upon some of us
- The occasion of their blatant and empty ritual is too prime an opportunity not to contrast it with the redemptive splendor of ours.
- We cannot hide our faith away at these times that their godless faith is on full display thinking that we are protecting ourselves from contamination.
- The Church at that time decided to meet the masses wherever the masses currently were at and take the Gospel of Christ into homes and even celebrations it had been previously foreign to go.
- You look at how mild and respectful those pagan ways have gotten and you see Christ's influence even amongst non-believers.
- What you see when we step aside in our own holier than thou legalistic vanity on a public scale is the more aggressive forms of ungodliness seeping in to reclaiming ownership.
Yes there are dangers to this approach. Yes we have to be on our guard as to what we are doing and how we are going about it. Herein though is the true opportunity afforded us by the "ritual/tradition" of "Advent" season and "Christmas" - being in the flesh with those in our circle as much as Jesus Christ is in the flesh with us!
Each prophecy listed previously when stood up for provides us an opportunity to further open other's eyes. God's word is God's word you understand, it doesn't require us to be know it alls desiring somehow to intellectually apologize for it. Nor do we have to be embarrassed that we do not know all of the critic's objections. No, instead we should stand on God's word and let God's word carry the battle. We should be equipped at all times however to teach and edify less mature believers.
There are a few of these most common objections that I would like to focus you on to build your understanding up.
Objection #1 nkjv@Isaiah:7:14 BORN OF A "VIRGIN"/CALLED IMMANUEL
- Context Then nkjv@Isaiah:7
- Then (735BC) Deployment of Syrian army in Ephraim
- Syria not to take Judah at first nkjv@Isaiah:7:6-7
- Ephraim to cease being within 65 years nkjv@Isaiah:7:8
- both Kings forsake land nkjv@Isaiah:7:16
- Assyria will invade and conquer nkjv@Isaiah:7:17
- hired razor (public shame), desolation, vines will become briars nkjv@Isaiah:7:20
- King Ahaz told to ask Lord for a sign but refuses nkjv@Isaiah:7:11-12
- Now (from birth of Christ)
- Lord gives House of David given sign instead (since King Ahaz refused) nkjv@Isaiah:7:13
- (In that time (Then)) Virgin will bare child - "Immanuel" nkjv@Isaiah:7:14
Objection #2 nkjv@Hosea:11:1 CALLED OUT OF EGYPT nkjv@Matthew:2:14-15
Not all prophecy is alike. Various prophecies take various forms, some are parallelisms (think of two separate jet trails heading the same direction). Hosea likely was not suggesting that God was going to call Messiah out of Egypt later, it is Matthew that is later suggesting that just as the Father brought the nation of Israel whom He loved out of Egypt, the Father had also brought the young Jesus whom He loved from Egypt. The parallel is both that they were brought out of Egypt (a constant scriptural interpretive symbol of bondage/oppression) and of course the Father's uncommon love.
There is a similar objection to nkjv@Matthew:2:23 TO BE FROM NAZARETH(NAZARENE)/ELSE OF THE NAZARENE ORDER being no where found in the OT. Being there is such a broad scope of other undisputed prophecy including the "Great Light seen in Galilee" reference such a quibble would bare very little evidentiary weight. But if the critic insist, we can remind him that the Nazarene Order were known for being dedicated by their parents to their service at a very early age (as was Jesus), their inner strength was drawn from their religious purity (as was Jesus), that the use of "prophets" rather than prophet suggests that the author's intent was to convey a more general sense of the prophet' overall message of Messiah's purity/holiness and being set apart for the ultimate service to God.
Again, God's word is God's, it doesn't require us to be know it alls in order to intellectually apologize for it. Put it out there confidently and it will do what it is purposed to do. Are we agreed?
III. "No Christmas without Christ"
Think how many people that you know in your circles that will not be celebrating Christmas with Christ. In effect for them it is no Christmas at all.
So here is my "Christ in the flesh" Christmas message to each of you this Advent season:
Advent is a time of preparation.
- Prepare yourself:
- is your heart right today with God Jehovah?
- is your prayer life getting good traction?
- would you be able to share this glorious gospel at the drop of a hat if the Spirit called you to?
- if not today - prepare yourself.
Advent is a time of joyous anticipation.
- Ready yourself:
- is the Lord's 2nd coming just as real to you?
- is the eternal life ahead near enough to nearly grasp?
- is Jesus in the flesh here and in the future as real and in the flesh as it was for his first disciples?
Advent is a time of great fellowship.
- Truly our fellowship is with the Father and the Son
- Welcome in your families
- Welcome in your neighbors
- Welcome your needy
- Join hands with His Holy family