What's the big deal about Christmas? Is it the billions of dollars we spend on gifts? Or tradition, with the classic movies and songs and eggnog? Could it be the trees and lights and Santa and stockings? We know better than that. Christmas about King Jesus, born in a humble manger.
Sure, but do you honestly know why that's such a big deal? What are your really celebrating this Christmas?
I'd like to suggest that this story starts in Genesis 1:1. God did the remarkable work of creation. In Genesis 2 we read about God creating Adam. God was with Adam and Adam was with God. And in Genesis 3:8 we read, "And they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." How wonderful--God and man together in the garden! But the rest of that verse says, "and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden."
Adam and Eve hid from God. Why? Because just before this verse, the Bible tells us that they sinned against God. And then the verses after say that God brought a great curse upon mankind, the earth, and Satan. The curse was death and separation from God, forever.
But there's good news! Right there in Genesis, we see the first mention of the hope of the gospel. Genesis 3:15 records God's master plan to redeem his creation. It says, "I will put enmity between you and the women, and between your offspring and her offspring; he [meaning Jesus] will bruise your head, and you [Satan] will bruise his heel." But because of the curse of sin, God had to send Adam and Eve out of the garden (Genesis 3:22-24).
But God had a beautiful rescue plan so God and mankind could walk together again. He would start by calling a people for himself. Then he would make a way so he could be with them. At first, this meant he would need some kind of sanctuary. The sanctuary would provide a barrier between a Holy God and sinful humanity. It was like a hazardous material suit for God. And the people had to do ritual cleansing and make animal sacrifices to get near God. The sanctuary started as a portable tent called a tabernacle but it eventually became permanent in Jerusalem and was called a temple. That would be the fixed point on earth where humanity could come close to God, and one selected person could enter the Holy of Holies once per year. God was with his people, sort of.
But then, as God's envoys prophesied before his arrival, God entered humanity without the barrier. God was with us, and his name is Jesus! Jesus was born to humble circumstances. Vulnerable. Lowly. So lowly in fact, that he was laid in a food trough for animals as a crib on his first night. A King too holy for this fallen world, entered broken humanity to be with us, his people who did not deserve such a rescue. That is what we celebrate on Christmas. That's the big deal.
We are starting a 4-part series called, "God With Us: From the Temple to the Manger" to dig into what God's Word has to say about this remarkable story. I hope you will join us for this Christmas journey and celebration.
This Sunday, December 10th at 11 am, I will share a message from Exodus 25:1-9. We'll see more regarding God's Old Covenant dwelling place among the people. On December 17th, Pastor Brett Ricley will open God's Word to Exodus 26:31-35 to look at the veil, the barrier between God and mankind. Spoiler alert: He'll also explore how Jesus split that barrier from top to bottom ushering in the New Covenant, making the temple obsolete (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, & John 19:23). Then on December 23rd at 7 pm (we're calling this time our Eve of Eve service), we'll enjoy an evening of worship and celebration, and I'll point us to the story of the Magi seeking the humble King in Matthew 2:1-12. They didn't look for Jesus in the temple but were led to find him in humble humanity. And on December 24th--Christmas Eve morning at 11 am-- we'll open John 1:1-18 and see the magnitude of God with us!
I hope you'll join us.
Pastor Bryan Catherman