Christmas Thoughts, 2022
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
Genesis 3:15; Exodus 12; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Isaiah 7:14; John 1:1-5, 14; Hebrews 11:3;
Matthew 2, Luke 2
Usually, when we, as believers think about Christmas, even when we deliberately set aside what the World thinks is Christmas, we pretty much focus on Luke 2. The entire chapter speaks of the actual birth of the Messiah, and what immediately followed. Sometimes we mix in things that actually occurred a little later—the coming of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt, to escape the slaughter of the innocent babies in Bethlehem.
Sometimes, especially when we were young, we would mock some of the early hymns, probably because we didn’t really understand them. I remember as a child, singing, “We three kings of orient are, trying to smoke a rubber cigar: It was loaded, it exploded…Silent night!” (Lots of laughs, for an irreverent pre-teen.)
What do the hymns really say?
But let’s think about some of the scriptures that gave rise to those hymns.
Why did the hymnist assume there were three wise men? The ones he called kings? Because three gifts were named, in Matthew chapter 2, when the magi came to worship the newborn Messiah, whom they recognized as King of the Jews…and they knew something about him that no one else had guessed, yet: Those gifts, gold, and frankincense and myrrh, were prophetic in nature. The Hymnist spelled out that prophecy, in the rest of the hymn. “Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.”
The Myrrh also was prophetic, speaking of His ministry as the eternal sacrifice, that was to be given once for all… it predicted the death of the Lord: “Myrrh, have I; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom: suffering, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb!”
And the Frankincense, predicted the fact of His priesthood and deity. “Frankincense to offer, have I: King, and God and sacrifice! Aleluia! Aleleuia! Worship Him, God on High!”
Not so funny, after all. And, historically, it turns out that these wise men from the east were most likely the descendants of the disciples of the prophet Daniel…He had predicted the coming King, the Messiah. Though as far as we know, he said nothing about a star, somehow they had combined what they knew from Daniel’s teaching with the appearance of this supernatural star, and correctly discerned that the Messiah had been born. And they took their journey on the basis of that faith. That is not only not funny: that is pretty amazing.
What about Charles Wesley’s Hymns?
We sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and we feel good about the Lyrics. Where did they come from, though? Charles was born again in 1738, when he was 31 years old. His older brother, John was born again a few days later.
Charles began a Bible Study, at their college, trying to methodically study and teach the Bible, but not long afterward, John took it over. (Yeah, I know, elder brothers can be that way…but I am willing to assume it was a practical matter of gifting. Look what eventually came of it.)
John and Charles made a powerful team: John preached sound doctrine, turning people’s hearts to Christ, and Charles wrote powerful hymns teaching the same doctrines in musical form, so that the teachings could be repeated and stick in people’s minds. During their ministry together, they salted down all of England with the Gospel, so that while the French Revolution was raging in France, just across the channel, England was having its collective heart drawn into a strong relationship with God. During that time Charles wrote about 7,000 hymns. We still sing some of them today. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was written when Charles was experiencing his second Christmas as a born-again believer. He was eighteen months old in the Lord.
What had John preached? I can only guess at that, but the doctrines in the hymn are very clear:
Christ by highest heaven Adored; Christ the Everlasting Lord
Before the Creation, Jesus, Creator God, the Son, was worshipped by angels. And yet, he was already the designated sacrifice for a world that had not yet been created. Revelation 13:8 says that He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Rise, the Woman’s Conquering Seed, Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head
The first promise of that Savior came in Genesis 3:15, where God promised that the Seed of the Woman would crush the Serpent’s head. Revelation 20:2 identifies just which serpent He meant: there he is called that old serpent, and the Devil, and Satan.
Come, Desire of Nations, Come
Not all nations have looked forward to the coming Messiah, but believers have done so throughout History. Job preexisted Israel, but he said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at the latter day He will stand upon the Earth, and I shall see him with my own eyes!” Job 19:25 That is referring to the second coming of the Messiah! After Job’s resurrection. But Jesus physically became our redeemer during His earthly ministry. Job looked forward through time as a prophet, and called out the death and the resurrection and the return of Jesus!
Late in time, behold Him come, offspring of the Virgin’s Womb!
From Human perspective, it seemed late: they had been waiting over 4,000 years since the original promise. But Romans 5:6 says He was right on time! It was at the perfect time, according to God’s Timetable! And the Virgin Birth was not an “extra detail:” it was an absolute necessity. He was the only one in History who was literally “the Seed of the Woman!” All the rest of us are the Seed of a man and a woman. Further, if Joseph had been Jesus’s father, Jesus was automatically disqualified from being king anyway, because there was a curse on one of Joseph’s great grandfathers: Jeremiah 22:24-30 said that no offspring of Coniah (also called Jeconiah, and in Matthew 1:11, Jechonias.)
Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See: Hail the incarnate Deity!
In Genesis 1:1, we saw God speak the World into existence. In Hebrews 11:3, we see it confirmed that the World was created by the Word of God. And, in John 1:1-5, 14, we see that that Word not only was the Creator, but that He (the Word) was made flesh, and that He in fact was Jesus. And Colossians 2:9 says that “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily!” I am not required to understand that fact: I am only required to accept it by faith, and to proclaim it in obedience to the God who gave it.
Pleased as Man, with Men to dwell; Jesus our Emmanuel
Philippians 2:5-8, which we discussed earlier, tells how Jesus chose to become a human. But it was not a surprise. Isaiah 7:14 told us in advance that “the Virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel.” That prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus.
Mild, He lays His Glory By: Born that Man no more may die,
Philippians 2:5-8 also spells out how He emptied Himself of His prerogatives as God the Son, and became a human for the express purpose of dying for our sins.
Born to raise the Sons of Earth, born to give them second birth!
He came specifically to offer His life a ransom for many. He told Nicodemus “Ye must be born again.” He also told him that “whosoever believeth” in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. And in Ephesians 2:6, it says that He has already raised us up as believers, to sit with Him in the throne…that we are already there with Him.
How to Receive Him
Hail the Heaven-Born Prince of Peace!
Isaiah 9:6, 7 called Him the Prince of Peace…(don’t forget that it also identified Him as the Mighty God, and the Everlasting Father!) But this line of the hymn is a command: it says, “Hail Him!” it means “Salute Him” as the Prince of Peace: Greet Him as Who He really is! Accept Him as your Savior and Master! Receive Him as your Redeemer and God!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness, Risen with Healing in His Wings!
Malachi 4:2 says, “but unto you who fear my Name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with Healing in His wings.” That is a direct quote of the prophecy!
The Result of Faith
Light and Life to all He brings
John 1:4 says that “In him was life and the life was the light of men” These are direct quotes from God’s Word! These are not the hymn-writer’s imagination running wild!
Come Desire of Nations, Come: Fix in us thy humble home.
In John 14:16-21, and other places, Jesus promised that whoever received Him as Savior would immediately and permanently be indwelt by the Holy Spirit; in fact, that, in the person of the Holy Spirit, the entire Godhead would dwell in each believer.
Adam’s Likeness now efface; Fix thine image in its place!
We have been recreated in the image of Christ. We now have two natures. Our new nature is sinless and created in true righteousness. Our old Adamic nature will be eliminated at death, and never plague us again.
Second Adam, from above, Reinstate us in thy love!
In 1st Corinthians 15:45-47 spells out that Jesus is the head of a new race. He is called the second Man, and the Last Adam. 1st Corinthians 15:22 says that we are either in Adam or in Christ. That is “positional truth.” If your position is still in Adam, you are still spiritually dead. If you are in Christ, you are eternally alive in Him.
Joyful all Ye Nations Rise! Join the Triumph of the Skies!
We are saved to serve! How? Every one of us is called to be an ambassador of Christ. And all the nations that have rejoiced in the Savior, have also rejoiced in Missions, at least for a time. That is how we Join the triumph of the Skies. We proclaim His birth…and His death, burial, and resurrection. We can offer the hope and Joy of Christmas every day of the Year.
With th’ Angelic Host Proclaim, Christ is Born in Bethlehem
Proclaim! That is our job! It should be our passion and our joy! In John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work!” In that context, He was talking about Evangelism! That is the Work he wants done!
The Results of the Gospel
Peace on Earth, and Mercy Mild; God and Sinner Reconciled.
We can experience the Heavenly peace God offered in Bethlehem on an individual basis. Romans 5:1 says, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” If enough people share that peace with God, they tend to also have peace between one another, as we do, here in our church. But, the only lasting peace for the whole earth will come when Jesus is eternally reigning on the new earth.
The word, “Hark!” means listen! We are called to give heed to the message, and to realize that we have a very temporary privilege of serving with Jesus: Working with Him, taking the light and joy of His Gospel to the world we live in. This is our one opportunity to serve!
Hark! The herald Angels Sing! Glory to the Newborn King!
So…what are we going to do about it? If we say, “Happy Birthday Jesus! But I’m not going to do what you asked,” it seems a pretty shabby response. Let’s change that into a pattern of reverence and obedience, and share His joy and peace with those around us..… We can say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus! I bring myself as an offering to You!” We all have that gift to bring.
Lord Jesus, fill us with Your love and transform us to be like You in every way. Raise us up as your soldiers and servants. Teach us to live for your Glory.