A Thanksgiving for Christmas
The rhythm of our calendar year is marked by holidays. The day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), when retailers claim they actually start making money for the year, is also the lead into the Christmas season (although the day after Labor Day is vying for that honor in some cases!).
Every year, Christians fight “to keep Christ in Christmas,” reminding folks that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Still, the challenge remains, as the idolatry of materialism competes for center stage. Santa Claus even appears as a background character in some nativity scenes, which is about as biblical as the three wise men making their appearance at the manger in Bethlehem. This, of course, makes the guiding star a no-show, too.
Traditions are introduced. They take hold of our focus, and then, they tend to stay. Even the Roman Catholics have a trademark on the popular name for the birth of the Messiah…Christmas, or the “Mass of Christ.” Death is so central in each Mass that at least there is a link from Christmas to Good Friday (crucifixion of Christ). This is an important connection.
In fact, it places Matthew 1:21, as one of the key Bible passages in the Christmas story, “And she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name ‘Jesus,’ for He will save His people from their sins.” This communication, from the angel of the Lord to Joseph, reveals the purpose of Christmas, which is akin to the whole eternal purpose of God, which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:11).
There is no salvation for God’s elect people (Eph 1:4–5; 1 Pet 2:9) without the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 1:14; 3:16, 18), the second Person of our Triune God, enfleshed. In the eternal counsel of God, He was chosen to be the One to condescend from glory, and to humble Himself, taking on the likeness of men, even the form of a slave, being obedient to God, even to the point of His death on the cross (Phil 2:7–8).
The requirement of this prepared body was for Jesus Christ to fulfill what had been typified in the Old Testament tabernacle/temple sacrifices, for the atonement for sins. John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29)!”
In the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). He incarnated, in order to die on the cross, to bear our sins in His body on that tree (1 Pet 2:24). The precious blood of the unblemished and spotless Lamb (1 Pet 1:19) is the color of Christmas (red). It is a red bow attached to the green wreath that reminds us of Jesus’ crown of thorns, pressing into His head, to make Him bleed in His sufferings.
Our calendar places Christmas near the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice, which is why Christmas lights serve to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world (Jn 8:12), having come into the non-comprehending darkness (Jn 1:5). Still, God was able to say of Jesus Messiah, through the prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the incarnation, “I will also make You a light of the nations, so that My salvation may reach the end of the earth (Is 49:6; Acts 13:47).”
Christmas was a success! The Son of God came into the world, sent by God, to execute a perfect redemption that reconciled the lost, elect to God (Eph 1:7), who adopted them into His family (Rom 8:15, 23), all with a motive of eternal love (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8). That love came down at Christmas, and spans human history from beginning to end. God’s love was poured out into the hearts of the elect, redeemed (Rom 5:5), by the Holy Spirit, who has shown the light and love of Christ in our hearts (2 Cor 4:6).
For this reason, Christmas Day is as much Thanksgiving Day, as its own namesake on the final Thursday in November. Rejoice, give thanks, for Christmas has already come with God’s indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15)…Jesus the Christ, the Lamb, the Light, our Savior.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 24, 2022