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What do you consider most significant about Christmas? Many people would say visiting with relatives, attending parties, or giving and receiving gifts. Christmas is far more than a December holiday with time off from work. It is a personal promise from God to mankind.
The significance of this special day is embodied in two scriptural names. In the first chapter of Matthew, an angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary, his fiancEe, would bear a son conceived of the Holy Spirit. He instructed Joseph to name the child "Jesus" (v. 21). He also announced that the birth would fulfill Isaiah's prophecy: "'They shall call His name Immanuel, ' which translated means 'God with us'" (verse 23, referring to Isaiah 7:14).
The name "Jesus" is a transliteration of the Old Testament Hebrew word Joshua, meaning "the Lord is salvation." When the angel said, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (verse 21), he was pointing to the significance of that original Christmas: God provided a solution for your sin and mine, as well as for the sin of the entire world--past, present, and future.
Seven hundred years before Christ's birth, Isaiah's prophecy was a word of hope and encouragement to Judah as it faced a great crisis. The prophet's message was an indication of what God was about to do then as well as what would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah's advent.
Immanuel, a name full of promise, was God's way of assuring the Old Testament saints that He was with them. Taken together, these two names encompass what we need for our entire life: Jesus, the pardoner of our sins, and Immanuel, the divine presence within us to help and guide every moment of every day. The names and the promises in them are the foundation for every facet of the Christian life.
So how did God engineer that first Christmas to fulfill the promises of Jesus and Immanuel? His method was the incarnation. On the night Christ was born, the eternal God--motivated by love--entered the human family. He was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit and physically born of a virgin. Jesus never ceased to be God, and He remained perfectly sinless in His being.
If the incarnation hadn't taken place exactly as it did, then we would still be living in our sin. According to Scripture, we are all sinners and the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus, because of His absolute sinlessness, is the only one who could save us by dying on the cross and offering Himself as a payment for our sin debt.
Apart from the birth of God in human flesh, every one of us would have to stand before God with all of our sin resting upon us, and our sins would separate us from Him (Isaiah 59:2). So the incarnation is the promise of Jesus--"the Lord is salvation"--for every person in the world.
But that was not the full extent of God's awesome plan. He also promised us His presence, which was fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel. Jesus was "God with us," the incarnate Deity, who physically lived and walked among men to show us what the heavenly Father is like.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus encouraged His disciples with the promise of God's indwelling presence. Christ said that when He went away, He would ask the Father to send the Spirit of truth, who "abides with you and will be in you" to teach, remind, comfort, and guide every step of the way (John 14:17,26).
Far better than God simply being "with me" is God within me, for me, and through me! And that is His promise to all who believe in Him--the incomparable, supernatural, immeasurable God will take up residence inside us and be everything we need. Once He lives within you, there will never be a time you have to walk without Him
The Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Place your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive the forgiveness of sin and the gift of everlasting life.
You can tell Him in a prayer like this:
Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe You died in my place to pay the penalty for my sin and You rose from the dead. I now admit my sin and turn to You, trusting in You alone as my Savior, and receiving Your gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
This year, as you gather on Christmas
morning, I encourage you and your family to kneel and give thanks to almighty God. The incarnation is the very essence of Christmas. There's nothing wrong with the gifts or festivities, as long as they don't crowd out what belongs in first place: Christmas is about God breaking into humanity, shattering time, and becoming
life and hope and help to all mankind.
Charles F. Stanley
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
and founder of In Touch Ministries
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