Happenings around Antioch

What a Christmas Present!

Talk about incredible journeys. A few years ago a woman crossed the Atlantic by herself in a rowboat. When I was a boy a man named Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he became the first human to step foot on the moon. Hannibal, the Carthaginian General,  surprised the Romans when he crossed the Alps in 217 B.C. with 26,000 troops, 6,000 horses and his special weapon, elephants, which were used to shatter enemy lines, like modern day tanks. Incredible!

But there’s no doubt that the greatest journey, the most incredible of all, was the journey that God took in the person of Jesus Christ. He went from heaven to earth. From Spirit to flesh. From eternity to time. From glory to servanthood.

In his devotional, “Solid Joys,” John Piper wrote that his favorite advent text is Hebrews 2:14-15: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” This text, Piper said, clearly connects the beginning and the end of Jesus’ life on earth, the incarnation and the crucifixion. “These two verses make clear why Jesus came; namely, to die. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to walk them step-by-step through your Christian view of Christmas.” It teaches us that Christ existed before the incarnation. He took on flesh and blood, becoming fully man while remaining fully God. Why? “…that through death…” The reason Jesus took on human flesh was to die. He could not die for sinners as God, but he could as man. Piper writes, “Therefore he had to be born human. (And) he was born to die. Good Friday is the purpose for Christmas.”

He came as Immanuel, and Christ came as Lord. As the prophet Isaiah said, “For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Then the angel said the same to Mary: “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then to the shepherds, “…for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

What was the best present you have ever gotten for Christmas? Maybe you got it this year! Anybody get a Mr. Potato-Head? In 1952, the world was introduced to it, the first toy to ever be advertised on TV. Back then, kids stuck plastic eyes, ears and a mouth onto an actual potato and it wasn’t until 1964 that a plastic body was included with the toy. That was one of the best presents in the 1950’s. This year, I read that some of the hottest toys were the Ada Twist Lab Doll with sounds, the Purrble Calming Toy with Dynamic Heartbeat and Soothing Purr, and of course, “Gotta Go Turdle,” who, and I am not making this up, “eats, sings, dances, and talks…” while going potty.

I read in World magazine that 200 years ago if a kid got a piece of candy in his stocking he considered himself very fortunate. If there was an orange in there as well, he was the luckiest kid in the world. His mother would usually get a handkerchief. And the breadwinner, the father, got nothing. It was not considered good form for him to get a Christmas present.

The angel announces that for Christmas, God sent us HIMSELF. “Christ the Lord.” Our greatest Christmas gift ever. Jesus. That pretty much puts Mr. Potato Head and the “Gotta Go Turdle” in perspective, doesn’t it?

I hope you got some nice things this Christmas. But let’s not let this season pass by without reminding each other of the most extravagant gift that anybody ever gave anybody at any time. He spared no expense. He did not count the cost. He simply gave. And the angel said it clearly: to everyone who will receive Him, God gave the Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

I hope you have unwrapped that gift for yourself. He is yours, by faith.